Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Peru: The Indian Uprising

      I pushed with reckless abandon against that gate with every pound of my considerable weight, and every ounce of my inconsequential muscle, sweat running off me and fear running through me. My mind was a blur. This could just not be happening to me! This sort of thing does not happen any more, not since the 1800's. But then, I had not been in this remote corner of the world before. No telling how many angry Quechua Indians outside pushed back, screaming at me, trying to force their way in---
      Only a few days before, I was in my comfortable home in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, spending hours on end, praying that God would put the correct words in my mouth as I witnessed to the Quechua Indians of Peru, high in the remote Andes Mountains. Well, I should have spent some time praying that none of my fellow mission trip members, even with the very best of intentions, would trigger an Indian uprising.
      I had heard about the trip at a community group meeting of our church. It was planned as a backpacking trip, out of Cusco, Peru, pushing into the wilds of the Andes Mountains, hoping to reach previously unreached Indian villages for Christ. It was organized and carried out by Outdoor Discipleship Ministries, involving mostly Ouachita Baptist University students. The time was around 1999, and, I must confess, I was not really the strongest of Christians at the time. My motives for my sudden decision to go were suspect. It was spurred on more by the thought of joining a great adventure into one of the remaining truly wild places of the world than about the thought of fulfilling the Great Commission. But, I must confess, I came back a changed person. The most noticeable outward change was, I am more emotional, unable to tell even a slightly stirring story without choking up. I had never been that way, but the change appears to have been permanent. The upside of it is, I now can write with true sensitivity and emotion, and I know when my writing is good, and when it's not. I didn't even think to pray about God giving me the ability to preach, or do Dedication ceremonies, or anything like that. I had no idea how far my gray hair would take me, what kind of tights it would put me in, Here in a land where few people ever reach the age of gray hair.
      Anyway, when I heard about this trip, and that a spot remained unfilled, I just said “I'm going.” Maybe I should have thought it over a little bit. But I didn't. I was the only older person. (In 1999, I was “older.” Now, I'm just old.) My little group consisted of several girls and a few boys. As I say, this was billed as a backpacking trip, and when I started hearing some of those little girls saying things like, “I've never slept on the GROUND before” I began having doubts about the whole thing. But those “little Girls” soon proved it was myself I should have been worrying about, not them. Their oft-stated motto was, “I could have stayed at home and been comfortable. Or, I could come to these unsaved Indians and do God's work. NO COMPLAINING.” And they didn't. Not one time.
      As I said, I spent a lot of time in my room praying for the right words to come to me. At the very least, “words.” I have never quite gotten over the time in college, in church one night, (This is another “First time ever told” story) the preacher asked me to pray. Well, I searched and searched for the words, but they just would never come. Finally I stuttered out an “Amen.” As I glanced up at my girlfriend Marty's face, I saw it was red as a beet. That always seems to hang in the back of my mind when I start to pray in public, or when I start to witness. Also, I dearly loathe hypocrites, and I often just feel unqualified to witness, feeling like I'm saying, “I sure do wish you guys could just be as perfect as me.” It took many years for me to fully realize, witnessing is just one sinner talking to another. But it finally came, although witnessing ability is coming along somewhat slower.
I read Jeremiah a lot, concentrating on the part about “If you go, God will put the words in your mouth.” Well, I went, and God did, mostly, to small groups. But he seemed to have some reservations about my preaching ability, and the like. (For some reason, I am learning, I can make confessions to this computer, and God, that I can never make to another person.)
      Things were kinda tight for us then,  having just sold our business and traveled for a solid year in our RV, and I began to feel guilty about going at all when I thought of that final payment I owed, $1500. A day or so later, I had to look about something in our old statements from our rental property manager. The statements are sent to me, the money sent to our bank. I pulled a two year old statement out, and guess what just fell out of it! A check! Well, guess the amount. Yes, you got it. $1500. Here was proof. God was in my corner in this adventure.    Continued    Thanks for reading!
I will be speaking at the Pope County Writer's meeting, Dec. 1 at 5:00. If any of you live in that area, and can come, I would love to meet you! Pope County Library, Russellville. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

One of those places "you Just Do Not Go."

      We went to a farm show that day. Saw a man shear a sheep in two minutes, seemed like, and got to see expert sheep dogs work. Needless to say, the big selling items in stores were wool.
      The next day, we stopped at a motel an hour from Auckland. We had one more day to “See things,” and we made the most of it.
      Beautiful bright green mountains sloped for miles down toward the sea, covered with cattle and sheep. We passed, then came back and photographed, a flock of a dozen or so (Since I may put that picture in later, maybe not quite a dozen) wild turkey gobblers in full strut, each trying to look more glorious than the others, for the benefit of the few hens around. Barb carefully stalked them at first, getting distance shots. As she gradually got closer, she realized they were not as wild as we expected, and besides, the Gobblers only had eyes for the ladies that day. She got a great photo.
      We went to Hot Water Beach. The area between high and low tide had many hot springs seeping and shooting up through the sand, and it was now low tide. Dozens upon dozens of people show up. They dig a hole in the sand, and lie in the very warm water. It was still cold weather, the sea water was very cold, and when a very large wave came in, it turned everyone's hot bath into ice water, sending us scurrying out screaming. In places, if you were not careful, the water coming up was almost scalding, and we hit one of those occasionally.
      That night, we washed our clothes and Barbara packed the bags. She allows no help from me, and I'm fine with that. If I helped, we probably could not have gotten everything in. She's an expert packer. Now, I realize, from what I tell you about Barbara on our trips, you who do not know us may get the impression Barbara wears the pants in the family, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Barbara simply would not allow it.
      We again, on our last night, ate at a Chinese restaurant, and bought a meat pie at a pie shop. We had found these two places were always inexpensive. That's not a general rule world wide. We found Chinese restaurants were one of the higher places in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. Every country has its places “Where the poor people eat,” if you just find them. If not, poor people would have just starved to death, or left, by now. Regular touristy restaurants would have sent us to the Poor House, or sent us home way early. As it turned out, we traveled 40 days on about what a guided, ten day tour would have cost us, and we saw the same things and so much more. However, we sometimes didn't know exactly what we were seeing. But, they all spoke English, and Barbara could always find a local “tour guide.” As a rule, always try to travel with a well dressed, pretty, outgoing, nervy woman. As a bonus, we got to interact daily with interesting people from “Down Under,” and from all over the world. Traveling alone around the world is often stressful, and could sometimes be dangerous,although we have not encountered that, yet. But as long as I can carry “half of what we own” on my back, and Barbara can get us there and back again, and bonus flier miles and our meager funds hold out, that will we our MO. The danger factor lessens as we get older. If we die in a foreign country, what have we lost? Six months, maybe a year at most:) Our children began to realize, years ago, “Don't be expecting a big inheritance.” It sometimes looks like we plan to spend our last dime with our last breath, and I realize Their inheritance will probably be boxes of pictures from all over the world. Which, no doubt, will be in the trash within the week. There will be time aplenty to enjoy our beautiful scenery at home, out our Nursing Home picture window.
      The large sign we passed under when loading on the plane said it all. “Every flier who ventures across oceans to distant lands is a potential explorer: In his or her breast burns the same fire that urged explorers of old to set forth in their sailing ships to foreign lands.”
      We again had an overnight layover in LA, and we noted a sign in the airport that advertised reasonable rates and shuttle services, so we went for it.
      We got settled in our room, then ventured out for supper. We soon realized we were in one of those places foreign tourists “Just don't know not to venture into,” as our British friend in Australia told us. All the businesses had guards, bars on all the windows, cashiers in a cage, and we were the only tourist types about. Being the only tourists around was a very bad sign, we had learned in Washington, DC and in Mexico. We ate quickly, got back to our room, locked all the locks, and stayed there. Welcome to Watts, California.
      There was a very large project of some sort right behind our motel, and people had to go through our motel lobby to get there from this side. Screams emanated from there starting before dark, and continued all night. Loud people ran up and down our hallways all night and tried to get in our door. We were packed by daylight, and we, along with all the other tourist types, were lined up, waiting for the first shuttle out, early. Everyone had a horror story to tell on the way to the airport. One poor lady was so happy to see the airport, that she hopped off at the first stop, and we were the last to get off. The driver had suitcases remaining, probably belonging to that first lady to get off, several stops back.
      Barbara gave the airport authorities fits about letting unsuspecting tourists venture into dangerous areas after reading enticing signs put up there, without fair warning. They were glad to see her leave.
      We spent most of the day in the airport, again, then headed toward familiar country. Good old Arkansas had never looked so good. As Dorothy says, “There's no place like home!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

