Right in the middle of something he ought to be running from.

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FRIENDS WHO HAVE KNOWN my 102-year-old Uncle Mort for decades say he’s a walking contradiction and as stubborn as a billygoat. His brain churns out—as Aunt Maude puts it—“more ideas in a day than some men in a lifetime, and some of ‘em are good.”

When we talked the other day, he detailed an upcoming event in the thicket he’s calling “The East Texas World-Championship Lick-Off.” Winner of the hot pepper-licking contest will be awarded a tow sack full of the world’s hottest peppers.

“The winner may not know how many peppers have been won, because most folks don’t know a tow sack from a trolling motor,” Mort laughed.

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Don Newbury
Don Newbury

Actually, it’s not causing too much of a stir, since most Texans complain about rarely finding Mexican food hot enough. “And in other states, it’s even harder,” they contend. He’s hoping there’ll be braggarts who’ll “put their kissers where his peppers are,” and, most importantly, fill Mort-marked coffers with entry fees.

He’s been steadily building toward this moment for years, cross-breeding peppers so many times that some of ‘em now glow in the dark.

It is envisioned to be something akin to another East Texas contest a few years ago called “three hands on a hard body.” Contestants had to keep at least one hand in contact with a shiny new pick-up truck. The winner–the last one “in touch” with the vehicle after others had fallen out—drove it home.

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   “The peppers have hundreds of pin holes, and we’ll see who can lick continuously the longest,” he explained. “When one pepper is licked bone dry, another one pops up, and so on. I imagine the contest will last a good three hours.”

He’s going to enter himself, going at it with both hands, licking two peppers at once. By the time the others figure out his technique, he’ll be too far ahead for it to matter. At least that’s what he thinks.

“I’ve got a thick, flat tongue to start with,” he bragged, emphasizing that he’s “practiced up,” with fingers on each hand twirling peppers with equal dexterity. “I knew I was ‘amphibious,’ but maybe I’m a multi-tasker, too,” he cackled.

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   Maude, his wife of more than 80 years, has learned to tolerate his hare-brain, off-the-wall, get-rich-quick schemes which—so far—have never panned out.

He forges on, though, in the manner that Wile E. Coyote pursues the cartoon roadrunner, often getting close, but never capturing the prize.

“I’m happy for him to be out in the workshop,” she explained. “I’m sure he is blabbering away out there, too,” but if I shut the kitchen door, I can’t hear him.”

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   Early in their marriage, she said she kept a close eye on the workshop. Over the years, she remembers many times when it was ground zero for “Mort’s malfunctions.”

“When I’ve seen smoke curling from the window, water running in or out, windows and/or doors blown off, walls bulging or sparks flying, I know Mort’s right in the middle of something he ought to be running from.”

She said other tell-tale evidence that her hubby is up to no good is in the barnyard. “When hens cluck something that sounds like Standing in the Need of Prayer, hogs stop eating to watch Mort and buzzards are poised to swoop in and get what’s left, I know I’m about to hear something loud or see something cratering,” she laughed.

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   Believe it or not, Mort’s licking peppers with both hands isn’t the first multi-tasking in their home.

Actually, Maude introduced it many years ago when she and Mort became great-grandparents of identical triplets—beautiful baby girls.

“It wasn’t easy, and it involved some contortion, but after a little practice, I learned how to kiss all three of those precious babies at the same time.”

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   Mort has heard that some leather-lunged Texans want something really hot, complaining that too many peppers “go down like candy.” He swears his won’t, and predicts that contestants will scream for water. “I’ll have it available, stadium-priced at $6 a bottle,” he cackled.

Always looking toward his next challenge, he’s drawing up diagrams now for a new app. No, not for computers—it’s for aerosol cans.

“It’s an app to help shavers get out just a ‘smidgen’ when that’s all they need. Right now, all the cans release blobs only.”

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   Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Email: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872

Please click the book cover image to read more humorous and inspirational stories in Don Newbury’s When The Porch Light’s On.

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