Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The end of the line - June 4, 2015

As published in the White River Current - Thursday June 4, 2015

Many of you are familiar with the old story about the farmer who had to hit his mule in the head with a two-by-four in order to get his attention.  Before I go any further, let me stop and introduce myself.  My name is Reid and I am Reed’s alter ego.  I will be writing the rest of this week’s column, No. 83 in the op/ed series, “Reed’s Rambling,” that has appeared in this publication on a bi-weekly schedule for about three years.  Reed is a little, shall we say, “down in the mouth.”  He has come down with another attack of Bell’s Palsy, a form of facial paralysis resulting from a dysfunction of the 7th cranial nerve causing an inability to control facial muscles on the affected site and often including the eye, which has happened in Reed’s case.  Reed had an attack of this malady in the fall of 1996 and recovered completely in a few months.  He expects the same prognosis this time.  The 1996 attack affected the right side of his face and this time it is the left side.  Certainly not life threatening, but more aggravating than anything else, affecting ability to speak properly, drink and chew easily or even spit (he can’t even say “spit”).  The cause of this ailment is unknown (probably a virus) but it was first described in 1821 by Scottish anatomist, Sir Charles Bell.  In Reed’s case, the analogy of the two-by-four and the mule is pretty close to describing his condition which has certainly gotten his attention.  After careful consideration, Reed has made the decision that this will be the last Ramblings column.  (Did I hear a big “Oh, No”?)  I made him aware that he was shooting for No. 100 in just a few more months, but he said (and I quote):  “When it’s over, it’s over.”  He always liked to paraphrase a lot.  His hopes are that one of you younger aspiring writers will step up with a new column, such as “Mary’s Mumblings” or perhaps “Don’s Drivel” or …..I think you get the point.  Reed was very excited about finishing out the Ramblings with something a little new for him.  He was planning to do personal interviews with several local residents, particularly those from “off.”  For instance, interviews with Ed and David were to be entitled “You can call me Doctor.”  The interview with Kim and John would have been “The Dog Walkers.”  He was also planning columns on families that lived in Calico Rock when he was a boy.  Reed is the last of the Calico Rock Perryman descendants so he was going to devote one column to his family.  He had already interviewed Frances concerning the ancestors of the Wood family who were very well known in the development of our community.  Reed feels terrible that he cannot continue with his projects, but, as he told me, even if his condition clears up in a few months it would still be difficult to get back into the rhythm of the series.  He reminded me that this column really got started by accident when he wrote a tongue-in-cheek issue about the people from “off.”  He got such a response that he agreed to write one more.  Here we are at No. 83.  Being his worse critic and liking some columns better than others, he gives the series a B-.  He wants to thank all his readers for their kind remarks and encouragement and invites all to keep a look out for his “great American novel” or listen on the radio for his Christmas song.  That is if he can drag himself away from this “pity party” and get back to work.  I think he can do it but we will just have to wait and see. He says that he and Anita need to spend more time taking care of each other.  They aren’t as young and active as they once were; last week they observed their 62nd wedding anniversary. Reed was a fan of the Carol Burnett show that aired on CBS from 1967 to 1978.  Carol (who, by the way, has an Arkansas connection) always ended her show with a tune that was written for her by her husband, Joe Hamilton.  These are the lyrics that Reed would like to use to bring the Rambling series to a close:  “I’m so glad we had this time together, Just to have a laugh, or sing a song.  Seems we just got started and, before you know it, comes the time we have to say SO LONG.”  Goodbye and God Bless from your faithful rambler, REED.   

Friday, May 22, 2015

Another day in May - May 21, 2015

As published in the White River Current - Thursday May 21, 2015

“It was a dark and stormy night.”  A huge clap of thunder had awakened me.  I rolled over and sleepily glanced at the alarm clock on the bedside table.  It was blinking which indicated that the electricity had been off and every electric clock in the house (seven, counting the clock radios) would have to be reset for the zillionth time.  Well, maybe five or six times so far this year.  I’m such a perfectionist that it takes me at least fifteen or twenty minutes to perform the resetting task.  I doubt if you are interested, but here is how I do it:  I grab my battery powered atomic clock, which is accurate to one-millionth of a second, and, figuring that was close enough to the correct time, go from clock to clock until all eight clocks register the same hour and minute.  I click the clock’s minute button just as the seconds of the atomic clock jumps from 59 to 00.  It takes a little dexterity and quickness, and I maybe lose a few thousandth of a second, but I always feel personally rewarded for a job well done.  Twice a year, daylight savings time, I have to reset the clocks in the cars also, but that’s another story and they don’t keep accurate time.

