Monday, September 30, 2013

Teresa's Quest

     I have always called her "The Eternal Cheerleader." When she married Ky, she was fresh from being a Ouachita Baptist University cheerleader. They began having babies, and more babies. But it didn't affect Teresa as one would expect. She still kept the slim figure, still looks like a cheerleader. But that is not the main gist of my story here. As with many women, Teresa had always wanted a girl. Badly. The first was a fine boy. Soon four great, handsome young boys blessed them at their dinner table. Teresa's biological clock was running out.

 My son Corey and Christi, Teresa's age, decided to have one more child late in life. Their children were growing up, and Christi just loves having a baby in the house. And, Corey has always spent his spare time playing with his kids. Needless to say, they are great parents. Christi's home had become baby less, and Corey was losing his playmates.

     Teresa and Ky made a decision. If Corey and Christi could have a child late in life, so could they.
Teresa was soon pregnant. During her early pregnancy, Teresa was walking along the beach in Florida. Something pink lay in the path ahead. When she reached it, she recognized a pink baby shoe! She ran to it, picked it up. She burst out crying. This was it! This was the sign! She took this shoe home.
     The day of the tell-tale ultrasound arrived. Christi couldn't bear it. She waited in the car. Teresa emerged from the clinic. Her head was down. Christi's heart sank Suddenly, Teresa raised her flushed, smiling face and making what could possibly be her greatest cheerleader move ever, threw her arms to the sky and shouted, "Its a Girl!!"

     The pink shoe was framed in a shadow box, and the new baby's room was built around it. Rachel, Teresa and Ky's new daughter, and Carson, Christi's new baby and Corey's new playmate, are a wild pair when they get together. They are now five years old. Barbara and I were at daughter Kinley's house awhile back. Teresa's mom, a wonderful woman, was very ill. She was in hospice, and the end was near. Barbara and I offered to watch after Rachel and Carson during a very hard day for Teresa. We soon realized we had our hand's full, with these two. Barbara followed them around when they were in the house, I took over when they went outside. Rachel ran to the swing, jumped up and grabbed the ropes as high as she could, and was soon upside down. I was in panic mode. Teresa was a gymnast, and hoped Rachel would be also. I learned really quickly, she had gotten her wish.

     You may have seen it on the Internet. Rachel recited the twenty third Psalm, from memory. Rachel is not just a gymnast. Not just a pretty face, which she also is. Just five years old.

     Barbara and Rachel were talking."Guess what?" Rachel was saying."My Grams may get to go to see Jesus today!" Reading the sadness in Barbara's eyes, she said, "It's not a bad thing! She's going to get to live in a castle made of gold!"  From the mouths of babes...

      Teresa happened to look up the meaning of the name "Rachel" later. Oh, sorry, I almost forgot to tell you what she found.

 "Rachel: A Gift From God."

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Church Lady and Flat Shirley

This story was written by SHIRLEY McMILLAN, intended to be read at Barbara's 65th birthday party. Family business prevented her and her husband, Ronnie, from attending, so a large picture of them, Flat Shirley and Flat Ronnie, was sent in their place. (AKA Flat Stanley) It was accompanied by this story.
(Please ignore the fact that the document format and the blog format do not match up!)

“Ba-ba-ba, Ba-Barbara Ann…
Got me rockin’ and a-rollin’, rockin’ and a-reelin’ Barbara Ann!”

Once upon a time, in the quaint little Arkansas town of Arkadelphia, a fine couple with grown children
and almost grown grandchildren became quite convinced that they should find a different church
where they could study and worship without interruption. At last they settled into a storefront gathering
across from the tobacco store, and next door to a beauty shop and auto glass repair store. Flat
Shirley and Ronnie eventually decided to make Fellowship Church their new home.

Soon a dignified(?)... sophisticated(?)... proper (yes, that’s the word!) lady of the church greeted the
Flat Couple, and the Flat Lady was immediately convinced that they could never be friends with the
Church Lady and probably not her husband. My gosh, the Church Couple were too EDUCATED!
He wrote books; she didn’t like dogs; and she had a way of looking straight at you, leaning her head
to one side, and raising her eyebrows that made me very nervous! The Church Couple lived up town
and the Flat Couple lived down on a dirty farm for Pete’s sake!

