Jennings Osborne and the eye of the needle 

His worldly possessions went under the hammer last week. The collection of a lifetime, scattered to the winds.

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"I think he liked that at any point in time, he could go back and dig a memory out," Wood said. "He could find it ... any time he did a barbecue, or a Razorback game or a fireworks show, he'd have a corresponding book."

At Osborne's office downtown, Wood said, they found large binders full of e-mails that had been sent to him. "If he got an e-mail from anybody — say he got an e-mail from somebody saying, 'My name is Tom, and we've been going through some hard times' or whatever — he'd have all those e-mails printed out," Wood said. "When he'd go on vacation, he'd have that book and he'd open it up and he'd answer every one of them."

Osborne liked watching Home Shopping on cable TV, and when he bought something, he'd buy multiples. "If he saw something he liked, he'd buy five of them," Wood said. "He couldn't do one. Because if he liked it, he wanted to be able to give you one. If you walked in the house, whatever was the latest deal, he'd say, 'Take one of those home and try that.' "

As many things as Osborne had and as much room he devoted to holding on to it all, Wood said that memories always meant more to Osborne than possessions. "He looked at everything the same, whether it cost him $20,000 or whether it cost him $2," Wood said. "He kept a lot of his father's stuff, and his grandfather's stuff. We've found a lot of that stuff in boxes: an old fishing lure that him and his granddad went fishing with. It's in a box, and it's labeled. History was there, and he liked history. Every day was a memory."

Even two days before the personal property auctions, Blackmon said there was already intense interest from those looking to bid on items from the Osborne estate. He said it showed how respected Osborne was in Arkansas.

"He was a good person," Blackmon said. "I've done auctions for people that no one shows up for the auction, and later on you asked them why and they'll say, 'He was an asshole.' This one is just the opposite. You have so many people who want to support it and want to be there because Jennings was such a good person and helped out so many people over the years."

We moved from the office suite into the main living room of the house, and it was another shocker: 1,500 square feet under one ceiling, hung with gold-and-cut-crystal chandeliers (including one that slowly rotates at the flip of a switch), the floors covered with mauve carpeting so padded it felt like standing in sand. If John Deere ever makes a riding vacuum cleaner, it will be for a room like that.

Leaving the living room, Wood led us downstairs, then upstairs, then through the narrow original house of 4,200 square feet that the Osbornes bought in April 1976, then added to and added to and added to. We went through the tiled game room, where Wood said Osborne once kept slot machines filled with real quarters, past the pool, into the pool house.

Somehow, thoroughly turned around, we wound up in Osborne's old master bedroom, another big, big room. It was mostly bare by then except for a few things, chief among them an ornately-carved rocking horse and a full sized dummy in a straw hat, sitting on a chair. In Osborne's walk-in closet, many of his clothes had been unceremoniously piled on the carpet: suits, silk ties, imported loafers, a fortune's fortune of beautiful and expensive things.

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