Rubow said his least favorite president was Jefferson because one time he lost every penny he had at a Shreveport casino and that never would've happened if the Louisiana purchase had fell through.
His partner there at the domino table said, "Aw you would've just lost it somewhere else. At Tunica or out here in the alley shooting craps."
"I guess so. But they rig these machines to take advantage of the working man and it chaps my butt. Did then, does now."
"The working man? Is that what you said — the working man? Two things I thought I'd never hear in my life. One, President Kingfish and two, Rubow the working man."
"I done my share of work. I picked peaches when they still grew peaches. They let us eat all of 'em we wanted to off the ground. They'd can the eating part and send the pits to some outfit in Mexico that made a cancer cure out of them. They said as far as cancer, eating one powdered peach pit would cancel out smoking 10 cigarettes."
"Who said that?"
"I heard it one night on TV from Harry Von Zell."
"You'd believe anything they put on TV."
"From him or George Fenneman I would. I also dug sweet potatoes all one summer and it like to killed me."
"I thought sweet potatoes grew on a vine. It's your Irish potato that grows underground."
"These that I dug didn't grow on no vine. To get to some of 'em you had to shevel down to bedrock. Jed Clampett struck oil shallower than most of these."
"I seen on TV where it was Jefferson invented the sweet potato. Either him or Luther Burbank."
"I bet it was Jeffferson. He brung on Louisiana so I'd go broke at that casino and have to go dig up sweet potatoes for a grubstake."
"You like 'em baked with butter on 'em, or candied?"
"I like 'em th'owed out to the hogs."
"You know they make sweet-potato chips."
"No I didn't. You can have my share."
"It was presidents I wanted to get y'allses opinion on," I told them, "this being Presidents Day and all."
"I thought President Day was just for George Washington and Aberham Lincoln. You mean it's for all of 'em? Even these scrubs we've had in there since Jimmy Carter?"
Each one of the 44 gets a half-hour apiece worth of honoring, I explained to them. That leaves two extra hours, and the conservatives wanted that to all go to worshipping Reagan, but saner heads prevailed and split it up between George and Abe.
My favorite is the fat one that was in there when I was born. Taff, I think it was."
"It couldn't of been Taft, Leon. That would make you 110 years old."
"Well, it was one of that string of fat ones that all looked alike," Leon said.
"No, it wadn't. It wadn't ol' Woodrow, either, the one with the sorry wife that tried to take over when he went senile. I'm guessing it was Hoover. He's the closest thing we've had to fat in the White House since Taft."
"Hoover was the one named for the dam. Or the vacuum cleaner one."
"Maybe it was for J. Edgar. I guess J. Edgar done all right fighting bootleggers but there was a face that'd stop a courthouse clock. You think he was a homo with that Clyde feller?"
"I don't know. What difference would it make now?"
"I never even seen a vacuum cleaner till I was a grown man. Momma had a broom, homemade, but you couldn't make 'em too stout 'cause we had dirt floors and you'd sweep out the whole floor."
"You had dirt floors?"
"For a long time there we did. Good for playing marbles but wadn't nothing to be proud of. Them sapsuckers was cold, cold on your bare feet winter mornings, and hot weather you never knew what was going to bore up through the dirt and grab one of your toes whilst you was eating supper."
"I never heard such a bunch of lying in my life. I remember y'all's place. Had them old puncheon floors."
"By the time you come along it did. Later on still, we put in hardwood floors from oak shorts that Daddy lifted from the flooring mill. We thought we was crapping in cotton knee-high then."
Our topic was supposed to be presidents, I reminded them.
"The one I liked was Roosevelt" — meaning FD not T. "You didn't have a job then, he'd see you got harred. Everybody around here worked for the CCC. One of Momma's people got on painting murals on the walls of some of them post offices. Getting paid for painting pitchers. Happy days was here again."
Two of the domino players were Vietnam vets and neither of them named Lyndon Johnson as his favorite president.
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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