Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Scrabble Wars: Dr. Deadlift

     Early in our married life, Barbara and I were already playing Scrabble. I had played longer, all the way through College, and I had the edge. We realized quickly, we were both very competitive about it. Once I beat her pretty good, and she stormed out of the house, announced she was leaving, got in the car, and sprayed gravel all over that house.. Well, I knew Barbara didn't even know how to get out of town yet, much less drive home to Mama. She drove a few laps around town, settled down some, and came home.
    A marriage counselor would not have recommended it, I'm sure, but we both loved the game and just continued on playing. Pretty soon, Barbara was winning her share.

    A year or two later, we had moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas. Late in March, we got a very unusual 17 inch snow fall. We had nothing else to do, so we played Scrabble. She beat me like a rented mule, and I stormed out, into the real storm. I plowed through that snow until I had a pretty good trail around and around that house, just gave out, then I, too, returned home. I'm sure people driving by wondered why I had a trail around the house in that deep snow, while my car would remain snowed in for days. I should have used all that energy to dig the car out, but Scrabble anger is not a sensible anger.

    Jump ahead with me 40 years or so. Barbara, always a word freak and crossword guru, had taken command. After I had lost a very long string of games, the final loss galled me so, I lost it. I was now an old man, and that kind of rage is just not good for an old man. I grabbed the board, flung it far across the room. We didn't play for awhile, because I was digging tiles out of the far corners of that room for some time.
    When I finally found a full set of tiles, old habits were hard to break, and we continued on. I finally accepted the fact that I was going to be the majority loser, and learned to relish my occasional victory. Barbara had learned so many new words, it was hard, but we played so often, I slowly began to learn them too, at a terrible price. 

    Finally, one glorious day, the Scrabble Gods just started smiling at me, frowning at Barbara, and I won 7 games in a row. This juicy little tidbit has never been told before,  It is just not a safe thing to talk about. Well, after that 7th loss, Barbara jumped up from the couch, grabbed the board, and just slammed in down, upside down, on the couch. Well, I knew it would take a long time to find all those tiles, and I was fine to rest on my laurels for some time,  and just generally enjoy this current status. But Barbara would have nothing to do with that, dug them all out quickly, and stated she was ready to play. You just don't beat Barbara like a rented mule and walk away from it.

    When Barbara got her magic phone, with internet-GPS-everything, she sought the best players she could find on the internet, and keeps a few games going all the time on Words with Friends.
    When we went to bed, she would kiss me goodnight, I went to sleep, and she would play awhile with a couple of guys/girls until she went to sleep.

    I've never been a jealous type husband, mainly because she never gave me any reason to be.
    Things change Once she put her picture out on the internet to her personal friends, made a mistake somehow, and it went to the whole internet. As anyone can plainly see, Barbara always looks good in a picture. She is an expert poser, from her photography years, and always applies all her skill to her own pictures. Soon, Dr. Deadlift responded. Wanted to play some Scrabble. Said she looked like someone who could give him a good game. I wondered about that. He could tell all that from a picture? By way of introducing himself, he referred her to Facebook to explain his name. Barb called me up to look at it. At 56 or so, he was a world champion weight lifter, and worked in Homeland Security. Well, all that was too much for me. She was taking that picture off anyway, and she cut off Dr. Deadlift when she saw how much it bothered me. I soon came to realize, I was being silly. He never talked about anything except the game, always a perfect gentleman, and he WAS a top tier scrabble player. You either trust someone or you don't, and one of the things we had both always been happy about in our marriage was the fact that we never gave each other that kind of grief. I told her to put him back on, but don't be playing Dr. Deadlift, in the bedroom, after I go to sleep. I never play Barbara any more. With all her internet scrabble, she has left me behind. And Scrabble is just something I cannot tolerate always losing at. The Scrabble Gods just no longer have a role in it. Word to the wise: Don't challenge Barbara unless you are in the top tier. You remember what I told you about that rented mule?

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Point of no Tomorrow - Part Two

 This is a story that could be anyone's Life. As most Southerner's lived! Beautiful work and great read! Please write more! - Linda Smith

I loved this book. Pat is an awesome author. He needs to write more books. I would read all his books.