New Zealand: Our Friend the Spy

      We boarded the ferry at 7 AM, sure enough, right under the big, blue, “Check-in” sign. It was a long voyage, hours. As always, Barb gathered crowds of New Zealanders around her, and we talked about lots of things, and learned much. We griped about their accents, they griped about ours. One man joked with Barbara for her pronunciation of “bird.” He tried to say it like her and drug out the word into “buuurd”. She asked him how he says it. “Beard,” he said. “Beard? That's not Bird. You're talking about hair on your face!” They roared. Another asked her, “Let me get this straight. If you are drinking water in the middle of the winter, would you still put ice in it? “Yes, of course.” “Why?” “That's just what we do.” That went back and forth a long time. They enjoyed our “Blue chicken” story. Barb's gift for gab is always a major asset to our travels. She will just not let anyone be reserved around her. Quickly, they will be laughing and talking like best friends. One New Zealand lady helped her with a crossword puzzle.
      But we have been warned. Our international spy friend we hung out with in Austria, a couple of years later, told Barbara when we parted, “You travel too lightly about the world. People will entrap you.” Surprisingly, he had judged us to be harmless, and he had just loosened up and told us all about his life as a “Citizen of the world,” especially about his adventures during the Gulf War. The US had recruited him, because he looked and spoke Arabic. He had demonstrated his ability to speak almost any language, complete with regional dialects. But he admitted, the most scared he had ever been was in America, when he and his buddies accidentally walked into the wrong neighborhood one night, while at the the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Much more about him when I tell of our European adventures. Needless to say, when we parted, he strongly forbade pictures, no address or e-mail address. He said he would e-mail us. We're still waiting.
      We unloaded from the ferry at Wellington, the Capital, in a driving rain. We took in the Te Papa Museum, saw the Capital building, and as I hate strange city driving in the rain, we headed on up the island. We were getting into a very volcanic region. We drove for miles along a very large lake that we could barely see across, that was formed by a giant volcanic explosion. We knew this part of the country just had a very thin crust over unimaginable volcanic power potential. Just hope we get past it before it struts its stuff. We passed a bad but not fatal car wreck, and the country is so remote there it was 30 minutes before we met an ambulance coming to the scene. We almost passed a waterfall sign, but decided to go back and see it. We have came upon some amazing sights by accident in our travels, and this was no exception. Beautiful aqua blue water, covered with foam, poured over the huge cliff. The water came from the large volcanic lake we had been passing.
      After lunch we reached Rotoroua, listed in Fromer's travel book as one of the top ten cities in the world to see. All over town, large pits of boiling mud, water and steam were on the surface. Even on the golf course. Talk about playing the rough--- Most of the people had used the hot water to heat their houses, until it was recently curtailed. Well, as one would suspect, this town had tons of motels, etc. But, just our luck, again, this was their “Labor Day,” our third Labor Day we had experienced that year. No lodging was to be found. Barb picked out a nice looking lady manning the Visitor's Center, and gave her sob story, “Here we are, on our trip of a lifetime, and- “ I had heard this all before, but, once again, it worked. The lady looked us over a long time, and made a call. She had judged us to be “safe,” well dressed and clean, and obtained a home stay for us. I have to admit, if we had been dirty and looked like bums, that would never have happened. We might have had to sneak out on the golf course, and slept beside one of the boiling mud pits that night to stay warm. I guess, its just my lot in life, carrying half the clothes we own, around on my back, all over the world. Actually, they were in our car, but sometimes one just has to extrapolate a little in the interest of being interesting.
      Our home stay turned out to be with a very nice lady, five years a widow, in a very nice house. She gave us a key, turned the whole bottom floor over to us, and left for the rest of the day. The exchange rate was better in New Zealand than in Australia, and our $105 cost converted to about $70 US.
      We had a long visit with her that night, after a great supper. Her son had gone on “Walkabout” for a year, years ago, met a woman in Ireland, and never returned. Breakfast the next morning was no less good, and the coffee was almost too strong, even for Barbara. Barbara prides herself on being addiction free, but has walked miles before, early morning, to find a cup of coffee.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Fantasyland and a Big Blue Chicken

