Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Wisdom of "Tuck" Hull

When I was young, about ten or so, Earvin "Tuck" Hull was one of my next door neighbors, as the crow flies. But in Fourche Valley, next door could mean a mile away, which was the case here. Earvin was a big time hunter and fisherman; it seemed to be the main focus in his life. The Game Warden, Bob Campbell, seemed to try to shadow Earvin a lot, apparently pretty sure he would eventually catch Tuck in an illegal situation. I have read in a book that he once did, when they were both young, and he hauled him to the jail at Danville. Tuck's brother, PC, went to Danville, and bailed him out, as that story went. But both were old men now, during my youth. It was common knowledge during my youth that Bob still chased Earvin, though I don't know how successful he was. I never heard of Bob catching Tuck in an illegal situation again.

      Tuck was fun to be around. He was a very good friend of mine, and told me lots of tales of his exploits. He often brought us a big batch of Buffalo, a rough fish with nice white meat but very bony, taken on one of his night time gigging trips. We ate them like candy. Since I was so young, my sisters just picked out those fine, forked bones for me. When they got tired of that, they just handed me small bites of wadded up cornbread, and I didn't know the difference. One day when we were talking, He told me, "If you will catch up a big jar of grasshoppers, and bring them over tomorrow morning, we'll go catfishing." Well, catfishing with Tuck was just about the most fun thing I could think of, so I got right on it.We arrived at the river just after lunch.

      There is a two or three mile stretch of the river that is very shallow. Even when the river runs normally, The water there appears to be only two feet deep or so. So, it was not a place where people normally fished, to my knowledge. That area was totally deserted, except during Deer season. And deer hunting was not very productive in that valley in those days.They had all been pretty well chased down and eaten up. A few would be ran out of the mountains by deer dogs and killed each season, But when someone legally killed one, it was big news. During my entire youth, I saw only one deer in those bottoms, though I spent most all of my spare time of my youth hunting, wandering and fishing there. Harold did kill one, just before he left Wing. He hid his gun under a log and carried it out. Harold went back to get his gun, and he couldn't find it. Dad went back with him later, and they looked again. Dad noticed a pile of leaves nearby, dug in it, and there it was. Harold must have been pretty excited when he killed that deer. Charley Bill Stout claimed his dogs were chasing it, and ran it over Harold, so it was half his deer, he said. So, Harold carried him a big batch of the meat.

      But Tuck showed me that day that there was more to that stretch of river, fishing wise, than met the eye to one not familiar with it. At intervals, several deep holes occurred. They were generally far apart, and the only practical way to find them was to wade the river for miles. But Tuck knew them all. And, he also knew that fishing there early or late in the day was not the thing to do, as I had always thought, where catfish were concerned. Early and late, the catfish ranged out in that shallow water, even in dry times, feeding. In the heat of the summer day, they came back to those few deep holes. And, since the river was low, food more scarce, they were still very hungry. Drop a big juicy grasshopper into the middle of one of those holes, and more often than not, a big cat was waiting.

     Earvin was using a fly rod. I used a long cane pole. We caught all the catfish we could easily carry out that day, some longer than my arm, something that I was just not used to in my fishing experience. I normally caught sunfish, perch, goggleyes, and mud cats. I memorized the hole locations, and after that I fished them regularly, though I had to walk many miles to do it.

      During years when grasshoppers were not readily available, my buddy and I discovered that if we rode to Danville with Dad when he went to buy cattle feed, or whatever, we could quietly sneak in the back door of the chicken processing plant, and we could usually pick up a gallon or two of the unusable chicken livers off the end of the conveyer belt before someone discovered us and ran us out. That worked even better. Those bad livers were destined for the garbage, anyway, so we never felt guilty about that.

Fifty Years Later -
      The river bottom in that shallow stretch  is just covered with big, slick rocks. So, I never get to fish many of those holes now. Getting there and back is too shallow for a boat, when the fishing there is good, in dry times. One has to get out and pull it most of the time. My knees just won't hold up to it. But one good hole is easy to get to, and I fish it regularly when the river runs low. Other people laugh at me when I head out catfishing around lunch time. But they just don't know, and where that hole is concerned, I just let them wallow in their ignorance. Lord knows, I spend more than my share of the time wallowing in that.

Thanks for your time, and your attention.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Exploding cat

     My friend Mark was shuffled about quite a bit among family members as a young boy. Mark was blessed with a very active mind, always coming up with one “I wonder what would happen if I” after another. Having a large family, his parents regularly allowed him to “visit” one cousin after another during the summer. For as long as they would keep him. One summer, he was sent to live with an uncle and his family in Northern California. The uncle had several small kids, along with Billy, about his age.

     Early one morning that summer, the family cat, a big family pet, was hit by a car in the street in front of the house. Mark's uncle told him and Billy to take the body out in the woods and bury it, before the younger kids awoke, lest they have squalling kids running all around the place. They picked it up, and headed for the woods. Mark had a good idea. “Hey. I wonder what it would look like if we exploded that cat?” Mark already knew his uncle kept a supply of TNT in the shed. He had already seem him blowing out stumps. Billy thought that was a grand idea, and they headed for the shed.

Billy picked out a nice stick of TNT from the box, along with a very long fuse, and a piece of bailing wire to attach it to the cat. Well out into the woods, they lay the cat's body down, attaching the TNT to it with the wire, put the long piece of fuse in, and lit it. They ran a good ways back, found a location in the woods to see what happened, and waited. A few moments later, the cat, to their shocked surprise, raised it's head up, shook it a little. The cat looked around, saw the boys through the trees, slowly got up, and headed toward them. They started retreating, keeping the cat in sight. The faster they ran, the faster the cat moved. They lost sight of it for a few moments. “Do you see it?” “No, the last time I saw it, it went behind that tree!” Again, the cat spotted them, and here it came, the smoking TNT dragging along behind. They ran. In desperation, they finally ran to the barn, climbed up into the loft, where they had a better view, and watched.

