Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Forever A Hillbilly: Gobi

Forever A Hillbilly: Gobi:       Gobi was an international student at Henderson State University, majoring in Business Administration.       Barbara and I had jus...


      Gobi was an international student at Henderson State University, majoring in Business Administration.
      Barbara and I had just begun attending a small, new church in Arkadelphia, which is today Fellowship Church. Gobi was from another country, and he was not raised a Christian. He became friends with an instructor who was a leader in our church, and along the way he began reading the Bible.
      One day, Gobi just showed up at our church. He became a regular. He told us, "When I was reading the Bible, I just could not get past the cross." Gobi was the first person baptized in our young church. Gobi had a full head of curly black hair, and was a very friendly and personable young man, liked by everyone.
      He was only weeks away from receiving his master's degree. He became ill, was having trouble breathing. He was soon diagnosed with cancer. A very large tumor was found in his chest. The doctor told Gobi he needed regular chemotherapy treatments at Hot Springs, 35 miles away, for a long time. Gobi was alone in America, had no car. He had a job he had been walking to, but he became too weak to do that. Kinley, our daughter, set up a schedule for our church members to drive Gobi to Hot Springs. Kinley's family soon moved to Little Rock, and Barbara took over the scheduling, and much of the driving. Many of the treatments lasted six hours, so it was a half day commitment to do that.
      His beautiful hair soon became thin and ragged, and he and Barbara visited a barber, got it all cut off. We never saw Gobi with hair again. He became very weak at times, and during those hard times, he stayed with us. Sometimes, he became so weak from a treatment that Barbara had to help him get dressed so that he could go to yet another treatment. Barbara took over his laundry.
      When the scheduled chemotherapy treatments ended, tests showed the tumor had shrunk, but not enough. The doctor told him he needed to go to M. D. Anderson Hospital in Houston to continue treatments. It was not clear what further treatments involved, possibly surgery, or radiation, or maybe both. Gobi did not want to go. He was asked why, with his life hanging in the balance, he would not go. "I do not want to face surgery, and risk dying alone, so far from home," he replied. Barbara and I assured him, if surgery came up, he would not be alone.
      Barbara stood up in our tiny church that Sunday, and said, "Gobi needs to go to Houston, and I need $2000 by Friday." On Friday, she had $2000. And a plane ticket. And paid hotel reservations.
      When Gobi got to Houston, surgery was soon ruled out. He began an intensive treatment with radiation. Someone from church had booked him a nice hotel. Gobi changed that to a bare bones hotel, so as not to waste other people's money, living better than he felt necessary.
      When we talked to Gobi, he said he was doing fine, eating out of Target next door. "Target?" Barbara said. "Who eats out of Target?" Barb and I left for Houston. Turned out, that Target had a very large grocery, and a deli.
Gobi finished his treatments, and he returned to Arkadelphia. HSU allowed him to live in the International House, for free, while he recovered. HSU friends gathered around him and helped.
      Gobi's brother-in-law, Raj, the head of Gobi's family, flew to Arkadelphia to see about him, and ask about the possibilities of taking him home. Gobi emphasized to us, never speak to Raj about religion. He would wait for the right moment.
We had Gobi and Raj over for dinner, and took them on an outing to Hot Springs. Raj had a big laugh about the size of drinks at Wendy's. The doctor emphasized to Raj, It would be very risky for Gobi to leave his doctors, and travel home, now.
      Raj prepared to return home. The last night, he lay awake in his bed, a long time. He said to Gobi, "Where does this kind of love come from? These strangers treat you like family. I have never seen this kind of love." Gobi's "right moment" had arrived, and he made the most of it.
      Money for Gobi to live on was raised, by means of a few letters written to key people. He was pronounced free of cancer, and he finished up his degree.
      Gobi was ready to return home. The scene at the airport was tramatic. He and Barbara hugged, cried, and Gobi started for the plane. He came back, they hugged and cried some more. Finally, he was on his way home.
      Gobi left behind a pretty hefty bill at M. D. Anderson that his insurance did not pay for. He could have easily skipped out on that bill, leaving the country and all. But he insisted that the bills be forwarded to him. Out of his small income at the time, he paid every cent of that bill. He told Barbara, "How do you not pay people who saved your life?" Thats just Gobi for you.
      Gobi is now a professor, has a beautiful wife, Poova, and a wonderful child, Hiranya.
      A few days ago, daughter Kinley made a nice little post on facebook 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.
      Last names, and home country, were left out of this post for a reason. If you know Gobi, and comment on facebook, please honor that. Cancer carries a stigma in some parts of the world.