Did I mention that the Church Lady seemed to be the best mom and nana ever born, which made the
Flat Lady feel like the worst mom and neena in the world? Church Lady’s house was always clean;
Flat Lady’s house was never straight! Nope, friendship was not to be! HOWEVER, when Church
Lady sets her mind to something, you can be assured that it WILL happen. She and her husband organized
and named the small cluster of “mature” members of the church, and the Mellow Fellows
group was born; probably to the chagrin of younger people they know who happen to catch them out
having a little fun.

In the mean time Flat Man is getting better acquainted with Church Man, and they seem to have lots
in common. Church Couple visits in the home of Flat Couple, where Church Lady is joyfully
“slimed” by the cute little white fluffy dog, and her sense of humor peeks through. Church Couple
visits Flat Couple’s student “K-Group” in the home of another Mellow Fellow-er. As Church Lady,
who has a bad back, arrives, she looks at Flat Man with raised eyebrows; he immediately jumps up
from the best chair in the room, and presents it to Church Lady! This amused and won the Flat Lady’s
heart forever, and she began to take lessons from the Church Lady. She LIKED this woman!
Years have come and gone, and in honor of the Church Lady, Flat Lady researched the name Barbara.
It comes from the Greek, though some would say Latin, meaning “foreign/ stranger/ traveler”. Saint
Barbara is the patron of architects, geologists, stonemasons and artillerymen. She’s been around
since the Middle Ages, hence the celebration of this monumental birthday! She may also be known
as Babbette, Barbary, Barbette, Barbro, Bobbie, Bora, Labarbara, Babe, Babs, Barb, and Barbie.
Whatever you call her, she’s quite a gal, and Flat Ronnie & Shirley love her and her devoted husband
Pat, and wish her a very happy birthday!


Yet another story I thought you might enjoy - -

Jane Quick’s – BARBARA

     If you are here, you know what it’s like to be Barbara’s friend.
     You already know what a treat it is to answer your doorbell and see her soft smile lighting up your doorway.

     There are many other selfless acts of kindness she could be doing – Working with unwed mothers, teaching people English as a second language, being a vibrant, growing church member, playing a myriad of family roles – or – entertaining “old gray haired widows!”

      But Barbara  is ALWAYS with you in the moment. She reminds me of one of Randy’s (JANE’S HUSBAND)  goals which was, “To be FOREVER learning, growing, caring, sharing.”
      Yes! That’s our Barbara! Always learning, always growing, always caring, always sharing….
 Happy Birthday, Barbara!

(Jane Quick is one of the most wonderful ladies Barbara and I know. She is an 88 year old ex OBU English Prof.  Barbara spends a part of each Wednesday afternoon with Jane.)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The King of Fayetteville

      Here I am, just lying in bed. Its nearly midnight, and I should have been asleep by now. I've just finished writing about our early married life at Fayetteville,  and thoughts of those early days of Fayetteville are still running through my head, things I haven't thought about for a  long time. A story begins to emerge and slowly comes together, a really good story. I know what I've  got to do. If I wait until morning, that story will just have crawled back into the dark recesses of my ancient mind, where its been hiding for many, many years. And, it may never surface again.
     I ease out of bed, can't wake Barbara. Too late. “Where are you going?” I tell her. She said, “Are you kidding me?”
     When I was a kid, growing up in Wing, I caught lots of catfish, and we needed them. They sure tasted good, after a diet of salt pork. But they weren't real big. In the early days of Fayetteville, I had access to larger rivers, and I thought more and more about cat fishing. Now, I should tell you. Cat fishing in Fayetteville is nothing like the Delta. Catching two or three nice catfish in the Delta is failure. In the mountains, it's hitting the jackpot.

