Arkansas’s first environmental education state park interprets the importance of the natural world and our place within it.
Well, fall has fell, as Pap used to say, and I thought I'd give you a brief seasonal report, like the ones for springtime and summertime a while back that were criticized for containing so many of what Huck Finn called stretchers and whoppers. (Bro. Huckabee calls them “metaphors” and “hyperbole” when he indulges, but it amounts to a right smart of the same thing.)
Our local football team is not off to a good start, but it's consolation to them that they're on a level with half the teams on the Razorback schedule. It really pumps them up before every game when Coach assures them, right before they go out and get their butts kicked again by some team from a little town with a population of about 14, that he's supremely confident that they'll be able to hold their own when he's finally able to get the school accepted into the SEC. They can tell he's sincere and that's what inspires them.
Meantime, our marching band makes up for the lack of football success by having learned to play “Smoke on the Water” in every known musical key, and in a few more that nobody ever suspected. They play it in one key or tempo or what-have-you after another, and, truth to tell, I don't think many spectators in the stands know the difference. For variety, they'll throw in the Star Wars or Superman themes, and the band director is apologetic about using such old material but says a band can't do rap and what's he supposed to do with all this mewling pop “music” by all these squirmy no-talent girls?
There was a bumper crop of yearling squirrels, but they've just about all been run over on the highway by now, and it doesn't look like there's going to be a repeat of last year, when there was serious squirrel-gang warfare over white-oak acorns and pine cones — warfare that got so carried away that it came to include frontal assaults on innocent-bystander German shepherds and lightning-rod salesmen. They're some tough squirrels but today's automobile tires will flitter them out so thin that the youngsters have taken to using this fall's abundant road kill, after a day or two for proper drying, as Frisbees, having, of course, to reduce wind drag, bitten off the tails.
We got the late crops in, including the cotton. You should've seen me out there toting barge and lifting bale. I'm not as young as I used to be and heaving those 500-pound bales onto a flatbed is no longer just good, easy exercise. I ranched my back on about the 200th heave, and had to hire some grade-schoolers who were watching from nearby to finish the job. The oldtimers would've said I “threw my back out” but I never understood that expression. Makes it sound like I discarded my back, but my back didn't get thrown anywhere; it's still attached back there. At least I reckon it is, though I haven't checked the looking glass. Something back there is mighty sore.
We got lots of cotton this year, and also soybeans, rice, and corn — and as I understand it nowadays it all goes into the same vat and they mix it up and boil it down until it finally distills into ethanol, which the poor people who can't afford gasoline anymore can use to power their cars. They first thought only corn would convert into ethanol but then somebody threw some thrip-ruined beans in there and it didn't hurt anything, and then they dumped in some rice that weevils had got into, and that worked too, and I've heard that it even looks promising for using cow patties and chicken fertilize. This is called “scientific farming” or “agribusiness” and I'll swear it has revolutionized farm life in this country. There's probably not a farm family left that doesn't have big-screen TV.
Of course we had our annual fall festival, with the parade, the twilight hootenanny, the wood-chopping and horseshoe contests and such as that, and a slew of out-of-town vendors selling plastic and tinfoil do-nothings, smutty message shirts and imbecile headwear, all pretty much guaranteed to wind up unresold for a dime on the dollar in gloomy yard sales between next month and fall 2017. A popular new attraction this year was the Quick Turnaround Taxidermy Competition in which contestants raced to see who in the shortest time could slay, eviscerate, skin, cure, dress, and mount on a board suitable for wall-hanging a deer, squirrel, bobcat, raccoon, coyote, duck or largemouth bass. It was BYOW (bring your own wildlife) or make a selection from the pen or the tank there on the courthouse square. I'm not sure who won but probably not the one who did the buffalo.
Not much else that I can think of. Oh, I got in mind to go into the syrup business by tapping into the two scrawny maple trees here in my front yard, but all I've collected in my buckets so far is some critterly urine and a slug of Dr. Pepper. The latter, I'm sure, was a contribution from the drive-by juvie delinqs who supply me with all my fast-food yard scatter. The former being courtesy of some stray cat, I'd guess, if only because stray cats are the world's peeingest creatures, excepting maybe old men with prostrate trouble.
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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