     Thank you for your attention, and your time.

     I went to the Fourche Valley School Reunion last Saturday, and before I get too far away from that, I want to interrupt my story today to talk a little about some of the old memories it got rattling around in my head.
     I saw Jim Roberson. He had such a strong handshake, It made me feel a little better about what happened to me 47 years ago. I was in the sixth grade, tallest boy in grade school, I could run longer, if not faster, than anyone else, Just generally, one of the big boys.
     A couple of the younger, shorter guys got in a tussle at recess one day. I just sorta felt it was my obligation, as a big boy, to straighten these little guys out. I started pulling them apart. Well, Jim already had his adrenalin flowing, and he turned all his attention on me. It didn't take long to realize I should have minded my own business. Jim got me in some sort of hold that was just squeezing all the air out of me, and as a crowd gathered around us, he said, "Are you going to leave me alone?" I didn't want anyone else to hear, and my wind was gone anyway, so I whispered, in his ear, "Yes." He let me up. The next day, he brought a bunch of his friends around, pointed to me, and said, "There. Thats the guy I whipped yesterday." I told them I didn't remember that at all.
     Life lesson # 1: Being older, and taller, don't necessarily mean you won't get your butt whupped'. And being able to run farther is no help at all. Although it might help you put some distance between you and him, Minimize the damage, and put some distance between you and all those kids laughing at you. 
     A funny thing about memory. I didn't remember a thing about it the next day, only to have it crop back up, 47 years later, when that strong hand started squeezing me again.
     A REALLY young kid got really mad at me one day, I don't even remember why, but he just waded in on me with both fists flying, hitting me about the waist. He just kept on, wouldn't quit. Well, again a crowd was gathering, and I was not about to be seen hitting a really little kid. I was getting real embarrassed. Finally, Monty said, "Pat, just get him in a wrestling hold." I did, and I had to hold him until recess was over.
     Life lesson # two: Looking at the size of the kid tells you nothing about the size of his heart. And he may come after you tomorrow. And the next day.
     I had a friend that was dirt pore, wore ragged, old patched clothes, the kind of guy a lot of kids shied away from. Lived over at Scrougeout. I went home with him one night. His mom was tickled, saying no one had ever done that before. She wrung the neck of her best hen, and we ate it for supper. All their beds were filled with hay, but they gave me the best one.
     In the middle of the night, car lights hit the house. The whole family ran to the front window, yelling, "Company! company!" Car was just turning around.
      Life lesson #three: Buddy up with the down and out kid. Sometimes, they will just give you the best they've got.
     That kid had needed glasses for a long, long time. One day he came to school with a brand new pair. We were wrestling, as kids do, at recess. I threw him down. As he got up, he reached in his pocket and pulled out his new, now broken, glasses. He just turned, put his head down, and headed back to the classroom.
     When I went in, after the bell rang, he was at his desk, head down, looking at those broken glasses. His glasses were soaked with his tears.
     After I got home, and off to myself, I shed some, too.
     Life lesson #four: Go easy with the pore kid with glasses. The will have to last him a long, long time.

     Maybe I can pass one or two of these along to my grandsons. Maybe, just maybe, you can too.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Forever A Hillbilly: Sweat of the Brow

Forever A Hillbilly: Sweat of the Brow:      My Dad was always big on avoiding extra expenses, if a one time expense, combined with the sweat of our brow, would work as well. We ha...

