The fellow on television kept talking about a "vegan" -- something I had never heard of before. My first thought was that it involved a creature from another galaxy with a crooked little finger and a terrace running down his forehead.

Oh but no! This is something very terrestrial. In layman's terms, a vegan is a ninja-class vegetarian. Not only will he not eat meat, he won't eat any products produced by meat. No cheese, milk, or eggs.

And he won't wear anything produced from an animal. No leather shoes, no fur coats, and I'm assuming they won't even sleep on a feather bed nor sit in a chair made of Naugahyde.

Just kiddin' about the Nauga thing. When I was in college we had a good time with a kid from New Jersey on that one. He always wanted to know when we were going to take him Nauga hunting. We told him he would have to work his way up to that. First, he would go snipe hunting.

I figure most vegetarians just can't stomach the idea of eating something that can stare at you. But I also realize there is a health motivation. And I suppose some of them believe in reincarnation and just simply don't want to have to explain themselves in round two.

I always had a fear of going to the emergency room and the doctor on duty being someone who believed in reincarnation.

"Oops!" "Well, the vet will see you next time."

But it never occurred to me that eating products produced by animals could have psychological overtones.

I suppose, if I had to, I could be a vegetarian as long it involved butterbeans, peas, corn on the cob, steamed cabbage and collards. Hold the tofu and seaweed.

Now I wouldn't even pretend to be a vegan. In my view, eating a big chunk of cheese on my cracker or mixing some scrambled eggs into my grits does no harm to any animal. I think if you squint really hard and tilt your head slightly, you might even see that it respects the cow and the chicken.

And in my view, a mug of Black Label beer isn't painful to any animal. Oh excuse me! That doesn't come from an animal. It only tastes like it!

My wife says she could easily be a vegetarian as long as she could eat shrimp. I think that may be because no one ever names shrimp. They are not used in cartoons and no one ever wrote a book about the "Pokey Little Shrimp."

If I used similar logic, I would justify hotdogs and bologna as being an exception because you may not be sure which animal they came from.

Vegan is not a new word. It's been right there in the dictionary all along. But I'm not sure if they have an official association with secret handshakes and a host of committees that study legislation and seating arrangements.

And I'm not going to call "veganism" a trend yet. I think something has to be around a while before it becomes a trend. Just because a few people are picky about what they eat doesn't qualify them for a segment on "60 Minutes."

For example, nudist camps didn't become a trend over night. A few people getting naked and playing frisbee or riding over saplings in the buff didn't draw trendy status until one of the saplings broke off and a class-action suit was filed against the landowner. And I don't know if vegan has ever showed up in a spelling bee.

But should vegans endorse a political candidate, my first question would be: Is it because he promotes vegetables or because he acts like one.

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

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