Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Sixty Year Promise Contest!

SPREADING  WING is available on and Amazon Europe, book or kindle.

The Sixty Year Promise

Today, I am announcing – SPREADING WING'S – My Best Family Story Contest - . Here's why -

When I first started writing, about four years ago, here was my goal. I wanted to find out as much as I could about my ancestors. Not just names on a genealogy sheet, not just their picture. I wanted to know how they lived, the ups and downs of their lives, who they loved, and yes, also, who they disliked. I wanted to turn them into flesh and blood people, so that my offspring, and later generations, could feel like they actually knew them. A few stories, or the start of one, sometimes came through on genealogy sheets from researchers from generations past. Like, “Grandpa Tucker (my grandmother's father) and his family hung a man one morning, down in front of his house.” or “Great great grandma had a little brother who was eaten by a wild hog.” or how about this – my great uncle, Harry, “faced down a thirty man posse who came to arrest him in downtown Dover with the words, “I will give up my guns with my life, and make the man who takes it pay a heavy price. The posse finally turned around and left. Without Harry.” What!? How could anyone just let a story like that lie, without giving any details? Well, maybe the old time researchers could not find out any more, with the resources available to them at the time. But in this day and age, especially with great historical societies like the one in Pope County, Arkansas, I was able to dig up the whole stories, and tell them in SPREADING WING.
      Now, most of the stories I was able to unearth and record were not that dramatic. Most were just sweet little stories, but they still told me much about those people. The oldest people in one's family are always the best sources, if their long term memory is still somewhat intact. Many older people may not remember what they did yesterday, but the long term memory is good. All one need do is ask, and sit and listen. They love that. I was born the youngest of a generation, by several years, so almost all the old Gillums were long gone well before I started my project, at sixty five. Actually, all of my dad and mom's generation. I never met any of my grandparents. After all my research on my grandparents, I felt like, for the first time, that I actually knew them. I cried.
So, if I could do it, you can too. But start early. When the old folks die, their stories often die with them. I also told all I could remember about my generation, and my children and grandchildren love it.
     My first book was titled “THE GILLUM'S WERE NOT LIKE OTHER PEOPLE.” (All right, I've just got to take out right here and explain to you that title. My brother Harold worried about that title a lot. Thought I was saying, “The Gillum's are better than other people.” When someone asked him about that, he often said, “If you would just read the book, you would see that's not always the case!” Actually, I was talking with JR Turner, a Wing icon who was around one hundred years old, and, since he knew all the Gillum's, I asked, “What did you think of the old Gillums?” Well, I knew that was a hard question for JR, since most of the old Gillums were pretty stern men, who seldom smiled. JR thought for a long time. He obviously didn't want to hurt my feelings. Finally, he just said, “Well, the Gillum's were not like other people.” then added, as an apologetic afterthought, “They were very solid.” which was true. Solid like a rock. I knew right off, JR had just named my book.) Anyway, getting back to my story. My son Corey had several hard copies of my first book printed, gave them to me. He called that volume one. He also established the “sixty year promise.” He vowed to write volume two, starting on birthday sixty. His oldest child, Caylie, an old soul at fourteen, vowed to write volume three starting on birthday sixty. Thus publishing an ever increasing volume of past writings. So that, as Corey stated, “Many generations from now, when all of us have left this earth, I hope a young Gillum will read these first hand accounts of who we were, and how we lived. Through this, maybe he or she will truly know those who went before them, and learn something about themselves, as I have from Dad's book.”
      So, anyone can be a writer. In today's world, anyone can publish a book. I challenge you to start writing volume one of your family's “SIXTY YEAR PROMISE.” There is no better way to honor the old people in your family that to record their stories, before they are lost forever. We are all going to die, but who we were and what we did can live on and on, if you just take the time, and love them enough, to write down their stories and preserve them. Your offspring will be so happy you did.
      So, you're going to do it? Good. Now let's get down to the nuts and bolts. Who wants to read and preserve a boring book? Not much anybody, that's who. Your stories have to be INTERESTING, and when appropriate, HUMOROUS. I try my best to keep those two thoughts at the forefront of all my writings. Sometimes, to do that, I have to ruffle a feather or two. But if you stay HUMBLE, and make fun of yourself more than you do anyone else, most people will accept that. If people of your generation don't like to read it, later generations will just throw it away. Nobody likes to read one's writings if the writer brags on one's self too much. SELF DEPRECIATION is a wonderful tool. Now at this point, I have to tell you, I'm not a trained writer. I'm not trying to set myself up as a writing expert here. I'm only telling you what seems to work for me. You have to write using your own thoughts. With all this in mind, I am announcing -

