Monday, January 28, 2013

What's With All the Chickens?

I know, I know, I did tell you I would get right back to the “Best of 2012” series. But Barbara just put up “the chickens picture” on my wall page, and I feel the need to explain this to you a little. This little need I have to explain myself may well be one of those strange quirks I'm trying to clear up with this story. Bear with me! And, thanks for your time, and your attention.
 Refer to chickens picture below. I know, pic should be at the top. But I'm just lucky to be able to get it there at all, much less where I want it. This is a two part story.

Somewhere around 1947 or so, an enterprising businessman from Plainview, ten miles from Wing, came up with a good idea. Build a chicken hatchery at Planiview. He was a good salesman, and he sold a passel of farmers in Wing and the surrounding area on the idea of producing the eggs. Always searching for ways to bring in a little bit more money, Dad went into the egg business. This was along about the time cotton was on its way out in the valley as a money crop. That overworked land was playing out.

      Dad built a long chicken house. It was to the left of the picture above. To the right, closer to the end of the lane, was the huge barn that was built to house the Gillum/Compton/Turner super mule breeding project of the nineteen teens or so. The barn, by the way, was so large, it cost twice as much to build as the house we lived in. That business did well, before the depression, but that business played out also, when tractors came into common use, also along about that time. Old Murt, the only super mule alive when I came along, successfully sidestepped the glue factory until the late forties. I rode him bareback a lot, and an old, skinny mule without a saddle can be a hard ride. Ida' bout' as soon walk.
      At the time of this picture, 1949 or so, the chicken house was stocked and producing. I was just getting old enough to work the chickens. That's me in the picture. Though, as I'm sure you can see, I was added to the picture later. But the time line of both pictures is right. Look at that face. Do you see a trusting, relaxed, laid back, self confident soul in that face? I'll come back to that later.

      That year, Dad needed a second generation of chickens coming on, to replace the six hundred some odd laying hens, along with a cranky, mean bunch of roosters. The hens were playing out, and getting just too tired to produce an egg a day reliably. And the roosters, each with a very large flock of ladies to attend to, ensuring those eggs were fertile, were playing out too. So the next generation was housed in the barn. These young chickens were producing some eggs, but the eggs were too small for market value. Thus we ate a lot of eggs. During the day, they were turned loose to forage for themselves, cut down on the feed bill. I can count about two hundred in the picture, but there were six hundred or so out there somewhere.

      I would like to tell you it was my job, every afternoon before dark, herding each of those six hundred chicken back into the barn to lock them up and protect them from the coyotes, coons, mink, foxes, etc. at night. Or, it might be an even better story if I told you I just started playing my little flute made out of a piece of fishing cane, marched down the lane to the barn, and they all just lined up and followed me in, a little trick I learned from The pied piper story. I just love to impress people. Actually, though, I can't say either of those things, because this is a true story. And, It's awfully hard for a Gillum to just outright tell a bald face lie, because of the Gillum Do Right Mechanism we're all infected with. So the actual truth is, we kept them shut up in the barn awhile until it became home. They came back in on their own at night. 

      My main job was gathering those eggs in a big, wire basket. Now, those chickens had big plans for those eggs. They planned to lay up about all the eggs they could sit on and keep warm, and eventually hatch out their own batch of baby chicks. Once they began to get the mindset to become a “settin' hen,”
they became very protective of their eggs. I had to steal many of those eggs out from under that mad hen. She would flog, squawk, and peck me. Then I went on down the line to the next nest. Those cranky roosters didn't like me one bit, either. I was invading their territory, and messin' with their women folk. I never knew when one of those cranky old roosters would be on my back, scratching, biting, and floggin'. And, it was not unheard of for me to approach a nest, only to find it occupied by a really big black snake, containing several egg-sized lumps in his belly.          .CONTINUED NEXT POST

