A friend of mine in St. George gave me a list of topics for my Spalpeen column, all having local spring overtones, such as:

— How I watched a new seagull one day.

— The rise and fall of the local tides.

I knew he was pulling my leg, of course, and his ideas made me laugh. But another one of his suggestions had me hesitate, then consider it.

— The snow has gone. Where did all this dog [$#*!] come from?

Bear with me for a minute — I will explain where the story is going.

My father grew up in a small rural town, joined the Army, worked around cars and mechanics all his life and had ample occasions to learn swear words. My Irish Catholic mother, however, made sure they were unspoken in front of their children. He had to find more creative terms to express the same thing in place of the profane ones.

My parents had an older 23-foot Bayliner cruiser in Mystic, Conn. I remember when visiting them and enjoying time on the boat one day, my dad leaned over the side, looked down at the water, and said,

“There’s another G.-d. dumpling.”

“Dumpling?” I asked.

“Some idiot discharged his boat’s holding tank in the harbor, and that floater there is a dumpling,” he said with disgust as he pointed to the object of my question. My mother approved of this new politically correct word for the floater because she giggled, and my dad smiled broadly and looked proud of himself.

I incorporated the word into my natural vocabulary because I admired my dad. But I still chuckle when I see the words dim sum dumplings on an Asian restaurant menu. They are delicious — the ones in the restaurants — and I order them all the time.

Speaking of dumplings, most folks in our Tenants Harbor neighborhood own a dog. We are happily living in our human kennels, leaving it several times a day when the dogs let us out to go for a walk with them.

Each early spring, it’s fun watching our two dogs discover what laid under the snow and on top of frozen ground all winter. Before the snowmelt, the dogs only sniffed here and there, then concentrated on other functions which hurried them along. But once the snow disappeared, they were like little boys at an old Wonder Bread factory, sniffing at the cold equivalent of white bread baking.

All of us in the neighborhood pick up our dog’s dumplings. We must look like mushroom hunters, though, as we bend down and carefully search the grasses with an intense focus.

We use disposable bags with varying thicknesses — we don’t buy the cheap one-ply brand. I did once and ended up washing my hands over and over as if I were an obsessive-compulsive. No one here uses those metal scoopers, a veritable golf club with a gaping tractor bucket on the end, sweeping over the ground like a metal detector. Wimps.

Several weeks ago, one of our dogs had what my wife called “an accident” in our living room, and I stepped in it. I wish I had said:

“Jiminy Rickett, one of you darlings pinched a loaf in the living room.”

But that’s not what I said.

I don’t know which dog had “the accident,” so I glared at both. I found some red food coloring and added it to one dog’s cereal to identify the culprit. They were perfect gentlemen afterword, though, so I stopped adding coloring. Then a day later I stepped in another dumpling, and I, by accident, mind you, yelled the word [$#*!], and the dogs looked at me like:

“What’s your G.-d. problem?”

Fortunately, there were no children within hearing range.

My father had it right. Around family members, especially kids, it is best to use a gentler version of a naughty word.

But now I worry if I am down at the docks or hanging out at Hamilton Marine or Midcoast Marine Supply and complaining about boat holding tanks, I might angrily shout out “dumpling” or “floater” rather than “[$#*!].” Imagine how embarrassing that would be.

Mike Skinner is a writer who lives in Tenants Harbor. Skinner was a medic in the U.S. Army, a hospital executive, and a college educator. He is the author of “My Life as a Non-Valedictorian,” available through Maine Authors Publishing.

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