Forever a Hillbilly's First Annual – MY BEST FAMILY STORY CONTEST

  1. Write your best true family story in English. Up to 1400 words. If possible, typed, single spaced. Send it to me, copied and pasted onto the body of your e-mail. (No attachments, please. I can't always open those.) E-mail to
  2. If number one is not possible for any reason, I don't like to exclude people. Print it clearly and mail it to me at 1030 Evergreen, Arkadelphia, Ar. USA 71923.
  3. Please include a short bio about yourself, up to forty words.
  4. Contest ends June 15, 2013. All those judged “Totally wonderful” by our official judging panel, Barbara and I, will be posted on, along with your credit and bio. Forever a Hillbilly is currently read by readers in fifty six countries.
    1. The overall winner, as judged by the same distinguished panel of two judges, will be awarded the grand prize, which is: A. If you live in the USA, a signed and personalized edition of SPREADING WING.
    2. B. If you live outside the USA, I will send you an amount equal to the current price of SPREADING WING on or Amazon Europe, along with a letter from Barbara and I bragging about what a good writer you are and stuff like that. I'm very interested in hearing from my writers from other countries. I'm sure reading and comparing your life stories to mine would be very interesting.
      So, get to work, and send your best family story to me!


Monday, March 25, 2013

Wing - A town the World Forgot - Conclusion

SPREADING WING  is now available at Julie's Frames and Gifts in Malvern and Scooter's in Sheridan, as well as Covenant Book Store in Arkadelphia,  Hasting's  Book  Store in Russellville, Two River's Grocery in Wing, Bonnie's Cafe in Watson, and Barne's and Noble in Little Rock. Please tell your friends who aren't local that it is available on, and Amazon Europe, book or Kindle. Thanks!

Like I said, it just seems that Wing is a town the world forgot. Wing was first named Mineral Springs, due to the large amount of fresh spring water produced right behind the old church. Wing was a thriving area around 1898, when the Gillum's first arrived. At that time, there were said to be seventeen houses up Wing Hollow, right behind the old church, with every cleared spot as large as a wagon sheet growing cotton. There were none in my days at Wing, just old home sites. In 1898, the rich bottom land carved out by the river was dotted with small farmers rapidly clearing more land, more cotton and other row crops appearing. A cotton gin, a sawmill, and a grist mill sat at the mouth of Wing Hollow, with the very large spring producing a large amount of cold water year around, producing steam power.

      Wing and the surrounding area was then an educational mecca. In 1915, fifteen school teachers lived around Wing. The old school room above the church was only an overflow classroom. Mineral Springs Academy took in many boarding students from miles around, advertising, “Room and board with a nice local family for two dollars a month.” Thousands of acres of prime, virgin forests covered the mountainsides. The walls of many of those old houses were made from 1x20 pine boards from that virgin timber. The mountains were free range land, with large numbers of cattle ranged out into those hills. My family often had to ride horseback for many, many miles to locate their cattle. A bell cow, wearing a cowbell around its neck, was with each herd to help locate them.

      But all this was not to last. By the time I came along in 1944, many changes had taken place in the valley. The thin rich topsoil was rapidly wearing out, and cotton and other row crops were becoming less productive. Cotton gins disappeared. Nimrod lake was built, taking much of the richest bottom land. Hundreds of acres of cropland were reclaimed by the forests. Most of the small landowners lived by grubbing out a living from the soil, and had to put the wagon sheet back on the wagon and move on.

