Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Out with the old - December 31, 2014

As published in the White River Current - Wednesday December 31, 2014

It should have occurred to me, when I signed off two weeks ago, that the Current would be available on Wednesday this week because of the New Year’s holiday tomorrow.  I was all set for a Ramblings article about resolutions, etc. and the year that is before us.  Instead I am offering some thoughts about the year that is just ending and am giving another look at Christmas, which isn’t really over until January 6th (look up “epiphany”).  Remember the Ozarks version of The Twelve Days of Christmas:  “…and a possum up a gum tree?”  Many people skip this important part of the Christmas season.  They start putting up decorations soon after Thanksgiving and they come down right after December 25th.  I feel certain that all you loyal readers have been nice and not naughty and that Santa was very generous when he visited your home a few days ago.  Our family will not be getting together until Friday, two days into the New Year, but still within the Christmas season.  When the children marry and have families of their own and are scattered, the logistics of finding a time for everyone to be together can be problematic to say the least.  As a philosopher once observed, “you just do what you have to do.”  The entire month of December has a lot of meaning for the Perryman family.  My sister was born on December 1st.  She would have been 90 this year.  My mom and dad were married on December 23rd and Dad’s birthday was on December 24th.  I remember years ago when we would ring the church bell for several minutes, drivers would toot their car horns and the flooring mill whistle would all announce the arrival of the New Year.  Nowadays I do my best to stay awake until the ball drops at Times Square, then it’s off to dreamland.  PBS had several holiday specials again this year.  I particularly enjoyed the Bing Crosby, Tennessee Ernie and Mormon Tabernacle Choir specials.  I just remembered an exceptional New Year’s Eve, probably 1950, when the Ozarks Cavaliers orchestra played for the fireman’s ball in Harrison.  These outstanding  musicians were students at the College of the Ozarks, located in Clarksville, Arkansas.  Two of my roommates, Fred (trumpet) and Don (vocals), and I (piano) were members of this group.  Great times.  Anyway, one of my favorite TV programs is “CBS Sunday Morning” which was first aired on January 28, 1979, with Charles Kuralt as program host.  The weekly show has run continuously ever since, with Charles Osgood  replacing the retiring Kuralt in April, 1994.  A regular feature, usually run on the last Sunday of the year, is called “Hail, and Farewell,” in which attention is given to celebrities or other persons of national importance who have died during the year.  This feature was part of the program this past Sunday.  Among those highlighted were the following:  Tom Magliozzi, who, with brother, Ray, made up the team known as Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, on the NPR show, “Car Talk,” on which they dispensed humor and advice about repairing cars; Movie stars Lauren Bacall, Robin Williams, Polly Bergen and James Garner; Stars from my childhood Mickey Rooney and Shirley Temple; Comedian Sid Caesar; singer/composer/political activist Pete Seeger; Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers Duo; and Paul Revere, leader of the Raiders.  All passed away this year.  Hail and Farewell.  We continue to mourn for those friends, relatives and area citizens that departed during the last twelve months.  I still greatly miss my friend and mentor, Tom* Johns, whose column appeared in this publication on alternate weeks with the Ramblings.  Also of mention is the loss of another Calico Rock Landmark.  The Hamon’s building, located in Pettersauce Alley, burned last week.  Back in the forties and Fifties, there were three grocery stores on lower Main Street, Floyd’s, Estes Brothers and Harris.  Ray and Audra Hamon erected and operated their business, selling groceries, dry goods, cattle feed and other supplies until their retirement, enduring several devastating floods, never giving up.  Both have been gone for several years but not forgotten.  Their granddaughter, Cindy, is editor of this newspaper.          

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Blessings - December 18, 2014

As published in the White River Current - Thursday December 18, 2014
“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” so goes the popular song that comes over the airways this time of year.  Decorations are up on many residences  as well as the Main Street area down town and other business locations.  The Living Windows presentations by the Peppersauce Players was another smash hit this year.  Looks like (hopefully) this will continue to be an attraction for community residents and visitors for many years to come.  A big thanks to Fredericka and all the participants for a job well done.  Susan had a good article in her “Not So Long Ago” column week before last about Christmases of days gone by.  She interviewed members of several area churches in preparing her article.  I remember a Christmas party at the old church about seventy years ago.  Actually the party was at the American Legion building next door.  We played games and bobbed for apples in a number 2 wash tub.  The highlight of the evening was a debate between the high school superintendent, Mr. Rollo, and Mr. Cheney, both church members.  Their subject was “Is there really a Santa Claus?”  The fun part was how the two debaters had to work to not reveal any important details to the youngsters present which might result in upsetting their parents.  I don’t know if I described this well enough but maybe you get the idea.  The OFC had their Christmas party a few days ago.  We only have six members now since Darrell, a charter member, died last year.  During this meeting we voted that the last survivor would pop a can of Dr. Pepper and toast those who have gone to their reward.  I think that would be a very fitting tribute.  Speaking of songs, there is a new one being played this year that I have a little trouble with.  The name is something like “Just say Merry Christmas.”  Kind of a cute little ditty with a catchy tune. Lyrics suggest that if you are out shopping and you  don’t see “Merry Christmas” in the store window, you don’t “go in.”  Plus, if you happen to be in a store and you don’t hear “Merry Christmas” you “walk right out the door.”  Like I said, I have a little trouble with this.  I wonder what Jesus would do?  Again, speaking of songs, some of you long-time Rambling readers may remember that at one time I was working on a Christmas song.  I keep putting it aside (a family trait), fully intending to have it ready for the season.  Looks like it won’t happen this year; maybe by December, 2015.  Of course, as I have explained before, it can’t be just any song.  It has to be the best Christmas song ever.  I remember a song that was written by Steve Goodman back in the seventies that he represented as the most perfect country/western composition ever created.  One of his friends, David Allan Coe, challenged him on this statement, informing him that it wasn’t perfect because it didn’t contain certain words that should be in a real CW song; words like “mama,” “prison,” “pickup truck” and, of course, “trains.”  Goodman wrote another verse to the song and sent it to Coe who, after reading it, realized that his friend had written the perfect country & western song and that he felt obliged to include it in his next album.  The song, “You Never Even Call Me By My Name,” has been a two-stepper favorite at VFW dances since Coe recorded it in 1975.  You may not believe this, but I thought of this song when I was trying to decide what special words I should include in my Christmas song in order to make it perfect.  The list I have started includes “star,” “stable,” “baby” and “angels,” but I think I should add a few others in order to make the song more enduring to the listeners, whoever they may be.  I am considering some secular words and phrases such as “peanuts roasting on an open fire” or “I’m hoping for a White Christmas” but this is still a work in progress.  Like I say, maybe next year.  I have ruled out “trains” as one of the words even though a train actually does have a Christmas relation to Calico Rock residents.  Way back in the fifties, Santa (Dr. Copp) was welcomed by a huge crowd of youngsters when he arrived on the noon train on Christmas Eve, a tradition that lasted for many years.  I wish all you dedicated readers a very, Merry Christmas.  Make lots of good resolutions because the next time I see you will be New Year’s Day, 2015       

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Death and Taxes - December 4, 2014