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Wisdom of "Tuck" Hull

When I was young, about ten or so, Earvin "Tuck" Hull was one of my next door neighbors, as the crow flies. But in Fourche Valley, next door could mean a mile away, which was the case here. Earvin was a big time hunter and fisherman; it seemed to be the main focus in his life. The Game Warden, Bob Campbell, seemed to try to shadow Earvin a lot, apparently pretty sure he would eventually catch Tuck in an illegal situation. I have read in a book that he once did, when they were both young, and he hauled him to the jail at Danville. Tuck's brother, PC, went to Danville, and bailed him out, as that story went. But both were old men now, during my youth. It was common knowledge during my youth that Bob still chased Earvin, though I don't know how successful he was. I never heard of Bob catching Tuck in an illegal situation again.
      Tuck was fun to be around. He was a very good friend of mine, and told me lots of tales of his exploits. He often brought us a big batch of Buffalo, a rough fish with nice white meat but very bony, taken on one of his night time gigging trips. We ate them like candy. Since I was so young, my sisters just picked out those fine, forked bones for me. When they got tired of that, they just handed me small bites of wadded up cornbread, and I didn't know the difference. One day when we were talking, He told me, "If you will catch up a big jar of grasshoppers, and bring them over tomorrow morning, we'll go catfishing." Well, catfishing with Tuck was just about the most fun thing I could think of, so I got right on it.We arrived at the river just after lunch.
      There is a two or three mile stretch of the river that is very shallow. Even when the river runs normally, The water there appears to be only two feet deep or so. So, it was not a place where people normally fished, to my knowledge. That area was totally deserted, except during Deer season. And deer hunting was not very productive in that valley in those days.They had all been pretty well chased down and eaten up. A few would be ran out of the mountains by deer dogs and killed each season, But when someone legally killed one, it was big news. During my entire youth, I saw only one deer in those bottoms, though I spent most all of my spare time of my youth hunting, wandering and fishing there. Harold did kill one, just before he left Wing. He hid his gun under a log and carried it out. Harold went back to get his gun, and he couldn't find it. Dad went back with him later, and they looked again. Dad noticed a pile of leaves nearby, dug in it, and there it was. Harold must have been pretty excited when he killed that deer. Charley Bill Stout claimed his dogs were chasing it, and ran it over Harold, so it was half his deer, he said. So, Harold carried him a big batch of the meat.
      But Tuck showed me that day that there was more to that stretch of river, fishing wise, than met the eye to one not familiar with it. At intervals, several deep holes occurred. They were generally far apart, and the only practical way to find them was to wade the river for miles. But Tuck knew them all. And, he also knew that fishing there early or late in the day was not the thing to do, as I had always thought, where catfish were concerned. Early and late, the catfish ranged out in that shallow water, even in dry times, feeding. In the heat of the summer day, they came back to those few deep holes. And, since the river was low, food more scarce, they were still very hungry. Drop a big juicy grasshopper into the middle of one of those holes, and more often than not, a big cat was waiting.
     Earvin was using a fly rod. I used a long cane pole. We caught all the catfish we could easily carry out that day, some longer than my arm, something that I was just not used to in my fishing experience. I normally caught sunfish, perch, goggleyes, and mud cats. I memorized the hole locations, and after that I fished them regularly, though I had to walk many miles to do it.
      During years when grasshoppers were not readily available, my buddy and I discovered that if we rode to Danville with Dad when he went to buy cattle feed, or whatever, we could quietly sneak in the back door of the chicken processing plant, and we could usually pick up a gallon or two of the unusable chicken livers off the end of the conveyer belt before someone discovered us and ran us out. That worked even better. Those bad livers were destined for the garbage, anyway, so we never felt guilty about that.
Fifty Years Later -
      The river bottom in that shallow stretch  is just covered with big, slick rocks. So, I never get to fish many of those holes now. Getting there and back is too shallow for a boat, when the fishing there is good, in dry times. One has to get out and pull it most of the time. My knees just won't hold up to it. But one good hole is easy to get to, and I fish it regularly when the river runs low. Other people laugh at me when I head out catfishing around lunch time. But they just don't know, and where that hole is concerned, I just let them wallow in their ignorance. Lord knows, I spend more than my share of the time wallowing in that.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Spreading Wing details...and Questions?

     I will be in Little Rock attempting to herd the grandboys around all this week. I will put up the        next post Sunday. Wish me luck!

COVER PHOTO – The John Wesley Gillums, around 1910, at the first Gillum home in Wing. My Grandpa's family. 


Front row, left to right:
Dr. Arthur Gillum - Graduated in the second class, University of Arkansas School of Medicine. Became one of the leading traveling country doctors of his time. Made house calls on horseback for many years. Delivered me, misspelled my name. Buried alone, but with two names on his tombstone. Why?

Lula Bell Gillum McCall - A talented pianist, lived out most of her life alone in her house in the woods. Became a difficult adult, settled her decades old feud with my dad in his last moments. Loved by the children around her. Never had electricity or other modern conveniences.
Usually had 20 or so cats surrounding her at milking time. Why?

