The Satirical Influences of Mark Twain and Ralph Hilbrant

Posted: May 26, 2009 in Things you should know about the Proprietor of The Small Ball Report

I was born with a penchant for stirring the pot. On the day of my birth, my Doctor was attending the Iowa Hawkeye homecoming game. A rabid fan, he had never missed a game in the previous six seasons. However, on that fall day of my 1970 arrival he was called away just before kickoff in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes beat Northwestern that day. Dr. Robert Alstater didn’t see it.

I don’t know for sure but they must have invented the beeper prior to 1970. Either that, or he was notified of my coming arrival by one of those pilots that carry the 100 yard long streamer signs behind them at football games, and instead of one saying “Come check out the deals at Jimmy Baldinger’s Plymouth Dodge Chrysler”, the sign that day must have said, “Dr. Alstater: Report to Muscatine General immediately, that little smart ass baby is about to be born!”

When I was in first grade, my mother went to a parent teacher conference. The teacher, we’ll call her Miss Beatle, was 95 years old and had once taught Laura Ingalls Wilder how to dip her ink pen so she had experience foiling children like me and Willy Olson.

She remarked to my Mom that, “Your son is doing very well in school, but he sometimes can be defiant and not follow instructions. He can be kind of a Smart Alec and likes to fool around in class!”

My Mom, made the mistake of appearing to be relieved by the news, and stated that, “Whew, at least he doesn’t need to be in Special Ed classes like his brother.” I inserted that line partly to see if my brother will read this someday and also partly because it is a true story.

In my current chronicles, The Small Ball Report, I like to call my form of societal observation a form of satire. It is why my profile story refers to an actual dream I had as a young person where the guest in my dream was the great satirist in American History, Mark Twain. Some kids my age had dreams with Elle Macphearson in them, I had Mark Twain.

Some may say, you’ve never even been published, and until such time, your Sarcasm doesn’t pass the Satire test. Since I have now finished six chapters in my forthcoming book, A Flame From Within, this criticism will soon cease. However, others who don’t like me and ignore me may say just being a Smartass doesn’t pass their Sarcasm test.

Either way, whatever you call my personality trait, it is not something that is new to me. It has been in my family for generations. My own father and grandfathers were known for their ornery streaks. Even if there ornery streaks weren’t exhibited in internet blogging prose.

My father once coached my Little League baseball team. One year there was a player who I would say was a prickly type of lad. He got upset about having to play Right Field again and quit the team one day. Since he went to my school, he handed me his team uniform in a paper bag. The bag happened to be wet and had the smell of piss…I’m guessing because he had just pissed on it. Hence, the prickly comment.

I managed to get the uniform home somehow without my 4th grade HazMat suit. By that time, the other player’s Dad had called my Dad and said that he wasn’t letting his son quit, he would be at the game that night. I will always remember fondly the smirk on my Dad’s face as he handed the small-ball hitting right fielder his uniform in the same paper bag he had returned it in.

People of satire/sarcasm/smartass consider themselves keen observers of others. We are by our nature people watchers. The most influential watcher of people I ever met, was my Father’s Father. For this story, I will protect his identity and refer to him as Ralph Hilbrant. Actually, that was his real name, but most of his friends are gone, so I’ll just run with it.

Ralph Hilbrant never met a bench at a park or shopping mall that he didn’t like. And while he was less conversational about his observances, if you sat next to him long enough and stared at his face you could imagine the thoughts that were going through his head,

On a couple of occasions when I was sitting on the bench next to him, he with his big billed blue denim (insert popular feed company, here) hat, me with my short coach’s shorts and knee high white socks, I either heard or imagined him to say:

“That big heffer’s chest is so enormous that her bra size is two parachutes.”


“Is that a mole on that guy’s neck? Or is that actually a mole living on that guys neck?”

And when my Grandfather really found someone to be interesting or provocative, like when a guy with a Mohawk hair cut or a hippie girl with a nose ring would walk by, just when they got out of earshot, he would at a very soft, faint, and barely audible decibel level, mutter “hummmmm”. Only his mouth never opened when he said it. Instead, there was just a smug smile on his face.

And so, that is the charter of this blog, to provide a commentary that will make the reader go “hummmmm” with a closed mouth, under their breath and out of earshot of the person next to them. Easier for me to do it this way than to pierce my nose and shave a Mohawk in my balding head.

I’m calling my commentary Satire in the tradition of two great American wisecracks, Mark Twain (Hannibal, Missouri) and Ralph Hilbrant (Trenton, Iowa).

  1. mjhougen says:

    If Garrison Keillor and David Letterman had a love child who in his formative years consumed massive amounts of Old Milwaulkee and fried egg sandwiches, I could imagine them producing a blog of this sort. However I can’t help but wonder who your target audience is??? perhaps the alter ego of your alter ego.

  2. Small Ball Saturday says:

    My target audience is anyone that has hosted Paul Simon in their house. Not the Simon & Garfunkel Paul Simon, but the dead bow tie wearing former Illinois Senator. …the toaster just popped, now I can eat my egg sandwich.

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