Then there’s that time I was attacked by a wooden lion…

image It’s been nearly 40 years since my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Flunkem, wrote the following remark in red ink on my report card:

Unstructured time is a challenge for Ned.

After reading this, my mother looked at me and said, “Since when did filling your unstructured time become a challenge?”

And things haven’t really changed since then. I can honestly say, through sheer luck and determination, I have put myself in a position to have what I’m sure Mrs. Flunkem would consider entirely too much unstructured time. Fortunately for me, my wife disagrees with Mrs. Flunkem and encourages me to make the most of it.


By saying things like, “Hey Honey! Look at that wooden lion over there!”

The lion in question was standing outside an empty storefront, across from where we were parked. I studied it for a moment.

“It looks angry. Or possibly hurt. See the way he’s holding his paw up? Maybe he has a splinter?”

“It’s a wooden lion,” my wife replied. “So you’re probably right.”

“I’ll go look,” I said, and cautiously approached the lion to inspect his paw…

After winning his trust, the lion let me examine his paw.
After winning his trust, Wooden Lion let me examine his paw. Probably because I’m a Leo.

It didn’t take long to discover the source of his pained expression…

And in that moment, I made a friend for life. Or at least until I needed some firewood.
And in that moment, I made a friend for life. Or at least until I needed some firewood.

The relief on his face was easy to see. I thought. So I decided to celebrate with a knuckle bump…

In retrospect, I probably should have warned him about the knuckle bump.
In retrospect, I probably should have warned him about the knuckle bump first.

Possibly because his paw was still sore, my gesture wasn’t greeted with the level of enthusiasm I had anticipated…

I hate to think of what could've happened if I'd gone for a hug instead.
I hate to think of what could’ve happened if I’d gone for a hug instead.

I returned his snarl and attempted to take control of the situation by reacting in a cat-like manner…

I struck what I felt was an equally threatening cat-like stance. I only scared myself.
I struck what I felt was an equally threatening cat-like stance. I only scared myself.

When that didn’t work, I knew it was time to pull out my fists for a one-two combo I like to call “The Captain and Tennille…”

I almost felt sorry for Wooden Lion.
I almost felt sorry for him.

I’m pretty sure I slipped on something — probably that discarded splinter — because somehow he landed the first punch…

If you've never been sucker-punched by a wooden lion, I don't recommend it.
If you’ve never been sucker-punched by a wooden lion, I don’t recommend it.

At this point, my natural instincts between “fight or flight” kicked in and, out of respect to my family waiting in the car, I chose flight — but Wooden Lion had other ideas…

So much for gratitude Mr. Wooden Lion.
So much for gratitude from Wooden Lion.

Thanks to my lightening reflexes, I was able to turn the tables on Wooden Lion by slipping out of my coat…

On no! Did you lose something Wooden Lion?
On NO! Did you lose something Wooden Lion?

As it turned out, the splinter was just ploy. What he really wanted all along was my jacket. I guess that’s what I get for wearing a Caterpillar brand coat with the word “Cat” stitched into the collar…

Enjoy the jacket, Wooden Lion! I doubt you can get the hood over your FAT HEAD!
Enjoy the jacket, Wooden Lion! I doubt you can get the hood over your FAT HEAD!

Mrs. Flunkem, if you happen to be reading this, I’m sorry. But as you can see I’m still spending my unstructured time pretty much the same way.

Who would’ve thought I’d actually get paid for it!

(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, or Barnes & Noble.)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

78 thoughts on “Then there’s that time I was attacked by a wooden lion…”

  1. It’s like one of those flip books, except with more blue jeans.
    I couldn’t pay much attention, though, because I was trying to figure out the name of the motel reflected in the window. It looks like “Fib Grove,” which is the best name for a motel ever.

  2. Oh my god, that was laugh out loud funny! I can picture people walking by and questioning your antics in progress. A friendly smile a nod. Move along people, nothing to see here.

