John Howell’s Column

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 11, 2008

String threatens to unravel dignity

Such dignity as Batesville Rotary Club may have imagined itself to have garnered during its 70-year history threatens to unravel.

Blame it on Silly String and Ted Smith.

If you are not familiar with Silly String, then you should get some. You need to unravel some dignity yownself. Silly String comes in an aerosol can and squirts out as a brightly colored string. Choose from at least five colors.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The possibilities are so endless that British and American troops serving in Iraq have put it to quite unsilly use. The squirt it across alleys, doorways and anywhere else they think the trip-wire trigger of a booby trap might have been stretched in their path. The Silly String squirts out as a “foamable resinous composition,” according to its patent holder. So light and visible, the string drifts down and catches the trip wire, revealing its presence to troops without triggering the explosive device.

Ted Smith’s mind imagined the possibilities at the Dec. 18 Rotary meeting when youngsters from South Panola were hosted as guests. Each young guest had four Batesville Rotators as hosts for the event. Ted Smith’s young charge apparently received a can or two of Silly String among her largesse.

Soon Smith was leading the girl across the room, his hands guiding hers in blasting away with the Silly String at other unsuspecting Rotators and their charges. So taken was Smith with the reach of his newfound toy that he even made photos of some victims. He had such a good time at the expense of his fellow Rotators that by the end of that meeting, a cabal had coalesced to plot retaliation.

The plot was sprung at the next meeting. By Jan. 8. Smith probably thought that he was the only one who remembered his shenanigans three weeks earlier. He walked through the room, handing out photos of his Silly String victims of Dec. 18, completely unaware that concealed on the persons of five plotting Rotators in the room were fully loaded cans of Silly String, each of a different color, of course.

When Smith finally sat down to eat his meal, the five conspirators arose and meandered towards their unsuspecting victim, Silly String cans concealed in pockets and palms.

In concert they released their barrage of that “foamable resinous composition” in five colors from that many directions. Within seconds Smith had disappeared under a stringy shroud of the stuff.

Later in the meeting, Smith admitted that the Silly String assault  caught him by surprise.

“I’ve never been one-upped before,” Smith announced to his fellow Rotaters as the meeting neared its end. It was a rare concession from a man whose timing and creativity for mirth has seldom been surpassed.

It was also a lie.

Smith may have been lying to himself and his to fellow Rotators or just to his fellow Rotators, but by now all parties involved have figured that he is not through nor has he forgotten.

By that afternoon Smith’s fertile mind was no doubt churning out the possibilities of one-upping Tuesday’s one-uppityness.

And no doubt we will enjoy further unraveling.