ne summer, 1981 I think, when I was about 14 years old, I ended up hanging out with this funny, Tom Petty lookin, chicken loving, heavy metal, cartoonist dude named Geoff Sutterfield. His dad, Dale Sutterfield, was a 6 foot 4, 130 lb., continually laughing man who was a sure-fire world record contender for having the most humongus adams apple in the longest neck in human history. And holy Jesus, did that thing ever pulsate when he laughed. You could provide electric power to an entire African village if you could harness the pulsing power of that bulging, laughing, bouncing, ball of cartilage in his neck (or whatever the fuck adams apples are made of). Dale Sutterfield, may very well have been the most likable person ever born, except that there is considerable evidence that he was actually an ostrich.
As the saying goes, Like father like son, was never more true than with the Sutterfield's. From the ostrich-like good looks to the infectious penchant for laughter, I never once saw any member of the huge Sutterfield ostrich flock frown or pout or fight or moan about anything. It was nearly cultish -- in a good, poultry kinda way.
In fact, when my gigantic dysfunctional family first began the awful job of landscaping our dirt lot around our new house in their neighborhood, the Sutterfields, who were complete strangers to us then, showed up in work clothes with wheel barrows and shovels in the 95 degree heat to help, literally singing, joking and laughing as they toiled at work banned by most first world prisons as cruel and unusual punishment. They were fucking angels, ostrich angels.
But, even more important than any of THAT, was the fortunate fact that the whole ostrich family were all diabetics.
The Sutterfield family had heaps and stacks of snacks, cookies, candy and junk food of all races, creeds, colors and flavors all within pinkies reach anywhere and everywhere in their whole house --- even in the bathroom. A person (or ostrich) could poop and
snack on a giant Tootsie roll simultaneously
-- and, get this; in the Sutterfield home, eating this heavenly junk food was REQUIRED. --- Yeah, even Twinkies. In the Nazi health food hell also known as my house, we were summarily beheaded for so much as thinking about a Twinkie, at the Sutterfield's ------ Twinkies ------ were the bread ------- of life. --- Literally. If this wonderful flock of laughing long-necks didn't get their daily dose of Twinkies, they would have seizures and DIE. It was fucking SWEET!!! --- uhhhhmmm, I mean AWESOME!!! sorry about that.
So one evening at a boy scouts meeting, while all the other scouts were playing basketball, Geoff Sutterfield and I became best pals. We invented a little drawing game in which one of us would make a quick scribble on a piece of paper and the other one would turn it into some kind of cartoon character. It's a game I still play with myself and others to this very day. Geoff, having inherited his fathers amazing ability to make me feel like a comedic genius, would always laugh like a dying balloon whenever I completed my task. And I would laugh like a retard when he did his. The other scouts thought we were idiots.
But the best thing about playing this scribble game with Geoff was that, unlike me, he limitied his selection of possibilities to the wonderous world of chickens. He could turn any one of my scribbles into a chicken. He knew every possible angle, curve or possible position of chickens. He loved
chickens. He wrote and drew volumes and volumes of his own comics based on the life and times of the asshole chickens he raised in his SUBURBAN back yard.
He used to take his chickens on bike rides, he gave them all names, each one had a back-story, and they all had very specific opinions and attitudes. To hear Geoff talk about his chickens would cause one to compare Colonel Sanders with Adolf Hitler. Not that Geoff was particularly un-Hitler-like himself, I mean, his coop was nothing more than a waiting room for the chopping block either, but Geoff, unlike Hitler, did the right thing and ate everything he killed. Had Hitler done that, what he did might not have been so wrong. Geoff had zero trouble eating his prison camp buddies for dinner. In Geoff's world, Dinner, was what every chicken aspired to be. I think maybe he thought he was joining souls with his chickens as he picked and consumed the meat from their interesting bones (remember, he was a heavy metal dude). Ultimately, he convinced me to start a chicken prison camp in my own back yard. Why the fuck my mother let me I'll never know.
After Geoff and I spent an entire afternoon in my backyard building the most retarded chicken coop of all time, Geoff told me:
"Well Merkley, you gotcherself a pretty funny lookin' chicken coop, now all you need are a couple of funny lookin' chickens, lets ride bikes to my house and I'll let you pick out your favorite rooster and hen."
"Can we get some candy and twinkies too?"
"That reminds me," Geoff muttered, "it's time for my insulin shot -- wanna watch?"