     Finally, they saw the cat. He was moving pretty slow now, but he dragged himself up to the house, went underneath. Mark looked at Billy, Billy looked at Mark. The house was underpinned with large sheets of tin. Moments later, the cat exploded. The tin underpinning blew off, and the yard  was covered with tin. Kids and and adults alike fled from the house, all in panic. Fortunately, the house itself was just shook up a little, but not seriously damaged. But the cat was everywhere. Mark was sent home the next day.
The Strategic Air Command Goes to War.
     The time was during the height of the Cold War. SAC bases were scattered here and there. Huge B-52 bombers, each loaded with Atomic Bombs, were stationed at these bases. Their mission was simple. If the US had reason to think an atomic attack from Russia was in progress, or if a missle heading toward the US from Russia was detected, they took off in minutes, headed for Russia with their deadly cargo. If it proved to be a false alarm, they could always be recalled in mid flight. In the unlikely event that the B-52's were destroyed on the ground, a certain number of them were kept in the air at all times, 24 hours a day. Thus, it was reasoned, nobody would dare launch an atomic attack against the US, if they knew full well they themselves would be destroyed in return.

     Mark had an uncle who was in the Air Force, stationed at such a base. Mark was sent, one summer, to live with this uncle. His home was near the military airport, and Mark again had cousins to play with.
     The Fourth of July was approaching, and Mark and his cousins had a good supply of fireworks bought to celebrate. Mark came up with a good idea. “Why don't we light a string of firecrackers, raise the manhole cover on the drainage system, and drop them in?” His cousins thought that was a grand idea. But what they didn't know was, spilled jet fuel had washed into the drainage system from refueling the huge jets. The lit firecrackers were dropped in, the manhole cover put back in place.
     Moments later, a huge explosion occurred, blowing manhole covers to the treetops.

  The United States Strategic Air Command went to war that day.

     Fortunately for us all, the problem was quickly investigated, found to be a false alarm, and the B-52's were recalled. Only moments after the huge planes landed, Mark was on the bus again, headed home.
     Mark grew up, married, had two children, and wound up living near Arkadelphia. He worked for the telephone company. Once, he was sent to OBU to repair telephone lines in a girl's dorm. He was bent over in the hall, busily repairing a wall phone plug in. Two giggling girls walked down the hall, and one reached over and pinched Mark on the butt. In surprise and shock, Mark jumped up, almost emptying his tool belt as tools flew all over the hallway. The laughing girls ran on down the hall .Mark, with a very red face, quickly gathered his tools up and fled the building.

     These stories are all true. At least, Mark swore to me they were all totally true. But, I must warn you. I have noticed, sometimes, that Mark shows little signs of not being totally honest. Or maybe, that's just me, being paranoid again.

Friday, November 22, 2013

St. Paul: My First Teaching Job

     The job started in the middle of the year. It wasn't until later that I realized it was because they had already lost so many teachers that year. It paid $2000 for the semester, big money to me. It was sort of a bits and pieces job, just fill in where a teacher had been destroyed and quit, where a senior sponsor had been run off, where another just couldn't take it anymore and walked.. It didn't seem to matter that the subject didn't match my degree, my area of expertise. But really, at that point I had no area of expertise, although I was pretty well convinced I knew it all. I did get one physical education class, in my field, and that actually turned out to be my salvation at St. Paul.

     I knew the coach, Billy Max, an old A&M grad himself. He invited me to share his trailer. I went along with him to lots of his games. His senior boys team was very short, no good, and would pass up a layup any day for the glory of gunning a thirty foot shot. Just quite naturally, they won no games that year. His junior boys showed promise, and the girl’s teams were fair.

     I was  nearly out of transportation, having problems with my old Ford. The fuel pump shut down on me on University Avenue in Little Rock one day, and a cop showed up and helped me get it towed back to a station. Fortunately, my brother Harold, who I had bought the car from for several cows, had saved an old fuel pump in the trunk. Said it would work in a tight. Well, I was in a tight. I had it put on, and Harold was right. It did work in a tight. Long enough for me to get back to the spot where the first one quit, and it quit too. As soon as I got a paycheck, I sold it and I headed to town to decide between a 1966 Corvair and a 1966 Mustang. Wouldn't you just know it, I picked the Corvair, brand new, $2,300.

     Teaching went pretty well, everything considered. I had a hard core group of hillbilly boys in my PE class, but I was a hard core hillbilly too. Some of these guys, I knew, were at the forefront in running off teachers, so I put in a little segment on distance running right off. Since I had just came from being a college distance runner, I led them out on a 2-3 mile route. They were determined to not let a teacher outdo them in anything physical, and they kept up until they just, one by one, collapsed. They respected physical things much more than teaching ability, fortunately, and we got along OK. One of my boys collapsed to the point that I had to load him up in my car and take him to the doctor in Huntsville, 20 miles away. We were late getting back, he was still pretty much out of it, so I drove him home and milked his goats for him.

 St. Paul is a long way from Watson. Almost all the way across the state. But I went to see my girl, Barbara, every weekend I could, which means every weekend I was invited. I began to realize, her daddy didn't have any rules for this 17 year old girl. She was on her own. I didn't understand that at all, because my dad was very strict. My sisters didn't date at all in high school. Over a period of time I learned why Barbara had the freedom she had.