Sport protected his girls from the ugly things in life. But his only son, J.D., was right in the middle of everything with him. And, J.D. carries his genes. He's a lot like him. Once, Sport had loaned Albert, his nephew, his shotgun to hunt with. He handed Sport his gun back just as a Game Warden pulled into the yard behind him. He started ragging Sport pretty good about loaning his gun to that kid. Sport had enough. “Did he hurt anybody with it? Did he damage anyone's property with it?” “No, but - “ “Then get in your truck and get off my property.” The shotgun, still in Sport's hands, added emphasis. He left. Barbara, as a little girl, witnessed this exchange, a rare event. She was scared they were just going to come and arrest the lot of them.
     Sport would just not allow any man to take anything from him. Or push him. If you pushed Sport, there would only be a small number of possible outcomes. Sport would get hurt, you would get hurt, or he would stop you. And Sport always handled that option in such a way that it never happened again. The humiliation prevented that..That is best illustrated by this little example----
     Once, a very cranky old neighbor had two large dogs. They were very bad at chasing and killing livestock. They struck Sport's livestock, and Sport went to visit the man. “That has to stop.” The old man said, “You mess with my dogs, and there will be some killing going on.”
     A few days later, they struck again. Sport had J.D. bring the gun. Sport gave the word as the dog ran by, chasing a calf. J.D., a dead shot like his father, took him out. Soon the other was dead too. Sport loaded them up, and they went to visit the neighbor. Sport threw both the dogs up on the porch, and pounded on the porch with his shotgun. When the old man emerged, saying, “What's going on here?” Sport said, “You told me, if I messed with your dogs, there would be some killin'.  I'm here to start it.” Well, the old man wilted. “Now, don't you worry none about those dogs!” They left. J.D. was puzzled. “Why did we not just take the dogs down and throw them in the Bayou? He would never have found them.” Sport answered, “ If we had done that, that old man would have been bad mouthing us all over the country. This way, there will never be another word said about it.” And there wasn't.
     One of Sport's cows wandered off into a neighbor's pasture. He sent J.D., a young boy, to get it. The neighbor man told J.D., “It's in my pasture now. It's mine.” When J.D. told Sport, Sport said, “Let's go get it.” Sport started up toward the man's house. J.D. said, “We could cut the fence in the back and get it out.” Sport shook his head. “I'll get it.”. He walked up by his front door, into the pasture, got behind it, and drove it through the man's front yard. Nothing was ever said.
     The road grader man started making his turn through Sport's bean field, taking out more and more of Sport's beans. Sport stopped the man, told him to stop doing that. Well, before long, he did it again. Sport ran him off, this time with a shotgun. A short while later, the County Judge found the road grader man a new place to turn around.
     A rich, big landowner bought up some land next to Sport. Told Sport, “The old survey is wrong. You'll have to move your fence back 50 feet.” Sport replied,  “That fence has been there since 1927.
It stays there.”
     Well, a while later a couple of surveyors showed up, started setting up their equipment. Sport and J.D. walked down. Sport: “Nothing is going to be changed down here..” The surveyor started explaining, “We're doing the job we were hired to do, check these old lines.” Sport said, “I've got a shotgun here that says you're not going to survey anything here.” The younger man wanted to get bad, but JD stopped him. “You just really don't understand the situation. If that old man says you don't, you don't. For your own sake, you best go home.” The older man toned the younger one down, and they went home. They never came back.

     The girls, for the most part, never knew about any of this. Their sweet Daddy could just never have said any of those words. And that fits right in with my daughter Kinley's memories of sitting in his lap, putting rollers in his hair, and painting his fingernails. But in the “wild west” of the early Delta country, a man had to stand his ground or just move. Sport never moved. I fully believe all of this for two very good reasons. First, J.D. is just like him. Second, I've seen those strong genes of Sport's in every one of those girls, cropping up from time to time. They call it “Dunnahoe Nerve.” They are all very strong women, always ready to stand up to whatever life throws at them. All us in-laws were very fortunate to find a member of this family to scoop up and marry.  Sport just had that unique ability to be a fun loving, lovable person, always loved dearly by all those around him. But he had rather die than allow himself to be pushed. If Sport Dunnahoe had been my father, I could never have loved or respected  him more. When I fished with Sport's grandsons, and great grandsons, I came to realize, some of them only know Sport Dunnahoe by his name. I hope, in writing this, they will come to realize what a great man he was. On my “Great men I have known” list, Sport Dunnahoe stands right up there with the best of em'. An ancestor to be proud of.