As published in the White River Current - Thursday December 4, 2014

My deepest apologies to those faithful readers who were upset when the Ramblings did not appear as scheduled in the Current two weeks ago.  Lucille, for one, came up to me at the grocery store informing me that she had searched the paper from front to back several times looking for her favorite column, but it was missing.  I thought she had a tear in her eye and might even be having Ramblings withdrawal symptoms.  I got her settled down and explained that the Ramblings column had been bumped to make room for the six pages of  the Delinquent Personal Tax List for the year of 2013 and that the column would appear in the next issue and again one week later.  Ramblings did, in fact, run in last week’s Current and here we are on the biweekly schedule again today.  Thanks, Lucille, for the support you have given me as a loyal reader of the Ramblings column for several years.  I do not remember being bumped before so maybe it won’t happen again.  However, I understand that the publication of such a list represents a sizable amount of revenue for this publication.  I suppose this gentle reminder to those listed will result in adding enough revenue to at least cover the publication costs.  Hope so.  On to other things.  We celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday with all our family at the home of our granddaughter, Sara, in Ozark, Missouri.  We had a very delightful day, especially watching the antics of our great-grandchildren who we hadn’t seen for quite some time.  We have a lot to be thankful for.  With additions from most of the others, Sara had prepared a delicious meal of traditional Thanksgiving food that was eagerly consumed by all present.  When I say “traditional” of course I mean turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and giblet gravy, which were served, plus a few extras, including desserts.  At choir rehearsal several days ago, one couple announced that they were forgoing the usual event of having all the family over to their house and were, instead, going out to the Chinese restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner.  “Unbelievable, unpatriotic, etc.” we countered.  I’m not sure if they were joking or not but I guess it doesn’t really matter what the meal consists of as long as it is consumed with the right attitude of being thankful for what the Lord provides for any and all of us.  Did you get up early on Black Friday morning in order to take advantage of all those “bargains” that were out there?  I slept in.  Saturday we helped decorate the sanctuary at church to be ready for the first Sunday of Advent.  The lighting of the Advent candle is always a large part of our Sunday worship for the four Sundays preceding Christmas.  The choir members are also working hard on their anthems for this period.  Are you ready for a little culture?  I saw Charles skipping up the aisle at church a couple of Sundays ago.  Watching his cadence of Ta Ta-Ta-Ta Ta Ta Ta Ta Ta, which I immediately recognized as the overture to the Nutcracker, Charles confessed that he and Janis had attended a performance of the North Arkansas Dance Theatre’s 10th anniversary of this famous ballet by Russian composer, Tchaikovsky.  A front page article in the week before last Current announced this event.  Maybe you attended.  I wanted to go but didn’t make it. Charles said that he was “impressed.”  I was impressed that he was impressed.  I have been acquainted with the Nutcracker Suite since I was in high school and my piano teacher ordered me the piano music, which I still have.  I played one of my favorites, “Waltz of The Flowers” at a recital.  Another favorite is “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.”  The Nutcracker ballet was first presented in 1892 and has enjoyed enormous popularity since 1960.  It is now performed by countless ballet companies primarily during the Christmas season, especially in the United States.  If you didn’t attend the Dance Theatre performance, you can still watch the ballet from the comfort of your living room.  There are several selections to choose from on YouTube.  And if you just can’t make yourself watch the performers tippy-toeing across the screen, kick back in your lounge chair, close your eyes, turn up the volume and treat yourself to a Christmas musical treasure.  Enjoy! 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thanksgiving - November 20, 2014

AS published in the White River Current - Thursday November 20, 2014

Last week, old man winter made an early visit to the Ozarks and most of the continental United States. Several low-temperature-for-this-date records were set in several locations.  There was a small rush on the milk and bread counters at the grocery stores when the S-word (snow) was mentioned.  I do not like cold weather especially when the north wind is blowing through my polyesters as I am scurrying about doing the chores that require me to be out of doors.  The only good thing is that it gives us something new to complain about.  We can’t complain much about the Summer and early Fall.  I do not remember the foliage being more beautiful.  I hope that I am not infringing on Megan’s territory (Megan is the official poet of this publication, sort of) when I refer to another of my favorite poems, When the Frost is on the Punkin.  This delightful bit of rhyme was penned by Indiana native, James Whitcomb Riley (1853-1916), over one-hundred years ago.  In the four stanzas of this poem, Riley describes, in a first-person sort of Hoosier dialect, rural life in the mid-west at about this time of the year, leaving the house, bareheaded, to go out to feed the stock.  The author wrote several books and poems, many for children, most in dialect form.  One of his best-loved poems was “The Raggedy Man” which inspired the creation of the Raggedy Ann doll.  Riley was buried in Indianapolis.  Changing the subject, but we were treated to another beautiful sunrise a few days ago.  I gave this one a rating of (6).  Nice but nothing like the one I mentioned in the last Ramblings which was definitely a (10+).  However, the Lord made up for it by providing us with a great sunset the same day.  I enjoy the sunsets but I am more emotionally touched with the sunrises.  Maybe it’s because it is a new day; the beginning, not the end; the start, not the finish.  Better not get too philosophical here.  Also referring to the last column, I made a batch of split-pea soup.  I gave up trying to prepare my own split peas and used a bag of the dried variety.  Turned out “pretty good” but I doubt if I will make it again.  Chili, next time.  We have had an election since the last issue.  As usual, I won some and lost some.  I’m too cynical to comment on the outcome, but I’m glad it’s over.  Now we get a reprieve for a few months from the political TV ads and phone calls requesting a donation or participation in a poll.  I was hoping that the third and fourth class junk mail that clogs my post office box would slow down but I believe it has increased.  Every imaginable 501C-3 or 501C-4 organization in the United States is after my hard-earned dollar.  Their requests have increased dramatically, many on a monthly basis.  Many send an unrequested supply of greeting cards or holiday gift wrap.  At last count, I have received twenty 2015 wall calendars.  Enclosed in their donation letters have been, on occasion, a nickel, a dime, a quarter, a postage stamp or (on 5 occasions) a dollar bill, all intended to “prime-the-wallet” to get me to respond positively to their requests.  Over the last few years, I have accumulated a huge supply of enclosed gifts, mainly note pads and enough return address labels, which, if placed end to end, could possibly reach to the moon and back.  Now, my tax accountant will tell you that I do more than my share of contributing to charities.  I have to prioritize my giving, as I’m sure you do.  I hope I am not coming through as a “scrooge.”  With the holiday seasons coming soon, catalogs and advertising flyers are appearing in an increasing number in our mail box.  I imagine most of these will decrease after the first of the year.  Speaking of holidays, the annual harvest supper will be tomorrow evening.  Hope you have purchased your ticket.  Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays, is next Thursday.  For several years, starting when Steve and Brenda were pre-teens, we spent the holiday with Don and Maxine and their two daughters, Julie and Lisa, alternating from year to year from our home in Calico Rock and their home in Little Rock.  The memories of those times are contained in a special compartment in my brain (and heart).  I hope all you dear readers have a holiday this year that will make a lasting memory.  Happy Thanksgiving!!! (Note:  Check out all Riley’s poems on the internet).         

Thursday, November 6, 2014

An Ordinary Day - November 6, 2014

As published in the White River Current - Thursday November 6, 2014

It started out just like any ordinary fall day.  My internal alarm clock had awakened me at about six fifteen, a little earlier that I usually arise.  I rolled over and lay on my back for a few seconds, wide awake now.  I slowly swung my legs over the edge of the bed and gingerly stood up.  Thank goodness!  No dizziness.  I had been having a mild case of vertigo for the last few days, but maybe it is over.  I remember filling hundreds of prescriptions for Meclizine, the drug of choice (at the time) for this sometimes debilitating ailment, which, on rare occasions, may result in a stay in the hospital.  I have an episode of this aggravating malady once or twice a year.  I believe my ailment is caused by a problem in my middle ear, a common occurrence with we members of the mature population (OK, old folks).  Anyway I was up, not staggering, and made my way to the kitchen to make coffee.  It was still dark, but there was a small sliver of light on the eastern horizon.  I doctored up my first cup of the hot liquid and headed for my chair where I kicked back and applied an eye drop in each eye then kept my eyes closed for several seconds as directed.  I guess I must have dozed off for a few minutes because when I opened my eyes and looked out the window, the entire landscape had a pinkish glow.  I stepped outside onto the back porch and observed one of the most amazing sunrises that I have ever witnessed.  The entire eastern sky was ablaze with a deep pink hue.  I wondered if Bernice saw this.  She enjoys the sunrises and even called me early one morning to inquire if I was witnessing a beauty (I was).    Anyway, after a Cheerios breakfast (good for your heart, you know), a second cup of coffee, the other eye drop application and checking Anita’s I-pad for any new pictures of Ruby (she’s our great-granddaughter, you know),  I checked my watch and decided that I had time to go to the post office and grocery store before Gene came by for coffee.  I met Billy Gene coming out of the post office.  When I inquired how he was doing, he said (Mah-va-lus, just mavalus).  When I ask this question to others, I get replies like “about as well as common” or “feeling fit as a fiddle” or some other old saying.  I drove over to the grocery store and was parking when Larry pulled up beside me.  He wanted to show me the walking canes he bought at the Salvation Army store.  Maybe he collects them, I don’t know.  Larry’s a friendly guy who wanted to talk and inform me about his son who had come in second at the Special Olympics bowling tournament at Harrison and was heading for the state tourney in Little Rock.  We visited a few minutes, then I had to hurry with my grocery purchase and get home where I saw Gene had already arrived.  Gene, who will be 90 next January (but he certainly doesn’t look it), and I have coffee most weekday mornings.  He and Reva moved here from Iowa in 1989 and quickly became close friends with Anita and I.  For over seven years, Reva has been a resident of the local nursing home where Gene goes by twice daily to assist with feeding her noon and evening meals.  Today I tell Gene about the recipe for Split-Pea Soup that I am going to try, emphasizing my trouble trying to split the canned green peas.  After much thought, he suggests using frozen peas.  I am elated and decide the pill splitter from the pharmacy will be the perfect tool to complete the task.  I rush Gene off to the nursing home and Anita and I leave to meet Kay and Jack for lunch.  They live in Mountain Home where Jack has retired from his medical practice.  Kay is my cousin.  We catch up on all the kids and grandkids activities, agree we should do this more often and go our separate ways.  Running late, I don’t make it home in time to take Helen to her hairdresser appointment because Martha came to get her.  I’ll apologize when I see her.  There is a phone message from Dr. Campbell requiring a trip to the church.  Anita is dozing when I return so I read a chapter in my book.  After waking up from what was supposed to have been a short nap, I make my way to the kitchen and warm up some leftovers for supper.  Afterwards, after watching a recorded TV show and checking the I-Pad, we are both yawning.  Another drop in each eye and I turn off the bedroom light.  All days in Calico Rock are good (some are better than others).   