Geoff shot himself full of insulin, tossed back a few m&ms and then we hopped on our bikes. In less than ten minutes were back in Geoff's chicken coop choosing and capturing the unfortunate losers that would be my first, adam and eve, pair of asshole chickens. I picked out a couple of nice red headed morons with cool green feathers on their tails. Geoff showed me an awesome trick where you can take just about anything -- lint, paper, a nail, anything really, and if you jitter it just so, the dumb ass chickens will think it's a bug and eat it. There is very little funnier to a couple of fourteen year olds than watching a stupid creature eating a piece of string. I used to do a similar trick with my dopey younger step brother. Good times.
By the way, To me it is obvious why humans eat chickens. They are assholes. They don't like you unless you're holding a handful of corn and even then they just want to steal it from you and run off like the fucking dickheads they are. Chickens have no manners whatsoever. They are NOT good citizens. They all deserve to die.
Anyway, after tricking the doofus chickens and their stupid stupid pea brains for 10 minutes or so, Geoff taught me the proper way to transport an idiot chicken by bicycle. It's surprisingly easy, you just gotta shove the fuckers up underneath your shirt. As soon as the "lights" go out, they just become completely docile and still -- dumbfucks I tell ya. So we both tucked a chicken into our shirt, crammed our pockets with candy and Twinkies and set off for my house.
If there is one thing I learned quickly about hanging out with shithead chickens with all of their dust and feathers and stupidity floating up your nose, it's that chicken coops can create massive, hard, sharp, painful boogers.
Holy shit did I ever have one that day.
It was one of those boogers who's enormity I could just feel back there filling up my head. The front of this enornous booger was just barely out of reach and just a little too dry for proper sticky type traction needed to easily free it. It was the kind of booger with which I needed to be really really careful, especially because behind that brittle front end was a bubbling load of gooey snot providing the perfect amount of lube action to make it so that just the slight wrong nudge could have pushed that fucking thing back to the farthest reaches of my 14 year old brain.
I never have been the type of guy to publicly blow or pick my nose. Sure, I wiped a few boogers on my siblings every now and then because that's what they get for being a sibling. ("Sibling" being greek/latin for "Booger Depositiory") -- I mean shit, sibling even sounds like a type of mucous. But booger wiping was a strictly family affair. Amongst my friends I was always a humble, discreet and private picker.
But this particular booger on that particular day just had to go --- and it had to go NOW.
So, I sped up to get enough ahead
of Geoff so that I could have enough privacy to really get in there and delicately evict this unwanted plug from my nose. It seemed like it would be simple enough -- but remember, I was riding a bike and I had a rooster up my shirt -- this pick was gonna have to happen with no hands on the handlebars.
I carefully began coaxing the hard nugget out but quickly realized that it was going to take a little low pressure blow to get it started. I knew that If I blew too hard I ran the awful risk of having it flop out onto my shirt or land on my bare leg or something. Care was needed and care was given. Like a seasoned professional, I gave it the exact amount of pressure needed to get it within gripping distance ---- two fingers gripping distance even, this was shaping up to be a perfect pick --- but oh my goodness gracious -- that's when I noticed that this marvelous chunk had one of the longest tails of any booger in history. I mean the hard part was MASSIVE but the tail --- oh THE TAIL --- I could feel it dragging out from way in the back of my head --- This was not expected. Now I needed to be really careful, time to slow down and strategize. When you got a tail like this one, you DO NOT want it to break because then you have a snotty mess on your hands -- literally. This tail needed to be eased out ever so so gently so that when it did finally give way to its natural elastic tendency to recoil, the tail part wouldn't just spazz out and snap, possibly attaching itself to my finger or hand. The motion I needed here was a long, slow, easy pull as if it was a piece of fine saltwater taffy, or like reeling in a prize fish or pulling an unwilling earthworm from it's hole. I did not want this one to get away from me -- it was huge and completely in tact. I felt like I needed a big fish net. ---
Slowly --- slowly --- gently ---- easy does it, just let it come out, don't force it, everything is gonna be real nice, just come on out of your cave Mr. Booger, the world awaits your birth, there is nothing to be afraid of -- and sliiiide --- and --- floop, it was out.
I shit you not, from head to tail that fucker was at least four inches, easily the length of my 14 year old hand.
Crap -- I hoped Geoff wasn't watching. I didn't know him like that, we hadn't yet become farting, booger sharing friends. I had to get rid of that thing. Geoff was gaining on me which meant that it couldn't be an obvious flick either. Besides, the common flick wasn't gonna work with this trophy booger anyway. A common flick could have sent that sticky tail in any number of unpredictable and uncontrollable spasms -- it could have landed on my bike or my stupid new chicken. I opted instead for a nice little "newspaper delivery" tossing motion where I felt I could effectively guide the tail behind the head until the precise moment of release. Remember, I had a flawless two finger grip on the dry part of this little tadpole, chicken up my shirt and all. Now my perfect pick was shaping up to be the perfect toss. I might even be able to land it in that tree right there.
