Wednesday, August 27, 2014
My dear brother Harold Gillum was buried this week. Starting when I was only a baby, Harold has always been my hero, my role model. One of my very first memories was of Harold, standing in front of the mirror, carefully shaping his beautiful locks of curly dark hair with Wild Root Cream Oil Charlie. Harold is fourteen years older than I, so my time with him before he left Wing was limited. When we swam together in the creek, if the water got too deep for me, he swam with me on his back.
With a baseball in his hand, Harold could produce miracles. His knuckle ball usually hit me just about anywhere, except in my glove. His curve ball would look like it was way above my head, then curve neatly in for a strike at the last moment. Right or left. His fast ball, well, I think I have about blocked out my memories of catching that. He once stood in front of our house, threw the ball up in the air, and hit it to the old barn down in front of the house. “There. That will give you a goal to shoot for, as you grow older.” When I was grown, and still was not anywhere close, I measured his hit. 500 feet.
When we squirrel hunted, I felt lucky to hit the squirrel anywhere with our old .22. Harold only shot his in the ear, to save the meat.
Fishing for red horses and suckers, I once caught one with a bare hook. While Harold caught half a washtub full.
Harold was a mature, solid person at a young age. When Harold was a senior in high school, they needed a school bus driver from Wing very badly. The Bluffton bus was doing a double route, and the people up there were getting tired of getting up so early. There were no potential drivers on the Wing end of the line, and there was no house on our end of the line to move someone into. Finally, Harold's name was brought up. It was said that he was as solid as a 40 year old man. And that was true. So, Harold was hired as a school bus driver a week before school started. There was just one problem. He couldn't drive. Some of the local men gave him a week's crash course, and he learned quickly. When the Yell County Fair time arrived, he drove a bus load of students over Danville Mountain, then only a dirt mountain trail. All the other bus drivers chose to go around by Ola. Mr. Tommy Sullivan was on that bus. When they started down the mountain, he moved up and sat on the steps right by the door, hand on the door opener. At the bottom of the mountain, he pronounced Harold a good driver.
Harold came in on a furlough from the Air Force. I had caught some pretty nice catfish down at the slough, and as is typical for Harold, he just had to give it a try even though it had been raining a lot and the river was coming up. The slough makes a big curve from the river, then back to it, and we would have to swim to get to the good hole. One night Harold, my cousin Jack Larry, and I set out. The water was over my head, but we got across okay. The fish were not in a biting mood, but the river just kept coming on up. Pretty soon, the road was about the only ground not covered on the whole island, and we decided to get out while we could. The water moccasins were all up on the high ground too, and Jack Larry and I were barefooted, with one small light. Every few steps we spotted another one. When we got to the spot where we had to swim, there was now a rushing current. Larry and I both had to hang onto Harold on the way across to keep from being washed away. He was larger and a strong swimmer, but I still don't know how he did it. Well, the snakes were just as thick on the other side, too, and I've never been so happy to get home.
My wife and I once visited Harold while he was in the Air Force, in Montana. He drove down town to a store and found a parking place in front of the store, but it was going to cost him a dime. He drove another quarter of a mile down the road, and found free parking. We had to walk half a mile, but when we left for home, the dime was still in his pocket.
Harold worked for the Forest Service several years. When Yellowstone burned over, he took a firefighting crew there. After 30 hours on the fire line, he had a ruptured aneurysm in his brain.
He was flown to Idaho Falls for surgery. His wife Lou headed for Idaho Falls, and I followed a day or two later. When I got to the hospital, Harold had a drainage tube in his head, but he had not lost any of his sense of humor. "Pat," he said, "Be sure to tell the surgeon, if she takes anything out when she operates, just put it in a little box. I'll want to go through it later."
The operation took eight hours. They had to cool his body down to stone cold, to slow the blood flow. When the vessel was then empty of blood, a clamp could then be slipped over it, and the heart restarted. He made it through all right, partially because, the doctor said, he was so big and strong to begin with. I shook his strong but stone cold hand, and I headed home. I was not needed there. His wife Lou was awake, and on guard.