     The word was out. The delta land of southeast Arkansas was now a mecca for farmers, and the exodus from Yell County to the delta was in full swing. I met the love of my life at the Delta Dip in Dumas, home of the Ding Dong Daddy. I also learned while I hung around nearby Watson, trying to win her heart, that many, many farmers in that area came to the delta from Fourche Valley during that time period. The larger landowners, including the Gillums, began to depend, more and more, upon cattle as a money source. 

      The virgin timber was gone. In the 1920's, a rail line was built up the South Fourche River Valley, to reach that virgin harvest. This brought about temporary prosperity. Saw mill towns sprang up, large bustling towns. Once the virgin timber was harvested, these towns disappeared, and were reclaimed by nature. The only signs remaining to show they ever existed is rusting chunks of metal and concrete littering the forest floor here and there. In 1927, the harvesting was winding down in the south mountains. The flood of 1927 destroyed the rail line, wrapping rails around trees. Two of the large train engines were trapped at line's end. One was moved to the rail bridge during the height of the flood, to help keep it from washing out. Afterwords, the rail line had to be rebuilt to get the engines out, taking up the track behind the engines as they were moved out.

     The government bought up much of this timberland for as little as fifty cents an acre during and after the Depression, which became part of the Ouachita National Forest. The free range mountains were no more. Without that free range land, many of the cattle farmers had to move on. Hundreds of old, deserted home sites dotted the valley.

      But that is not the end of my story.

      In our day and time, all of these factors, many of which seemed so negative when they were brought to bear, have come together to produce an area which is an ideal place to be, whether it be living there or visiting. The pollution problems of most of our world, whether it be air, sound, chemical, vast areas of concrete, an excessive number of large lights, or too many people crowded together in a small space, just don't exist in Wing or the valley. Having next door neighbors a mile away helps assure they stay good neighbors. Even in my day, Fourche Valley School was one of the largest school districts in the state, yet twelve students graduated with me. Even the old abandoned home sites that dotted the landscape in my day have been pretty well reclaimed by nature. Hard to find one today. 

     The river still runs clean and pure, without an excessive number of canoes or boats all crowded up on it, as with most of our beautiful rivers. The Fourche is a good river to float in the spring, but gets a little too shallow in the summer for a long float.  The deer, which had mostly been chased down and eaten up in my time, are back in large numbers. Furry wild animals, no longer considered very valuable for their pretty fur as they were in my time, have returned. The squirrels, a regular source of meat to eat in my day, can rest a little easier. The trees on the mountainside are large and beautiful once more. Pull up at Two Rivers Grocery in Wing, and Joan will be happy to sell you Spreading Wing, complete with an official “Sold at Wing, Arkansas” stamp. Nothing like buying a book from right where it all took place. Or, if you've already bought Spreading Wing at Wing, come by, and Joan will be glad to put the official stamp on your book. Right across the road, Pastor Dan and Mary will fix you up with a great pizza at a fair price on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Top's Pizza. Those two about sum up the businesses you will see as you drive through Wing.

      Maybe I named this story wrong. Maybe, in this day and age, I should have named it, “The town today's world has not yet discovered.” Take a day sometime and make a slow drive up highway 28 from Rover to Needmore, where highway 28 hits 71. Stop along the way, and meet those friendly people of the valley. You will discover a world new to your experiences in Arkansas. Take a little time and explore, and get to know, that long, narrow strip of land along the Fourche La Fave River. A place like no other. Once you spend a full day in Fourche Valley, you will always want to return.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Town the World Forgot - Part 2