Monday, October 27, 2014

The Election - October 23, 2014

As published in the White River Current - Thursday October 23, 2014

In less than two weeks, Arkansans will be going to the polls to vote in an important mid-term election.  As a matter of fact, early voting has already begun (last Monday).  Indications are that the turn-out will be very large.  If the polls are correct, most of the voting for the state and national candidates will go right down to the wire.  It looks like no candidate has a clear edge, at least at the time that I am writing this edition of the Ramblings.  May the best candidate win.  In addition to selecting their choice of the candidates, the voters of Arkansas are being asked to cast their choice, either for or against, a total of five “issues.”  Four of these issues are Constitutional Amendments, number one, two and three are being referred to the people by the Arkansas General Assembly.  Number four is proposed by a petition of the people.  Issue number five, also proposed by a petition, if passed, would increase the Arkansas minimum wage by $2.25 per hour when it becomes final on January 1, 2017.  When I was a boy growing up in Calico Rock, I remember on several occasions when there was a proposed Constitutional Amendment on the ballot at election time.  On at least one occasion, there was a proposal to hold a Constitutional Convention to re-write the Constitution (it failed).  My dad always, never wavering, voted against these issues, saying “the Constitution is just fine, has served us well for many years, and we do not need to change it.”  My dad had strong feelings about a lot of things and didn’t mind letting you know just how he felt about a subject.  I may not have always agreed with him on certain political matters when I reached voting age, but I always respected his opinions and he did mine.  I have tried my best to be an informed voter and have read each “issue” in its entirety. I also watched the debates last week on AETN.  Now, I do not intend to suggest in any manner about who you should vote for or how you should vote on the five issues, but I would like to make a few observations on Issues No. 3 and 4.  Issue No. 3 was printed in this newspaper a few weeks ago.  It took up almost two full pages.  That in itself might raise a red flag.  The state newspaper, the DG, caught it right away and editorialized against it in the next Sunday edition following the filing of this “issue.”  Some would say “hidden” in the middle of this long “issue” is a section “establishing term limits for members of the General Assembly.”  Excuse me, but didn’t we approve that in 1992 (60%) and reaffirm (70%) in 2004?”  In this case, “establishing” means doubling the current limits.  This smells a lot like the Mickey Mouse tactics that the group of yahoos in Washington do when they tack a pay raise amendment onto some obscure bill and try to send it through on late Friday, hoping no one would notice, but they always get caught.  I suspect these people think we voters are stupid.   There is an organized group travelling the State and are urging the people to vote against Issue 3.  Pulling a trailer that contained a ten-foot tall,  wooden Trojan Horse, they were in Calico Rock the last of September.   Check them out at  If passed, Issue No 4 would allow the sale of alcoholic beverages in all seventy five Arkansas counties regardless of previous conditions.  This issue is also widely opposed.  In an earlier edition of the Ramblings, I recalled a time when I accompanied my mother when she and others circulated a petition to place an issue on the ballot to make Izard County a “dry county.”  The issue passed, and  since 1939 it has been illegal to sell alcoholic drinks in Calico Rock and Izard County.  As I said in that earlier edition, there is no way that I am going to dishonor my mom by voting to change that decision.  I am of the opinion that everyone should vote because every vote counts.  In my lifetime I have seen a school election decided by one or two votes.  On one occasion when the vote had ended in a tie, the outcome was decided by the lone absentee vote.  The other was decided when the outcome was challenged and the four absentee votes were thrown out, making the two vote loser a two vote winner.  Recommendation:  Rent the 2008 Kevin Costner movie, “Swing Vote.”        

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Media - October 9, 2014

As published in the White River Current - Thursday October 9, 2014

I learned another good lesson:  Be careful what you say.  A couple of weeks ago, I had a severe attack of what is sometimes referred to as “the stomach flu” or 24-hour virus.  I think it was actually caused by something that I had eaten the previous evening.  Anyway, I was confined to the house, in close proximity to the bathroom for a couple of days.  I was scheduled to sing with the choir at the Sunday service of the community revival.   I reported to the choir director that I would not be able to lend my golden tenor voice for this production, that I was ill and that it might be Ebola because I felt so bad.  Now I have been accused of overstating the facts occasionally, and maybe I did leave the impression that I was pretty sick (at least too sick to sing) because she must have implied to the choir members and others that I was soon to receive my last rites or something like that.  Now, everyone I meet is inquiring about how I am feeling and “I heard you were sick” and “how long were you in the hospital?” etc.  Just to set the record straight, I am fully recovered and thank you one and all for your concern.  Now, on to something else.  I am a slow reader when it comes to a good book.  I like to take each word and carefully digest it in the proper recesses of my brain.  I have written before about my love of the printed word especially when it is a good mystery story, most often fiction.  Occasionally I will make an exception and stray into the non-fiction category.   I am currently reading “Ghost of the Ozarks” which is sub-titled “Murder and Memory in the Upland South.”  The author, Brooks Blevins, PhD,  is the Noel Boyd Professor of Ozarks Studies at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri, but calls Violet Hill, Arkansas, home.  Some of his other books are for sale at the Calico Rock Museum.  The book that I am reading is a detailed account of a “gruesome murder”  that may or may not have occurred (I’ll know when I get further along in this very entertaining story) in Stone County, Arkansas, in 1929.  Brooks is a very skilled historian and he leaves no stone unturned or no newspaper unquoted in his reporting of this event that occurred in our neighboring county some eighty-five years ago.  The bibliography that is listed at the end of the book is ten pages long.  Even though I have only muddled through the Prologue and the first three chapters, I can see that the story may be as much (or more) about the way the media representatives, from Kansas City and Chicago, and as far away as California, who descended on this remote part of the country and sent back reports of this grisly act of barbarism.  I can imagine that newspaper sales skyrocketed when portrayals of the local citizens as “illiterate hill people” reached readers across the country.  A few years after this incident, when I was a boy, I remember that our state was described as the “armpit of America” by our northern neighbors.  We had to endure the radio broadcasts of the like of Bob Burns who was described as “The Arkansas Traveler” and “The Arkansas Philosopher.”  Bob made an act out of “reporting” about the people back in Van Buren which he claimed was his home town (he was born in Greenwood).  My mother couldn’t stand him and she was always critical of his making fun of the good Arkansas people.  He played a home-made musical instrument that he called the Bazooka.  The WWII tank destroying piece of military artillery is named for this invention.  Another radio show that sort of pictures uneducated, backwoodsey  residents was “Lum and Abner.”  I liked this program because it was satirical and sometimes very funny.  Their Christmas program was outstanding and they repeated it every year.  It has only been in the last few decades that Arkansas has been able to shake off the mantle of being portrayed as a backwards, moonshine swigging population.  Thanks to Charles for loaning me this interesting account of another time.  Anita told me once about her niece from Detroit who came to visit every summer and who called her Arkansas relatives “dumb farmers.”  Beverly had a rough time as an adult but Anita married a handsome young man from the queen city of the Ozarks, became the mother of two above-average children and lived happily ever after. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Grandparents - September 25, 2014