The net result was, when it was all said and done, Harold's balance and ability to get around were affected. He could not swallow for some time, and took his nourishment through a feeding tube for a good while after he took the farm back over. His brain, fortunately, was as sharp as always. Once he got through rehab, he continued to run his cattle farm as always, but it was a lot slower and more complicated now. Given enough thinking time, one can figure out a way to do most anything, if the determination is there. And he always had a lot more than his share of that. He went on steel determination for years. Once, he was raking hay. He was standing beside the tractor and pushed a rake lever the wrong way. It tightened in on him, and he quickly pushed the lever again–still the wrong way. Bones started popping. He finally extracted himself with numerous broken ribs and a punctured lung, but in typical Harold fashion, finished raking his hay before going to the hospital. First and foremost, the farm is taken care of.
When I thought Harold was pretty well over the hill, pushing forty, and I was still a young buck fresh from running college track, I challenged Harold to a race. He won. So, I challenged him to an arm wrestling contest. He slammed my arm down so fast and so hard, I thought it must be broken. To try to save a little face, I pronounced, “I’m going to start lifting weights. Someday, I’ll challenge you again.” For years I stalked him. As he got older, time and again I visited Harold, and evaluated my chances. Each time, when he rose to greet me and wrapped his aged, strong fingers around my hand, I realized, I was rushing it. Finally, he could no longer stand to shake my hand, and I started looking for a table we could use. But his strong handshake again told me it was no use. I just never felt the time was right.
I love you, Harold, and I will keep you in my heart forever. But I will continue lifting weights, because I will see you again.
Friday, August 22, 2014
The old, old church in Wing, Arkansas has a very rich history dating back to September 18, 1879. On that date, a plot of land was deeded over to Mineral Springs Methodist Church by William S. Buford.
Wing was originally named Mineral Springs, because of a very large, cold spring behind the church. The name of the community was later changed to Fair Hill, in honor of a preacher, Nathan Fair. Then, it later became Wing. The church building was finished soon thereafter. A church record book, still in existence, shows a record of church members, and a record of activities and events taking place there starting early in the 1880's. The original church pews, built from virgin timber from boards 16 inches wide, are still there. The piano that is still there today was put in new, in 1904.
That Church will always be dear to my heart. Though I no longer live at Wing, I keep a picture of that church near my desk in my writing room.
The Turner, Compton, and Woolbright families were key figures in the church in the early days, and many of them are still involved in the present and future of the church.
Montgomery PikeWoolbright brought his family up the Arkansas River prior to 1870. The Arkansas River was said to be sixty miles wide at the time, and other pioneers reported the same thing. That puzzled me, until I remembered. Before the days of flood control, the Arkansas, White, and Mississippi Rivers merged together in times of flood, creating one very large body of water in the Delta. At the mouth of the Fourche La Fave River, they boarded a smaller boat, containing two adults, one child, three ducks, and MP's tools. They traveled up the Fourche to Jennings falls, as far as they could go by water. Jennings Falls is now under Nimrod Lake. They eventually settled at Wing. Samuel A.Turner homesteaded land near Wing in 1861. His offspring have always played a leading role in the church.
Methodists and Baptists were not always on the best of terms, I understand. Bob Compton, a leader in the early days of that church, once royally dressed down my two aunts, Lula Belle and Hallie, for walking two miles to Briggsville to attend a Baptist church.
None of his business, he was told.
Prior to the arrival of my family in 1898, theWing area was an educational mecca. My Uncle Arthur traveled to Wing, boarded, and went to school. He became one of the last traveling country doctors, making his rounds on horseback for many years. In addition to a large school building across the road, Mineral Springs Academy advertised for prospective students, "Room and board with a nice local family for two dollars per month." There was also an "overflow classroom" in the upstairs part of the church. My Aunt Hallie taught in that building many years. The stairs have long since been removed, but in the 1950's, my buddy Sammy Turner and I, as boys, crawled up in that bell tower to that room after church one day. We had to sidestep a rattlesnake about half way up. When we reached the classroom, the name "Leta Lazenby," along with others, was written on the chalkboard. She was my aunt who left Wing forever for the bright lights of California in the early 1930's. Carpenters working on that church saw that name and many others, years later, and I assume they're still there.
