Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Legend of the Farkleberry
By Jack Bogut

Let me set the stage:

Residents of Montana and North Dakota have always made good-natured (usually) fun of each other:
“North Dakota is so flat, your dog can run away and two days later you can still see it.”
“The wind blows constantly and so hard, nothing taller than grass can grow. That’s why the North Dakota State Tree is a telephone pole, and the State Bush is a fence post.”
Some North Dakotans were so angry about being the butt of State jokes that they decided to march to Washington to protest. When last heard from, they were more than halfway to Seattle.''
I can’t remember any of the things North Dakotans said about Montana (heh, heh).
The above is why, in the fall of 1971, when a listener sent me a clipping from the Denver Post newspaper about a Farkleberry Bush Festival in North Dakota, I thought it was hilarious. Plus, the name, “Farkleberry,” does have a certain euphonious appeal.

Now it’s important to note that during my morning show on KDKA, I played a march about 6:45 to help people start their hearts and get them running for the day, injecting stream-of-consciousness comments over the music.
One day I introduced the march by saying, “Alright, it’s time to start your heart…(I had no idea where I was going with this), eat a Farkleberry tart…(now what?) and tear the world apart!”
I have no idea why I said that. It just happened.
Then it occurred to me how close to verbal disaster that utterance was.
One of the guys on the air, Mike Levine, said he lived for the day he heard me say, “…eat a Tarkleberry…”
I’ll let you figure that out for yourself.
So, “Start your heart, eat a Farkleberry Tart, and tear the world apart,” became an on-air catch phrase that fall and carried over toward our Children’s Hospital broadcast.
Plus, “The Farkleberry Free Care Fund” had a certain ring to it.

Jim Delligatti, a friend and very generous man who owned all the Macdonald’s restaurants in western Pennsylvania (and invented the Big Mac) was a big supporter of Children’s Hospital. So I approached him about making Farkleberry Tarts to sell for a dollar each at our department store window broadcasts. Jim graciously agreed and we were off and running.
That first year we had contest where people could buy 5 seconds of air time for 500.00 and attempt to say without a mistake, on the air, “Start your heart, eat a Farkleberry Tart, and tear the world apart!” If they did make a mistake, (we secretly hoped someone would transpose the letters and commit verbal disaster) they didn’t get their money back because it would already be in the collection barrel. If they were successful, they would win an after dinner set from Horne’s Department store. There was very little chance of that because I had the official stop watch and time always ran out. Until a teacher from The Derry Area School District showed up with 500.00 her students had collected.
And her own timekeeper!
So, in an effort to maintain control of the situation I gave her and new set of instructions:
“You understand you have to say, ‘Start your heart, eat a Farkleberry Tart, and tear the world apart,’ she was nodding her head, “In Swahili.”
She continued to nod here head.
And she said, quote, “Start your heart, eat a Farkleberry Tart, and tear the world apart in Swahili.”
So I gave her a box of toothpicks from Horne’s Tearoom.
She was underwhelmed

From that point on, each year, sometimes in a panic, I devised another Farkleberry something-or-other and sat down with Jim Delligatti. Sometimes he would just look at me and shake his head, but he and his Macdonald’s restaurants always came up with something delicious and donated everything to The Free Care Fund. He was the best.

He and the folks at Macdonald’s made Farkleberry Snickerdoodles, Coffee Cake, Ding Dongs, Farkleberry Brew (spiced coffee), Frump (a kind of a sheet cake), Farkleberry Turkey Cookies – say that 3 times without stumbling…you get the idea. There were even Farkleberry songs written and performed at the broadcast windows by school groups from around the region.

So what began as a frivolous accident became an excuse to be generous and have fun at the same time.

Even though it’s not used nearly as much today, The Farkleberry is still a symbol of the Children’s Hospital Free Care Fund collection on KDKA Radio, a fond remembrance for many, and one of the best, most enjoyable things ever to happen to me.

I am blessed and truly grateful.