Franz M.Gillum - A school teacher, administrator, CCC camp director, poet, cattleman, my regular fishing companion, and more. I consider him to be a great poet whose work was never published, remains lost to the world. Feared his brother. Why?

John R.Gillum - A farmer, veteran of WWI, raised registered Polled Hereford bulls. My dad. I only knew him as an old man, fifty two when I was born. A very hard working old man. After the Great Depression, He lived out his life preparing for the next one, and we lived accordingly. His brother was his best friend most of his life. Yet a single event changed all that. What was that event?

Back row: Martha Jane Tucker Gillum – Endured many hardships as a young girl. A man attempting to attack her in her room one night was lynched within the hour. As a teen, was hidden in a mountain cave for up to two years during a small war. Ran the Gillum Clan with an iron hand after Grandpa's death. My Grandmother. Nobody messed with my Grandma...why? I never met her, yet I harbor hard feelings...why?

John Wesley Gillum – A farmer, saw mill owner, breeder of larger, stronger work mules, traveling stock trader. Once cleared one hundred acres with an ax. My Grandfather. His business partner placed on his tombstone, “An honest man is the noblest work of God.”

Hallie Gillum – A Peabody College educated teacher. Was once in love, her father intervened, and she never married. Ordered her house from Sears, Roebuck, and Co. Once it was finished, the rest of the family made the twenty foot move in with her. Why?  Was dearly loved by her students and people around her. Yet I have hard feelings in my heart that just won't go away.....Though I never met her.

Homer Gillum – A farmer, cattleman. Kept his large family alive during The Great Depression from a large garden. Often drove his mule and wagon to Plainview, ten miles away, for a sack of sugar and a sack of flour. I feared him as a child. He had a fierce look. After his wife died, he almost never left his farm for many years. Suddenly, he began hitting the bright lights of Danville every Saturday night. Why?

Maude Gillum Carter – Missing in photo. A very nice lady with a very large family. Husband Lee once swam his horse across the Mississippi River. He also hunted squirrels during snows with an ax. How?

SPREADING WING  is now available on, and Amazon in Europe. It will be out in Kindle form soon. In Arkadelphia, signed copies are available at Covenant Book Store. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Totally Wonderful; Completely Heartbreaking - Part 2

Announcements - SPREADING WING - Signed books are now available at Covenant Bookstore, Arkadelphia, Ar. You can preview the book really well on It will be there on Kindle soon. Press "liked" if you like!
     I will be reading my story, The Summer of My Broken Heart, at Tales From the South, Starving Artist Cafe, North Little Rock, on Jan. 29. This will later be on National Public Radio. Barbara gives me her minor version of THE LOOK about this, but she's a good sport.
     The Grand Opening for Spreading Wing will be at Wing, Arkansas, Wing Community Church. (The pews there were installed in 1880, built from 2x16 virgin lumber.) Feb. 2 at 1:00. Visiting, book signings, story readings at 2:00. Refreshments, starring cold biscuits and salt pork sandwiches. Please, at least come by and eat some of that salt pork. I'm begging now. Or, Barbara will be feeding me that stuff for a month!  I've already eaten enough for two lifetimes!

