so, the other day there was a mention of the "ham-sneeze incident" by stinky. (stinky is my brother-in-law's little known real name.) kevin o'mara, an odd-acting and very long human being from cookeville, and who actually knows the story concerning the ham sneeze, saw that heading and wrote that he'd actually liked to see it printed here.

so, in honor of that request, alison has reached into some of this computer's more dusty files and has found a typed version of the story, originally written around 1995 and named Ham Bolus. It has been pasted here (in a slightly edited format) for kevin's reading enjoyment.

ham bolus

when i was a little kid opryland didn't exist. briley parkway didn't exist either. now, i don't actually remember this, but my sister, who is like 10 years older than i am, has said that the two of us and the becker kids and mike willis used to play where that busy highway now runs.

* * * *

alison and i live in east nashville. a few months after we moved here she pointed out that we didn't have to take such a long way to my parent's house--she meant traveling down ellington parkway to briley parkway, over the briley parkway bridge and then on to two rivers parkway and then mcgavock with finally a right onto windemere drive, the street of my youth.
she said we could simply take mcgavock. she had seen it on gallatin road on her way to kroger. had she followed that road to see if her theory were correct she would have eventually driven into the cumberland river. true, with a little bit of speed and a vw bug she might have gotten to the mcgavock that sits on the other side, but i doubt it. the current of the cumberland is swift and dangerous. she wouldn't have made it.

* * * *

andrew jackson was our 7th president. he married a girl that grew up next door to where i lived as a kid. her name was rachel Mcgavock. (note: do not trust my historical accuracy. wb 2005) It was said that he loved her very very much. wrote her some touching letters when he was out on the battlefield killing off black people or indians or mexicans. i'm sorry that history has become marred for me.
as a kid, we used to drive by rachel's old house and i loved to look up the driveway at the place. if i squinted my eyes up just right i could narrow my vision down so that all i could see was the entrance to the driveway and on up to the house, blocking out all the modern pavement and the shadow of the automobile as we raced by. what it looked like through my squinty eyes was this: an old stacked rock wall with an ornate gate that was open. on up into the tiny pebbled, beige-orange driveway with a line of thin grass cutting through the center sat a cool, wide, green yard with magnolia and cedar trees scattered about. near the house the driveway was split by a circle of hedges that held a fountain in its center. behind all this was the house itself, tall and thin, made of red brick and faced with square and gently fluted white wood columns.
of course, as i said above, i would take all this in with squinted eyes while going by in an automobile at 50 or so miles per hour. the actual glimpse of the house as we passed lasted only seconds, but the movement up the driveway on towards the house was the scene i played in my head when my eyes went from the squint to a full closed. there in my head i could erase the golf course that sits behind the house where they once made the bricks that made the house. i could get rid of the high school that practically sits in the mansion's side yard--the largest high school in the whole state. i could even replace the road we were on with the same gravel that made up the driveway.
i could see miss rachel maybe getting in a carriage preparing to visit the young mr. jackson where he was building a house out near tulip grove. the town around that house is now called hermitage. it took its name from the house he was building.
the thing that i thought about the most was the distance between these two houses. back when andrew jackson and rachel were alive was it a big deal to go from one of those houses to another? like was it dangerous? bandits in the woods? no indian problems, of course, old hickory had taken care of that, but would you worry that your wagon might have a flat?

* * * *

so jim ridley, the current nashville scene movie critic, and i have a connection.
i love seemingly random connections. i discovered a version of this--the parallel existence--or an approximation thereof--on tennessee tech's campus. one day, as always, i was on the patio covertly drinking beer, playing guitar and trying to seduce women. a guy behind me was talking about when he was a kid and he would wake up early and all excited on saturday mornings just raring to watch cartoons. i did this, too. he said that he would get up so early sometimes that the cartoons weren't on yet. i did this too. okay, nothing so impressive so far, but then he said that he would sit and wait impatiently for the damn farm report to go off so he could see bugs bunny. that's what did it. i was beside myself with glee. this guy and i both hated the farm report! even better than that was the fact that i had been walking around for years knowing that i got up early on saturdays, knowing that i was excited about the prospect of watching cartoons, knowing that something had kept me from doing that. i just couldn't remember what. it was the damn farm report! two old farmers in over-hauls talkin bout pigs and tomatoes. wow, what a moment. i'm thrilled just thinking about it.

