Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Forever A Hillbilly: Skeet

Forever A Hillbilly: Skeet: Skeet was born Jessie Adams in Pine Bluff, Arkansas in 1944. Somebody mentioned that day that he was no larger than a ‘skeeter’ when h...


Skeet was born Jessie Adams in Pine Bluff, Arkansas in 1944. Somebody mentioned that day that he was no larger than a ‘skeeter’ when he was born, and that name seems to have stuck.
     He and his wife of 45 years, Willene, a great lady who babies Skeet much as Skeet babies his boat, his little red cars and his big red truck, have lived their life at Pine Bluff until six years ago. Then they bought a house on DeGray lake, partially to give Skeet’s big, beautiful bass boat a home close to good fishing waters.
     Skeet’s big bass boat may very well be the most beautiful bass boat most of us have ever seen; bright red, with pretty sparklies all over it in typical Skeet fashion. He bought it many years ago, but also in typical Skeet fashion, it has been babied and cared for lovingly so that one would think it was bought brand new yesterday. I heard a dealer once tell Skeet that it was probably worth $80,000 today, though it only cost a small fraction of that new.
     Skeet fondly recalls the Pine Bluff of his youth, when many people had no locks on their doors, and those who did seldom used them. “Everyone just seemed to get along,” Skeet says. “A Pine Bluff youth of today, transported back to the 1950’s, would think he had died and gone to heaven. Even a child, walking alone down a dark street where the beer joints abounded, with fist fights involving the patrons often going on nearby, was considered safe.” However, some things were scary, such as accidentally falling into a shallow grave onto a pile of bones while running through the woods one night.
     Pine Bluff night clubs of the fifty’s, such as the Trio club, were considered great stepping stones for Memphis by up and coming young musicians.  Skeet regularly rubbed elbows with the likes of the Uniques, (he dated the drummer’s sister) Jim Ed Brown, and Jerry Lee Lewis. They often played at area schools, also.
     Once, a young man came out and played with Skeet and his dog in the street for a while. The next day, Skeet’s dad asked if he knew who the young man was. Skeet said no. His dad then said, “Elvis Presley.” Skeet was not impressed. “So?”

     Riding his Cushman[BG1]  Eagle scooter back to school to pick up his grades, he accidentally collided with a 57 ford with yellow fenderskirts, (Only Skeet would be admiring the color of the fenderskirts while
 getting his leg broken)  and his scooter hung up on one of those beautiful fenderskirts. The scooter was pulled out from under him. Skeet emerged with a broken leg. After lying up most of the summer, he went to Dr. Cunningham to have the cast taken off. When the doctor, who was their family doctor, realized his parents were not there with him, he asked Skeet how he got there. “Rode my scooter.” The doctor took him to the back room. The doctor then  gave him a good spankin’ and said, “I’m gonna tell your daddy!” He did, and Skeet got another spanking when he got home.
     Skeet was a bit wild, at times. He once was driving his buddies around in his car, took a curve a little fast, and the car slid out into a yard and partially under a house. Skeet’s buddy went inside to see if anyone was hurt. As the police arrived, he came running back out, “Quick! Call an ambulance! There’s a woman dyin’ in there!” Seems she was sitting on the commode when the car hit the drain, and the commode suddenly disappeared. She was fine, except for a couple of strategic bruises. She never seemed to like Skeet after that.
     At Skeet’s graduation ceremony at Watson Chapel High school, he was called up by the Superintendent and recognized as the only student to ever graduate from Watson Chapel High School with straight F’s in math his senior year. I’ve often said Skeet walks a very thin line in life between being a total genius and totally crazy.
      Skeet and I both attended Arkansas A&M and lived in the same dorm, Sorrell’s Hall, for two years. He lived upstairs and I lived down, and we never met. I do know many strange things occurred upstairs at Sorrell’s Hall during Skeet’s tenure, such as a trash can carrying a live skunk appearing in someone’s room as a surprise gift, as well as a limb covered with honeybees arriving in much the same way. Blocking off the community shower with huge blocks of Styrofoam glued into place made a great swimming pool until the dam burst, sending a great waterfall of white water cascading down the stairs one night. Each of these incidents emptied the building for a time, and the culprit(s) were never caught. Skeet emphatically denies major participation in any of these dramatic events, but I do know things settled down up there when skeet left after two years, to start working at the paper mill and signing up with the National Guard at Pine Bluff.
     After 42 years working in maintenance at the paper mill, Skeet can fix any broken metal item, making it look new. He’s an artist with a welder in his hand. He’s also a gifted artist with a pencil in his hand. My grandchildren regularly fight over who gets to sit next to him in church. They know Skeet will draw a wonderful picture of a smokin’ hot rod, or motorcycle, or some such vehicle during the service and the closest kid to him will proudly get to take it home.  All the college kids flock to Skeet in droves. They know where to find him. He will always be occupying his accustomed place of honor on the back row.
     Skeet and Willene have two children, four grand-children, and one great-grandchild.
     Life is never dull around skeet. It becomes difficult, over time, to remember just exactly what his face looks like if he is not smiling, laughing, or telling a story. We need a lot more Skeet’s in this world, as long as we keep them spread out a bit. I can just not imagine what a room full of Skeets would be like, and what could happen.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Forever A Hillbilly: Conclusion - Guardian of the Dead