      The year was 1968.  I saw a picture in the paper one day, of an old man with what looked to me like, at the time, an unbelievably large string of catfish. The caption under the picture was, “ Dick Dyer does it again!” Seems Dick Dyer was about the best cat fisherman around Fayetteville. I wished I could do that, but it seemed out of my reach. I should also tell you, Dick and I were totally river fishermen. A completely different game from the big lakes of today.
     Well, as it happened, shortly afterwards we moved into a trailer park at Anderson Place. Would you care to guess who my neighbor, right across the street was? You guessed it. Dick Dyer. I befriended him, I cultivated him, I quizzed him. After a while, Dick's MO began to emerge. I studied his techniques. He even let me go fishing with him, once. Well, he began to see that I could be a competitor somewhere down the line, and Dick dearly relished being the best river catfish catcher around. Maintaining that status consumed his whole life. He pretty well cut me off from any more information.
     But I knew enough. I began to catch more and more fish, emulating his methods. Dick was OK with that, he was catching more, and bigger fish. We went along there, nip and tuck, for several years. Then I slowly began to catch as many fish as he did, and probably about the same in total weight.  He still had the largest fish, 16 pounds. Every time he saw me, he told me about that 16 pound catfish.. He never let me forget about that 16 pound catfish.

     Barb and I were coming into our last months at Fayetteville. One really deep hole I fished a time or two that spring, with my limb lines probably tied to limbs I know now were too  solid, with very little give, just kept getting broke. The lines were 120 pound test or so, and I couldn't understand it at the time.

     Barbara and I were walking along the river bank, one day in June, on a picnic. I saw two old watermelon rinds lying on the bank, and they were just covered with hundreds of June bugs. I had never heard of anyone using June bugs to catch catfish, but I knew that in the late summer, they often fed by just skimming along the surface, picking up floating bugs and whatever they could find.  I had seen them doing that at night. After Barbara had walked on toward the car, I went back, pitched the rinds in the river, and the June bugs all floated up. I just scooped them all up, put them in a paper bag, and stuck them in the car. When we got home, I wrapped them up real tight in a freezer bag, and stuck them way back in the back of the freezer, out of sight. Barbara put no stock in mixing fish bait and food in the freezer. Late in the summer, I was watching TV one day, and I heard Barbara scream. I ran to the kitchen. There she was, the bag in one hand, a handful of June bugs in the other. Seems she had been going through freezer bags to find something to cook, stuck her hand in, and pulled out the June bugs. I caught it pretty good over that. As Barbara settled down some, a little later, I said, “ I've just got time for one more fishin' trip before we move, and no telling when I'll get to fish again. I'll get every one of those June bugs outta' here then..”  She agreed. Catch Barbara when she's not screaming with a handful of June bugs, and she's a great gal.
      Next week rolled around. I asked John Philpott if he wanted to go with me. Said he guess so, nothing better to do. We went back to that hole, where the White river and the West fork of the White river join, where my lines had been broken last spring. This time, I had a new idea. We were fishing with cane poles, very limber, and we stuck them way, way back in that mud bank. I floated each hook right on top of the water, each with a June bug on it. We ran the lines at midnight, and had a couple of ten pounders and a whole passel of smaller catfish. But, right where the two rivers join, that pole was going absolutely crazy! Ever tried to get a 25 pound catfish into a small landing net? We finally did. The next morning, we had a couple more ten pounders and another bunch of smaller catfish.. Then, we approached that last pole, right where the two rivers join. The pole was completely pulled out of the bank,  but it was still lying there, mostly out of the water. Lying in the water, either just too worn out  for one more flip of the tail, or having learned that was as far as he could go, was the brother to the last big one. He was also 25 pounds. Well, when I got home, the first thing I did was take them over to Dick Dyer. Dick came out, I held them up as well as I could. Didn't say a thing, I didn't have to. He never said a word to me. Just turned sorta yellow-green, turned around, dropped his head, and walked back  into the house. I never saw Dick again. We moved to Hannibal a couple of days later.