Rambling along, and congratulations to the graduating CRHS seniors, a very handsome group whose pictures appeared in last week’s Current.  I well remember my senior year, 1947.  Gracious sakes alive!  That’s 68 years ago.  Seems like only yesterday that we were getting ready for our senior trip to Memphis where we stayed in the King Cotton Hotel and visited the Pink Palace and other attractions. This was B-E (before Elvis).  We had previously been honored at the Junior/Senior banquet by the class of 1948.  Now we were ready to receive our diplomas.  The baccalaureate service was held at the Methodist church at 11:00 AM on Sunday with all the churches dismissing so that everyone could attend.  The choir sang “Consider the Lilies” and Rev. Watson preached the sermon.  The following Friday, in the old gymnasium, the commencement exercises were held with my Uncle Roy Perryman addressing the class.  (If you attend the all-school reunion on June 13th, be sure to check out our class picture.)  High School graduation is the end of a long period of preparation and the beginning of the rest of your life.  Some will continue their education while others will chose different paths.  My suggestion is to get all the advice you can, from your counselor and perhaps from your pastor.  When I graduated, I had already made a decision to go to pharmacy school, enrolling at the College of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Arkansas, the only pharmacy school in the state at the time. The pharmacy school moved from Clarksville to Little Rock in 1951, the year I graduated.  The transition from high school senior to college freshman is a giant step.  I was enrolled with students who were mostly older (I was 16) and from larger schools.  It took a while before I realized that I could compete, even though I was a graduate of a much smaller school.  The point of this discussion is that if you set the goal that you want to attain and keep your focus, you can succeed.  Of course, there were times that I wondered if I had made the right decision.  For instance, I had been encouraged by some to transfer to medical school.  I considered but kept my original plans.  I’m glad I did.  To further illustrate my point, I recently read an article that appeared in Rolling Stone magazine that described the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Garth Brooks classic hit, “The Dance.”  Described by Garth as his favorite song and used quite often as a closer at his concerts, this ballad was composed in 1989 by Tony Arata and appeared on Garth’s first album.  By the way, I have a photo of Garth and my grandson, Ross, magnetted to my refrigerator door.  Ross learned all Garth’s songs when he was growing up (“here’s the way Garth holds his guitar, Granddad).  In the song, Garth sings “Looking back on the memory…” and “Yes, my life is better left to chance.  I could have missed the pain but I’d have had to miss the dance.”  In an interview in 2013, Garth commented on this song when he said “You don’t get to pick and choose your memories on life.  You have to go with things as they play out.  You don’t get to alter them.”  Change one memory and you change them all.      

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Remembrance - May 7, 2015

As published in the White River Current - Thursday May 7, 2015

Congratulations are in order for the Batesville Daily Guard for winning the General Excellence Award in the Arkansas Associated Press Managing Editors Association’s 2014 contest.  Winners were announced Saturday, April 25, at the Arkansas APME annual meeting.  The Guard took home 27 awards including 11 First Places overall, competing in Division 1 dailies.  Congratulations also to Calico Rock High School graduate, Angelia Sanders Roberts, who was awarded First Place in two categories, Editorial Writing and News Feature.  She is the Executive Director of Ad/Ed for the Guard and a very talented writer.  I am going out on a limb here and predicting that Angelia will win First Place in the Human Interest category for her article, “Pulling Together,” when the 2015 awards are announced next year.  This well-written article first appeared in the February 12th edition of the Guard and spotlighted a well-known Calico Rock couple, Gene and Reva Lockie.  The Lockies moved to Calico Rock from Charles City, Iowa, in the 1980’s and quickly became actively involved in the community.  Gene had first visited our city a few years earlier when he made the trip from Iowa to see his parents who had a home here. On the next visit, he brought Reva along.  They, of course, fell in love with the area and began making plans to make this their home when Gene retired.  Both had been active in civic and church activities in Iowa, so the transition to local interests was quick and smooth.    Unfortunately, Reva began developing a debilitating form of Alzheimer’s about 10 years ago and was a resident of the local nursing home for over seven years.  The article that Angelia wrote describes the devotion and loyalty that Gene has exhibited these last few years.  The vows say, “for better, or worse” and Gene never wavered.  Reva passed away April 20th.  The funeral was a few days later at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Calico Rock and she was laid to rest in the family plot at Riverside Cemetery in Charles City, Iowa.  At the funeral service, the pastor inquired if there were any friends who would like to say a few words.  I thought about it, but declined; afraid I might get emotional or speak too long (you know, ramble).  Here’s what I might have said:  “I first met Reva at a chili supper, a fund-raiser for the local fire department.  She and Gene had closed the deal on the purchase of the bluff property and were moving to Calico Rock in a year.  Sure enough, about a year later Jim C. called to inform Anita and I that Gene and Reva were here and were asking about us.  We rushed down to welcome them and very quickly became close friends.  Reva had a very infectious laugh (her daughters inherited this trait from their mother) and you could not be around her and not be happy.  Together, our two couples spent a lot of time together, travelling to such faraway vistas as Hawaii and our Nation’s Capitol.  We represented our small city at numerous tourism and festival conferences.  At one unforgettable Governor’s conference on Tourism, we had a confrontation with the top official of our state who later became our country’s 42nd  president, but that’s another story.  Even though Gene and Reva were from “off,” they never failed to sing the praises of our small community and the beautiful Ozarks area whenever the opportunity became available.  Speaking of singing, both Gene and Reva lent their bass and alto voices to their church choir (Reva’s father was a choir member at his church in Illinois until he died at age 103).  I will always remember the good meals and fellowship that we shared together.  On one occasion, Reva prepared a dish that was new to Anita and I at the time, known as shepherd’s pie.  Funny why I remember this event.”  Anita and I will soon be celebrating our 62nd anniversary. Gene and Reva were married for almost 68 years, sharing vows at the Little Brown Church in the Vale as Angelia’s article so eloquently portrayed.  Some might say that they met by accident.  Others might say that things don’t always just “happen,” but that they happen for a reason.  You would have to be a “believer” to have this opinion.  I’m a believer.  


