Saturday, March 4, 2023

It’s in to be thin, out to be stout–or not...

Oliver Hardy, 1938–Wikipedia
Written by By Jim Heffernan for the Duluth News Tribune/03-04-23

Talk about politically incorrect: Sportscaster Terry Bradshaw summoned Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid on the victory stand after the Super Bowl by telling Reid to “waddle over” to the mic.


Whew. Bradshaw has been excoriated on social media for this insult to the winning coach, who, if you take a good look at him, is pretty husky. Husky is a long-standing euphemism for “fat.” Few use “fat” anymore, not even when describing aging former football great Bradshaw himself, whose corpulence (another useful euphemism for “fat”) is quite obvious in his multifarious TV appearances analyzing pro football.


Got all that? It’s a pretty fat paragraph.


Why all this now, after the 2023 Super Bowl way back in February is largely forgotten, even if Fat Tuesday kicking off Lent isn't? It got me thinking about my days as a chubby — call me fat if you must — kid, a long, long time ago when peanut butter reigned supreme in my life.


Yup. I could wolf down three or four slices of folded toast slathered with peanut butter and dunked in milk for breakfast — every day. Then came a hearty lunch, followed by a meat-and-potatoes supper, gravy galore. Can’t ignore dessert — banana cream pie anyone? How about those after-school and before-bedtime snacks? Never missed them, chased with whole milk.


You pay a price for that, and my price was getting too weighty as I approached puberty. It showed up in my athletic abilities. When we had to run the 50-yard dash in seventh grade I clocked the second worst time in the whole class.


Also, in junior high gym class I couldn’t make it to the top of the climbing rope. I struggled to pull myself about half way up and had to slide back down, eliciting a disgusted look from the whistle-packing gym teacher.


I was humiliated. It lasted a couple of years, and then it pretty much ended by the time I got to high school when I shot up to just over six feet tall. But if you have ever been what the world sees as fat, you always feel kind of fat, no matter how you might slim down over the years.


So, I am sensitive about fatness, even if Terry Bradshaw apparently is not.


Fatness has a proud history in the United States, though. There was a time when it was openly acknowledged, and might be coming back. (To wit: Popular singer Lizzo, who put on a lot of her weight in the Twin Cities.)


Many show business luminaries of the past didn’t seem to mind being fat. There were the musicians Fats Waller, Fats Domino and Chubby Checker. Going way, way back a hundred years, one of the biggest male movie stars was a guy named Fatty Arbuckle. The villain in “From Here to Eternity” was Fatso Judson.


William Howard Taft is acknowledged to be our fattest U.S. president. Jiggle the letters in his last name around, and it even spells FATT. Then there was that popular radio and TV detective “The Fat Man,” who “tipped the scales” at 200 and some lbs. while solving crimes. 


Gee, I wonder how many of the rotund folks I’ve cited here are even recognized by most readers today.  Do many of our fellow Gopher State denizens remember Minnesota Fats? He was played by stout Jackie Gleason in a movie. Then there was lovable Oliver Hardy who won laurels as a fat movie comedian.


I also wonder if polka dancing fans still hop to the “Too Fat Polka” that was popular in the ‘50s. Those were harsh times. How about, “Fatty-fatty two-by-four, can’t get through the kitchen door.” Dreaded words by anyone carrying extra pounds, and so insensitive.


I think things are better now for the overweight. The words “morbidly obese” seem to have replaced “fat” in describing the greatly overweight. Morbidly? Cripes, I’m glad they didn’t put it that way when I was in junior high, though. It would have scared the living daylights out of my parents.



Jim Heffernan is a former Duluth News Tribune news and opinion writer and continues as a columnist. He can be reached at and maintains a blog at 


Saturday, February 4, 2023

Top secret documents revealed in Duluth...

PLEASE NOTE... My DNT (Duluth News Tribune) columns will now be published monthly, with my next in print column set for March 4, 2023. Please check my blog from time to time as I enjoy writing more often and might write a column on a whim here on this blog. So... stay tuned here. Jim

Written by Jim Heffernan for the DuluthNewsTribune 2/4/23

Holy smokes! This classified document business in Washington, D.C., has me shaking in my boots.

You’ve heard about it, haven’t you? It’s on the news constantly. Trump and Biden kept certain classified documents that were supposed to go to the national archives after they left office. Biden hasn’t left office, of course, but these documents are from after he left office as vice president. And now former V.P. Mike Pence is involved back home in Indiana.


It seems like that’s one of the biggest things going on the news — even bigger than the debt ceiling and climate change, not to mention the price of eggs and Taylor Swift concert tickets. Oh, and “Fibber” George Santos of course. (Did you know he is a direct descendent of Santo Claus?)


Now every time I hear another “breaking news” report about how the FBI has uncovered more documents, I wonder when they’ll be coming for me. Yup, you read that right. Little old me right here in Duluth.


Here’s why: When I was on U.S. Army active duty a long time ago (how long is an eon?) I and the other inductees were given manuals on how to do everything. I mean everything. You’ve heard of “the Army way,” right? There’s the Army way and then there is the way any normal person would do anything. They usually are not the same.


So, in training they handed out manuals telling troops how to do everything, like how to dress (put pants on one leg at a time), how to hang your uniforms in your locker, where to place your toothbrush in your foot locker, and so on and so forth. Oh, there were also manuals outlining how to sling a rifle over your shoulder like a continental soldier (even if your ears hang low and wobble to and fro) and how to pitch a pup tent even if you don’t have a dog. When I say everything, I mean everything.


The thing that has me spooked is that these manuals were always stamped “SECRET” or “TOP SECRET” in big blue letters on their covers. I guess they didn’t want the Russkis to find out things like how to tuck your fatigue pants into your boots without using blousing garters. The war was very cold during those years but not as cold as sleeping in a pup tent on bivouac in February.


After a short stint on active duty, I returned home to serve in the National 

Guard and Army Reserve for six years. This was a way of fulfilling what was called the “military obligation” of all non-bone-spurred American males (only males) once they turned 18 years old.


But enough history. The reason I’m concerned about the current classified documents imbroglio is that I might have a few of those “TOP SECRET” manuals left over from my military days stored in my garage. I can’t be sure, but I did end up with a few remnants of Army stuff after I got out.


What if the manual outlining how you must make your bed…er…your cot is out there? You know, how to fold the sheets and tuck the blankets so tight you could bounce a quarter off of them, and where to place the pillow. What if the Chinese got hold of that top secret information?


So lately I keep a wary eye out the window every time an “official” looking car passes by, in fear that they might be coming after my “top secret” manuals — if, indeed, there are any in my garage.


These are nervous times.


I’m also quite concerned about some Army flatware I ended up with — don’t know how. I have two forks, two knives and one spoon, all engraved with the letters U.S. on their handles. We have them in a kitchen drawer and use them quite frequently. Nothing like an Army knife for spreading peanut butter on toast.


But what if the FBI searches my house and finds these unintentionally purloined utensils sitting right there in our kitchen drawer? And wouldn’t they wonder why I have two each of knives and forks, but only one spoon?


I’d have to tell the FBI agents that our little dog laughed to see such a sight — when a dish ran away with the spoon. That was shortly after the cow jumped over the…well, you know.


Nervous times indeed.


Jim Heffernan is a former Duluth News Tribune news and opinion writer and continues as a columnist. He can be reached at and maintains a blog at