     Later in life, Sport was diagnosed with dementia, but he never lost his sense of humor. A doctor was interviewing him in his office to determine the extent. “Mr. Dunnahoe, what is today's date?” “Thursday, August 4.” Very good, Mr. Dunnahoe. How did you do that so easily?” With a little grin on his lips, Sport replied. “Its on the calendar, right behind you.” Another time, he was in another doctor's office with a daughter. The doctor came in. She immediately started giving instructions to the daughter, ignoring him. She was saying, “Take one tablet, four times a day, and-” Sport was pulling on the daughter's sleeve, with that little grin.. “What is it, Mr. Dunnahoe?” “Well, that just looks like it would be sorta hard – taking the same pill, 4 times a day.” “Point well taken, Mr. Dunnahoe. The next time I will talk to YOU about your medicine.” Barbara was taking Sport home from the Hospital. At the door, she instructed, “Stay right here while I go get the car. Don't move.” Sport was getting around pretty slow by now, and said, “I could start right now and not get outta' sight by the time you get back.”
     Sport left us all with a vast array of  “Sport-isms.”. My favorite is, “Being right won't help yore' old haid' none.”

      After Verla Mae died, Sport just couldn't go on without her. He gently explained to all his girls, “I just can't live without her.” Just a few months later, Phyllis found him dead in his bed one morning. The paramedics said it must have been a heart attack, there was a blue spot on his chest. But we all knew. A broken heart is just one kind of heart attack. Verla Mae's death had pushed Sport to the point of no tomorrow.
Every post on my blog, up to this point, has been more or less completely true, give or take a little, depending upon how my memory is holding up that day. At this point, I'm going to start throwing in a little historical fiction in some posts. Historical fiction, as you know, must have at least a grain of truth. See if you can pick it out! Thanks for your time, and your attention!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Point of No Tomorrow

Amazon reader review of SPREADING WING
I am a huge fan of memoirs, in fact that is all I have been reading lately. I really love books that range from the depression to WWII. This is the best one I have read in a LONG time. Easily the best one so far this year. It does have a couple of slow spots but it's worth pushing through. What I really like is this book tells the authors whole story. Starts out growing up on the "Wing" and ends with his shoestring budget globetrotting. If you like memoirs seriously pick this up, you will not regret it!  - TurboShadow

Sport - August Dillard Dunnahoe

     Sport was one of a kind. A man I will never forget. He was always ready for a fishing, hunting, or camping trip when we got to Watson. Even as an old man, it never bothered him a bit to sleep on the hard ground. If a catfishing trip was in the offing, he hooked up the middle buster, plowed up a strip across the old hog pen, and we picked up a gallon or two of huge buckshot worms. Then we headed for the river.

     If there were games to be played by the children, Sport  was always the ringleader. Even in his older years, with arthritis in his knees from so many years of following a mule and a plow, he could always keep up. Once, when he was about 65, we were playing touch football. I was just a few years from running college track, and I thought I was a runner. I went out for a pass. Sport was covering me. I just could not shake him! He stuck to me like glue.

     When the children and grandchildren got rowdy in the house, Sport just looked at the rowdiest one, stuck out his hand, and said, “Come round' by me, boy!” ( Boys and girls alike were "Boy" to Sport) They never “came round‘ by him,” they knew the danger in that. But they all exited the room pronto. Mission accomplished. There were always plenty of rowdy kids. I've seen ten crawling babies on the floor at once in his house.. And that was just in the living room. Nowadays, Sport's offspring  number over 130. And they most all come to the family reunion. Phyllis, Sport's youngest daughter, just sees to that.

     Once, when Barbara and I were in California, we visited her cousin, Albert, who grew up near Watson. He said, “When I was a child, every weekend, all us kids showed up at Sport's house. Our own fathers were too tired to play, but Sport never was. He demonstrated to us all how a father should play with his children, and I am a much better father myself because of Sport. He influenced an entire generation of boys, and they are all better fathers because of him.”