SPREADING WING - You can see a good bit of the book on Pressing "liked" on Amazon, or, if you've read it, writing a short review can help put the book in a better position. Thanks
 Part Two
Well, to make a long story short, (too late) those valley and mountain people of Yell County just seem to always support their own, even those fifty years removed, and when launching day arrived, we sold seventy books that day. Equally importantly, they ate up every last scrap of that salt pork. Even more importantly, I had a chance to renew a lot of very old relationships. Edith Turner was there. She was ninety, but not anywhere near the oldest person in Wing. My children, Corey and Kinley, found out she was a friend of my mothers. My mother passed away when they were at or near infancy, and they are now at or near forty years old. They just could not seem to let her go, just hung with her every word, until long after the big event was over. She told them story after story of my mother. Kinley said, “Holding her hand was like finally getting to hold the hand of my grandmother.” Corey and three others, at great risk to life and limb, climbed up to the old classroom above. The stairs were long gone. I started up the ladder, but at the top was a three foot wall, to keep people from climbing up, I guess. Well, I'm sixty eight years old, so I headed back down. But Cindy Turner Buford, who I knew was at least eight years older than me, (maybe more, but who's counting) but is upper middle aged by Wing standards, scrambled up and over that wall. When they were all about to come down, Corey came first, and I saw him standing under that ladder, panic in his eyes, already holding his arms out as if to catch someone. He told me, “There's a lady in her seventies about to come over that wall!” I didn't worry too much about that. Those normal age limitations don't always apply to Wing people. I grew up with Cindy, just a tall ridge over. We often communicated with a loud holler, that went something like this: “Whoooo, Whoooo, Whoooo eeee ouhooooo! Of course, that was back at a time when I could still holler that loud. I well knew Cindy could have climbed that tallest mountain behind Wing again, if she set her mind to it. That hill up to her house was about as steep as any mountain around.
      Anyway, in the old classroom, they found the name of Leta Lazenby who left Wing forever in 1930, still written plainly on the chalk board, just like it was when I saw it in 1950. That chalkboard was made, it appears, by painting or spraying something on those very wide, virgin pine boards.
It also had a lot of new names. Seems climbing up there has become a “rite of passage” for Wing children. Nephew Ken Gillum said, “It was just like stepping back in time.” The old classroom had not been used in at least 80 years, maybe much longer. Nobody living knows for sure.
Effie Turner, an icon of Wing, ran the store next door all during my child hood. She died in 1979, at one hundred years of age. During her lifetime, she rode to Wing in an oxcart, and saw men walking on the moon. Her son, JR, passed away last year at one hundred two. Elois Hunnicutt, just across the road and down the lane, still grows a large garden at ninety four. But she fell, out in that garden last year, and broke some bones. She managed to crawl to her back door, but could not get in. She had to lay out most of a day and a night. Remember, cell phones don't work well in Wing. But she's back now, as lively as ever. I know I'd have a hard time keeping up with her now, doing the kind of day's work she does.
      My sister Jonnie taught Sunday School classes in Fourche Valley for many years. Once I visited her class. The best I remember, her youngest class member was in his ninety's.
Scientists should do a study of folks in the Valley. Try to figure out how they live so long and so well, here in a remote place far from a major hospital. But actually, I already know. People in Little Rock would be shocked to realize how quiet, peaceful, and wonderful life can be, only sixty miles away from the hustle, bustle, rush, and tension of life in a major city, with next door neighbors often a mile away. My Dad always said good fences make good neighbors. A little distance can do the same thing.
      So, here I am now, hustling about, doing one book signing, one book reading after another. Trying to get Spreading Wing into the hands of enough people so that someday, Amazon and Kindle can take over their share of the load, and let me ease up a bit. After all, I am an old man. But I'm having the time of my life. I'm learning some good life lessons along the way, though. I was scheduled to read one of my stories at a Senior Citizen's Center a few days ago. But as luck would have it, I was scheduled to start reading my story along about the time the food was passed out. I thought my story was one of my funniest, but I don't remember hearing many laughs. All I could hear was a hundred or so spoons hitting plates. I'm always a little nervous starting a reading, then when I hear a few laughs, (and it does not really seem to matter if they are laughing with me or at me,) I just seem to feed off that and really enjoy the rest of it. But that day, I was nervous all the way through. Like I say, I'm learning some good life lessons along the way. But on the other hand, I did sell books as a result. Beats the heck out of hauling hay at a penny a bale, like I did as a kid at Wing. Now, I'm not saying my Dad ever paid a penny a bale for hauling OUR hay. That was when I hired out to someone else. Of course, hauling hay was not nearly as embarassing.
Continued - four days.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Town the World Forgot

Check out SPREADING WING on Amazon, book or Kindle.