Thursday, April 23, 2015

It's about time - April 22, 2015

As published in the White River Current - Thursday April 22, 2015

April Showers bring May Flowers.  I read that this phrase goes all the way back to the mid 16th century.  It seems that a poet and farmer named Thomas Tusser wrote the book “A Hundred Good Points of Husbandry” and in the April Section, the following poem was written:  “Sweet April showers do Spring May flowers.”  Does this simple two-line poem with obscure origins mean that April is the rainy season and May is the beginning of Spring and all the likely new flowers growing in the meadows?  Sure, why not?  Widely accepted, right?  So, is rain good?  Well, sometimes.  I remember another little two-line poem:  “Rain, rain, go away; come again another day.  So, sometimes spring showers may be troublesome – like when they cause a baseball game to be cancelled or when you get caught without an umbrella and get your clothes soaked.  Or, even worse, when the rain comes down in buckets and causes flooding.  When I was a boy, Spring floods were common.  This was a primary reason for the erection of the dams that help to keep our riverfront cities from being flooded.  As I recall, the last major flood in Calico Rock, when the river water was over the railroad tracks, was in 1951.  There have been a couple of occasions when the water covered a portion of highway 5 for a day or two, once in the early 80’s and again about 25 years later.  Video of the last flood, when a house was washed off its foundation and  floated downstream to be demolished when it hit the highway 5 bridge, made every national news channel.  You can still catch this video on YouTube (yes, that’s Peggy’s voice in the background).  But, spring showers are a wonderful thing – they help plants grow!

And, did you know that even lightning can help plants grow?  A flash of lightning gives off enough electric energy and heat to make oxygen and nitrogen combine into nitrates that mix with the rain to fertilize the plants.  Amazing how nature works.  Way back in the 1920’s, two enterprising song writers were inspired to write a song that was made famous by a popular singer of that era, Al Jolson.  The chorus of the song went like this:  Though April showers may come your way, They bring the flowers that bloom in May; And if it’s raining, have no regrets; Because, it isn’t raining rain, you know, it’s raining violets.  And when you see clouds upon the hill, You soon will see crowds of daffodils; So keep on looking for the bluebird, and listening for his song, Whenever April showers come along.  Give yourself a treat and listen to Al sing this wonderful little ditty on YouTube.  Better yet, check out the video, “The Jolson Story,” and listen to some of his other famous songs.  He was quite an entertainer, performing sometime in blackface.  This would be unheard of in these times.  I remember that one of his most requested numbers was “Mammy.”  From a kneeling position, he emotionally declared, I’d walk a million miles for one of your smiles, My Mammy.  They don’t write songs like that anymore (did I hear a “thank goodness”).  Well, things do change as well as likes and dislikes, varying from one person to another, from one age group to another, from country/rock to the golden oldies.  And, the seasons change, sometime dry, sometime wetter than normal.  Patience through the most unpleasant times, like April showers, will eventually lead to beauty, like May flowers.  Remember this on those rainy Spring days.  Speaking of time (we were, weren’t we), tomorrow, April 24th, is a huge day for you techies.  That is the day that the new Apple IWatch goes on sale.  Now I wouldn’t be surprised if many of you readers have already pre-ordered one of these marvels.  Shades of Dick Tracy!  I was a big fan of this comic strip detective when I was growing up.  That item on his left arm was his wrist-radio that he used to communicate with police headquarters.  Such fantasy, we thought.  Never happen, we said.  Well, it has, and all of you will want one.  It’s like having a miniature IPad on your wrist.  Want to send a message to someone?  You don’t need a querty keyboard, just speak the message and your watch will recognize your voice and type for you.  Take and send photos.  Listen to music.  Get phone calls.  Get maps.  Ask Siri a question.  And, of all things, you can even get the correct time of day.  

