Monday, October 29, 2012

Winds from Hell - Conclusion

      The neighbors continued on with the house. A group of Mennonites came down from up north somewhere, and they helped finish it. How they ever talked the dad into letting them, I'll never know. Just as they had put on the finishing touches, The city decided to use that land for the new City Hall. So it was torn down again. But I guess the old man, (who reminded me of my Dad) his hard working son, wife and kids, came out better financially. When the city takes land, I've heard they pay by the square foot, which also means through the nose. I never did know their names, or what became of them. But I still think of them occasionally, with a lot of respect.

        Much of this next segment is based of fact, as I remember it. The rest is based on the scuttlebutt around town about what was going on at City Hall. Scuttlebutt is not necessarily true, but it sure began to seem to me like it was. Some said City Hall was being transformed. Since so many were rebuilding, It was a really good time to toughen up the city building standards. The new City Manager seemed to me to be a bit of a gunslinger, and, as he came from Cut and Shoot, Texas, maybe he was

      Our Clay street house was rebuilt, for about what the house cost me in the first place. This was the first rebuilt house to be finished since the tornado, I was told, and the scuttlebutt was, it was destined to become the test house for the new building policy.

      The current City Inspector left about that time. Scuttlebutt had it he couldn't stomach what was about to happen to these poor people trying to rebuild. Three or so new, temporary, building inspectors were brought in, from different parts of the country. I won't go so far as to say they were extreme hard cases, but in my dealings with them, I had every reason to believe they were.

     When the contractor finished with the house, they would not approve it. They had me doing more and more little changes, call them to inspect it, then they would add another list of things. The house sat empty, for days and days. There was no shortage of people wanting to rent it, because there were tons of people without a house. I spent days sitting in city hall, waiting for an inspector to go look at the last batch of improvements I had been required to do.

      A man from Catholic Relief Services came by. He had a family, he said, huddled in what was a piece of a house. A bulldozer sat in the front yard, ready to tear it down. They had no place to go. He wanted to rent my house. I told him I could not rent it to him, City Hall was not happy with it yet. He just said, "Let's go to City Hall." Well, when he got down there in front of those inspectors, I finally learned what a true hard case looked and sounded like.

      The city eased up a little. An inspector came out. He finally said, "If you will build a wooden box around the breaker box on the front porch, I'll release the house." I reminded him the breakers were already enclosed in a metal box. He looked at me hard awhile, then pointed to the front steps. "You know," he said, there really needs to be a rail there." I shut up and started building a box.
Remember, that was 1997. this is 2012. Today, we have a local guy as City Manager, who turned out to be, in my opinion, our best. And, our new inspector, he's a firm but fair man. He still calls me to task, on occasion, and he holds my feet to the fire. But only when I deserve it. As a landlord, I have every reason to suck up to those guys. But what I have just said is true, never the less.

      That was our last year in business. The tornado did not drive us out, we already had that planned. Our family was very lucky, all in all. But I sure would not want to go through it again.
Hundreds, and I mean Hundreds, of volunteers stepped in and helped our recovery. I can't say enough about the University students. Kinley had stored what we salvaged in our garage, and a team of OBU students came out one day, went through each of the hundreds ot tiny things, and cleaned each one. They really came through for Arkadelphia when the chips were down.

      During the time when the National Guard was deployed in Arkadelphia, two of them had planned on getting married. So, Arkadelphia threw them a free wedding. Business people chipped in to help out in their specialty areas. Barbara and I made the wedding pictures. It turned out to be a fun wedding for Arkadelphia, and them too, I think. It was a pleasant little respite during very hard days.

      We lost some of our best people. We all grieve for those families. They will never be forgotten. A lot of people lost a great deal. Arkadelphia has recovered, and the physical reminders of those dark days are gone, except for a blank space here and there. But March 1, 1997 will always be in the minds and hearts of all of us who were there that day.

      Nowadays, our family tells Kinley when a storm comes up, "Kinley, think about it! Nobody, but nobody, ever gets hit by a tornado – twice!" It dosen't help her attitude about it much that she has twice had to be moved out into the hallway of a hospital when she was in labor, because a tornado was heading that way. So, don't expect to find Kinley when the dark clouds roll in. She will be in her hidey-hole. I will probably be there with her.

      Thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

President Clinton, Montel Williams, and Dateline

      President Clinton came to town. He was walking up the street toward our business, and a Secret Service dude was ranging out in front. I told him, "You better keep him away from my building. That front wall is going to come down." He looked at me. "today?" he asked. "Well, I hope not!" He looked me over good, then started going through my tool bag around my waist.
Our building would be unusable for a long time, but our equipment was intact. We were in the running for the job of photographing the Arkadelphia Prom. We needed that money badly to help stay afloat. They decided to use the big city photog' from Little Rock. I try not to hold grudges for a long time, but I have to admit that bothered me for some time.  

      Dateline NBC was coming to our house that night to interview Barbara, Kinley, Mickey and I for their segment. Barbara always keeps her house very neat, and takes a lot of pride in it. It was spotless. Well, the Dateline crew descended on our living room, and just changed everything around completely. They moved a couch, and there was a big pile of stuff under it. Mostly shoved there by me, I would imagine. Barbara was horrified! Oh well, at least the cameras weren't rolling yet. That pile got gone quickly. 

      The lights were on, cameras ready to roll, and Fredrica Whitfield was sitting there, smiling, her notebook in hand. Now, me, I'm not always a good spontaneous speaker. Never, I would guess, with a national audience. I could not think of a single intellegent thing to say, the best being a few "uhs" and maybe "duh." I just knew I was about to become a major fool, on national TV.      Fortunately, Barbara interviewed first, and that gave me a chance to settle down some. Barbara did great, as we all knew she would. But every word she said wound up on the cutting room floor, because she was not actually "in" the tornado. I did not say anything profound, but I got through it. At least, the whole town was not laughing at me the next day, not to my face, anyway. Kinley interviewed well, as always, a little gift handed down to her from Barbara. Mickey told of being busy hauling injured people out on doors, etc. while knowing his house had been hit, not able to go there. Also, about the total loss of their house, the loss of a very large number of family antiques. But he jerked a lot of tears with his declaration, "But I got what I most wanted from that house!" Tears on his cheek really set it off, and he was instantly every woman's hero. After the Dateline show aired, they also got a trip to New York to be on the Montel William's show, where they got a new living room and bedroom suite out of the deal. Kinley's back was still bad, so Montel even upgraded them to a first class flight.

      Insurance appraisers descended upon the town in droves one day. Before I knew they had even seen the house, they came to see me, bringing me a check for the total loss of the Crittenden street house. I told them, "The contractor said he could repair it." But for the amount of the policy?" he asked. "Well, I don't know, I haven't got a bid on it yet." Finally realizing I was talking against myself, which is not uncommon for me, I shut up, thanked him, and gracefully accepted the check.  I decided to repair it myself, I did, and three weeks later, it was leased again.

      One day, as I sat on top of that house putting shingles on, I sat a while just looking over all that destruction with a bird's eye view. It still had a pink cast to it, from all the insulation lying around. FEMA was doing a great job, hauling off the waste. I had heard this town was the first one in which they went onto private property, instead of requiring the landowners to haul it to the curb. This was back in the days when FEMA was still run by a good ole' Arkansas boy from Danville, and it was getting done right. Volunteers from everywhere were all over down there, chain saws going. I looked down at the nice little lady, trudging along the street, pulling her little red wagon filled with cold water for the workers. She had been doing that for days and days now. I didn't know her, but I wished I did. I just lost it, and sat on that roof bawling like a baby for my town.

      The neighbor across eighth street were not as lucky as I. His house was just a pile of rubble, along with two other small houses his dad owned. That was to be his inheritance, he said. His dad came to town, and they set in to rebuild it themselves. They worked endlessly, day after day—Even the young children. Every plank was pulled out, the nails removed, stacked neatly. When I had finished my house, I asked the dad, a tough old man from the old school, if I could help. He thanked me, then said, "As sure as I do start letting people help, someone will get hurt, then they'll be sueing me, sure as the world."

      They finally got ready to put the top on, but there was just no plywood to be had in town. They were stalled. Then I remembered. I had some plywood in a storage building, and I knew it would just about be the right amount for that small house. I told him I would give it to him if he would let me help. The Dad was in a bind. No top for his house, and it was supposed to rain in a day or two, or risk getting sued. I told him, "Now look! I've built three houses, almost completely by myself. I've worked on these rent houses of mine for years. I don't get hurt, and I wouldn't sue you if I did."