DANVILLE BOOK SIGNING FOR SPREADING WING - Thursday, March 21, Chambers bank, 1-3. Story readings start at 1:30.

Some time back I told you about the beautiful old church at Wing, Arkansas. It was built in 1880, totally from virgin pine. I told you all I knew, at the time. But then I got to wondering, How can it still be so solid, and so beautiful, after 133 years? Are there no termites in Wing? I did a little more research about that. Seems the answer was right there, under my nose, the whole time, right in the back of my brother Harold's mind. Harold is 82, does not get around much. He's told me a lot about Wing, in my research for my book, Spreading Wing. But Harold's a private person. Some of his revelations were followed by, “But you can't put that in a book!” Anyway, I stopped in to say hi a couple of days ago, and Harold told me he had come up with one more memory. Well, I was due in Russellville in a short time, but he said, “Sit down, and listen to this story!” I sat. And I listened.
Seems in the 1940s, Arthur Walden, reputed to be the best carpenter around,  noticed the floor of the old church was infested with termites. He told the church, “I know of a certain type of oil that would handle that problem.” Well, the church and the community listened. But the church operated on pennies in those days. The pastor was paid in produce from the gardens, and chickens. That oil was expensive. It seemed the church building was doomed.
      Right about there was where Buford Compton, the legendary sheriff of Yell County for sixteen years, and a resident of Wing, stepped in, Bought the oil, and put it on the floor. The termites just could not stomach that stuff. I remember my mother always told us, “If you're going to pray, don't kneel. Stand up.” That seemed strange to me at the time. But Apparently, she well knew what that black oil would do to our Sunday best. We stood. Actually, the most likely reason for me to be on the floor was that I was wrestling around with Sammy Charles Turner when I should have been sitting up and listening. I was two years younger, and I was usually the one on the bottom. But it sounds better when I put it in terms of how I was praying. During the winter, We usually only occupied a small area of that floor, right around that huge pot bellied wood stove.
     Many years later, a new floor was put down, right on top of that black floor. Kneeling was not only allowed now, but encouraged. Seems that old church would never have made it to the sixty's, when the Turners took over and completely renovated it, without Arthur Walden and Buford Compton's black oil.
My good friend Skeet, (Short for Skeeter) decided to go to Wing recently, since I was always talking about it. But he came to me with a big handful of maps, said he had been going over all his maps with a magnifying glass, couldn't find it. I told him, “It's not on most maps anymore. Just go to Rover, turn west, drive two miles, only church on the right.” He still headed out grumbling, to Walmart, to get another map. Skeet just leaves nothing to chance.
      If you want to go see Wing, just remember those directions. When you get into Yell County, you start to notice cars you meet will usually have a smiling face behind the wheel. And, they will wave at you. But about the time you leave Rover and head up the valley, put away your cell phones and your GPS. You are now entering a 45 mile dead zone. But I have found there is one place at Wing where you can get a signal. Go two miles south of Wing, wade out to the middle of the Fourche La Fave River, and it will work wonderfully. Though one is often unable to hear, this time of year, what with all the teeth chattering going on.
      When you are arriving, You have to look closely for that tiny sign announcing Wing. Just remember, That old church is right in the geographical center of Wing. Just like it was the activity center of everything when I was a child.
Well, last fall, after three long years, I finished my book, Spreading Wing. I put it on Amazon, but Amazon seemed sorta hit or miss. One day right off, my friends and relatives, I guess, bought seven books, and I looked to see where I stood in the top 100. I was sitting right on number 69,000th. The next day I looked, nobody bought, and I was right around 230,000th. After another day of bad sales, I had dropped to around 400,000th. I decided I had to step in, Amazon needed some help. This was no way to sell a book. Nobody seemed to know me, or Spreading Wing, at Amazon, once we got past friends and relatives.
     I had always wanted to have my Book Launching at Wing, in that old church of my childhood. I knew that was a big risk, since I had been gone from Wing 50 years. We cooked up six packages of salt pork and a ton of biscuits, since that was a staple at our house in the 1940's, when I was a child. I knew I was running the risk of having to eat salt pork and biscuit sandwiches for the next few months, and I had way more than my share of that as a child.
      I went to the Yell County Record at Danville, expecting to spend an arm an a leg on advertising. Since my mother was the Wing correspondent for the Record in the 1950's, telling who all went to town and who visited who, I hoped for a discount. Well, David Fisher, the next generation of Fishers there, (his dad ran the Record when I was at Wing) said he would do two or three feature articles on my launching. For free. What!? “For free” had not existed in my world for fifty years. That seems to correspond with how long I've been gone from Yell County.
Continued in 4 days. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Post # 211 Poor Dumb David

