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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Don Woodard: A pun-dit’s lament

Ever since New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced for president, his campaign has been beset with allegations that he was somehow involved in closing a bridge leading into New York to spite political enemies. Such charges seemingly have not been substantiated but they could be the reason his campaign has hit a substantial speed bump.

The bridge-closing might have been made to be seen as an understandable misunderstanding had Christie’s researchers – financed by Christie’s great Cowboy friend, Jerry Jones – dug a little deeper. I refer to a misunderstanding concerning the same bridge that occurred long before Christie was governor, duly reported by columnist George Dolan on the front page of the Star-Telegram on July 30, 1982. Let George tell it again:

“Jokes built around outrageous puns are largely unappreciated. The pun lines are greeted more with groans than with laughter. It takes a particular type of person – perhaps a peculiar type of person –

really to enjoy them. A common characteristic among them, apparently, is a spirit of optimism. Three leading local pun practitioners certainly reflect that.

“One, Bill Ward, is a professional Christian optimist. Another, Don Woodard, was so optimistic he thought he could be elected mayor. The third, Reed Sass, has been allowed to reach the ripe old age of 74 despite his spouting puns at friends and acquaintances. What sounder basis for optimism could there be?

“Sass calls his latest The Fable of the Immortal Porpoise.

“The Immortal Porpoise, he says, was captured by Smithsonian explorers in the Caribbean. It was thousands of years old – and could talk! It spoke of creatures long extinct. The Smithsonian people didn’t have a pool for the Immortal Porpoise so they made arrangements with Marineland in California to keep the Immortal Porpoise until a pool could be built.

“The Immortal Porpoise was a tremendous hit at Marineland, lecturing on creatures that had been alive thousands of years ago. But then he became ill. His Marineland hosts asked him if he had any indication of what might be ailing him.

“‘Yes,’ said the Immortal Porpoise. ‘The reason I moved to the Caribbean thousands of years ago was the availability of a certain type of sea gull there. It has become a principal part of my diet. I’m sure that I am ill because I haven’t had any of these gulls to eat.’

“The Smithsonian quickly sent to the Caribbean, collected a large number of the sea gulls but, through error, shipped them to New York instead of California. There they were loaded into trucks to be transported to the West Coast. But as soon as the trucks crossed the state line into New Jersey, the truck drivers were arrested.

“The charge: Transporting gulls across a state line for an Immortal Porpoise.”

Had I furnished Christie’s researchers with Dolan’s column, it would have inspired them, no sass about it, to adapt that understandable misunderstanding to an equally understandable misunderstanding about the bridge closing. Best of all, Jerry Jones and I, no doubt, would have received an invitation to the White House right after the inauguration of President Chris Christie on January 20, 2017. That I did not early on throw out the Dolan lifeline to the struggling Christie campaign will gull me forever.

Don Woodard is a Fort Worth businessman and author of Black Diamonds! Black Gold! The Saga of Texas Pacific Coal and Oil Company.

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