      He just looked me over good for a long time, started shaking his head, grudgingly agreed, and walked off, muttering about getting his pants sued off. I got up on the house, drove a nail, then took a step. My right foot slipped off a 2x4 down to another, 3 inches or so, and my sometimes trick knee gave out, and something went bad wrong with my foot. Good grief! What could I tell that dad? So I didn't tell him. Just said I had to run an errand, but he knew by the way I was hobbling what the problem was. I knew he thought I was headed for my lawyer's office. But, I drove to the emergency room. Seems my big toe had popped out of place.

      The doc came in, gave me pain shots.But I had been wearing the same pair of tennis shoes every day since the tornado, three weeks, and my bare foot smelled really ripe. Rather that endure all that waiting for the pain shots to kick in, he just grabbed my toe and yanked it back into place. I thought about screaming, but decided against it.  

      When I got back out to the house, I was not going to be able to climb for a while, so I just had to fess' up to the old man, who was eyeing me hard. I again gave him another promise not to sue him.                Continued    Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Arkadelphia Tornado - Part three

      A renter, in one of my duplexes a mile away, called me. The front half of the building had been smashed to the floor. His mama was having a heart attack, and the lady from next door was out in the street, looking for help. I told him I was afoot, and could not get there. Call 911.
      Finally, it seemed to me, rescue people began to arrive, and take over. I realize now, they got there very quickly, everything considered. But it seemed like forever at the time. I had no idea of the scope of this thing. Help was needed all over.
      The police moved in, full force, and secured the buildings. I talked an officer into letting me go into our building and get our cameras and money, while he watched me like a hawk. About that time, Barbara and son Corey were arriving. They told me Kinley had been moved to Hot Springs. Her back was injured. Since she was sitting cross legged, Indian style, the doc said if she had been pushed down another couple of inches, it would have done her in. The large chunk of chimney, holding the walls up a little, saved her. The monster F-4 had to be at least a half mile wide. We went to where Kinley was.
      The next day, it was raining. Mrs. Lois Barksdale, Mickey's Grandmother, along with my family, had mobilized a crew to help salvage what was left at their house. The town was shut down, tighter than a drum. We need in, but only rescue persons were allowed. I found an old Red Cross shirt, and led our caravan to the roadblock. "They're with me," I told the cop. He looked at my Red Cross shirt, and waved us in. Sometimes, you just do what you gotta do. Kinley and Mickey's house was a mess, what was left of it. While the others salvaged what larger items they could, I looked for little things. Kinley had always collected, and dearly loved, hundreds of little things. We were soon forced out of downtown by a gas leak.
      I wish I could wrap my mind around the scale of this thing and tell you all of it. There were hundreds of stories in the making there, alongside mine. Many had a much worse ending. I just can't. All I can hope to do is tell you my family's story. Just one tiny ant in a very large anthill.
The next day, thank goodness, the rain stopped. My car was still trapped. I needed wheels. Officials were coming down the street, checking each building. Danger zones were being roped off. I knew my car would soon be inside a no-go zone, and I could forget about it for days. Trying to move it would tear it up worse, but I had to have it. I got in, started it up, and gunned it. With much scratching and screeching, it came out.
      As soon as I could, I went up on the roof of our building. The roofing was mostly still there, but it was all torn loose. I looked up and down the street. Every building that was still there had people on top that day.
      Most of the old brick buildings, except one, were still standing, although badly damanged. Those old walls in the brick buildings were mostly three bricks thick. Almost all of the wooden buildings in the main path of the storm were just gone. If you ever have an F-4 swooping down on you, look for a brick hidey-hole. Not brick veneer, but the old fashioned type, three or four bricks thick. Or, concrete block with brick outside. Almost all of those buildings remained standing, some just barely.
      The streets were littered with roofing nails. I got a lifetime supply of flats in the next two weeks. I have a confession to make.The days after the tornado are sort of blurred together in my mind. Some of this story may very well be out of order. But it all happened.
      I was in our building one morning, still checking the damage. Fortunately, our business equipment was still intact. The front wall had been pushed out six inches at the top, and would have to be replaced. The side walls were questionable. Heavy cables would have to be strung from one side to the other, then tightened, to hold it together.
      A girl with a notepad wandered in. I warned her the building was still dangerous to be in at this point, but she didn't care .She was looking for a story for Dateline. My son, Corey, a good writer in his own right, and a good a salesman to boot, came in. He started telling her about Kinley's experience, and about Mickey, her husband, a paramedic. Mickey, though he knew his neighborhood was hit, he was unable to check on Kinley because he was too busy pulling survivors out of the remains of a trailer park across town. Corey told her about Kinley, and about she and I finding each other afterwards. She wanted to meet her. He took her to Kinley at our house. She talked with her, then called her boss. "Yes," she told him. "She's very well spoken, and she's totally beautiful."  A story was in the works.
      I went to check the damaged rent houses. The nearest one, on Crittenden Street, was on the very edge of the tornado's path. It was still standing. Everything across the street was rubble. In seconds, it went from being the worst house in the immediate neighborhood to being one of the best.  Some roofing was off, small trees were laying on it, the windows were all broken, the electrical service was torn off. Except for that, it seemed to be intact. It was vacant when the tornado hit.
I went to the Clay Street house.While it was out of the main path, the associated high winds had blown a huge oak tree across the street down and crushed the front one third of the house down to the floor. It also crushed a tenant's car in front. The lady who owned the car had already salvaged her things and moved out. The tenants of the other apartment consisted of an elderly lady and her son. She had suffered a heart attack during the storm, but was recovering. The son was still there salvaging when I arrived. He told me, "The living room furniture is brand new. We just paid $2,000. for it."  It was totally intact, not even wet, though I don't know how. The store they had bought it from, not a downtown business, had offered to buy it back for $300. They were to pick it up the next day, he told me. I told him, "You can get a lot more for it than that. Why sell? We can move it back into the protected part of the house and run it in the paper." He answered, "We are living in Little Rock, and we need the money now." They were in a bad situation. "All right," I said. "I will buy it from you right now for $300. I'll run it in the paper, and call you when it sells. Whatever I can get is yours." He agreed. Two days later, it sold for $1200. I called him, and two hours later, he was there to pick up the $900.
I didn't see the lady from the other apartment in that house again, until later, I ran across her up town. I apologized for not being able to get there when she needed me, and gave her what money I had on me, $100.     Continued on Thursday. Thanks for your time, and your attention.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Winds from Hell - Part two