     The book signing for Spreading Wing is tomorrow, March 13, 1 - 4 at  Covenant Books and Gifts, 2901 Pine Street. Hope we see you there!
     If  you don't live near Arkadelphia, Spreading Wing is available on, book or Kindle, as well as Amazon Europe.
Poor Dumb David.

     The football game was about to start. I lounged in my lawn chair up on the hill, my favorite spot
for watching the action at Henderson State University. Few fans came over here, well away from the bleachers. The first person to come my way was a nice looking lady, near thirty. She sat ten feet below me, on the hillside.

     For some strange reason, a thought from  years past crossed my mind, and I had to smile. She looked like she could be one of poor dumb David's girls.

     I own an apartment house on 11th street. I'm the main fix-it guy  Some of  my tenants seem to
treat me like others do their bartenders. They talk to me a lot about the things going on in their life. It just so happened, at that time, that I had a lot of tenants there who were single women, near thirty. All were attractive, but there was an over-abundance of single women in Arkadelphia, but few single men. Over a period of time, several mentioned to me their boy friend, David. I was surprised to learn, over an even longer period of time, that it was the same David. Finally, I met David. He was tall, muscular, good looking, had a cool truck, a great smile, didn't talk much.

    " I like David a lot," she was saying as I unplugged her sink drain. "He's such a hunk. But he hardly ever talks. He's so good looking, I decided not talking was not such a bad thing. Well, last week, just after our vacation we took together, he finally loosened up and started talking. And, you know what? He just cannot string together five words without saying something dumb. I hate to do it, but I've just got to dump him. It's so embarassing when we're around my friends. I hope, eventually, he can find somebody else some day."
     I know poor David was crushed. But, I guess he was just too dumb to mourn too long about the loss. Some day turned out to be the next day, a cute redhead three doors down.
     A few weeks later, a male tenant called me with concerns about the young lady next door. Her car was in place, but she had just been gone for days. I checked the apartment, all her stuff seemed to still be there. I called her employer. "She's on vacation this week with David," he told me.

     I was beginning to see a pattern develop. It seems poor David was very shy when he began a new relationship. But, eventually, he loosened up, and Poor David's fatal flaw showed up. He was then quickly dumped. At least, all those women felt bad about dumping  poor David, and kept his flaw secret. He never seemed to have a problem finding yet another pretty woman quickly.

     The football game had started, and HSU was drubbing my old alma mater, badly, heading toward a 30-0 trouncing. The game was so boring, I could not help but notice the lady below me was on her cell phone. "Sure, Debbie, come on down and watch the game with us. David is coming too, and I want you to meet him! He's such a hunk. He doesn't talk much, but we're going to be spending a lot of time together at Dallas next week, and I promise you he will be talking a blue streak by the time we get back!"