     One weekend, her parents and all the rest of her family still at home, except Barbara, were going to her sister Frances' house in Little Rock for the weekend. But, Barbara invited me down anyway. "No problem, Daddy won't mind." Well, this sounds like I'm laying the groundwork for a really good part of my story here. I thought so too. But, when we got back to her house after the movie, she soon let me know it was time for me to head out.  I didn't have any arrangements made, so I drove over on the levee, crawled into the back seat, and me and the delta mosquitoes had a big party, all night long. Enjoyed more by them than me, I'm sure. Put simply, her Daddy and Mama just trusted this girl completely. And she never gave them reason not to.

     Time for the senior play was coming up, and, as the senior sponsor had already been ran off, I was the man. When we started having practice at night, I soon realized I had my hands full. Sometimes, some of them would just not show up. Those that did had not been studying their lines. I knew a disaster was in the works, and I was right. When the big night came, I posted several prompters around behind the curtains. It really was not a matter of prompting, often they just had to read the whole line.. And sometimes, the wrong actor grabbed onto a line and just ran with it. Halfway through, a very loud alarm clock that some junior had hidden in the couch on stage went off. I still have that clock. You just can't believe how loud that clock was.
     Oh well, all's well that ends well. When it was over, they called me out on the stage, told me how much they appreciated my hard work, and presented me with a brand new fly rod.

I was returning from seeing Barbara one Sunday night, well after dark. I cut through the mountains. When I passed a new Ozark National Forest sign, I saw it was on fire. I grabbed an old rag and was trying to put the fire out, when an old, beat up station wagon drove slowly by. I got the fire out and went on to St. Paul. The next day, a kid brought me a message from his grandpa. Grandpa said, “Don’t be messing in my business again.” This was along about when the Forest Service stopped allowing locals to run their cows up in the mountains. I guess grandpa had a grudge about that..

     The end of the school year rolled around. Time for the senior trip. I was again the man, with a lady out of the community agreeing to go along to watch after the girls. She really didn't do much of anything, I think she was just on vacation. I drove the bus to Little Rock and booked us into a big hotel. These mountain kids were awestruck. I began to realize most of them had never been to a city before.  Many of them just wanted to ride the elevator, up and down, as long as I would let them. Some of them were older than me, and a few of the girls were pretty and flirty.  A 21 year old guy just really should not be responsible for them, that long. But my “do-right mechanism” was turned on and kept me in good stead.

     We went on to Hot Springs. We went for a ride on a party barge. I had never driven one before, but I was again the man. As I came into a dock, I tried  gracefully to shift into reverse. It would not go. I tried again, desperate this time. No luck. I yelled to the kid up front. “Hold it off, Max! Don't let it hit!”
Well, I was giving an impossible assignment to that little boy on that great big barge. BOOM! Everyone came running out of cabins, and from everywhere. I had to cough up several bucks to get out of that.                                                                                                                                                               
       I had made another big mistake. I passed out everyone's meal money for the whole trip the first day. Max, and some others, were big spenders – for about a day. Then they begged and starved the rest of the trip.

     Coach Billy Max resigned, and they offered me the coaching job for the next year. I took it.
      Now, I was good at not wasting money when I started to college. Can't waste what you don't have. But college had honed that ability even more. I had $310 per month take home during that teaching semester, lived, made new car payments, and still saved $800 that semester

Midway through that second year, I brought my new bride to St. Paul. It had taken me a year, almost to the day, to persuade her I was the one, even though I had known it the first time I saw her. I took her around, showing her the housing possibilities up there. The first was a small box, right in the middle of town. She said that just would not do. So, I took her way up in the mountains, five miles off the blacktop, to show her the second possibility, up close to the Orval Faubus birthplace. There were no neighbors, except in the graveyard across the road. She quickly decided that box in town was not so bad, after all.

Monday, November 18, 2013


In 1998, Barbara and I sold our photography business, bought an RV, leased our house out for a year (we took down our pics and personal stuff, moved our clothes up into the attic, locked it up, leased the house furnished as is, and walked out.)
We had bought several rental properties while working, so I looked for a property manager to look after them while we were on the road.

Bud Reeder had a large realty business in town, and managed hundreds of rental units also, so he seemed to be the logical choice
I had managed them myself up to that point, and I never really enjoyed that job. Seems every time I had listened to a hard luck story from a renter, and responded with a kind heart, I eventually go burned. Every single time.  One of my last acts as my own property manager was to rent an apartment to a  foreign  framing crew which would be working in town a few months. A month or two down the road in our travels, we got an early morning call on our emergency phone. It was from our son in law, Mickey, who was then a paramedic. Seems he was the first responder to that rented apartment. A couple of the guys had gotten into a fight over a woman, it spilling out into the back yard. One picked up a concrete block and bashed the other man’s head in. Like I said. I never enjoyed managing rental property.

When we returned at the end of that year of travel, we decided to leave them all in Bud’s hands. Let him deal with all those problems. He was doing a good job. If it ain’t broken, don’ try to fix it. Besides, Barbara and I still had a lot of world out there to see.

Bud’s grandfather, Lon Reeder, brought his family to Arkadelphia from Colorado in the 1800’s and built a farming and ranching operation where Turtle Point golf course is today. It later expanded out toward Old Military Road and farther.

Bud’s father, Frank W, became a rodeo cowboy, participating in roping and bull dogging competitions in such places as Madison Square Garden in New York City, and at the World’s Fair in Chicago. Many old western antiques still on display at the Burger Barn and Western Sizzlin’ in Arkadelphia belongs to the Reeder family.

