It's been my custom to piss and moan anew with the turn of the year about what a sorry piece-of-crap month January is. And to gather up a new batch of incriminating facts and statistics proving that it is so. Our worst month! Our worst month indubitably. Raineth drop and staineth slop and how the wind doth ram.
It's the nature of gloomy, pessimistic characters like ol' moi to ignore the other side of this proposition — that if there's a worst month there has to be a best one, and of course we all know that October is the best month, the pumpkin-colored month, the month of opalescent twilight, of persimmons, of purple sweetgum stars and wood ducks on the move so beautiful that you want to just congratulate God.
There's a growing collection of sanguine Octoberiana, too — upbeat stuff that we might ought to keep in mind through the coming iced-over bridges, the inch-thick pollen layers, the siege of 115-degree days when the atmosphere itself becomes just a giant blister on the third rock's butt.
Just a few of the October recommendations, the October mulling points.
The next election, with all the dire consequences, hasn't happened yet in October. It looms, it sounds alarms, you're already in the den and can hear them readying to loose the lions, but as long as it's October you know the improbable still has time to come to sanity's or decency's rescue. The fat lady hasn't sung.
Martin Luther posted his 95 theses in October — on Halloween, in fact — and then went out trick-or-treating. Striking just the right balance.
It was during the Missiles of October crisis that we all learned the proper pronunciation of the island nation just south of us, Cuber.
The oom-pa and beer and Teutonic loosening that characterize Oktoberfest just wouldn't get the job done in any other month.
Lots of creatures go into hibernation in October — find a safe, dark hiding place to overwinter in — but Prince Charles might've overdone the thing with his expressed ambition to become his girlfriend's tampon.
The state fair isn't Disney or even Branson but you can count on it each October for a few good freaks, a few good rides, a few good swine of a higher order than those out canvassing for political office.
It was during a performance of "I Hate to See October Go" that Barry Manilow was assumed into the pantheon of the immortals. I always hate to see it go, too, having had ancestors who were always just one or two campfires ahead of the glacial moraine.
It was in October of his third year before his family realized that George Jones was not an opossum.
Teeter first cheated somebody more for less in October.
The Fouke Monster, last seen in October tumping doublewides in the Sulphur River bottoms deep in the Arklatex boonies, is now thought to have been not a Sasquatch but an ordinary South Arkansas zombie out and about for the Halloween rites. Probably waylaid the F.M., ate his vitals, left the scraps for the red wolves
Robert E. Lee died in October and with his last breath a billion falling autumn leaves all across the South transformed into teardrops before they hit the ground. That notion had much currency in ruined, haunted 19th Century Dixie; here in fair and balanced Century 21, it seems a little much.
Paul Van Dalsem gave his barefoot, pregnant wife a second milkcow as an anniversary gift one October. And — just a hunch here — didn't receive anything in return.
You'd have to have known her to LYAO at this, but Mimmy claimed that Papaw took her turkey hunting one October and she spent the entire morning lying behind a fallen log trying not to make the slightest sound that might scare off Mr. Gobble. With all the costume jewelry that must've been a toughie, this something of a cross between Mrs. Thurston Howell III and Cousin Pearl Bodine. A stone-deaf turkey would have been olfactorially repelled at 500 yards by the heavy waft of lavender and the grease-vapor buildup from 40 years of burnt round steak.
My frog, an unnamed Mexican hairless, beat Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller's sleek leopard frog named The Grim Leaper at a big frog-jump at the State Capitol one October. But his was the one that got to go on to the celebrated frog-jump Olympics in Calaveras County, Calif. Mine didn't have its own private jet.
To complement his fear of antique furniture and Benjamin Disraeli, Billy Bob Thornton is said to have a mystery October phobia. My guess is fallen sycamore leaves, which make a dry scraping sound when the wind blows them along a sidewalk or pavement, like giant deadly spiders skittering about, definitely up to no good. Or anyhow, you get images like that when you try to mind-meld with Billy Bob.
Calvin Coolidge slept through one entire October, and indeed it's a prime month for sleeping. Maybe best in the deep of night with the window open, cool spilling in, only vaguely aware of the distant clarinet honks of the passing-over snows and Canadas requesting flight-controller directions to keep formation. Either that or tapping your maple trees. Or mending fieldstone fences. Or ballooning over the golden hollers. Or joining in on the chorus of "Bringing in the Sheaves."
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.
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