Friday, December 20, 2013

Merry Christmas - December 19, 2013

As published in the White River Current - Thursday December 19, 2013

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go.  Tis the season to be jolly.  This is the favorite time of the year for most people.  Time for parties, decorating, buying gifts, always keeping in mind the true reason for the season.  It’s a time for families and friends to get together in a true spirit of fellowship and love.  The word, merry, actually means “festive” so enjoy, have a good time, be generous in your giving and be thankful for the greatest gift of all, the gift of the Christ child.  When I was a boy growing up in the Rock House on Red Lane, we always put up a tree, a cedar that came from out in the pasture.  We decorated with the tinsel and ornaments saved from the previous year.  My job was to drape the icicles over the branches.  This was a time consuming job and I took it very seriously, trying not to break any of those fragile, silver strands.  I wonder if they still make those things.  Probably not with the brilliantly lighted, artificial trees that are now available.  Our church always had special children’s programs and a party that was held in the American Legion building.  This was mainly for convenience because the pews took up most of the space in the one-room church.  Anyway, we played games, dunked for apples, laughed and ate cookies and ended our celebration with someone reading the Christmas story from the gospel of Luke and singing “Silent Night.”  It was great fun.  My mother always prepared a special meal for Christmas dinner.  It usually consisted of chicken and dressing with the usual trimmings.  She also made popcorn balls, fudge and divinity candy and other treats for us kids.  I don’t ever remember my mother cooking a turkey at either Thanksgiving or Christmas.  We always opened gifts on Christmas eve and went to bed early, hoping that old St. Nick might stop by the house and leave another present or two while we were asleep.  He did pretty regularly for several years but as I got older, he failed to stop by, probably because I had been naughty and not nice.  Those were great memories.  I particularly enjoy the music of the Christmas season.  Until a few years ago, singers from the local churches joined together to rehearse and present a community Christmas cantata for the enjoyment of a standing room only congregation.  Donnie Speak and I would joke that we had to go by the hospital  before rehearsal and get a hormone shot so we could hit the high tenor notes.  We stopped having the community cantata when some of the churches decided they preferred doing their own thing.  I have heard several requests to revive the community tradition next year.  Hope it works out.  You may remember several months back that I had decided to write a Christmas song and cash in on all the royalties it would produce every year.  I still intend to do this, and also write a novel, but I have been so tied up in other activities that I haven’t been able to do much composing.  What is that saying about a certain road being paved with good intentions?  I still get goose bumps every year when I hear a reading of the Christmas story from the second chapter of Luke, King James version preferred:  “And so it was, that, while they were there…she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger…And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  Except for one brief passage, the Bible is silent about the boyhood experiences of Jesus.  I wonder, did he have friends to help celebrate his birthday every year.  I think so.  And I can just hear his dad say something like this:  “Jesus, your birthday is coming up next week and I have decided to rename the business from Nazareth Carpentry Shop to Joseph and Son Carpentry.  You have learned the business well and someday, of course, it will all be yours.  Don’t forget our motto ‘measure twice, saw once’ and always remember that ‘the customer is always right.’”  Probably never happened but I expect that Joseph was one proud father.  Merry Christmas, everyone, and I’ll see you next year with some more stories from the past.  Bye for now.  

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Liberator - December 5, 2013

As published in the White River Current - Thursday December 5, 2013
It was a hot day in the middle of summer.  My mother and I were doing something outside in the back yard of the Rock House on Red Lane where we lived.  I remember it vividly.  I can even close my eyes and see it.  The sound reached us first, then we saw this huge, four engine airplane approaching from the south directly toward our house.  It was low, I mean really low, and it was really loud and really large as it passed directly over us, proceeding north about a mile, then turning west.  It was all over in a manner of seconds and the plane, which I recognized from photos as a B-24 bomber, was soon out of sight, taking the sound with it.  An incident from my childhood that I have never forgotten.  A boyhood friend, Charles Hudson, also witnessed the unusual event and wrote about it several years later.  His remembrance is included in his collection entitled “The Prose, Poetry and Pitiful Projects of a Primitive Poet (Copyright, 1996).  I have received permission to include Charles’ memory in this article.  He entitled it “The Liberator.”  ‘Twas in the middle of the day, and in the middle of the summer, under the hot summer sun; and there were scattered clouds, and it was 1943, and nothing much exciting ever happened in Calico Rock (population 1000) this time of year.  Dad and I were rebuilding a stretch of fence to keep old Sybil from escaping her own lush pasture to graze in Jess Merchant’s peanut patch, or to work the meager fare of the Edington Road glade rocks.  We’d set two sturdy new cedar fence posts, and we’d spliced the “bob” wire, and stretched it with a bar, and were busy stapling it to the posts when---we suddenly realized we were hearing a hum, and a moan and a throbbing drone, growing louder and louder in our consciousness.  We jumped upon the bank, and we looked toward town, and there we saw it:  that great huge B-24 “Liberator” bomber settling down over town two miles away and on a bearing straight for our house.  Dad said excitedly:  “Run tell the others.  It must be Neill!”  A good bet, I’d say, since my brother was the only B-24 pilot from Izard County—and maybe even from all of north central Arkansas.  I “lit out,” yelling at the top of my lungs, but I could see that I was losing the race; the plane would beat me to the house by far.  And what chance did an adolescent voice have against those four great 1200 horsepower Pratt and Whitney, Twin Wasp, air-cooled radial engines, close enough to command the attention of every human, and probably every critter in the area?  But I could see that my mother and my brother and sisters were enjoying their panic, and were waving and jumping around in the yard.  I guess we made it pretty easy if Neill looked down to see if he could see anyone.  I stood there in the middle of the pasture, and watched that big beautiful shiny dark green airplane, with the vivid red and yellow and white and blue markings and lettering, fly ever so low around the house and turn back to the northwest to pick up whatever their planned route was for that day.  I watched that great bird gain altitude and become smaller by the second, until it was a speck in the sky; and I could barely hear that fading doppler sound.  And then I could no longer see it or hear it at all; and I could barely believe that it had happened.  The excitement and the high that I experienced that day kept me from sleeping much that night, and it kept me from having much interest in repairing fences, or doing my chores, or much of anything else for a while.  And it still stands out as one of the most vivid memories of my life.  ‘Twas in the middle of the day; and in the middle of the summer; and in the middle of a war; and in the middle of my boyhood.  Liberated!  Charles spent the largest past of his life in California where he died a few years ago.  He was my high school classmate.  I’ll have more to say about the Hudson family in a forthcoming article.  My next column will be in the Christmas issue of the Current, the last issue of the year.  See you in two weeks.   
(Note:  This is a picture of a B-25 Liberator that I took at the airshow in Oshkosh WI in the summer of 2011.  That's our daughter Sara posing in the picture. - Steve)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The War Years - November 21, 2013

As published in the White River Current - Thursday November 21, 2013

It was one of those “where were you” events that you never forget. It was a mild, December Sunday afternoon. My granddad and I were out in the front yard with our baseball gloves, playing “catch” when dad came out on the porch and called us inside. Our Philco radio was turned up loud and I could hear the announcer talking about the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor. I had no idea where Pearl Harbor was or the significance of this attack until the next day. It was the main topic of conversation in every classroom. Some of the older boys dropped out of school and enlisted in the army or navy. The president of the United States called the attack an act that would “live in infamy.” Well, I didn’t know what infamy was but I was pretty sure that it meant it was pretty bad. I finally looked it up in the dictionary (it means extremely bad; wicked). The Congress declared war on both the Japanese and Germans. Our school superintendent was of German ancestry. We young boys were convinced he was a spy. Occasionally someone would see the lights were on in his second story school office and we were certain he was up there sending radio messages to the enemy. What imagination. Things settled down and got back to a degree of normal in a few days. A rationing program began on several items such as gasoline and some food items. I believe sugar and coffee were a couple of these but I wasn’t involved in the buying of our necessities. I do know that there were kinds of stamps that were required when you purchased certain items. The Calico Rock Museum has some of these stamps on display. Check it out. We continued our family life much the same with raising most of our food and applying an old adage that my mother used to quote: “Eat what you can and what you can’t (eat), you can.” As I have stated before, mom had a canner on the stove six days a week. She also made butter and had a regular list of customers. Her butter was pressed into a round, wooden mold that would leave a raised imprint of a leaf on the top when it was turned out. She wrapped the butter in waxed paper and sold it for forty cents. I wish I had that butter mold now but maybe it is in a museum somewhere. Anyway, as in all wars, some of Calico Rock’s finest did not return and many others returned with the scars of battlefield encounters. I happened to be down on Main Street when my uncle Elbert received the telegram that his son, my cousin William Reed, was missing in action. Several weeks later, another telegram came that notified the family that Reed was a POW in Germany. He was a tail gunner on a B-17 bomber that was shot down over Germany, A few years ago, at the Oshkosh, WI, air show, I toured the inside of a B-17 that was on display. I always thought they were really large planes but, actually, they were pretty small, comparatively speaking. I’m still amazed at how tight a space there was for the tail gunner. A miracle that he was able to get loose and bail out. I think he was in POW camp about eighteen months or so until the war ended and he was able to return home. A real hero as are all who put themselves in harm’s way to protect our freedom. My dad served on the draft board for a time during the war years. I know the anguish he had when one of the boys he sent off to war never returned. What a burden. About ten years later, I was drafted into the army to help in the Korean conflict (it was never referred to as a war). I might talk a little about that in an article soon. Anyway, the war with Germany ended in May, 1945, and with Japan about three months later. When word reached Calico Rock that the war with Germany was over, school was dismissed and we all headed downtown to join the celebration. Two of us climbed up the bell tower on the church and rang the bell for an hour. Everyone was so happy. I want to back up and write about an incident that occurred during the war, probably the summer of 1944. That will have to wait until next time, in two weeks. See you then.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Hard Times No 4 - November 7, 2013