     I waited a few moments to make sure this was all over with, then I headed for the phone to call Kinley. I was relieved for her. The tornado was moving across the street, I got hit full force, so I felt like there was no way it could have hit her, also, DOWN the street  half a mile away.  Little did I know. Just as I picked it up, it rang. It was my brother, Harry, saying he had just heard that downtown Arkadelphia was just blown off the map.  I told him I was OK, but now I had to call Kinley. He hung up, and I was thinking, we're OK, but he won't be OK. Harry was worrying about me, and he was dying of Cancer. Before our lives normalized and our business was put back together from this, he would be dead. I tried a couple of times to reach Kinley, but I got a busy signal. I headed that way. When I got to the door, I saw a bright, sunny day outside. But Arkadelphia was pink. The town was covered with pink insulation. The trailer was also on my car out front, and the front door was a hard squeeze. A car in the street had a ton of bricks on top of it, but I could see nobody inside. I just cannot describe the town, and do it justice. Buildings everywhere were in rubble. Dazed, silent people were beginning to emerge. Screams from trapped individuals were coming from all directions. A couple of hundred yards down the street, the large brick shoestore was just a pile of rubble in the street, and amazingly, people were beginning to emerge from the rubble. I headed down the street toward Kinley's house.

       Half a mile down the street when the tornado hit, Kinley was still in her closet, sitting cross legged on the floor, Spankey in her lap, a pillow on her head. Only that small portion of her wooden house she was in remained on the site. The rest, except for scraps here and there, was blown to who knows where. As the old, very heavy wooden walls began to collapsed on Kinley, and old chimney that we knew nothing about that was in that wall fell apart, bricks raining on her head, which was covered by her pillow. A large chunk of the chimney fell beside her, and as the walls fell on her, forcing her face into the dirt, that chunk of the brick chimney held a small portion of the walls  up slightly, just enough. As her adrenalin rush hit, she was able to push the walls up slightly. A woman she didn't know helped dig her out.. She headed up to the studio, accompanied by the woman who helped her, and Spankey. The first thing she saw lying by the street was our business sign, Barbara's Photography.

