Winter is the perfect time to explore the natural stone shelters where native Arkansans once lived
1. I kilt my first bear, in the greenest state in the land of the free, when I was only three years old. We called them “bars” back then. Or that might have been Davy Crockett. After I got the coonskin cap as a bonus prize for selling Grit, I was always getting the two of us mixed up.
2. In the first grade, we were coloring a map of the states, and having just learned to read, I mistook the name of a state for an instruction. I told the teach, “Listen, I'll be glad to color a do if you'll tell me what a do is and what color I'm supposed to color it.” She thought I was being a twerp but she was wrong. I didn't have sense enough to be a twerp.
3. My mother came to Arkansas in a covered wagon. No, in fact she was a little girl and walked alongside the covered wagon. Barefoot. With her little brother. And the cow. True facts, unlike some of the other twaddle here, but impertinent to today's theme.
4. My wife recently gave our grandson a detailed biographical account of her parents, his great-grandparents, both of whom passed some years ago. He listened politely, mulled what he'd heard, and said, apparently in all seriousness: “So what about now? Are they zombies?”
5. One time I was trapped in a two-holer outhouse with a mad dog raging outside. The scary part wasn't the crazed beast hurling himself maniacally against the half-moon door, because it was a sturdy door with a good latch. The scary part was the irrational thought that in his madness he might find a way to get at me by coming up through one of those holes.
6. One time we lived for a year in what had once been Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's front yard. In the good old Gitche Gumee days he had a grape arbor there, we were told. Subsequently used as firewood by encamped Wobblies who had gathered in sympathy with angry Christian Scientists. To Arkie squatters, though, one hunkering place is about the same as all the others.
7. I grew up as a duly dunked member of a small genial sect that numbered Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan among its subscribers. It had a swell vacation Bible school, and nice stories and good songs, like wee Zacchaeus in the sycamore tree, but the time came when I was obliged like St. Paul to put away childish things. It has to be done. Often isn't, and that's when trouble starts. When somebody starts getting out thumbscrews and nominating inquisitors.
8. I warn't formally educated so I picked up things where I could, and one early occupational aid was the vocabulary builder in the monthly Reader's Digest. You were not only supposed to learn the meaning of the listed words but also to use them ten times in everyday conversation or correspondence. This would get you familiar with them and comfortable using them, like Howard Sprague if you remember him. So lots of my early columns — at least ten of them — were heavily dosed with meretriciouses. At least ten others had vicissitudes coming out the wazoo. And these were sports columns.
I should interrupt somewhere along here for a further word on that business of “today's theme,” mentioned previously. I saw on the net the other day that the Pope might be going on Facebook. If he does, I've vowed to apply to be one of his Facebook special friends, which status would allow me to keep up with what he's thinking and doing 24-7, as they say. The inside story. The gritty details. The minutiae. The ex cathedra jottings and the not so cathedra ones.
You can count on it that I'll be “tagging” the Pope. That's a fun feature of Facebook, if you'll pardon the alliteration. When one of your special friends tags you, you're expected to proceed to your home page and disclose, or “share,” 16 random things about yourself. For instance, whether you had Eggs Yourself for breakfast or what you're thinking about putting in your next bull. I don't know why 16 things, but that seems to be the rule. They don't even have to be interesting. As witness the lame self-revelations above and below.
So what this column amounts to is practice. For the big day when Ol' Moi is tagged on Facebook the first time. Dark cloud on this horizon being that there simply aren't 16 things about me compelling enough to keep even my zombie in-laws around to hear them all. As you can see, it's a son-of-a-bitch just trying to scrounge up nine or ten.
9. My father was a 32-degree Mason, but that's an interesting fact about him, not me. All it ever meant to me was that I assumed he was at pretty severe ongoing risk of hypothermia. That's how deep my typical childhood ratiocination went.
10. I still don't know why I thought it was a good idea to pelt a passing car with overripe persimmons, knowing it was Mr. Anderton driving the car — the county's legendary all-time impromptu indiscriminate roadside urchin whuppin' giver. I do remember why I thought it wouldn't be a good idea to do it again.
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.