Bud’s mother passed away when he was five, and he and his siblings were mostly raised by his grandmother. His means of transportation as he grew up was a Mexican burro.

Lon built a small, one room slaughter and packing house In 1930. In 1934,  Brucellosis was rampant in Arkansas cattle. To help control it, the government helped Frank W. build a much larger slaughter  house on Country Club Road. Herds of cattle were brought in, and each animal was tested. Those showing no signs of the disease were run through a dipping vat, to control parasites, and taken back back to their farm. Many cattle were slaughtered and buried. This was the beginning of the major push to rid our country of brucellosis, which took 76 years to do. It is still common in some other countries. Handling infected animals can cause Undulant fever in humans, though not after it’s cooked. In 1934, the percentage of tested cattle affected was 11.5%. As of December 31 of 2000, no cattle herd in the United States, for the first time, was found to be affected.  It was a long hard struggle, and the Reeder family were some of the pioneers.

The hides were salted, rolled up, and put in 55 gallon drums for a while, then spread out to dry flat. They were then sold to make leather. Before refrigeration, animals were slaughtered on demand and hauled to stores.
John Wesley Davis raised his family nearby, in a house with plank walls covered with newspapers. John Wesley worked at the plant for many years, then gradually trained his family of large, strong boys, Dooster, Gyp, Man, and Sonny as butchers.
Man was employed at the plant throughout his working life. At 22, he married Gloria Smith, 20. They had a son, Randy, and a daughter, Teresa. Man was once busy butchering a beef when a government inspector came in. The inspector soon came into the office, telling Bud, “These men can’t touch that meat with bare hands. They have to wear gloves.” Bud said, “You go tell them that.” The inspector went out into the plant, then soon returned, headed out the door in a hurry, saying, “That man can do whatever he wants.” Bud later asked Man what happened. “Well,”  Man Replied, “He came back there, right behind my shoulder, telling me I had to put on gloves. I just turned around and looked at him, forgetting that the bloody knife was still in my hand. I told him gloves slowed me down too much, I was being paid by the number of beeves I butchered. The next thing I knew, he left in a hurry.” Sadly, Man died in a motorcycle accident at 32. Barbara hired Gloria to work for her a few years later.  We all soon realized she was about the hardest working, most dependable and honest ladies we have ever known. 20+ years later, we still see a lot of “Glo,”, and she is now one of our dearest friends.

Bud started working in the plant when he was still in high school on a half day basis. Later, he married Ella Ruth, a very classy lady. She became the plant bookkeeper, and they ran that plant as a team for many years. They have currently been married for 59 years. They have two son, John and Wes. Ten years later, they adopted Carol, 5 days old, in Dallas.

Bud once had a major shortage of bulls. He called his supplier in Paris, Texas, who told him he had plenty, but due to a major truck driver strike, he had no way to get them to Arkansas. Bud jumped in his truck, drove to Paris. When he arrived, he was surrounded by angry truckers. One bold man pulled his cab door open, only to find himself staring into the business end of Bud’s double barrel shotgun lying across his lap, both hammers pulled back. The man backed up a few steps, now in a position where he would be impossible to miss. Bud introduced himself. “This is a Reeder truck, those are Reeder bulls in there, I’m Bud Reeder, and those bulls are going to Arkansas.” With no more trouble from the truckers, he hauled his bulls to Arkansas.

Bud got in the real estate business more or less by accident, when somebody asked him to sell his houses. He got his papers in 1973.  In 1980, son Wes designed a building for his business, and Harold Nix built it. Bud soon began managing properties, again by accident, when somebody asked him to look out for their three mobile homes. That business grew to around 400 units.

When I first got to know Bud, he always carried a sawed off shotgun around, displayed in the window of his automobile.  If the local police ever felt they needed a little extra firepower, they dropped by and borrowed that sawed off shotgun.  That was during a time when many loud and rowdy parties were held in his rental properties. Bud was called out late at night, maybe a couple of times a week, when the tenants got too wild. While the police could be held at bay if the tenants demanded a search warrant, the property manager can legally enter at any time, so they often called in Bud. Bud seems to be just enough of a cowboy that he relishes those occasions. While he’s never had to fire a gun to protect himself or others, nobody ever doubted that he would, or could, if necessary. His current weapon of choice is a custom made, .410 gauge shotgun pistol, revolver type. The first chambers are loaded with bird shot.

At 79, Bud still is on the job, and does not discourage his tough guy image, knowing that that next wild party may bust loose at any time. But actually, those of us who are around him a lot know the real Bud. He always looks after the needs of his owner’s properties, on call 24 hours a day. If a renter is going to get mad at someone, Bud wants it to be at him, not the owner. Good cop, bad cop. He negotiates good prices with repair men, and passes that savings on. Bud is very civic minded, and willing to help all those around him at any time. I would guess that nobody in Arkadelphia has gone to more funerals than Bud Reeder, whether he really knows the family or not. He’s always there to show respect. I read something on facebook today that made me immediately think of Bud Reeder. I think it speaks of Bud better than anyone I know.

     “ On a cold April night three years ago, my father died a quiet death from cancer. His funeral was on a Wednesday, middle of the work week. I had been numb for days when, for some reason, during the funeral, I turned and looked back at the folks in the church. The memory of it still takes my breath away. The most human, powerful and humbling thing I’ve ever seen was a church at 3:00 on a Wednesday full of inconvenienced people who believe in going to the funeral.”    – by Dierdre Sullivan

Bud never travels, fishes, or does anything else much except playing with his tractors and dozers. He’s in that business, ready to go, any morning at 6:30. When I started gathering info for this story, I went down to his office at 6:30 AM on Labor Day. I didn’t call ahead. I knew he would be there.