      When I got a couple of blocks down the street, I saw her. She was coming up the street, Spanky in her arms, being escorted by and Angel. No, I'm not speaking figuratively, I'm dead serious. This woman beside her had, I later found out, helped dig her out. She had told Kinley she lived across the street, but neither of us had ever seen her before. As Kinley and I ran to each other, hugged and cried, the Angel was smiling. We looked around, and she was gone. We've never seen her again. To Kinley and me, she will forever be "her Angel."

Kinley seemed to be all right, and so was Spanky. I led her to a clear space in the street, and told her to not dare move from that spot. I had to try and help some of the screaming, trapped people.
I found a wrecked building with a woman inside. I talked to her. Yes, she was OK, but could not get out. I heard a scream near by, different from the others. It was filled with total agony. I found out later it came from a young man who had just found his mother's body.

      As I started moving boards, to try to help this trapped woman, a strange thing happened. A squad of fully dressed National Guardsmen, complete with camo on their faces, moved into my area. How could they be here already? We were 10 minutes into this thing, yet here they were. I later learned they were returning from a drill, and had to take cover on the edge of the tornado, just as it hit. Anyway, their leader told me to step aside, they would get the woman out. They formed a line, and started moving the boards, one by one. Later, I never had a chance to tell the trapped woman that I didn't just desert her. I've always felt bad about that. As I worked my way back toward Kinley, I saw a man. A merchant. He had cleared out a little spot beside his door, and was standing fast. He was later declared one of the heroes of the tornado, and maybe he was. I only saw him for a moment, and no telling how many people he rescued before or later. But when I saw him, at that moment he was just guarding his stuff.

      The alarms were going off at all the banks. I never knew if any unofficial withdrawals were made that day, but I do know of a hundred dollar bill being found nearby.
When I got back to Kinley, the excitement was beginning to wear off, and she was not feeling good. I had to find help. I saw a police car in the distance, finally got him as close to Kinley as I could, and loaded her aboard. He said he would take her to the hospital. She was finally moved on to Hot Springs, because our hospital was overflowing. I later caught it, full force, from wife Barbara, for not going with her. I should have. But I reasoned at the time I was needed more here.
Walking up the street, I saw a strange thing. A unit of national guardsmen were marching down the street, in perfect formation.  At each intersection, the leader halted them, one went forward into the intersection, and held up his hand, first up the street, then down, to halt traffic. Well, the streets were full of wreckage, and there would be no traffic on them that day. Oh well, I guess if you ain't got discipline, you ain't got nothin'.

Continued in four days. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Weather Straight From Hell

      The big day for the OBU Father-Son Golf Tournament had arrived. Corey, my son, the OBU grad, the skilled golfer, and I, the novice, were entered as a team. Not "novice," as in beginner, but the eternal type, as in no good

      We struggled through a dark, rainy morning. Fortunately, everyone else struggled too.It was March 1, 1997. A date seared into my brain forever. Not because it was the date I finally amazed everyone by suddenly becoming a good golfer. That didn't happen. Not by a long shot. Or by a short chip shot, or even by a putt. Not because Corey once again played well, which he did, Well enough to carry me to something close enough to victory to win us both a large umbrella. It is because weather straight from hell was on the way, weather that these umbrellas could not touch.

      After lunch, bad weather predictions were coming in. I went down to our photography studio in downtown Arkadelphia. The tornado sirens started going off. I called daughter Kinley. She was in her house, half a mile down Main street, already taking cover. Kinley has always had an unnatural fear of tornadoes. It had became a family joke. We said, "Kinley, think about it. How many people ever get hit by a tornado? What are the odds?" Still, she was always in a hidey hole at the first hint of a bad storm. She told me she already had it figured out. In an interior closet, on the floor, her little dog Spanky in her lap, a pillow over her head. I told her that seemed about as good as any place.

      I went outside. The sirens had stopped, then they started again, along with the report that a large tornado was on the way, scheduled to hit Arkadelphia at 2:20 PM. It was now 2:10. The electricity went off. I wondered for years if it went off because the coming storm hit a line somewhere, or because someone, somewhere, threw a switch, knowing what was about to happen to Arkadelphia, and what hot power lines could mean in the aftermath. Jim Burns, our Emergency Services Director, recently filled me in. The lines went down west of town, probably about the time he was getting help from Gurdon firemen clearing out his truck from downed trees so he could rush to town.