      Lisa was our one connection between Calvary in Hannibal and OBU in Arkadelphia. She grew up in Calvary, and when she showed up in Arkadelphia, we took her under our wing. She worked for Barbara, on occasion. She was a photography assistant, cleaned our baseboards when Barbara was down in her back, and helped Barbara throw a tea party. Those kind of jobs are more plentiful in Arkadelphia, more so than the real jobs. She was training to be an athletic trainer, and had to transfer soon. Way too soon. She just got married this year.
      Dayton graduated last year, and is currently getting a good, long look at some of the hard things in life, as well as some of the beautiful ones, as an African missionary. She's had dozens of marriage proposals while there, and took a young child, very ill with  Aids, in to live with her. She's there for a year.
      Bethany is a Spanish major, and is currently studying in Spain for a year. We miss her. But we'll get her back, for a time.
      Hillary and Annie have an even longer relationship with Fellowship Church than we do. Her parents were some of the founders. But their father, Michael, my best friend, was killed in a motorcycle accident, years ago. Hillary graduated from HSU, Annie from OBU. Hillary and John now live in Tennessee, Annie and Clayton in Texas. Fortunately, they both pass through Arkadelphia to visit each other. That gives us a chance to see those beautiful babies they are having.
      I took Aaron catfishing several times, setting out sixty or so cane poles. Aaron says I taught him a good lifetime hobby. Aaron is a biology major, like I was. He soon hooked up with Cayla-Marie. They got married, and have moved on to Fayetteville. Cayla-Marie is a distance runner, like I once was, sixty pounds and fifty years ago. They are a perfect match. Like two bookends. With  emphasis on perfect.
     Gobi was two weeks short of a Master's degree when diagnosed with cancer. He was alone in this country, a student at HSU. Our church took him in, along with a lot of help from HSU. We drove him to Hot Springs to chemotherapy treatments regularly. When he got too weak to look after himself, Barbara and I took him in. Barbara often helped him dress to take him to yet another chemotherapy treatment. Barbara stood up in our small church one Sunday, said Gobi needed to go to MD Anderson Hospital at Houston. She needed $2000. by Friday. On Friday, she had $2000., a plane ticket, and paid motel reservations. He is now cancer free, a professor in Malaysia, has a beautiful wife and daughter. Our daughter put up a wonderful post on Facebook recently about her parent's love. A comment immediately popped up, from a world away. “I know all about that love. It saved my life.” Barbara and I had a good cry.
      Joann graduated from OBU, sold everything she owned to raise money to go to China as a missionary. She stayed for years. When in this country recently, she came by and spent the night. I got out a truly weird thing I bought at a garage sale in Australia, to ask her if she knew what it was. She ran away screaming. Seems it was a Chinese idol or god of some sort. It has been a totally well behaved weird thing in my closet for years now. Maybe she knows something about it I don't, but need to.
      Daniel is one of the few who has not broken our hearts. He graduated from HSU, and found a real job in Arkadelphia. A rare thing. He still shows up regularly at our house on Sunday nights.
Another Daniel spent much of his time, while in Arkadelphia, wandering the poor neighborhoods, meeting children, bringing them to church, playing with them, as well as making them totally adore him. A local lady once saw what he was doing, called him over to her car, handed him several hundred dollars, told him to spend it on the kids as he saw fit. He did. He also visited elderly, lonely ladies regularly, and drove them wherever they needed to go. We finally hired him to do that job, and train others to do the same. But there was only one Daniel Graham, and when he and others he trained moved on, that work lessened. But others were inspired by him, as we all were, and are beginning to take up the slack. Before he left, Barbara asked him to be her Words With Friends (internet Scrabble) buddy. He told Barbara he would take it easy on her. Barbara replied, “No! I want you to do your very best!” Soon Barbara was beating him regularly. There's only one sixty four year old Scrabble player like Barbara. I learned that long ago.
Kate hung around Arkadelphia after graduating, even ran her own business for a time. She worked tirelessly on our church Kid's Festival. Now she and Brian have moved on. Seems a seminary is now in their future.
      Yet another Daniel, and Kathleen, are twins. They were both in our group. Daniel and Lauren fell in love. That romance, also, could have started in our living room, but maybe not. We now see their beautiful baby regularly. On facebook. Kathleen is a gifted dancer, a talent best used in a larger city.
      Most recently, Tim, our tireless power point and computer expert at our church, and his wife Kayla, who could always be found at our church working with the kids, left for Colorado, he for seminary and she for a university job.
      Kylie was my best renter ever. An old soul, still in her twenties. She hung around for an advanced degree. Then, she had a chance to work with Neal Nelson, one of our pastors and director of HSU's Baptist Collegate Ministries. Who could pass up a chance to work with Neal? As a really big plus, she met and married Daniel, (We just love our large flock of Daniels!) still finishing up his own degree, a budding Sports Analyst or Sports Information Director. But, we fear he will soon carry her away from us, to a larger city, where his expertise will probably lead him. But we won't like it.

      This is just a sampling. I could go on and on. My apology to all those equally loved students I didn't have room to include. Wherever our wonderful university kids/adults are in this world today, they will always be in our hearts. But we'll see them again. In this world or the next.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Totally Wonderful; Completely Heartbreaking

Guess What! After months of waiting, doing round after round of editing, my book, SPREADING  WING, is on! In America and Europe. Visiting that site will give you a pretty good idea about my book. The covers, first chapter, excerpts, etc. Priced at $16.95. It will be on Kindle, also, in a week or two. Not sure of that price. If you visit the site, and like it, please press the the "liked"  button on the way out. 10 likes seem to equal a star rating, up to 5 stars. But only if you DO like.