     Although Sport was always loving and protective of his girls, He also taught them to take care of their own problems. Once, just after Barbara started driving, she ran out of gas a quarter mile from home. She walked home, saw Sport in the yard, and told him the truck was out of gas, and started walking in the house. Sport said, “Hey, wait a minute! Go out to the tank, get some gas, and go get the truck. You ran out of gas, not me. Next time, be sure there's plenty of gas in the truck before you head to town.”

     The one time Barbara remembers disobeying Sport, he had told her she could take the truck to
Watson. Well, when she got together with her girl friends, they wanted to go to Dumas, so she took em'. The next day, she was torn by guilt, and she told him. He said, “Well, you shouldn't have.” That was the end of that.

     Sport was endlessly curious. If I showed up at Watson with some minor car problem, the first thing Sport would say would be, “I wonder why a feller couldn't -” and then, he would proceed to tear into the motor to see, stopping when he found out. Or maybe, when the car wouldn't run at all. I soon learned to keep my car problems to myself at Watson.

    Watson, in the old days, not that long ago, was a lot like the old west. A man had to look out for himself, and his family. Nobody else would. Sport had a side to him that I never saw, or heard about, until after his death. Sport protected his six girls from the ugly things in life. They never knew about most of what I'm about to tell.
Continued in Four Days - Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Dunnahoe Clan - Verla Mae

Check out my book, SPREADING WING on amazon.com.    Read the reviews which have given it a five star rating! Also available on kindle.

     During those early years in our marriage when we lived at Fayetteville, and later, we spent a lot of time at Watson. Mostly, we just loved to be there, but also, Verla Mae, Barbara's mother, just had some mysterious hold on her large family. She seldom spoke, but when she did, they listened. Right up until the day she died. When she called our house, if I answered, all I ever heard was “Barbara there?” Then when she got Barbara on, she said her say, a few words, then just disappeared from the air waves. Never “bye” or “so long.” just disappeared.  If one of the things she said in that phone call was, “Ya”ll coming for Thanksgiving?” we went. We all did. She always prepared about twice as much food as we needed, and we ate it. By the time that food had just began the digestive process properly, she was at the living room door. “Supper.” Then she was off to somewhere to eat hers alone.

     Us prospective and actual in-laws never really knew where we stood with Verla Mae. She just never talked to us much. The only hint of where I stood with her occurred one day before we were married when another guy she was dating for a time, the jock, came home with Barbara to meet the family. (His idea, Barbara says.) She got Barbara alone, said, “Where's Pat?” A short time later, I was back in the fold, he was out. I've always had a warm place in my heart for Verla Mae about that.

      I have never seen a large family so close. They pretty well all wound up living close together, but if some of us did venture off for a time to another state, Sport and Verla May just got in that old truck and came to us, regularly. Verla Mae worked very hard, and she was always very fast. If she was chopping cotton, and Sport dared to suggest she slow down a little, as she was chopping too many cotton plants, She didn't say a thing. Just threw the hoe down, went to the house. Sport seldom did that, by the time I came around. Throughout our married life, as we worked together, if Barbara or I got a little too bossy, we had only to say, “I'm gonna throw my hoe down.”

     If one of her children wanted/needed some new clothes, shoes, etc. badly, they never discussed it. Verla Mae just found a way to make it happen, it just showed up on their bed one day. There was never any family discussion about whether they could afford it or not, it just showed up. Never a word said later. But they always got by, money wise. Verla Mae just saw to that. Sometimes, after the girls got older, Verla Mae would buy them new shoes and she would wear their old ones. She made sure her children and grandchildren never missed celebrating a holiday. One rainy Easter, she hid a dishpan full of Easter eggs in the house. Took hours to find them all. She was a firecracker fanatic. I think she liked them more than the kids did.

     Verla Mae loved to drive around, find an old house place, dig up some plants to put in her yard. When she got behind the wheel, she started humming church songs, then got to tapping her gas pedal foot to the  beat of the music. That could be a hard ride. Phyllis said, they bobbed their heads long before head bobbing became the thing to do

     Verla Mae instilled an extremely strong sense of right and wrong in her children, similar to the old Gillum “ Do Right Mechanism” I have already talked about.  But somehow, she just brought it about,  with no screaming at them, no constant reminding, no watching them with eagle eyes. However, they did get  THE LOOK if they messed up. She expected it, therefore they did it. Maybe a “Stop messin' and gommin'” thrown in occasionally. Just generally speaking, some sort of magic.

