We closed our modest place on the St. Lawrence River last week. While I was still in the area I took the opportunity to golf with my brothers, Tim and Mike. The course is about 30 miles northeast of our seasonal spot on the river.

I was surprised that there was little color in the trees that far north. The area is usually a couple of weeks ahead of us, in Western New York, when it comes to Mother Nature’s seasonal display … and it was still pretty green, mid-September. Which reminds me of a joke, but first …

I’d like to mention that my brothers and I were lucky, this year, to have friends Mike McNamara, Dick Lapine and Bob Halpin join us at one time or another on the golf course. All fantastic people who know how to back off and play down to my level. It’s appreciated. Trust me.

The joke: Decades ago, Bob Newhart was on the Johnny Carson show. Carson asked his guest, the master of dry-wit, if there was ever a joke he thought was funny but never got a good reaction from.

Newhart, in his deadpan spin, said yes. He explained a bit about an astronaut who had returned to earth after several years of inter-galactic exploration. The astronaut had come back with tales about a planet he had found that was just like ours. “Everything was exactly the same as here on Earth,” he said.

Amazed reporters gathered to ask questions; they wanted details. “Are they more advanced or behind us on technology and the like?” The astronaut calmly replied “Indeed, they are slightly ahead of us.”

“By how much?” a reporter shouted out.

The space-traveler looked at the reporter, held up a couple of fingers and said (in Newhart’s straight-faced, stuttering style), “They’re about two weeks ahead of us.” He explained, “They came out with the disposable safety-razor about 13 days before we did here on Earth.”

Why that joke never got a good reaction is beyond me. I thought it was hilarious. But then again, I’ve always been a huge Newhart fan. “Hi, I’m Larry, this is my brother Darryl ...”

Moving on.

I watched the first Bills game up north and something popped into my head for God-only-knows-why. I started thinking about famous things people have said in their lives that ended up on their headstones after they passed. What’s the connection? Well, I was wondering if legendary Buffalo Bills’ coach, Marv Levy will ever have etched on his tombstone … “Where would you rather be than right here, right now?!” I’m thinking .. probably not.

And then the flood-gates opened up. My mind rambled off without permission, to a similar thought, regarding people’s final words. Words that I thought would be amusing .. if not totally inappropriate for publication in a normal column.

Final words from:

An electrician: “Yes, I’m not stupid. Of course I turned the power off.”

A tour guide: “I promise you, it’s not quicksand.”

An aerialist: “Who needs a net?”

A snake-handler: “They’re not poisonous.”

A lion-tamer: “Don’t worry, ‘ol Elsa, here, and I are good friends.”

Okay, let me finish up by telling you how Johnny Carson responded to the just-mentioned Newhart joke. He said that unbelievably, he had almost the same joke but with a different ending .. and it, too, never got the chuckle he thought it deserved. (Warning: it may seem sexist in this day and age … but remember, Johnny Carson said it, not me.)

Johnny explained that his joke also dealt with an astronaut who found a planet just like ours. “Exact same thing as earth with one small difference,” the returning space-pilot reported.

“And what’s that?” asked a reporter.

“Well, the women’s breasts are on their backs.”

“Oh my,” a journalist exclaimed, “that’s got to be a problem.”

The smirking astronaut shot back, “Not when you’re dancing with them.”

Reminder: Johnny Carson said it. I would never repeat it.

Trust me.

And that’s the way it looks from the Valley.

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