Thursday, March 31, 2016

Forever A Hillbilly: Impressing the Grandboys

Forever A Hillbilly: Impressing the Grandboys: I seem to have this need for my grandboys to remember me as being outstanding in some physical way, because boys are all about physical str...

Impressing the Grandboys

I seem to have this need for my grandboys to remember me as being outstanding in some physical way, because boys are all about physical strengths. The problem is, I never did have many physical strengths to begin with, and what I did have are pretty well all gone. So I'm going to tell you my story about my search to bring this about, over the years.

      Caylie is my only granddaughter. She's a freshman at OBU now. We just love having her at Arkadelphia. But Caylie is a lady, rarely impressed by one's physical exploits. So, I just never felt the need to impress her with my physical strengths. And, she runs half marithons, and is a skydiver What could I do physically to impress a half marithoner, and a skydiver? Nothing, that's what.

      The grand boys are totally different. All four of them. Christian is the oldest, fifteen, weighing in at 192 with no fat, six feet tall, so I know better than to try to impress him with most physical things. Afraid he might impress me with his own physical things. But years ago, when he was much younger, I did impress him with my ability to start a fire out in the woods, under any weather conditions, using only a match and natural things available out in the woods. That impressed him. I also showed him how to start a campfire with flint and steel, and he just grabbed onto that one and worked and worked at it until he had mastered that too. When he was much younger, he and I were sitting around a campfire one night. I have to make a confession here, I occasionally have a small chew of tobacco. But I was still trying to conceal it from him. I didn't think he would be greatly impressed by that fact, and he never has been. Anyway, as we were sitting there spitting into the fire, as everyone worth their salt does in that situation, Christian just had to know. “Papaw, how come when I spit, it's clear. But you can spit brown. Now, why is that?” Well, I wasn't ready yet to tell him that whole story, he would find out soon enough. “Son, you have to reach way down into your lungs and bring it up from real deep to get to the brown stuff.” Christian started working at it. He just went deeper and deeper, just wore himself out. Couldn't do it. But he continued working on that for some time. He soon figured that whole thing out on his own.

Jordan and Jackson are brothers, and both are rough and tumble boys. They get a lot of experience at it, fighting like cats and dogs. All day. Every day. After coming home from two hours of wrestling.
      I just feel like my grandsons should carry memories of me around when they are older, and I 'm pushing up daisies, as a strong, fast, or tough old man. But it's too late. I can't impress them with my speed, I can barely get out of a good fast jog. On a good day. Strength, I never did have much of that. That just leaves tough.

      We were sitting in their house one night, several years ago. I told them I would give them one shot each at pulling on the long hair on my forearm. I've got a lot of it. My “kids” at our orphanage we worked at in Africa often said, “Uncle Pat is like Esau.” They both pulled as hard as they could. Though I was screaming inside, I just sat there and took it, never changed my expression. After that, they often said, “Papaw is the strongest man in the world. He's even stronger than Daddy.” Well, their father Mickey is about the strongest man I know. He could easily snap me like a twig, so I just wallowed in their admiration. Lately, the youngest, Carson, now six, got his shot at my forearm hair. But he somehow had it figured out. He didn't pull straight out, as the older ones did. He just grabbed a good handful of hair, leveraged his fist some way against my arm to get an unfair advantage of me, and pulled out a whole handful of hair. I've decided its about time to retire that one. But I kept a straight face the whole time. I'm proud about that.

      Two or three years ago, they all got into a big gunfight with those air soft guns (they shoot plastic BB's, unlike the metal kind) at my house, wearing goggles. I watched closely. Those plastic pellets went a long way, but you could follow the path of the pellet all the way out, so I knew they didn't pack a big punch. So I took advantage of that opportunity to impress. I put on goggles, and gave each of them five free shots at my face at about fifteen feet. Only one, right on the ear, stung a long time, but they were all impressed. I worked very hard at never moving or blinking. That's the key.

      Barbara and I looked after Jordan and Jackson this week, and our main job was to keep them from killing each other. They now had a new, up to date, and obviously much improved model of the air soft gun, a pistol. Jordan was ragging Jackson about crying when he got shot in the back with it a few days ago, and that impressed me, because our family motto for a long time had been, If Jackson cries, call 911. For good reason. He just almost never cries from pain.