Ever the loyal wife, Ella Ruth Is there pretty well every day too. Just in case Bud forgets something.  Ella Ruth just loves hearing about our travels.  Some time back she won a free vacation. I know she would have loved to go. But Bud’s not about to leave that business, and she’s not about to leave Bud alone. It went to waste, as far as she was concerned.

A few years ago, Bud and Ella Ruth threw a big New Year’s party. Barbara and I went, and, since they are leading citizens, I expected to see the elite crowd there. But no. Many people invited was a widow or a widower, or otherwise alone in life.

If our government ever decides to throw a big war, fought only by old men over 70, I guess I’ll go if I’m needed.  (Come to think of it, maybe that’s not such a bad idea. We’ve got a lot less to lose.)  But I really won’t feel very good about it, unless, maybe, Bud’s the man I follow into battle. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

On speaking of life lessons - - -

The Fourche Valley School reunion is always a fun day every October. If you ever attended Fourche Valley school, or if you are a Fourche Valley lover, come on out and join us. It will always be posted on the Fourche Valley page. Cindy Buford will just see to that.

 I’m often surprised to see how much so many people have aged in 50 years or so. Glad I’m not like that. I always look just like I did yesterday. But I must admit, I never seem to look like I visualize myself looking, if I ever run onto a mirror, by accident. One thing I always seem to relish is how many old memories it gets to rattling around in my head.

 I saw Jim Roberson. He had such a strong handshake, It made me feel a little better about what happened to me 47 years ago. I was in the sixth grade, tallest boy in grade school, I could run longer, if not faster, than anyone else, Just generally, one of the big boys.

     A couple of the younger, shorter guys got in a tussle at recess one day. I just sorta felt it was my obligation, as a big boy, to straighten these little guys out. I started pulling them apart. Well, Jim already had his adrenalin flowing, and he turned all his attention on me. It didn't take long to realize I should have minded my own business. Jim got me in some sort of hold that was just squeezing all the air out of me, and as a crowd gathered around us, he said, "Are you going to leave me alone?" I didn't want anyone else to hear, and my wind was gone anyway, so I whispered, in his ear, "Yes." He let me up. The next day, he brought a bunch of his friends around, pointed to me, and said, "There. That’s the guy I whipped yesterday." I told them I didn't remember that at all.

     Life lesson # 1: Being older, and taller, don't necessarily mean you won't get your butt whupped'. And being able to run farther is no help at all. Although It might help you put some distance between you and him, Minimize the damage, and put some distance between yourself and all those kids laughing at you.

     A funny thing about memory. I didn't remember a thing about it the next day, only to have it crop back up, 47 years later, when that strong hand started squeezing me again.

     A REALLY young kid got really mad at me one day, I don't even remember why, but he just waded in on me with both fists flying, hitting me about the waist. He just kept on, wouldn't quit. Well, again a crowd was gathering, and I was not about to be seen hitting a really little kid. I was getting real embarrassed. Finally, Monty said, "Pat, just get him in a wrestling hold." I did, and I had to hold him until recess was over.
     Life lesson # two: Looking at the size of the kid tells you nothing about the size of his heart. And he may come after you tomorrow. And the next day.

     I had a friend that was dirt pore', wore ragged, old patched clothes, the kind of guy a lot of kids shied away from. Lived over at Scrougeout. I went home with him one night. His mom was tickled, saying no one had ever done that before. She wrung the neck of her best hen, and we ate it for supper. All their beds were filled with hay, but they gave me the best one.

     In the middle of the night, car lights hit the house. The whole family ran to the front window, yelling, "company! company!" Car was just turning around.

      Life lesson #three: Buddy up with the down and out kid. Sometimes, they will just give you the best they've got.

     That kid had needed glasses for a long, long time. One day he came to school with a brand new pair. We were wrestling, as kids do, at recess. I threw him down. As he got up, he reached in his pocket and pulled out his new, now broken, glasses. He just turned, put his head down, and headed back to the classroom.
     When I went in, after the bell rang, he was at his desk, head down, looking at those broken glasses. His glasses were soaked with his tears.

     After I got home, and off to myself, I shed some, too.

     Life lesson #four: Go easy with the pore kid with glasses. The will have to last him a long, long time.
     Maybe I can pass one or two of these along to my grandsons. Maybe, just maybe, you can too.

Sadly, after a long, hard struggle, Fourche Valley School closed a few years ago. But our reunion is very much alive.

     When I was five years old, I was surrounded by older siblings and neighbors like Cindy Buford, who were full fledged Fourche Valley warriors, and they all bled blue and gold. If someone had asked me to sing the national anthem at that time, I would probably have started it like this: “Oh, when the Fourche High Indians fall in line, we’re gonna win this game another time, for the dear old school we love so well - - - -“

     When I witnessed how hard so many fought, for so very long, and so very hard, for the school we all loved so well, I was proud. And, I knew. The spirit of the Fourche Valley Indians is alive and well, and will remain so as long as a single one of us who proudly call ourselves Fourche Valley Indians continues to draw breath. Thank you, for all your struggles, and for what you continue to do to maintain the memories of our school, and to promote our beautiful valley.

 Thanks for your time, and your attention.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Seduced by Pearl White

     Barbara just had to have a new car. Not NEW new, but new to us. We don’t buy new cars. Bonnie, Barbara’s cute little HHR was just way too hard on her bad back, to her way of thinking.