     About two weeks after we got to Hannibal, a letter chock-full of pictures arrived. A 40 pound catfish, and a whole bunch in the 20 pound range. The letter just verified the weights,  And in the picture an old man was smiling. Smiling right straight out at me. That's all. Not another word. The return name on the envelope was Dick Dyer.
     I knew Dick didn't have my address. But he managed to find it. And I also knew he had found my Glory Hole. All I could figure out was, he must have ragged John Philpott into telling him. I was pretty put out by this whole thing for awhile, then after I settled down some, I began to think about it a little differently. I had used Dick's methods, and his hard earned experience. He used me to locate the Glory hole. Fair's fair.
     I've never been back to that Glory Hole, but some day I will. Over the years, I think I've figured it out. There is a dam on the White River, a quarter mile up stream. Catfish swim upstream. Until they're stopped by a dam. The small fish stay there, in that shallow hole. The big fish go back downriver to the first very deep hole. Right where the two rivers join. In the Glory Hole. And there they still lie. Year after year, just getting bigger and bigger. Just waiting for me to come back and challenge them again. But Dick Dyer passed away many years ago, and when he died, he was still the King of the River Catfish Catchers in Fayetteville---and it just won't be the same. Who else in the world could care as much about the size of the catfish I might catch there as Dick Dyer did? Nobody, that's who.

     For all you other fishermen out there, I know you can find my Glory Hole from what I've told you here. But where will you find a whole sack full of  June bugs?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Romancing Barbara

     Following her directions, I headed for Watson Saturday night. I had misgivings. It was a well known fact at A&M, 25 miles away, that a young man just did not venture into Watson, alone, after dark. Watson had 3 or 4 really bad young dudes, they loved to fight, and they were good at it. Stories were told of one average to small looking guy who had mastered the art of getting in three running steps and throwing the first punch in a one – punch fight, usually against much larger guys.

According to the stories that abounded at Arkansas A&M, If any new, young guy dared enter the city limits of Watson in search of one of the numerous beautiful young women that seemed to abound in that town at that time, those three or four locals would look him over good, flip a coin, the winner would go into action, and the stranger would  quickly be seen  heading out of Watson, usually much the worse for wear. Many years later, that average to small guy told me that if you see it’s just gotta happen, don’t waste time blustering around. Just run as fast as you can toward him, get in the first punch. That seemed to work very well for him.

I slunk down in the seat as I drove down Main street. Well, actually, THE street. It was dark, but not nearly dark enough. Watson was like an old western town. In fact, at least one old western movie was made there. I couldn't help but remember all the men I had seen die in the dust of just such a street, in the movies. Well, I made it through town, breathing easier now, and headed for her house, out a winding gravel road three miles out through the cotton fields.

     When I arrived, Barbara invited me in. I thought the whole family must be there, but no. I just barely scratched the surface of the Dunnahoe clan that night. Her little sisters, two squirmy little girls, whispered and laughed to each other about how tall I was, how big my hands were, and would you just look at those feet! Her brother, about my age, an average to small looking guy, was there with his wife and baby. The brother, JD, shook my hand and all, but the look in his eye was anything but friendly. It wasn't until years later, I began to piece it all together from his stories about his "three running steps" technique, that I began to realize how tenuous my situation had been at that moment. The real danger was not on the streets of Watson, but here, in this house, looking at me hard. But his Mama and Daddy were there, and things went well that night.
We got to date several more times, but then student teaching was over, and I was headed off to St. Paul, Arkansas to begin my teaching career.

     I went to see Barbara every weekend I could, which meant when I was invited. Once, I called Barbara about coming that weekend. She said she would be alone that weekend, all the rest of the family would be at Little Rock visiting her sister Frances, But go ahead and come. Daddy won’t mind. This shocked me, because my Dad was very strict. My sisters weren’t allowed to date at all in high school, and this girl was 17. But I went. Well, as soon as we got back from the movie, Barbara told me it was time for me to head out. Well, I didn’t have any reservations anywhere, so I drove over on the levee, crawled in the back seat, and me and all those delta mosquitoes had a big party. All night long. Over time, I learned why Barbara had so much freedom at 17. She was an old soul, her parents trusted this girl completely, and she never gave them reason not to.

     At the end of the school year, Barbara was headed off to A&M to start college. I knew Barbara would be making a big splash there that summer, pretty girls like her always do. I decided to go to Oklahoma, work on a pipeline, make a little money. I knew Barbara still had ties to some guy in the Air force, and was not ready to put all her eggs in one basket yet. But we parted on good terms, each having no hold on the other.