Sweat of the Brow

     My Dad was always big on avoiding extra expenses, if a one time expense, combined with the sweat of our brow, would work as well. We had land, 250 acres or so, but a lot of ready cash was just not available. Our income came from raising registered Polled hereford bulls, and the sale of bull calves for quality herd bulls each year amounted to about $2000. and that was normally about it. So, we had a small Grist mill, Sorghum mill, sawmill, corn sheller, and pea thresher.
     The grist mill ground corn into corn meal. Mom usually cooked enough cornbread for us and a little extra for the dogs. The shelled corn was put into a hopper at the top. It was powered by a belt to the tractor. If the belt started running off, Dad always kept and old can of sorghum molasses to pour onto it. The corn was shaken down into the mill, and the first batch of meal that came out was always discarded, along with the body parts of the mice that did not get out in time. I suspect that was a problem with all the old time grist mills. The inner reaches of the machine would seem like heaven for a mouse–until all hell broke loose!
     Our “sawmill” was also powered by a belt from the tractor. We regularly got stave bolt trimmings from Plainview, ten miles away, and cut them up into firewood length. Once, the belt to the tractor broke, and the tractor started rolling down the hill. I chased after it until I finally caught it, and tried to push the brake. Finally, the tractor and I both wound up hung up in vines at the bottom. Dad also regularly cut a medium sized Sweet Gum and I cut it up into “back sticks” for the fire place, to focus the heat out front.
     I only saw the pea thresher running once, when I was very small.
     Our sorghum mill was powered by old Murt, our last super mule. Before the Depression, the Gillum's were into breeding super mules. The Comptons and Turners were into that with us. They bought a Mammoth Black Jack down in Texas, named King Leo for one thousand dollars He won first place at the State Fair.
People came from far and near to breed their mare to King Leo. They bought another Mammoth Black from Europe, but seems he died early. I can't seem to find out much about him. Anyway, Old Murt was the only one left when I came along in 1944, Seems tractors in common use killed the super mule business.
     Anyway, a long timber reached out from the mill, attached to the mule, and she walked round and round. The sorghum stalks were fed in, and the juice was pressed out. It was put in very long copper pans with a fire built around them. The juice was evaporated, with impurities constantly being skimmed off the top, until molasses remained. I'm sure there was more to it than that, but I am walking along the edge of my memory here, so I will leave it at that.

     All of this machinery I've mention was pretty old in my memory. I think they were from pre-depression times, when the Gillums were doing a little better.

     One of the most common sayings Dad had, when things were not going well on the farm was, “I'm afraid we may be headed for the poor house.” Over and over he said that. I never knew what a “poor house” was. Then, recently, Barb and I visited one, on a trip to Ireland. It was set up when untold thousands of people were starving, during the Great Potato Famine of the early and mid-1800s. They wanted to limit it only to people who were on the edge of starvation, so it was set up so that only those people would want to go. Families were not allowed to communicate with each other; they worked very long hard hours, all on a bowl of thin soup a day. It looked like a prison. We stayed at a bed and breakfast in Ireland, where the lady who ran it told us about her grandpa. He broke his leg, badly. But he was afraid that if he went to a doctor, he would be put in the poor house. He lived out his life with his leg broken instead. I did not know at the time, but have since learned they were commonly used in this country, before the welfare system. I am not sure how they compared with the Irish variety, but I do know that fear of the poor house was deeply ingrained in the old Gillums. I guess that fear finally died out, because I have never heard it used by my generation.


The Whippoorwills are going crazy about now. I stayed in my cabin lately in Wing, Arkansas. I kept the windows open all night so I could hear them. 3 or 4 at a time. I heard their relatives on that hill in the 1950's, seems like every spring night.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Forever A Hillbilly: The Messed Up Bust

Forever A Hillbilly: The Messed Up Bust:     A couple of months ago, Barbara and I were minding a couple of the grand kids for a few days. We had all just been to daughter in law C...

The Messed Up Bust

    A couple of months ago, Barbara and I were minding a couple of the grand kids for a few days. We had all just been to daughter in law Christi's birthday dinner at US Pizza, and on the way home, we all were to stop at an ice cream hotspot for a bit of dessert. Well, as is often typical of me in a big city, I couldn't find that hotspot, so we just pulled over at McDonald's, so that the grand kids would not be disappointed too much, to get some ice cream. Barbara was ordering, and I herded the grand boys back to a booth, and stood guard, to keep them hemmed in there. That usually helps keep down the ruckus some, although Jackson had already crawled under the booth and sat beside, and made "friends" with, a tolerant lady sitting near by.