Forever A Hillbilly: Conclusion - Guardian of the Dead: I went to Pioneer Days at Plainview, Arkansas yesterday. I sold quite a few books, both Spreading Wing and Forever cry. But mostly, I ran on...

Conclusion - Guardian of the Dead

I went to Pioneer Days at Plainview, Arkansas yesterday. I sold quite a few books, both Spreading Wing and Forever cry. But mostly, I ran onto lots of great people I knew in the old days, back when I grew up in Yell County.
     Forever Cry can still be found at Hardman Interiors in Arkadelphia, both newspaper offices in Yell County, Gypsy JUNCTion in Plainview, and at The Country Store in Rover. Or, you can order from me direct for a personalized copy.


     Over time, I started noticing; strange things started happening, seemingly in that upstairs room of the tree house. Our bedroom in our house is on the end close to that tree house. 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. Occasionally I heard terrifying, high pitched screams emanating, it seemed, from that upper room at night, or was it just another nightmare? Occasionally, a small light could 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 their visiting friends 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 happened was when an OBU or HSU student was in our house. I started keeping track of it, and sure enough, that was the case - only when a college student was staying with us.
     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. I told him it had been deserted for years, that no lights were 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 2"x10" 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, the most highly pitched scream any of us had ever heard.  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? And how, with your deep voice, could you scream like that?”
     He got up and started heading down the hill toward his car. He stopped, turned and looked at us with a wild look in his eyes, and finally spoke in his very deep voice.
     “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.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Forever A Hillbilly: Part 2 - Guardian of the Dead

Forever A Hillbilly: Part 2 - Guardian of the Dead: *** From JD -  Endorsement for Forever Cry. Forever Cry was a great read. Not only is it an entertaining, heartwarming, and at times gut...

Part 2 - Guardian of the Dead

From JD -  Endorsement for Forever Cry.
Forever Cry was a great read. Not only is it an entertaining, heartwarming, and at times gut wrenching story of a family in the 1860's, it has fascinating history lessons woven throughout the book. 
Gillum has an incredible way of making history come alive. There is not much written about the post civil war days and the hardships experienced following the end of the war, especially for blacks in the south. It was heartbreaking to read about their plight to find work, land and dignity in the midst of their new found freedom. 
I came away with a new understanding of this very important time in history. I wholeheartedly recommend this book.

      This all happened years before my family moved to Arkadelphia, and I’m not really sure what happened to the guys who caused all this. I did not hear the first part of this story until many years later.
     My wife Barbara and I have two children, Corey and Kinley. When we moved, our son Corey was starting into the eighth grade, and our daughter Kinley would start into the fourth grade.
     We knew this might be our last move, if things worked out with the business we had just bought, a photography studio.
     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 about four miles to build a house on. It was heavily wooded, and I cleared out just enough trees initially 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. Strangely, it had a rail around the top, broken in one place.
     Corey and Kinley were 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 preferred HSU. Right after Corey started to OBU, he brought a couple of his buddies out for the weekend. All being adventurous, the boys wanted to camp in that old shack by the back fence.
     They were back home by midnight. A plank had fallen from the ceiling, seemingly for no reason at all, and raised a large knot on Corey’s buddy’s head. They all swore they heard a woman moaning in agony right outside, then they swore they could hear a woman screaming, a very high pitched scream, 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 work overtime.
     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 upstairs 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’s high pitched scream. Way off in the woods.
     My wife 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 grand kids 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 six grandchildren! Four boys and two girls. 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. Corey 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 and gave it to me in payment for my time.  He said I could use it working on our 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. It had been stacked in our woods for many years, and maybe there was enough of it still sound enough to use. 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.
 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 many years now.
     Over time, I started noticing that strange things started happening, seemingly in that upstairs room of the tree house. CONTINUED IN FOUR DAYS.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Forever A Hillbilly: Guardian of the Dead