      We reached the mountains. While stopping at a roadside park, a very friendly, large green bird just walked up and stood on Barbara's foot. A nearby sign announced, “ This mountain is the only place in the world where the Kea Parrot is found.” Barb went ballistic. “I've used that name on crossword puzzles for years. Now, here one is, standing on my foot!” Barb is a crossword puzzle addict, and can often work our daily paper crossword in ten minutes. My conviction is, a person must be very smart in a warped sort of way to do that.
      We were into the extreme sports capital of the world. Queensland was filled with young thrill seekers from all over the world. Kinda made us feel old - - and young, too, in a way, just to be there. We passed roaring rivers, filled with young people, mostly, river surfing. They just ride a surf board over the rapids. We came to Bungee, NZ, home of the original bungee jump, from a very tall bridge into a roaring river. The elastic bungee cord snapped the divers out of the water after half the body (head first) had submerged. Barb assured me we could afford for me to dive, but I suddenly felt very conservative. We made our contribution to extreme sports by walking an open bottomed swinging bridge high over a roaring gorge.
      As we turned toward Milford Sound, the highway passed through a cave. Not a tunnel, as we know it, but with natural walls and ceiling. Water dripped from the roof.. It was very narrow and dark, and when we were about halfway through, a tour bus approached. It looked as if there was nothing to do except play chicken with a very big bus or back up fast. But, thank goodness, the bus driver turned into a bus turnoff as we approached. A totally new world awaited when we emerged. Extremely steep mountains soared into the clouds, many out of the sea. As there was still snow on top, many very high waterfalls fell from the clouds around us. Totally surreal. After touring around awhile, we wound up at the only lodging facility, a backpacker inn. Everyone prepared their own meals in the common kitchen. There was no electricity, and the sign announced that the generators, and the light and the heat, went off at nine o'clock. Beautiful waterfalls fell from the clouds on all four sides of this building. As usual, we were the only ones over thirty.
      The next day we moved on, making our turn back toward the North Island. We traveled through green stone country, where Jade abounded. Pancaked rocks emerged from the sea. Most bridges were very conservative. Single lanes, honk before you start across, with a railroad track down the middle. No need to spend all that money on exotic bridges, just use it to buy more sheep! Many public facilities, gas pumps, etc. were antique-like. Like we had in America 30 years ago, or more. We found a motel near the Franz Joseph Glacier, the only glacier in the world that close to the Equator, and it reached down almost to the sea, but, like ours, it was receding fast. Barbara was tired, so I drove in to the glacier area alone, and walked the last mile or so. I picked up a young British hitch hiker who accompanied me. He was typical of hundreds of young people from around the world who, usually after graduating college, took a year or two and backpacked around the world. Most backpacker facilities, and there were many, provided a bed in a large room filled with beds, but we found that most had a few private rooms for old fogies like us, providing privacy at a little higher price. However, we almost never, or maybe never, ran into more old “backpackers.” They often grouped up and bought an old, old car to travel in, then when ready to leave, tried to sell it, then if not successful, often just drove it off into a quarry. Local newspapers complained about the the Quarries filling up.
      The next day, we arrived at Pincton, the jumping off place for the ferry back to the North Island. We went to make arrangement for the ferry crossing the next day. The nice lady told us to “Just look for the big blue chicken sign.” When we could see no sign of a chicken, we had to come back and inquire further. Finally, we figured out we were looking for a “Check-in” sign. More than a month here, and the local accents were still giving us fits! We checked in at the Villa Backpacker's Motel, billed as the nicest one in New Zealand. Hundreds of young people. Once again, no other old people. Many of the European women walked around with almost nothing on. So, I had to apply what one of my pastor's had told me years ago. “If you look at immodest women, you risk going blind. So, if you must look, cover one eye. Only risk one.” We stayed up late and visited with many people from all over the world. Most could speak English.

Monday, November 21, 2011

New Zealand - Auckland, and more

      It took only two hours and forty minutes to fly to Auckland, New Zealand. When we arrived and picked up our baggage, we went to look about rental car possibilities. We were studying the board when we were approached by a well dressed, fast talking man. He explained that he owned rental cars; he had an excess on the other (south) island, and would give us a really good deal if we would fly to Christ Church, pick one up from his brother there, tour with it, and return it to Auckland. Even factoring in the domestic flight cost, we would still have only one ferry crossing fee, and his price was impressive. His brother would pick us up at Christ Church, put us up in his motel, then send us on our way with a hire car. We agreed, and he quickly (too quickly, it turned out,) booked us a flight for Sunday morning, leaving us a day to see Auckland. Auckland was impressive. We toured by bus. The Sky Tower was fun. As we worked our way up, Barb decided not to go to the top. She was not feeling real well, and Standing on the glass floor, and looking down through it hundreds of feet of empty air to the ground was not appealing to her.
      When I reached the top, a tourist, again a young Chinese, was being buckled into a harness, lifted up by a crane, swung out over the edge. He was then dropped, hundreds of feet, then finally slowed down as he reached street level. I passed on this, our budget did not allow it. Or my fear factor.
      We went to the Maori Museum. The Maoris, of Indonesian descent, were the original New Zealanders. They are a large, very husky people, extremely strong. They were very athletic. We had noticed in Australia that football was left largely to Maoris, whites played Soccer. We talked to two young Maori men while admiring their Grandfather's carving display. Each brother probably weighed four hundred pounds. An extremely large proportion of Indonesian men wind up in the National Football League in America. Many people in that part of the world feel they will someday dominate the NFL. I tend to agree. These people are sometimes called Kiwis, along with the bird and the fruit.
      We arrived at the airport early on Sunday morning. When we checked our luggage, we got a shock. We had now accumulated so much stuff that there was an extra fee of $75 on this domestic flight. If our common sense had just kicked in, we would have just stored most of it there. But no, that's just too easy. I preferred to carry all of it around with us all over New Zealand! When we picked up our tickets for the 10:00 AM flight, we got another shock. The flight was PM, not AM! It was a long, expensive bus ride back to Auckland, so we decided to kill the day wandering the airport. We would arrive at Christ Church at midnight. Oh, well, just go with the flow. I heard the announcer lady say “Auckland,” with her cute little accent, so many times that day, that I began to fall in love with her voice before we flew out. I didn't tell Barbara.
      When we arrived at Christ Church, it was the last flight of the night and the airport was closing down. Our ride was not there. We had called our hire car man about the time mix-up, and he had assured us that his brother would be there. We moved our stuff out on the sidewalk. The lady guard who locked the door on the way out stopped to talk to us. Barb explained our situation to her. And, as we “had on clean clothes and looked somewhat neat,” she took pity on us and waited with us outside until about 1 AM, when a nice lady driver showed up and took us to our motel. It was nice, and the car was fine the next day, and, since that was the end of the negative aspects of our car deal, it turned out fine.
     We toured Christ Church. It was a beautiful city. I say “was,” because, much of it has since been destroyed by a large earthquake, including the totally beautiful Cathedral we loved, and it's amazing gardens.
      We headed out across sheep country. New Zealand has vast expanses of open, rolling green hills with snow-capped mountains in the background. Millions of newborn lambs frolicked about. Barb had me stop the car, time after time, trying to get a good face shot of the lambs, but almost every time she got tails and heels. Miles of thick, green hedges, fifteen feet tall, perfectly trimmed, stretched across the rolling hills for windbreaks. In several places, we saw tall fences enclosing elk. I learned later they were imported there for hunters, but they flourished so well, competed with the sheep so much, they were pinned up and domesticated. New Zealanders would just not tolerate competition for their sheep. Their opossum, which is different from ours, is a leaf eater. It was constantly vilified on large road signs, for “Eating up our forests!” Kill those suckers every chance you get! Foxes in Australia were similarly vilified and poisoned, for being a sheep predator. Scavengers, like our buzzard, were non-existent, so with the dry air in the Outback, kangaroo bodies just piled up along the roadsides by the hundreds. Sheep are king in that part of the world.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

"The Snake was going for my Face!"