As published in the White River Current - Thursday November 7, 2013

Continuing the saga of life at the Rock House on Red Lane in the depression years. Our family quickly developed a routine that we followed for the seven or so years that we resided in the Rock House. Every morning, after granddad had built a fire in the wood cookstove, mother would begin cooking breakfast. When the water in the teakettle was hot, she would fill a cup with hot water and place it on top of the warming closet of the stove. Granddad would have finished milking our Guernsey cow and would bring the two gallon bucket of fresh milk into the kitchen where it was strained through cheese cloth and placed in a cool place for the cream to rise. The cream was skimmed off and later churned to make butter. We drank the skimmed milk at mealtime, referring to it as “blue john.” Granddad would drink his cup of hot water and wait for the breakfast meal which always consisted of hot biscuits. We bought flour in 25 pound cloth sacks. The empty sacks were used for various purposes, such as dish cloths, sewn into small bags for freshly ground sausage on butchering day, and quite often used to make shirts and other articles of clothing. Granddad always ate oatmeal every morning. Funny but I could eat oatmeal every morning now but I wasn’t very fond of it then, much to the chagrin of granddad. After breakfast, Janice and I would be off to school. The two-story school building housed all twelve grades. There also were schools at Creswell, Boswell, Pineville and 25 other locations in Izard County. I believe the first consolidation of the schools took place in 1939 which was the same year that Izard became a “dry county” but I imagine that is strictly a coincidence. After my sister and I got home from school, I took care of the chores that were assigned to me, did my homework, ate supper and usually went to bed early. Included in the list of my daily chores was feeding the chickens and gathering the eggs, slopping the hogs, emptying the chamber pots, splitting wood for the kitchen stove (also splitting kindling). About this time every year, after the first frost of the season, my dad would get home from work in time to eat supper with the rest of us, after which we would have a family conference. Now, I know it wasn’t exactly like that, but, looking back, it seems like it was. One of the items of business was to check the almanac and select a time to butcher the hog that we had been fattening up. This was earmarked, but we agreed to start the necessary preparations and wait for that cold, frosty morning. Susan had a “Not So Long Ago” column in this newspaper several months ago that gave all you would want to know about Hog Killin.’ You might check with the archives and find this two column story that was written by a former resident. Anyway, we finally got to the main topic of our family conference which was: Who are we going to buy our molasses from this year? My dad would lean back and say, in an expert tone, “Well, I heard that Vessie Scott has the best this year.” So, it was settled and we all went to bed. We always bought several gallons of molasses every year. We had that thick, sugary liquid on our table at every meal. The comedian, Jerry Clower, had a funny routine about the amount of butter you would stir into your plate of molasses. He quoted his mom as saying “now you be sure and lick that knife before you put it back in the butter.” Probably a misquote, but you get the idea. We didn’t have a lot, but we never went hungry. We had a big garden and mother had a canner on the stove six days a week during the summer. I had a few added chores in the summer, shelling peas, churning the butter, etc. Life was good. Then one Sunday, December 7, 1941, everything changed. Our country was at war.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Hard Times 3 - October 23, 2013

As published in the White River Current - Thursday October 23, 2013

Continuing the saga of the Hard Times depression years of the thirties and early forties: The move to the Rock House at the foot of Red Lane was not without trauma. When we arrived with a load of our possessions, the first things we noticed were three large feed sacks in the front yard. Upon further examination, we discovered that the sacks were all full of empty liquor bottles that had been picked up out of the field next to our house. We later found out that the bottles had been tossed out into the field by the previous renter. Of course, I was not too happy moving away from my friends on First Street. This only lasted a day or two and we got settled into what became a seven+ year stay. The Rock House had three bedrooms. My sister, Janice, was awarded the larger front bedroom, my parents chose the back bedroom and my granddad and I slept in the small middle bedroom on a feather bed. Let me pause here and tell you about my granddad. He was the only living grandparent that I ever had. His name was Lucas and everyone but me called him “Uncle Luke.” He was my mother’s father who lived with us until he died at the age of 69 (I was 13). He was a great help to my mother and did most of the outside work because my dad left for work very early and did not get home until after dark most of the time. Arising before daylight, granddad would build a fire in the wood heating stove that was located in the living room (our primary source of heat during the winter months), then build a fire in the wood cookstove and then it was off to the barn to slop the hogs and milk our cow. When he came back to the house with the large galvanized bucket of fresh milk, my mother would have started cooking breakfast. We bought flour in large sacks, twenty-five pounds I think, and mother made biscuits every morning. Quite often she took a portion of the biscuit dough and make a small fried pie for my lunch (I liked cherry the best). Beside the pie, she made a sandwich of potted meat salad (a small can of potted meat, a chopped boiled egg and a little mayonnaise) spread between two slices of light bread, all wrapped in waxed paper and placed in a small brown paper sack. Yummie!! I had the best lunch of anyone in the first grade. My mom, with the help of my granddad, took good care of her little boy. After breakfast, my sister and I were off to school; we walked. Granddad and I were buddies and I really missed him when he was gone. He was really good to me and never seemed to tire playing baseball with me (he was always the pitcher, I was always the batter.) My mom also had a brother and two sisters who came the long distance from their homes for an occasional visit. One of the sisters was diagnosed with TB and spent almost a year at the sanatorium in Booneville. Her youngest daughter, who was three years old at the time, stayed with us during this period. I was assigned the task of keeping her occupied because she missed her mom. We played games and her favorite was the toy tea set that we used a lot. I drank a lot of make-believe tea during that time. Oh, I almost forgot about the rock house. Anyway, in addition to the bedrooms, the house had a living room (where the heating stove was), a dining room with a large, round, claw-footed dining table and six chairs and a kitchen with a wood burning cook stove. We were the last house on the highway to have electricity. We did not have indoor plumbing but had a two-holer outhouse. We did have a well. A wash stand that held a metal pan, water bucket and dipper were located just outside the back door. Baths were taken in a #2 galvanized wash tub. A few feet from the back door was a large kettle that my mother used to make lye soap and hominy (not at the same time.) Our house was built with cobble stones, a rough-textured material that was also used in constructing a rock fence that bordered the yard on two sides. A one-car garage was located on the north corner of the property. Also on our property was a smoke house where we kept our cured meat, a chicken house (eggs and fryers) and a small barn for our Guernsey milk cow. We had a large garden spot. I’m sure this is boring so I will pause and endeavor to describe growing up in the depression years in the next episode. See you in two weeks. Bye for now.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Hard Times No. 2 - October 11, 2013