Well, I saw a new way to impress the grand boys. I watched them shoot it a couple of times, and though I could never follow the pellet when they shot it, I just assumed it was because it would soon be dark. I backed off ten feet or so, turned my back, raised my shirt, told them to each shoot me in the back. Well, this turned out to be a whole different gun. Jack shot me, and the blood started flowing, though it didn't penetrate much. They were impressed. Well, I still had one more shot to take, and there was just no way I was going to destroy that image of being the world's toughest Papaw that I had spent years building up in my grandsons. I turned around, told Jordan to take his best shot. He did, and it felt like it hit even harder, but at least no blood. Just a big bruise. I never reacted outwardly to either shot, though inwardly I was bawling like a baby. That's was enough of that for that day. My reputation was now reinforced in blood.

      The boys went upstairs, and I went to the kitchen for a long knife. I called Jackson down, handed him the knife. Told him that bullet could still be in my back, possibly, and I couldn't reach my back to dig it out. I told him I was going to lie down, and, since he's the one who pulled the trigger, stick that knife in that hole about half an inch and dig that bullet out. Tough as he was, Jackson turned white as a sheet. While he was still in the white state, I took back the knife, told him I would let him off.

      When we all go to the State Fair together, I let the boys pick out the baddest ride on the place, then ride that with one of them. That's all I ride. Always with a big smile on my face, flaunting the “no hands” thing. When I get off, I always get out of their sight as quickly as possible. In case I have to throw up. Where carnival rides are concerned, Carson, just six remember, takes the cake. He's still very small, yet he begs to ride all of them. He managed to get on one this year that he should not have been on in the first place, and the bar did not fit tight enough to hold him. He got slung all over that cage.

      So, all you Grandpa's out there, remember if you're weak and can't run, like me, you can still impress the grand boys in physical things. The key is to show absolutely no reaction to pain, then you can go in the bathroom. And have a good cry.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Chickens

     Somewhere around 1947 or so, an enterprising businessman from Plainview, ten miles from Wing, came up with a good idea. Build a chicken hatchery at Planiview. He was a good salesman, and he sold a passel of farmers in Wing and the surrounding area on the idea of producing the eggs. Always searching for ways to bring in a little bit more money, Dad went into the egg business. This was along about the time cotton was on its way out in the valley as a money crop. That overworked land was playing out.
     Dad built a long chicken house. Closer to of the road was the huge barn that was built to house the Gillum/Compton/Turner super mule breeding project of the nineteen teens or so. The barn, by the way, was so large, it cost twice as much to build as the house we lived in. That business did well, before the Depression, but that business played out, when tractors came into common use, in the late thirties. Old Murt, the only super mule alive when I came along, successfully sidestepped the glue factory until the late forties. I rode him bareback a lot, and an old, skinny mule without a saddle can be a hard ride. Ida' bout' as soon walk.
     In 1949 or so, the chicken house was stocked and producing. I was just getting old enough to work the chickens. That year, Dad needed a second generation of chickens coming on, to replace the six hundred some odd laying hens, along with a cranky, mean bunch of roosters. The hens in the house were playing out, and getting just too tired to produce an egg a day reliably. And the roosters, each with a very large flock of ladies to attend to, ensuring those eggs were fertile, were playing out too. So the next generation was housed in the barn. These young chickens were producing some eggs, but the eggs were too small for market value. Thus we ate a lot of eggs. During the day, they were turned loose to forage for themselves, cut down on the feed bill. So, we had six hundred or so hens running free all day long in front of our house. I would like to tell you it was my job, every afternoon before dark, herding each of those six hundred chicken back into the barn to lock them up and protect them from the coyotes, coons, mink, foxes, etc. at night. Or, it might be an even better story if I told you I just started playing my little flute made out of a piece of fishing cane, marched down the lane to the barn, and they all just lined up and followed me in, a little trick I learned from the pied piper story. I just love to impress people. Actually, though, I can't say either of those things, because this is a true story. And, it's awfully hard for a Gillum to just outright tell a bald face lie, because of the Gillum Do Right Mechanism we're all infected with. So the actual truth is, we kept them shut up in the barn awhile until it became home. They came back in on their own at night.  
      My main job was gathering those eggs in a big, wire basket. Now, those chickens had big plans for those eggs. They planned to lay up about all the eggs they could sit on and keep warm, and eventually  hatch out their own batch of baby chicks. Once they began to get the mindset to become a “settin' hen,”
      They became protective of their eggs. I had to steal many of those eggs out from under that mad hen. She would flog, squawk, and peck me. Then I went on down the line to the next nest. Those cranky roosters didn't like me one bit, either. I was invading their territory, and messin' with their women folk. I never knew when one of those cranky old roosters would be on my back, scratching, biting, and floggin'. And, it was not unheard of for me to approach a nest, only to find it occupied by a really big black snake, containing several egg-sized lumps in his belly.