      Next we climbed into the Snowy Mountains. The skiing season had just closed, and we pretty well had it to ourselves. Moving on, we stopped at a Duckbill Platypus reserve, and although we hid in the bushes and watched the river a long time, we never saw one.
      Kangaroo were still plentiful, and we began to see roadsigns that said, “Danger – Wombat crossing.” What the heck was a wombat? Well, we finally found out. They are mammals, maybe the size of a small hog, but they were very dense and heavy. Built like a concrete block. Run over one, and you could tear up the bottom of your car.
      We stopped at the Tasman Sea. They advertised the “Whitest sand in the world.” Well, it was white, all right. But I had my doubts about their claim. I bottled some up, brought it home, and compared it with the sand at Destin, Florida. Turned our to be a pretty close match. As we walked the trails of a beautiful Rain Forest, we realized we had only four more days. Our four weeks were almost gone, and it only seemed like a few days!
      As we traveled on up to Naroomba, we spotted black Swans and black cockatoos. We found a nice little motel. Barbara was tired, and went on to our room. The nice lady at the office started telling me how much she appreciated me calling her ma'am, then started telling me why. She once had an American cowboy boyfriend, and he called her ma'am all the time. He broke her heart. She said, “I will do anything you want, as long as you call me ma'am.” I fled to our room.
      Early the next day, we stopped at Birdland Animal Park. Hundreds upon hundreds of variously bright colored birds were feeding there, free to come and go. Baby wombats were a big attraction for us.
      A very large snake was on display. After letting it wrap around me, and getting my picture made, a family with two boys walked up. The dad was trying to convince the oldest boy to hold the snake for a photo. The boy had grave doubts, but after his younger brother piped up, “Dad, I will!” the older boy was shamed into it. As the snake wrapped around him, the boy panicked and threw it off, shouting, “He was going for my face!” Well, the snake handler was not happy about that, and when the younger boy still wanted to do it, he had doubts. Finally, he allowed the younger boy to pick it up, wrap it around himself, and he pranced around and around his embarrassed older brother. We moved on to Pebbly Beach, down six miles of gravel road, but well worth it. Dozens of lazy kangaroos lounged by the surf. We ate lunch off the back of our still-pretty red car. Pie shops are big in Australia, and they are inexpensive. In Allalulla that night, we stopped for supper that night at a Pie Shop, and ate beef, cheese, and bacon pies, Then the owner gave us a free curry pie, just to keep us around longer. They loved to hear us talk!
      The next morning, we priced a whale watching cruise, but finally scaled it down to a dolphin cruise, to save money. We saw lots of dolphins, and got a free bonus – three humpback whales.
      Our last night in Australia was upon us. Barb spent hours clearing our stuff out of the car and packing. Our bags were really bulging now! The next day, we drove into Sydney, somewhat straight to the airport. We checked in at the Ibis Motel. Barbara had to dial 36 numbers to do it, but she managed to check us in at a motel in Auckland, New Zealand, for the next night. I could just never have figured that all out. But for her, I would probably still be stranded on some Sheep Station, marking lambs for a living. As I have said before, Barbara will just not let any task she starts defeat her.
      The next morning, October 15, we took the shuttle to the airport. We were both determined to go through this airport thing without a panic attack. We were world travelers now, time to act like it. Always, it seems, some little thing happens to us, like losing a passport, or a ticket, and it just sets us off!
      In the air, we circled out around Sydney, both with tears in our eyes. What a beautiful, wonderful place Australia is! We could just live there. We had hoped to travel half of it in 4 weeks, but only saw a small fraction of that. Oh well, just a good reason to come back some day, if our bonus miles would just build up before our time, or my back gives out. And, there's still a lot of this world we have not seen yet. Neither of us have ever been able to figure out why so many rich people just sit at home so much!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Australia: Barbara's " Dunnahoe Nerve" starts to turn on me

    In some places, we traveled 50 miles without meeting anyone. We passed a yard sale. Barbara can just never pass one up in another country, she just has to see what their old stuff looks like. When we walked around the corner of the house, a big animal made a run at Barbara. She bolted for the car. Finally, the lady convinced her it was a pet. It was an Alpaca, like a Llama. It just loved to lay its head on Barbara's shoulder, and make a contented, purring sound. Barb bought a small, delicate teapot with roses on it, and actually made it back home with it. I bought a weird thing that, I found out later, is a Chinese Hindu Idol or God or something, I'm not sure what. Back home, I pulled it out to show one of our OBU kids from our church who had just been a missionary in China for years.  She ran away screaming. I don't know what all the fuss is about, it has been a totally well behaved weird thing in my closet for years now. Maybe she knows something I don't know, but need to. We went on, but stopped quickly when a large lizard with a head on each end crawled out into the road in front of us. Looking more closely, one head proved to be fake. I guess the fake head is used to convince predators it is boldly facing it while actually running away. Not a bad idea.
      We had trouble finding lodging that night. Seems it was Labor Day in Australia, and everything was packed up. We finally found a bar with a huge room filled with beds upstairs, so we got it to ourselves. They had beds in there for 20 or so. They advertised free “sizzlers” with a room or bed rental. Well, this was their “super bowl” night, and the fans in the bar were already drunk and rowdy. I didn't even want to go into the bar, I've never been much on Honky Tonks. But, Barbara was not about to miss out on our sizzler, (hot dog) so we went in. We sat in a back corner. I could see right off that the drunks were hanging on every play on the TV, and we would have to stand between them and the TV to get our sizzlers. I was ready to go hungry, and I was beginning to see that the “ Dunnahoe nerve” was beginning to turn on me. Barb just marched up there, blocked the drunks off, and demanded our sizzlers. I just hung back, and tried to look like I wasn't with her. Someday, that “Dunnahoe nerve” is going to be the death of me!
      The next day, as we moved on south, (I thought my life was about to go south on me last night.) and the country was beautiful. Green hills, full of sheep. Purple flowers covered many fields, as far as you could see. We drove past a gas station with lots of people standing around a huge ram. Barb jumped out to get a picture. The huge ram made a run at her. Once again, she bolted for the car. There's some things that “Dunnahoe nerve” just don't cover. Turned out, just another pet.
      We drove through the beautiful Blue Mountains, skirted the edge of Sydney, and headed on south. A Sheep Station advertised home stays, so we went for it. Early the next morning, the sheep rancher said he was rounding up all the sheep to “mark the lambs.” Well, that involves cutting a piece of skin off just below the tail, so that its bodily functions would not mat up there, and attract flies that laid dangerous worms. His daughter, 12 or so, hated that day, but she had to help. They needed the whole family. Barbara took her aside and gave her the old “I was a farm girl too, and sometimes, you just do what you gotta do” talk. Of course, marking lambs is different from chopping cotton. Those weeds didn't scream when you cut parts off. But, it did help. I was put in the back of the pickup with the dogs, Barb in the cab with the humans. He just drove around the flock, giving a special whistle for each dog and each task assigned to him, and in short order the sheep were all penned. One of the dogs was very independent. He never acted on the first whistle, it took two to get him into action. But he was so good when he was in action, the sheep man tolerated him making his statement.
The Station had a huge water tank on one corner of each building, and every drop of water they used was rainwater from those tanks. Well water was salty. It did not rain very often.
      Next we came to Canberra, the Capitol. Sydney and Melbourne both wished to be the Capitol city, and Canberra was created as the Capitol, close to halfway in between, as a compromise. It was relatively new, and was perfectly laid out for its purpose.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Australia: Great Barrier Reef, Outback

