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By Staff | Jan 22, 2010

Our nephew, Adam, and his wife, Janine, just had a baby boy.

This is a momentous event for our family. Ayden is the first child to be born to the next generation and is also my mother’s first great-grandchild.

We wanted to mark the event with a gift, but had no idea what’s “in” with “hip” young parents nowadays. As such, we opted to send them a toy stuffed animal, along with the following instructional Monkey Story:

The summer when I was 7 years old I met a red-haired 8-year-old boy named Steve.

Steve was spending the summer at our neighbor’s farm and I was brought in as a potential playmate for him. Within moments of our meeting, Steve suggested that we go out to the grove to climb trees. This caused me to take an instant liking to him. Our friendship – which has now spanned more than four decades – was cemented by a story he shared while we were up in the first tree we climbed together.

What he told me was a joke, perhaps the first one I had ever heard. It went something like this:

There was a hog farmer who wanted to win the prize for the biggest pig at the county fair. He decided to cheat a bit by forcing a cork into the hind end of his largest hog. The pig quickly grew heavier and heavier until it became unbelievably huge.

The farmer took the hog to the county fair where it was judged to be the biggest pig. The judges were just about to give the farmer the trophy for his hog when an escaped circus monkey scampered into the arena.

The monkey saw the cork and decided to give it a tug. After the ensuing pandemonium died down, a newspaper reporter interviewed eyewitnesses.

“What did you see?” he asked one of the judges.

“Poop flying all over!” he replied (At this point Steve extravagantly pantomimed mopping his face, eliciting no small amount of mirth.)

“What did you see?” he asked the second judge.

“Poop flying all over!” (Again with the wiping of the face. Many more giggles.)

“And what did you see?” the reporter asked a bystander.

“Monkey trying to get the cork back in!”

I nearly fell out of the tree due to massive paroxysms of laughter. The image of the hapless little monkey struggling to replace that cork in the midst of a fire hose-like blast of pig poop was burned onto my mental retinas. It remains there to this day.

From the viewpoint of a little boy, it just don’t get any funnier than that.

Flash forward more than 20 years; I am the father of two little boys of my own. It has become a ritual for me to read them bedtime stories, which I am glad to do. It gives me an excuse to expose them to such literary triumphs as “Calvin and Hobbes,” “The Far Side,” and the works of Pat McManus, the author of such cerebral gems as “Never Sniff a Gift Fish” and “Real Ponies Don’t Go Oink.”

One night we found ourselves short of reading material and the boys were clamoring for something more. On sheer impulse, I grabbed a toy stuffed monkey and retold the pig joke with Monkey pantomiming the part of the monkey.

The boys giggled themselves silly. “Do another!” they exclaimed at the conclusion of the joke. Still running on impulse, I began, “One day Monkey was walking along when he found a stick of dynamite. ‘Wow!’ said Monkey, ‘This is my lucky day! How often does a guy find a big, fat cigar like this? Now if I could just find a lighter'”

Monkey went on to have similar misadventures nearly every night. Most of them involved such substances as Super Glue, nitroglycerin and oil of ipecac. Very often, Monkey’s mishaps involved a combination of ingredients such as those listed above.

And now, Adam, you are a brand-new daddy. This job comes with many responsibilities, none the least of which is telling bedtime stories. It may be a while before your little boy begins asking for stories, but that time will arrive before you know it.

Enclosed is a toy stuffed monkey to help you get started. It will be up to you and your little guy to decide what sort of adventures the monkey might have and what kind of messes he gets into. No matter what they may be, they will most certainly be special.

The enclosed monkey is not the original Monkey I used to entertain our boys. That Monkey is enjoying a quiet retirement high up on a closet shelf in Christopher’s room.

After all, he deserves it. Especially after that time when he mistook a flamethrower for a water pic.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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