     A little word about THE LOOK. Barbara inherited THE LOOK. During the years Barbara was  substitute teaching, she was always the first sub called to handle a difficult situation. Even in boy's PE, shop, whatever. They quickly learned, that soft spoken young lady could just put a rowdy kid on the floor with THE LOOK. Kinley was always especially vulnerable to it, and would do anything she could to avoid it. Oh, all right! I'll admit it. I was, and am, vulnerable to it too. I have changed more than one segment in my writing, when Barbara, while proofreading, gave me THE LOOK.

    When Verla Mae's  children got married, they always stayed married. None of that messing about stuff. The world needs a lot more mothers like Verla Mae Dunnahoe.

     Verla Mae had a very hard time in her last years. Congestive heart failure dogged her for a long time. Once, in the hospital, daughter Patsy was helping her across the room. She just totally collapsed. Patsy ran to the hall, and there just happened to be a team of doctors with a defibrillator walking by. They hurried in. One doctor got to her side, while the other got the machine ready. Right after the first doctor pronounced her dead, the second doctor kicked a can out of the way to get the machine in place. "Do you want her back?" A doctor asked Patsy. "Oh, yes! Yes!" After awhile, the machine brought her back to life.

      Later, she took Patsy aside. “You should have let me go. I was floating above that room. I saw the doctor kick something aside. I saw a bright warm light. It was pulling me to it. I wanted to go. Then I was pulled back, slowly, into my body. I wish I had been able to go.” A year later, she finished that journey that she had started that day.

Monday, October 14, 2013

My Princess Barbara - Good Will Ambassador to the World

      Wife Barbara and I drove around Sweden, Norway, and Denmark for 34 days. It was very high fun, but very difficult for an old dog like me, who picks up new tricks very slowly! I'm glad to be back to the English speaking world, away from those very long, very difficult words and road signs. Barbara told me when we got back, she was never going to ride that long in a foreign country with me driving again, though we already are searching for another place to go to without backtracking. My creative U turns seems to make her a little dizzy and unsure, as I stay all the time. But our little car was just as pretty as before when we turned it in, not a single scratch or dent, though neither of us have been able to figure out how that happened.

       When I drove around Southern Europe for a month a while back, my greying hair turned almost white, what I had left. I'm not kidding you. This time, I came home finding wrinkles in strange spots that I had not seen before, and the grey hair on my left shoulder seems to have grown an inch.  Driving in large cities without being able to read the signs, make sense of the maps, or without knowing the rules of the road was hard, and sometimes scary. Keep in mind that was not the natural habitat for an Arkansas Hillbilly, anyway!

       The most difficult thing was, not being wealthy and traveling on a shoestring as I told you before, those countries turned out to be very expensive, especially Norway. although it may be the most beautiful country we have seen. A hotel we pay $75 for in the US ran $250 up. Since our planned daily budget was $200, we had to be very creative. We also stayed in B&B's, guest houses, camping cabins, and hostels.

         My job was driving and carrying the bags, Barbara was in charge of ATM's, computers, and the like, all in strange languages, but where she really shines is in public relations.

         One night we were in a huge building that, I was told, was an "Old Folks Home" renovated into a Hostel. We were totally alone, not another LIVING soul in the building. Or so I thought. I wandered up to the third floor, and saw a door open, with a light on inside. I went in to check it out. It was full of computers,
etc. I heard a tiny woman's voice say - h-h-hello? When she settled down some from me walking in on her like that, she said her husband has a farm nearby, they rent an office space. I apologized for scaring her, and she was nice about it. But as soon as I left, she locked up and went home really quick.