As published in the White River Current - Thursday September 25, 2014

I hardly even noticed.  Autumn slipped in a couple of days ago with hardly a whimper after the last gasp of summer heat over the weekend.  Actually it was a pretty nice summer, weather wise.  Only a few really uncomfortable hot/humid times and more rain than average.  I believe I mowed my lawn every week.  I think I’ll cut back on the fertilizer next year.  The arrival of autumn  wasn’t the only thing that was missed.  Grandparent’s Day, which is normally observed on the first Sunday of September, was a complete non-event this year.  How could something as extremely important as that not get our undivided attention?  Why weren’t the flags displayed in all their splendor?  What happened to the greeting cards, phone calls and gifts?  Oh, well!  When I was growing up, three of my grandparents were already in heaven.  I was fortunate to have my mother’s father to help “raise” me.  Granddad lived with us until he passed away when I was about fourteen years old.  We were very close.  His name was Lucas and everyone except me called him Uncle Luke.  I always called him “granddad.”   Probably since the average age of the population of our country is much higher than when I was growing up, families have resorted to giving the grandparents names that aren’t quite as quaint or out-of-date.  This almost always occurs in families where there are two sets of grandparents drooling over the above-average offspring of the respective son and daughter.  Take our family for instance.  My mom and dad were “granddad and grandmother” to our two kids.  Anita’s mom (her dad had passed away a few years earlier) was referred to as “granma Woolf.”  Not too bad, but it gets worse.  When our first grandchild (Sara) was born, Anita and I continued to be known to her as Granddad and Grandmother.  Her other set of grandparents were “Grandpa Bill and Mimi.”  Now that Sara is married and we are great-grandparents, no one has really decided what the “greats” should call us.  When Ruby was born last December, she became the first grandchild for Ross’ parents, Jack and Brenda (our daughter), and Leah’s parents, Eddie and Vonda.  Jack is now Pop, Brenda is Gigi, Eddie is Papaw and Vonda is Nana.  Well, just having a little fun.  This all started because of an article entitled “A Grandma by Any Other Name” that appeared in the September issue of the AARP Bulletin.  In that composition, the author’s first grandchild was about to be born and she was trying to determine what she wanted the new baby to call her.  She was looking for something that was fun, cool and inventive—not frumpy.  She conducted an informal survey with 20 current or prospective grandparents and only three said Grandma and Grandpa are their go-to names.  Others wanted to be called Granna, Bobo, G-Ma, GeeBee, Meema, Gogo or Glam-ma.  The author ended up choosing Granny, partly due to the British TV drama, Downton Abbey.   Anyway, I’m sorry to spend so much time on this topic.  I wanted to mention that September is the month for the annual election for school director which drew a lot of attention this year and resulted in a large turnout of voters with a very close finish.  This always reminds me of my four races for this unheralded, mostly unappreciated position.  I lost my first race by seven votes (19 to 12) and my last race by two votes.  I won the other two races probably because I didn’t have an opponent.  I think there might be a message for me there (stay out of politics).  September also marks the time of the annual Community Revival in which all the churches join for a time of ecumenical togetherness.  The museum sponsored the festival that included both a Mountain Man rendezvous and a tribute to the Native Americans that once populated our area, concluding with a remembrance of the “Trail of Tears.”  A very active month leading up to one of the busiest times of the year, October.  Thanks for the correspondence you have sent regarding the Ramblings column.  It has occurred to me that perhaps others might like to offer some comments or maybe even suggestions about future articles.  If so you can contact me at PO Box 296, Calico Rock, AR 72519 or e-mail  See you in a couple of weeks when I will be talking about some families from the past.  

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Domesticity - September 11, 2014

As published in the White River Current - Thursday September 11, 2014

Anita and I resided in Missouri for most of the first decade of this 21st century.  During that time period, traffic on the Missouri streets and highways almost doubled as did the speeders and crazy drivers. When that young whippersnapper in that red Miata sports car passed me on the access ramp as I was attempting to enter the four-lane US 65 highway (it is now six lane), I decided “enough is enough.”  We immediately started conversation about moving back to Arkansas.  Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of our return to Calico Rock.  One day last week, Anita and I were having early morning coffee out on the front porch when she began to comment on the traffic in front of our house.  Most of the cars were probably heading to the high school or were hospital employees.  “Look at that one.  She’s going too fast” and “there goes another one; lickety-split!”  I just laughed.  She comes up with those old sayings ever so often.  Such as “well, I swan” or “quicker than you can skin a cat” or “slicker that goose grease.”  I’m not sure where all these sayings come from.  When I was a boy growing up in the Rock House on Red Lane, our family would listen to the radio program, Lum and Abner, every evening at 6:15 PM.  Lum referred to those proverbial expressions as “old Eddard sayings.”  Did you know you can still listen to episodes of Lum and Abner on the internet?  Tune in if you are wanting a good laugh.  I mentioned in an old column that I met Lum (Chet Lauck) at a Lions Club mid-winter conference in Jonesboro years ago.  Anyway, I know that many of you have also heard and used these sayings in your normal conversation.  I was at the grocery store the other day when I bumped my cart into an acquaintance.  “Pardon me, Ray, I wasn’t looking where I was heading.  How are you doing?”  “Pretty good, Reed.  Whatta ya know?”  “Well, I know it takes a big dog to weigh a ton.”  He laughed and came back with the usual reply, “yea, and it takes a big man to kick him off the porch.”  We both nodded and laughed as if neither of us had ever heard this bit of nonsense, then, after a few remarks about the weather, went on about our shopping, both satisfied with the useful conversation that had occurred.  For me, it had reminded me of an old joke:  “A man went before a judge to get his named changed.  ‘What is your name?’ the judge asked.  “Joe Dumbbell.”  The judge replied, “Well, I understand.  What do you want your name changed to?”  “Charlie Dumbbell.  I’m getting tired of hearing ‘Hello, Joe, whatta you know?’”  OK, I thought it was funny.  I do most of the grocery shopping now that Anita has been feeling poorly.  As a matter of fact, I have turned into a pretty fair house husband.  I have always believed that marriage is a joint effort and, since retirement, have tried to increase my part of the household duties. I caught myself singing the other day:  “On the Calico Road, there’s room for just two, no more and no less, just me and just you.  Each burden we’ll bear, each sorrow we’ll share, there’s never a care, while we are both there.”  It’s not easy getting old and some can accept it more gracefully than others.  Perry used to say, “it’s not for sissies.”  I’ve learned to do the laundry (thank goodness for the wash and wear fabrics).  I can run the vacuum and do the  dusting (sort of).  And, in addition to the grocery shopping (I clip coupons) I am doing part of the cooking.  I have tried several recipes that I saw on Facebook and regularly check the websites and apps that offer interesting possibilities for something to soothe the appetite.  So far, I have made a roast (crock pot), a cake (Betty Crocker),  a batch of peanut butter cookies that I made from scratch using a recipe that Dee e-mailed (they were delicious) and some soups and chili that turned out pretty good.  Some of our younger couples, and others, have learned to prepare menus for an entire week and grocery shop for the necessary items on weekends.  I’m not that organized yet but it sounds like a good idea.  Motivation and deciding what to try out are my biggest problems now but I’m making progress.  Some great philosopher once said “You do what you have to do.”  I’ve adopted that as my motto.  So far it seems to be working.  I’ll keep you informed but right now I have run.  I don’t want to burn the beans.    

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

You are what your wear - August 28, 2014

As published in the White River Current - Thursday August 28, 2014

Well, I have learned a good lesson.  In these bi-weekly visits I have tried hard to stay clear of religion, politics and other things controversial.  I must have stepped over the line a little bit in a recent article because the facebook pages lit up with posts on the subject.  It could be coincidence, but if I said anything or even implied something that one of you considered judgmental, I erred and I apologize.  I promise that I will be more thoughtful and considerate in my opinions.  I do, however, reserve the right to offer my opinion on various subjects and should do so, I guess, because this is, by name, an opinion/editorial column.  For instance, I have written about music several times.  I much prefer the older tunes than those that are broadcast across the airways today.  The oldies had lyrics that I can understand and enjoy.  Here’s a favorite from about thirty years ago:  “My back is sore from bendin’ over backward to just lay the world at your door.”  That was from the song, “You Take Me for Granted,” was written by Leona Williams and was recorded by the great country artist, Merle Haggard, who took it to Number One.  And how about this:  “Then I fumbled in my closet through my clothes and found my cleanest dirty shirt.”  That line was from another country song, “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” penned and performed by Kris Kristofferson.  Now, I can relate to that “dirty shirt” line.  You may have observed that I am never considered when it comes to naming the “best dressed” citizen of Calico Rock.  As a matter of fact, I may have appeared downright slovenly lately.  I wear what feels comfortable, regardless of my possible unkempt appearance.  Now when my shirt  doesn’t show any dirty or greasy spots and passes the “sniff” test, I may decide to wear it one more time before it goes into the hamper.  It wasn’t always that way.  I have a photo of a cute little boy standing in front of the Rock House on Red Lane.  He is wearing knickers and long stockings, a long sleeved shirt and a necktie.  I imagine we were on our way or just returning from church.  My dad and most of the other adult men always wore suits and neckties to church.  So did I until a few years ago.  These days, casual (even ultra-casual) is the new church look.  My uncle Joe would not approve (he was Aunt Muriel’s husband; more about her in a minute).  Years ago, it  was almost an everyday occurrence that I would dress for work only to be greeted by Anita with “You’re not going to wear that, are you?”  I’ll bet some of you other guys have had similar experiences.  Anyway, she would march me to my closet and pick out a shirt that matched my trousers.  In my lifetime, I have seen numerous style changes.  I would almost wager a tidy sum that I purchased the last leisure suit sold in the Western hemisphere.  It went out of style overnight and, after seeing it hang in my closet for several years, I took it out to the Christian Service Center one night and, under cover of darkness, hung it on their front door.  Buying wearing apparel for school kids is also a real problem.  “Daddy, I wish you would take me down to the Salvation Army store and buy me some decent clothes.”  Those words came from Lisa, Don’s youngest daughter, several years ago when she was a young teenager and the fad at the time was the Eisenhower jacket, a war surplus item named after the famous WWII army general who became the 34th president of the United States.  When I was on the school board, there was talk in the Arkansas legislature about requiring students to wear uniforms such as those worn at some private schools.  It never became a law but there was a lot of support for it, primarily in larger school districts that were having a lot of peer-pressure problems.  More recently, the fad with the boys was to wear loose jeans that bagged in the back revealing their brightly colored boxers.  Whenever I got a hole in my jeans or overalls, my mother would sew on a patch to cover it.  Now girls can purchase new expensive jeans that already have large ragged holes produced at the factory and are very stylish.  Go figure.  Aunt Muriel selected the dress she wanted to be buried in (she was).  I’m thinking of following her example with a suit that I like.  I can just hear the teary-eyed ladies at the public visitation:  “My, doesn’t he look nice?”   