Forever A Hillbilly: Guardian of the Dead: Guardian of the Dead By Pat Gillum First of all, let me give you a little background for this story. This took place many years ag...

Guardian of the Dead

By Pat Gillum

First of all, let me give you a little background for this story. This took place many years ago in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Henderson State University was still Henderson College. On the bordering property was a small cemetery. It was very old, with many more ancient graves than recent ones.
     As Henderson expanded, the small cemetery was in the way. It was near where the girl’s softball field is today. 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, some 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, 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 strong and determined woman, and were not surprised when a small shack appeared, just outside that fence.  She built a little rail around on top, and could sometimes be seen up on top of her shack, in her rocking chair. As far as could be determined, she now lived in that shack.
     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 beside the cemetery at night, 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 about college age 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 by 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. It was the most highly pitched scream anyone had ever heard and she 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 young guys decided to go scare her. They parked their car a good ways back, walked very quietly up to the shack. 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. She was screaming that particularly high-pitched scream and ran for the roof access hole.  She fell against that railing and broke through a section of it. In falling to the ground her neck was broken. She was buried right beside her family.

      But this is not the end of our story.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Forever A Hillbilly: Conclusion - Totally Wonderful, Completely Heartbr...

Forever A Hillbilly: Conclusion - Totally Wonderful, Completely Heartbr...:      Lisa was our one connection between Calvary, a church we attended and loved in Hannibal, Missouri when we lived there, and OBU in Arka...