Jack Bogut

Thursday, October 27, 2016

An acid test for humor is if we laugh out loud when we’re alone with no one to hear us.
I did just that when I read the following 15 year old high school Sophomore’s homework assignment emailed to me by his Mother, not only for the humor but the well-written surprise ending.

Be sure and read the postscript

 “Cinderella” Remake
Once upon a time, there was a boy.  This boy had no athletic ability at all.  However, this boy had heart and passion.  He gave everything he did 100 percent.  He was particularly good at school, a nerd as some may say. He spent most of his day with his nose in a book, keeping to himself because other kids were not nice to him. The biggest offenders were the high school’s quarterback Chad, and his buddies Brad and Tad. They called him names like “Wormhead” or even other harsher words.  “Wormhead” seemed to stick, though.  They weren’t exactly trying to be mean when they created the moniker.  “Wormhead” stemmed from the fact that the boy was a bookworm and they didn’t know his name.  Had they bothered to ask, the boy’s name just happened to be Atticus, just like Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird.
One day, Atticus was walking home, when he heard a sinister sounding, “heh heh heh.”  Brad, Tad, and Chad came sauntering toward him. Atticus turned around to go the other way when Chad yelled,
“Hey Wormhead, where are you going?” 
Atticus simply replied, “Home.”
“Why not stay and talk, Buddy,” Chad asked.
Without hesitation, Atticus turned and ran all the way home without looking back.
After what seemed to be an eternity, Atticus finally got home to his dog, Bim, and his mother, Hannah. His father had died from brain cancer when Atticus was three years old.  His mom was understandably shaken from that and never fully recovered.  When she asked her son how school was, she was only half present and not really listening.  Atticus then left to go do his homework, play video games, and read a little before bed.
Atticus woke up in a sweat later that night.  A figure appeared with a bright light surrounding it.  The light was so bright that he couldn’t see its face.  He could see, however, that the figure was kicking something. It appeared to be a football, but that didn’t make sense since Atticus had no athletic ability. Before he could think about it further, Atticus fell back to sleep.
The next day, Atticus went to school like he always did.  Everything was normal until he saw a flyer that said, “Football Tryouts: 3:30 p.m.”  Atticus felt compelled to go for some reason.  Besides, he couldn’t get any less popular, so why not?  Soon it was 3:30 p.m. and it was time for the football tryouts.  Atticus picked up his helmet from the football office, along with a pair of cleats.  He stood by himself on the field and nobody knew who he was with his helmet on—not even Chad, Brad, or Tad.  Cloaked in anonymity, Atticus decided to kick a football.  It was perfect!  He nailed a 50-yard field goal! Bang. He hit another, and another.  The entire football team watched in awe.  Then, the coach yelled,
“Hey boy! Get over here!” 
Atticus panicked.  He didn’t want his identity revealed so he ran all the way home, never once looking back.  He didn’t even notice that his ridiculously small cleat fell off along the way.
It wasn’t long before the whole school heard what happened.  Girls started to swoon over this mysterious athlete, particularly the head cheerleader, Rachel.  She started a contest to find the person who fit into the cleat.  The winner would take Rachel to Homecoming.  Atticus was unaware of any of this, as he was fully engrossed in Moby Dick.  Two weeks went by and Rachel started to feel hopeless.  That night, the bright figure came back to Atticus.  This time, it was putting on a cleat.  Atticus was more aware this time and determined to understand what the vision meant. When he got to school, he looked at the message board and saw the poster for the “Shoe Contest: 2:00 p.m. Sharp.”  Once again, Atticus felt compelled to go.  To the surprise of everyone, the cleat fit!
Atticus took Rachel to homecoming.  He also became the starting kicker for the varsity football team.  His mom actually came to his games and became truly happy again.  As for Chad, Brad, and Tad, they failed a drug test and were banned from high school activities forever.

This was written by my Grandson, Leighton Bechdel, who is also the Varsity Kicker and Punter for the Towson High School Football Team in Towson, Maryland. Heh, heh.