As published in the White River Current - Thursday October 11, 2013 “Hey, Bill. Did you hear that John broke his leg this morning?” “No, I hadn’t heard that. How did it happen?” “Well, he fell out of the persimmon tree while he was eating breakfast.” I don’t know whether I should call this a humorous tale or not but I heard it repeated many times back in the depression years of the “thirties.” I had several comments on my last article about “Hard Times” so I thought I might continue with more stories about my early years. Some of this I may have written about before. Anyway, I was born in Calico Rock in the early thirties, in the small house across the street from the present library/city hall. In small towns (and sometime in larger towns), houses have names referring to present or past residents. Examples of this are the Mixon house or the Judge Hammett house. Anyway, I was born in the Copp house. When I was about six months old, we moved to a two-story frame house at the top of the hill on West First Street known as the Dr. Matthews house. This house was next door (West) to the Dr. Smith house and we lived there about a year then moved to the William Wayland house, a large two-store yellow house that was located on the corner of what is now Park Street and Highway 56. Hold your place here while I explain that in 1969 I purchased this house from the owners, Frank and Verneice, and moved my drug store from Main Street into a new building that I had built after moving the house (which Frank had converted to a single story home) to a location in East Calico Rock. OK, after a year or so in the Wayland house, we moved back to West First Street into a house that was next door and East of the Dr. Smith house. I remember a lot about this house. This was close to downtown and the railroad and we had hobos quite often come to the back door and ask for food. I mentioned this in the last article. I have heard that the hobos had a system of notifying other hungry travelers who were riding the rails about where they could get something to eat. There were several young children, about my age who lived nearby so I had a lot of playmates. The Marchants lived across the street and their youngest son, Wade, was closest to my age so we played together along with Max and Billy Charles. Very early every morning, Mr. Marchant could be seen leading his milk cow down the hill and over to the Rand pasture where she would graze until late afternoon when he would bring her back to the house to milk, an everyday routine. He worked long days as part of the section gang on the railroad, replacing old crossties and otherwise keeping the trains safely moving to their destination. Joe was a part of the citizenry of our country referred to as the “common people” but are anything but common. I prefer to call them the “Salt of the Earth.” Hard Times. During the day, Wade sometime would visit and sit on the front porch with his elderly neighbor, Aunt Sally. Their conversation might go like this: Someone would occasionally drive or walk down the street in front of the house and Aunt Sally would lean forward in her rocking chair and say “Well, who are we?” Wade, in the other rocking chair, would answer “Well, you’re Sally and I’m Wade.” Believe me, this was funny, so maybe you can conjure up a mental picture of it. I wrote about the Hagars in a previous article. To refresh your memory, the youngest daughter, Johnnie Fay, was about my age. We spent many hours sitting on the floor in front of her mother while she taught us our ABCs and numbers. I could read and do some simple math when I entered the first grade. Sometime the girls and boys would gather in our yard and play games such as tag, annie over, drop the handkerchief and “ring around the rosie.” If these were hard times, we kids didn’t know it. Great memories of our house on West First Street but after a couple of years, we moved to the rock house on Red Lane. I was five years old. We’ll continue the saga when I see you in two weeks. Bye for now!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Hard Times - September 26, 2013

As published in the White River Current - Thursday September 26, 2013 So you think you have it rough, do you? You don’t even know the meaning of rough. Why, when I was a boy, I had to walk five miles to and from school, uphill both ways, barefoot, in eight inches of snow. OK, I’m exaggerating a little. It was only four inches of snow. I know most of you have already heard this story or variations of it. The point is, things are a lot different now than they were “back when I was growing up.” I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when I attended an evening performance at the Ozark Folk Center. A very talented group sang an acapella rendition of an old Stephen Foster song entitled “Hard Times Come Again No More.” The verse of the song goes like this “Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count it’s many tears While we all sup sorrow with the poor. While we seek mirth and beauty and music light and gay, there are frail forms fainting at the door.” You can imagine the mournful music that goes with these powerful lyrics. You might also check out the version sung by Nanci Griffith on YouTube. The composer of this song, Stephen Collins Foster, is known as the “father of American music.” He wrote over 200 songs. Among his best known are “Oh! Susanna”, “Camptown Races”, “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair” and “Beautiful Dreamer”. Two of his compositions have become official state songs: “My Old Kentucky Home” (State of Kentucky, 1928) and “Old Folks at Home” (Florida, 1935). Many of his compositions remain popular more than 150 years after he wrote them. Stephen died in 1864 at the age of 37. I grew up during the depression years of the ‘30s. I imagine those years were “hard times” for many families but you have to define what “hard times” and “poor” really mean. Our family consisted of my mom and dad, my grandfather and my sister and I. My dad had a regular job where he worked ten or twelve hours a day, six days a week. We lived pretty frugally but I never thought of us being poor. In today’s society, poor is determined by the federal government by the poverty level which is a combination of income, number of dependents and other things. Many people who are classified as poor today would have been thought of as rich back in the depression days. Even so, we didn’t think of it as hard times because we didn’t know any better. Our doors were never locked. We had respect for one another. I remember hobos coming to our back door asking for food. My mother always had something for them, usually a sandwich and maybe an apple. We moved a total of seven times by the time I was fifteen years old, the last house being the only one my parents owned, the others being rent houses. Seven of the fifteen years were spent at the rock house on Red Lane that I have written about in previous articles. I lived there from age five to twelve. None of the seven houses had indoor plumbing until my dad added a bathroom onto the seventh house. I was a junior in college at the time. When we lived in the rock house we were the last house on the road that had electricity. We kept the kerosene lamp handy because the lights were off a lot of the time. We were on a telephone party line with two or three other families. Our number was 29F4. That means it was number 29 and our ring was four “longs”. For me, Spring was when I changed from the long johns to more suitable under garments for the warmer weather. Summer was when I could go barefoot. The only time I wore shoes was on Sunday for church. Overalls was my usual attire. In a future article, I want to write about my playmates and the games we played. Things are much different now than they were “back then.” I won’t go so far as to say they were the good old days but we made do with what we had. I really don’t have any bad memories of those days. Yes, things are different now. The other day, a lady told me about her daughter almost going ballistic as they were driving away from their home and she remembered she had forgotten her cell phone. Of course, they had to return home and retrieve it. Contrast that to the telephones in my early years. More on this subject coming soon. Bye, bye for now.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Food - September 5, 2013

Food: As published in the White River Current - Thursday September 5, 2013 I enjoy eating. I didn’t have to tell you that. It is quite evident by the shape of my body that I like food, and plenty of it. Of course, same as you, there are some things that I like better than others, but there are very few things that I absolutely do not like. I like most vegetables such as celery, Brussels sprouts and eggplant. Now, I have never been on a cruise and you may think that is unusual. The real reason is that I have a tendency to overeat and when I do I often come down with an attack of gastritis which could last for several days. Everyone that I have heard comment on a cruise vacation always raves about the amount and variety of foods that are available for consumption at their will and pleasure. For example, Robert and Sharon went on a Scandinavian trip a few months ago. He told me that he ate three lobsters every night they were aboard the ship. Now I enjoy seafood but I can tell you for sure that if I had made it through three lobsters I would spend the rest of the cruise in sickbay. Anyway, this idea about food came across my brain when I was writing the last column which was about the “last days” if you remember. A crazy thought came to me. If I had the opportunity to choose my last meal, what would it consist of? After much consideration, here it is: For an appetizer, a half dozen oysters on the half shell; for the salad, lime Jello with pear halves; for soup, a cup of homemade vegetarian vegetable. You might be with me up to now but let’s go to the main course: a slice of fried salt pork with stewed potatoes, whippoorwill peas, turnip greens, a few whole pickled beets, a thick slice of a white onion and a large slab of yellow cornbread (you could add or substitute for the salt pork a big dish of kraut and wieners). The dessert choice is easy: Apple pie with a huge dip of butter pecan ice cream and drizzled with warm caramel syrup. No doubt about it, if I ate all that it would be my last meal. Now I feel pretty confident in saying not many of you would make the same choices that I did. I guess my desires are influenced a lot by the meals I had when I was growing up. Well, you can delete the oysters from that list because I don’t believe they ever appeared on our dining table. Lately there have been a lot of recipes that show up on Facebook that look interesting and I have been thinking about trying some of them. I’m not much of a cook but I scramble the eggs at the men’s breakfasts at church sometime if that counts as cooking. Now my neighbor, Tom*, is a gourmet cook in addition to his many other talents. In one of his recent emails he detailed a recent kitchen episode. (I must have deleted his email by mistake so I will have to pass it on as I remember it, so here it is). “My wife was out of town so I decided to make a run up to Harp’s to get something for lunch. I was delighted to see that they had just received a shipment of Ruby-throated hummingbird tongues and, since they are the best, I bought two packages. I sautéed both packages in a half cup of extra virgin olive oil that I had pressed from fruit that I had harvested the day before. When the tongues began to curl, I removed the pan and drained most of the oil. Returning the pan to medium heat, I stirred in a cup of heavy cream. When the mixture began to thicken, I added a half teaspoon of sea salt and a few turns of freshly ground black pepper and spooned the entire dish onto a thick slice of wheat toast. Yummie!!” Well, as you can see, our tastes differ somewhat. I prefer the Rufous hummingbird species. Their tongues are a little longer.. (Permission is granted to call this a “tongue-in-cheek” article). Welcome back, Tom* and Fredericka. We have missed you. Tom* will be here with his column for the next two weeks. I’ll see you in three weeks. Bye for now.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Journal - August 29, 2013