Conclusion - Totally Wonderful, Completely Heartbreaking

     Lisa was our one connection between Calvary, a church we attended and loved in Hannibal, Missouri when we lived there, and OBU in Arkadelphia. She grew up in Calvary, and when she showed up in Arkadelphia, we took her under our wing. She worked for Barbara, on occasion. She was a photography assistant, cleaned our baseboards when Barbara was down in her back, and helped Barbara throw a tea party. Those kind of jobs are more plentiful in Arkadelphia, more so than the real jobs. She was training to be an athletic trainer, and had to transfer to continue that pretty quickly. Way too quickly. She just got married. This year.
     Dayton graduated last year, and is currently getting a good, long look at some of the hard things in life, as well as some of the beautiful ones, as an African missionary. She's had dozens of marriage proposals while there, and took a young child, dying of Aids, in to live with her. She's there for a year.
     Bethany is a Spanish major, and is currently studying in Spain for a year. We miss her. But we'll get her back, for a time.
     Hillary and Annie have an even longer relationship with Fellowship Church than we do. Their parents, Michael and Shirleen, were some of the founders. Michael, my best friend, was killed in a motorcycle accident, years ago.
     In later years, I suddenly felt a need to call Hillary. Then later Annie. And finally, Shirleen. They later reported that each of those calls came during a major low point in their lives, and were a bit spooked by it. They wanted to know how I knew to call at that moment. I didn’t know, but I have a strange feeling about how that came about. Michael was the strongest lay Christian I have ever known. I’ll let you write your own ending to this little story. I already have mine.
    Hillary graduated from HSU, Annie from OBU. 
    Hillary and John now live in Tennessee, Annie and Clayton in Texas. Fortunately, they both pass through Arkadelphia to visit each other. That gives us a chance to see those beautiful babies they are having. 
     I took Aaron catfishing several times, setting out sixty or so cane poles. Aaron says I taught him a
Good lifetime hobby. Aaron is a biology major, like I was. He soon hooked up with Cayla-Marie. They   married, and have moved on to Fayetteville. Cayla-Marie is a distance runner, like I once was, sixty pounds and fifty years ago. They are a perfect match. Like two bookends. With emphasis on the word perfect. Africa became their next home.
     Gobi was two weeks short of a Master's degree when diagnosed with cancer. He was alone in this country, a student at HSU. Our church took him in, along with a lot of help from HSU. We drove him to Hot Springs to chemotherapy treatments regularly. When he became too weak to look after himself, Barbara and I took him home with us. Barbara often helped him dress to take him to yet another chemotherapy treatment. Barbara stood up in our small church one Sunday, said Gobi needed to go to MD Anderson Hospital at Houston. She needed $2000 by Friday. On Friday, she had $2000, a plane ticket, and paid motel reservations. He is now cancer free, a professor in Malaysia, has a beautiful wife and daughter.  Our daughter put up a wonderful post on Facebook recently about her parent's love. A comment immediately popped up from a world away. “I know all about that love. It saved my life.” Barbara and I had a good cry.
     Joann graduated from OBU, sold everything she owned to raise money to go to China as a missionary. She stayed for years. When in this country recently, she came by and spent the night. I got out a truly weird thing I bought at a garage sale in Australia, to ask her if she knew what it was. She ran away screaming. Seems it was a Chinese idol or god of some sort. But it has been a totally well behaved weird thing in my closet for years now. Maybe she knows something about it I don't, but need to.
     Daniel is one of the few who has not broken our hearts. He graduated from HSU, and found a real job in Arkadelphia. A rare thing. He still shows up regularly at our house on Sunday nights.
     Another Daniel spent much of his time, while in Arkadelphia, wandering the poor neighborhoods, meeting children, bringing them to church, playing with them, as well as making them totally adore him. A local lady once saw what he was doing, called him over to her car, handed him several hundred dollars. She told him to spend it on the kids as he saw fit. He did. He also visited elderly, lonely ladies regularly, and drove them wherever they needed to go. We finally hired him to do his thing for the Church, and train others to do the same. But there was only one Daniel Graham, and when he and others he trained moved on, that work lessened. But others were inspired by him, as we all were, and are beginning to take up the slack. Before he left, Barbara asked him to be her Words with Friends (internet Scrabble) buddy. He told Barbara he would take it easy on her.
     Barbara replied, “No! I want you to do your very best!” Soon Barbara was beating him like a drum. There's only one sixty-four year old scrabble player like Barbara. I learned that long ago.
     Kate hung around Arkadelphia after graduating, even ran her own business for a time. She worked tirelessly on the Kid’s Festival for our church. Now she and Brian have moved on. Seems a seminary is now in their future.
     Yet another Daniel, and Kathleen, are twins. They were both in our group. Daniel and Lauren fell in love. That romance, also, could have started in our living room, but maybe not. We now see their beautiful baby regularly. On facebook.  Kathleen is a gifted dancer, a talent best used in a larger city.
     Most recently, Tim, our tireless power point and computer expert at our church, and his wife Kayla, who could always be found at our church working with the kids, left for Colorado, he for seminary and she for a university job.
     Kylie was my best renter ever. An old soul, still in her twenties. She hung around for an advanced degree. Then, she had a chance to work with Neal Nelson, one of our pastors and director of HSU's Baptist Collegate Ministries. Who could pass up a chance to work with Neal? As a really big plus, she met and married Daniel, (We just love our large flock of Daniels!) still finishing up his own degree, a budding Sports Analyst or Sports Information Director. But, we fear he will soon carry her away from us, to a larger city, where his expertise will probably lead him. But we won't like it.

     This is just a sampling. I could go on and on. My apology to all those equally loved students I didn't have room to include. Wherever our wonderful university kids/adults are in this world today, they will always be in our hearts. But we'll see them again. In this world or the next.   

By Pat Gillum

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Forever A Hillbilly: Totally Wonderful, Completely Heartbreaking

Forever A Hillbilly: Totally Wonderful, Completely Heartbreaking: Forever Cry may be found at Hardman Interiors in Arkadelphia. Or, order direct from me for a personalized book.