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Many Years Ago - August 14, 2014

As published in the White River Current - Thursday - August 14, 2014
Many years ago, Dean, Billy Charles and I, along with some other young boys who were searching for an adventure, would spend a large part of our summers playing on the bluffs that border the White River on the west side of town.  One great adventure that we repeated many times was to descend from the top of the bluff to the railroad track 200 feet below via the Billy Goat Trail.  Once we reached the tracks at the bottom, we would turn around and climb back to the top where, after a short rest, we would repeat the cycle, over and over until we got bored.  The BG Trail began at a point on the bluff in front of Mrs. Wright’s house where we could gain access to a narrow ledge.  Crawling along the ledge, on our hands and knees to keep from bumping our heads on the overhang above, we would eventually come to an opening where there was a huge boulder that sort of slanted downward.  Easing onto the boulder, feeling for hand and toe holds, we slowly made our way to a point about half way down the bluff.  From there, it was fairly easy the rest of the way to the bottom.  Sounds very exciting, doesn’t it?  Add this to my list of “Done it, but wouldn’t do it again for a million dollars” items.  Along with things like climbing to the top of the city water tower (one time was enough for me).  Or crawling through the narrow drainage tunnel that starts out in front of the Riverview Hotel, goes down the hill, under the train depot, under the railroad tracks and finally exits above the river.  Believe it or not, I did this several times but never again.  I never thought much about the beauty of the bluffs, the mountains and the river valley when I was a boy.  Much later, Anita and I partnered with Steve to build a cabin on the upper bluff, an area where I had spent many hours of my childhood about sixty-five years earlier.  My idea of camping out may be different from yours.  Our “cabin” has three bedrooms, two baths (one with a separate shower and whirlpool tub), a full kitchen and laundry, a TV and a covered porch on the river side that has a terrific view of the mountains and river valley.  It was Steve who came up with a name that might describe this scenic location.  He chose a biblical name, Nain (Nein in the Hebrew language), which can be translated as “Place of Beauty.”  I have, as you well know from previous columns, always been fascinated with words and names.  There was once a performer who was billed as a comedian that appeared on several late night shows several seasons ago.  He resembled a young Groucho Marx (complete with the long cigar) and had a monologue that went something like this:  “My name is Raymond J. Johnson, Jr., but you can call me Ray, or you can call me Jay, or you can call me RJ, or you can call me RJJ…..” and on and on.  You can catch his act on You-Tube if you are mildly interested in determining if he was funny or not.  Now, you can call me Reed or you can call me Mack, but  when I was growing up, everyone called me Reed Mack, mostly to identify me apart from my cousin, William Reed, who used only his middle name most of the time.  We both got our Reed names from our maternal grandmother, Rosa Reed.  Years ago we called our older residents Uncle or Aunt, even if no relation.  You can even call me “doctor,” not to be confused with our physicians or dentists.  I have a certificate from my alma mater that signifies that I am a Doctor of Pharmacy (PD).  Sara is also a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm. D).  Tom, my pastor, is a Doctor of Divinity.  I call Connie “doctor” because she is a Doctor of Laws (LL. D.).  Ed, David and others have earned Doctor of Philosophy degrees (Ph. D).  You can call all these persons doctor.  

I was in an area store recently and, before getting through the check-out, was called “sweetheart,” “darling,” “ honey” and other endearing names that are reserved only for Anita.  You can’t call me those names.  Now, I know it’s difficult for you girls to refrain from grabbing me and giving me a big hug, and that’s OK, but please back off on the names.  Quickly I want to comment on the wonderful weather we enjoyed in the month of July.  Very unseasonable.  Is Global Warming real or is it a sham?  You can call me “not convinced.”  Right now you can call me “outta here.”  See you in two weeks for another discussion,  Bye for now.         

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Rest of the Story - July 31, 2014

As published in the White River Current - Thursday July 31, 2014

 I had an unusual amount of comments on my column that appeared two weeks ago. It was entitled “Parrothead” but actually was intended to be about tattoos, a subject that I finally got around to shortly before the end of the article. If Paul Harvey was here today, he might say “There’s more to that story.” The comments were split about half and half between the guys and gals, with the ladies wanting to see my tattoo and the fellows wanting to know more about the harmonica player. By the way, the article appeared in the July 17th edition of the Key West Traders Daily, an internet newspaper, probably because of the Jimmy Buffett connection. I imagine it was obtained from Steve’s blog because he had added a picture of the harmonica that Fingers gave him after playing “Amazing Grace.” Check out the archive and take a look. My infamous tattoo was self-inflicted in an attempt to permanently place my initials on my left leg a few inches below my knee. It was done with a sewing needle dipped in a bottle of black India ink. I was with the Hudson boys, Dean and Charles, who, apparently, were a bad influence on this young teenager. I had to stop the procedure when my leg began to hurt. It’s a wonder we three knot-heads didn’t get blood poisoning and maybe lose a leg. I never completed my initials and have ended up with what looks like a small upside-down exclamation mark. Now about the second part of the article. Greg was a keyboard player when he first started his career in the music business. That’s when he acquired his nickname, “Fingers.” He was a member of the Buttermilk Blues Band headquartered in Jackson, MS, in 1969 when he abandoned the keyboard and took up the harmonica as his preferred instrument. He told me that he made the change because the harmonica was much easier to transport between gigs than the bulky, heavy keyboard. Makes sense to me. He did retain his nickname and was always better known as “Fingers” than by his real name, Greg. He joined Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefers in 1974 and remained a regular band member until May, 2000. On that December day, probably in the late 70’s, when he made his only visit to Calico Rock with his wife, Sarah, they talked freely about their travels and friends which included James Taylor, Carly Simon and other well-known figures in the music world. The only time that I saw Fingers again was at the Jimmy Buffet concert at Barton Coliseum in Little Rock a few years later. I did see Sarah several times. She and Fingers split, sometime in the early 80’s I think, and she moved in with her parents. Glenn and Joann had moved to Calico Rock from Jonesboro and purchased a home on the lower bluff just south of downtown. They were the parents of two other children, David and Joyce. Glenn was elected Mayor in 1982 and again in 1986. Sometime during his first term, he served a one-year term as state commander of the American Legion. He was a veteran of WWII, retiring after 20+ years as a high ranking officer. I liked Glenn. He was a friend and a real character. He was a typical military retiree, insisting on doing it his way but got a lot done for Calico Rock. He was responsible for getting all the downtown businesses on the National Register of Historic places. He is probably best known for convincing the Arkansas Department of Corrections to purchase the land and build a prison near Calico Rock, causing the NIMBY people to come out of the woodwork. Glenn prevailed over the opposition and, as we are all aware, the North Central Unit became a reality. Five months into his second term, Glenn became very ill and was forced to resign as the Mayor of Calico Rock. I was elected to finish out his term, then one term on my own. He never got to see his pet project completed. When he died, I ordered the flag at city hall to be lowered to half-staff. He was buried in Roselawn cemetery with full military honors. I used to be asked what I thought about having a prison near Calico Rock. My pet answer was “Well, I would rather have a cookie factory.” I don’t say that anymore. Where would we be without it? PS: Fingers retired to Jackson, MS in 2010. Listen to him make his instrument weep, howl, plead and bleed on “Coast of Marseilles” recorded in 1978 (You-Tube).