Thursday, April 9, 2015

What goes around...... April 9, 2015

As published in the White River Current - Thursday April 9, 2015

Totally shocked! That is the way that Brenda responded to the last Ramblings column in which I wished her a “Happy Birthday” (her 60th, by the way).  I replied to her text, “Mission Accomplished.”  Now, before I go any further (or is it farther?), I must assure everyone that I do not have a single “get-even” bone in my body.  Sometimes things just fall into place at the right time without any outside assistance.  Maybe I should tell the entire story from the beginning.  When Brenda was about six weeks old, I received my army discharge papers so we loaded up the car and headed for Arkansas.  Without going into great detail, I’ll just say that the trip across Kansas in a non-airconditioned  vehicle with two women (Anita and my mom) and an infant daughter  was pretty stressful.  But, after a two-day journey of almost a thousand miles, we arrived at our destination, Calico Rock, Arkansas.  We set up housekeeping in a small rental house on First Street, remained there for two and a half years until we moved into a new home on Red Lane that became our dwelling for the next 45 years.  Steve was born a few weeks later so our family was complete.  Meanwhile, I was keeping busy at the City Drug Store on Main Street in Calico Rock and, in 1969, we built a new drug store at the corner of Park Street and highway 56.  The year that Brenda graduated from high school, we made a trip back to Colorado.  We thought it was a great idea but Brenda was totally disinterested in seeing where she was born (she was in love).  After a couple of years in college, she and Jack were married (strictly by coincidence on the day Elvis died, August 16, almost 39 years ago).  Both graduated and became school teachers.  After several years, Brenda decided to go back to college and graduated from pharmacy school in 1984.  She and Jack purchased the family business in 1988 and I became semi-retired.  (Since I am a rambling sort, it sometimes take me a long time to get to the point of my remarks, but here it is).  It was another of those days that I’ll never forget.  It was March 20, 1991.  I was puttering around the house when Anita asked if I would run down to the corner grocery and get a loaf of bread.  I said, “sure” so I jumped into the car and went to make my purchase.  When I came out of the store, something caught my eye.  There, in large block letters on the drug store sign across the street, begging for all of the world to read, was the announcement:  REED IS 60.  Being as good natured as I am, I took all the kidding in stride and vowed to just let it pass.  Fast forward to last December.  I was transferring all the birthday and anniversary dates from the 2014 calendar to the new one when I came to Brenda’s birthday.  I noticed it was on a Thursday so I checked to see if it was a Ramblings day.  Sure enough, it was.  The moral of this story is, “Don’t mess with old dad.”  OK, enough of that.  We had a great OFC meeting the last of March.  It was our annual birthday meeting where we invite the spouses.  Several of us have March birthdays and we had 100% attendance plus two guests, Shelby’s son and wife from Boston, for a record total of 14 present.  We sang “Happy Birthday” to George since he caught up with me on that date, making four of the six members the same age.  Thankfully, both Shelby and Harold had birthdays before the end of March, becoming the seniors of the group again.  By the way, Harold and Pat celebrated their 60th anniversary on the first day of April.  We were still in Colorado when they married, but my mom wrote us with the news that this popular young couple had tied the knot, and that they had been properly shivareed.  I’m sorry that we missed the festivities.  Anyway, to round out this issue, I think I have mentioned before that Shelby and Beth both love to read.  He reads non-fiction, she reads only fiction.  I also love to read but, for various reasons, have slowed down a lot.  However, I visited the library and checked out a book recently, a best-seller fiction tome, also made into a movie.  It was about a “girl” that was “gone.”  I should have stopped on page one.  The author insisted that she use the “F” word every other sentence it seemed.  The movie is R-rated, of course.  Shelby says that he reads to expand his knowledge.  I’m moving back to non-fiction.    

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Very Important Day - March 26, 2015

As published in the White River Current - Thursday March 26, 2015. (Brenda's Birthday)

It was one of those things that you never forget.  The date was March 25, 1955.   The place was unit 4, apartment 18 in the base housing located on the 577 acre campus of Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in Aurora, Colorado.  Anita and I had been watching a program on the black-and-white 17-inch Admiral unit that we had purchased a few months earlier, when she became tired and went to bed.   Drafted into the army in 1953, I was only a few weeks from being discharged after a two year enlistment.  Anita and I had survived two winters, one mild and one severe, in the mile high Denver suburb and were excited about resuming civilian life in the beautiful Ozark community of Calico Rock, Arkansas.  I had received a direct assignment from the army basic training camp, Camp Pickett, Virginia (now Fort Pickett).  After a long train ride, interrupted by a two week delay-in-route in Calico Rock, Private Perryman reported for duty.  Thinking that I would be working in the hospital pharmacy, I was instead put to work in the medical laboratory, hematology division.  The sergeant in charge of my unit was from Hot Springs and he immediately nicknamed me “Arkie,” a moniker that I was stuck with for the duration.  I made PFC in a few weeks and several months later was promoted to Corporal.  My work in the hospital was more like a civilian job, an eight hour day, five days a week.  Every morning, my partner, Hugh Glissman, and I would take our little baskets of supplies out into the various wards to collect blood specimens that we would being back to the lab and perform the tests that were requested.  Pretty good duty.  We enjoyed our stay in Colorado and went up into the mountains often to admire the beautiful scenery.  The hospital facility was founded by the United States Army during World War I arising from the need to treat the large number of casualties from chemical weapons in Europe.  Denver’s reputation as a prime location for the treatment of tuberculosis led local citizens to lobby the Army on behalf of Denver as the site for the new hospital.  Army Hospital 21, as it was first called, was formally dedicated in the autumn of 1918.  In July 1920, the facility was formally renamed the Fitzsimons Army Hospital after Lt. William T. Fitzsimons, the first American medical officer killed in WWI.  A new main building, known as Building 500, was built in 1941.  At the time, it was the largest structure in Colorado.  The facility was used heavily during WWII to treat returning casualties and became one of the Army’s premier medical training centers.  In the 1950s, Dwight Eisenhower received treatment at the facility three separate times for his heart condition while he was president.  In an earlier Ramblings column, I wrote about one of his visits.  I was working in the urinalysis department at the lab when an orderly came by with this container of yellow liquid.  I almost did a double-take when I saw the name on the request slip but I recovered and performed the tests which were all normal.  I consider this my “claim to fame.”  Secretary of State John Kerry was born at Fitzsimons Hospital on December 11, 1943, while his father was receiving treatment for tuberculosis.  The facility was decommissioned and closed in 1999 and has been redeveloped for civilian use as the Anschutz Medical Campus, a part of the University of Colorado.  Anyway, Anita had gone to bed and, when I went to check on her, I found that she was having labor pains.  Did I say earlier that she was expecting?  She was, and we began to count the intervals between cramps.  At about 2 AM, we decided we had better go to the hospital, only two blocks away, but it was cold, 2 degrees above zero.  I warmed the car and we drove over, took the elevator up to the sixth floor where we checked into the delivery unit.  After an examination, Anita’s doctor requested that we walk around the halls for a couple of hours to help the dilation process and check back later.  She was admitted at 4 A.M.  They wouldn’t let me stay with her so I went back to the apartment.  When I called over at about 7:30, they reported that she had just delivered a little six pound baby girl.  I rushed over and got to hold my little daughter for the first time.  I was a father.  Now, today, March 26, 2015, BRENDA IS 60.        