      I took my eye off the boys for a moment, and saw that a young man had come in, and had approached Barbara. I strained to hear what was going on. He pointed toward our car, out front, and I heard Barbara ask, "Did you hit my car?" He was shaking his head no, But I could tell he was asking her something, and in spite of the fact that she was cool and smiling, as always, she was getting nervous. I threatened the boys about staying put, and headed that way. By the time I got close to the action, another young man was there, and I heard enough of the conversation to tell they both were telling her they wanted her to go outside with them. When I neared this conversation, Barbara was telling them, "You need to talk to my husband about that," and they just looked at each other, and one said, "Husband?" Then I kicked in with, "What's going on here?" in my gruff voice. They then started saying, they wanted us both to go outside with them. Barbara said, "But We've got grandchildren in here!" Then they really looked puzzled, looked at each other a second, and said, "Grandchildren?" I had not been privy to the fact that they both had flashed their police badges at her, that were on a string around their necks, hidden under their coats. The last guy to show up started quizzing Barbara about where we lived, where we had been, etc. And I was just starting to say, "What business is that of yours?" which would likely have gotten me slammed to the floor and handcuffed, had I had time to complete it. But the last guy changed his tack, and said, "Both of you stay right here, don't leave, we're going outside now, and we'll come back."

     As they left, I asked Barbara, and all the McDonald's staff, who had gathered around by now, "Who the heck were those guys?" Seems I was the only one who didn't know by now, and Barbara and the McDonald's staff all chimed in at once with, "The Police!" I turned a little pale.

      In about 5 minutes, one of them came back in, all smiles now, and explained. "We have been following that truck out there, and a car just like yours with a woman in it, for thirteen hours. Somehow, that HHR must have crossed paths with yours, and we got onto the wrong car." He left, and we ate our ice cream with the boys, and apologized to all the people around us that Jackson had been talking to relentlessly while we were distracted from doing our grand parental duty for a while. They understood, and a McDonald's employee brought out a whole armload of toys for the boys. When we pulled out of the parking lot, those undercover guys had the people in the truck handcuffed, and were tearing apart their truck. Jordan and Jackson thought that was just about their coolest trip to McDonald's ever, but Barbara and I just wanted to get home.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Forever A Hillbilly: The Bright Yellow Submarine

Forever A Hillbilly: The Bright Yellow Submarine:      When  we lived out in the country in the second house I had built, my son Corey wanted a car. Most of Barbara's siblings wound ...