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Parrot Head - July 17, 2014

As published in the White River Current - Thursday July 17, 2014

It has taken me sixty columns and thirty months to figure it all out.  I am not a writer, I am a talker or maybe just a story-teller.  What I send to this newspaper every other week is simply a transcription of what I say at some particular time.  Make sense?  Does to me and I am so happy to discover that I am not a writer, much less a journalist.  I said as much in my very first column over two years ago.  What a relief!  Now I can get to the business at hand without worrying about the correct word usage, spelling, etc.  Just pick a subject and go with it.  Please remember that a good story is worth telling more than once.  I’m sure I repeat myself occasionally so bear with me and we’ll continue a while longer so off we go.  Back when Steve was a teenager, one evening I heard this beautiful harmonica music coming from the stereo in his room.  I inquired and he told me that it was the Jimmy Buffett band.  I had never heard of Jimmy Buffett but some months later this young lady was shopping in the drug store and I noticed that she was wearing a Jimmy Buffett jacket.  Steve asked her if she had purchased the jacket at one of Jimmy’s shows and she said no, she was married to one of the band members.  Later we saw her and a young man go into the business across the street so we decided to go over and introduce ourselves.  We learned the young man’s name was Greg (nickname: Fingers) Taylor, and his wife, Sarah, was the daughter of the mayor of Calico Rock.  They were very nice and appreciative that we were Jimmy Buffett fans and he invited us to his in-laws residence where Sarah’s brother, David, was meeting them for a little “picking.”  David (nicknamed D-Minor) was a semi-professional banjo player.  Anyway we went up to their house, visited for a while, learned that he was from Mississippi where his father owned a drugstore and he had met his wife, Sarah, at college (UALR).  We later learned that he was an original member of JB’s band, the Coral Reefers  After hearing Greg play a soul-searching rendition of “Amazing Grace” Steve and I said our goodbyes and left.  A year or two later Anita and I attended a JB concert in Little Rock.  Fingers was there with the band and the concert was great.  Probably the best known JB composition is “Margaritaville.”  He wrote and recorded this song several years ago and has parlayed it into an empire of casinos, restaurants and tee shirts.  The latest Margaritaville restaurant opened not long ago in Pigeon Forge, TN, a long way from the salty water of the Pacific and the Florida keys where the business headquarters is located.  One of the verses of the song, Margaritaville, goes like this:  Don’t know the reason, Stayed here all season with nothing to show but this brand new tattoo.  He goes on to say, in verse, that the tattoo is a “real beauty” of a Mexican “cutie” but that he has no clue about how he got it.  When I was growing up, you rarely saw a man and never a woman that sported a tattoo and then it was usually on their forearm or, sometimes, shoulder.  Many servicemen returning from WWII , especially the navy, had received a tattoo somewhere in their travels.  I used to wonder if maybe they hoisted a few glasses before deciding to get this permanent decoration.  Fast forward a few years.  Now there is a tattoo parlor a few miles from anywhere in the United States and it is a common sight to see young and old, male and female, with multiple artistic drawings on their bodies.  I read the other day that one of the newer female so-called entertainer/singers, known best for her antics on stage, had (at last count) 24 of these skin pictures.  Have you noticed the number of college and professional athletes who have adorned themselves with these various pigment implantations?  I wonder if this is a fad and it soon will pass.  Seems to me that they (the wearers) are trying to make some kind of statement or is it just peer pressure?  Now I am only trying to report the facts, not condemning anyone.  If you want a tattoo, it is your decision.  Just remember, it is a permanent decision or, at least, it is very expensive to reverse if you change your mind later.  Before I stop, I want to let you in on a little secret.  Promise you want tell anyone.  I have a tattoo.  I’ll tell you about it later.  Bye for now!   

Note from Steve:
Dad's memory of the story of Gregg (Fingers) Taylor that Christmas 30+ years ago is exactly as I remember it.   One additional fact about Fingers is that he gave me the harmonica after he had played "Amazing Grace" that day.  I still have it.  Here is a picture of it.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Human Computer - July 3, 2014

As published in the White River Current - Thursday July 3, 2014

I once read or heard a commentary that compared the human brain to a computer ---that information entered is retained until retrieved.  The article also indicated that the information was placed in different “folders” that could be accessed by a particular biological sourcing mechanism.  That’s way too complicated for me to understand or describe but I have had instances when I guess I pressed the right button and some ancient memory from my childhood popped up.  An example occurred last week when I was reading Megan’s Musing column in this newspaper.  Megan was giving an account of her trip to a poet’s retreat that she had attended. When I was younger, I could memorize just about anything in a short period of time.  I’ve talked about this before.  Now, I have trouble memorizing anything but I still remember things from long ago. Anyway, in this particular mysterious memory I was about five or six years old and my mother and I were climbing the stairs to the second floor of the old school building.  It was nighttime and we were attending a community Christmas program that was held in the study hall.  The place was packed and people were sitting at the school desks and folding chairs and some were standing.  I was on the program to recite a poem that I had memorized.  Mom and I had just reached the top of the stairs and were turning right to walk through the double doors into the study hall when I saw her.  It was Mary Lou and her grandmother.  Now I should explain that Mary Lou was about my age and was struck on me.  I stopped dead in my tracks and would have turned and run but my mother had a hold on my hand.  Then I heard Mary Lou say in a (seemingly) loud voice, “Grandma, there’s Reed Mack.”  I almost fainted, but I retained my composure and guided my mom to a seat up front.  The poem that I recited was “Jest ‘Fore Christmas” that told, in verse, about a young lad who relates his activities of doing mischievous things except “jest ‘fore Christmas, I’m as good as I kin be!”  This poem by Eugene Field (1850-1895) is available on the internet.  Just “google” it if you are interested.  Of course, my recitation received a standing ovation.  I think I was able to escape without seeing Mary Lou and her grandmother again that evening.  You have to remember that at that age I thought girls came from another planet, sorta like the kid in the poem who announced that he was “mighty glad I ain’t a girl---rather be a boy.”  Things do change as the years go past.  I wonder what ever became of Mary Lou.  Anyway, thanks to the Current for printing these offerings each week or so.  We are very fortunate to have these writings available for enjoyment and also for the historical and educational value.  At the present time, in addition to the Ramblings and Musing columns, we can learn much about plants and the environment through Linda’s “Nature Journal,” incidents of the past through Susan’s “Not So Long Ago,” plus learn about our ancestors and other historical figures with Freda’s remarkable stories.  Add to all that is the reporting of Rich, bringing us up to date on current events.  I read every issue from cover to cover (don’t you?).  I really miss some of the columns that are no longer appearing in our paper.  Do you remember “The View from Off?”  This enjoyable column (written by locals Fred & Kathie) was the inspiration for my Ramblings op-ed offerings.  Derrall’s dog (River) once wrote humorous accounts about fishing on the White River.  Jim & Jill, both professional “outdoor” writers, each used to write about hunting/fishing/etc. on alternate weeks.  Doctor Robert once penned a scholarly essay weekly for a period of several months about the cause and treatment of  various diseases that affect us humans.  Fredericka has begun to share some heretofore  unpublished Tenoring writings of her husband, Tom*.  There’s good reading ahead.  Megan’s column also reminded me that I once had  the desire to write a song but was having trouble with the rhyming.  You long-time readers may remember this.  Maybe I should ask Megan for help.  Should I write the song lyrics in “iambic pentameter?” (I just threw that in to let you know that I can speak poetically).   See you later, For another caper, In this paper. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Summertime - June 19, 2014