Journal - As published in the White River Current - Thursday August 29, 2013 We spend our years as a tale that is told. This verse of scripture from the Old Testament book of Psalms (90:9b, KJV) has long intrigued me. Every life is different and everyone has a story of their own to tell. My great grandmother kept a journal for twenty years, from 1890 to 1910. I have a copy, thanks to the effort of my mother in preserving this document. My sister had a diary that she wrote in every day and kept hidden in her chest of drawers. I knew about it and, after a search, found it and was reading some of the juicy entries when my mother caught me and gave me a good paddling. More recently, when I have remarked to Steve about something that occurred several years ago, he would say to me “write that down.” I wish that I had honored that request more diligently. It would be great if everyone kept a record of their life. Some of the entries in my great GM’s journal are very brief (about the weather, etc.) while others are somewhat humorous. Births are recorded (my mother in 1901) and deaths (her husband, who she called Mr. Mac, and she says “what will be do, what will we do?). Those were difficult days but we know about them because of my GGM. Her name was Tabitha, but everyone called her “Aunt T.” The title of “uncle” or “aunt” was still very common even when I was growing up. It was applied to older adults quite often even though some of them were only in their fifties. My granddad’s name was Lucas, but to everyone else he was “Uncle Luke.” Other community residents were Aunt Lou, Aunt Sally, Uncle Lynn and Uncle Ed (actually my real uncle but everyone called him “Uncle”) to name a few. Sorry, I’m getting away from the subject matter, but, hey!! This is what I do. I ramble. Back to the scripture verse at the top. The part about spending our years as a tale that is told is only found in the King James Version of the Bible (if I am wrong, please let me know.) This psalm, which is attributed to Moses, is actually a prayer. It is widely used at funerals as part of the scripture text. Now I don’t want to get morbid here, but we might as well face it. It’s coming, someday, to every one of us. You know. The big “D”. As certain as taxes, the saying goes. In the past, when I was more active, I was called on to play the piano or organ for funeral services at various churches and funeral home chapels in Calico Rock and other cities. I wish I had kept a record (journal) and these probably would amount to several hundred services, on some occasions three or four times a week. I admit that I became somewhat desensitized to the situations but now, in my old age, I think about it a lot. Several columns back, I wrote a little piece about “September Song.” One of the verses refers to the days dwindling down to a “precious few.” Another way of putting it is that when we get old, like me, we are close to the “last chapter” of our journal. How will it all end? We aren’t sure but I had a friend that told me he would like to live to be 110 years and be shot by a jealous husband. I assured him that wouldn’t happen. Oh, he might live to be 110, but forget the jealous husband part. However, when the final curtain falls, I would like to be as ready as possible. I’m giving some thought about my funeral service. I have some music selected, some pallbearers picked out and I want the minister to use Psalm 90 as the text for his eulogy. Most people would rather not discuss these things, so if I have offended anyone, I apologize. I’ll be more upbeat when I see you in two weeks when the topic will be “food.” Bye for now.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

School Days - August 15, 2013

School Days as publshied in the White River Current - Thursday August 15, 2013 School days, school days, Dear old golden rule days, Reading and, ‘riting’ and ‘rithmatic Taught to the tune of a hickory stick. You were my queen in calico, I was your bashful barefoot beau, And you wrote on my slate “I love you, so” When we were a couple of kids. So goes the chorus of a bouncy tune written over a century ago by Will Cobb and Gus Edwards. We had a 78 RPM recording of this song that I used to play often on our old wind-up Victrola when I was a little boy. Byron Harlan recorded a version of this song in 1907. You can listen to it on YouTube while you are getting the kids ready for another school year that begins next Monday at least in Arkansas and Missouri. When I was growing up, school started the day after Labor Day in Calico Rock. Some schools started earlier, some later. Now, because of state law, everyone starts on the same date but ending dates may vary somewhat. All of my schooling, from grades one through twelve, took place in the old two-story building that served the Calico Rock area for many years. Grades one through six were on the first floor with the other six grades on the upper floor. Miss Hattie was my first-grade teacher who started me off in the right direction as she did many others in the 40-plus years she taught in the Calico Rock system. Mrs. Wilkerson was my teacher in the second and third grades, Mrs. Brummit in the fourth, Mrs. Leola in the fifth and Mrs. Tarkington (or was it Mrs. Toothaker? Anyway, began with a “T”) in the sixth grade (I’m sure Shelby will straighten me out on this). I graduated from CRHS with the class of 1947. I have a lot of memories of my school days, some good and some not so good. But since I am on the subject I will comment on a few. The “hickory stick” mentioned in the above song makes reference to the corporal punishment that was widely administered in schools several years ago. The tool that was ordinarily used was called a paddle and was commonly hand made but could also be purchased commercially in several sizes, sometime highly decorated. The paddle was usually placed in plain sight in the classroom and served as a not-so-subtle reminder to the students to “behave” or suffer the consequences. Each teacher was given the task of defining an act of improper behavior and administering the penalty for an infraction, which could be as small as “talking out loud: two licks.” I was warned by my parents to always behave at school and that if I ever got a spanking I could expect another when I got home. I confess that I did receive two or three spankings (underserved, of course) at school but in each instance I forgot to tell my parents. If they ever found out about it, they never mentioned it. However, I did receive some spankings at home but they were not administered with a paddle. In these instances a small limb from the peach tree (called a switch) was usually used. The back side of a hair brush also worked and, on one memorable occasion, the razor strap came into use. I think this type of punishment is no longer used on rowdy school kids because of the liability threat and that may be a good thing. Several years ago, when I was a school board member, the parents of a young teenager and their son appeared before the board with a complaint against a male teacher for overly harsh treatment of the boy. They even had him lower his pants and exhibit the blue marks on his buttocks which they complained were caused by “beating” (they claimed) he had received by the teacher. I don’t remember the terms of the resolution of this complaint, but I think that might have been the last case of corporal punishment in the Calico Rock school system. I may have some other memories that I would like to pass on to you, but I will wait for a later date. That’s all for now. Thanks for tuning in. See you in two weeks. Bye, Bye!!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Memory - August 1, 2013

As published in the August 1, 2013 edition of the White River Current

I believe it was Yogi who is credited with the remark about something being “déjà vu all over again” so here it is, again.  I write this stuff, usually in one sitting, and everything I say (write) is truthful and accurate, as I remember it (my disclaimer).  I pride myself with having a good memory.  I believe the brain is somewhat like the hard drive on a computer that stores a huge amount of memory.  The key is knowing how to access that memory.  In my case, I think it has been helpful to work crossword puzzles and other type of mental games that exercise my brain.  But I have been told that sometimes the brain can play “tricks” on a person without them realizing it.  Which brings me to the topic of this issue.  I’ll just call it “memory.”  For example:  We had a chance to visit the great-grandkids a few days ago.  Apparently Molly is in the middle of her “terrible threes” and pitches a fit now and then, sometime holding her breath.  All at once my memory kicked in and I remembered the times that Molly’s granddad, Steve, also held his breath when he got overly irritated.  On one memorable occasion, he had a loud tantrum and ran into the bedroom.  Anita went to get him and found him unconscious on the floor so she screamed and picked him up we headed for the ER but by the time we got to the car he was awake and breathing normally.  I also remembered the time when I was two or three years old and also guilty of breath-holding.  My mom splashed some water in my face and that must have startled me and caused me to take a deep breath.  I think that cured me from holding my breath again.  Ah, memories.  A recent memory I have had and have mentioned a couple of times is the location of the first house that my friend and fellow OFC member, Shelby, resided when his family moved to Calico Rock.  He strongly denies ever living there, insisting that his family lived in a house across the street and the house I am referring to was occupied by another friend, Earl Ray, and his mom and dad.  Shelby has also come up with a person (Harold, another OFC member) to confirm his side of the story.  This is very troubling.  Could I actually be mistaken?

