Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
The calendar said it was only the ides of March, but when I woke the other morning it was already summertime. I know because looking out I could see the fish were jumping and the cotton was already high. In a manner of speaking, of course. Daddy wasn’t rich nor Momma good-looking but those weren’t seasonal-dependent truths, and the ’06 summer’s advent was inarguable, it having got hotter’n blazes here at Ol’ Moi Acres just in the time of one eve’s repose. Already the 80s at cockcrow.
The matutinal air currents gave me to wonder if some diesel-burning heavy equipment might be operating just under my window. One of them wood-chippers or Peterbilts. Anyhow, it was already hot. Sweat rolling off me like it used to do the governor when he was the Disney hippopotamus. Sweating like Bush cogitating or Clinton under oath. Or as Wally would indubitably have it, like a whore going to vote.
“What month is it?” I yelled in to the better half.
She yelled something back but I couldn’t make it out except for the part calling me an assmunch. Maybe with a capital A, since that version seems to have assumed the status of proper noun. It’s even on my driver’s license.
The reason I asked, the air said July but the trees hadn’t yet put on the new clothes, so either it was more of this freaky Century 21 weather or there’d been some overnight nuclear holocaust or the mother of all blights. The heat shimmered in waves off the white trunks of the sweetgums, and it microwaved an unsuspecting squirrel as I watched. Cooked him right in the hide and fur to gamey perfection, so that all I needed for an old-fashioned country breakfast was a bowl of dumplings and a skinning knife. Yummm…
That is the crazy climate of the Arklatex of Bizarro. We had no winter and now we’d not have a spring either. We’d warp from summer’s lap back into the same summer’s lap, apparently, time travel from Hot Enough Fer You to Hot Enough Fer You, only asked by a different geezer, or the same one with a slightly longer beard.
Would the sudden hot have my just-planted truck accelerating its sprout? No, but the pastoral scene when I got out there, dormant yet and inanimate-seeming, suffered from a critterly shortage of some kind, I thought. Only crickets and blackbirds and distant Husqvarnas made dry sounds. Moolessness, oinklessness haunted the hot landscape. No need to watch your step. A tableaux that inspired the thought, Maybe this summer I should give more attention to expanding my fauna and ixnay on ormay oraflay. Ol’ Moi Acres cried out for livestock.
To the goats and chickens I should add a few Belgian Blues, maybe a small passel of them Don Quixote sheep. The bovines because they would shut up these neighbors of mine all the time whispering and sniggering about all hat and no cattle. They wouldn’t be saying all hat and several cattle, now, would they? And sheep for the sake of nostalgia — this is one of those personal-symbols things — because all the service-line ladies in hairnets at the grade-school cafeteria where I lunched boyishly a very long time ago all looked like sheep. At least in my memory they looked like sheep. And it would give me a nice feeling to see them — real sheep, I mean, not cafeteria ladies who looked like sheep — grazing out here in the yard.
I’d like to try another pig, too, but the “acreage” of Ol’ Moi Acres is really only fractional. It’s only the fenced-in back yard of a two-story colonial in an upscale bedroom suburb, and I’m pretty sure the Property Owners Association wouldn’t sit still for any resident hog, even a pedigreed and tootied-up Hampshire of the sort I’ve been contemplating, with better manners than the Prince Consort, and probably a better smell.
You might want to protest that these are only imaginary livestock, but that’s about the only kind that will fit on this spread, which is bigger than a pool table but not much bigger than about three of them pushed together. And anyway I’m convinced that the thought-about livestock varieties are the best kind. You can get as much pleasure from them if not as much meat or byproducts such as wool, eggs, cottage cheese, diplomas, footballs or mountain oysters. They’re easier to board and to clean up after, and there aren’t the marketing crises that occur with corporeal animals that you get attached to.
Thoreau liked to mull milking cows but I bet he shrank from the actual execution. I bet Emerson had to keep on his ass, and Mrs. Emerson too, until finally saying, “Oh, cripes, Henry, just give me the pail.”
The same is true for the ratiocinated vegetable varieties. I can grow okra and not eat it, or I can think about growing it and not eating it, and it’s about six of one and half dozen of the other, except I don’t have to deal with okra fuzz or any of the other unabstract garden perils, among them rabid corn borers, psychotic vetch, and those pesky snakes that while you’re not looking drink up all the root beer.
Bob Lancaster, one of the Arkansas Times longest and most valued contributors, retired from writing his column last week. We’ll miss his his contributions mightily. Look out, in the weeks to come, for a look back at some of his greatest hits. In the meantime, here's a good place to start.