     We felt like Galley slaves of old. After two hours, we reached the reef. We stopped at the Lady Musgrave Island, several acres. There was absolutely no soil there. It was formed by a few trees growing up, with Nodding Terns visiting and nesting there. The trees, at times, secreted a sticky substance, trapping many birds. The Island had grown up from bird waste, rotting trees, and decaying bird bodies.
      We ran into a woman who was stranded there, and had been for days. A boat had dropped her off, and just did not come back to pick her up. She begged for a ride. The last time I saw her, she was still begging the captain..
      We moved into the beautiful blue lagoon to snorkel. Barbara was a marginal swimmer, she was sucking in a lot of salt water, and I swam over to her and told her I was just barely holding my own, and not to count on me to be able to save her if she got into trouble. She finally went back to the boat and requested a life jacket. We had a fun day, and saw many kinds of colorful fish and coral.
      The ride back was long, but not quite as rough, and besides, we were all too tired to mess with throwing up by then. On the way back to the motel, after dark, we learned that kangaroo, unlike our deer, just felt it was their obligation to jump out in front of us if we came anywhere close. We slowed down.
      We headed inland the next morning for the Outback. When we arrived in the edge of it, people were very excited. No, not to see us, but it rained the night before. Their first significant rain in three years.
      As we parked in a small village, we were amazed by the car next to us. It was a very long, very old station wagon. It had gas cans hanging all over it, filled with bedding and supplies, clotheslines stretching across it. The tag said, “Outback Australia.” We thought at first we were in a movie set. Anyway, we just had to wait until the owner got back, and get a look at him. When he arrived, he looked the part. Trips are just more interesting, with Barbara and her Dunnahoe nerve. We soon knew his life history. He was European, and he first came to the Outback years ago. He got on the dole, and lived on it, wandering about. He had come to this village, hoping to be able to get government money closer to civilization. He could not, so the last we saw of him, he had filled up his gas tank, all of his jugs, and heading out toward Alice Springs, where there was almost no grass or trees, where the living was easy, on the dole. Australia has virtually no homeless. Anyone could get on the dole. And, we were told, if homeless people acted crazy, they were treated like they were, and put away.
     We headed on south, along the edge of the hard outback, to Charleyville. Along the way, we saw lots of Emus, goats, many birds and kangaroos, and bottle trees. Shaped like a bottle.
       The school district there, we found out, was the size of Texas. With thirty some-odd students. School was conducted by radio.
      We passed by a telephone booth, then went back and tried to call the kids. Luckily, Barb caught both of them at the same place, and everyone was happy. My happiness faded as I felt a big something crawling on my face. It was a very big spider. I brushed it off. Now, I know our poisonous American spiders, but I don't know Australian spiders. I did know they had some that would kill you dead as a doornail. I noticed the phone booth we were in was full of spiderwebs. I told Barb to hang up, we had to get out of there. Neither she nor the kids would hear of it, we had never talked with both of our kids at the same time before. Finally I just dragged her out. She was mad, but settled down when I told her about the spider.
      I counted 103 Kangaroo bodies in a ten kilometer stretch, lying along the road. As I said before, they just felt obligated to jump out in front of a car, and most people who lived there had bars on the front of their car to prevent damage. Also, Australia, where so many different animals live, had no buzzards or other carrion eaters. Plus, that part of Australia was extremely dry. The bodies just pile up and stay there forever, it seemed.
     We arrived at an Aboriginal Arts center. We had never seen an Aboriginal before. An old, old man was working on his art piece, and Barb just naturally befriended him, Talking his ear off. He was patient with us for awhile, a nice old man. Finally, though, he just got up and disappeared. Heading on south, we began to meet Road Trains. They were big trucks pulling 3, 4, or more big trailers, usually filled with cattle, some double-deckers. The farther they were into the Outback, the more trailers they were allowed to pull. The first time I met one on the road, weaving back and forth like a snake, I started looking for a good place to leave the road. There was none.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Of Killer Toads, and ----- Saint Barbara?

      A great meal followed, and while Barbara and Father Anthony washed and dried the dishes, Philomena and I poured over her road maps. We then spent a fun evening talking. He was royally insulted when Barbara told him they sounded British, informing us that Brits sounded like they “had a plum in their mouth, and were far more pompous.” I, in turn, was offended when he indicated American football players were somewhat less that manly,having to wear head gear and padding, while Australian Footballers used none. He had to admit, however, that many of their young men got an awful lot of concussions.
      He showed us a photo of him carrying the Olympic torch, and showed us their church. At that time, it was only a small building in their back yard. He said he was placing a photo of us over the alter, and they would pray for us daily.
Their church, he explained to us, was just like the Roman Catholic Church, except that the Priests were not celibate, an unnatural thing, and, since Jesus excluded no one, neither did they. Since that time, the church has grown very rapidly, with branches in many countries. There is an orphanage named after him in Africa, and he is now the Presiding Bishop. He was 65 at that time, she 70, and they are still going strong. We still stay in touch regularly. It was nice to sleep in a real house that night, and we awoke to many strange and beautiful bird sounds.
      After breakfast, they drove us to the beach for a walk. They literally walked us both into the ground, several miles. They offered us the use of their beach house, half a day up the coast, but we had to decline, since we wanted to cover as much territory as possible during our stay. They led us out of town and got us started on the correct road, after giving us their official Catholic blessing.
      Since we have returned home, we have, as I said, stayed in regular contact with these friends. I told him once if they ever came to the US, we would come see them. Soon, he called, saying they were going to Hawaii for the official ceremony to make him a Bishop, wanted us to come. How does one explain to a Bishop that one can't keep his word? I had to start out by explaining how far Hawaii was from Arkansas. After he became Presiding Bishop, he once told Barbara that he was taking on the name of McCollip, in honor of a Saint. Then he said, “I personally believe, there are many living Saints in the world, today, like yourself.” Well, that bothered me some. Even though it was an off-hand remark, it was, after all, said by the Presiding Bishop of the Independent Catholic Church of Austraila. Just how official IS that? How does one live with a Saint? Can I still kiss her on the mouth? Can I sleep in the same bed? Must I always walk 5 steps behind? Just an awful lot I don't know about all that.
He once wrote to tell us their small dog, whom we knew, had got in a fight with a Cain Toad and died. How could a toad kill a dog? I looked it up. A Cain toad has a poisonous skin. Bite it, and die. Australia is full of deadly creatures.
      We stopped for lunch at the Hippo Cafe. I left a tip on the table for the waitress. We were a block away when she chased me down. “Oh, sir! You left your money!” she said, waving it in the air. I explained to her it was a tip. “Oh, I could never accept that!” she said, returning it.
      We stopped at a nice little motel just across the road from a golf course. The country along the coast that the course occupied was every bit as scenic as Pebble Beach, but the course itself was not nearly as nice. We went by the club house, and they invited us to come to a big meal and party there that night. They actually had ice in their water, a rare thing. Mostly, they just loved to hear us talk. Barbara's “look good, stay clean” really worked for us that night!
      We moved on up to Bundaburg and found a nice little inexpensive motel. This was at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. We booked a snorkeling trip, but since the weekend was coming up, we had to wait there 3 days. We were determined to see this. We made the most of it, and took several shorter sightseeing trips. On one of these, we saw an animal in the distance that was as big as a cow, but was something else. When we finally found a way to drive up close to it, it was a giant red kangaroo. When it stood up and looked at us, it looked seven feet tall!
      When Monday finally rolled around, we drove to the town of Seventeen Seventy. It was named after the year Captain Cook explored that coast. We got in a very fast Jet Boat, and we tourists sat down in the middle area, unable to see out. It was a very rough ride, and the people sitting on both sides of us, and in front and back, and many others, threw up. We did not. I guess you could say we were lucky, somewhat. We didn't produce any of it, but we caught some of our neighbor's produce.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Australia: Barbara stirs up a Ruckus