Friday, March 13, 2015

Goodbye, winter. Hello, spring! - March 12, 2015

As published in the White River Current - Thursday March 12, 2015

“Oh, the weather outside is frightful.”  Throw another log onto the fire.  Thank goodness spring is just around the corner, next week as a matter of fact, and on my birthday of all things.  I’ll be so glad when the cold, snowy, sleety, icy weather is behind us for another year.  This has been a winter that orthopedic surgeons live for.  For a while, I thought that spring might come a little early this year.  Then came the middle of February and everything hit the skids.  Snow and ice, mainly slick, broken bone ice.  I gave up early trying to shovel my driveway.  I wish I had kept up with the number of times that I heard “whatever happened to Global Warming?”  And, “it could always be worse; you might be living in Boston.”  Remarks like that are supposed to pep you up, I guess.  We have already dismissed church on two Sundays this year because of the weather  .  Highly unusual, but necessary to lessen the opportunity of someone slipping and breaking an arm or leg or having a car accident.  When I was a boy, the unspoken rule in my family was that we went to church regardless of the weather.  Sometimes it was only us and the preacher, but we did our spiritual duty.  I don’t recall anyone falling and we always made it home safely.  Of course, you must remember that I was brought up in the days when we walked to school five miles, barefoot through eight inches of snow, uphill both ways (actually it was only four inches) so we were well prepared for facing the elements on Sunday morning.  Nowadays, with the accurate weather forecasts, phone trees, radio newscasts and internet service, out congregation can be advised well in advance about cancellations of church services or other meetings.  Maybe a little unusual winter, but things could, of course, be worse, and they have been.  For example, back in the winter of 1918, over three feet of snow covered North Arkansas and the White River froze over.  I have heard eyewitness accounts from my parents that things got so bad during a six week period mourners were unable to dig a grave to bury a loved one who had passed away.  I remember the winter of 1951 when the mercury descended to a minus 15.  I read somewhere that the all-time low for Arkansas is minus 22.  Sounds more like Fairbanks than Calico Rock. How about the ice storm of 2009.  We were still living in Missouri, but I heard things got pretty critical for a couple of weeks.  However, it has been a pretty rough winter, especially during February, which I heard was the coldest 28 days in over three decades.  Every thirty years is not too bad and it  does give us a little something different to talk about.  I have always had a hunch that the grocery store people are behind scaring us with these predictions of huge snow amounts.  Ever notice how milk and bread fly off the grocery shelves when the “s” word is mentioned?  I brought this up recently to the new Harp’s manager, Nate, and he didn’t deny it, so there just may be some truth to it.  The snowfall that we had last week was very beautiful and, thankfully, it was mostly gone in a few days.  I am enjoying these 60 degree days.  Let me transition here and go to next week and spring and my birthday.  Now I must insist, NO Gifts Please.  March is birthday month for several members of my family.  Very often I go into a deep depression for ten days after celebrating my birthday.  You see, for that ten day period, I’m as old as Harold Jeffery.  Scary, isn’t it?  Usually after March 30th, I recover rapidly and everything returns to normal for another year.  Anyway, goodbye old man winter.  You were kinda hard on us this year so remember to treat us a little kinder when you return in December.  While I’m in a complaining mood, I find it very aggravating  to have to get out of bed at 2 AM twice a year to reset my clocks, one hour forward in the spring and one hour back in the fall.  It  messes up my metabolism and takes me about six months to settle things down when I have to go through it again.  We went for centuries without having to fool with changing the time and I think we can do it again.  What do you readers think?   

