Did you ever have a nickname when you were young? Something like Lefty, Red, Skip or, perish the thought, Stinky? That last name could be erased with a little soap, water and a blast of Hai Karate.

Maybe that nick name follows you even now, with many going by a nickname instead of their real name. For instance, I have an acquaintance/friend who goes by Squirrel. If you ever met him it would be immediately obvious how he got the nickname since he is very squirrel-y. With that being said, I haven’t the slightest what his real name is even though I address him quite often. And, given its’ been years, it’d be way awkward to ask his real name. Like in the classic Seinfeld episode, it would be a “Deloris” incident should I ask at this point. Google it.

“Okay, Sherrill. I’m sure you got a nickname.” I can hear you grumbling as you count your wall-high store of Heavenly Soft toilet paper you hoarded during one of your nocturnal shopping raids. “What is it? Jerk Face? Baldy? Big Nose?”

While my self-proclaimed nickname is “The Sexy Beast”, it’s been next to impossible to get anyone to call me by that. Actually, it is totally impossible as I’m the only one who refers to me by that moniker. Perhaps I need to hire a marketing firm for that one. Back in college I was able to get a few people to call me “The Great One” for a short while, another of my self-created nicknames in the vein of “T-Bone” of Seinfeld fame. Again. Google it. You have plenty of time. However, in that case, I think it was more of a mocking name than one of adoration.

“Would you please get to the point?” I hear you snarling as you organize your 50 crates of hand sanitizer you hoarded in your underground bunker.

Obviously, being in the news business for 30 years, there are some who call me “Scoop” but that’s kind of a secondary nickname brought on by my career. No, the classic Duane nickname is “French Fry”, or, in its more modern version just plain ole “Fry”.

“Okay. How’d you get that name?” I hear you bellow from the pantry where you are putting away the last of the 50 loaves of bread that you hoarded only to learn in a couple of weeks – bread molds and frozen bread tastes like toilet paper. Oh wait, you can consolidate.

It all happened at band camp when I was 15. Yes, this is a one-time-at-band-camp story. It was the first time I’d really been away from home. The camp was held at Tennessee Tech during the height of summer. And, seeing I was a momma’s boy and had no clue how to take care of myself while I was away from home, I failed to apply the proper amount of sunscreen that first day in the sun. Funny thing about the sun; it burns bare skin. I was wearing shorts that day.

When I got back to the dorm that night, I couldn’t bend my legs. It was a horrific burn as my pasty white legs had turned a bright red color. It was torture just trying to sleep as the pain persisted. Solarcaine did nothing for me. I laid in the dark room listening to my Blonde LP, whimpering in pain all night. That’s right, I brought a turntable to band camp. I was a nerd. It wasn’t like we had iPods back then.

So, the next day I manned up and went back to the practice field with legs that glowed so bright that the astronauts said they could see them from space. You’d think the upperclassmen would be nice given this poor toasted kid but that wasn’t the case. It was make fun of Duane time with one of them quoting a sunscreen commercial that was big at the time – “I feel like a french fry.”

If you don’t’ recall it, back in the 70s there was a commercial where this kid had gotten a bad sunburn and was telling his mother that he felt like a french fry. Watch the video online. I just did. I think my legs burned a bit just now.

While I was excused from that day of marching to recover, I was not excused the indignity of being referred to as French Fry by everyone who knew me. And, it soon became a school-wide nickname as folks starting calling me that after hearing the story.

However, what started out as an indignity brought about by my pasty white skin and lack of sunscreen soon became part of my identity. And, given the fact people love to shorten stuff, it soon just became Fry. Before I knew it, even teachers were calling me Fry and then it was people on the street. It lasted well through high school. I even had a “Squirrel moment” a couple of years after high school when an acquaintance/friend asked me what my name was. He only knew me by Fry. I still have a few people, including my old band teacher, who still call me Fry to this day. I mean, if I can’t get people to call me Sexy Beast or The Great One then I guess French Fry will have to do.

“Did you learn anything from your little incident?” I hear you say through bites of the milk sandwich you’re enjoying since you have to get rid of 50 gallons of milk before it spoils.

“Yes. First. Always wear sunscreen. Second. Kids are mean as I found out again just two years after the French Fry incident as I lie on the bathroom floor at band camp, buck naked writhing in pain. That band camp incident is for a later column. And, last but not least. I’m glad I bathe regularly as I’d a lot rather be called Fry than Stinky.

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