Some 300 friends and acquaintances and family joined Hugh B. Patterson Jr. at the Country Club of Little Rock Saturday night for his 90th birthday party.
Wearing his customary dark suit and deep-creased grin, he greeted a steady line of well-wishers, all fortified by an open bar, a huge spread of food and a combo playing standards appropriate to the largely older crowd.
Younger people can be forgiven for asking, Hugh B. Who? After all, he hasn’t been publisher of the old Arkansas Gazette since 1986, when the newspaper was sold to the Gannett Corp. Kids in college today weren’t born when he left the public scene. His family-owned paper could no longer sustain the fight against a better-funded competitor, old-timers will remember. We won’t replay that decision here, or the aftermath and death of the oldest newspaper west of the Mississippi. Still, the publisher insisted on volunteering to old employees such as The Observer — yet again — the whys and the undeniable math.
We needed no explanations. His family’s newspaper, and its proud civil rights legacy, brought The Observer to Little Rock 31 years ago and we haven’t been of a mind to leave since. (Also important, too, was the hospitality of another Little Rock family, the matron of which we escorted to a car after the birthday party ended. Like many of us, PLD is a little unsteady on her feet now, but her graciousness is not a tiny bit diminished.)
It was that kind of party. Familiar face after familiar face, comfortable in themselves and their warm Southern city. There were big business people, judges, government officials, former Gazette employees, grandchildren of the man of honor. It was a time for laughs and memories. Our reflection was that we arrived in Little Rock only a month or so too late to celebrate the 100th birthday of Mr. Patterson’s then father-in-law, the fabled editor J.N. Heiskell, at the same club. Had we arrived in time to shake Mr. Heiskell’s hand, we thought, we could have been a tactile part of three centuries of Little Rock journalism. Some days, though, two seems plenty.
Monday headline on the KUAF-FM website of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville:
“Rice Tries to Ease Turkey’s Concerns over Kurds”
Our eagle-eyed Ozarks correspondent observes: “Sounds like a Thanksgiving stuffing recipe!” Or a hungry student laboring over a hot radio website.
We’re accustomed to thinking of North Little Rock as the optimistic bank of the river, willing as they are to try, well, goofy ideas like hauling a junky old submarine halfway across the world and establishing a maritime museum 500 miles from the nearest beach.
So a sign we noticed recently along Camp Robinson Road caught us a little off guard.
“Caution!” it warned oncoming traffic.
“Courtesy can be contagious.”
You know, if you’re lucky. And the wind’s blowing in the right direction. And it’s the second Tuesday after the new moon. But don’t get your hopes up.
Speaking of signs, The Observer saw another at a local retail establishment recently. Everything in the store 20 percent off, it read, “including jewry.” They must have sold out before we got there.
LOST TO KITE-EATING TREE: One (1) rainbow-colored nylon kite, diamond-shaped, with multicolored tail. Devoured by tree in Allsop Park. Kite and tree are visible from Cedar Hill Road. Anyone wresting said kite from the tree’s clutches should contact: Round-Headed Kid, c/o The Arkansas Times.
For the record, the spring peepers were singing Monday evening, Feb. 7. The little wooded slough that separates the east and westbound lanes of Chenal Parkway as it passes Parkway Village, an area that the city Parks and Recreation Department has fixed up with a walking trail, was filled with frog song as we drove by. It was serendipitous that we’d rolled down the car window to defog our windshield and could hear the peepers’ happy peeping as their little wetland warmed. Those who snickered at the city for preserving this little park and putting in a trail should roll their windows down and drive by the next available warm evening and wonder at how life can thrive amid combustion engines and asphalt.
Donald Trump Friday night signed an executive order directing government to scale back Obamacare to the extent possible. Though the signing was mostly symbolic, it likely has implications for Arkansas.
They've had a forum in Fayetteville today on Rep. Charlie Collins' fervent desire to force more pistol-packing people onto the campus at the University of Arkansas (and every other college in Arkansas.) He got an earful from opponents.
I'm sorry we stood by while your generation's hope was smothered by $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, just because you were trying to educate yourselves enough to avoid falling for the snake oil and big talk of a fascist.
The Observer's boss, Uncle Alan, is something of a gentleman farmer on his spread up in Cabot, growing heirloom tomatoes and watermelons and crops of chiggers on property that looks like the perfect farmstead Lenny and George often fantasized about in "Of Mice and Men."
The Observer is an advocate of the A+ method of integrating the arts and using creativity to teach across the curriculum, an approach that the Thea Foundation, with help from the Windgate Charitable Foundation, is offering to schools across the state.
"Why do you guys not care about your community? You’re tearing it down, not building it up, especially in the black community … It’s just a simple question — do you care?" one mother asked the superintendent. "Ma’am, I do care deeply about this district, and I do believe wholeheartedly we are making a better district every day," Poore replied.
When President-elect Trump announced he would, in a few days, force Congress to enact comprehensive health insurance for everyone, poor or rich, that would provide better and cheaper care than they've ever gotten, you had to wonder whether this guy is a miracle worker or a fool.
When completed, the Ten Commandments monument on the state Capitol lawn will be the exact size, shape and weight of the vaguely humming black monolith that appeared at the foot of Conway Sen. Jason Rapert's bed in June 2010 and later elevated his consciousness from apelike semi-sentience to incrementally less apelike semi-sentience.
No more clinging to material things, unless those material things are life preservers tossed as I go down for the third and final time, the few remaining strands of my once-majestic locks, or the skids of the last helicopter out before the fall of Little Rock.