Chicken Butts are Forever

We’re sitting on the tarmac in St Louis. It was supposed to be Chicago, but one of those summer storms that sweeps across the Midwest sent us into a holding pattern and then we ran out of fuel and, well, American doesn’t fly ultralights, so we stopped at the nearest filling station.

I scored an upgrade to first class, sitting across from a dad and his daughter who were up front while mom and the other daughter were in back. I think the girl back in steerage with her mom was unaware of how cheated she was by all of this; she probably doesn’t even resent her sister for this abuse. Yet.

But the plane is on the ground now, so the second daughter comes up for a visit with her sister and it took me back in time, because they sounded just like my girls.

Do you know what?

Chicken butt.

Stop saying that.

It’s funny.

No it’s not. I don’t want you to do that anymore.


You know what?

Chicken butt.

I told you ‘no.’

I know but it’s in my head.

How did chicken butt survive 20 years? Like Dracula or I Love Lucy reruns, it never sleeps, never disappears. Like that joke that goes, “So the policeman said, ‘Are you looking for trouble,” and Shut Up said. ‘How did you know?'”

Do these things go dormant for 37 years like the swine flu, only to rise up again with a vengeance to irritate moms and dads everywhere? Or maybe it’s the aunt who has all those cats in her house, the one who thinks she’s still hip and wants the kids to know she knows all the humor that kids know. Only the kids didn’t know it until she re-infected them.

Or maybe there’s some kind of passing of the torch within a secret society of children. Is the last kid to turn five instructed to turn to the newest four-year-old and pass on the humor of a thousand generations?

And it might be more than 1,000 generations. Biblical scholars report that Cain asked Abel, “Knowest ye whateth?” and Abel said, “Chicken butteth,” and it all went downhill from there.

Clearly, bad childhood humor has the survival skills of cockroaches and will outlive us all. As the girls were jabbering about chicken butts, I noticed the six-month-old boy in the first row. His mom was holding him, but he was paying just a bit too much attention to the conversation two rows back.

(Originally posted at

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