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“I’m the ultimate Fuller Brush salesman,” admits Wyoming-born Doug Hecox, who adds, without shame, “I sold insurance for six months. Some of the skills have stayed with me.” Those skills paid off in 1997, when he was phoning newspaper editors throughout the Central Plains region and asking them to run his weekly humor column. Before long, a number of papers, including the Daily Times of Rawlins, Wyo., and Laramie’s Daily Boomerang, signed on. And now, Hecox is expanding his empire: He’s just published Star Spangled Banter, his first collection of published pieces.
“This one [newspaper] guy says, ‘Do you do ag humor? We just lost our ag-humor guy,’” Hecox says, continuing his story. “And like a classic salesman, I said, ‘Sure, how many do you need?’ So I got myself stuck, and I had to start thinking that way fast.”
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“Ag humor,” of course, is whatever cracks up folks down on the farm. Hecox’s parents grew up on ranches, and his grandparents are still there, so it wasn’t that much of a stretch. But still. “It’s very hard for me to do,” he says, “but I manage to crank it out, and I’m very happy with the way they turn out. Obviously, I incorporate a lot of cow references, horse references, occasionally some sheep references. I did [a column] where, as a practical joke, I rustle my neighbor’s sheep every time my wife needs a mop.”
One wonders if the aggies would chuckle any harder if they realized the absurd truth: “There’s this single guy living in an apartment in our nation’s capital, and he’s pretending to have not only 100 head of cattle, but a wife, two kids, and a whole lot of neighbors in some nearby town that has no name. It’s a complete scam, yes,” Hecox confesses. “Which is why I’ve got to get that book out, because I think the jig may be up pretty soon.”
“That book” would be Hecox’s second, an already completed collection of ag-humor columns. And he’s nearly done with his third publication, a sequel to Star Spangled Banter. Book No. 4, he says, will be a kind of Capitol Hill Lazlo Letters. Having worked on the Hill, Hecox has been privy to the many “wacko letters” sent to members of Congress. “And those wacko letters are many times not answerable,” he notes: The writer isn’t from the member’s district, didn’t include a return address, or, he adds, is “simply insane. There’s no way to respond. Like the guy who wants to change the colors of the flag to pink, yellow, and green to help promote friendship.” Hecox wants to put these heartfelt petitions into print.
Employed at the Treasury Department, Hecox is coy about his current day job. “I’m involved a little bit with ’employee matters.’ I couldn’t even tell you what I do. I haven’t even seen my job description.”
By night, when he’s not writing the political and cultural material that fills Banter (which is available at www.dougfun.com) or thinking up new pig jokes, Hecox is a regular on the D.C.-Baltimore comedy circuit. He claims to get ideas while jogging and listening to C-SPAN radio, “the ultimate D.C. thing to do.”
“It’s ridiculous,” Hecox laughs. “When you’re out there huffing and puffing and running around, and Brian Lamb is talking to you in your earyou’ve got a problem.” Dave Nuttycombe