Totally Wonderful, Completely Heartbreaking


    Our church is a bit different. Instead of having Sunday night church services, we meet at homes in small groups. Like the first church. We meet, break bread, fellowship, study the word and pray for each other. Then we often have a campfire, roast marshmallows, and explode bamboo bombs, or the like. A few brave souls have even chosen to ride my zip line, sight unseen, down into the totally dark reaches of the lower woods. Toward that big tree at the bottom nicknamed “splat.” A few brave (or foolish ) ones have even volunteered to try to climb to upper reaches of the haunted tree house near by. But then, the tree house is another story. More on that later. Then they go home.

    This gives us the opportunity to really get to know and love these students. I cannot describe to you how great that is for us, and what a blessing this is to us. We have the opportunity to almost be substitute parents to these wonderful students for years. They become tightly woven into the fabric of our lives. But then, they graduate, and they often are soon gone, some forever, at least in this world. Many are reluctant to leave Arkadelphia, and work at jobs related to the universities for a time, or whatever they can find. But Arkadelphia has few job opportunities of the type they can hang their hats on, and raise a family around. Sooner or later, we lose almost all of them. It breaks our hearts, again and again, to see them go. We like to think of them as young people we have had the opportunity to know, love, have an impact on for several years, then send them out as Fellowship's missionaries to the world. Our loss is the world's gain. That's the wonderful side of it, but it does not stop the heartache.
     But that is not the end of our story.

     I'm almost certain Griffin and Stephanie fell in love in our living room, many years ago. They now have three wonderful boys. We not only correspond, but visit occasionally. Griffin called us on Christmas night. They were coming through Arkadelphia during one of our very rare snowstorms, the road was getting bad. They asked about spending the night, and I told him our home was always open to them. But in all honesty, I had to tell him. Barbara and I were both flat on our backs with a bad stomach bug. Your choice. After a short discussion, they sadly chose the slick highway, instead. But they will be back, and we will be there, from time to time.

     Candi and Jeff had graduated, but they chose to stay around awhile. And, they were in love. Candi was a nurse at Hot Springs. Not just a very good nurse, but the one the hospital chose to deliver very bad news to the family about a patent, when those times arose. That kind of nurse. Jeff was temporarily training HSU students to be  pilots, while waiting for a real job. Candi was ready to marry, start a family. Jeff seemed to have some reservations about being able to support a family, at that moment. I took Jeff aside after our group meeting, told him that if he missed out on this girl, he would never, in this lifetime, find another like her. He just smiled. Seems he had the ring in his pocket at the time. They have two wonderful youngsters now, and Jeff is a commercial airline pilot in Houston.      CONTINUED IN FOUR DAYS. Thanks for your time and your attention, the most valuable things one can ever bestow upon  any writer who writes for the love of writing.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Forever A Hillbilly: On Being a Class Act........

Forever A Hillbilly: On Being a Class Act........:      Some time ago, I wrote a story about a friend of mine. When describing his wife, the first description that came to mind was very ...

On Being a Class Act........

