Blog Post

When Sweetums, Rent-a-Squatch and Rick Bragg conspired to steal my thunder

Y’all, Sweetums is becoming more and more famous. Already, people come up to him to ask if he is the Sweetums I am always writing about. Then, last weekend, I was speaking at a writers’ conference in Tuscaloosa and he got waaaay more attention than me. Not only was he the main topic of discussion in my two sessions but he also was the subject of a joke told onstage by Rick Bragg, one of our all-time favorite authors.

Not that I’m bitter.

rick bragg
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Rick Bragg spoke at a writers conference where I was a presenter. Sweetums was the subject of a “big foot” joke when Bragg accepted an award at dinner. (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)

As I’m sure you’ve surmised, the reason behind all this attention is Sweetums’ size – 6-foot-7, 300 pounds – coupled with his fascination with Bigfoot. (At the end of this post, I’m going to share an excerpt from my book “Not Quite Right: Mostly True Tales of a Weird News Reporter” explaining Sweetums’ Rent-a-Squatch idea).

Here’s what happened: Sweetums accompanied me to the Southern Christian Writers Conference where I was invited to speak Friday and Saturday about humor writing. Rick, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “All Over But the Shouting,” came to Friday night’s dinner to accept the Joanne Sloan National Award for the Encouragement of Writing, which is named for one of the founders of the conference. Mrs. Sloan, who we came to know over the weekend, is a wonderful, caring, tee-tiny bundle of energy who works with the family’s Christian publishing business and has been heading the festival with her husband, David Sloan, for 26 years.

Rick has known the Sloans for many years and, during his humble and utterly hilarious acceptance speech, he mentioned Mrs. Sloan’s diminutive size. He pointed at Sweetums, whom he’d met several times over the years, and said, “She’d fit in this guy’s sock.” Sweetums just beamed with pride at being the subject of a “big foot” joke made by a Pulitzer winner.

Following dinner, Sweetums came with me while I did my presentation where I gave tips on adding humor to your writing. I read examples of the various topics from “Not Quite Right,” including several that involved Sweetums. For the rest of the conference, everyone wanted to talk with him. And he wasn’t even presenting, y’all. Pretty soon, his

kelly at conference
Over the weekend, I taught two session on adding humor to your writing at the Southern Christian Writers Conference in Tuscaloosa. (Photo by Wil Elrick)

head will be as big as his feet.

But I guess if he starts making big money being Sweetums, or Rent-a-Squatch, I’m good with that. That way he can keep me in the style to which I hope to become accustomed.

In the meantime, check out this chapter from “Not Quite Right” and shoot me an email (kellykazek@kellykazek.comn) if you want to buy a signed copy for $15. (Click here to read about Sweetums’ Bigfoot vow renewal ceremony. Yes, he finally got one. He’ll end up dead, y’all.)

That Time There Came Those Three Little Words: Rent-a-Squatch

(Warning to any women reading this: Whatever you do, do not let your male significant other see this chapter. If you have to cut it out and toss it in the fireplace or cook the shredded pages into the tuna-potato-chip casserole, do it! Do it now. If he reads this, he will get ideas, and then you’ll end up with a Rent-A-Squatch franchise. And if that happens, don’t come crying to me. I tried to warn you.)

Sweetums was like a Bigfoot with a bone. He just wouldn’t let it drop. He had an idea for a business and wanted my blessing. The discussion went something like this:

Sweetums: “You know how I’ve always wanted a Bigfoot costume?”

Me: “You’ll end up dead.”

Sweetums: Exasperated sigh.

20180520_140844
Me with my SweetumSquatch.

Me: “Oh, sorry. Habit.” I decided to play along. “Yes, you want a Bigfoot costume but we looked online and the only ones we could find were Halloween costumes that fit people up to six-foot-one. Clearly too small for you so . . . no costume.”

Sweetums, giving a self-satisfied smirk: “That’s why I looked up professional costume makers online. I found a place that sells movie-quality Sasquatch outfits for $1,200.”

Me: “If we don’t have $1,200 to build an enclosed catio so my kitties can lie on tiny lounge chairs in the sunshine while sipping Meow-jitos, we don’t have money for a Bigfoot suit.”

Sweetums, ignoring, as usual, the quality of life of my cats: “But these can be made in my size. Plus, they’re more realistic than those Halloween suits, and they add about a foot of height.”

Me: “So you’d be seven feet seven inches tall? And furry? And walking around in the dark trying to scare people? You’ll end up dead.”

Sweetums: “Would you listen!? I don’t want to use it to walk around in the dark and scare people anymore.”

Sweetums in his Bigfoot suit (in front of his Bigfoot quilt). (Photo by Kelly Kazek)

Color me intrigued. Me: “You don’t? Then what do you want to do with it? Ooooohh, I get it. I’ll make some grainy, blurry footage of you in the woods and we’ll sell it to one of those Bigfoot hunter shows. Or to The National Enquirer. Or that other magazine with National in the title. Oh, yeah, National Geographic . . .”

Sweetums: “Earth to Kelly. Could we get back on track please? Just let me tell you about my plan. I know a way we can afford the suit and keep you from worrying I would get shot.”

Me, skeptical: “I’m listening.”

Sweetums: “I could buy the suit on our credit card, and then rent myself out as Bigfoot, like for parties. We could pay off the costume and then turn it into a business.” His face was lit up like a 200-watt bulb. He was so proud, bless his heart. I almost didn’t have the heart to tell him his idea stank like roadkill in August. But I managed to work up the nerve.

Me: “That idea stinks like roadkill in August.”

Sweetums, sounding hurt: “Really? You don’t think there are people out there who want to rent a Sasquatch?”

Me: “I can’t imagine what for.”

Sweetums: “Well, for birthday parties. And corporate picnics. Halloween events. To deliver flowers or messages.”

Me, in an enthusiastic tone. “Oh, I get it. Parents would pay you to come to their kid’s Bigfoot-themed parties. Guys would hire a huge man in a furry costume to take flowers to their ladies in hopes of scoring points in the romance department. We could call it Rent-A-Squatch. And we could add singing Squatch-A-Grams.”

Sweetums:Yessss!!!”

Me, picking up the laundry basket and heading from the room: “You’ll end up dead.”

And just like that, I’d squashed his Squatch dreams. It’s not like I take pleasure in it, y’all. Well, maybe a little. But I’ve learned it’s hard to keep a good Sasquatch down. If you see a Rent-A-Squatch ad in your hometown, just walk away. Quietly. On tiptoe.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Rick Bragg spoke at a writers conference where I was a presenter. Sweetums was the subject of a “big foot” joke when Bragg accepted an award at dinner. (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)

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