Carrying that heavy basket full of eggs to the house, I had to walk through the territory already staked out by Old Jersey, our mean natured old milk cow. Every day, it seemed, she saw me going into the hen house with my empty basket, and when I came out, she was waiting. You ever tried to outrun a cranky ole’ milk cow while carrying a basket full of eggs? Every day, again and again? But still yet, she never caught me, though my load of eggs sometimes were the worse for wear. Is it any wonder I developed that angry but timid, distrustful look reflected in my face at a very early age? (See the Picture I'm referring to on my wall page.) Do you understand why I much preferred wandering the bottoms and the mountains alone?                      
     The egg business played out in a few years. The scuttlebutt going around was, the main business was really selling a lot of chicken feed to the farmers. Lots and lots of chicken feed. The hatchery sorta took second fiddle. A plus was, all that chicken feed came in pretty cloth sacks, all decorated up to make shirts and dresses from. Mom and my sisters spent a lot of time on the old singer sewing machine. It was not uncommon for Mom to give Dad a few scrap pieces of feed sack material for Dad to try and match when he headed to Plainview for yet another load of chicken feed. And, during that time, we ate lots and lots of eggs and chickens. Also, later in high school, I taught myself to pole vault with a well-seasoned pine pole I stole from the chicken roost. The highest I ever vaulted with that pole was nine feet, landing barefoot on the hard ground down in front of my house. though I later vaulted 11 feet with an aluminum pole. At the Yell County Track meet ( held in Pope County) the audience made a lot of racket when I vaulted. Not cheers, but laughter. I had taught myself to go over on the wrong side of the pole.  In addition, I learned to run fast at an early age. So, I guess all's well that ends well.
     Dad dispensed with the chickens. It seemed some of that chicken feed had gone bad, and we sometimes had to haul a tractor and wagon load of dead chickens off into the woods to feed all the hungry coyotes around. And that, along with the fact that the money making aspect of that enterprise was not too great to begin with for the farmer, did it in.

     Uncle Franz, the school teacher, once bought up a bunch of registered and double registered Polled Hereford cattle, and brought them over to us for Dad to raise and sell on the halves. That business enterprise did better, and Dad stuck with that business the rest of his life. He was growing up a pretty good herd of registered Polled Hereford cattle, concentrating on high quality young herd bulls for sale. And me, I began my stage in life as a cowboy without a horse. But I didn't fare a lot better than I did with the chickens. We had some mean cows there, too. And those big bulls just dared me to step into THEIR pasture. Once, one of those big bulls tried to get romantic with one of Aunt Lula’s cows, through the barbed wire fence, and lost all his value as a herd bull. Another time, two of those big bulls got together and were fighting all over the pasture. Dad was in town, so I ran down and shot our double barrel shotgun, both barrels at once, over their heads, to try to scare them apart. It didn’t impress them much, but it knocked me flat down. When Dad got home, one had a broken leg.
 Those young bulls coming on were just beginning to strut their stuff, and they badly needed someone small enough to intimidate. I was the natural choice. A really good counselor could have had a field day, helping me get past all my hang ups and strange quirks I developed before I got big enough to look out for myself. But then, Wing didn't have any of those kind of people. I don't doubt that maybe a few of those strange quirks are still hanging around in my psyche today. Or maybe you have already noticed.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Forever A Hillbilly: Wing Community Church

Forever A Hillbilly: Wing Community Church:      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 de...

Wing Community Church

     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 Pike Woolbright 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, the Wing 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.  (They are, verified again in 2014.)
     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. (Not caused by my leaving.) 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. And the church was moved back, that must have been done with God's help - I don't see any other way it would be possible. )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.

     Arkansas Life Magazine came to town, and tried to find someone who was familiar with the history of the church. I told them, "They were mostly all right there, all the time you searched. Right behind the Church - resting peacefully. 
     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." So, I guess I have sworn loyalty to the Holy Catholic Church, the Universal Church, Plus  I was sprinkled in that church as a Methodist. 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.
     I went by that Church just yesterday, 3/18/16. The church is just as beautiful as always, but if you see it from a side view, one can see the steeple is tilted backward a bit. Upstairs, in the old classroom above, a window pane had fell out, but it was still dangling in mid-air by some means, (God, maybe)  I immediately called Cindy Turner Buford. "No problem. I can bring my tall ladder over, and you can fix it." 

