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.