I decided to go to the senior center in a neighboring town for some professional memory testing.  I was informed that the testing would take about thirty minutes.  Before the testing began, the attractive, young technician told me she was going to give me five words to try to remember and that she would ask me for the words some time during the procedure.  The five words were “apple, tie, pen, car and house.”  This is easy, I thought.  I simply applied “Reed’s method of word association” to the words:  Apple (fruit), Tie (neck), etc.  You get the idea.  After about fifteen minutes, she asked for the five words.  When I answered “apple, tie, pen, car, house”  I thought she was going to faint.  “You’ve got a mind like a steel trap” she said.  After making a perfect score on the testing, I promised her that I would return at a later date for a more extensive examination.  Steel trap, eh!  What a relief.  But what about the house in Calico Rock where Shelby first lived?  I decided to google my brain to find the answer and there it was where it had been all the time.  My brain was playing tricks on me.  You see, I first met Shelby (along with his brothers Jimmy and Gordon) one day when I visited my friend, Earl Ray.  He said that the boys and their parents had recently moved into a house across the street but that the boys were at his house quite often.  My brain had them “living” in the Earl Ray house but “residing” in the other house.  Thank you, brain.  I believe Shelby will buy this explanation.  Makes sense to me and my memory is still intact.  Steel Trap.  For a while there I thought I was wrong, but I was wrong.  Do I need to repeat that?  What did you say?  Oh, the five words.  Let’s see now (fruit) Banana, (neck) collar,------    

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Local News - July 11, 2013

As published on the White River Current - Thursday July 11, 2013

You are probably surprised to see me again so soon.  Our mutual friend, Tom*, very politely

asked me to swap weeks again because he would be en route to his summer cottage which is

located on the banks of Skiff Lake in New Brunswick, Canada.  Of course, I very graciously

agreed, not thinking that he would have the next two weeks and it would be three weeks before

you could have another Rambling column.  This could cause some of you readers to have a

severe attack of “Rambling withdrawal.”  I am going to suggest that you stop reading right now

and save this issue until next week.  This might ward off the attack, which I have been told can

be very distressing.  Please accept my sincere apologies.  I will discuss this with Tom* and make

his aware of the consequences of his actions.  In the meantime, I will use my time this week to

briefly comment on several issues, most of them newsy but probably not especially newsworthy. 

Shelby and Beth made it home safely after a long trip in their RV (a 1966 GMC bus/conversion)

to Washington (state) for a granddaughter’s HS graduation so we were able to have a semiregular meeting of the OFC.  You remember Shelby.  He’s the one who attended school here

until the tenth grade when the family moved to Oregon.  A graduate of the US Naval Academy

which may have waterlogged his brain, he can’t remember the house he lived in back when the

family was in Calico Rock.  I am fortunate to have a great memory and plan to devote a

discussion on memory in a future issue.  Anyway, moving on.  The Peppersauce Players had

their premiere performance at the newly renovated Music Hall several days ago.  The response

of the audience was, for the most part, positive.  Future performances are planned for the Fall

season.  Go by and visit the music hall and treat yourself to a breath-taking experience when you

observe all that Charles has done in restoring the old Methodist Church building.  Speaking of

Methodists, the local congregation has a new pastor.  Bill, his wife and two young children,

moved into the parsonage the last of June.  I hated to see Pastor Mike and Nancy move away

from us but I guess that’s the way Methodists do things.  I’m looking forward to welcoming the

new family to our fair city and wish them the best as they continue their ministry here.  And I

guess I should, although somewhat begrudgingly, give a symbolic goodbye wave to Mike and

Nancy, a great couple that I will remember for a long time.  The Lions Club Fireworks Show

was a great success last week.  A large crowd was assembled at the King Park to enjoy the

annual pyrotechnic bonanza that illuminated the night sky with silver and gold stars.  Did you

know fireworks had names?  Well, they do, such as Willow, Palm, Spider and Peony to name a

few.  We saw them all last week in what many described as one of the best shows ever.  Thanks

to the Lions Club and everyone who contributed in some way to make this event possible.  I

remember the very first fireworks show from several years ago.  Rayvon, Lions Club Treasurer,

made the trip to Jacksonville to purchase the supplies.  Members of the fire department

volunteered to man the cannons and do the necessary ignition of the shells to propel them high

into the air to provide the picturesque displays.  Sounds good but there was trouble ahead. 

Darkness arrived but it was several minutes before the first shot went up.  Then another five or

ten minutes before shot number two.  The show continued for what seemed like an eternity

before the last shell was launched.  My nephew from Salt Lake City was visiting us at the time. 

He couldn’t wait to tell his friends back home that he had been to a small Arkansas town over

the holiday and had seen a fireworks show that had lasted for almost three hours.  Now, and I

think it was a good decision, the show is handled by a professional group from out-of-town.  Just

another example of the fun it is to live in a small town.  That’s about it in the newsy department

of the Ramblings column for this week.  Have a good summer and I’ll see you in three weeks. 

Bye for now.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Cowboys - July 4, 2013

As published in the White River Current on Thursday July 4, 2013

I was driving home from a doctor appointment the other day when a familiar voice came over the car radio.  The twanging voice of Waylon (now deceased) was declaring, in a fast tempo,  something about being a “Rambling Man, just doing the best that I can.”  I decided right there that this could be my theme song so I rushed home and fired up the computer to see if I could find the rest of the lyrics.  Turns out that there are at least three versions of a Rambling Man song, one by the Allman Brothers, another by Hank, Sr. and even a Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man by Bob Seger.  I liked Waylon’s version the best and considered downloading it as a ringtone on my cell phone.  By this time I had begun to lose my enthusiasm so put the project on hold.  I do think the idea had merit because I am just doing the best that I can, but aren’t we all?  Anyway, I enjoyed hearing Waylon again.  Do you remember the song he did several years ago with Willie about going to Luckenbach, Texas, Waylon, Willie and the Boys?  Anita and I and friends, Don and Maxine, visited Luckenbach (pop. about 50) a few years ago.  It is an unincorporated hamlet
located in the Texas hill country near Fredericksburg.  Nothing much there except a post office and a dilapidated dance hall where they have dances on Friday and Saturday nights.  I looked up their web site and was jerked to an upright sitting position when I saw that a group who called themselves the Drugstore Cowboys were playing on a Friday night in June.  Well, that certainly got my attention because Don and I just happened to be the organizers of a group of nine pharmacists who adopted the name, Drugstore Cowboys, and entertained thousands of Arkansans back a few years.  I shared the MC duties with Don.  He was our primary vocalist, and I was the banjo picker in the group.  Some of you may remember our performance in the King Park bandstand at one of the festivals.  We also played at pharmacy conventions in Las Vegas, NV and San Antonio, TX.  I retired from the group several years ago but Don and two others are still playing several concerts a year in and around the Little Rock area.  Now calling themselves the Drugstore Cowboys Trio, they recently played in Conway for a group that included a former Calico Rock resident, Mary Jane Kerr.  One of the most requested songs that the group does is the old Waylon tune, “Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.”  Oh, those were fun times.  When I was active with the group, I used to close the store at 6 PM, drive to Little Rock for band rehearsal, drive home arriving in Calico Rock about 2:30 AM, get a little sleep, get up in time to open the store at 8 AM and think nothing of it.  I can’t imagine doing that now and I admire Don for continuing.  He turned 85 recently.  I have to place him at the top of the list of characters I have known.  He and Maxine (married for 62 years) are more than friends.  They’re Family.  By the way, Anita and I celebrated our 60th a few weeks ago.  I will probably talk more about Don and the other roommates in a later article which will be about college experiences.  I try not to bore you with these personal items, so I apologize.  So I’ll end this issue by going back to the top.  My favorite Willie song is “Ain’t it funny how time slips away?”  The lyrics of this song are about a guy who runs into an old girlfriend, maybe at a dance or something, it doesn’t say where.  “Well, hello there” he says, “It’s been a long, long time.”  I like this song and Willie does a good job of it.  But I really like the title because it is funny, or perhaps I should say sad, for opportunities that I have had but waited too long and now they are gone.  Too bad.  I’m not laughing as I sit here in my corner of the Queen City of the Ozarks.  If you are feeling sentimental, also, you can hear all the Waylon and Willie songs that I have referenced on YouTube.  Happy Independence Day.  See you in two weeks, maybe in a better mood.  Bye for now.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Spring - June 20, 2013