     Some time ago, I wrote a story about a friend of mine. When describing his wife, the first description that came to mind was very classy. Later, at his funeral, the pastor’s first descriptive words about his wife was, a very classy lady.
     What is it about some people that just seems to bring the word “classy” to mind? What is it about relatively few people that lets us know they have it? That experience seems to have gotten that question rolling around in my head a lot, while I’m thinking. I’m very good at thinking, especially when you just consider the sheer volume of it. Not necessarily quality thinking, not normally very productive thinking. And seldom intellectual thinking. Just thinking.
     Are there descriptive words out there that are so anti-classy, that, if they truly apply to the person in question, rule out any possibility of being classy? To me, some of those words would be snobby, gossipy, unkind, rude, selfish, self-centered, prideful, boastful, vengeful, vulgar, intentionally too loud, (physical limitations, such as not hearing well, don’t count here.) braggy, and shallow. Like I say, this is just my list. Yours may be very different, yet better. Or worse.
     Are there single, descriptive words out there that, if accurately applied, would prove that classy fits? I seem to have a problem with this question. Perfect will not work, because none of us are perfect, yet some are classy. Flawless? That implies perfect. So it would follow that we may have a few minor flaws, yet still be classy. What type of flaws would be allowed? Could it be that only minor flaws that do no harm to others would work? I tend to think so. There seems to be so many factors out there that go into making up a classy person, that no single word or short description can work, alone.
     Physical traits: While physical traits may be our first indicators, such as how we carry ourselves, how friendly we are, our posture, how we choose our clothes, how neat we are, how clean we are, etc. may get us tentatively in the right group initially, the core of it must come from within. We can’t keep that hidden forever.   And, our station in life we are born into can limit these outside appearances. When we were in the middle of the second largest and worst slum in the world, Kibera, (in Kenya) a little girl, who I remember as being around ten years old, ran out into our path, smiled, and said “Hi! How are you?” Her clothes were rags, just hanging on her body, but class stood out all over that girl. Barbara and I both wanted to just take her hand, and take her home with us, away from that place.
     Can one learn to be classy? Some people say no. You have to be born with it.  Many of us are so far away from being classy, it’s hard to imagine ever climbing up that far, and we may try and try and never succeed. On the other hand, I’m repulsed by the idea that any of us can be born into a situation, so deep in any hole, that we cannot ever climb out of it, no matter how hard we work. I tend to think yes. With hard work, we can learn to be classy.
     I think regional dialects have no place here. We learn to talk like people we live among. Many people tend to look down upon others who do not talk like they talk. I, for example, know a ton of classy hillbilly’s. Those who look down upon hillbilly slang are shallow people, to my way of thinking. Other shallow people may judge by body build, weight or height. I tend to think physical characteristics of the body one is born with is not a limiting factor.
     A classy person, generally, just has it together. We know they are not about to just lose it in the middle of a conversation, and say something stupid.
     A classy person is a good listener. Never quick to interrupt, or talk over another person. This whole statement smacks me right in the face. I’m too busy thinking of my reply, or my next statement, to fully listen to another. I need to work on this one. The more I write on this subject, the more I begin to realize where I fit in. So, can thinking or talking too long or too much rule me out? Maybe so, If I can’t climb out of that hole. And I’m an old man. I Don’t have a lot of time to waste.
     The “smirk” is a habit that we should be very careful with, especially for a smart person. It can easily convey the message, “I’m smarter than you.”
 I have a friend who is very smart. He pretty well always has the correct answer. But he usually starts his correction with, “Well, it COULD be that - -“
     When he does that, I just automatically know he’s about to tell me a truth I can count on, take to the bank. A humble preface to a truth conveyed by a very intelligent, classy person. Some people, however, do not respond well to his gentle approach. He and I were once in a van traveling from New Orleans. The driver seemed to think his sense of direction was superior to others. When the driver passed the proper exit, my friend softly stated, “It could be we should have taken that exit.” The driver paid no attention. We passed another exit. “We may very well have missed our turnoff.” No response. Approaching the next exit, “Turn this durned thing around!! You missed the road!” This time, the driver responded properly. He had just not had it explained to him in those terms before.

     Some people enter a room, and everything about them says, “I’m here! Look at me!”
     Some people enter a room and everything about them says, “Hello. How are you?”

      Guess who fits where.

      So, what have I accomplished with this post? In the end, very little. Food for thought, and that’s about it. I have never overly worried about being classy, myself, possibly because I normally do not occupied a position up at the top, looking down; I seem to spend a lot of time at the bottom, looking up. But I’m me, and I just love me, even if it turns out that, in the end, I’m in a small minority.
     A classy person would be very hesitant to put others into a judgmental position in any conversation. So, if we meet on the street, and you ask, “What about me? Am I classy?”
     Chances are, I would just look at you, smirk, and answer, “ I’m far too classy to answer that.”

      Then you’ll know.

Thanks for your time, and your attention.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Forever A Hillbilly: My Recess Education

Forever A Hillbilly: My Recess Education:      Getting an education at Fourche Valley School was a memorable experience. I'm sure many noteworthy events occurred during clas...

My Recess Education

     Getting an education at Fourche Valley School was a memorable experience. I'm sure many noteworthy events occurred during class time, but it’s recess that fills my mind with memories. Some names are changed to protect the innocent, and to protect me from the guilty.

     One of my classmates in particular educated me considerably. Bobby Ray was a grade behind me, but older.  He had broad, muscular shoulders, a bull neck, and tree trunks for arms. His recesses were filled trying to think of new ways to make life miserable for the rest of us.

