I recall it was 1974 I was drinking at the Sportsman Bar in Columbia Falls, Montana, when myself and a friend were confronted by a grizzled sheepherder. We were both young Vietnam veterans but with long hair, not unusual at all in the Northern Rocky Mountains. We called ourselves “Mountain People” and ourselves and peer generation grew up mixed with Indians, and we were not hippies at all. So, the sheepherder wanted to sort what type of longhairs we were, I suppose. Confronted with a garrulous character, my friend George & myself satisfied his curious but irreverent interrogation in a proper country-boy way (laughing at his questions with indirect answers consisting of jokes between us at what we heard) until he was becoming satisfied we weren’t from California or some such exotic place. But he’d then let his guard down and I nailed him with a joke that afterward I thought might kill him.

As if to finally test our authenticity with making a point only real country people know how to tell the most outrageous lie with a perfectly straight face (adapted from Native American humor technique), he pronounced to George and myself “I am 45 years old” (in fact a badly beat up 70 years would be a generous assessment) and took a large swig from his beer mug while judging our reaction. Striking like a snake, I told George “We had better check his teeth” (for wear, how the age of a horse for sale is determined, e.g. to be certain a mare advertised as 5 years old isn’t actually 15 years) and half his swig of beer must have gone to his lungs instead of belly, when he involuntarily laughed at/choked on, my observation (blowing beer out of his mouth, nose, and onto the bar.)

The antiquarian shepherd hung on to the rail of the bar, and barely managed that, while desperately struggling not collapse to the floor, his complexion radically changed as he went into extended coughing fit that both George and myself actually believed might kill him.

George was the more concerned of the two of us, better than my attitude was (mine had always had more Indian), as we deliberated aloud for the choking man’s edification, whether either of us was competent to, or even should attempt to resuscitate someone so grizzled, garrulous and disingenuous, if he dropped and passed out from choking. George was of the opinion resuscitation would be generous and speak well for our community, my position was our neck of the woods would be better off without such a character, after all, his life had been devoted to caring for what us cattle people called ‘prairie maggots’ and the sooner we’d be rid of any such abomination, the better for all concerned.

The old man recovered and didn’t have another word to say, and George and my conversation returned to ’normal.’ Such was life in the Northern Rocky Mountains in a bygone day.

John Helmer’s humor is also deadly, but on a wider, geopolitical scale. To go direct to his humor, go here:

 

To get his autobiographical explanation of how he arrived at his humor (and discover his website), go here:

THE FIRST SUPERHERO COMIC BOOK ABOUT RUSSIA – CAN YOU SPOT WHAT’S WRONG IN THIS PICTURE?