Though a Methodist church, many different denominations often used it for revivals, "Meetings." My oldest brother was saved at a Baptist meeting, led by R.L. Whitten, one of the finest men I have ever known. I always put an extra flower on his grave every Decoration Day at Hunt's Chapel. The building was often used by Woodmen of the World, the Women's Circle, voting, weddings, and funerals.
We usually had an attendance of fifteen or so in my childhood. In the winter, we all did an unusual thing, for a church. We all raced for a spot on the front row, right by the huge potbellied stove. For a long time, a student minister from Hendrix College preached one Sunday each month. One day, Flossie Hull, who played the piano, suggested that our youth should play the piano and lead the singing. Well, we had only two youth then, Annette Person and myself, and I knew I couldn't play a lick, so I grabbed a song book. Annette was just then learning to play, so she played at half speed. I had to slow my singing way down, dragging out those words as far as possible. And, though I was supposedly leading, I always waited for Flossie to kick in before I started. My singing was not safe at any speed, but Flossie was a good sport. We held those official positions for a long time. Seemed like forever for all of us. I've never been asked to do that again.
Christmas carols were blasted out from the belfry for days leading up to Christmas, and we decorated our church tree with strings of red berries, popcorn balls, and sweetgum balls covered with tinfoil. It was truly the center of our community, with box suppers, home made ice cream, and pot luck dinners on a regular basis..
After I left Wing in 1962, the church remained closed to regular services for a number of years. In the early 1970's, regular services were held for a few years, with Rev. Claude Miles preaching. Later, Rev. Royce Savage preached at several of the area Methodist churches, but not at Wing. A few years later, several ladies held bible study services and sang hymns, without a regular pastor.
This finally came down to two sisters, Edith Turner and her sister, Hazel, coming each Sunday for prayer and hymns.
"Where two or more are gathered in my name, I will be among you."
A lady from the Methodist Association later showed up in the office of Cindy Turner Buford, informing her, "Since the church belongs to us, we have decided to do something else with it." I suppose that could have meant saving for historical purposes, or removing it.
"No," Cindy said. "The church is on our land, and we will take care of it."
And they did. The road in front had been moved, now too close to the building. Buell Turner, the long time Postmaster and store owner deeded a new plot of land, reaching farther back and allowing for a small cemetery. The plot was deeded to Wing Community Church. The Methodists, it seems, are out of it.
Coleman House Movers moved the church back. The Turner Family, and possibly others, pitched in and repaired the old church, providing the beautiful building of today. Buell Turner even ran electricity to the church from his own house for a time. Buell, his brothers Sam and JR, and cousin Fay Turner all played a major roll in the repairing. I'm sure others were involved, but few of the old timers remain to tell the whole story. Since then, it has been used for special occasions.
As a child, I remember our Sunday school teacher leading us in reading from our song book, Part of which was "I believe in the holy catholic church." I never understood that. Rev. Savage told me, since it was written in little letters, it meant "Universal Church."
I was sprinkled in that church. The last year or two I lived at Wing, the church closed, so my mother and I went to the Rover Baptist Church. I was baptized there, in the Fourche River. So, hopefully, I am fully covered.
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
I was born when my dad was 52, my mom 40. The youngest of the Gillum Wing generation. My cousins were grown and gone, all my siblings were gone by the time I was 12. So, I pretty well grew up with all the old folks. The Gillums mostly lived side by side, or about as close to side by side as we got in Wing. A mile apart.
Most of my uncles and my dad were pretty serious, no nonsense, hard men. At least, they were by the time I came along. I never knew any of them when young blood flowed through their veins.
But Uncle Franz was different. He still laughed a lot, and he found things in life to enjoy. He was very, very, smart. He spent much of his working life teaching, as an administrator, or as a Civilian Conservation Corps director after the depression. He had retired by the time my memories of him began. He came back to Wing, built a house, a big fishing pond, got land and cattle. His girls were still finishing up school, so Aunt Grace hung out at Conway until they were grown. He was so sick of dressing up every day, he came back living and dressing like a sure enough hillbilly.