     About mid summer, I stuck my gloved hand into a block and tackle on the pipeline job, and the last inch of my thumb just stayed with the glove. I went over and told the foreman, who had caused my accident in the first place, that I had lost a thumb. He cussed me out really good, for messing up his safety record. My Oklahoma adventure was over, and I was headed back to Arkansas. Driving home, I had no idea how losing that thumb was about to affect the remainder of my life.

      I drove down to see Barbara, in summer school at A&M. As I expected, she was making a big splash. Pretty, personable new girls tend to do that. Well, she was dating a football star,  the son of a football coach, who was making his own splash, and she still had ties to the Air Force dude, but she seemed, in talking with me, to be leaving the door open for us just a little bit, and I suddenly decided I had best go back to school the second summer term, pick up some chemistry. I signed up and went back to Wing a few days to collect my stuff. I wrote Barbara. Told her I met her football jock, and he seemed to me to think he was pretty wonderful. Well, she wrote back and turned my words right against me. She told me she had become convinced he was wonderful too, and another thing or two along that same line of thought.

     That hit me, and hit me hard. Here I was, already paid my tuition money, and I was getting the royal shaft.
     After thinking it over a couple of days, a couple of my hardest days ever, I decided to go to school anyway, as hard as that would be. I never liked to just throw away money.
     My old pals tried to cheer me up. Didn't work. My buddy Sam, a one legged guy, offered to fight him for me since I was thumb incapacitated. I was kinda hard to cheer up, seeing her all cozied up with him every day.

     Barbara and I both worked in the cafeteria. One day while we were working, Barbara asked me if I would take her to church that night. I thought awhile, maybe a second, and told her I didn't see why not. I saved my celebrating until I got back to the dorm. Things were looking up! I was in a really good mood, right up until I saw them, right out in front of my dorm, hugging and such. I think he brought her over there to put on a show for me.

     Well, that didn't help my mood much, and I was pretty cool to her at church. When I pulled up in front of her dorm, the jock was waiting. He came storming up. I knew I wasn't in good fighting trim, thumb cut off and all. Actually, I have never been a good fighter, thumb or no thumb. Well, I shouldn't have worried. He did all the fighting, with his words, all aimed right at her, right there in front of me. Barbara very nicely listened to everything he had to say, just ranted himself out, ending up with, “You either leave with me,  right now, or it's over!” She just looked at him, and very nicely said, “It's already over.” "Well, then, I want my picture back," he said. It was a nice, framed 8x10   and, bad as she hated to, I'm sure, she agreed to give it up.

     They say the meek shall inherit the earth. Well, that night I began inheriting the part of it I most wanted, Barbara. I was a little uneasy, as she very nicely went through the process of cutting off the other hopefuls, one at a time. By the time I had learned a little chemistry, and I was ready to head to St. Paul and my new coaching job, we were engaged. I always made sure, when I saw the jock coming through the lunch line, that I had her hugged up as she spooned food on his plate. He always got mad, red as a beet, but he never said anything.

     We got married on December 26 of that year, and we headed off to New Orleans. Well, I couldn't understand those Cajun's directions, and we never found New Orleans. But somehow, it just didn't seem to matter at the time.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Finding Barbara

Yesterday was Barbara's 65th birthday. I thought this might be a good time to tell you how I found Barbara, forty seven years ago, who I fell in love with on first sight, then set out on the year long struggle to win her heart. I fell in love so quickly, I now know, for purely physical reasons. She was beautiful, personable, and a really hot chick. But I had no way of knowing what was inside, and what a remarkable woman she would grow into. I had no way of knowing that her mature beauty would be even greater than that of that young girl, so many years ago.
I had been planning for the last five years to give her a really big birthday party on her 65th birthday, and last night it happened. Eighty or so of Barbara's friends attended, and dozens told of their memories of her, from our seven year old grandson Carson to eighty-eight year old Jane Quick. It was a truly magical night for Barbara, and we have both been as high as a kite ever since.
By the way, I did sell four copies of Spreading Wing at that party, and I promise it was unintentional, had nothing to do with my planning the party!                                                              

For a time, during my freshman year of college, I hitchhiked home to Wing occasionally, four driving hours away from Arkansas A&M. At that time, that was not as hard as it seems now. With my clean cut looks, an A&M bag in my hand, it seldom took more than five hours, though it might take a dozen rides to get there. That got a little easier when I got acquainted with Earl, who lived at Hollis, only thirty miles from Wing. I often rode with him to Hollis, and hitchhiked on home.