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Small Town Life - February 26, 2015

As published in the White River Current - Thursday February 26, 2015

I was born in Calico Rock, a long time ago.  A lot of the Rambling’s columns have been about my growing up in a small town in the Ozarks, population about one thousand, more or less.  I’m too lazy to go back and read all the stories that have come to my mind while I am sitting at the computer, hammering out a page about my escapades while I was a youth.  Amazing to me, but very often someone still comes up to me and comments about my column.  A few even say that they enjoy it.  This is episode No. 76 and I hope to make it to No. 100 which may occur in early 2016.  Times have changed a lot over the last eight decades.  Small towns have many of the same problems that large cities do, except their problems may be, well, smaller.  Survival depends on how the communities adjust to the changes.  For instance, in Calico Rock employment opportunities are fewer, the average age of our citizens has increased, several businesses have closed, but, on the bright side, some new businesses have opened and the census is at an all-time high.  When I was in business, quite often I remarked that I enjoyed living in Calico Rock.  I liked the friendly people, I enjoyed my church, and, in many ways, it was the ideal community to raise a family; if only, I would continue to say, we were closer to a metropolitan area.  I have since become convinced that our location is just about right.  Almost fifteen years ago, Anita and I began spending most of our time in Ozark, Missouri, six miles south of Springfield, the third largest city in Missouri, behind Kansas City and St. Louis in population.  We sold our motor home and moved into my Aunt’s home when she was admitted to a nursing facility.  Eventually we built a new house in a small subdivision in Ozark, sold the Calico Rock home where we had resided for over 45 years and settled into life in Missouri.  We found a church and Sunday school and made many new friends.  We had great neighbors, all of which were young, working adults with small children. We were within five miles of three Wal-Mart Supercenters.  Battlefield Mall was a short distance away as were restaurants, theaters and a plethora of other places willing to supply their services and merchandise in exchange for an agreed upon amount of currency.  Life was good…for awhile.  After our last grandchild graduated from high school and left for college, we stopped, took a deep breath and took stock of our situation.  The enjoyment of attending the grandkids ball games, wrestling matches and family get-togethers had suddenly ceased.  We both decided the time had come to go “home.”  We sold our home in Ozark, took the money and built a new residence near the Calico Rock hospital and have happily settled in for the duration.  We both miss the friends and family that we left back in Missouri, especially the great-grandchildren that have come along since we were there.  We do not miss the heavy traffic, rude drivers and the general fast pace of life.  We are convinced we made the right decision.  We tried it, sorta liked it but like it better here.  We see new people move into our area quite often, coming from the North, South and other areas of the U.S.  I’ve often wondered why they decided to move to this small town in such a rural area, so I plan to ask some of them, and if they will give me permission I will report my findings in a future column.  A couple of weeks ago, Angelia Roberts, a Calico Rock HS graduate who is Executive Director of Ad/Ed for the Batesville Guard newspaper, posted a very well written column for her publication that she entitled “Pulling Together.”  The subjects of her article were Calico Rock residents, Gene and Reva Lockie.  The Lockies were married 68 years ago at the Little Brown Church in the Vale which is located about ten miles from Gene’s birthplace in Charles City, Iowa.  Angelia writes that during a trip to Calico Rock several years later the couple happened to visit Lover’s Leap where they watched the White River wind between the bluffs and the farmland below.  Reva turned to Gene and remarked that her dream was to someday see that view for the rest of her life.  That became a reality in 1987 when they purchased the bluff home that became their permanent residence a year later.  Two people from “off” that have helped make Calico Rock a better place to live.     

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Music, music, music - February 12, 2015