     Barbara never considered herself to be a person who could wrangle a better deal out of a car salesman. Even when she was in business, in our photography studio, she was horrified if we accused her of using high pressure sales techniques, and I think her customers never considered her to be that way, either.

     But somehow, in showing her work to customers, through the course of the conversation, they just seemed to buy more pictures if Barbara was showing em’, than when anyone else did. I just never could figure out if Barbara worked a few notches below high pressure, or had some strange talent for elevating her technique, in some strange way, above standard high pressure techniques; if her customers were pressured, they never knew it.

Our children seem to have inherited sales ability from somewhere, and It certainly was not from me. Corey has never worked at a salary job in his life. He’s always worked on a commission sales job, or in his own business. He’s good, and he has never made any bones about his techniques. But even Corey, when he operated his high end photography business in Little Rock, realized Kinley, when he hired her to make sales presentations to his customers, always sold more than he could, or any of his other sales people. But she was different. She automatically, instantly, became a customer’s best friend, and again, in the course of the conversation between two good friends, the sales soared.

     When Kinley worked in sales for channel four, she soon became “The queen of the cold call.” When she finished up a cold call, other sales people around her would ask her, “How is it you always seem to already KNOW all these people you call? You’re always working from the same list of possible customers we are.” The sales manager eventually had others on the sales staff gather around in her office, and listen to her cold calls to instant friends.

     Let’s get back to Barbara’s new car. She had already decided what car she wanted, a Nissan Murano,     a couple of years old. She had ridden in one before, belonging to our friend Judy, and she knew it rode well. I told her on the way to Little Rock, this was her buy, her car. I would just be watching.

We went to Lander’s Toyota first, arriving about 10:00 AM. The nice young guy who came out to help us was a very good salesman. Barbara told him she was going to buy a Nissan Murano, today, one or two years old, and asked if he had one. He had three. After she had seen them all, she settled on the one she liked best. But she just could not make up her mind. Said she should probably go to the Nissan dealership, who had already described one he had, on the phone, just to compare.

     Now, I’ll have to say this. That business of not being able to make up her mind was not a haggling technique, It’s the way Barbara is. In a food line at a restaurant, I often get embarrassed, and the customers behind get impatient, waiting for her to decide between two seemingly minor items to put on her plate. Then, choosing a drink. She always seems to evaluate each and every plus or negative of each one. So, It’s just Barbara. She never, all day long, mentioned the possibility of them lowering the price.“This car is silver. Well, my last two were silver. I had hoped to change colors.”  The nice young man dropped the price a few hundred. She considered that for a long time. “Well, It IS really nice, and I really like the cute hubcaps and the miles it has. But the inside is dark, and it will really be hot.” The young man trimmed a few hundred more off the price.  After a few more rounds of  spotting possible drawbacks,  accompanied by more trimming, the young man retreated inside and brought out the big gun, the little Lander’s brother. After proper introductions, and Barbara going on about knowing his wife, how she knew her, etc., she went back to work on the car problem. “Well, I just can’t decide this so quickly. I just should drive over and at least see that other one at the Nissan dealership, then it will be easier, and that way I can think awhile.” The young salesman chipped in from time to time, in more of a begging tone now. The little Landers brother dropped a few more hundred. Barbara headed for our HHR, saying, “Well, before I buy, I’m just going to drive by that other one and look at it. I really like this car, but I’ve just got to be sure.” As we drove off, the young salesman was hollering, “Just drive by! It will be a lot quicker if you don’t stop at all!”
     As we drove in at Nissan, we saw Pearl White, Though at this point, that was only her official color, not yet her name, right beside the entrance.  Barb immediately liked her.  A very nice young man came out to greet us. He was also an opera singer, as well as a car salesman. “Hi! We’re going to buy a Murano today, and I love this one!” Barbara said. We looked Pearl White over, and he,with a big smile, took us inside to his desk to fix us a drink while our trade- in was evaluated. As she sat at his desk, she got a text.  The little Landers brother said he’d drop off another thousand.

     We went back out to look at Pearl again. “Oh   goodness. Her seats are very light colored. That will get dirty so fast!” Opera man drops 500 off.  “Are the seats automatic?” “No ma’am.” Opera man drops 500 more.  “That pearl white color is sooooo beautiful. But I just can’t seem to get over those light colored seats”.  “Let me get the manager over here.” Said opera man.  When he arrived, the problem was explained to him by Barbara. “I just love this car, but the other one we’re looking at has dark seats, won’t get dirty so easily.”  “Tell you what, ma’am, We’ll take it and get a professional job of scotch guarding done on the whole interior before you leave.” Barbara was impressed. “What about that little spot on the seat?” “We’ll get it professionally cleaned, too.” He took another few hundred off. I have been listening to so much of this, I was beginning to get into it. “Will you fill up the tank”? Barbara elbowed me in the ribs. “Stop being so picky over such tiny little money things! That’s crude!”  “Yes, of course we will.”  Barbara noticed that the tires seemed to have some wear on them. Opera man walked around showing the new tire tags, still showing on the bottom of each tire. Manager man left.  “Oh no! I just noticed this one does not have automatic lights!  Maybe I should just real quickly run over to Lander’s again. They’re right over there, and I need to see if its lights are automatic. And it’s much more sporty!  I just can’t make up my mind.” “Well, Ma’am, that other car IS a year older. And don’t forget that 68 month power train warranty that a non-Nissan dealer can’t give. But let me go talk to the manager again.”

