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  • Mangy Varmint Thug

    August 28, 2008

    In the ten years I knew him, I never once saw Uncle Earl wearing anything but bib overalls. He was just that kind of guy, not an ounce of pretension in him. But what I think I loved about him most was that he called anyone he cared anything about a mangy varmint thug. It was his own special term of endearment. It meant you were family, you were one of us. And that could be good or bad, depending upon your point of view.

    Uncle Earl died a month before Sean was born, but the legacy of the mangy varmint thug lives on in those he left behind. I think the first time Sean was called a mangy varmint thug was by Uncle Earl’s oldest son, Cousin Tim. And it made Sean laugh so hard he couldn’t catch his breath. And to this day, if you just say the word mangy, he will fall down on the floor laughing.

    The thing about family-isms like that is that they only make sense and are only amusing to those who are in on it, the mangy varmint thugs with the shared history. And when you’re four, as is Sean, humor is mainly about the punch line. And how loud you say it. Four-year-olds generally just shout out the punch line and then laugh loud and long at their own amputated joke. And if that doesn’t work, repeat it 10 or 30 times.

    When we were in California last week, we stopped to visit a friend of ours named Bill. He welcomed us into his home and fed us dinner and showed us these fabulous guitars that he makes by hand. Sean really liked him. And so to express his fondness for this very nice man, out of the blue Sean called him a varmint. And then laughed uproariously. And to further complicate matters, it sounded more like Sean had just called him vomit, which is maybe worse, if only in matter of degrees.

    The horrified expression on Bill’s face, thinking that my son had just called him vomit is beyond what I can describe. I was mortified. I wanted to faint. So then I rushed in and made things all better by explaining to him that he didn’t call you vomit Bill! No, he called you a varmint, as in a mangy varmint thug. Much much better!

    At this point I considered just throwing in the towel and laughing uproariously to deflect attention, because, really could it get any worse, could we look anymore like the big weird Texas characters that we are? Only if I had worn some bib overalls and a hat with a price tag.

    California Bill with one of his rockin’ hand made guitars – order yours today!

    You’re a varmint Bill, and we mean that in the nicest way.


    1. chickadee@afamiliarpath says:

      we have some very particular familyisms that we say around here but i would be mortified if my kid said them in public. i would explain further with examples if i weren’t afraid some varmits would be offended.

      August 28th, 2008 at 1:01 am

    2. Judi McKee says:

      Bill is a kind varmint; I can tell by his smile. Earl also endearingly said “2-bit wormy thugs.” Would Sean find that easier to pronounce?

      August 28th, 2008 at 3:57 am

    3. Theresa says:

      Oh my too funny!

      August 28th, 2008 at 5:53 am

    4. Lisa says:

      Yep..guess we all have ’em. My uncle liked to call us all “snot dobbers”.

      August 28th, 2008 at 6:51 am

    5. Jessica says:

      I can’t stop chuckling at this story…..

      August 28th, 2008 at 7:29 am

    6. Sarah S. says:

      Yeah, Bill looks like he would be honored to be called a Mangy Varmint Thug — or even vomit, if it were a term of endearment (though that would be a really hard-sell for me)…

      August 28th, 2008 at 8:57 am

    7. Lori says:

      Oh my that is too funny! Kids are so refreshing – even if they are embarrassing to mom!

      That guitar is beautiful! There is a guy here in Lewisville that makes the most incredible bass guitars by hand. It is a fascinating craft! Wow!

      August 28th, 2008 at 9:02 am

    8. HarryJack'sMom says:

      OOH, I want one of those guitars! Seriously, my DH would be in music Heavan. Bill does look nice, not a bit mangy to the rest of us, but I completely understand the family-isms. Chuckling over some of our own at the moment, so thanx as always for the smiles.

      August 28th, 2008 at 9:12 am

    9. rrmama says:

      So funny! I would have loved to see the expression on your face. Priceless, I am sure. I love family-isms. I am laughing at a few of mine right now.

      August 28th, 2008 at 9:32 am

    10. misslisslee says:

      When I first met my husband’s family, his cousin’s daughter was four. She was fascinated with me, and we had an entire conversation about their cat named ‘Vomit’. I was completely horrified, as only a 21-year-old can be. Later, when we were in the car and I shared my horror with the Hawkeye, he laughed until he cried. You guessed it – the cat’s name? Varmint. I still think somebody should have told me.

      August 28th, 2008 at 9:34 am

    11. Nett says:

      Minny Pearl would be proud. “I’m just so proud to be here!”

      I might want one of those California Bill Guitars! Seriously. Tell us more about them. ?$

      August 28th, 2008 at 10:11 am

    12. Refrigerator Art blogger says:

      My grandfather died when I was 4. His term of endearment for me was, “Granddad’s nuisance.” I didn’t know what a nuisance was, but he said it in such a playful and doting way I just knew it was a good thing.

      August 28th, 2008 at 10:18 am

    13. Miche says:

      Good morning. Stumbled upon your blog only to find a delightful read. Thanks for sharing your stories! My grandfather (who raised us) used to say “Nice kids, they just sleep to close to the house.” Thanks again!

      August 28th, 2008 at 10:21 am

    14. Angie says:

      So funny! Your stories brighten my day.