      We stopped to walk out to a pretty little Cathedral. As we walked, a very huge, very black, lizard crossed our path. Not being quick enough to get a good picture, we figured, well, that's OK, we will see lots more of them. We never saw another.
      We stopped for the night at Port McQuarie. Telling a lady we had not seen a kangaroo yet, she sent us to a golf course. At least 75 were hopping about and grazing!
      Driving on up the coast the next day, we passed a fancy club with dozens of old men, dressed to the teeth with broad white hats on, rolling balls around on a lawn. Well, we had never seen anything like this. Barb said, “Park, and I'll go see what's going on.” I stayed in the car. Well, she almost caused a riot! They all stopped what they were doing, and quickly gathered around her, all wanting to explain the game to her, many wanting to hold her hand to make sure she rolled the ball correctly. They apparently were not accustomed to having a bold foreign lady, and pretty too, interrupt their play. She quickly learned a lot about Lawn Bowling, and a few things about old men.
      We visited a Koala hospital - - Barb has a thing about Koalas, and could never pass one without stopping.
      We stopped at a Rain Forest, then ate at Hungry Jack's-- their version of Burger King.
      Going on up, we were attracted to the sight of dozens of hang glider's filling the coastal air. When we investigated, we found many were taking tourists up for a ride. They leaped off a cliff, with a tourist hanging below in a bag, soared over the ocean for ten minutes or so, then they soared around and landed back exactly where they took off from. We noticed all the tourists going up were young Japanese, no one else. I asked about this. An Aussie told me, “Well, the Japanese traditionally let their young people go wild for a year after they complete their education. They try to pack a lifetime of adrenalin rushes into that year, Then return home to work out their life in an 8x10 cubicle.” I don't know this to be factual, but I did notice, throughout the trip, that the bravest of the risk takers were always young Japanese.
      We moved on up to Brisbane, stopping at the Airport Motel outside of town. We had noticed that most all large airports had at least one reasonably priced motel near by. The next day, we parked the car on the outskirts of town, and took the Jet Cat in. I was not anxious to repeat my Sydney driving experience.
      I called Tim Hoyle, a former student of mine and a friend of our son Corey's, and arranged to meet him later that day. Many years ago, his family lived in Arkadelphia. They reduced everything they owned to a pickup full of bags, and moved to Australia. He had called us a number of times later, usually in the middle of the night. A girl answered at first, then quickly got another girl on too, and they just kept me talking as long as possible. I began to realize, they just loved to hear my American/hillbilly accent, so I poured it on. I began to realize that my accent was a true chick magnet in Australia, but I already had a chick.
      A major calamity struck us, especially Barbara, that day in mid city. When she took her new, digital camera into a photo shop to get some pictures printed, the girl in charge forced the card back in, and bent something. It was dead, never to live again. We searched for a place to repair it, but to no avail. Barbara could not tell any of the camera repairmen our problem easily. “We are in the first week of our trip of a lifetime and-” the tears began to flow. We got loads of sympathy, but no help, so we finally bought a film camera. Our budget did not include another digital camera. They were still pricey in those days.
      After seeing Brisbane, and meeting Tim for a visit, we retraced our steps back to our still-pretty (but for how long?) car. We moved on up to the north side of Brisbane, and called Father Anthony and Philomena. They soon came to guide us to their home.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Australia: A Scary Drive, and Scary Insights

      We went to the airport, secured a bright, new, red Falcon. I wondered if it would still be pretty after I drove it 3 weeks. I practiced driving it up and down in the airport, but finally, I had to jump off into the rush-hour traffic. I got lost a couple of times, but we finally arrived at the Guest House near dinner time.
      Our cook, the nice lady from Iraq, approached Barbara secretively. “You are a born-again Christian, aren't you?” “Yes, I am.” She then smiled. “And I, as well,” she whispered. Barbara hugged her. “We are leaving here tomorrow, but I will see you again in Heaven.” Her face lit up with great joy. “Yes, you will!”
      Our last dinner that night had ten nations represented at our table. As always, we were the lone Americans. We got great, but troubling, insight into how the rest of the world feels about America. They loved American clothes, music, cars, etc., they liked us as individuals, but strongly expressed their dislike for America. One young British couple, traveling the world with two kids, had bought an old station wagon when they got to Australia. He said, “We have traveled most of the world, but we would never go to America.”. I asked why. He declared, “In some of the places we have been, maybe Africa, people will beat you up and take what you have. But only in America will they shoot you in the head and take your stuff.” I tried to explain.”That's overplayed in the press. Our families, and even our extended families, have never been the victim of a violent crime.” He looked at me a long time, and stated, “You're lucky.” Everyone else nodded in agreement. “Well,” I said, “I know there are bad places. One just does not go to those places.” He replied, “We don't know where those places are.” We were at a loss to persuade them, sitting in a country with almost no violent deaths the year before.
      An Australian man, who had earlier lived in America a short while, was later referred to by Barbara as a semi-American. He got very red, very angry, as the table roared, “Wooooooo!” I'm Australian!” he asserted loudly.
      Another man later told me, “A woman like Barbara always travels with the big guy!” We really did not have a good answer to the assertion, “America hog's the world's resources”, as we dined there with no paper napkins, or any other throw-away items.
      Father John ran a tight ship, and he was definitely the captain. He went out every morning in his van, and always came back with a load of vegetables, fruit, dessert items, etc. We suspected he salvaged what was left over from restaurants, etc. Once, a load of fruit was being carried in. The big “semi-American” started to swipe a fruit off the top. Father John roared, “Get out of that!” and the man jumped back about 3 steps! Even though his customers were full-grown adults, he tolerated no improper behavior. The building our room was in had two tenants, us and a single woman. Late one night, as we came in, we had forgotten our building key. We knocked on the outside door. The woman came to the door, and whispered, “Fred, is that you?” Well, we didn't see a “Fred” around, so we said nothing. Finally, after this was repeated a few times, and no Fred stepped forth, she unlocked the door and quickly fled back to her room.
      I studied a road map that night. It just did not make good sense to me at that time. I asked Aussie friends about driving across Sydney, but I did not understand their speech at that point enough to benefit from it. We were on our own.
      We left at daylight, before the traffic picked up. The guest house was on a hill, and we could barely see the Sydney Bridge in the distance, across the very large city. The moon was still up, right above the bridge, so I set out to navigate toward the moon.
      The roundabouts and their rules of behavior were new to me, and some of them had four lanes. The other drivers gave me lots of help in learning the ropes in the form of hand signals, some indigenous to America, some totally new. Finally, we saw the bridge approach-road, just after passing it. After a turnaround or two, we got it, and were on our way up the coast.
      We stopped at a small park to eat breakfast, consisting of our old stand by, Peanut butter and honey on bread. An Aussie, as was customary, sat down and shared our table, so Barb fixed him a sandwich. We told him of our situation, and our drive across Sydney. He said, “Gutsy maove' matey!”
      The beaches up the coast were breathtaking, and even here, in the most populated part of Australia, they were nearly empty. One Aussie told me, “We get offended if other people come within sight on our beach!”
      Driving on up the coast, my most dangerous driving weakness soon showed up. The right hand turn. Not being used to checking oncoming traffic with a right turn, and being very cautious to turn into the LEFT lane, I forgot to check the oncoming traffic. Driving became a partnership thing. I needed Barb's eyes, ears, and brain to supplement mine, watching my back. And, my front! I didn't get offended at all by her driving help, like I always do at home.
      Pulling off the road to see a lake, we noticed what we assumed was a cultural difference. A man was standing beside a parked car, talking to a smiling woman inside, and he was totally naked! She was calm, so we knew she wasn't in danger, but he was obviously very excited. Since we never saw this repeated again, I guess it was just an isolated incident. The fact that they now had an audience bothered them not at all.
Continued                    Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Post 58 - Australia: Down under on a shoestring