Barbara and I attend Fellowship Church in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.  We have been at Fellowship since 1999. Ever since we returned from a year on the road, seeing America. We were looking for a church. We attended the first corporate service of this church, at the Wesley Foundation at Henderson State University. We are the only members still in attendance who were here for that first meeting.
      We attended Calvary Baptist Church in Hannibal, Missouri for three years, but we lost that church when we moved back to Arkansas in 1976.  It was our most wonderful church experience we had ever had, up to that point in our lives. The services were never really quiet. Churches like Calvary, who bus in a ton of disadvantaged people, especially children, and who have tons of outreach going on, local and abroad, and a church whose members are excited to be there for the right reasons, seem to often be that way, I guess.
      When we left Hannibal and moved back to Arkansas, we searched for another church like Calvary for twenty three years. We attended several really good churches, met tons of wonderful people, had some really fantastic pastors during that twenty three years.
      It's hard to really explain to you exactly what we were looking for, during all that time. Maybe it was that feeling of excitement just to be there. That certain feeling that makes us want to come to church just a little bit earlier, before the services actually start, just to be in the midst of that group of people. Or because we get well fed spiritually every Sunday. Or that feeling that makes us reluctant to leave when its over.
      When we showed up for that first service at Fellowship, it didn't take long for us to realize, that feeling we had experienced so many years before was returning. And it's been there ever since.
We are fortunate enough to have two universities in our town. Along the way, a number of pastors who are associated with the universities came aboard. Many students followed. We now have hundreds of great college students attending Fellowship regularly. It just seems that students who come to our universities are just the cream of the crop. Then, those who choose to attend church regularly, and become an active part of that congregation, on there own, are usually  the cream of THAT crop.
      Instead of having Sunday night church services, we meet at homes in small groups. Like the first church. We meet, break bread, fellowship, study the word and pray for each other. Then we often have a campfire, roast marshmallows, and explode bamboo bombs, or the like. A few brave souls have even chosen to ride my zip line, sight unseen, down into the totally dark woods. Toward that big tree at the bottom nicknamed “splat.” Then they go home.
      This gives us the opportunity to really get to know and love these students. I cannot describe to you how great that is for us, and what a blessing this is to us. We have the opportunity to almost be substitute parents to these wonderful students for years. They become tightly woven into the fabric of our lives. But then, they graduate, and they often are soon gone, some forever, at least in this world. Many are reluctant to leave Arkadelphia, and work at jobs related to the universities for a time, or whatever they can find. But Arkadelphia has few job opportunities of the type they can hang their hats on, and raise a family around. Sooner or later, we lose almost all of them. It breaks our hearts, again and again, to see them go. We like to think of them as young people we have had the opportunity know, love, have an impact on for several years, then send them out as Fellowship's missionaries to the world. Our loss is the world's gain. That's the wonderful side of it, but it does not stop the heartache.

      But that is not the end of my story.

      I'm almost certain Griffin and Stephanie fell in love in our living room, many years ago. They now have three wonderful boys. We not only correspond, but visit occasionally. Griffin called us on Christmas night. They were coming through Arkadelphia during one of our very rare snowstorms, the road was getting bad. They asked about spending the night, and I told him our home was always open to them. But in all honesty, I had to tell him. Barbara and I were both flat on our backs with a bad stomach bug. Your choice. After a short discussion, they sadly chose the slick highway, instead. But they will be back, and we will be there, from time to time.
      Candi and Jeff had graduated, but they chose to stay around awhile. And, they were in love. Candi was a nurse at Hot Springs. Not just a very good nurse, but the one the hospital chose to deliver very bad news to the family about a patent, when those times arose. That kind of nurse. Jeff was temporarily training HSU students to be pilots, while waiting for a real job. Candi was ready to marry, start a family. Jeff seemed to have some reservations about being able to support a family, at that moment. I took Jeff aside after our group meeting, told him that if he missed out on this girl, he would never, in this lifetime, find another like her. He just smiled. Seems he had the ring in his pocket at the time. They have two wonderful youngsters now, and Jeff is a commercial airline pilot in Houston.        Continued

Candi McClaren - Stephanie Jones


Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Double Bullet Dodge - The Miracle Baby

I heard the siren, three hundred yards away, over on the interstate highway. "Must be a wreck," I thought, then went back to work on my houseboat. Minutes later the phone rang. Barbara soon came running out to me with the phone. The police were calling. Corey and his family were involved in a wreck. Three in the car, one ejected. Come to the emergency room. Just the bare facts.