     He returned. Finally, everyone involved was obviously about worn out, the two cars were about $100 apart in price, and A deal was struck. Barbara had been totally seduced by Pearl White, in only four hours or so. As we waited for the cleaning, scotch guarding, and filling up the tank, the manager walked over to Barbara, smiling, shaking his head and her hand.  “That was the best job of negotiating I’ve seen in a very long time. Just look at how much you got our man to come down.”

     We drove away. Barbara said, “I don’t know why he said that. He sounded like I was a haggler! I never even mentioned money! Haggling is such a man thing! Oh, my! It’s nearly five o’clock! And I was planning to eat lunch with Kinley, after we bought the car. This day has just FLOWN by!”

Barbara had her new car named before we got home; Pearl White.  And a string of pearls now adorns the rear view mirror, but not until after Barbara had considered this move for a few hours.

     “But do you think those pearls are not white enough to match the car? Do they look tacky up there? Do you think they block the view too much?” I didn’t say a thing. Sometimes, a little indecision can be a good thing, I had learned that day.
This is a true story, as are most all of my posts. I'll let you know at the end if I stray off into fiction again, as I did in my last post.
Thanks for reading!
I think I've finally figured out how to make "commenting" easier. Now, just push the comment button, and it should work. I never claimed to be computer literate!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Guardian of the Dead - Conclusion

     My grandchildren loved it. For a year or so. I had made it so that the second floor could be reached only by climbing a knotted rope, to keep the small children from getting up to the second floor, maybe falling and getting hurt. Actually, it pretty well turned out that my older grandchildren couldn’t reach that second floor, either. That upstairs room has sat, empty and deserted, for years now.

     Over time, I started noticing that strange things started happening in that upstairs room. Our bedroom in our house is on the end close to that treehouse. One night, I heard a woman moaning way up there in that tree house. It was one of those cases where I snapped suddenly awake, terrified, and was absolutely sure I heard it. Yet later, I reasoned I must have dreamed that, because it just could not have actually happened.  Another time, I was awakened in much the same way, by the sound of someone tapping, very sharply, five times on our bedroom window. Regularly, now, I hear terrifying screams emanating, it seemed, from that upper room at night, or was it just another nightmare? Occasionally, a small light can be seen, flashing on and off, in that upper room. Several times, I have heard the sound of a board falling up there, late at night, even though I left no loose lumber up there. These last two events I was absolutely sure of.  I was wide awake long before they happened.

     Barbara and I have an open door policy for any college student in our church. If they, or their parents need a place to stay overnight, they are always welcome.

     It occurred to me one day, it seemed that the only time those strange noises occurred was when an OBU or HSU student was in our house. I started keeping track of it, and sure enough, strange things often happened up there only when a college student was in or near our house.

     We often have a group of mostly college students over on Sunday nights, and once, when I built a campfire outside after our meeting, they started talking about that tree house, only 50 feet away. Not wanting to scare them, I didn't mention its history. One boy wanted to climb up there. I tried to talk him out of it. Told him it had been deserted for years, no lights in it now, and I don’t really know how solid it still is. He insisted, would not listen to me. He snatched my headlight out of my hand and headed for the tree house. The girls begged him not to go. He negotiated the plank up to the first level, then we could hear him entering. Soon, I could hear him ascending the rope. With much trepidation, I began to realize, he was one of those rare young men with enough shoulder strength to actually get up there.  I held my breath, terrified as I thought what may be about to happen.  Suddenly, we all heard an ear splitting scream. It was followed by a loud thud, as if someone, or something, had fallen. We saw him sliding, jumping, and falling back down that plank. He came to the campfire, sat down in a chair, and never spoke. Just stared into the flames. He was white as a sheet, had a bleeding wound on his head, and my headlight was smashed. Nobody said a word.

     We all sat there quietly for a long time. Finally, a girl spoke. “Why did you scream?” He got up, started heading down the hill toward his car. He stopped, turned and looked at us with a wild look in his eyes, and said, “That was not MY scream.” That’s all he said. Not another word.

     We miss him. Word got back to me that he left town that night. And has never been back. I know I need to just tear that old tree house down. But to take down a tree house, one has to start at the top, or risk having it fall on you. And, I’m not about to go up there.

As I  mentioned a few posts back, I'm beginning to play around just a tiny bit with historical fiction, and, well, I may have taken a few liberties with this story. Let's just call it Pat's first attempt at historical fiction.     

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Guardian of the Dead - Part Two

     This all happened years before we moved to Arkadelphia, and I’m not really sure what happened to the guys who caused all this. I did not hear of this story until many years later.

     In 1982, we moved to Arkadelphia. We knew this might be our last move, if things worked out with the business, a photography studio we had just bought. Barbara ran the business, and I found a job teaching at Arkadelphia High School. We finally found just the spot, and bought five wooded acres out west of town, to build a house on. It was heavily wooded, and I cleared out just enough trees to build the house. At the back of the property was a very old cemetery, and just across the fence from it, on our land, was a very old shack, much of it beginning to rot, with a rail around the top, broken in one place.

      Corey and Kinley, our children, were just young children when we built our house. They were curious about that old shack. We could never figure out why anyone would build it there. I went down with them through the woods to check it out. They wanted to use it for a playhouse. I decided that was all right if they would stay off those stairs and off the top. Some of those boards were getting very old, and it might be dangerous. They spent a lot of time playing in that old shack with their friends when they were young.