OK here we go --- just let the tail relax, do a little gentle swing to get the motion down and then with a beautiful, graceful rotation of my wrist --- it was sent flying like a magnificent green trapeze, or at least that's what I imagined, I didn't actually *see* where it went but I was pretty god damned certain that magnificent booger was swinging from a branch way the fuck high in the sky.
Turns out, the toss happened not a moment too soon, Geoff was catching up. It was time to just act naturally --- what booger? My hand had no trace of booger, the toss was immaculate. I slowed my pace just as Geoff sped up his a little.
"Yeah? what's up -- how's your chicken Geoff?"
"It's alright but ---- hey Merkley I was just wondering..."
"Do you want this back?"
Geoff was looking down his face, looking at the collar on his shirt where my marvelous, excellently picked booger had landed perfectly as to allow the hard part to dangle freely over the edge of the collar with the rest glued in an amazing, glistening straight bead ending right at the base of his neck missing his actual bare skin by less than one millionth of one millimeter. By the time it had completed twirling in the air it had stretched out to a good five inches. It was an incredible sight. It's not very often one gets the opportunity to view his very own trophy booger splayed out on another person's shirt collar -- oh and the dangling -- it was simply astounding how perfect the dangling was. If there was a booger flicking olympics, this landing was a solid 10.
"Oohhhhhhh nooooooooo --- crap Geoff --- I am soooooo sorry" I said as I began laughing uncontrollably..
He began laughing too. How could a Sutterfield not laugh? They were trained to laugh at everything. It was the most fantastic, unpredictable but solidly Sutterfieldian reaction one could possibly hope for.
But even more funny was that the more he laughed, the more the raisin-like swinging part of the booger swung and kinda stretched itself giving it more and more length by which to swing and twirl about. Compounding the fits of laughter was the fact that our chickens under our shirts were not in on the joke. They were getting very restless. It's not like we could have just just let them go -- catching chickens in wide open space is basically impossible. Of course this caused both of us to laugh even harder. This cycle was vicious. Fucking vicious I tell you.
Deliriously laughing, we both slowed down our bikes to a stop. I knew I needed to remove it -- he did not deserve this at all especially because I was transporting his gift of free chickens and pockets full of free Twinkies.
Now for the removal. I thought of using a leaf but then it occurred to me that I would have little control and I would probably just smear it. The chunky hard part was still completely grippable. I thought I could use the exact same two finger technique and ease it off of his shirt. It showed little sign of any significant adhesion or absorption into the shirt collar. But god dammit -- we would have to stop laughing --- with every laugh his adams apple would bounce more furiously and that booger would swing more uncontrollably. I've never in my life had such a hard time bringing my laughter under control.
Finally the laughs slowed -- I moved in carefully. Geoff started laughing again causing more booger swinging. Then suddenly Geoff's chicken began squirming and my gut laughing grew more intense. But then, unbelieveably, as if I was Noah or Dr. Doolittle, the fucking god damn genius chicken read my mind and popped it's stupid head out of the top of Geoff's shirt immediately spotting the dangling booger which it instantly gobbled up.
Holy fuck ---- there are only a handful of times in my life where I laughed so hard that it caused me transcendent physical pain and this was one of those times. I laughed so hard --the chicken under my shirt began freaking out and scratching the fuck out of me. It eventually made its way out of the top of my shirt. Due to Geoff's hysterical laughter his booger eating chicken also escaped.
And there we were -- rolling around in the middle of the street in uncontrollable laughter with chickens flapping retardedly right along with us. Ouch --- even typing this story has brought back a slight taste of that same pure soul cleansing laughter. I don't know, maybe you had to be there.
I wonder what ever happened to Geoff Sutterfield. I heard he got mixed up in drugs and gave up his art. I've heard that a lot of diabetics end up on heroin -- it's that relationship they have with the needle I suppose. Fucking god damn shame if you ask me. I only hung out with that guy for half of one summer when I was fourteen, but I think of him and his family every time I find myself in a situation where it would be completely understandable, acceptable and/or reasonable to be angry, upset or accusatory to a friend or stranger who landed a figurative booger on my shirt. It was one of many lessons I learned from the Sutterfield family -- those fucking angel ostriches.