As published in the White River Current - Thursday June 20, 2013 Goodbye to spring, 2013. I hate to see you go. You have been great, the best in a long time. We will remember you. The award winning songwriter of contemporary Christian music, Kurt Kaiser, is a member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. One of his most popular songs is “It Only Takes a Spark”, also known by the more well-known title “Pass It On.” This song is found in many different hymnals and is particularly a favorite with church youth groups. Written in 1969, the second verse begins “What a wondrous time is spring when all the trees are budding, The birds begin to sing, the flowers start their blooming…” It certainly was a wondrous time this year. This was the year of the rose. I do not remember when there were so many and the reds were so vivid. The wildflowers were also in abundance, especially the yellow beauty, the wild Cosmos (I hope I spelled that correctly). And there were many others that made the countryside spectacular. The trees have budded and are now all leafed out providing shade for those that are fortunate to have them in their yard (we don’t). But we have had the birds. It has really been a joy watching the many different species that have visited the feeder that is located just outside our sliding glass door. Some of these have gone north for the summer but several are still around. My favorite is the State bird, the Mockingbird. We have one that seems to have a favorite spot on top of the power pole in front of our house. He will sit up there and serenade us for several minutes at a time, never repeating the same song. The other evening while I was sitting on the front porch, he flew up to his spot to begin an aria and was soon joined by four of his friends. They all began to do their thing and it was a real cacophony of discordant sounds that ended after a minute or so when the friends abruptly left. Maybe it was a territorial thing. I like the variety of the mockingbird’s song. Not like the whippoorwill that will sing “Chip butter in the white oak” over and over. My neighbor, Tom*, and I were relaxing on the deck at the bluff house the other evening when we heard the familiar “chip butter…” song in the distance. Now you may not have known this but Tom* is a self-proclaimed ornithologist. He quickly informed me that the sound was not coming from a whippoorwill but was a ??? (I forgot, so maybe he will inform us in his column next week. Anyway, summer slipped in the back door last week and will officially appear tomorrow so thank you again spring of 2013. The word, spring, of course, has other meanings as do many English words. Spring can also mean to leap forward suddenly. It can also be an elastic strip of coiled wire. But I like the definition that means water rising to the surface of the earth. The largest spring in the world (I think) is located about fifty miles north of here and is the source of a river. Blanchard spring is another popular tourist location that only a few miles south. Two springs in particular have a great meaning to me. One is the Trimble Campground spring. My grandparents, James and Rosa, used to load their children in the wagon and meet other families at the clearing by the spring for revival type meetings in the summer. Later James was instrumental in the building of a church building at the site. The building has been changed over the years but still stands. James and Rosa and several of their brothers, sisters and other relatives are buried in the cemetery located nearby. The other spring that I was referring to is located somewhere by the side of the road between Pineville and Wild Cherry. I have stopped there for a cool drink on many occasions when I was going out to the “old home place” with my dad. People used to build stone structures over the springs and kept their milk, butter and other perishables there. Some of these structures still exist, at least two in the city limits of Calico Rock (at Jackson spring and McNeill spring). Many in rural locations use springs as their primary water source. Mixing a little history along with a good dose of sentimentality here in my corner of the Queen city of the Ozarks. I’ll be back in two weeks. Bye for now.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Politics - June 13, 2013

As published in the Whiter River Current - Thursday June 13, 2013 Thanks to all of you concerned readers for the e-mails, twitters, telegrams, phone calls and personal visits inquiring about my health since I missed my regular bi-weekly visit with you last week. No, I haven’t been sick. Actually it was a swap with Tom* who you may remember fills this space on alternate weeks. Tom* politely asked, well he actually begged (groveled), to swap for this time only and of course I graciously agreed without the least bit of hesitation. So, next week I will be here again on the regular schedule and maybe this will lessen the disappointment for having to go an extra week without the ramblings. Again, my thanks and sincere apologies for the inconvenience. Now, to the business at hand. Try to visualize a scene where there is a large group of college students, each one holding up both hands with the middle and index fingers of each hand pointing straight up and each student yelling (We’re Number Two!!!). I think you can add this to Reed’s list of things you probably will never see. Everyone likes to win, be number one. A very famous football coach is credited with saying “Winning is everything.” That’s not all the quotation and I’m not sure I agree with his philosophy, but it seems to be the prevailing idea of many people. Have you ever noticed the three finalists after an event in the Olympic Games? Standing on the podium, the gold medalist is all smiles as the flag of his/her country is raised and the national anthem played. The silver medalist looks so sad and dejected, whereas the bronze medalist seems really happy. Last week, I had the distinct honor of serving as the Grand Marshall in the Lions Rodeo parade. Not to diminish the honor of my selection, but I was not the first choice for this event. The comedian, Seinfeld, once remarked, “being number two means you are at the top of all the losers.” Story of my life. I’m a loser. I was Vice-President of my senior high school class and was Salutatorian at graduation. I also finished number two among pharmacists at my college graduation. Loser!! To continue the saga, how about my political career. I was elected with no opposition to one term as alderman representing my ward on the city council. I was appointed to serve out the unexpired term of the mayor (who resigned) and was elected with no opposition for one term. I ran for school board director four times, losing two times when I had an opponent and winning twice when I didn’t. After these episodes, I was firmly assured that politics was no longer in my future. But, speaking of politics, which I try to refrain from and which I rarely do, I want to take the opportunity of thanking Tommy and Missy for providing us with a legislative update and review each week in this publication. I am a faithful reader of these reports, since I believe it is my civic duty but also because I find them quite interesting and informative. For example, in a recent issue Tommy reported that the recent legislative session that adjourned a few weeks ago was one of the longest sessions on record. He also stated that the work this General Assembly tackled in 100 days was “truly remarkable.” I agree. You are aware that we sometimes rate the effectiveness of our elected Assembly members on the number of bills that they are able to get approved. I would suggest that they all should receive high marks because they passed 1,520 of the 2,492 bills that were introduced. Let me repeat that. That’s fifteen hundred and twenty new laws that will affect us all in some way or another. I thought that when almost 800 new laws were enacted in the previous session was “remarkable” I will have to, again, agree that this is “truly remarkable.” Hopefully we all will be healthier, wealthier and maybe even a little better looking. Thanks, again, Tommy and Missy for your hard work. I think I will just crawl back to my corner here in the Queen City and try to sort everything out. Remember, I’ll see you again next week when we will again take a look at “words.” Bye for now.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Band - May 23, 2013

From: The White River Current - Thursday May 23, 2013 Anita and I spent an enjoyable evening a few days ago. We attended the school band concert at the auditorium. Ever since both of our grandsons played alto saxophone when they were in their middle school and high school, we have been interested in supporting the local bands. You should know by now that I enjoy just about any type of music, from Bach to Bluegrass. We didn’t have a band when I was in school and I have always regretted it. But I took piano lessons from first grade through high school, so I can recognize excellence when I hear it. It is amazing what these band instructors can do with these kids. We had attended the concert in the early spring and could not help but be astounded at the improvement the elementary beginners band made in just a couple of months. You could hardly believe that the very difficult arrangements being played by the high school band were being performed by students from a small school in North Arkansas. Thank you, Miss Laura, and thank you, school board members. The opportunity for a college scholarship is much greater through the band than through the sports team. Just a fact. Congratulations to all the high school graduates and a tip of the old mortar board to those receiving awards. Keep the music coming. Anyway, I think I should brag a little more about my grandsons. I believe Ross was in the beginners band the first year that the local school had a band program. He was a band member through the eleventh grade when the family moved to Mountain Home where he graduated from high school. Now a college graduate residing in Tulsa with wife, Leah, Ross is still highly involved in music. Although he has become very talented playing keyboards, he keeps his horn available with he might need it. The other grandson, Sam, who attended a much larger school in Missouri, joined the elementary band in fifth grade and continued through middle school where he played in both the concert band and the jazz band. He decided to join the high school vocal ensemble and became one of the soloists. This group was selected the “most outstanding” in the state of Missouri Sam’s senior year. If I appear to be bragging too much, well, excuse me. Anyway, I apologize for so much personal stuff. I got kind of carried away with the band information. I did, actually, get my chance just by accident when I was a senior in college. When I was going through senior registration, the college band director asked if I would be interested in playing the bass drum in the college marching band. Jumping at the chance, I quickly became a drum virtuoso. I never had so much fun in my life. We played a lot of John Phillip Sousa marches and other good stuff at football games and in several parades. A dance orchestra developed with some of the band members and I played piano with this group. My roommate, Don, was our vocalist. More about him in the next issue. Another roommate, Fred, played trumpet. One of our gigs was the fireman’s ball on a New Year’s Eve at Harrison. My goodness, I can almost hear “Dreamer’s Holiday” in the background while I am reminiscing about all the old times. I don’t want to get too carried away here. I want to save some for next time so I’ll just say Bye for now and see you in two weeks.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Comments - May 9, 2013

