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Tom shares thoughts on Black History Month, Dick Cheney, lawyers and PETA

To help celebrate Black History Month, I will pass along this story of an incident that happened recently. As many of you know, I coach girls' basketball at a private school that has ultra-high academic standards as well as a significant price tag. Just by chance, this year's team is a multi-ethnic squad, with three of the young ladies being of African-American extraction.

We were at the regional tournament and were going to play against a team from a small town that is, shall we say, historically and culturally Caucasian. A mother of one of the other team's players approached me and said (completely innocently, or at least obliviously), "Where do you get your black players from?"

I replied, "On eBay."

· It's been nearly two weeks since the vice president's quail fiasco, which, these days, translates to several news cycles.

In the space of about 10 days, there was the initial news blackout, the leaking of the story to the local Corpus Christi Dandy Dime, the flurry of stories in the mainstream media, the jokes on the late-night talk shows, the bounce-back analyses as to whether the story was overblown by the media, and finally, the settling in of the story as just another facet of that quirky Bush administration.

In a week or two, the story might appear on Fox News.

Several of my friends suggested that I should write an entire column about it, but it's old news by now. I did come up with one joke about it, but the reference is so obscure, only a handful of people should get it. But those who do will laugh hard.

Q. Why did Dick Cheney shoot his hunting partner?

A. To impress Jodie Foster.

· From the Tohono O'odham Reservation comes the sad story of a woman who lost her 19-year-old son in a 2002 accident involving a Border Patrol vehicle. The mother, Angelita Ramon, had filed a fat lawsuit against the government, claiming that Agent Cody Rouse didn't do enough to avoid hitting her son, Bennett Patricio Jr., and dragging him under the vehicle to his death. U.S. District Judge Cindy K. Jorgenson ruled that the death was an accident, so there would be no fat payday for Ramon and her lawyers.

It is indeed unfortunate that the young man died, but what came out in the investigation was that Patricio had both alcohol and marijuana in his system, both of which are illegal and dangerous. He was also wearing all dark clothing and, at 4 in the morning, was lying, either asleep or passed out, on the highway.

The Human Speed Bump phenomenon is all too common. People get drunk and/or high out in the middle of the desert and then lie down on the road because the surface is generally warmer than the surrounding desert terrain. It happens way too much.

However, in this case, the investigation found that the agent was driving 10 miles per hour less than the speed limit, and he had his brights on.

It's sad that the kid died, sad that the agent will have to relive that horrible night in his mind, and sad that a distraught mom and a lawyer tried to make a buck off of it.

· As of the publication of this column, I will have gone three years, seven months, three weeks and four days without eating a hamburger. I haven't had pizza or ice cream in that period, either. It was on July 1, 2002, that I decided to try to carve off some of the tree ring-like layers of adipose tissue that had taken up permanent residence on my once semi-athletic frame.

I miss pizza and ice cream sometimes, but I almost never miss hamburgers. If I do, I just watch a tape of that hideous Carl's Jr. commercial where a firefighter is eating this sloppy jalapeno burger and drinks all the soda out of somebody else's cup. I mean, there are rules! I can't believe that Carl's Jr. pays a company to make ads that turn off even the most avid carnivores among us. First of all, he eats like a freakin' pig, and then he drinks off somebody else's straw! Anyway, I'm thinking of breaking my self-imposed burger ban in response to the e-mails I've received lately from nobody's friends over at PETA. They're going to be out in force at the rodeo grounds, protesting La Fiesta de los Vaqueros. That's where well-fed bulls get to buck, throw and then trample any human being stupid enough to try to sit on its back for eight seconds. Sounds like a good deal for the bull to me.

I haven't been to the rodeo in years; I might check it out. But if one of those gaunt, sallow PETA dorks gets in my way, I'm going to go get a burger and eat it right in his face.

Lent begins next week, so I can always start a new streak.

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