The Bright Yellow Submarine

     When  we lived out in the country in the second house I had built, my son Corey wanted a car.
Most of Barbara's siblings wound up living at McGehee, Arkansas. Sugar and husband Jimmy bought a service station. After they were doing well, others in the family decided they would too. Sugar and Jimmy also sold used cars, and JD went into the used car business..Sister Eunice and her husband Charlie also went into the used car business. I never understood how they all got along as well as they did, with so many competing in the same business in a small town. But they seemed to make it work, for the most part. They would often go to the auction together, and got to sit around and visit a lot.
     JD was once on the way home from the auction towing a car he bought with his wrecker. Two cars  tried to box him in. One really close behind, the other right in front. The front one then started slowing down, more and more, and he realized they were trying to stop him. JD is about the last person highjackers would want to try that on. JD started showing the guy in front why a wrecker is called a wrecker, banging the back of the car up real good. Finally, the guy in front saw the error in his ways, and sped up real fast.
     After that, JD always carried a gun in his wrecker. A policeman once stopped him. JD got out of the wrecker, locked the door. The policeman looked in the truck, and saw the gun stock sticking out from under the seat. He said, "Open it up. I want to look at that gun."
     JD said "No, I may need that before I get home." After they had both repeated their statements a few times, and it was still a standoff, the policeman called his supervisor, who was soon there.
     The supervisor soon evaluated  the situation, too, took the cop aside, and talked to him some.
     The supervisor came over and said to JD, "You have a good day, Sir." They all went on about their business.
      JD is one of a kind. Once a cop called him out late at night to tow in a stolen  car. Just as JD arrived, the car thief run out into the woods, pulled a gun, and started shooting at them. JD and the cop hid behind the car. JD hollered to the cop, "Get your gun out! He's gonna kill us right here if you don't do something!"  He glanced over at the cop. He was shaking too badly to pull his gun, and he was crying. JD jumped over to the cop and tried to get his gun out. "Give me that gun! I'll do it myself." When the thief heard that, he started running, and they never saw him again. 
      Early on, I saw a way for Barbara and me to save some money on the cars we bought. I was never all about buying a brand new car, preferring to let someone else pay the thousands of dollars the car value dropped, just by driving it off the dealer's lot. JD and Sue helped us out a lot. He could get me in the gate, taught me to drive it a little, back up a little, and taught me what to listen for. He taught me to check the oil, and how to feel that oil on the dipstick, to see if something had been added to it to keep it from leaking so fast. Anyway, once I got the hang of it, I would pick out a car, tell JD what I would pay for it, and he did the bidding.
     I have always been uncomfortable bidding at an auction. I guess that's partly a throwback to the days  when I went with Dad to so many cattle auctions, and Dad always told us to sit very still. If we moved, we might buy a cow. I did actually buy a lawnmower by accident a couple of years ago, when I went to the Back Gate farmer's auction with my friend, Ronnie McMillan. I was just moving around, trying to stay warm on that very cold day, and suddenly, the auctioneer pointed to me, and said, "Sold! To that old guy back there!" I didn't even want that lawnmower.
     I also slipped and fell on an icy spot that day, flat on my face. The auctioneer even stopped the bidding and asked me if I was all right. I smiled, shook my now muddy head yes. But I wished I was home.
      Anyway, I bought many cars for us at the Dealer's Auction over the years. Or, actually, JD did. After learning just what to look and listen for, I had good success at that. I did get beat once, when a dealer slipped a little something into the transmission fluid to keep it from slipping until I got home.
      I always liked it better when Barbara didn't go, because she was very picky about unimportant stuff like the type of car and the color. I got a really good deal once on a bright yellow station wagon, and you wouldn't believe the flak I caught over that when I got home. I tried to explain to Barbara and Kinley how I got a heck of a deal. Nobody else was even bidding on it. They all called it the Yellow Submarine. Barbara took a real liking for the auction after that, and at car buying time, I couldn't even leave out for Little Rock without her jumping right in there with me.
      Well, now Corey wanted to go to the Auction. I explained my policy about never buying anything we had not had a chance to look at and drive. But Corey's budget was pretty thin, and after he realized that he probably was not going to afford any of them, he lowered his standards. He saw one coming through the line that we had not checked out, but JD told him what it would probably go for, it was within Corey's budgetary guidelines,  and it was running, so he just had to have it.
      Corey had always been critical of my habit of buying auction cars, said I was not handling our car situation well. We always wound up driving a piece of junk, to his way of thinking. We had told him if he went to work, we would match him dollar for dollar on his own car. Well, he got that car. Soon, reverse went out, and it was a big problem for him, getting out our driveway. You wouldn't believe the messing around in our woods he did before he got that car out on the road. I finally just could not help myself, and told him, “Corey, you're not handling your car situation well. You're driving a hunk of junk” He finally sold it to a boy from Amity, who was probably in Corey's situation, But the buyer an advantage over Corey. His dad knew how to fix it.
      Corey could never keep up with his keys, and his billfold. But, they always came back to him, eventually. Once, he laid his house keys up on his car, got a ways down the road, and they slid off. A dog found them, took them to his owner's porch, and the neighbor returned them. Once he got his wallet, left in a store, back in the mail. His stuff just always came back.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Forever A Hillbilly: HSU Band Camp and Runned Over Deer

Forever A Hillbilly: HSU Band Camp and Runned Over Deer: In 1982, my wife Barbara and I both had good teaching jobs in McCrory, Arkansas. But I made the mistake of buying her a good camera, she ...