      We arrived at the emergency room well ahead of the ambulance. We were anxiously awaiting when the ambulance showed up. Caylie came out first, just a baby, strapped tightly to a board, and screaming her head off. She looked around, within her limited field of vision, and saw Barbara and me. She stopped screaming, and smiled at us. We have never seen a smile quite so beautiful. Christi came next. She was also strapped down, but seemed alert, responsive, and, everything considered, remarkably calm. Corey was not in the ambulance.

He arrived moments later in a car. When he got out, he was beyond emotional. Way beyond that. As best he could, he was telling us he was driving behind Christi, in his car. A wheel had came off a trailer they were about to pass, hit her car in front, and the car did end over end flips, at least 12 rolls, then another flip, landing upside down. He reached through the broken back window, cutting his arm, and got Caylie out, but could not get Christi out. He was too racked by emotion to tell us more. Well, I knew Corey was totally distraught, probably in shock, far too upset for me to buy into all that. Nobody could have survived what he had just described to us.

      It was determined that Caylie and Christi had only scratches and bruises, no broken bones, and as far as they could tell, no internal injuries, but Christi had a concussion, and both were cut up by flying objects in the car. Corey settled down enough that we began to get the whole story.
The family was driving home from church, driving both cars because Christi had early choir practice. They both stopped at Western Sizzlin', at mile marker seventy- three of I-30. Being Easter Sunday, it was closed, so they and their friends decided to drive on down to Wendy's, at exit seventy eight. Corey buckled Caylie into her infant seat, strapped in the middle of the back seat. Starting to his car, for some reason, he stopped, turned around, went back to Caylie, and tightened up all the straps really good. Corey followed Christi in his car.

      Approaching mile marker seventy-four, Christi started to pass a pickup pulling a horse trailer. A wheel came off the trailer, hit the front of the car. That broke the car's front axle, starting the series of end over end flips and rolls, ending upside down in the median, with one last end over end flip, right beside mile marker seventy four.

      Corey pulled up behind. Later, a friend who happened to be nearby described the horrible sounds of anguish from Corey as he rushed to the car. Caylie was hanging upside down. The only way he could get to her was through the broken back window, which he did, cutting his arm. When Caylie emerged, he checked her over as quickly as he could, passed her off to a stranger standing beside him, saying, "Don't leave my sight with this baby," and rushed to Christi. As he tried to get her out, a fire started. A man from the interstate showed up with a fire extinguisher, and put it out. Christi was hanging upside down, and he could not get her out. About that time, the ambulance and police arrived. They had trouble getting her out, having to use the Jaws of Life.
Once Christi was out, and being strapped to a board, a paramedic tried to get Corey on a stretcher.
Corey was bleeding more than anyone there, and the paramedic would just not believe he had not been in the car, and ejected.

      Christi, not one to get unduly excited, later described her thought processes as the wreck progressed. "Well, that's one more flip, and I'm still alive!" The car was a mess. Completely flattened on top, except for the two places where a human could have possibly survived. They just happened to match the two places where Christi and Caylie were. The paramedics working the wreck said that upon arrival, they had no expectations of finding anybody alive, much less a four month old baby. They added that the car seat straps were so loose, one more roll and she would have flown. Good thing Corey had just tightened them up.

      I went to the site the next day. Car parts were strewn along the road. From the location of the first car part thrown off, to the final destination of the wrecked car, one hundred yards. Twelve rolls and three flips? You be the judge. Our family dodged two major bullets that day.  We are always being told, wear your seat belts, all the time, most accidents are within one mile of home. Well, my family has been in seven accidents, mostly minor, none fatal. How many within one mile of home, as the crow flies? Five. For your own safety, please do as I say, but in all honesty, not necessarily as I do. I hate being hypocritical.

      Caylie, early on, assumed the role of seat belt enforcer in our family. Nobody is perfect, but I sure haven't found any flaws in her yet. At eighteen, she just got her first car, right after returning from the mission fields of Jamaica. God, it seems, had his reasons for sparing this girl.
If you live near Arkadelphia, judge this story for yourselves. The car came to rest even with mile marker seventy-four. The first car part thrown off was even with the brown sign just south of it.
This story had been in my head nearly eighteen years. It automatically replays, in living color, every time I drive by those two signs. I now know the story very well. I needed no notes to write this.
      My son in law, Mickey, a paramedic, described a roll over wreck they worked. A man was dead, but no marks were found on his body. Finally, a mark that looked just like the top of a coke bottle top was found on his temple. Every loose, even modestly heavy object becomes a deadly missile in a rollover wreck.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Blonde, Beauty, and Brains May Run in Packs

Today is one of those times when I just must set aside my scheduled post, The Best of  2012, and tell you about current events on a special occasion. Thanks for reading!