As published in the White River Current - Thursday June 19, 2014
“In the good old summertime, In the good old summertime, Strolling down the shady lane, etc.”  My goodness!  What happened to spring?  Only two more days until the longest day of the year, then it’s downhill from there to the cold days of December.  I like summertime.  I’ve been cleaning out and defrosting the freezer, getting ready for the sweet corn then the fresh peaches.  When we lived in the house where we raised our two children, we had a large garden with several rows of sweet corn.  My cousin and neighbor, William Reed, gardened with me and raised the squash, eggplant, tomatoes and other veggies.  Oh, we ate good.  There’s nothing better than fresh vegetables straight from the garden.  We don’t garden anymore.  When we first moved back from Missouri, we set out a few tomato plants but we’ve given that up.  My planting and tilling days are over.  However, I might be able to help in the harvest if any of you need some extra assistance.  Just give me a call.  Now, we aren’t starving and won’t be as long as we can scrape up a few bucks to purchase some fresh produce.  Plus, I have discovered some ways to get a free meal now and then.  The pickers and grinners that meet at the community room every other Friday night is a good choice.  Take along a dish to share potluck with those friendly folks and stay for some good music and singing.  Our church has a men’s breakfast the first Saturday and a potluck dinner after church every third Sunday.  Come on by, you’re invited.  Or join the hospital auxiliary, 20/20 group, chamber of commerce or any of the other service organizations.  They usually have some tasty refreshments after their meetings.  I really like the potluck meals.  That’s when the ladies prepare their best dishes and we all eat too much and suffer the rest of the day.  Now there are certain churches that I won’t mention that prefer to call these meals “carry-in dishes.”  They are the same group that let their preachers sleep in the parsonage instead of the manse like the rest of us.  Maybe that sounds a little more sophisticated or something.  Now, simmer down, I’m only joking.  By the way, I’m working on a new plan.  I have noticed that almost every Sunday, there is a gathering of folks at the park pavilion, probably a family reunion.  Now if you drive by real slow on your way home from church, you can tell if they are eating.  If they are, stop and saunter over and strike up a conversation with some of the folks.  I figure if you play your cards right, someone will invite you to stay and enjoy the meal with them.  After your second or third time you will have gotten the hang of this and developed your own technique and it’s good eating from there on.  Don’t feel bad about doing this because there are always a lot of leftovers will be tossed into the trash cans where stray dogs or raccoons will get into and cause a big mess and then you will really feel bad because you could have help prevent it.  Also it helps to keep a mental image of all the hungry people in Africa and other parts of the world and that will lessen any feeling of guilt that you might have.  Now that’s the plan I am considering.  What do you think of it?  Will it work?  I’ll keep you posted.  Years ago several church couples met at the Wingard’s forest home on Friday nights during the summer.  We would share potluck and the kids would swim in their pool.  These were great times.  Jim and Lorene were both real characters.  I hope to write more about them in a later column.  We also were members with five or six other couples that formed a sort of supper club that took turns hosting the group in their individual homes, meeting on a regular basis, maybe Saturday nights (I forget exactly).  In the latter of these groups, the hosts would cook and furnish the main dish with the others bringing along a dessert or such.  We don’t do those things anymore, too tied up with TV sports or Fox News, probably, so we just eat a bowl of Post Toasties, kick back in the lounge chair and nod off until time to get up and go to bed.  That’s a typical evening at the Perryman house.  I hope you have a great summer and maybe I’ll see you at the park next Sunday after church and we can enjoy some good eating.    

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The month of May, page 2 - June 5, 2014

As published in the White River Current - Thursday June 5, 2014

June is busting out all over and I ran out of space before I finished my May comments in the last issue.  To continue, quickly, when I was a little boy I always looked, with great eagerness, for the warm weather that came with the month of May.  Then I could put away my brogan shoes and go barefoot (except to church) and I could also retire my long handle underwear until the cold weather in the Fall.  I really enjoyed going barefoot in the summer.  It only took a short time to toughen up the soles of my feet.  Of course, I would occasionally stub a toe or step on a bee but it would be worth it for the fun and for the feeling of freedom.  I don’t see any barefoot boys very often now.  Too bad!  They don’t know what they are missing.  The second thing that I left out of the last issue was graduation, which always occurs during the month of May.  Now don’t tell me that I should have discussed this topic a few weeks ago to make it more calendar correct.  I write this stuff as it comes to mind whatever the season.  Anyway, I remember my senior year in high school very well.  At that time, back in the forties, classes, from the first grade through the twelfth, were held in the old two story building that once was a Calico Rock landmark.  The exceptions were the vocational classes which were held in the home economics building and the agriculture building.  The HE building still stands and is in the National Record of Historic Places but the agri building is long gone.  When I was a senior, I belonged to the journalism club.  We published what may be the first yearbook ever done for our school.  It was named “The Pirate.”  We also published a monthly newspaper with the title “The Pirate’s Prattle.”  Pretty cute, wouldn’t you say?  My job was to type the stencils and operate the mimeograph machine.  I do not believe I learned any journalism skills there that have carried over to my writing a column for this newspaper, but “who knows?”  By the way, our class advisor was Miss Opal Toothaker.  Graduation week began with the Baccalaureate service at the Methodist church on Sunday morning at 11:00 AM with all churches dismissing their regular services in order to attend.  A former Methodist pastor, Rev. Clarence Wilcox, delivered the message.  The Commencement Exercises were held in the school gymnasium the following Friday night.  Miss Toothaker was the pianist at both these activities.  Bethel Hendrix was the valedictorian and I, in my usual finish in second place position, was the salutatorian.  The title of my short address was “The Future Still Our Own.”  I still have a copy of this speech which, although dated, could be used in graduation services today.  To round out the commencement program, my uncle Roy Perryman gave the class address; the school board president, U. E. Hudson, presented the diplomas and the school superintendent, Euel Story, presented the diplomas (Mr. Story was also our basketball coach).  There were 29 of us in the class of 1947, perhaps the best class to ever graduate from Calico Rock High School.  There are still 16 of us scattered across the country with a few still in the Calico Rock area.  Conventional wisdom most of the time dictates that bigger is better.  I think that you can see that is not necessarily correct by comparing graduates from a small school in a rural area like Calico Rock to those from urban areas and larger schools.  Calico Rock graduates can compete and hold their own with just about anyone.  Consider one of my classmates, George Kemp.  George was the baby of our class (he is five days younger that I am, also graduating at age 16).  He grew up in the Pleasant Valley community just north of town.  I hesitate to call the residents of that community “poor,” which I think is more of a generic term, but many of them were certainly financially disadvantaged, but very good, friendly people, nevertheless.  George (nicknamed “goat”) was quite a character. He joined the Navy after high school.  After a four year enlistment, he enrolled in the University of Arkansas and earned a degree in electrical engineering.  Later he received his Master’s degree from the University of Missouri at Kansas City.  Several other class members excelled in their profession.  Oh, and me, I graduated from pharmacy school, second in my class, of course.   

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Month of May - May 22, 2014

As published in the White River Current - Thursday May 22, 2014

There is a very famous Scottish poem that was penned many years ago by that well-known poet, Anonymous.  The name of the poem is Barbara Allen and it begins like this: “In Scarlet town, where I was born, there was a fair maid dwellin’, Made every youth cry Well-a-way!  Her name was Barbara Allen.  All in the merry month of May, when green buds they were swellin’ (and the poem goes on for several more verses).”  I’ve known girls like that.  I married one, all in the merry month of May.  Now I don’t remember crying “Well-a-way” when I first met her but I know I was thinking “wow” or maybe even “shazam” and my heart flip-flopped as I gasped for air.  Other poets have written about this month including Thomas Dekker whose poem “The Merry Month of May” was first performed in public in the year 1599.  Many have followed since, even Stephen C. Foster who wrote “The Merry, Merry Month of May” in 1862.”  Well, besides being a merry month, May is a very busy month.  When I was a boy, on the first day of May (called MayDay), the elementary classes would gather on the school playground to wind the maypole, taking strips of colored cloth that were attached to the top of the pole.  Have you ever done this?  Kinda hard to explain exactly how it was done, but it was a lot of fun for a bunch of little kids.  Tom* wrote extensively about maypole episodes that occurred in Munich.  Perhaps Fredericka will continue to share some of his best stories in future issues of this newspaper.  Anyway, on the first Saturday of May each year (May 3rd in 2014) the city of Melbourne hosts an annual festival they call Pioneer Day.  Actually a Calico Rock woman, Margaret Ghelfi, was the driving force behind this event.  She, along with the other members of the local Home Demonstration Club, was convinced that it should be a county festival and held at the county seat.  Slow to get started, it has become an important event in the county for several decades.  The Home Demonstration Club was associated in some way with the County Extension Service.  I don’t know if the club is still active or not.  Other Calico Rock clubs in the past include The Mother’s Club, The Fidelis Club and The Garden Club.  Anita was a member of the last two but none are active at the present time.  Margaret, listed above, along with her husband, John, and her sister, Hildred Meade, would classify as characters.  John was a carpenter and Hildred was a dentist.  Her dental office was on the second floor of the Riverview Hotel.  I should have done more research on this family but I believe they came to this area from back East.  However, I have a slight recollection of the girls living in a house on Boswell Road not far from the second overpass.  This reminds me, there was another couple that lived in that area who had four or five good looking daughters.  I mean those Coburn girls were knock-outs.  I only know of one, Jeannie, who still lives in the area.  My memory of the Ghelfis lands them at the Pop Warner place about four miles north where they lived for several years.  They later moved into town to a new home that John built on Ferrill Street.  As mentioned above, May is a busy month.  On the second weekend, the Calico Rock Museum had one of its historical celebrations that ended with a delightful performance by the Peppersauce Players.  The next day was the second Sunday in May which is designated Mothers Day to honor those wonderful ladies.  Horseshoe Bend and Norfork also had festivals in May.  The Lions Club pancake breakfast, a fund raiser for this civic organization, was in May and was well attended.  Memorial Day will be celebrated on May 26th this year which is a Monday but for me it will always be the traditional day of May 30th.  Friends Don and Dr. Max have birthdays in May, on the 15th and 20th, respectively.  Steve and Sandye celebrated their 33rd anniversary on the 16th, the day our youngest grandson, Sam, graduated from college.  And on and on, but Wait!  I just thought of another song.  It goes like this:  “While strolling through the park one day, In the merry, merry month of May, I was taken by surprise By a pair of roguish eyes….”  Well it didn’t happen exactly like that, but I was indeed taken.  We were married on May 28th, sixty one years ago.  Happy Anniversary, Anita.  I love you.      