      The big day was upon us! We were leaving for Australia today, flying out on tickets costing us $75 each for the trip. We had been saving bonus miles on our credit card for a long time, so the out-of-pocket expenses were the taxes.
      As a young man, about to finish college, I had plans to bum around the world awhile before settling down and becoming a responsible, productive person, but alas, it was not to be. I fell in love with Barbara, literally, at first sight, during my last few days of college. Since I have already told you this story in a previous post, I will skip the details.
      We settled down and quickly started raising a family. After we raised two great kids, Corey and Kinley, and 5 wonderful grandchildren were in the picture, I was delighted to discover that Barbara had the same wanderlust that still smoldered just under the surface in me. Being of modest means in our retirement, we planned very creatively.
      We flew out of Little Rock early on September 15. We had a long layover in Los Angeles. Fortunately, our friends Dwight and Patty picked us up at the airport for a fun day. We started the 15 hour flight just after midnight, and were lucky enough to get the second flight out to Sydney that day, and it was not crowded. As we slept during that very long night, September 17 just melted away and disappeared into the sea. We arrived in Sydney early on the 18th, Barbara's birthday, fortunate not to lose her birthday on the long flight. Years before, she had lost a good part of one birthday. She was on a ship anchored off Fanning Island. When the 18th showed up, she crossed the International Dateline on the launch to the island, then came back into her birthday that night. If she had lost another birthday, how would she ever keep up with her true age? Then again, maybe that's a good thing.
      We picked up our luggage at the airport, almost breaking a luggage cart down. Barb had long held the conviction that you dressed well, stayed neat and clean while traveling, and people treated you better and were more helpful. And, I have to admit, the Lord knows, we did need help.
      My conviction was, you just carried along a few clothes, folded up your dirty clothes when you took them off, placed them in the bottom of your bag. When they recycled back to the top of the bag, they were clean again. However, as she did the packing, she won out.
      At the car rental booth, I quickly noticed, to my horror, that all the cars had the steering wheel on the right (wrong) side. When I asked the seemingly sensible question, “Are you sure you don't have at least one car around with the correct placement of the steering wheel?” I began to draw a crowd. Agents from surrounding booths gathered round, and laughed “with” me about this and my Arkansas hillbilly talk in general. We finally settled for a flawed car, and continued wandering the airport, trying to pull our new lives together. Barb came up with a great phone card, which, if you didn't mind dialing 25-30 numbers, one could call home cheaper that in-country! As we started wheeling our mountain of bags down the airport hallway yet once again, we heard one lady comment, “Those poor people! They've been wandering around the airport all morning!”
      As we had no reservations, since we did not want to be tied to a rigid schedule, we searched for lodging. We finally made arrangements to stay at the Kriskringle Guest House. Someone in Arkadelphia had mention staying there, and recommended it. Father John, a married ex-priest, the director, picked us up. On the way, he asked if we were Christians. Informed we were non-denominational Christians, he smiled. “That's good. That's what Jesus was!”
      Upon our arrival, Father John gave us each a coffee cup. “This is your cup for your stay here. If you lose it, that's tough.” He did relent, though, when I promptly lost mine. We were to eat our meals there, together with the others from all over the world, and meals were mostly covered by the daily charge. We were to wash our own dishes and put them away. The rooms were simple, but functional and clean.
      We found our way to the subway, then the ferry, and thus began our 5 days of exploring Sydney. We probably would not have stayed quite that long, but I was fighting back a panic attack about driving a car with the steering wheel on the wrong side, on the wrong side of the road. Our plans for leaving Sydney involved going north, up the coast, and driving completely across the city was necessary. I figured I would settle down about that, with time. But alas, it just got worse!
      Shopping that first day, Barb realized to our horror that her purse was missing! All of our important paperwork, at that point, was in it! I sprinted back to a park bench we had sat on, three stores back, and there it was. Safe and intact. Does it not say somewhere, “God will protect those unable to protect themselves?” (Barbara gave me THE LOOK over that line, but I stressed it applied to both of us, not just her.)
      Dinner that night was at a table with eight others, representing five countries. Of interest to us was was a high priest from Fiji, in full native dress. A nice lady from Iraq did all the cooking.
      The next day we went to Darling Harbor, ate at the G'day Cafe, (good but a bit pricey.) We discovered early on, once we started eating on our own, that regular, touristy restaurants charged 2-3 times what we were used to, and the plane didn't fly out for 6 weeks. We chose to carry around a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread to eat on until we discovered where the locals ate.
      At dinner that night, we met a new couple, some of Father John's friends, who were there for the night. They were Father Anthony and his wife, Philomena. He was a current Priest, and I didn't then understand about the wife. We later learned they were just starting a new branch of the Catholic church, which became the Independent Catholic Church of Australia. Marriage was a part of the package for them. After a short visit with them, he asked us to call them when we got to Brisbane, and they would come get us and lead us to their house.
      After another day or two of cris-crossing Sydney on the public transportation, during which we went to the Opera House, saw the Olympic Village, and watched the daring hikers walk across the top of the Sydney bridge, the time to pick up our hire car had arrived. The moment of truth. Put up or shut up. One of my worst moments in all our travels.
Continued.          Forgive me for skipping a twenty something year period of my life here. I will come back to it later.      Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Forever A Hillbilly: Eternally, The King of Fayetteville

Forever A Hillbilly: Eternally, The King of Fayetteville: Here I am, just lying in bed. Its nearly midnight, and I should have been asleep by now. I've just finished putting the finishing...