     Our children grew up in that house in the country. A few years later, Corey chose OBU. A few years after that, Kinley would spend some time at OBU and HSU. Right after Corey started to OBU, he brought a couple of his buddies out for the weekend. All being adventurous, they wanted to camp in that old shack by the back fence. They were back home by midnight. Seems a plank had fallen from the ceiling, seemingly for no reason at all, and raised a large knot on his buddy’s head. They all swore they heard a woman moaning in agony right outside, then they swore they could hear a woman screaming, way out in the woods.  That made up their mind. They headed up the trail toward our house. One of the boys just seemed sure he saw blinking lights inside the shack when he looked back, but you know how young guys are. Get a little scare and the imagination begins to run away.

                                                                                                                                                                         Both our children and their friends seemed to shy away from that old shack after that, and I didn’t discourage it. It had to be getting a little dangerous by now, being so old and partly rotten. I think by now the kids and their friends were building on that “haunted house” thing. Both of them began to tell stories of someone moving around up stairs in OUR house, while they were home alone. On top of that, Corey and his buddy claimed they once accidentally stepped on a grave when crossing that graveyard, and in the distance, they could hear a woman scream. Way off in the woods.

Barbara was getting tired of being a country girl. That dirt road kept her car dirty, and she was wanting back in town with cable TV and city water. The kids, well, they were about grown now, but were anxious to get away from that place. So, I put in ten months at hard labor, building our third house I have built. Right before we moved, I tore down that old shack at the back. Some of that lumber was still solid, and I might need it to build the grandkids a playhouse, someday, so I carried a couple of loads of it to our new house in town, stacked it in the edge of our woods, covered it up to save it.

     The years were flying by, and Barbara and I found ourselves with five grandchildren! Four boys and a girl. I still had not gotten around to building that playhouse.

    Kinley and her husband, Mickey, bought our studio in Arkadelphia, then moved to Little Rock and bought a Sports Photography franchise, which they continue to this day. Corey, also, followed in Barbara’s footsteps and became a photographer in Little Rock. I always thought kids usually followed in the father’s footsteps, but no, it was not to be. He soon decided to build his own studio in West Little Rock, and I helped supervise his contractors, living on site in my camper for several months. When finished, he had a lot of scrap lumber left over, gave it to me, sorta in payment for my time.  Said I could use it working on my rent houses.

     In the end, I decided to use it to build that playhouse for my grandchildren. I went one step farther, and built a tree house in the edge of our woods. When I was finishing up, I decided to check through that very old lumber, stacked in our woods for many years, and maybe there was enough of it still sound. There was. I decided to build an addition to the top. I wound up building a second story, mostly from that very old lumber from out by the cemetery.

CONCLUDED IN FOUR DAYS    Don't miss it - I can only hold up to tell this last part once.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Guardian of the Dead

To see three of Pat Gillum's stories read on You Tube Gillum

First, let me give you a little background. Many years ago, when Henderson State University was still Henderson College, There was a small cemetery nearby. It was very old, I really don’t know how long it had been there. As Henderson expanded, the small cemetery was in the way. It was near where the girls softball field now is. Henderson needed that land, so it was decided that the land would be taken, public domain and all that, and the graveyard moved. Almost nobody was still around to make an issue of that. Except for one older woman, whose whole family was in that cemetery.

     She protested to anyone who would listen, but in the end, the land was taken. She apparently had no money to hire a lawyer. The graves were moved out to a larger older cemetery, four miles out west of Arkadelphia. It has been told that she sat in her beat up old truck, right beside that cemetery, as her family was dug up and moved, never speaking to anybody, and glaring at anyone who came close.

     Nobody saw much of her for a long time. Then one day, it was noticed that she was hauling lumber in her old truck, stacking it right beside that cemetery fence out in the country, out where her loved ones now rested.  After a large stack was finished, she could often be seen, hauling it, plank by plank, into the woods on the west side of the cemetery. Everybody who knew her said she was a very self sufficient woman, and were not surprised when a small shack appeared, just outside that fence.  She built a little rail around on top, and could normally be seen, up on top of her shack, in her rocking chair. Stories were going around that she had just gone off the deep end when her whole family was dug up and moved. She seemed to dedicate her life to watching over her loved ones, every day. I suppose she was guarding them, making sure they were not disturbed again. She didn’t own that land, but it occupied just a very small part of a very large wooded tract of land there, everyone felt sorry for that poor woman, and the owners just left her alone.

     Time went by. Unfortunately, she was not always left undisturbed. Stories circulated about the crazy old woman out by the cemetery. When one drove down that dirt road on the far side, she could often be spotlighted in the headlights as one made the turn, just sitting on top that shack, just rocking.

     Seems a group of young men eventually decided to have a little fun with her. They started out by hollering at her, taunting her, until eventually she would disappear into  her shack. Unfortunately, Other young people got in on the fun, walking out into the cemetery, hollering at her that they were going to dig up her family again. Lots of people had heard her story by now. When they did this, she usually would start screaming, and would still be screaming when they tired of the game and left. The few people remaining in Arkadelphia who knew her said she had developed a very unnaturally strong hatred for anyone around college age, starting when her family was dug up to allow HSU’s expansion. Nobody seemed to know if any of the young people harassing her were students or not, but to her it didn’t matter. She just grouped all young people together, and hated them all.

     One Halloween, a group of particularly mean mean young guys decided to go scare  her. They parked their car a good ways back, walked very quietly up to the shack, then on signal they started pounding on the walls and hollering at her. She was dozing off up on top, in her chair, and when the ruckus started, she got up quickly, screaming, ran for the roof access hole,  apparently fell against that railing, broke through a section of it, fell, and her neck was broken. She was buried right beside her family.

      But this is not the end of our story.

Continued in four days. thanks for your time, and your attention.