Marvalene McKinnon was buried today. Pretty well all my memories of Marvalene go back to more than fifty years ago, as I grew up in Wing. I know she has had some hard health issues in recent years. I have only met her son Johnny recently. But I do know he must be like the son we all hope we will have someday, when the hard times hit. He has stayed by her side, and helped her navigate those troubled waters.
      All my memories of Marvalene are memories of a young woman. A really nice, fun young woman. Blonde. Beautiful. With a personality as big as all outdoors.
      Her son, Don, I only knew as a very small boy, beginning school, just starting to ride my school bus as I was finishing up at Fourche Valley School. Or, maybe, as Fourche Valley School was finishing up with me. I forget the exact wording on my diploma. Right before I was spreading wing and moving on to the rest of my life. I did, sadly, hear when he passed away some time back, way too early.
      The Mckinnons were my next door neighbors in Wing. In fact, everyone in this story was my next door neighbor. Every single one. In Wing, if you can walk as the crow flies from my house to one of those neighbor's houses, never having to walk across another house, they were next door neighbors. Even if you have to walk a mile or two.
      Marvalene had twin girls. Blonde. They were just babes when I left Wing. I did hear progress reports as they grew up. I'd heard they are smart. Very smart. I only recently met them as adults. Turns out they are beautiful, also. Just like Marvalene.
      I was visiting brother Harold in the hospital at Danville recently. Seems Marvalene was in there at the same time. One of the twins, Jane, came in to see Harold. I got to quizzing her about her work. I knew she was a heart surgeon. But, it seems she now does heart surgery from next door, by means of a robot! Good grief! I remember my Mom washing our clothes in a big black pot down by the creek, using lye soap made from hog fat, and a rub board. Now something like this comes along. I must be getting really, really old. All I remember about surgery deals with when Dad hauled all us kids over to Russellville in our 1947 cattle truck, and got all our tonsils taken out at one time. Mom and Dad were about sick of tonsillitis.
      I had my first proof of my book, Spreading Wing, with me that day. I had brought it up for family to glance at, only, because I wanted to keep the content pretty well secret, until Book Launching Day at Wing. But, I saw no problem with letting Jane just glance at it. A few minutes later, Jane handed it back. Said I was a good writer, she liked the content, which she discussed in detail, and wanted one when it came out. She asked me how many countries Barbara and I traveled through, in our world travels. I proudly answered nineteen. I asked her if she had traveled much. She said through thirty some odd countries, many on a bicycle. I shut up talking about OUR world travels. Anyway, I was shocked. She knew all that about my book, from a five minute glance. I had to quiz her about that. “I'm a speed reader. I read a pretty good bit of your book.” Good grief! My nephew Big Dan got a little miffed at me today, when he found out Jane had read a good part of it, and he hasn't even got a peek. Big Dan is not someone I want to have miffed at me. But, I'm preparing myself regarding miffed people. I know everybody is always excited about being written up in a book. I hope that excitement does not cool when they find out it's a true book, as best I can remember. But, I'm sixty eight years old. What have I got to lose? A few months, or years, at most.:) Let's just all keep a good sense of humor. Please. Most of my fun-poking is aimed right at me.
      I met the other half of that matching pair, June, after the short part of the service, at graveside. And she matched Jane well, right down to the brains. Seems she's an attorney. Not just any attorney, but a really good one, I've been told.
      Blonde Flossy Wheeler and brunette Mary Wheeler, sisters, married brothers, Sam and “Tuck” Hull. Guess which sister became Marvalene's mother? They also were my next door neighbors. Tuck Hull taught me how to catch catfish, big time, and often brought my family many messes of fish he had caught. We greatly appreciated being able to get off salt pork for a day. He was also the best hunter around. Bob Campbell, the local Game Warden, shadowed Tuck for years. Tuck was just way too successful at hunting and fishing, to Bob's way of thinking, and he suspected something had to be amiss. I'm not really sure how Bob and Tuck's relationship played out, in the long run. That was all still playing out when I left Wing.
      Mary and Flossie were both big leaders in the church at Wing. Flossie played the piano, and led the singing. Once she decided the church youth should take over those jobs for awhile. Well, we only had two youth at that time. Annette Person had just begun playing, so I grabbed the song book. Flossie was a good sport, and let us stay in that position a long time. Seemed like forever to us all. It never happened again. I do remember Flossie singing at Dad's funeral.
I know that young version of Marvalene McKinnon is just really perking things up in heaven tonight. That larger-than-life personality would just tend to do that. Just like she perked up everyone's life at Wing, when I was a small child.
I'm very close to being able to set a date for my book opening for Spreading Wing at Wing. But not quite yet. I have to look at yet one more proof  this week to make sure it's right. I'm sorry about the delay! 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Best of 2012 number three - Sad Dog Stories