He taught at Fountain Hill awhile. He told me once they lived in a pretty rough part of town, and when they came back to Wing for a visit, (Everybody from Wing comes back as often as they can. Wing is just about the perfect place to be. Just about. The one thing missing is a lot of options about what to do for a living. So he, like me, had to scramble around in other, lesser parts of the world to make a living and raise a family.) He was a little worried about his house and his stuff while he was gone. So, he found the biggest, roughest, meanest man in the neighborhood, took him his house key, and asked him to watch his stuff while he was gone. That worked perfectly. Nobody ever messed with his stuff. I told you he was smart. It was a hard day's drive from Southeast Arkansas in those days, what with all the mudholes to get through.
Uncle Franz seemed to go to bed about the time the chickens went to roost. But he was up by the middle of the night, and a whole lot of that time, he was pounding on his old, beat up typewriter. I saw him doing that a lot, but never knew what he was doing in those days. It was not until recently, when I began to see some of his work, that I realized he was a world-class poet. But his work seems to be pretty much lost to the world. The copies of his poems that I have been able to get my hands on are pretty dim, probably copies of copies of copies from an old typewriter not much good to begin with. But I'm going to do the best I can to figure out some of them, and share them with you. Hope you like them too.
Three Shots Rang Out (President John Kennedy)
A man was riding on parade
A great good man who fervently prayed
For peace and freedom the wide world O'er
When three shots rang out and he's no more.
A man so young and sincere too
Ambition spurred to drive him through
A fearless man with wisdom's store
But three shots rang out and he's no more.
A speechless world rose quick and fast
To honor him whose soul had passed
From life through death to live once more
For in hearts those shots closed not the door.
A mortal form lies lifeless now
No wicked worry to fret his brow
Yet he's greater now than e'er before
Since three shots rang out and he's no more.
No Sparkles Show
Sometimes the dew on blades of grass
That crowd in over the padded path
And hide the footprints in the dirt
Goes by unnoticed as I work.
No sparkling diamond hue I see
Because my eyes are so busy
Searching for another sight
A little spot of red and white.
It's hidden somewhere in the grass
I must not miss it as I pass
Of course it probably would be
As well that I did not see.
Yet something inside me tells me “no”
And thats the reason no sparkles show
On blades of grass when wet with dew
At early day when morn is new.
Dew sparkling grass is just as wet
And sparkles just as bright, still yet
It bothers me not as much by half
When looking for a newborn calf.
Oh 'my gosh what was that
That weird sound out yonder?
Sounds just like a squalling cat
followed then by rolling thunder.
Curiosity got the best of me
Out the window I looked to see.
Then quick as lightening's flash
I rushed over to the window
Pulling up the bottom sash
I saw kids on the biggest bender
No, not drunk, I didn't say
Just a frolicking group at prankster's play.
On they came so thick and fast
Noisy costumed witches leading
Followed behind by lad and lass
Street decorum knew no heeding.
Turned the corner down my street
And at the door yelled “trick or treat!”
Treat. The choice was made post haste.
What was left for me to do?
I knew I had no time to waste
When I viewed closely this weird crew
Dressed so spooky from head to feet
Playing innocently “trick or treat.”
Uncle Franz drove his Farmall Cub tractor by our house just about every morning. I knew he was going to check his cows. But I also knew that before lunch, he would be down at the lake or the river, fishing. If I was able to get loose, I grabbed my pole and headed down that way. Sitting on the river bank with Uncle Franz, catching one bream after another, was always time very well spent. I always rode out on the back of his tractor.
In his later days, A doctor discovered he had an anurism in his stomach. He was told that if it burst, he would die before he could get to a hospital. Uncle Franz said, “That sounds like a good way to go.” He had no operation. A while later, he did go. Just that way.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
I have always called her "The Eternal Cheerleader." When she married Ky, she was fresh from being an Ouachita Baptist University cheerleader. They began having babies, and more babies. But it didn't affect Teresa as one would expect. She still kept the slim figure, still looks like a cheerleader. But that is not the main gist of my story here.
As with many women, Teresa had always wanted a girl. Badly. The first was a fine boy. Soon four great, handsome young boys blessed them at their dinner table.
Teresa's biological clock was running out.
Corey and Christi, Teresa's age, decided to have one more child late in life. Their children were growing up, and Christi just loves having a baby in the house. And, Corey has always spent his spare time playing with his kids. Needless to say, they are great parents. Christi's home had become babyless, and Corey was losing his playmates.