      I went in and got our best camera, a Hasselblad. I loaded it, because if a tornado was about to hit, I wanted a good picture of it. I was standing on the sidewalk next to my door, and a man from the Honeycomb restaurant next door was beside me. At 2:15 we beagn to hear a loud roar in the west. "Sounds like a train." he said. "No tracks over there," I replied. The noise increased, and he went inside. I readied my camera. Then a very strange thing happened. Clouds, from all over the sky, started rushing toward a single point, the point of the sound. I decided this thing might be about to form up right on top of me, and it was time to go inside. I was playing chicken with an F-4, and I blinked. I could not see anything that looked like a tornado, but I snapped a picture any way, and went inside. That would be my last picture for weeks. Afterwards, I could never justify to myself worrying about pictures, when so many people needed help. I don't have a single picture from that time.

      The dressing room, in the middle of the building, looked like the best place. Just as I started in, the wind really picked up. "Aw, man, my awning is blowing away." Then a house trailer, or what was left of it, mostly the frame, came through the front picture window. The back windows of the building were sucked in, the suspended ceiling around me was sucked down to the floor, and the two swinging doors behind me slammed with a loud bang. I went in the dressing room, lay the camera on the floor, and covered it with my body. My thought processes ran something like,
"We've got to have something left to make a living with when this is all over." I heard the most awful groaning sound I have ever heard, as my front brick wall, three bricks thick, moved farward a few inches at the top.        Continued Wednesday, Oct. 17.  Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Farewell to my Hero

JR Turner was a man who lived at Wing who I dearly loved as I grew up.. He traveled the world, and told me many stories about his adventures, fueling that wanderlust desire in me. Without his stories, our world travels might never have happened at all. I wrote this story to be read at his Memorial service, when he passed away this year, at 102.

      When I was a young boy growing up in Wing, The Great Depression and World War Two were fresh on everybody's mind. Many of the adults I grew up around were tired, and somewhat beaten down by the hardships of life. But one man I knew in Wing was never beaten down. Never tired. I knew I could always count on him for a new, wonderful story about his latest adventure when he was in town. He always had new treasures in hand, such as nuggets of gold, found "1000 miles from the blacktop," And, he had a small eagle quill feather, shaped to be used by the Indians of Mexico to pick up gold dust.

      My Dad went to the Post Office each morning. If he happened to mention that JR Turner was back, I always quickly found a good reason to walk to Turner's store, knowing he would have another great adventure to tell me about, making this a big day in my life. I loved JR Turner.
Over the years, tales from JR's wanderlust began to build a strong resolution in me. Someday, I would go to far away places. See new, exciting things and people. Just like JR Turner.

      When my wife and I sold our business 14 years ago, I was overjoyed to find that my wife Barbara had the same wanderlust that JR planted in me many years ago. The first thing we did was lease our home out for a year, and start living out those dreams

      Visiting with JR when he was pushing 100, I knew his memories were fading fast. But when I mentioned King Leo, the prize Black Mammoth jack that was at the heart of the Gillum/Turner/ Compton super mule breeding enterprise in the early 1900's, his eyes lit up, and he began to excitedly tell me all about King Leo.

      I mentioned the Lost Silver Mine story, supposedly right across the Fourche La Fave River from the Big Rock. His eyes lit up once again, and he became transformed; he excitedly told me of mobilizing 100 men, all walking the near side of Fourche Mountain, arm to arm, looking for it. He told me he's convinced it's right across the river from the Nancy Turner place. I truly believe, if his knees would but have allowed it, he and I would have quickly been on our way. One last, great search for the lost silver mine.

      Knowing full well that some of the Old Gillums were solemn, serious men, I asked JR, "What did you think about the Old Gillums?" That question troubled JR. He thought about it a long time. Finally, he said, "Well, the Gillums were not like other people." I knew instantly. JR had just named my book about the Gillums.

      JR Turner was a true Icon of Wing. He never lost his sense of humor, or his love of adventure and excitement. I think this, along with Effie Turner's genetics, helped to carry him beyond the century mark, which very few of us can ever hope to attain. Maybe we could all learn a thing or two from JR Turner's life.

