Since this column appears in a number of newspapers down South, readers who take issue with my wisdom have little chance during the year of getting equal space.

But every December, I lay out the rotten fruits and veggies that have come my way during the year, and in the succeeding column, showcase all the fresh cumquats, figs and bouquets tossed by my admirers.

Sometimes, the same column draws both, as did one I wrote on the general state of politics in the country.

“Not up to your usual quality of humor but one has to eat on non-inspired days,” wrote a long-time reader from the North Carolina Triad.

“Genius. Hilarious. Home run with the bases loaded,” wrote another reader.

Several readers took issue with my column about the pie vendor who refused to honor food stamps in exchange for her wares. In a column titled “Let them eat cornbread,” I maintained that the poor are entitled to an occasional slice of pie.

“As a child, some of my best memories and best times were spent on my grandparents’ farm, even without what some consider the necessities,” wrote one reader. “ ... It wasn’t harsh; it provided wonderful memories. So it is not that I begrudge the poor anything beyond the raw necessities; it is who decides who is poor and what are the required necessities. People can live and be happy with a lot less than what the government says they need.”

Another wrote: “By purchasing flour, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, and other raw ingredients – which should be allowed on food stamps – I think, families, could still have occasional treats such as desserts ...” She added: “By the way, cornbread can be part of a healthy diet. I make it from scratch from time to time to go with bean soup or spinach soup.”

After the theater massacre in Aurora, Colo., many suggested that lives could have been saved had most of the people in the theater been armed. I wrote that I could think of few more frightening scenarios than walking into a darkened theater full of armed strangers. One reader responded:

“Unfortunately, you make the same mistake that the anti-gun folks make. You rely on the law to protect you – when it can’t. The fact is the theater in Aurora has a no-concealed-weapon policy. Therefore, the law-abiding citizens at the movie were not carrying. The only person carrying was the law breaker. The truth of the matter is the law not only did not protect them; it prevented them from protecting themselves.”

I accused New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg of playing Big Brother when he proposed the banning of 20-ounce drinks in the Big Apple.

“I dissent from your laissez-faire attitude, because the obesity epidemic is real,” wrote a long-time reader from Alabama. “Also, no one needs such large drinks; water is a better and cheaper alternative!”

I came down pretty hard on a Tennessee lad who, according to reports, had fathered 30 children by 11 women and was expected to provide child support on his wages of $7.50 an hour. My statistics may have been a little off, according to one reader, who called it “racist anti-male propaganda.”

“First, there are 24 children, not 30, and even then, no paternity tests have been done, as he could not afford to pay for any. He was in jail when the other six kids were conceived, and ... he still is. As for the child support, according to court records, no such request has been made. The initial claim about this came from a supremacist website, and you guys just ate it up.”

I got predictable dissent from my column on gay marriage. My position was that government should refrain from defining marriage and leave that up to religious organizations. But government could decide to extend certain privileges to pairs sharing a household, without inquiring into their sexual activity. I expressed my personal belief that marriage is for heterosexuals.

“You state, ‘I believe marriage is for heterosexuals,’” demurred one reader, who is in a long-term heterosexual marriage. “It seems to me that contradicts the body of what you have written, as you only allow that you can ‘feel kindly’ and ‘accord [homosexuals] the same courtesies.” But you seem to stop short of allowing that marriage can be for them, too. However we may parse that paragraph, the phrase ‘... who choose the gay life’ seems to me off the mark. I don’t believe homosexuality is a choice. Why in the world would anyone choose a lifestyle with so many difficulties and risk the censure and abuse heaped upon them by some? So, although I think your column was eminently readable and well thought out in general, I do find those two areas inconsistent with what I thought you were saying.”

I wrote one whimsical column about the way I’d like to see things in a perfect world. A New York state reader responded:

“I’d add: In a perfect world people would subscribe to ethical systems that didn’t include rules-as-bondage; in other words, they would not hand over their consciences to ancient texts and/or tyrannical men of present day.”

The most unkindest cut of all came from a reader who caught me red-handed in a column that mentioned Jefferson Davis:

“Davis was not ‘Mississippi- born’ as stated in your recent column! In fact he was born in Kentucky and not too far from Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace.”

Mea culpa! I spent too many years living an easy drive from Beauvoir, the Confederate president’s home in Biloxi.

Readers may email Gene Owens at

Gene Owens is a retired newspaper editor and columnist who graduated from Graniteville High School and now lives in Anderson.