  I had already finished reading all the books I brought with me, so I started looking at Swedish books to take my mind off the strange noises coming up from the basement. I found a picture book about Princess Victoria, their Crown Princess. Hundreds of photos of her in different situations. I began to realize she was a lot like Barbara. Totally at ease in any social situation, perfectly posed in every photo, perfect make-up, clothes perfectly matching and wrinkle free. Just like Barbara. Knowing, as I did, that we were able to find a place where we could use a clothes washer only three times in thirty four days, that we washed clothes in our bathroom sink, dried them on a radiator or in the back half or our car while we traveled, I have no idea how she always looked so perfect, but she did. That night, she managed to find a room with a bathtub shaped like a washing machine box, and took a long bath in it, to drown out the noises from those who-knows-whats  still playing around in the basement, then we washed out our clothes in the box. The lady who rented us the room showed up the next morning to fix a great breakfast for us. She said they had just turned on the heating system, based on water pipes going very deep into the ground and pumping slightly warmer water up through our radiator. That could have accounted for the strange sounds.

       One of the most enjoyable things for me, in our wanderings, is watching her interact with the locals. Once, we were in a line of a dozen or so people waiting for a toilet. (Toilet is the only word that worked there. Ask about a restroom or bathroom brought only blank stares.)  Anyway, everyone was totally quiet. Not a word was said. Finally, Barbara stated, "You Swedish people sure are a quiet bunch." An old man, way up the line, said, "Yes, we have always been a very stoic people."  Immediately, everyone broke out laughing and talking, and before our turn for the toilet came, she had a dozen new friends who knew her well, and all about our travels there. Most wanted to know, "do you have relatives here?  Most tourists go to Southern Europe." We have already seen Southern Europe. Besides, did we look blonde to them? Well, I could have been. A long time ago.

        Trying to place our order for Kabobs in a fast food place, where they do things very different than we do, she started asking people around her how you do this or that, and they all started helping. By the time she got our order, she was friends with everybody in the joint. Thinking of Hillary Clinton's book, I explained to them, "It takes a village to keep her going straight." The next day, we were walking in a mall. A young man who worked there started pointing at us and laughing, when we were still a long way off. I checked to make sure my pants were zipped. Actually, he turned out to be one of Barbara's new friends, from the Kabob place from the night before.

         I could go on and on, but you get the idea. She always keeps in mind that we may very well be the only Americans some of them ever talk to, and she uses her God-given ability to make friends instantly, and leaves a long line of smiling new friends behind her every day. How's that for a great good-will ambassador for America?

         By the way, Barbara is a great money manager. Though we haven't seen the final figures yet, It appears we are going to be right on budget, Thanks to eating out of a ton of grocery stores, where, of course, several women were quickly showing us the ropes and explaining what was what, and sleeping in as many camping cabins and hostels as hotels. Every room we slept in was amazingly clean. I could not have scraped up a thimble full of dirt in all of them. The people were very friendly, trusting, and helpful. I had heard before the trip that they may very well be the most civilized people in the world, and I now believe that. And, I have never seen so many tall, slender, truly blond and beautiful women in my life! Actually, of course, my favorite hair color is brown, like Barbara's.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Bonnie Goes Off The Deep End