This world is just not the same without JR Turner in it. I will never forget him. He will always remain one of my heroes.
 Barbara and I are about to hit the road again, with her sister Frances and her husband Bill. We discovered a little, narrow strip of land up through Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio that we had not really seen and explored yet, so we just have to go check it out. Should be back in about 1-2 weeks. This is my last post until we get back. By the way, my reading of The Summer of 1956 can be seen by going to click the first choice, then scroll down until you find my story.
     Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Conclusion: Denmark, then Home!

    I will be reading my story, The Summer of  1956, on KUAR 89.1 FM  this Thursday, Oct. 4, at  7 PM. Later. It will then go out on National Public Radio world wide on Tales From the South. This blog is mentioned in my bio on the show, and the last time I read one, I noticed a spike of 51 blog readers in an hour or so, from Singapore, then a week or so later the same thing happened in Japan. I'm anxious to see if it affects the blog read this time. After that, it should be on U Tube awhile. So far, I have had blog readers from 49 countries, Russia and Germany being the most for a foreign country.  For all my readers, a big thank you. I appreciate your time, and your attention, a very valuable thing.
     My book, Spreading Wing, should be available on Amazon in November or December. The cover will have a pic of Grandpa John Wesley Gillum's family, taken in 1910 at the old Gillum homeplace in Wing.


       We talked to a young man at a gas station. Said he had never seen American money. I showed him some.

      His dream was to come to America, and already had his path laid out. I taught him to say, “Now ya'll come back now, ya' hear?” When we drove off, he was still practicing it.
Our next B&B was nice, but Barbara was immediately intimidated by her huge watchdog. He turned out to be well behaved and quiet. A couple of men came by to repair our TV, and one of them said he had been to America several times, “To help them out with some technical problems.” When we tiptoed out early the next morning, the lady was not up yet. We left her a note.

       We were in close to Copenhagen now, and out plane would fly out in a few days. One Sunday we decided to drive in and walk the city. We made a dry run to the airport first. I was not really clear about the highway mechanics of that big place, and I knew if I did not take the right exit to the airport, one would be destined to drive that long bridge to Sweden once more, at $60 a pop, there and back. I hit the right exit, but I soon went too far, and found myself on a one way lane into the Hire Car Return. I had to back out, jump some barriers, and just generally make an absolute, utter fool of myself to get back out. Well, I knew the right exit well now, but I still passed the car return on our real entry later, and got into a mess too complicated to tell you about. I know most other people just get it right the first time. I'm a smooth world traveler now, why can't I do that? Surely not because I'm a clueless hillbilly.
      We drove into City Centre, and walked most of the day in the drizzling rain. We then backtracked and found our next B&B, but it was too early, so we drove down to the sea and took a walk. Out near the beach, we ran onto small children, playing alone, with nary an adult anywhere about. That was common in my childhood, in Wing, but something one seldom sees in America now.

      Our host spoke three languages, but English was a far distant third. In spite of the fact that she chattered constantly, we actually understood very little. This was the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and it totally dominated CNN.
We moved on through scattered towns. They were interesting but more of the same, so I won't gripe anymore about their high prices.

     Our last stay was a 100 year old house, up steep stairs in the attic. We needed to repack our suitcases for the fly out, but it was to steep and complicated to carry it all into our attic, so we just packed in the car, in the drizzle. Some things just would not go, so we gave those things to the host.
     We sure hated giving up our cute little diesel VW Polo Car. I would just love to take it home with me. The best I could easily figure, with all those liters and such, it got about 50 MPG.on fuel, and cars about the same size advertised 28 MPG at home. Now, why is that? We all know. It was still pretty, in spite of my hundreds of creative driving moves. The U turn had became a way of life.

      We learned a lot, saw thousands of new sights, and Barbara left behind hundreds, if not thousands, of new friends. But we were not sad to leave behind the $250 hotels, $20 hamburgers, 40 cent squeeze packages of mayonaise at McDonald's, and we were anxious to get back to McDonald's dollar burger at home. As we flew out, we knew we would never see Europe again. We don't backtrack. There's far too much of this world left to see.
     When we got home, we found we were right on budget, thanks to so many creative stays, and eating out of so many grocery stores and peanut butter jars. These wonderful people must be the most honest, trusting, truly civilized people in the world.
      Goodbye, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. You have been good to us in every possible way, except, maybe, at the cash register.