Teresa and Ky made a decision. If Corey and Christi could have a child late in life, so could they.
Teresa was soon pregnant. During her early pregnancy, Teresa was walking along the beach in Florida. Something pink lay in the path ahead. When she reached it, she recognized a pink baby shoe! She ran to it, picked it up. She burst out crying. This was it! This was the sign! She took this shoe home.
The day of the tell-tale ultrasound arrived. Christi couldn't bear it. She waited in the car. Teresa emerged from the clinic. Her head was down. Christi's heart sank.
Suddenly, Teresa raised her flushed, smiling face and making what could possibly be her greatest cheerleader move ever, threw her arms to the sky and shouted, "Its a Girl!!"
The pink shoe was framed in a shadow box, and the new baby's room was built around it.
Rachel, Teresa and Ky's new daughter, and Carson, Christi's new baby and Corey's new playmate, are a wild pair when they get together. They are now five years old. Barbara and I were at daughter Kinley's house awhile back. Teresa's mom, a wonderful woman, was very ill. She was in hospice, and the end was near. Barbara and I offered to watch after Rachel and Carson during a very hard day for Teresa. We soon realized we had our hand's full, with these two. Barbara followed them around when they were in the house, I took over when they went outside. Rachel ran to the swing, jumped up and grabbed the ropes as high as she could, and was soon upside down. I was in panic mode. Teresa was a gymnast, and hoped Rachel would be also. I learned really quickly, she had gotten her wish.
You may have seen it on the internet. Rachel recited the 23rd Psalm, from memory. Rachel is not just a gymnast. Not just a pretty face, which she is also. Five years old.
Barbara and Rachel were talking. "Guess what?" Rachel was saying. "My Grams may get to go to see Jesus today!" Reading the sadness in Barbara's eyes, she said, "It's not a bad thing! She's going to get to live in a castle made of gold!" From the mouths of Babes.....
Teresa happened to look up the meaning of the name "Rachel" later. Oh, sorry, I almost for got to tell you what she found. "Rachel: A Gift From God."
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
Corey's lifelong friend Ky is a bright young man. He was also a student of mine at one time.
He designed a new trophy. Not just any trophy, but one with 7 different, flashing and rolling lighting patterns in the column. Like none other. He needed a partner. A person with a strong sales and business background, someone he could trust. My son Corey fit the ticket.
The next job was to find someone who could actually build such a thing, inexpensively. After much looking, He finally located a company in China who said they could do it. They did. They shipped Ky a small load to approve.
Corey and Ky gave me some of them to go over, look for problem areas. They worked well, but I did discover a problem. A few of them seemed to have a weak switch. When pressed, the switch just sometimes broke loose inside. Taking it apart, I saw the switch was glued into place. Sometimes, those with less glue just gave way.
I called Ky, explained the problem. That switch just needed to be reworked. The switch issue was resolved, we thought. Corey and Ky, just sure they were onto the next "big thing," ordered a shipping container load. They are both very big thinkers. Financing became a problem, and they offered Barbara and me 20% interest in the company if we backed their loan. Not a thing characteristic of us, we did. After Dad's Great Depression days, he made a family rule, one I had always followed to that point. A Gillum never signs anyone else's note. But, this seemed like a sure hit.
When the container load arrived, and boxes were stacked in a warehouse, we went to inspect. The stacks and rows of boxed trophies seemed to stretch on forever.
We opened a box, and started testing. The earlier batch had been shipped in the summertime. Only a few failed. This container load had been shipped in the winter. The glue must have gotten very cold on that long voyage.
One switch failed. And the next. And another. Somehow, in the communication between Me, Ky, and China, the seriousness of the problem was not fully understood. They had not remolded the plastic column, providing a solid backing, but had added more glue, and tested a great deal. But they obviously had not taken into account the effect of the cold. Apparently, warm glue holds better that cold. We were looking at 22,500 non-functional trophies.
The International Trophy Show, in Las Vegas, was in March. It was late December. We had two months to straighten this mess out.
Ky negotiated with the Chinese for days, but from a position of weakness. They had our money.
Shipping them back was not an option for them. That was the major expense. Them sending a team of workers over was discussed.
Then we got to thinking. If they could repair them, we could too. We had a second generation trophy, still on the drawing boards. We could not afford it at this time, for this year's Trophy Show.