Eternally, The King of Fayetteville

      Here I am, just lying in bed. Its nearly midnight, and I should have been asleep by now. I've just finished putting the finishing touches on my story about our early married life at Fayetteville, Arkansas. But thoughts of those early days of Fayetteville are still running through my head, things I haven't thought about for a long time. A story begins to emerge and slowly comes together, a really good story. I know what I've got to do. If I wait until morning, that story will just have crawled back into the dark recesses of my ancient mind, where its been hiding for many, many years. And, it may never surface again.
I ease out of bed, can't wake Barbara. Too late. “Where are you going?” I tell her.
      She said, “Are you kidding me?”
      When I was a kid, growing up in Wing, Arkansas, I caught lots of catfish, and we needed them. They sure tasted good, after a diet of salt pork. But they weren't real big. In the early days of Fayetteville, I had access to larger rivers, and I thought more and more about cat fishing.
      The year was 1973. I saw a picture in the paper one day of an old man with what looked to me like, at the time, an unbelievably large string of catfish. The caption under the picture was, “ Dick Dyer does it again!” Seems Dick Dyer was about the best cat fisherman around Fayetteville. I wished I could do that, but it seemed out of my reach. I should tell you, Dick and I were totally river fishermen. A completely different game from the big lakes of today.
      Well, as it happened, shortly afterwards we moved into a trailer park at Anderson Place. Would you care to guess who my neighbor, right across the street was? You guessed it. Dick Dyer. I befriended him, I cultivated him, I quizzed him. After a while, Dick's MO began to emerge. I studied his techniques. He even let me go fishing with him, once. Well, he began to see that I could be a competitor somewhere down the line, and Dick dearly relished being the best river catfish catcher around. Maintaining that status consumed his whole life. He pretty well cut me off from any more information.
      But I knew enough. I began to catch more and more fish, emulating his methods. Dick was OK with that, he was catching more, and bigger fish. We went along there, nip and tuck, for several years. Then I slowly began to cach as many fish as he did, and probably about the same in total weight. He still had the largest fish, 16 pounds. Every time he saw me, he told me about that 16 pound catfish.. He never let me forget about that 16 pound catfish.
      Barb and I were coming into our last months at Fayetteville. One really deep hole I fished a time or two that spring, with my limb lines probably tied to limbs I know now were too solid, with very little give, just kept getting broke. The lines were 120 pound test or so, and I couldn't understand it at the time.
      Barbara and I were walking along the river bank, one day in June, on a picnic. I saw two old watermelon rinds lying on the bank, and they were just covered with hundreds of June bugs. I had never heard of anyone using June bugs to catch catfish, but I knew that in the late summer, they often fed by just skimming along the surface, picking up floating bugs and whatever they could find.  I had seen them doing that at night. After Barbara had walked on toward the car, I went back, pitched the rinds in the river, and the June bugs all floated up. I just scooped them all up, put them in a paper bag, and stuck them in the car. When we got home, I wrapped them up real tight in a freezer bag, and stuck them way back in the back of the freezer, out of sight. Barbara put no stock in mixing fish bait and food in the freezer. Late in the summer, I was watching TV one day, and I heard Barbara scream. I ran to the kitchen. There she was, the bag in one hand, a handful of June bugs in the other. Seems she had been going through freezer bags to find something to cook, stuck her hand in, and pulled out the June bugs. I caught it pretty good over that. As Barbara settled down some, a little later, I said, “ I've just got time for one more fishin' trip before we move, and no telling when I'll get to fish again. I'll get every one of those June bugs outta' here then..” She agreed. Catch Barbara when she's not screaming with a handful of June bugs, and she's a great gal.
      Next week rolled around. I asked John Philpott if he wanted to go with me. Said he guess so, nothing better to do. We went back to that hole, where the White river and the West fork of the White river join, where my lines had been broken last spring. This time, I had a new idea. We were fishing with cane poles, very limber, and we stuck them way, way back in that mud bank. I floated each hook right on top of the water, each with a June bug on it. We ran the lines at midnight, and had a couple of ten pounders and a whole passel of smaller catfish. But, right where the two rivers join, that pole was going absolutely crazy! Ever tried to get a 25 pound catfish into a small landing net? We finally did.
    The next morning, we had a couple more ten pounders and another bunch of smaller catfish.. Then, we approached that last pole, right where the two rivers join. The pole was completely pulled out of the mud bank, but it was still lying there, mostly out of the water. Lying in the water, either just too worn out for one more flip of the tail, or having learned from its struggles that was as far as he could go, was the brother of the last big one. He was also 25 pounds.
      Well, when I got home, the first thing I did was take them over to Dick Dyer. Dick came out. I held them up as well as I could. I Didn't say a thing, I didn't have to. He never said a word to me. Just turned sorta yellow-green, turned around, dropped his head, and walked back into the house.
      I never saw Dick again. We moved to Hannibal, Missouri a couple of days later.
      About two weeks after we moved to Hannibal, a letter chock-full of pictures arrived. A 40 pound catfish, and a whole bunch in the 20 pound range. The letter just verified the weights, And in the picture an old man was smiling. Smiling right straight out at me. Thats all. Not another word. The return name on the envelope was Dick Dyer.
      I knew Dick didn't have my address. But somehow, he had managed to find it. And I knew:  He had found my Glory Hole. All I could figure out was, he must have ragged John Philpott into telling him. I was pretty put out by this whole thing for awhile, then after I settled down some, I began to think about it a little differently. I had used Dick's methods, and his hard-earned experience. He used me to locate the Glory hole. Fair's fair.
      I've never been back to that Glory Hole, but someday I will. Over the years, I think I've figured it out. There is a dam on the White River, a quarter mile up stream. Catfish swim upstream. Until they're stopped by a dam. The small fish stay there, in that shallow hole. The big fish go back downriver to the first very deep hole. Right where the two rivers join. In the Glory Hole. And there they still lie. Year after year, just getting bigger and bigger. Just waiting for me to come back and challenge them again.
      But Dick Dyer passed away many years ago, and when he died, he was still the King of the River Catfish Catchers in Fayetteville. And, it just wouldn't be the same. Who else in the world could care as much about the size of the catfish I might catch there as Dick Dyer did?
      Nobody, that's who.
      For all you other fishermen out there, I know you can find my Glory Hole from what I've told you here. But where will you find a whole sack full of June bugs?