     I had to tell her - "No, Cindy, I don't go up tall ladders any more." A fall from the first floor off a ladder is painful, but falling two floors is deadly. She started quizzing me about fastening the pane in, and I knew she was thinking about handling it herself. I would not put it past her. She still keeps a good part of Wing bush hogged every summer, and stays on the go all the time. I'm old, but she's older. Made me wish I had just kept my mouth shut in the first place. Oh, well.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Forever A Hillbilly: A Bath in God's Love

Forever A Hillbilly: A Bath in God's Love: A Bath in God’s Love The word Kairos refers to a type of time. There is chronological time, as what our clock keeps, and there is Kairos ...

A Bath in God's Love

A Bath in God’s Love
The word Kairos refers to a type of time. There is chronological time, as what our clock keeps, and there is Kairos time. If the doctor tells a woman that the baby is due to be born on February 23, that’s Chronological time. If, however, severe and regular pains begin on February 15 at midnight, this might prompt her to wake up the husband, tell him it is time. He may tell her, “No. it’s not due yet. Eight more days. Go back to sleep.” He’s dealing in Chronological time. Yet she knows better. She is dealing with Kairos time. God’s perfect time.
     Kairos is also a prison ministry. It was started in the early 1940’s. For a time, it moved very slowly. Two priests requested the opportunity to spend the last day and night with a condemned man who was to be executed the next morning. The prisoner agreed. “Sure. Why not.” The men talked for a long time that day, yet the prisoner was unmoved. The talks continued into the night.
     After midnight, things changed. The man cried. He became more and more emotional, as his time was growing near.   Eventually, he asked the priests what he could do to help right all the wrong he had done in his sordid life. This discussion continued for some time. Toward daylight, one priest approached the condemned man. “You are going to be seeing Jesus this morning. Will you ask him to bless our Kairos mission?”
     The condemned man agreed.
     From it’s humble beginning, Kairos has now grown into a world wide organization, with more than 18,000 volunteers having only a handful of paid staff. Today, Kairos operates in eight countries.
     I joined the Kairos group operating at Pine Bluff Prison five years ago. We go into prison for four days, twice each year. While it is difficult to recruit new Kairos men, almost all who stay the course for a year never seem to quit. They stay the course, and will die a Kairos man. My Kairos is made up of men from many different Christian denominations, and they come from all over Arkansas.
     A man is allowed to lead a Kairos Weekend only once in a lifetime. Lest he become prideful. Many of the men in my Kairos have already led. Last spring, nobody stepped forward to lead our August weekend, and it was cancelled.
     I am not a leader. I’m a great follower, always have been.  The Kairos leader should be a skilled computer person, which I am not. And, it requires a major commitment in time. I was not ready to step forward. But God decided otherwise, and I agreed to lead Weekend 43 in February 2016.
     Recruiting the team came first. The experienced men were easy to recruit. Since we had missed one weekend, everyone was ready. But, for Kairos to continue, we also needed new blood. My goal was seven new men. Initially, I though it would happen. I had at least seven really good prospects. But, as the training commenced, that number dropped, for one reason or another. When we walked into Pine Bluff Prison six months later, only two new men remained, with 28 experienced men.
     The training came next. For five Saturdays leading up to the event, we met at my church, Fellowship Church of Arkadelphia. Training is not the best word here, for I had little to teach these men that they did not know. Conditioning ourselves, and, maybe, training up a leader, may be more applicable. We worked toward leaving all our denominational  differences at the door, and worked toward common ground, our love for Jesus Christ. We worked toward becoming humble, vulnerable. Toward allowing us to let God use our bodies to model unconditional love and total forgiveness which is available only through God, and reflect God’s love on the Men in White. We worked toward making the entire weekend a bath in the love of Jesus Christ for our 24 men in white.
    Two weeks out, I went to Pine Bluff for a job I was not looking forward to. Picking 24 participants from the hundreds of applications. There are many reasons to want to be involved other than spiritual. Really good food, all the cookies anybody would ever want to eat, three days off work. Following prison guidelines, I did not meet the men before choosing, I simply looked at their records. Keeping a racial balance. Old men and young men. Their rating, from 1A, trusted men, to 4C, the other end of the scale. Represent each dorm equally. Then, a lot of praying. In the end, there were twice as many 4C’s as 1A’s picked. Three Muslims. We do not look for the easy men to work with, but the leaders. Good and bad. Men who, once turned, could influence a lot of others during their stay.   On the way home, I had to cry. I had just given 24 men a great boost toward a more spiritual, and much better, life with Jesus in a very dark place, while rejecting dozens of others. Without even meeting them, or really knowing them. But I prayed to God about them, and God knows them well.
     One week out, I went to Pine Bluff Prison again, to meet with the selected 24, along with 16 alternates. Telling the alternates they were on our list, and would receive a certificate, but they were not invited to the party was not easy. However, knowing they would be first on our list six months later for Weekend 44 helped. The 24 who were picked were elated. To the best of my ability, I started thinking in terms of their bath in God’s love that day. And, I again had to cry for the alternates on the way home.
      Our last training day ended with a ceremony to officially make us Kairos Priests for the duration of The Weekend, and the Foot Washing Ceremony. We were ready. We could hardly wait.
     We use a Church in Pine Bluff for our home base. Our first job was to bag up 1000 bags of cookies. Every Kairos man brings 50 dozen cookies, mostly donated by our Outside Team, church members and others who furnish agape and prayer for the duration. Every person inside those walls would receive 2 bags of cookies, delivered by Kairos men to their bunks; Cookie Runs. Each man with a laundry hamper filled with bagged cookies. New men seem to always be involved in the Cookie Runs. If God has not removed every last shred of fear from these men, this is where it will show up. But I’ve never seen it happen. A Kairos man cannot function with fear in his eyes. He can never reach these men. He might as well go home.
     Thursday afternoon we went in. The Bath in God’s Love was about to start. My job was now distilled down to making speeches. Speeches until my throat was sore. Yet, joyful speeches.
     I wish I could tell you more. Take you along every step of the way. But I can’t. I cannot risk spoiling the surprises for hundreds of other Men in White at Pine Bluff Prison who may yet experience a wonderful Kairos Weekend. Wonderful for the Men in White, and wonderful for free world Kairos men as well.

