When do you let the animals out?

When Do You Let the Animals Out?  A Field Guide to Rocky Mountain Humour – Michael Kerr (1998, Fifth House Ltd., Markham, Ontario)

Living practically next door to the Rocky Mountains, and having been to most of the locales represented in this book, I was naturally intrigued…plus, who doesn’t like a good laugh?  

Author, motivational speaker, and humourist Michael Kerr milks funny historical facts, tourist’s questions, and quirky Rocky Mountain place-names for all they’re worth, and then he makes up a whole bunch of stuff just for good measure. It IS funny, to be sure, but in some cases, the humour is really, really forced: there’s a slightly macabre tale of road kill being used for a practical joke; a story of a group of park wardens spending a harrowing night trapped in a cabin with a co-worker possessed of a smelly health issue; numerous “bear” bottom guffaws; and a few really strange paragraphs suggesting alternate park logos (and making predictable fun at the long-standing symbol, a beaver).  To be fair, Kerr uses the same amount of ink to joke (gently) about Parks Canada staff as he does the tourists – but it’s the questions the tourists ask at the information booths that really set up the big laughs: 

Can you help me?  My husband’s driving me crazy and he won’t shut up.

Do you have a pamphlet that shows me how I got here?

Can I turn around half way down the trail, or do I have to go all the way to the end?

Is there any scenery around here I could photograph?  

There’s a whole ton of these, and they’re absolutely the highlight of the book.  If you’ve ever worked in customer service (or at a tourist information booth), you’ll get a kick out of these as much as I did. 

I was rather aghast at the number of typos the publisher let through in this printing, but otherwise, the book’s a good thing to stuff in your backpack and take along to read when the fishing is slow.  Or if your hike isn’t very scenic.  Or your golf game is rained out.  You get the picture.

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