      I talk a lot about Barbara, in my writing, but I seldom mention Bonnie. And, as you know if you've seen my book, The Gillums aren't like other people.
Well, Bonnie is not just unlike other people, she's a whole lot different. She is so different, we just don't treat her like we do other members of our family. When we go somewhere, and take Bonnie along, we just normally leave her sitting outside, in the parking lot. People would just not be understanding if we tried to take Bonnie inside.
      Well, when we got back from church a while back, something was wrong. Maybe she was upset about us leaving her outside. Anyway, we knew something was bad wrong with her when we got home. Bonnie would just not stop chattering. No matter what we did, she would just not shut up.
      We called our friend Skeet. He knows a lot about Bonnie's type. He has three of his own, who live with him. In fact, he is so crazy about Bonnie's type, his wife Willene just has to really stay on top of the situation, or Skeet would pick up a new one, and bring her home, every time he goes to town. But Skeet just has a thing about red. He always says, "Red is the natural color" for those like Bonnie.The most prominent feature, on all those Skeet takes home, is red.
Well, Skeet and Wilene came over, and even an experienced man like Skeet couldn't figure out how to make Bonnie shut up, without hurting her, and we sure didn't want to do that.
As it happens, we have a friend, James, who is in charge of a bunch of guys who spend the day, every day, keeping Bonnie's type healthy. If anyone knew how to shut her up, he would.
We called him, and as luck would have it, he just happened to be driving by Arkadelphia on I-30 just as he got our call. He was soon there.
      He took one look at Bonnie, opened her up, and started pulling things out. We were shocked and horrified, but it worked. Bonnie didn't say another thing.
He said that we should take her to this place that specialized in helping the Bonnie's of this world, first thing Monday.
      Then he said he had one other thing he had to do to her today, to keep her from being all run down by Monday, but he wasn't really sure where it was located on Bonnie in particular.
     He searched all over her, and finally, he had to check her rear end. And there it was. Barbara couldn't stand to watch anymore. He just reached in there and took the negative cable off, and that did it.
I called Gildner Chevrolet, first thing Monday, and made an appointment. The service manager said the warranty would cover it, if she had under 35,000 miles. Well, she was just a few miles short of that. I figured we would just barely make it there, and I started taking off all the stickers, from that place we bought her from in Hot Springs, that I could find on Bonnie.
      I asked the service manager, Jeff, if we could park Bonnie right up at the very front of the garage, and please, don't test drive her until you check the mileage.
     Jeff, who just happened to be an ex-student of mine, just smiled and said, "Don't worry, Mr. Gillum, I'm going to take GOOD care of you." I was just a little scared about what he meant by that, and I started running back through in my mind, trying to remember if I had missed a sticker, and what grade I had given him in biology. But anyway, its generally good to have ex-students in powerful places, and it worked out well this time.
      Bonnie only needed, as it turned out, to have her ignition switch repaired, and Jeff took care of me.
By the way, Barbara named Bonnie, her cute little HHR car, after Bonnie and Clyde, after someone told her she resembled their car.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Arson Strikes - Part Two

When the trial came, she testified fully, and several were convicted. I'm not really sure how much jail time they actually served.

      The local volunteer fire department operated like many others, in that people who lived in the town, if they chose, could pay a regular yearly payment, then if they ever needed the fire department, they were not charged for the services. Those who did not pay the yearly charges were billed for the efforts if their house burned. This house was one of those not covered.

When the bill was sent out for this particular fire, the victim's name was on the bill. But, since the victim was now out of it, and I had taken the house back over, it eventually came to me. The insurance coverage figured in one thousand dollars for the fire department. But this particular bill was for just under six thousand dollars. I appealed it to the fire department, because one thousand, or at most two thousand, seemed to be customary in such cases. They held their ground, said they had to come back again an again all day as flareups occurred, though it was pretty well flat on the ground by 9 AM, and the investigators were already sifting through it.

I checked around. Other volunteer fire department chiefs told me two thousand dollars was the most they had ever charged to fight a similar house fire.

      The insurance company check for the bill that was submitted by the fire department came to me. For it to be cashed, it had to be signed by me and the fire department. I talked to my lawyer about this. He said he couldn't help me. Said taking on a volunteer fire department in court was about like taking on Grandma and her apple pie. I asked him, “Well, what if I just bow up and refuse to sign the check?” He just grinned.

     For months, mail contact went back and forth between us. Little progress. They sent me a letter telling me they were about to turn this over to their “team of lawyers.” I wrote back, told them that it excited me to think that they thought it would take a whole team of lawyers to handle me in a courtroom, when a blind and deaf lawyer would probably shoot me down really quick. I told them the last thing I wanted to do was face their team of lawyers in court, but then I added, “I just have to stick to my guns, whatever happens, because someone at that fire department has tried to stick that victim with a bill she would never get out from under, working for McDonalds and raising three kids alone.

     I got another letter. Said their team of lawyers had determined that five thousand dollars was the maximum bill they could send out, so they would reduce it to that. I wrote back and told them I couldn't hang with that, as I already had my heart set on getting to be in court, facing a whole team of lawyers! How exciting is that! And, with all those reporters and such who still seemed to be really interested in this case, It would get a lot of press. And, all of Arkansas would be reading about their town...again. I reminded them the time limit was about to run out on this check. It wouldn't be any good in a short while. I said, “Just to be nice, I will settle for four thousand dollars.” Or, if they could look back in their files, and prove that anybody else in that town had ever in history paid them as much as five thousand dollars in such a case, I would happily settle for that amount. I was overwhelmed by their silence about that.