     Last week, on Sunday morning, I was back in my usual place in Fellowship church, on or near the back row. The pastor was giving a great sermon. At one point, the word Muslim was mentioned, and a thought hit me hard. I sat there sobbing. I had just, at that moment, been struck by a realization. Though every one of our 24 men had hugged me and the other Kairos men long and hard at the end of our closing ceremony, I had no idea who the Muslims, the A1’s, or the C4’s were. At that point, they were all just 24 men who badly needed someone, or something more in their life, and many had found it. They had just experienced a Bath in God’s Love.  

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Forever A Hillbilly: Tuck Hull

Forever A Hillbilly: Tuck Hull: 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 fl...

Tuck Hull

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. My brother 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.

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.


Pat Gillum Graduated from Fourche Valley High in 1962. He was ranked in the top twelve in his class, course there were only 12 students. He couldn’t find a job in Yell County, because he was too well known, so he has had to live around in various lesser parts of the world for the last 50 some odd years. His book, Spreading Wing, can be found in the Newspaper offices in Yell County. Both Spreading Wing and Forever Cry may be ordered direct from him,

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Forever A Hillbilly: Verla Mae

Forever A Hillbilly: Verla Mae: Check out my book, SPREADING WING on    Read the reviews which have given it a five star rating! Also available on kindle. **...

Verla Mae

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

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

     Us prospective and actual in-laws never really knew where we stood with Verla Mae. She just never talked to us much. The only hint of where I stood with her occurred one day before we were married when another guy she was dating for a time, the jock, came home with Barbara to meet the family. (His idea, Barbara says.) She got Barbara alone, said, “Where's Pat?” A short time later, I was back in the fold, he was out. I've always had a warm place in my heart for Verla Mae about that.
     Barbara tells of a little incident that happened when she was 12 years old. Barbara developed early, and at 12 she looked 16. Her brother brought a friend home with him. He was 16. He started paying Barbara a lot of attention, and Barbara was flattered. Barbara and the older boy were flirting away with each other in the back yard. Verla Mae called Barbara over to the back door. "Get away from him." Barbara did, pronto. Case closed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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