Winter is the perfect time to explore the natural stone shelters where native Arkansans once lived
I was talking with Cold Dead Hand down at the House of Dominoes the other morning about climate change, Paul Ryan, and some of the other ponderable contemporary threats to human existence, and he mentioned fracking.
"That, too," I agreed.
Everybody talks about fracking, he said, but nobody does anything about it. "Hell, most of us don't even know what it is," he said. "But we don't want to be left out of the discussions about it. We have to get our two cents in whether we know anything about it or not."
By way of concurring, I said, "That's sort of the short definition of life in the Twenty-First Century — living in dread fear that we won't get our two cents in. Twentieth Century it was fear we'd get cheated out of our 15 minutes of fame."
"That 15 minutes of fame," Cold said. "Is it the Bible guarantees that or the Constitution?"
"I think it was this artist that drew all the different colored pictures of Marilyn Monroe."
"I don't guess he knows me," Cold Dead Hand said.
"Knew," I said. "He's what e.e. cummings used to call defunct."
"He don't know me either."
"Didn't," I corrected him. "Poet."
"That explains it then," Cold Dead Hand said.
He felt obliged to elaborate, saying: "I don't have truck with poetry after it gets up past the level of Here I set all broken-hearted. You know what I mean?"
"Sholy," I said, which is laconic all-purpose Snopes for "Yeah, I know where you're coming from."
After a moment, he said: "The penitentiary named for him?"
"I think that might have been a different line of Cumminses."
"How about Tucker?"
"I don't know. Sophie. Forrest. Jim Guy."
"Maybe the Cummins one was named for Bud," he said.
"I think it's older than Bud."
"His Daddy then."
Another moment passed as we watched a fly buzzing around the snooker table. Then I said, "Did you say you don't even know what fracking is?"
"As I understand it, it's like coal-mining, except they dig down to the bedrock and break it into chunks and wring the oil out of it like wringing water out of a dishrag."
"That's pretty much how I understand it too."
"I've heard Pat Robertson uses it to squeeze the gold and diamonds out of his mines on the Dark Continent," Cold said.
"I don't think you could frack diamonds," I told him. "You'd break your fracker."
He said: "Most of these old boys will go on and on about fracking, all the time thinking it refers to a Toyota midsize or something to do with tomatoes. Or they think it's a style of banjo playing. Or what the chiropractor does to get your spine in astrological alignment. You can tell them the real poop on it but they don't really care. They just want to get their two cents in."
"Two things about fracking that they're interested in," I said, putting in my two cents. "It shouldn't have any government regulation, and the ones that get rich off of it shouldn't have to pay any taxes on the proceeds. The ones that do the actual fracking work, tax them all you want to."
"They sure don't want any government regulation," he said. "Of anything. They might stand for just a little of it to keep the biggest mouse droppings out of packaged hot-dog weenies, but they'd probably be split 50-50 even on that."
As the other domino players drifted in through the morning, some of them hung over, one not even having bothered to change out of his nightshirt and house shoes, I quizzed them briefly, as much as they'd stand for, about fracking.
"What do you know about fracking, Rojo?" I asked the oldtimer in his nightshirt.
"Well, I got four boys and two girls so I reckon I know a little bit about it," he said.
"Aw, we're not talking ancient history here, Rojo," Cold Dead Hand said.
"You can KMA, Cold," Rojo said. 'If you don't know what that stands for, I'll get my grandboy over here to explain it to you."
"Fracking is from a different line of F-words than the one you're thinking about," I told Rojo.
"I've heard it frack, frick, freak, fugg, and the usual," he said. "They're all just ways to avoid saying the original when you think Jesus might be eavesdropping."
Corn Dodger had come in by this time and wanted to get his two cents in.
"Hey, Hunch, what's the topic of the day?"
"That'd be Mr. Hunch to you," I said. "Fracking is the topic."
"Frick and Frack is them two car guys on the radio," he said, pronouncing it reddio. "They do too much laughing and not enough about head gaskets."
His brother Pone had come in behind him and had two cents of his own. "It's like old Romney," Pone contributed. "Don't matter what the question is, he'll frick down on one side of it today and frack down on the complete opposite side tomorrow."
"I think he means flip-flopping rather than frick-fracking," Cold Dead Hand explained to the rest of us.
Pone, on his way to the can in the back, said, "Whatever."
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.