As published in the White River Current - Thursday February 12, 2015

Put another nickel in; In the nickelodeon; All I want is having you and Music, Music, Music.  So went the million-seller hit recorded by Teresa Brewer in 1950.  Several of my articles have contained references about  music, so you readers should be aware that it has been a big part of my life.  I began taking piano lessons in the first grade and continued all the way through high school and the first year of college.  I think if I had continued with the lessons, I might be a good pianist; instead I am only a fair piano player.  Never-the-less, I have developed a great love for music.  All music, you know, is created from a combination of twelve musical sounds and tones (notes) played at different locations on the musical scale, from treble to bass. “Music is that elevated science that affects the passions by sound.  There are few who have not felt its charms and acknowledged its expressions to be intelligible to the heart.  It is a language of delightful sensations, far more eloquent than words.  It breathes to the ear the clearest intimations; it touches and gently agitates the agreeable and sublime passions; it wraps us in melancholy, elevates us in joy and melts us in tenderness.  Ah! Music, music, art divine; thou dost  move and stir the heart as nothing else can do.  Yet never canst thou sweet potency be better used than when it expresses praise and gratitude to the great God and Master of us all.”  The words between the quotations are a recitation that I gave at performances of the Drug Store Cowboys before we launched into a rousing medley of gospel songs to bring an end to our program.  I believe I have mentioned the Cowboys in earlier issues of the Ramblings column, but to refresh your memory, it was a country/western band composed of pharmacists mostly back in the 80s.  My good friend and faithful Ramblings reader, Don, and I were charter members of this group.  Don was the lead vocalist and I played (carried) the banjo and we both shared MC duties.  We played in the bandstand at the CR Riverside Festival one year.  The highlight of our career was playing a performance at a national pharmacy convention at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas.  The group has mainly disbanded but Don and two others (Bill and James) have continued to perform, primarily in the Little Rock area, as the Drug Store Cowboys Trio.  Don told me that they had four gigs lined up for this week (keep it up, guys).  Since we are on the subject of music and I mentioned piano lessons, maybe I should give a little space about my piano teachers.  My first teacher was Miss Ruby Kate Evans.  She was the daughter of Levi, one of the Evans brothers who owned the drug store.  She taught me all the basics such as the music staff, scales, key signatures, etc.  She was the church pianist and, after about three years of lessons, I began playing along with her on an old pump organ while she played the piano during the church services.  Miss Ruby Kate became ill and died when she was only 52 years old.  My next teacher was Mrs. Montgomery.  She taught me more of the fundamentals and the importance of timing.  My teacher for the next several years was Mrs. Gertrude Houck.  She taught me a love of the classics from composers like Chopin, Beethoven and other musical greats and had me playing pieces like “Minute Waltz,” “Moonlight Sonata” and other difficult selections plus fun things like boogie-woogie and ragtime numbers.  One of Mrs. Houck’s students from the early 50s, Bob Hudson, recently did a genealogy search and discovered that a German resident, Gertrude Fugmann, wed a WWI veteran, Alfred Houck, in New York, soon after crossing the Atlantic on the ship, SS St. Paul, on July 7, 1922.  The newlyweds left soon after and established their residence at Alfred’s ancestral home in or near Coffeyville, Kansas.  Our real interest begins when the Houcks moved to the Iuka community of Izard County, Arkansas, in the spring of 1942.  That fits my timetable because I became Mrs. Houck’s piano student in September, 1942 and studied with her for five years.  She was a concert pianist, a graduate of a conservatory in Germany.  She loved to perform.  At every recital, after the students had done their thing, she would explain that her pupils had asked her to play, so she did, in grand style.          

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Ancient History - January 29, 2015

As published in the White River Current - Thursday January 29, 2015

Two weeks ago, after the newspaper was delivered to the subscribers, I began to receive questions and comments about the Rambling’s column, particularly about the incident when Jay Baker buzzed Calico Rock in his F-86 (?) fighter jet.  One of the readers (Gaye) notified me that she was related to Jay through the Matthews family. It seems like one thing always leads to another, particularly when you are sitting at your computer trying to beat the deadline for the next offering of your rambling thoughts.  Amazing what the old brain comes up with once you give it the opportunity.  Continuing with the thread that I started in the last column, Jay’s grandfather, Seth Matthews, was once the mayor of Calico Rock.  One of his granddaughters married Thomas Jones. (Note to self:  Self, ask Betty at bible study if Thomas and family still live in the Kansas City area).  Seth and family lived in the former VanWinkle house on the southwest corner of the old high school property, near where the present elementary school is located.  Mrs. VanWinkle, formerly Bethel Copp (sister of the doctor), was the high school math teacher.  She taught me everything that I needed to know about algebra (9th grade) and geometry (10th grade).  Perhaps I should mention some of my other teachers, Miss Hattie Croom, of course, was my first grade teacher (kindergarten hadn’t been invented yet).  She had been in the school system about forty years when I came along and she taught several more years afterward.  Mrs. Wilkerson taught the combined second and third grades.  She was a wonderful, kind person.  It was a giant leap from the third grade to the fourth grade where the teacher was Mrs. Maye Brumitt.  She was the former Maye Evans, youngest daughter of Leonard (Uncle Lynn) Evans, one of the brothers who owned the drug store.  She put the fear in us, scaring us with things like six-week tests, etc.  Thankfully she was about eight months pregnant and only stayed  a few weeks.  Very soon after her baby boy was born, she moved to California with her husband, Bud.  I don’t recall who the new teacher was.  My fifth grade teacher was Leola Perryman, wife of my cousin, Kenneth, who worked with his brother (Wm. Reed) and father (my uncle, J. Elbert) in the family hardware business.  Mrs. Tarkington was my sixth grade teacher.  Her husband was the high school principal.  All six grades were taught in rooms on the first floor of the old two-story school building.  By the way, there was no indoor plumbing in the building.  School offices and grades 7-12 were located on the building’s upper story which was accessed by two wide staircases.  The combination study hall/auditorium occupied about half of the upper story and was used as a classroom, also.  There were three other classrooms.  The agriculture and home economics buildings were located nearby.  The only surviving structure is the home-ec building which is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places.  Teachers in the high school included John Rollo, M. T. Mason, Bethel VanWinkle, Opal Toothaker, Rosa Mae Warren, Fred Bryson, James Bell, Euel Story, Maude Story, Gertrude Houck and probably some I can’t recall.  Many of you readers have never heard of any of the above named individuals but each one has in some manner had an influence on my life.  Here in the twilight of my life, I have come to the conclusion that sometimes (maybe) things don’t just happen, but occur for a particular reason.  Too many things cannot be explained by coincidence. We may not realize it at the time, but looking back we begin to wonder.  I will discuss Mrs. Houck and maybe some of the others mentioned in a future article.  Today, I want to finish this column with an excerpt from an article that I read recently.  It seems the Dalai Lama was resting at a lodge, when a young waitress inquired if she might ask the Dalai Lama a question.  With complete seriousness, she spoke “What is the meaning of life?”  The Dalai Lama answered, “Easy question.  The meaning of life is happiness.  Hard question is what make happiness.  Money?  Big House?  Accomplishment?  Friends?  Or…” He paused.  “Compassion and good heart?  This is question all human beings must try to answer: What make TRUE happiness?”  Wow!  I wish I’d said that.       