From: The White River Current - Thursday May 9, 2013 I’ve mentioned it before. It’s difficult for me to imagine that someone would get some kind of enjoyment reading this stuff. What started out as an opinion/editorial type of column has remained such with a few exceptions. I never dreamed that it would last this long. People come up to me quite often commenting on my writing. As a matter of fact, I have had an extra-ordinary number in the last few days, mostly with comments such as “I absolutely enjoyed, you know, your last column.” The world is full pseudo-comedians these days. I guess I’m getting what I deserve. However, some of the persons that stop me on the street I may not know or remember even though I should (and I apologize). I continue to get e-mails and an occasional long distance phone call like the one from Sam a few days ago. Sam was a 1954 graduate of CRHS. I recalled his parent’s names but couldn’t get a mental picture of his face. I’m going over to the high school soon and look him up in his senior class picture. Sam had some questions about a recent article. Maybe he will attend the all-school reunion in June and we can get re-acquainted. Now I will say it again. I’m not an authority on anything but I do have opinions on various issues and I suspect many of you have opinions that differ from mine. No problem. I will say that the vast majority of comments that I have received have been favorable and I thank you very much but there are times that I hit the sensitive button and get a different response. I really was not too surprised to get a little negative reaction to the last issue which was, you remember, about “words.” Please allow me to briefly respond to one of these responses. In an e-mail from a friend that I’ve known a long time, the writer stated that “what people do is far more important than what they say.” Well, duh! He goes on “If OMG is the worst thing you hear in public, you must live a very sheltered life.” I know he is reading this issue so I will point out that the article was about the most overused/misused words and phrases (on Reed’s list). The only reference to “worst” was the illustration about my mother and dad. But thanks for the comments because it got me to thinking about my “sheltered life.” Except for church activities and various board and committee meetings that I attend, I spend most of my time at home. My pet answer to someone who asks what I do now is “Nothing; but I keep busy at it.” So, I read a lot. And I watch some TV which is where I hear some of the things I referred to in the article. Thanks to the guy that invented the remote. I can hit the mute button or change the channel in the blink of an eye. I try to keep an open mind on political and religious issues and will continue to refrain from commenting on them, at least for the present. But it was that “sheltered life” comment that caught my attention. My parents moved from the family farm in Wild Cherry to Calico Rock soon after my grandmother passed away. Mom was pregnant at the time and Dr. Smith wanted her close by in case she had problems. She had lost a child born prematurely about three years earlier. The baby, a boy that they named Dale Brooke, is buried at the Trimble Campground cemetery. I often daydream about how life would have been with an older brother. Anyway, I entered the world without any complications. Dad always said that my mother “raised” me. Now I’m not exactly sure what “sheltered” means, but I believe my growing up was not a lot different than most. Mother worked hard and tried her best to allow me to be a normal child. But I know, now, that she worried a lot, and also prayed a lot. And, I survived. Thank you, Mom, for sheltering me. I’ll be wearing a white rose on my lapel in your honor at church Sunday. Happy Mother’s Day. I love you.

Friday, April 26, 2013

List - April 25, 2013

From the White River Current - Thursday April 25, 2013

Well, here we are, almost to the end of another month into the second year of these bi-weekly visits.  I was thinking that it might be a good time to take a look at one of my favorite subjects:  words.  I am announcing, today, the addition of a new word to Reed’s list of misused/overused words and phrases.  The word is “absolutely.”  This word has gained great popularity among the guests on talk shows and in television interviews.  It has all but extinctified its cousin words, “definitely” and “exactly.”  I fully expect to be present in a meeting in the near future and hear the chairman exclaim “All in favor of the motion, let it be known by saying “absolutely.”  (Those opposing the motion would probably be asked to say “negatory” or something like that but we’ll think about that at a later time.)  The chairman will then announce “…and the absolutelys have it.”  Remember, you heard it here first.  Even though the new word on the list is widely used (or misused), it has a long way to go to catch up with the two words/phrases that are firmly entrenched at the top.  One of these is actually a welding together of the words “you” and “know” and is pronounced “YANO.”  I sometimes catch myself mentally counting the number of times a particular individual might use this language abuse in a normal conversation.  This expression has become such a part of our everyday informal speech that even I have been accused of uttering these words.  I suspect that “no, you don’t know and, in addition, you don’t want to know,” so why do I keep saying that?  Anyway, the other word/phrase at the top of my list makes me wince every time I hear it, which is often.  So popular, especially among younger adults (but not entirely), that it has its own acronym, “OMG”.  Apparently this makes it more convenient to use in e-mails and twitters.  This combination of three words is used as an expression of surprise or awe or a variety of other reasons or for no reason at all.  It can be uttered quickly, like “ohmy…” or to greatly enhance the astonishment level, stretch it out to “Ohhhhhhh Myyyyyyy ……..D.  Call me a pious prude if you want,  but I am offended by the use (misuse) of the name of the Almighty in this frivolous manner.  When I way a boy, it was very rare that you heard anyone use the “name” in vain.  Just something that was not done, especially in public.  The worst thing my mother would utter, when surprised, was “goodness gracious” whereas my dad might say “Great Scott” or “thunder and lightning.”  I believe any of these exclamations of my parents would convey as much of an element of surprise (or whatever) as would OMG and would certainly be more acceptable.  It might even be Biblical (look it up).  Unfortunately, we live in a society where we are told that the First Amendment allows us to say whatever we so desire.  Maybe so, but that doesn’t mean that we have to say something, especially if it is offensive to the other person.  Our children, starting in kindergarten, are taught to be “tolerant” referring mainly to racism and alternate lifestyles.  I like the word, “tolerance” but I believe it is a two-way street.  Doesn’t seem to be happening in our society today, mainly because of political correctness.  I see evidence that the pendulum is beginning to swing the other way.  It won’t be too soon for me.  Years ago, the great singer Nat King Cole recorded a very moving song by the title “Nature Boy.”  The song tells a fantasy of a “strange enchanted boy…who wandered very far” only to learn that “the greatest thing…was just to love and be loved in return”.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could do that?  You can listen to Nat’s version of this haunting melody on Youtube.  Just meditating and humming along in my corner of the Queen City of the Ozarks, Beautiful Calico Rock.  See you in two weeks.  Bye, Bye!  

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Radio - April 11, 2013

As published in the White River Current - Thursday April 11, 2013

It was a beautiful day in New York.  A sell-out crowd had squeezed into the Polo Grounds to watch the game between the Giants and the Cardinals, the two teams who, along with the Dodgers, were battling for the 1951 National League pennant.  Back in St. Louis, hunched over a microphone in a sound-proof studio of radio station KMOX, announcer Harry Caray was excitedly giving the play-by-play to his radio audience.  A cryptic message that read “Musial HR on 3-2” came over the teletype.  Harry leaned over and spoke into the mike “A full count on Stan the man.  Gomez takes his wind; here’s the pitch, swung on and THERE IT GOES, A LONG FLY BALL, WAY BACK; IT MIGHT BE, IT COULD BE, IT IS –A HOME RUN.  Holy Cow!!  Did he ever give that ball a ride.”  The Cardinals won the game but came in third in the pennant race.  The Giants won the deciding game by defeating the Dodgers in dramatic fashion by a walk-off home run by Bobby Thomson that has been described as “the shot heard ‘round the world.”  Before the advent of travelling by jet airplanes, most baseball announcers did the play-by-play reporting from their home town studios, as did Harry Caray.  That did not make the game any less exciting for the listeners.  Harry was so good at it you could picture in your mind the baseball sailing high into the right field stands and Musial trotting around the bases.  A “word picture” of something can be almost as vivid as seeing the event live.  When I was a boy, we had a Philco table model radio.  It took several seconds for the tubes to warm up but we were able to get several stations, all AM of course (this was before FM or television).  Some soap operas were broadcast in the afternoon (the only one I can remember is “Ma Perkins”) and a favorite of many households was “One Man’s Family” which was a weekly production.  My routine was to hurry home from school (I walked), get the snack my mother had put in the warming closet and do my homework.  Then I was permitted to turn on the radio at 5:00 PM to listen to my hero as the theme song would resonate “So just try Wheaties, the best breakfast food in the land” and the voice of the announcer would proclaim “Jack Armstrong, Jack Armstrong, The All American Boy.”  After the few chores and supper were over, I would put on my sleepers and get ready for bed.  But on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights I would get close to the speaker and oh-so-carefully fine tune the radio to WGN, 720, listening for the thumping sounds of the William Tell Overture announcing the thirty minute program, The Lone Ranger.  If I was lucky I would hear the announcer say “Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear.  From out of the past come the thundering hoof-beats of the great horse, Silver.  The Lone Ranger rides again.”  Radio back then was much more exciting that TV is today.  Other great shows were Jack Benny, George Burns & Gracie Allen, Fibber McGee and Molly, The Shadow (very scary, sometime), the Green Hornet (theme song was The Flight of the Bumblebee) and other greats.  We got our weather reports from C.C. Williford of station KWTO, 550 in Springfield.  Dad liked Gabriel Heatter for the national news.  He also liked to listen to the Cardinal games.  Harry Caray was the Cardinal announcer for many years before he had a run-in with the owner, August Busch.  He spent one year at the mike for the Oakland team but the owner, Charles Finley, insisted that he change his trademark “holy cow” saying to “holy mule.”  He refused and moved to Chicago where he spent eleven years with the White Sox before ending his career after several seasons as the very popular voice of the Cubs.  He started the routine there of leading the Cub fans in singing “Take me out to the ballgame” during the home seventh inning stretch.  Even though Harry died in 1998 at the age of 83, his singing legacy still continues at Cub’s home games with guest soloists leading the crowd.  Harry’s son, Chip (who died in 2008) and grandson (Skip) became announcers for the Atlanta Braves.  Try to Google Harry and listen to his famous voice.  Also check out some of the other old radio shows through the magic of internet.  Mixing a little  trivia along with the old memories here in my corner of the Queen City.  Bye til next time.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Birthdays (2013) - March 28, 2013

