Winter is the perfect time to explore the natural stone shelters where native Arkansans once lived
The Observer was coming out of a department store in North Little Rock last Saturday when we saw him. The guy, who had exited the store just before us, had purchased a can of bug spray, and as The Observer and Spouse walked past in the parking lot, he proceeded to uncap said bug spray and then douse himself in the stuff, writhing around in a dense cloud of chemicals, trying to hose down every square inch of his body while looking as if he was doing an interpretive dance. He must have used half a can.
Where were you going on that warm May afternoon that made you think you needed to varnish yourself in anti-noseeum juice, Bug Spray Dude? We're confident that adventurers headed for the deepest, darkest heart of the Amazon rainforest don't use that much repellent, much less somebody venturing out on an afternoon less than three weeks removed from Arkansas's last recorded snowfall. We cut him a wide berth, holding our breath and trying not to laugh as we pushed our cart through his lingering fog of sticky overspray.
The Observer is always watching, Citizens, but sometimes the things you do weird us right the hell out.
Speaking of adventurers: Junior got a double bed the other day, his legs having grown off the end of his twin bed by an uncomfortable foot. He's still too long for this one, but at least he can sprawl in all directions. For a teenage boy, that's close enough.
Buying new and bigger furniture for his small bedroom in our cozy house meant getting rid of some things. He's 13 now, and as much as we want to keep him a kid forever, time waits for no parent. He's still got boxes of toys he outgrew long ago, mostly because his Ma and Pa keep picking them up and tucking them in boxes.
One of the things we all agreed to let go of was his dinosaurs. Like a lot of kids, Junior was nuts on dinosaurs when he was a kid, wheedling a platoon of plastic T-Rexes, stegosauruses (stegosauri?), and hadrosaurs out of us over the years. When he would come to us in the toy store at 5 or 6 holding yet another dinosaur, we would speak to him of the value of a dollar. In our mind, though, we imagined the respected paleontologist Dr. W.S. Observer — arms etched with tattoos made by firelight in Fiji — stepping to the lectern of the Explorer's Club in London. We imagined the good doctor doffing his sun-beaten Indiana Jones hat, sending up a cloud of honest dust, before addressing the assembly on his latest discoveries. And so, the Old Man indulged both Junior and our own heartfelt dreams for him.
He has since moved on. Now, it's computers, looking forward instead of backward, but with just as much chance for glory if he plays his cards right. His carefully-tended herd has languished in a box under the bed for years. And so it was that the other day, The Observer gathered them up and put them up for adoption on Facebook:
Herd of friendly dinos seeks new keeper, their old herder grown too elderly to care for them. Must have fenced bedroom and plentiful imagination. Inquire at the Arkansas Times, City of Little Rock, Planet of Earth.
They were snapped up quickly, others having clearly listened to their own Old Man's speeches about the value of a dollar. They'll be leaving soon, and a little bit of The Observer's heart will go with them. We've squirreled back a few of our favorites: a tiny diplodocus, Junior's favorite. A tiny triceratops, The Observer's favorite. A plant eater that Junior carefully and secretly wounded with purloined nail clippers at age five, painting the stump of an arm red with a marker to show the wound. The world of his imagination was always like that: a bit morbid, but with the understanding that bad things can happen, even to good dinos.
As of this writing, Junior's herd is in a box in The Observer's office: a colorful, horrible jumble of claws, tails, spikes and fierce, toothy grins. Someday soon, their new owner will come for them, taking away a thousand memories that it would be selfish to keep. Soon they will be leaving. We will resist the urge to snatch back the box and slam the door when the time comes. That said, we definitely won't watch them go.