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One of the side benefits of having an opportunity like this to sound off on pretty much any subject - especially when it goes straight to a newspaper Web site, where anyone drawing breath is encouraged to comment - is getting feedback from readers.

I get a steady stream of feedback, some of it appreciative, some not. Some of it is obviously written in the same spirit as my original epistles were - for fun. But there are plenty of the other kind, too. I'm referring to those who take a joke and try to turn it into something serious.

Now, I grew up in a small town, and in a small town everybody figures out right away that the only proper reaction when something is funny is to laugh at it.

That's the kind of house I lived in. My family was always laughing at things. If you got up on the wrong side of the bed and thought maybe you'd spend the day just sitting around looking grumpy, well, you were going to get laughed at. And probably not without a little added teasing - from siblings, from parents, whoever was there to witness your dopey behavior.

After 60 years of living, which has included experience with organized sports, various social groups, 12 years of public school, four years in the Navy, nine years (off and on) of college and 33½ years as a professional newspaper man, I have come to appreciate anyone with a sense of humor - and despise anybody who doesn't have one.

I don't really care if they can't help it.

Maybe they were born humor-challenged, with a key part of the brain missing or underdeveloped, and it's not their fault. Doesn't matter. There is nothing more unforgiveable, in my estimation, than someone who can't see the humor in things.

It's not a matter of intelligence, I know. One of the most deadly boring (and humorless) guys I ever knew was this character in the service who liked to point out that he had the IQ of a genius - more than 170, as I recall. But he never got jokes and was a total pain to be around.

What's more, he was usually angry about something, and you never knew when he might just attack you over something he perceived in your voice or your expression.

Here's another example. In response to a recent column of mine about city mottos, one of our readers had this to say: 'First of all, spending money in towns with cute mottos doesn't necessarily equate. I am not sure of the author's thought process here. But, unlike his other columns, he is at least getting a blog or two on this one. Is Kelly on the Lake Oswego Review payroll? I (would) rather see more money (salarywise) spent on (Lake Oswego Review city reporter) Sam Bennett and fire Kelly. There is a lot of trouble in this town, and the paper needs to cover it better.'

See, this is a person who should go to his room and stay there until he's had a chance to think, long and hard, about what he's said.

Why? Because he's too stinking serious!

Our family has an aunt and uncle who are card-carrying members of the John Birch Society, and they are still way more fun than this nameless character because, even though we don't see eye to eye on political issues, they are at least fun to be around. They laugh at things, and that is more important to me than anything else.

Once, when I was working at the Klamath Falls Herald and News, I had the honor of meeting a local Native American in Sprague River who claimed to be the unofficial mayor of that community. He was something of a character who wasn't happy unless he was pulling somebody's leg. He showed me, with great pride, his collection of 'authentic Indian-made' arrowheads. When I pointed out that some of them were made out of Coca-cola and Orange Crush bottles, he just laughed and said, 'I know, I made 'em myself.'

See, they were authentic.

This past weekend I ran into a cousin of my wife's in Lincoln County. His name is Kelly, and he's a logger, a road builder and various other things. He had just put a letter to the New York Times in the mail, he said, in which he'd suggested that their editorial board get as tough on Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama as it has been on John McCain.

But the thing I find important is that while he was telling me how he had taken great care to stamp the envelope with the special 'Top Secret' and 'Cut Old Growth' stamps he'd had made for just such occasions, he also was grinning like a Cheshire cat.

He gets it. Everything is funny.

He gave me a few of his company pens. They say 'K1 Contracting' on them, along with 'Paris, Oregon,' and his phone number. Right below that, it says, 'OLD GROWTH TIMBER FALLING,' 'WHALE KILLING' and 'VOLVO DESECRATION.'

I did clean up one misspelled word. So sue me.

Now, I don't yet know how Barrack, Hillary and John compare for sense of humor, but I do know that Ralph Nader is one major buzz-kill. This is important, people. We should not be voting for anybody that serious.

Former editor of the Lake Oswego Review and former managing editor of the Beaverton Valley Times and The Times, serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood, Mikel Kelly handles special sections for Community Newspapers and contributes a regular column.

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