Birthdays (2013)

As published in the White River Current - Thursday March 28, 2013

Well, I have made a last minute executive decision.  Because of several important issues that need to be discussed, I am moving my baseball story to the next issue (in two weeks).  I guess politicians would call that “kicking the can.”  It’s not really just a baseball story and I wrote it several months ago.  Anyway, in two weeks, I promise.  I am writing this present article on my birthday which will be about eight days ago (March 20) by the time it goes to press in the Current (March 28).  I started the day by attending the funeral of a friend and long-time Calico Rock resident, Floyd.  He died on his birthday (March 17) at the age of 96.  He and Flora had been married for 75 years when she proceeded Floyd in death by a few months.  Another sign that I am getting older is that I remember Floyd’s mom and dad very well.  We had the annual birthday meeting of the OFC on March 14 with five of the six members attending along with the spouses that could make it.  Five of the six members and two wives have March birthdays.  Anita prepared my birthday lunch (March 20) as I requested:  Ham and beans with corn bread and ice tea.  Yummie!  I’ve been trying to back off of the sweets and otherwise unhealthy foods.  Now if I can just get myself disciplined to do some more exercising and walking.  Hard to do but I’m trying.  By the way, did you attend the Bootlegger Daze festival on Saturday, March 9th?  The Current had several good photos in the March 14 edition.  I almost dropped my glass of unsweetened ice tea when I saw the photo on the back page.  It featured Marshal-For-The-Day,  Fred, escorting a very unruly “Town- Drunk-For-The-Day,” who bore a remarkable resemblance to Tom*, to the local Judge-For-The- Day for sentencing.  I swear I heard this loud, tenor voice yelling my name wanting to borrow $50 to pay his fine.  You could have knocked me over with a Wild Turkey feather.  Yes that is the same Tom* who has a column Tom’s Tantruming …oops!  I meant Tenoring, on alternate weeks with the Ramblings.  After the OFC luncheon, I was driving Shelby on a tour of the city to show him where he used to live when we spotted Tom* painting a picnic table down by the museum parking lot.  We, of course, assumed that he was working off his fine but he insisted it was a 20/20 project and we didn’t push the issue.  I failed to mention that today (March 28) is Shelby’s birthday, so Happy Birthday, Shelby.  Harold’s big day is Saturday.  Now, turn back to the “town drunk” issue.  When I was a boy in 1938, if you were twenty one years of age or older, you could legally purchase alcoholic beverages in Calico Rock and Izard County.  That ended by a vote of the people and is still true today.  However, I would not at all be surprised if that ban ends in the very near future.  Did you make note of the big outcry in the nation when a company reduced the alcoholic content of a popular bourbon from 90 proof to 84 proof?  Red wine is considered good for your health if taken in moderation.
I’m not a “drinking”  person but I haven’t made up my mind how I would vote if the wet/dry issue is on the ballot.  Probably NO in honor of my mother who I accompanied several times when she went door-to-door carrying a petition to give the citizens a voting opportunity in the late 1930s.  I think the vote will be close.  Some say whiskey is the devil’s brew; others say it is the “oil of conversation” that brings people together.  What do you think?  Getting in over my head here in the Queen City, this is Reed.  Bye, Bye for now.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Birthday - March 14, 2013

As published in the White River Current - Thursday 03/14/2013

Holy Dick Tracy!  I just read that the next toy that Apple has coming down the digital pipeline is a wrist phone.  Brings back memories of the comic book detective that had a two-way wrist radio that kept him in contact with police headquarters.  I imagine the Apple version will be more like a miniature I-Pad.  It will be interesting to see how this sells and if it will reverse the present trend of Apple stock.  Speaking of I-Pads, Anita received one as a Christmas present from the kids.  She has only used it sparingly, but she has several Facebook friends.  The face-time feature of the I-Pad is really a lot of fun.  We were able, a few days ago, to wish Leah a happy birthday and enjoy a great visit with her and Ross.  We hadn’t seen them is a few weeks and they looked great.  Leah showed us the beautiful Tulip arrangement that her parents had sent for her BD.  Nothing unusual about this except Ross and Leah were at their home in Tulsa and we were seeing each other and communicating with our I-Pads.  Sometimes I get to thinking about all the things that have become a reality in my lifetime.  Such as jet airplanes, home computers, cell phones, copy machines, transistor radios, television and the list goes on to advances in medicine and surgery.  Hard to believe all that has happened in the short time that I have occupied a spot on this planet.  But, back to birthdays.  March has always been a huge birthday month for my family.  It has been a tradition in our church to recognize birthdays by asking the birthee to put in a special offering on the Sunday that is closest to the actual day (in recent years, we have also recognized wedding anniversaries).  In sort of a ceremony, when the call came, the birthday person would walk up to the front of the sanctuary and place a monetary offering in the proper receptacle and the rest of the congregation would give honor by singing the “Happy Birthday” song.  When I was a boy, I remember the “receptacle” was a small glass bank.  Now it is a miniature church building.  Never-the-less, back then, every year on the third Sunday of March there was a steady stream of birthday people making the annual pilgrimage to mark the anniversary of their birth.  Always included in this select group was my Uncle Ben who chose this day every year to attend church services in order, I suppose, to “put in his birthday offering.”
This tradition has not changed much over the years in our church.  I hope it never does.  A somewhat different tradition was celebrated for many years when the drug store was located down on Main Street.  Every year, just a few days before his Uncle Ramon’s birthday, Charlie T. would come by to select a suitable greeting card.  With my help, he would pick a new card from the rack, one that proclaimed “To my favorite Aunt” or something similar.  Then we would use a blunt-leaded pencil to scratch out “Aunt” and write in “Uncle”.  Next we would take a pair of dull scissors and carefully cut around the bottom of the back of the card where a person would normally sign their name.  (Do you get the picture?  We were trying to give the impression that we were using a recycled card).  Then, after Charlie had signed the card,  we would throw it on the floor and stomp on in a few times, doing the same with the envelope.  Then the card was ready to be taken to the post office.  This scenario continued for several years until Ramon passed away.  One more thing about birthdays.  One of my good friends who never forgot my birthday was John Henry.  I miss John.  Even during the time we were living in Missouri, every March Anita & I would receive birthday greeting cards postmarked Calico Rock.  I know he had help in addressing them and I can visualize him walking up the long hill to the post office.  Many of you readers know what I am talking about because John knew just about everybody’s birthday.  Every year on January 19th, the post office was deluged with cards sent by his many friends, wishing him a very Happy Birthday.  Please add John Henry to my list of Characters that I have known.  And, an apology to Freda for leaving her name off the list of contributors in the last column.  She is one of the most proficient and prolific writers in this newspaper.  Baseball season just around the corner.  Let me know how you like my next column.  Bye for now.