One Friday afternoon when we headed out, he told me he needed to first go over into the deep delta,  pick up a foxhound from a man to take to his dad. We drove over to near Watson, then took a dirt road for what seemed like forever, winding out through the cotton fields. Finally, he stopped at a farmer's house. While he was loading the dog, I got to looking at the neighbor's house, right next door.

Little did I know at the time, the love of my life was in that very house. Just pining away, awaiting the day I would come riding in on my great white stallion, sweep her up, and carry her off to live happily ever after.
     But she was only thirteen, and she was still four years into my future. I wish I could have just walked over to that house that day, went right in, and got a look at that little girl, knowing what the future held. Wouldn't that have been grand?

     After my junior year, I went to summer school. I had figured out if I did that, I could graduate at semester my senior year. Two pretty girls from Watson were making their grand entrance into college that summer, and were making a big splash as pretty girls like them always do. I was kinda’ caught up in the backwash of one of them, Janice, and we hung out together a lot.

     She was showing pictures from her billfold one day, and in the first one I saw her house. I then figured out that was the house where Earl and I had picked up that foxhound. The next picture was of a beautiful girl, in shorts, and it kinda’ made me catch my breath. “Who is THAT?” I asked. Well, Janice didn't think much of me going on about another girl while I was with her, and she closed her billfold, mumbling, “Oh, just a girl I live next to at home.”

     I had finally seen her. The love of my life. But she was still just a picture of a very hot chick, and she was still six months into my future. But I was quickly closing in on Barbara Sue Dunnahoe, little by little, one fateful step at a time.

     I decided to do my student teaching at Dumas, in the Delta, home of the Ding Dong Daddy. As I was finishing up my student teaching, I drove down to the Delta Dip one night, and I had no idea the love of my life awaited me there, and that my life was about to change forever. And I had forgotten to bring along my great white stallion.

     I was walking back to my car at the Delta Dip, and a guy I knew from A&M called me over. He was standing by a carload of girls, talking into the car. I walked over. In the front seat, driver's side, a pretty girl. Sitting beside her was another pretty girl. Then I looked into the back seat, far side, and there she was. A totally magical moment. Sitting there, before my eyes, was the most beautiful one-eyed girl I had ever seen. I almost dropped my burger. Her hair style covered one eye, but as soon as I saw the covered one, saw it was every bit as beautiful as the first one, I knew. This was the one. The girl I wanted to marry!

     But I had this problem, you see. In high school, I never dated much. Not totally my idea, but it just never happened. Around a girl I really liked, I just could never talk much. I just froze up. In college, I dated a little more, but if I ever found a girl I really liked, my problem returned. I just couldn't talk much, at least not sensibility. I might call her up and say, “Hey, you wouldn't want to go out with me, would you?” Then, if she hesitated, even for a moment, I would throw in the clincher. “That's OK, don't worry about it. I don't blame you. I wouldn't either, if I were you. Bye.”

     But this girl was so friendly, so bubbly and out -going, she would just not allow me to freeze up. She brought out the real me, which had been hidden deep inside me for all these years. Pretty soon, I was invited to sit in the car. Things were looking up.

     Tommy Neely walked up to the car. Tommy was a big jock from A&M. A total chick magnet. I knew Tommy well. I used to rub his legs a lot on a regular basis. Maybe I'd better explain that. He was a star on the track team, I was the manager.