HSU Band Camp and Runned Over Deer

In 1982, my wife Barbara and I both had good teaching jobs in McCrory, Arkansas. But I made the mistake of buying her a good camera, she loved it, and soon was very good with it. She decided she wanted to be a portrait photographer, and as she had said to me a couple of times when I made a profound, life-changing decision, I just said “OK.” Our lives were about to change forever.
     A photography studio was for sale in Arkadelphia. We bought it, we both gave up our jobs, and prepared to move. Then we both were hit by buyer's remorse. Especially me. Could we do this? Could I find a job? Could we feed our babies in the meantime?
     I drove down once to make arrangements in my old truck. On the way back, I saw a truck hit a deer. The deer was dead, the truck went on, so I picked it up and threw it in the back of my truck. When I got home, I dressed it and froze most of it. We were eating venison that night, and the doorbell rang. My eight year old daughter Kinley's eyes got real big, and she said, “Will they be able to tell that we're eating runned' over deer?”
     Little did I know, we would need every last scrap of that deer to get through the coming months.
     A fancy lady asked me later, “Do you deer hunt?” I replied, “No, but I do enjoy a good roadkill every now and then.” She said “Oh.” and moved a little farther away.

     When we got to Arkadelphia, we realized the studio was about to go under. We started taking every photography job we could find. We once did four weddings in a day. Some photographer told her, photographing dog shows can be really profitable. We located an upcoming dog show nearby, and were given the job on a commission basis. Well, as it turned out, this dog show didn't include show dogs, just your average hound dogs and such. We sat there all day and never snapped a shot. The good side of it was, we didn't owe one penny in commission. From that day forward, every time a job flopped, we called it a  “Dog Show.“
     We were taking pictures at a beauty pageant. We brought each contestant to our portrait setup, just before it started. After we had photographed twelve girls, shot a full roll, I opened the camera to reload. There was no film inside. I ran to Barbara, asked her why she didn’t load the camera. She told me she thought I did. She started quietly rounding each girl up and we reshot them all. Nobody ever knew. Barbara did not need that kind of thing widely known, that early in her career.
     We were shooting a wedding in Little Rock. As we finished up the pre-wedding shots, our camera went down on us. It was a hasselblad, the most reliable camera of it’s day. We didn’t have a good backup, only my old 35 MM I used for wildlife photography, and it was covered with camo tape. As I ripped off the tape, I noticed a little part necessary to hook up the flash was missing. I told Barbara to get in position for the coming-down-the-aisle shot and I would drive to Camera Mart and get the part. Fortunately, they were open on Saturday morning. Fortunately again, they had it. As I ran in the church, the bride was ready to start down the aisle, and Barbara was standing in her shooting position, smiling confidently with her unusable camera. I breezed past the bride, rushed confidently to Barbara, and slipped her the part. She hooked it up, got a great shot. Again, nobody ever knew.

     Things were going bad. I searched everywhere for a teaching job. I lost 30 pounds. A man with kids to feed and no job is a sorry sight to behold. The first photography job I personally landed was taking group pictures at the HSU Band Camp, printing black and whites all night in the darkroom, and selling  them at the final concert. It turned out good, and we managed to get through the summer. My son Corey, going into the 8th grade, helped me sell. When the concert was over, I told him, ”We made a killing today!” He replied, with deep concern, “Are we rich now?” I had been too busy to notice how much our financial problems had affected our children. Now, 33 years later, I still do that job every summer. It's the only photography job we still do. It saved us. I guess I am too emotionally attached to it to ever quit it. I will always feel indebted to Wendell Evanson, the legendary band director at HSU from that time period, for giving me that job. He never knew he saved us, along with a little help from runned-over deer.

     Late in August, I had the great fortune to land a biology teaching job at Arkadelphia. Corey still laughs about the fact that while he was in football practice that day, he saw me up on the hill, waving a biology book at him.

     With my kind of help out of her way, Barbara quickly became a top-notch photographer, and slowly began to turn the business around. And I was the most enthusiastic teacher in town that year, during the autumn  of 1982.