     Could it be... naw, I haven't seen  David around in years. I felt sure he had flunked out and left by now.  Yet, here he came, older now, but still a hunk. Still with a great smile, not talking much. As she wrapped her arms around poor David, a strange series of thoughts ran through my mind. Poor, dumb David is facing still another broken heart. Yet, he seems to be holding up well under all that heartache. Could it be that David is not as dumb as I thought? No, that could not be. But yet...
     I got my answer at graduation that next spring. David was receiving a Master's Degree. He was finally going to officially become what he had already been for many years. A master of Psychology.

This is a true story. Mostly.  It has been tweaked just a dab.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Uncle Franz

Don't forget! Tomorrow, March 9th, is the day of  SPREADING  WING'S book signing at Hastings Book store in Russellville, 1-3 PM. Skeet can't come, so  I don't know how I'll keep my pencil's sharpened up. Oh wait. I forgot. I'll be using a pen.                                                 ********************

Uncle Franz

I was born when my dad was 52, my mom 40. The youngest of the Gillum Wing generation. My cousins were grown and gone, and all my siblings were gone by the time I was 12. So, I pretty well grew up with all the old folks. The Gillums mostly lived side by side, or about as close to side by side as we got in Wing. A mile apart.
Most of my uncles and my dad were pretty serious, no nonsense, hard men. At least, they were by the time I came along. I never knew any of them when young blood flowed through their veins.
      But Uncle Franz was different. He still laughed a lot, and he found things in life to enjoy. He was very, very, smart. He spent much of his working life teaching, as an administrator, or as a Civilian Conservation corps director after the depression. He had retired by the time my memories of him started. He came back to Wing, Built a house, a big fishing pond, got land and cattle. His girls were still finishing up school, so Aunt Grace hung out at Conway until they were grown. He was so sick of dressing up every day, he came back living and dressing like a sure enough hillbilly.
        He taught at Fountain Hill awhile. He told me once they lived in a pretty rough part of town, and when they came back to Wing for a visit, (Everybody from Wing comes back as often as they can. Wing is just about the perfect place to be. Just about. The one thing missing is a lot of options about what to do for a living. So he, like me, had to scramble around in other parts of the world to make a living and raise a family.) he was a little worried about his house and his stuff while he was gone. So, he found the biggest, roughest, meanest man in the neighborhood, took him his house key, and asked him to watch his stuff while he was gone. That worked perfectly. Nobody ever messed with his stuff. I told you he was smart. It was a hard day's drive from Southeast Arkansas in those days, what with all the mudholes to get through.
      Uncle Franz seemed to go to bed about the time the chickens went to roost. But he was up by the middle of the night, and a whole lot of that time, he was pounding on his old, beat up typewriter. I saw him doing that a lot, but never knew what he was doing in those days. It was not until recently, when I began to see some of his work, that I realized he was a world-class poet. But his work seems to be pretty much lost to the world. The copies of his poems that I have been able to get my hands on are pretty dim, probably copies of copies of copies from an old typewriter not much good to begin with. But I'm going to do the best I can to figure out some of them, and share them with you. Hope you like them too.

Three Shots Rang Out
A man was riding on parade
A great good man who fervently prayed
For peace and freedom the wide world O'er
When three shots rang out and he's no more.

A man so young and sincere too
Ambition spurred to drive him through
A fearless man with wisdom's store
But three shots rang out and he's no more.
A speechless world rose quick and fast
To honor him whose soul had passed
From life through death to live once more
For in hearts those shots closed not the door.

A mortal form lies lifeless now
No wicked worry to fret his brow
Yet he's greater now than e'er before
Since three shots rang out and he's no more.

No Sparkles Show

Sometimes the dew on blades of grass
That crowd in over the padded path
And hide the footprints in the dirt
Goes by unnoticed as I work.

No sparkling diamond hue I see
Because my eyes are so busy
Searching for another sight
A little spot of red and white.

It's hidden somewhere in the grass
I must not miss it as I pass
Of course it probably would be
As well that I did not see.

Yet something inside me tells me “no”
And thats the reason no sparkles show
On blades of grass when wet with dew
At early morn when day is new.