      August 28th, 2008 at 10:33 am

    15. zoom says:

      Families with colorful characters are priceless. Having to explain them to others- can be a challenge.

      I am glad Sean is following in the foot steps of a interesting lineage. Speaking from experience it makes life more fun.

      August 28th, 2008 at 11:23 am

    16. Dev says:

      we have many family-isms too. . . its so common to us that i have had many, many instances where i have called someone a “noodgling” or “noodge” without even realizing they had NO idea what i had just called them.


      August 28th, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    17. Kelly @ Love Well says:

      If my experience means anything, Californians don’t have colorful families. Not in the Texas/Southern sense of the word anyway. They don’t have extended families in general, seeing how most of them (us?) are transient.

      So I can just imagine his look of horror as you tried to explain the sweetness of the mangy, varmit thug term. Although, if he’s friends with you, he probably took it in stride.

      August 28th, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    18. Margie says:

      Cute story. More info on the guitars though. Please.

      August 28th, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    19. shayne says:

      I just snorted up my McDonald’s value sweet tea. See, I had to switch to the dollar menu at McDonald’s rather than waste 6 or 40 bucks at Starbucks, cause when I read your blog it all ends up on the computer screen. And since I’m not into licking my computer screen to recoup my loss, I had to switch to the dollar menu. Although you’d think I’d just learn not to drink and read.

      All AM newbies beware…friends don’t let friends read AM’s blog while drinking their morning beverages, alcoholic or no.

      August 28th, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    20. katherine says:

      oh, that made me laugh haaaaard. i’m not quite to the stage of being embarassed by things my kids say, but i can only imagine…

      you have quite a way with words! what a great story.

      August 28th, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    21. Antique Mommy says:

      Your day is coming katherine. Brace yourself. 🙂

      August 28th, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    22. Natalie @ I AM (not) says:

      My dad calls everyone a Lower Middle Class White Honky Heathen…um dad? You’re white.

      August 28th, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    23. Faerylandmom says:

      ROFL!!! If you ask my 5-year-old, he’ll tell you that he’s his Papa’s “Clumsy Bozo”. (Papa being his grandpa.) And laugh fit to kill. Our version of a classic family-ism that confuses and befuddles the masses.

      But we all agree on its hilarity. 🙂

      August 28th, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    24. carol says:

      I just love your blog! I too am an “Antique Mommy” at 42 and I can relate to your wonderful stories! Thanks so much for making my day, month, year!!!!
      I think you have an amazing way with words and I love your writing. Thank you for helping me laugh through my “motherhood”.

      August 28th, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    25. Jenni says:


      August 28th, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    26. Smockity Frocks says:

      Hilarious! We call loved ones “gravy suckin’ pigs”. We’re all affectionate that way.

      August 29th, 2008 at 12:14 am

    27. Sue says:

      Picturing Sean laughing while saying those words made me laugh our loud, too. Thanks! I keep reading your blog because it is so good. Unmatched in blogland in my opinion.

      August 29th, 2008 at 1:01 am

    28. Linda says:

      Laughing laughing laughing!!!!!!!!!!!!

      August 29th, 2008 at 10:07 am

    29. Rivkeleh says:

      You know, calling anyone a “varmint” is just enough to send me into gales of laughter.

      Last night in a local very-casual restaurant, my 4-y-o exclaimed “Nut-crackin’ teeth!” at our waitress. This is one of our family’s established sets of affectionate outbursts — it all comes from when he was potty-training and we’d give him mini tootsie pops as a reward for sitting on the toilet. He never sucked on them — he always chomped down on them to get right to the center, and I would always exclaim “Nut-crackin’ teeth!” — and the rest is history. But try to explain that to a waitress who, admittedly, had rather large teeth…. *sigh*

      August 29th, 2008 at 11:59 am

    30. Quirky says:

      Boogerhead. Or boogerboo. Or sometimes just booger. The story came about because my family all looks alike, and my Dad said that I looked so much like him I “could have just flown out of his nose one day, like a booger”. (I know, it’s gross. And doesn’t really make any sense because we do not really resemble mucus in any way). But now boogerhead is a team of family endearment.

      August 29th, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    31. monica says:

      Families are like that, yep. Four year olds are like that too- I teach preschool, 4 year olds. This was our first week of school and their favorite song (I always know this is coming) is Peanut Butter by Dr. Jean. (She rocks by the way!) It talks about peanut butter on your head, shirt and of course we end up with on your underwear. Nothing like the word underwear to send 12 four year olds into loud hysterics. They love love love it and I love to see them love it. You just gotta appreciate four year old humor from time to time, keeps ya young! 🙂

      August 29th, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    32. Kelly @ Wisdom Begun says:

      That sure was funny! My kiddos have made some embarrassing statements like that. I cannot remember any specific ones at the moment, but they are sure to always provide new ones! lol

      August 30th, 2008 at 7:55 am

    33. Steffj89 says:

      oh my…i so totally get it…lol
      my 4 y/o asked my friends pastor today at their church yard sale if he was a knucklehead too and the burst into gales of laughter…

      sometimes i wonder why we wanted them to talk…LOLOL

      August 30th, 2008 at 10:43 pm

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