     Tommy started talking to the girls about going to a big wild party he knew about. My heart sank.  I didn't like wild parties, and even if I was invited, I wouldn't dance much, except for the twist sometimes. And I usually got my legs all twisted up doing/trying that. But guess what! This girl said no. She didn't like wild parties. I suddenly fell deeper in love. Before the night was over, I had a date set up with her for Saturday night. Things were really looking up! But this was not going to be easy. It would be a long, uphill battle. My heart would be totally shattered in the process. I had best go find my great white stallion. I would need him, and much more.

The long, hard struggle to capture the heart of the love of my life had begun. Was I up to it?      

Monday, September 16, 2013

Completely Heartbreaking - Part Two

     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 to continue that pretty quickly. Way too quickly. 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, dying of Aids, in to live with her. She's there for a year. Dayton is now back, and is not wasting time. She became engaged the first day back.

     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 the word perfect.
They just left for Africa for two years of taking care of kiddies.

     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. A year later, he also broke our hearts, leaving Arkadelphia.

     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.   

By Pat Gillum

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Totally Wonderful - Completely Heartbreaking

Barbara and I attend Fellowship Church in Arkadelphia. 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. 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 just 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 our 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 IN FOUR DAYS.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

On Looking For a Mate - - -

     A guy who has never had a thought about hitting a woman just never speaks of it. If he has ever told you he would never hit you, he has that thought in his head, or he has done it before.
If he tells you that regular-like, plan on being a human punching bag after the wedding. Bust outta there!

     Don't marry for looks; looks will fade. (Barbara's the exception!) Character is what lasts forever.

     Watching how he/she treats their  family gives you a good idea how you will be treated.

     If he/she cheated with you, he/she will cheat on you. But then again, we don't even need to consider this one. You two deserve each other.

     If you have gone over the top, helping him/her, and been shown little appreciation, he/she has just gotten into the habit of expecting that of you. He/she is taking you for granted already. It will get much worse, but never gets better.

     If the wild, bad boy/girl is the only one who attracts you, your life will be one long, living nightmare.

     A woman can never change a bad boy. It just gets worse.

     If she expects her parents to go into debt, or steal from their retirement fund, to finance her big fancy wedding, she's selfish and self centered. Get away from her. She'll break you, too, and then you'll be history, anyway.

     If he/she cheats on you before the wedding, it will increase tenfold after the wedding, when the hot passion with you settles down some. Forgiving can, at best, only buy you an insecure future. First, express your appreciation for having given you this little warning sign, then turn and run. Before its too late.

     If you know he/she loves you more than you love him/her, you won't be doing any favors by settling for that. You WILL be doing everyone a big favor by easing out of it now. If the spark is not there now, it never will be. A gentle letdown is in order.

     The dominant person will set the pace, and by now you know where you fit in. If the dominant one is not good with money, and goes through it like slicing hot butter, and If you're not that dominant one, get out fast. Hell on earth is headed your way. Best if both are good with money, but that might be a little too much to ask.

     When all your friends and family say no, you'd do well to go - - fast! Remember, they're the ones who love you the most.

     Watch out for the "Hollywood Syndrome." If he/she requires constant adoration, you won't be able to hold up to those standards very long. And they'll be looking for someone else, who will.

     Beware of the control freak. If he/she tells you  they are the only one who loves you, and are always trying to get you away from family and friends, break the door down if you have to. But get gone.

     In our wedding photography career, Barbara and I saw a few little tell-tale signs that always prompted us to put a rush order on the pics!

     If  the bride gripes a lot at her bridesmaids on the wedding day, just remember. She picked them, like she picked you. Don't expect to fare any better after the wedding. You might want to consider sneaking out the back door.

     If the bride's Mama is a good Mama who has worked hard to bring this thing together, and the bride gripes at HER on that day, she's selfish and self-centered. These people don't stay married. Cut your losses and get outta there, however you can.  

      If you see, on the wedding day, that the wedding itself takes priority over the groom, plan on always playing second fiddle, at best. Start running, and never look back.

     If your new husband and your father get into a fist fight at the reception, and yes, we have seen that,  It's too late. But you might wish to check about an annulment.     

Wednesday, September 4, 2013



      Gobi was an international student at Henderson State University, majoring in Business Administration.
      Barbara and I had just begun attending a small, new church in Arkadelphia, which is today Fellowship Church. Gobi was from another country, and he was not raised a Christian. He became friends with an instructor who was a leader in our church, and along the way he began reading the Bible.

