Sam Venable 

Department of Irony

Spring SmutWith a slow and wicked smile, Cassandra loosened the straps on her blouse. “Come closer,” her hot breath whispered, “Let me show you some hybrid Honeycrisps…”

Oops. I didn’t realize you were reading over my shoulder. Give me a second to gather my senses.

There. Better now. I’m still torn up, but at least I should be able to speak rationally.

The problem is trashy, unsolicited printed matter that keeps piling up in my mailbox. It’s so bad it oughta be outlawed. There are some things people simply should not have shoved in their faces!

What is this awful material that shows up on a daily basis?

Hard-core pornography?

Political half-truths?

Worse than that. It’s those — Sshhh! Brace yourself and cover the kiddies’ ears — spring catalogs.

The first tawdry wave arrives in late January and early February. Mostly it’s for fishing equipment from Bass Pro, Cabela’s, Academy Outdoors and Gander Mountain. I’m able to resist the brunt of this sin for two reasons.

First, I’m old enough and stubborn enough not to be swayed by the “newest” and “latest” items of outdoor gear. I’ll buy the same ol’ reliables I’ve been using for decades, thank you.

The second reason is a bit more embarrassing. I’m too dumb to understand how 95 percent of this newfangled merchandise even works. There are reels on the market right now that require a degree from MIT before you make the first cast. And don’t get me started on all the new lines. If you’re not certified in chemistry and polymers, forget it. Just renounce fishing altogether and take up crossword puzzles.

Lurid as they may be, however, outdoor brochures are timid compared with the tidal wave of flower and vegetable catalogs flooding my mailbox this time of year. Talk about tools of the devil!

Think about it. It’s still winter. Bleak, drab winter, in fact, which can lash out at a moment’s notice and freeze tender young buds down to their stamens.

Yet the likes of Park Seed, Burpee, and Territorial Seed Company persist in rubbing my nose in this seasonal cesspool of squalor with lustful images and suggestive text.

Check out the torrid descriptions of tomatoes in the latest Park catalog—and make sure Granny is nowhere around with her lye soap for washing foul mouths:

“Firm, juicy and flavorful…with smooth shoulders… deeply lobed fruits weighing at least 12 ounces each…with a bite that starts sweet and finishes tart!”

If that’s not steamy enough, consider pages featuring row after tempting row of sweet corn. Except it’s not just plain “sweet” corn any more. No! There’s also “triple sweet” and “super sweet” and “sugar enhanced.”

For Pete’s sake, one photo even shows a hot ear dripping with melted butter. I broke into a sweat and began breathing in fits and jerks the moment I saw it.

This is corn porn, and I am powerless to resist.

They tell me I’ll go blind if I continue looking at this perverted stuff. Could be.

Then again, this racy material is soooo alluring. Maybe I’ll just keep turning the pages until I need glasses.

Sam Venable is an author, entertainer, and columnist for the Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel. He may be reached at