The Origin of Bumpity

     Do you have a park in your neighborhood? There was one in mine, with a wading pool and swings and a slide and teeter totters and horseshoe pits. In the park, there were also ping pong tables. Some people called them table tennis tables. When the weather was good, these people brought paddles and balls and played game after game of ping pong…or table tennis.

     Under one of these tables lived a Bump in the grass. It was one of those bumps that is always getting in the way of lawn mowers and causing fathers and other people who mow laws to think dreadful thoughts, and sometimes, I am sorry to tell, say dreadful things.

     But this Bump, as I said, lived under a ping pong or table tennis table and as a consequence, didn't get into trouble. On the other hand its life wasn't very exciting either. It didn't have any eyes so it couldn't see and it didn't have a mouth, so it couldn't talk, or laugh, or even hiccup. Somehow, because sound goes through just about everything, it could hear, but it couldn't understand what it heard. So, all the Bump could do was lie under the table and think green thoughts.

     It was doing this on the day the Elks had their picnic. These were not Elks with big horns who live in the woods; these were people Elks. They belonged to a lodge called something like, The Benevolent and Patriotic order of Elks. The men Elks wore a real elk's tooth on their watch fob. A fob is what men used to attach to their pocket watches in order to be able to pull them out of the tight pockets in their vests. Where the elk's teeth came from, I don't want to know, and where they attach them these days, I have no idea, but this isn't telling our story.

     The Elks were having a picnic. They drove up in their big, shinny cars. Then the Elks got out and their wives got out and about a thousand of their children and five hundred of their dogs got out, and the wives unloaded picnic baskets and yelled at the children and dogs and hurried to take over the best picnic tables.

     Some of the Elks stood around and talked and some smoked and some talked and smoked and some pitched horseshoes and some did nothing but sit. Several of the larger Elks shooed kids away from one of the table tennis (or ping pong) tables and forgetting the fact that they had fat stomachs pushing at their vests, decided to show the kids a thing or two. This is another way of saying that they were going to show off and hope that they could play as well as they did when they were kids; which wasn't very good; but they'd forgotten. So they took some practice serves and missed the ball and the kids who were watching started giggling and that only made things worse.

     The Bump who lived under the table woke up from his green dreams, which is no wonder, what with the dogs barking and the kids yelling and the ratty-tap of the ping pong balls and Elks muttering under their breaths. He listened to all of the noise, but he couldn't understand any of it. He knew one thing though; he certainly wished he knew WHAT was going on.

     Finally the Elks with the ping pong (or table tennis) paddles began to get down to business and the game was on. Rap tic…rap tic…rap tic, back and forth went the ball. "Serve, one two three! That wasn't yours….yes it was!" Rap tic. "My serve." Rap tic.

     The Bump was getting an awful ache in his sod when something strange happened. The fattest Elk, who was winning, made a very hard swing at the little, white, ball and missed. Four buttons popped off of his vest and his watch flipped out of it's tight pocked and flew through the air. The fat Elk caught it just before it hit the ground but the elk's tooth on the watch fob slipped loose, hit the fat Elk's foot and bounced under the table. It lit on top of the grass that covered the Bump and vanished.

     The fat Elk got down on his hands and knees and looked under the table but he couldn't see any thing. The Bump didn't move and finally the fat Elk banged his head on a brace and gave up and backed out. "I've lost my Elk's tooth," he announced, "Anyone seen it?" No one had.

     Under the table, the bump wondered, "What is seeing?" He didn't know, but he did know that he had a thing called a tooth. It felt funny. When it fell on him, it had stuck into him, into his roots. He wondered if he moved it, it would fall out. He tried. "Ummmuchf!" He tried again. "Muhgurfgh!" Something gave a little. "Culluughfrumnn!" And just like that, there was a split across the side of the bump; the tooth was in the top part and nothing in the bottom. The Bump could feel a little breeze go in and out when he opened and closed the split. 'How odd," he thought, "This has never happened to me before. He wondered as hard as he could about the sensation, but when all he'd ever had until now was green thoughts, he didn't get very far. He decided to wait and see what would happen next.

     Nothing did for a while. The table tennis (or ping pong) games went on. The Elks mostly stopped showing off and their kids played, which meant a lot of missing balls went into the wading pool and dogs chased them and the kids yelled and chased the dogs and all of this gave the Bump a worse sod ache.

     Finally the Elk's wives, or lady Elks, began calling everyone to eat the big lunch they had laid out. The paddles were thrown down, and the balls the dogs hadn't chewed up were put on the tables and all the kids ran off to get sick on hot dogs and lemonade and potato salad. And two ping pong/table tennis balls started rolling slowly across the table, fell to the ground, and rolled a ways further under the table and came to rest on top of the Bump, right above the tooth. They each had a dark spot of mud on them and in the shadows, under the table, they looked remarkably like…well to tell the truth, they looked exactly like eyes and the split with the tooth looked all the world like a mouth. And the Bump whispered softly to itself, "By George, I can talk, and by George, I can see!" And it could!

     Now I'm going to stop right here for a minute and say that there's no use asking me how this could happen, because I don't know. However, I can tell you that there was a ring of toadstools under that table, the sort we older folks were told when we were kids, was a fairy circle. This was a spot where sometimes, if every thing was just right, MAGIC could happen, and our Bump was right in the middle of that circle. Now mind you, I'm not saying that what had happened was due to fairy magic, but really now, have you got a better explanation. I don't.

     But to go on, the Bump found that seeing was even more remarkable than hearing. All at sudden, hundreds of things he'd heard when people in the park talked, could be seen, to be made sense of. He could hardly believe how wonderful it was. He couldn't see everything, but everything he could see he looked at. The rest of the grass, dogs and sunlight, and trees and sunlight, and the wading pool and sunlight, and people; Elks and lady Elks and Elk kids. Amazing!

     It was then that a REALLY BIG, STUPENDOUS, INCREDIBLE thought began to occur to the Bump. It was so startling that at first he was afraid to think it, but then he gathered his courage and the thought went like this. "I can feel things. I can hear things. I can see things, and I can think about things. I must be…ALIVE!" What a miracle, to be alive!

     He wanted to open his new mouth with its new white tooth and just yell out to everyone, "Hello world, its me! I'm alive and my name is…is. My name is…." Well, how about that, he didn't know what his name was. Until now, he'd never needed one.

     Oh he knew WHAT he was. He remembered hearing two men talking and one of them saying, "Where should we put this ping pong table, Bill?" And another Bill voice saying, "Over here, over this bump." Well, there were the table legs and he was in the middle of them, so he must be a bump.

     Well why not, he had to start some place so Bump would be his name. But would that be enough? Somehow he didn't think so. Perhaps if he continued to look about he would get another idea. He looked right, center, and left, and although there were things to see, none of them seemed right for the rest of a name. That is until he managed to lean back and look up. There was something written on the bottom of the table in chalk. He read it.

     Now don't interrupt by telling me that he wouldn't be able to read. All I know is that he could. Perhaps it was the fairy circle; perhaps it was that the table tennis/ping pong balls were of the best quality and had a guarantee. He read it. The writing said Alexander J. The rest was hidden by a two by four, but that was enough. "Alexander J.,… Alexander J. Bump," said Alexander J. Bump. "I like that, it sounds dignified!"

     This is the true story of how my friend and colleague got his name. Bumpity was his stage or professional name given to him by Wayne Brown, then director at KATU-TV in Portland Oregon. If you are interested, I'll see about writing about Fred, Digger and Scotty. I have to be careful about including some of the humans involved since they all have really tough lawyers.

Bob Griggs, Bumpity's strongest supporter and right hand man.