* * * *

When alison was a kid she said that each time she heard the 20th century fox theme she thought that star wars was coming on. i don't experience this exact phenomenom, but i know what it means to be this way.
when i was a kid, i would come home from school and get a snack from the kitchen. then i would go into the den and no matter what the temperature outside, would curl up in front of the t.v. underneath one of the afghans my grandmother made me. i would stick my little toes through the holes in my cover and kind of mindlessly flick them on the bottom of the t.v. set.
at four o'clock or something like that, a film reel would roll across the screen. a lot of film reels would do it actually. they were each colored very brightly. like alison and her star wars thing, this to me signified that a godzilla movie was fixing to come on. more times than not godzilla didn't actually come on, but hope was always there. every once and a while, though, a film that i ended up enjoying just as much came on instead. like the attack of the killer mushroom people. that movie terrified me. i had nightmares for weeks. to this day i'm scared stiff of mushroom people.
other days a western would come on and that was the worst.

this t.v. time was called The Big Show. just like the damn farm report, i had forgotten the name of it but had retained a vivid overall memory. jim ridley kicked this back on in my head recently when he mentioned a fond memory of The Big Show and its rolling film reels.

i always got a snack to watch the big show. most of the time mama gave me cookies--3 oreos, or 5 of those chocolate nabisco rectangular cookies that are best if eaten by their stratified layers rather than vertically. sometimes mama left me unattended, or maybe we were experiencing a shortage of snack food and i had to be creative. fend for myself.
in these events i would experiment. one day i ate butter. it was pretty good but too rich for a snack because i couldn't eat enough of it. one day i found a treat that to this day i still enjoy: uncooked oats in a cup. no water, no nothing. just oats. try it sometime.
so like one day i come bopping in and head to the kitchen for the big show snack and i can't find anything. i start looking around for options. the day before i had gotten out the big bucket of crisco and carried it along with a spoon into the den and had finished most of it before mama came in and got mad at me so i knew i couldn't eat the crisco.
in the fridge i found a new package of ham--cool and salty and thinly-sliced sandwich meat kind of ham. i got a piece of it out and crammed it into my mouth. i was headed away when i decided that it was pretty good, so i reached back in and got another piece. and then another and another and of course more and more, until the package was empty. i had so much ham in my mouth that i couldn't swallow or breathe. the saliva didn't have anywhere to go but up into my sinus passage, or passages, whatever.
now, my parents house, the house i grew up in, was built the year that the old maxwell house hotel burned down. that was where teddy roosevelt said that their coffee was "good to the last drop." our house was built from the bricks and other pieces that hotel. i thought this was cool when i was a kid. so i was headed around to the den, going the long way through the entrance hall--the marble floor of which was the maxwell house's marble floor where teddy offered his critique of their coffee--with my mouth totally full of processed ham. my cheeks were bulging, my eyes were popping when suddenly...i needed to sneeze.
there was no stopping it. as my head went back and i wheezed for breath around the ham bolus i've got in my mouth i remember thinking about where was the best place for the ham to go? i knew i couldn't keep it in my mouth and the sneeze had come too fast for me to spit it out into my hand or something.
and so the sneeze came! whoomp! and kind of like the passing of a big storm i stood there with a placid feeling. i could breath again. i felt good...and then i remembered the ham. where had it gone? i started looking everywhere. it had to be a huge wad. it couldn't have disappeared, but this ham was just no where to be found. it wasn't on teddy's marble floor. it wasn't on the nice leopard print carpet that covered the steps. i was looking in the next room, dumbfounded by the missing food, when i sort of snorted a post-sneeze snort and suddenly...my mouth was full of ham again...

it had gone up my nose.

a few more quick snorts and i retrieved most of it, but for days after that, everytime i blew my nose a little bit more of it would come out into the kleenex my mama had given me.

here is a picture of my nose:


Kevin O'Mara said...



That is exactly what I needed. Thank you. I was glad to have the extra story surrounding it as well.

Anonymous said...

Walter, I've heard that story several times, but I still laughed really hard upstairs here by myself reading it! What a funny story!

The Mom