Now that we were out in the country, we decided to get a big dog. Buster was half husky – half collie. He was a good dog. The kid's loved him. One day he showed up limping real bad, and we could tell he had a broken leg. We figured a car must have hit him. Well, the kids were crazy about Buster, so we took him to the vet. He put a pin in his leg, and he told us we had to keep him confined tightly for several weeks. We had a pen, but Buster had other ideas. He would just chew his way right through the gate. Time after time. Well, finally, we figured the bone should be healed, so we let him out. A day or two later, Corey started backing up his car, (before reverse went out) and Buster was underneath. When he heard Buster scream, he stopped the car, but Buster was under a wheel. I was not there, and it took all three of them to push the car off him. We took him back to the vet, and he put a pin back in his leg. A couple of weeks later, we let him out of the pen. A couple of days after that, he was not feeling good. Wouldn't eat. He walked up the sidewalk toward Barbara and Kinley. He looked up at Barbara and Kinley, the light left his eyes, and he fell over dead. We figured he had just had more trauma than he could stand.
Midnight was building a bad reputation. He was a high powered lover. Some of the neighbors had purebred females, and they didn't want a mongrel like Midnight around when the females were in heat. They penned them up. But that didn't stop Midnight. The next morning, he would sometimes be in the pen with the female. Another neighbor had a female in heat, and I tied midnight up. He chewed the rope in two and still got to the female. After that happened a few times, Midnight just disappeared one day. We never knew who. But we had a pretty good idea who. Actually, I now know for sure. And just let me take this opportunity to call you a sorry, egg-sucking, #!**@&^ch!

Another small dog just showed up one day, half starved. We took him in. Since he was brand new, Barbara named him Booker Brand New. We got that from a classmate of Corey's, Booker. Booker showed up at school one day with brand new tennis shoes, and all his friends teased him about being "Booker Brand New." That phrase just stuck in our family. Anyway, Booker Brand New had obviously been living on his own in the woods for a long time, and he had a ton of strange hang ups. Booker Brand New stuck with us, though. Must have had to do with being able to eat regular for a change. We soon learned he could not be fastened up in the house. One very cold night, we “did him a favor” by letting him hang out in the laundry room. The entire vinyl floor was torn up the next morning. His hangups just caused him to go crazy, We never again intentionally allowed him in the house. "Having more hangups than Booker Brand New” became another catch phrase.
Barbara wanted city water and cable TV, so I spent ten months at hard labor building her a house in town. We sold our house in the country.
We were in the process of moving out. While loading up our stuff on our pickup, Booker Brand New must have sneaked in, unseen, and hid in the house. We locked up and hauled that load. When we got back, Booker Brand New had torn the vinyl floor up down to the concrete around to the front door. We found one small piece of left-over matching vinyl, just large enough. Our friend who had put the floor down in the first place matched it up and did a great job of repairing it. 
Corey and Christi had now married, and they needed a house, and the people who bought ours sold their house to Corey and Christi, and one day we all just counted "One – two – three – GO!!" and we all moved. The people who bought our house agreed to keep Booker Brand New, as he was in no way, shape, or fashion a dog that could be penned up. Or live in town. That was good. We didn't have a fenced yard, anyway. After we all got moved and settled a little, our buyers called us one day. Booker Brand New was just not compatible with their dog, with all his hangups. We had to find a new home for him. Well, Kinley's friend agreed to take him. He lived in the country, and it seemed everyone was going to live happily ever after. Kinley and I took Booker Brand New out to his new home, introduced him to his new owner, and said goodbye. I told the new owner, "Might be a good idea to hold onto him until we get gone. He may try to follow us." After we had gotten a long way down the road, we could see a dot in the distance, chasing after us. I told Kinley, "Well, lets just outrun him, and he'll go back to his new home." When we got back to town, we called the new owner. "He never came back," he said. So we went out and looked. And we looked. Around the new home, around his old home. But he was never to be found. Booker Brand New was never to be seen, or heard of, again. I still have nightmares about that little tiny dot, in the distance, chasing after us as hard as he could. We did Booker Brand New bad. Really bad