     My buddies and I dammed up the sewer ditch from the lunch room. This made a dandy pond. The next day we brought little fish from home that we had caught in the creek and stocked our pond. We were so proud. Each day, we slipped some bread out during lunch period and fed our fish. Things went fine for a week or so; then Bobby Ray figured out what we were doing. He tore out our dam, stomped our fish, and, daring us to do anything about it, laughed and walked away, looking for new kids to torment.

     We hatched a plan. We agreed to circle Bobby Ray. While those of us in front distracted him, Snake Aikman, the strongest of our group, would back jump him. Then, the rest of us would help. Things slid smoothly along according to plan until we got to the point where the rest of us were to come into action. Snake held Bobby Ray around his arms, but as Bobby Ray struggled, becoming redder and redder, madder and madder, we all knew Snake's moments were numbered. Finally, I could stand it no longer. I jumped in to help. Together, Snake and I pulled Bobby Ray to the ground and held him. Long moments passed, some of the longest of my life. Bobby Ray introduced us to several new vocabulary words, and made us a number of promises, none of which were very appealing. At long last, the bell rang. We jumped up and ran for our lives. Our only saving grace was that Bobby Ray was slow afoot. The next several days we spent hiding and running.

     A few months later, Bobby Ray again contributed to my education, in an even more memorable manner. While my friends and I played kick ball, Bobby Ray saw another chance to torment. He grabbed our ball and sailed it into a briar patch, across the fence. We finally fished it out and continued our game, as Bobby Ray laughed and walked away. Later in the recess, as Bobby Ray and his friends played kick ball nearby, an opportunity arose to return the favor. His ball rolled over toward us. Without taking time to think out my actions, I threw their ball into the same patch. Even as I released the ball, I longed to have it back, to smile and gently pitch it back to Bobby Ray, but it was too late. My heart sank, and I well remember the contorted, red face as he strolled toward me, rolling up his sleeves. A circle of people gathered. Bobby Ray and I stood face to face. If Mary Lou had not been in the front of the circle, I think my feet would have found wings. But I just could not bring myself to do that in front of Mary Lou.
     Suddenly, Mary Lou stepped forward, stared Bobby Ray in the eye, and said, “Bobby Ray, why don't you just leave him alone! I'm not too sure about Pat, but I know Jack Larry can whip you.” 
     I heartily agreed to let Jack Larry take my place, but as I glanced over at him, I saw him ease his cap down over his face and slip to the back of the circle.

     My mind raced as I searched for a way out. Suddenly, I remembered. A few months ago, Bobby Ray was picking on Butch. Though he was much smaller, Butch took the initiative and popped him in the eye. Bobby Ray ran off crying and never bothered Butch again, at least to my knowledge. So I stepped up and popped him in the left eye, then it all broke loose! Fists the size of softballs began to rain all over my head. Knuckle bumps started popping up. I swung blindly, but it didn't slow him up a bit. Finally, he stopped. I thought to myself, “Why didn't it work? It worked so well for Butch! Maybe I hit the wrong eye.” I stepped up and popped him in the right eye, but Bobby Ray then found places to raise all new bumps, plus close and eye or two. At long last, the bell sounded, ending the longest recess of my life.

     A few months later, my chance to redeem myself in Mary Lou's eyes arose. As we sat in class one day, Miss Durah, our fourth grade teacher, saw that a grass fire threatened a small house nearby. Not wishing to endanger the class by letting the entire class rush out, she picked Butch and me to run help. Butch was two steps faster than me, so he was first to arrive. The exhausted woman fighting the fire pitched Butch a wet tow sack and directed me to get a tub of water sitting nearby. As Mary Lou and the other students watched from the window, I grabbed the tub. I couldn't budge it! I tried pushing it, tearing up the grass with my mother’s tennis shoes I was wearing that day. ( my allotted one-pair-of-shoes-yearly had already been torn up) I pulled at it, yanked it, but it did not move. By the time Mary Lou and the rest of the kids arrived, Butch had the fire out and I was heaving from exhaustion, lying beside the still-full tub of water.

     All the class gathered around Butch. Mary Lou said, “Oh, Butch! You are so brave and strong!” Maybe I only imagined it, but I thought I saw a side-long glance and a little smirk at me as she said “strong.”