Thursday, January 15, 2015

In with the new - January 15, 2015

As published in the White River Current - Thursday January 15, 2015

Goodness gracious, as my mother would say, here it is the middle of January, we have already seen two Season 5 episodes of  Downton Abbey and this is the first chance that I have had the opportunity to say “Happy New Year” to all you faithful readers.  I don’t know about you, but I didn’t make any resolutions this year so I can truthfully answer to anyone who poses the question, “No, I haven’t broken any yet.”  Did you hear the mill whistle at midnight New Year’s Eve?  Bobby’s mom, Gloria, called me the next morning to ask if I had heard it.  Bobby made a trade with Mark and now owns the old steam whistle that used to inform the flooring mill employees, at 7 AM on weekday mornings, that it was time to start work. (they always had a couple of get-ready toots at five minutes til).  He had rigged the whistle up to an air tank.  No, I didn.t hear it.  I might have stayed up if I had only known.  I sang “Auld Lang Syne” at about 10:30; couldn’t even stay awake long enough to see the ball drop at Times Square.  I feel like the old codger with the long white beard that the cartoonists portray as the old year that is ending.  I got an e-mail from Don (one of my readers) who wrote “You know, we realized we were getting pretty old when the New Year’s Eve music changed from Guy Lombardo’s stylish arrangements to some guy yelling ‘Who Let the Dogs Out?’”  Anyway, hope you all have a Happy, Healthy and Safe 2015.  I drove by the shell of the old Hamon’s building last week.  Nothing left but the four concrete walls and memories.  I then drove across the wagon bridge to old town.  I had heard that Mark had done a lot of cleaning and hauling off the junk from around the old Magnolia Petroleum Oil Company office building.  When I was a boy, my dad was the representative (consignee) of the oil company, sold and delivered Mobil gas and oil and kerosene to service stations and other dealers in the area.  Cindy took a photo of the old building which is beyond repair and will probably soon disappear from the Calico Rock landscape.  Hard to believe now, but I have seen flood waters up into the office of this historic building.  I asked Cindy to include her photo in this issue if she has the space.  Over the next several columns, I intend to write about families and individuals that have had, in some small or sometime large way, an influence on my life.  Some of these people are still living, many are not.  Most, but not all, are local.  Many you have known or heard about, some you have not.  I’ve been thinking about this for some time and have no idea where it is going but I am going to give it a try.  Let me know your comments.  In my last column, I referred to Tom* as my close friend and mentor.  He had a great influence on my writing the Ramblings column.  Sadly, Tom* passed away in January last year.  I want to add two others to the “Hail and Farewell” list.  Back in 2001, Anita and I decided to sell our motor home.  We placed an ad in the classifieds of the Baxter Bulletin and right away received a phone call from a couple of Mountain Home residents who wanted to come down and see our RV.  They arrived soon and introductions were made:  “I’m Jay Baker and this is my wife, Kitty,” the man said.  Early one afternoon, about 45 years earlier, I was attending to something near the front of the store when all at once I heard this very loud noise that sounded as if the entire top of the store was exploding.  I rushed out the front door in time to see a fighter jet airplane travelling very fast, then pulling straight up in a corkscrew fashion for several hundred feet before levelling out and heading back west. “ Probably Jay Baker,” someone said.  “He buzzed the Seth Matthews house.  Seth is Jay’s granddad.”  Jay admitted that was him alright.  He said that after he woke up his granddad, he continued up the river, making a low pass over his Aunt Fern Norman’s farm, finally making a low run up Main Street in Mt. Home.  They didn’t buy my RV.  Kitty didn’t like the green upholstery.  I never saw them again.  Jay, a 1948 graduate of MH High School, died December 27 at the age of 84.  Joe Wyatt, a pharmacist and mayor of Mountain View at the same time I was mayor of Calico Rock, died last fall at the age of 90.  We were classmates in Pharmacy School.  There’s not many of us left.   

Note from Steve:
We were in Calico Rock on Saturday January 17 so I went by the old Magnolia Petroleum Oil Company office building that dad mentions in this article to take a picture.  This is what it looks like today.  Notice the concrete piers on the right of the picture where the fuel tanks were mounted.