Dew sparkling grass is just as wet
And sparkles just as bright, still yet
It bothers me not as much by half
When looking for a newborn calf.

Oh 'my gosh what was that
That weird sound out yonder?
Sounds just like a squalling cat
followed then by rolling thunder.
Curiosity got the best of me
Out the window I looked to see.

Then quick as lightening's flash
I rushed over to the window
Pulling up the bottom sash
I saw kids on the biggest bender
No, not drunk, I didn't say
Just a frolicking group at prankster's play.

On they came so thick and fast
Noisy costumed witches leading
Followed behind by lad and lass
Street decorum knew no heeding.
Turned the corner down my street
And at the door yelled “trick or treat!”

Treat. The choice was made post haste.
What was left for me to do?
I knew I had no time to waste
When I viewed closely this weird crew
Dressed so spooky from head to feet
Playing innocently “trick or treat.”
Uncle Franz drove his Farmall Cub tractor by our house just about every morning. I knew he was going to check his cows. But I also knew that before lunch, he would be down at the lake or the river, fishing. If I was able to get loose, I grabbed my pole and headed down that way. Sitting on the river bank with Uncle Franz, catching one bream after another, was always time very well spent. I always rode out on the back of his tractor.
In his later days, A doctor discovered he had an anurism in his stomach. He was told that if it burst, he would die before he could get to a hospital. Uncle Franz said, “That sounds like a good way to go.” He had no operation. A while later, he did go. Just that way.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

My Hog Fat Affinity

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When I was in grade school, I just hated sitting still and being completely inactive for long periods of time. If my teacher was keeping such a close eye on me that I couldn't risk shooting paper wads across the room with a straw, pinching the kid in front of me, or the like, I got into the habit of chewing on the point of my shirt collar.
I don't know why that was. All I can figure is, I had just developed an affinity for hog fat. All our clothes were washed with lye soap, and as you may, but probably don't know, hog fat is the main ingredient in lye soap. At least in ours. That affinity may have been caused by eating so much salt pork. Or, maybe I was just nervous about what the teacher was going to catch me doing next, and what the end result would be. A little nervous habit.
After Mom started noticing that most of my shirt collars were getting ruined, She laid down the law, and I agreed with her that I had no business doing that, and told her I would stop it. That worked for awhile. But after a little time passed, I would catch myself doing it again. I just couldn't seem to help myself. Mom knew she had to put a stop to that. I had always been a pretty timid and well behaved kid around home, at that point, and Mom hated to have to bring out the big gun, the keen switch, for a kid like me, her baby. It was years later before she brought out the that big gun for me, possibly because some of my siblings seem to have been a little wilder. So, at that point in life, I didn't need the big gun so much. At least according to some of the tales I've been told. My siblings had filled me in early on about what Dad was capable of, and what Mom, possibly the sweetest woman in the world, could do if one of us drove her to it.
Mom, at that point in time, had no shortage of material to make new shirts out of. Those six hundred or so laying hens ate tons of chicken feed, from pretty, decorated feed sacks, during that time period. She could easily have made one new shirt for me after another. IF she didn't have anything else to keep her busy. But Mom was always the busiest woman I ever knew, what with everything else she did around that farm. She pretty well outworked the rest of us three to one. She hatched a plan.
Castor oil was always one of the first lines of defense we had on our farm, when one of us showed sign of being off our feed. In my case, at least, a spoon full of castor oil in a glass of peach juice almost always did the trick, and, unless I was at death's door, I got well really quick, and showed Mom I didn't need any more medicine. To this day, I can't stand the thought of peach juice.
The next time Mom washed my shirts, she ironed them up real nice, as she always did. Then she put a drop of castor oil on the point of each shirt collar. To this day, I work really hard at never, ever letting any shirt collar anywhere close to my mouth. Today, Barbara always finds plenty of reason to gripe at me about spilling food on my shirt, getting ink on the shirt pocket the first time I wear it, or letting battery acid eat a hole in it. But my shirt collars are impeccable.