        1. And for that, we are most grateful. The world prefers you as ‘Ned the crazyhead.’ On the other hand, we could call you ‘Father Ned’?

    1. There was a small crowd by the time it was over, and a lot of car honks. Fortunately, we were out of town, so there’s a good chance I won’t be recognized buying groceries or something.

  3. Looks like this was a starving circus lion before he was frozen in time on his trick stool! The sore paw & sad look on his face was all part of his act to lure in his next meal. Good thing you gave him the slip!

  4. Whew, Ned, that was close – good thing you were fleet of feet or you could have lost more than just your CAT jacket! Being about 2,999 miles away, I can see a bigger pattern here, Ned. In addition to being cold, the poor lion is so skinny you can count his ribs. From my perspective, he is standing exactly between Bedrock’s Pizzera, Chowder House and Grill and Don’s Main Street Family Restaurant. I think the poor lion is hungry and he is standing there hoping someone will notice and feed him. If you pick him up some grub and feed him, you may get your CAT jacket back in appreciation. Just sayin’. You’d be grumpy too if you were hungry.

    1. And then there is the wooden bear holding the 4ft wooden salmon just yards away, taunting that lion!

      Sadly, he didn’t see THAT photo op until after he already messed with the lion!

      Could be another adventure? Or maybe a sign not to mess with wooden creatures?

      1. Bwhaahahaha! Alicia, Ned strikes me as the kind of guy that should come with a User’s Manual and a book of Handy Tips: a file of notes from each person in life who has been responsible for him (including Mrs. Flunkem) and their suggestions for keeping him out of trouble and focussed. You have my deepest sympathy. Ha!

  5. lions are known for their love of heavy equipment logo items. and they will do most anything to get their paws on one. i cannot believe you were not aware of that. you are just lucky you got away with your john deere underwear in place.

  6. I got nothin’. Still recovering from the pole episode. May need a few days to deal with your lion days…… Although….. It could be a stretch, but heading into the lion’s den could have been foretold, fated as it were. It could have been written in your name all along….Uh oh, (simple) mind just blown.

  7. In the words of a teenage girl listening to New Direction…O.M.G!!
    I am lauging my A off right now and woke everyone up. No worries, though. I enjoy filling extra unstructured time with my boys–even if they are mad about being up too early on a day off!
    This was awesome. Maybe ranks up with my favorites!

          1. Not disappointed at all! I’m cracking up because you apologized about what you might have considered a non-post which was actually a huge help to a newbie like me (I just happened to be on the Reader when your post came across). It was also a fantastic reminder that I need to reserve this week-end for my family and stay off the darned computer for awhile. Not only did I slip into work/travel mode this week, I fell into disappearing writer mode, too. I have two kiddos needing their mama and you have a houseful that needs you, too. Now shoo! You have fruitcake to eat, basketballs to dodge and spankings to administer.

            1. I’m so glad to hear that, Michelle — Thank You! I really felt I was letting folks down. I also know it’s easy to slip into the habit of taking family for granted. As much as I talk about making writing one of your priorities and sticking to a writing routine — which is true — it only works if your family feels important too. It’s a balancing act to be sure, but one worth finding and keeping 😉

              Again, thanks for the affirmation.

    1. I can’t tell you how many times I heard that during my parent/teacher conferences. Fortunately, by the time I was a senior in high school, she stopped coming to them. She also stopped talking in the third-person, which was always a little creepy to me.

  8. Wouldn’t it be ironic if we lift that lion’s wallet, check his ID and see that he’s not a Leo after all, but a Pisces? You’d have to admit that a fishy (albeit furry and fangy) beat you up and stole your lunch money. That’s ok. It won’t happen. It’s documented for posterity and just in case anyone is interested in lawyer-ing up.

    I’d lion up for that trial (and error).

    Groovy pics 🙂

  9. That’s the kind of thing I’d do (but we don’t have lions, wooden or otherwise, here in Blighty) and my kids would just sigh and say ‘Mother….grow up’

No one is watching, I swear...

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