     I continued investigating. Seems the president of the Arkansas Volunteer Fire Department Association had a good reputation for being a good, honest, fair man. I wrote, “ Let's just put this whole thing into his hands. I will abide by his decision.”. They wrote right back, saying, “Did you not get our letter? We're settling for four thousand.”

     We settled up. I still had that lot to sell. When I finished up with that, I was ready to leave that town. Forever.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Arson Strikes

     When Barbara and I sold our photography business in 1998, we invested much of our profit in two large, older rent houses, both in small towns a good ways from Arkadelphia. I spent several months cleaning them up and remodeling them, then put them on the market. Buying one of those turned out to be a mistake. It didn't rent well. Took a long time. Then, when it did rent, I found out it's hard to keep a good eye on whats going on there. It finally rented to a couple of women. After a couple of months, they just stopped paying rent. We started the process of eviction. Turns out, that had been their MO for some time. Pay rent a couple of months, then live free for six months, while the eviction process winds at a snail's pace through the court system, month after month.

     In Arkadelphia, that process moves fairly quickly along. But in the county where this house was, it was painfully slow. It all depends on how quickly the law serves notices, how hard it is to find the proper person to serve it to, how far apart court dates are, etc. It also depends on how well the renter understands how to work the system, stretching it out. And, these two were pros. Plead innocent the first time before the judge, to get a later date set maybe a month or two down the line. When the final court date did arrive, after six months, and they were finally before a judge with all the facts on the table,  the judge gave them twenty four hours to get gone. But that back rent money is hard or impossible to recover, if they don't have a steady job, or a known bank account that is not moved regularly. Or, If you just don't have a clue about were they disappeared to. I never saw a dime of that rent.

     Another renter, a year or so later, wanted to “Rent to own.” I was ready to sell, so we worked out a deal. With a down payment, the renter takes over upkeep expenses, pays the property taxes, insurance, and keeps paying about the same amount each month as they paid in  rent until it's paid off. Then it belongs to the renter.

     This buyer was a single mother, with mixed race small children. She worked at McDonald's. Things went along well, for a short time.

     This town, it seems, has, for the most part, all white people. One night, a cross burned in her front yard. Then guys harassed her most of the night with fireworks thrown up against the house.
      But this was a gutsy little woman. The next morning, she called the FBI. A hate crimes investigation was soon under way. One of the guys came by the next day. He apologized to her, begged her to call off the FBI. Her answer: “I don't want to hear it. Tell it to the FBI.”.

     After another day or so, fearing for her children, she told me she wanted out of the deal. She was moving. Knowing this was not her fault, that she was a victim here, I agreed to give her every penny of her down payment back, and I did. Though legally, the down payment was mine to keep. She moved in with her mother. She started moving her things, and I took the house back over.

     About three days after the cross burning, I was fishing on Lake DeGray early one morning. My property manager called me there. The house was burning down. Nobody was living in the house, but much of the renter's stuff was still there. I immediately started getting the names of the fishermen around me, with their contact info. I wanted to be sure I could prove where I was when this happened.

     When Barbara and I arrived at the house at about nine AM, it was a total loss, nothing much left to burn.  a few volunteer firemen were mopping up. A large team from the FBI were just moving in to investigate. I talked to the FBI awhile, told them what I knew.

     The cross burning was easily solved. One of them had been identified. So, the dominoes began to fall. While some local people had quickly told the investigators it was just “Children, playing tricks,” some of the “children” charged were over forty. Pretty old children.

     The house burning was a different matter. Those charged with the cross burning maintained they knew nothing about the house burning. A popular idea being spread around  town was that the victim of the cross burning, herself, burned the house. Though anything is possible, I had trouble with that theory. She had nothing to gain. I had already given all her money back to her, for which she was very grateful. Nobody was ever charged in the house burning, to this day.

As the date for the trials for the cross burning moved to a court date, she said she was being harassed by people who came in where she worked, and calling where she now lived. She moved into another of my rent houses, farther away, and she, and we, kept her location very secret.

Continued in four days. Thanks for reading!