If they could redesign the switch correctly, build the larger trophies, and ship them all for free to us in exchange for their switch messup, We could come out ahead. If we repaired the stock in hand. A very big IF.
China went for it, very anxious to please us, and keep theirselves in position for much profit when the really big orders came in. The deal was sealed.
Figuring out just how to repair this mountain of trophies fell upon me.
For days I tried one idea after another. Reheating worked, but after a night in the freezer we were back in the same boat. Finally, I discovered that if I took the trophy out of its box, took the batteries out and put a very short screw into the bottom of the battery case at exactly the right place, it could be tightened up against the back of the switch, and hold it firmly in place. It worked!
But it was slow. It would take a virtual army of men to repair all these by March. Then it hit me. Or, perhaps, a single family of working machines. I called Henry Emison.
He was not really busy now, and they could use some Christmas money. We agreed upon 25 cents each, we haul and pick up. Finished by March.
Corey and I went shopping. 22,500 screws, just the right length. A handful of Dremmel tools, drill bits and screw drivers. The next problem was to get that mass of boxes to Gurdon. My friend, Bud Reeder, loaned his truck and large trailer.
Hooking that very heavy trailer up one morning, I strained a little too hard. On the way to Little Rock, my vision in one eye started going crazy. I was seeing little sperm shaped black things, swimming all around in my vision in that eye. It continued. Unloading the trophies later that day, I called my friend Frank Teed, a well known eye doctor. His team was out of town that day, but he said meet him at his office when he returned. And, don't lift another box. My frient Tyrone was helping me unload. I was glad, but he was sad, when I told him he had to do the rest of the unloading alone.
Frank's team were all there waiting for me when I arrived after hours. Nice to have good friends in important places. The verdict was my retina was tearing loose. After a specialist welded it back with a laser the next morning we continued hauling trophies.
A warehouse in Arkadelphia was rented. We shuttled the boxes to Henry, and we all shuttled them back to the warehouse when repaired.
This is not a part of this story, but a neat thing, so bear with me. Hauling the empty trailer back from Gurdon one day, a large deer almost hit my trailer, which was at least 3 feet tall. When I looked into the rear view mirror, all I could see was the bottom of it's feet. It jumped clean over my trailer!
As it turned out, Henry had young and grown children who were also hard workers. Lori has the same work ethic as Henry. Before March rolled around, they were all repaired and in our warehouse.
Next came the big show. The Chinese had made good on their delivery of the larger trophies. They were perfect. Corey, Ky, and wives Christi and Teresa headed to Las Vegas, to the International Trophy Show, loaded for bear.
We got the call late one night from Las Vegas. Our trophy had just been named "Best new trophy of the year!" We rejoyced. We were about to all be rich!
Now the ball was in Corey's court. Two of the trophy industry's largest suppliers wanted to buy us out. We knew we had to sell, now, while it was hot. We did not have the money to market it ourselves, on this large scale. Offers flew back and fourth.
Finally, a large company in South Dakota offered what we decided was our best deal. A nice royalty on future sales, and they would buy all our existing stock, our repaired trophies. They sent a big truck to Arkadelphia to pick them up. They wanted their own suppliers from China to build 100,000 more, but their suppliers could not figure out how to build it. They made a deal with our company in China.
When the trophy appeared in the catalog that fall, they used the entire back cover promoting it. The company reported the dealers just loved it, and orders were flying off the shelves. After the dealers got stocked up, we held our breath to see how the public would react.
It was not good. The trophy seemed to fall into a void between very cheap participation trophies and more expensive, larger trophies. The public was just not as excited as we, and the dealers, were. The royalty check reached a trickle, and has held there so far. It seems we are not going to be rich after all. But thank the dear lord our investment money is safe. It could have been a whole lot worse.
Ky is still busy turning out new inventions regularly. But Barbara and I quietly bowed out of the futures portion of the company. We've had all of that form of drama we want, for a lifetime. And, I still remember the last time a Gillum signed someone else's note, in 1930. It extended The Great Depression for my family in the mountains of Wing, Arkansas, sixteen years.
But wait. This story is not over yet. Do you remember me speaking of Teresa, Ky's wife?