This past week I was truly honored. Several college students asked me for interviews relative to research they were doing for their term papers. All of a sudden I felt very smart, which came at a good time because I had just put together a new gas grill and had even begun to doubt my ability to read and follow instructions.

So then, I had the urge to buy myself a pipe so that I would appear not only intelligent, but wise also.

I will repeat again my distinction between intelligence and wisdom. Intelligence is knowing that a mule is a hybrid. Wisdom is knowing not to walk up behind that mule and slap it on the rump.

Well, some flashbacks got me over the idea of buying a pipe. I tried smoking a pipe when I took a philosophy class back in college. It appeared that this was part of the costume required. But I always had trouble keeping it lit and was always spilling ashes in my lap. While everyone else was deep into the mindset of Plato and Socrates, I was scrambling around trying to cut a fire break between my new tie and my double knit pants.

To smolder or not to smolder? That was the question.

One of the aforementioned students was doing her research on humor columnists, and I was flattered that she thought I could be of help.

She wanted to know things like where I got ideas for columns, why I choose humor as my writing venue and did I consider myself mostly a Southern writer in that regard.

Well, I told her that I was a Southerner who writes. And I do suppose that some of the things I write about probably have their origins and parameters in the Southern vernacular. But, I noted that many of my subjects might find application all across the country. Your muffler can drag anywhere, and I've seen back porch swings as far north as Chicago. In fact, there's a guy in California who sometimes sends me e-mail and says he relates to my columns. Figure that.

A much repeated comment I hear is: "You must have grown up much like I did," a remark upon which my wife might ask, "You have grown up?"

As for the sources of columns, they can come from anywhere.

Basically, I feel you just have to wonder about things like: Why do we need to know how to determine the sex of an alligator? If women had designed our spaceships, would they be shaped the way they are? And what if extraterrestrials visited Earth and, after viewing our art, were more impressed with those paintings of dogs playing poker than the Mona Lisa?

I've also learned through the years that my readers span a broad spectrum of intellect and interests. Some might quote Shakespeare and some might quote Louis L'Amour. Some are incredibly well read and are very eloquent in their correspondence with me. And there are some, if you advised them that their participles were dangling, might look to see if their pants were zipped. But all in all, they seem like a good bunch of folks -- Southerners or not.

Why humor?

I just think we need to laugh at ourselves sometimes. I see it as good therapy, and there's no need in all of us looking like we're a poster child for a hemorrhoid telethon. Leave that to Pat Buchanan.

And there are some times when I do write more seriously, if a subject lays heavy on my conscience. I do, however, give it much thought to make sure it's not just the refried beans weighing heavily on me.

So when did I start writing personal columns? It was 1987. That was more than 2,500 columns ago.

Wow! Now I suddenly feel old. I've been 35 years in the news business. Speaking of getting older, I heard a fellow say yesterday that he takes ginseng so he can remember to take his Viagra. But that's another column.

You see, the topics are like Santa Claus. They're everywhere! They're everywhere!

Dwain Walden is editor/publisher of the Moultrie Observer, 985-4545. E-mail:

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