      One day, Gobi just showed up at our church. He became a regular. He told us, "When I was reading the Bible, I just could not get past the cross." Gobi was the first person baptized in our young church. Gobi had a full head of curly black hair, and was a very friendly and personable young man, liked by everyone.

      He was only weeks away from receiving his Master's degree. He became ill, was having trouble breathing. He was soon diagnosed with cancer. A very large tumor was found in his chest. The doctor told Gobi he needed regular chemotherapy treatments at Hot Springs, 35 miles away, for a long time. Gobi was alone in America, had no car. He had a job he had been walking to, but he became too weak to do that. Kinley, our daughter, set up a schedule for our church members to drive Gobi to Hot Springs. Kinley's family soon moved to Little Rock, and Barbara took over the scheduling, and much of the driving. Many of the treatments lasted six hours, so it was a half day committment to do that 

      His beautiful hair soon became thin and ragged, and he and Barbara visited a barber, got it all cut off. We never saw Gobi with hair again. He became very weak at times, and during those hard times, he stayed with us. Sometimes, he became so weak from a treatment, that Barbara had to help him get dressed so that he could go to yet another treatment. Barbara took over his laundry.

      When the scheduled chemotherapy treatments ended, tests showed the tumor had shrunk, but not enough. The doctor told him he needed to go to M. D. Anderson Hospital in Houston to continue treatments. It was not clear what further treatments involved, possibly surgery, or radiation, or maybe both. Gobi did not want to go. He was asked why, with his life hanging in the balance, he would not go. "I do not want to face surgery, and risk dying alone, so far from home," he replied. Barbara and I assured him, if surgery came up, he would not be alone.
      Barbara stood up in our tiny church that Sunday, and said, "Gobi needs to go to Houston, and I need $2000. by Friday." On Friday, she had $2000. And a plane ticket. And motel reservations.

      When Gobi got to Houston, surgery was soon ruled out. He began an intensive treatment with radiation.Someone from church had booked him a nice motel. Gobi changed that to a bare bones hotel, so as not to waste other people's money, living better than he felt necessary.

      When we talked to Gobi, he said he was doing fine, eating out of Target next door. "Target?" Barbara said. "Who eats out of Target?" Barb and I left for Houston. Turned out, that Target had a very large grocery, and a deli.
Gobi finished his treatments, and he returned to Arkadelphia. HSU allowed him to live in the International House, for free, while he recovered. HSU friends gathered around him and helped.

      Gobi's brother-in-law, Raj, the head of Gobi's family, flew to Arkadelphia to see about him, and ask about the possibilities of taking him home. Gobi emphasized to us, never speak to Raj about religion. He would wait for the right moment.

We had Gobi and Raj over for dinner, and took them on an outing to Hot Springs. Raj had a big laugh about the size of drinks at Wendy's. The doctor emphasized to Raj, It would be very risky for Gobi to leave his doctors, and travel home, now.

      Raj prepared to return home. The last night, he lay awake in his bed, a long time. He said to Gobi, "Where does this kind of love come from? These strangers treat you like family. I have never seen this kind of love." Gobi's "right moment" had arrived, and he made the most of it.

      Money for Gobi to live on was raised, by means of a few letters written to key people. He was pronounced free of cancer, and he finished up his degree.

      Gobi was ready to return home. The scene at the airport was tramatic. He and Barbara hugged, cried, and Gobi started for the plane. He came back, they hugged and cried some more. Finally, he was on his way home.
      Gobi left behind a pretty hefty bill at M. D. Anderson that his insurance did not pay for. He could have easily skipped out on that bill, leaving the country and all. But he insisted that the bills be forwarded to him. Out of his small income at the time, he paid every cent of that bill. He told Barbara, "How do you not pay people who saved your life?" Thats just Gobi for you.

      Gobi is now a professor, has a beautiful wife, Poova, and a wonderful child, Hiranya.
      A few days ago, daughter Kinley made a nice little post on facebook 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.