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Characters No. 2 - May 8, 2014

As published in the White River Current - Thursday May 8, 2014

A new couple moved to town a few weeks ago, hailing from Texas, purchasing a home in West Calico Rock.  David showed up at the church bible study one Wednesday night carrying his Greek New Testament and joined into the discussion with real gusto.  He has been a regular ever since and has also joined our Sunday school class and become a frequent visitor to the worship service.  He is a very interesting person and I have really enjoyed our conversations.  In one of our verbal visits he mentioned his wife and said her name was Linda Withay.  I thought, what an unusual middle name, probably passed down from another generation.  I have tried for several years to get the parents of a soon-to-be-born baby to name their new daughter “Reeda Macksine” (kinda rolls off your tongue, doesn’t it?)  It hasn’t happened yet but I still have hopes.  Anita’s niece and husband, Lynn and Larry, named their two daughters “Lynna and Lara” so, you see, it has happened before and is sure to happen again (soon I hope).  Another example is George’s daughter, “Georgia.”  Before I go too far with this, I guess I had better confess that David’s wife is actually Lynda (you know, “with-a-Y”).  I had the good fortune to actually meet Lynda the other day and found her to be a very friendly, outgoing young lady.  Welcome this delightful couple to our community when you have the opportunity.  This is not the first time I have written about my fascination with names.  It was called to my attention at church recently when someone asked for prayer for “Jackie.”  Our pastor inquired if that was a boy or girl.  The point is, some names are used interchangeably with either sex.  Anita’s boyfriend in high school was “Shirley” a name that he shortened to “Shirl” as an adult.  Don threatened to call off the marriage to Maxine if her brother, Francis, didn’t change his name to Frank (he did and the marriage has lasted for over 62 years.)  In the song “Frankie and Johnnie,” which one is the male?  I have known both boys and girls with those names.  Other examples are Billy (Billie), Bobby (Bobbie), Terry (Teri) and many others too numerous to mention and I think you get the point.  You are probably wondering where I am going with this so I will simply segue into the characters series that I started in the last issue.  His son’s name was Beverly who was married to Zela (Wyatt); they were the parents of Janet, a pretty girl who was in my school class in the Calico Rock school.  His wife’s name was Ruth.  I wrote about her in an episode several months ago.  She was a Quaker, a member of the Friends Church, but was a regular attender of our church and was well known by us boys for her lengthy prayers.  The first initial of his first name was a “B” and might also have been “Beverly” but we always called him “Doctor.”  He was a veterinarian.  A few months after the episode described in the last issue concerning our milk cow and her boyfriend, she presented us with a cute little male calf (we had hoped for a female), but there was trouble ahead.  She had a retained placenta, or in cattleman’s talk “she didn’t shed her afterbirth.”  A call was made to the vet and when he arrived, I was designated for the job as veterinarian assistant, a very important position for an eight year old boy.  My granddad put the rope around our cow’s neck and stood at her head to contain her.  My duties were two-fold; I was to stand to the left of her backside, hold her tail in my left hand and a hold a pan that contained a strong smelling soapy disinfectant solution in my right hand.  The doctor rolled up his right sleeve to his shoulder, soaped up his arm and, after reminding me not to turn loose of the tail, took up his position at the rear of our cow and went to work.  After removing the objectionable tissue from the uterine wall and replacing it with a few large tablets of some type of medicine to prevent infection, the job was completed.  A very eye-opening experience for a young boy but a part of my growing up that I will always remember.  I don’t have any memory of other experiences with the doctor, but I did hear rumors of some of his other activities.  Some of the wags even designated a small community a few miles north of here as “Jacksonville” because of his frequent visits.  As I said, those were only rumors and I was too young to understand anyway.    

Monday, April 28, 2014

Characters No 1 - April 24, 2014

As published in the White River Current - Thursday April 24, 2014

Here is a riddle for you:  If “con” is the opposite of “pro,” then what is the opposite of “progress?”  The answer:  “congress.”  I received quite a few comments about my last column; you know, “procrastination.”  The above riddle was e-mailed to me from a Tulsa attorney. Thanks, Leah.  Today, I am beginning a series highlighting certain individuals that I believe have made a big difference in my life.  You may or may not have known these people.  I say “not have known” because most (not all) are no longer living.  I have been thinking about this for some time and have started a list.  I will appreciate any suggestions or comments.  I will probably use the person’s first name only as I have done in previous ramblings but I might make an exception in some instances.  Some have appeared in previous columns.  OK, with those parameters in place, let’s get started with number one.  His name was Lucas, but most everyone called him “Uncle Luke.”  He was my granddad, my mother’s father and the only grandparent that I ever knew; the others had died before I was born.  He was born in the Barren Fork area in eastern Izard County.  He had three brothers and three sisters.  The brothers were named Luther, Lucian and Lucius and the sisters were named Lucy, Lucilla and Lucinda.  I may have misspelled their names but I’m sure you have noticed that they all began with the letter “L” for some reason that I am unaware.  He married a young woman whose first name was Arthur and they were the parents of four children, a boy and three girls.  His wife died when the youngest daughter was only three years old.  My mother, age 14 and the oldest, assumed the duties of cooking and housekeeping while helping to “raise” her little sister, Muriel.  His son, Oran, left home in the late teens to enter a telegraphy school in preparation of becoming a depot agent for the Missouri Pacific railroad in Cotter, Arkansas.  A few years later, Granddad moved with his three daughters to Calico Rock in order for his youngest to attend high school.  She graduated in the class of 1928.  One of her classmates was J. Orville Cheney.  More about this character in a future column.  Granddad was a member and elder of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Barren Fork.  When the Calico Rock CP church was chartered in December, 1923, Granddad and Muriel became charter members; other charter members included my mom and dad, my dad’s sister, Lettie, and two of her daughters.  Anita and I moved to Missouri to take care of Aunt Muriel in the last years of her life; She died in 2006 at the age of 94 and was the last living charter member of the Calico Rock CP church.  Back to Granddad.   Sometime before I was born and after his other three children had married and left home, he moved in with my mom and dad.  My earliest memory (a fleeting one) is putting on my “sleepers,” crawling up onto his lap and going to sleep on his shoulder.  I must have been only about two years old.  Later, when we moved to the Rock House on Red Lane, we shared the middle bedroom with the big feather bed.  He was a small man but was strong, maybe because of his many years on the farm.  He did most of the outside work at our house, from making a large garden to milking our cow, but he always had time for me.  He taught me the fundamentals of baseball and we spent countless hours playing catch.  It was also Granddad who taught me about the “birds and the bees.”   Early one morning I was told to get dressed so I could help him on a little project.  The two of us went to the barn where he put a rope around our big Guernsey cow’s neck and we started leading her up the Red Lane.  After a short walk, we came to another pasture where a man met us at the gate and led us into a field where a very large bull was seemingly getting excited about something.  Granddad removed the rope from our cow’s neck and the two animals played together for a little while. (Am I being delicate enough in describing this scene?) After what seemed to be an eternity, Granddad put the rope around our cow’s neck and we returned to the barn without saying a word.  I lost my companion and best friend to the ravages of stomach cancer.  His last words to me were “always be a good boy.”  He was 69 years old.