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Last weekend, The Observer and family took advantage of some rare free time and went to visit the in-laws, who live down in Strong (population: a couple hunnert, not including the guys from Huttig who hang around outside the gas station), just shy of the Louisiana line.

On Saturday night, all the gossip caught up on and Junior and Grandma happy to occupy each other, Spouse and I decided to trek the 60-odd miles to the much more cosmopolitan (they’ve got a Target!) city of Monroe, La., for a little pre-Mother’s Day dinner and night out.

As a long-time disciple of Murphy’s Law, The Observer should have seen it coming. Just past the “Welcome to Monroe” sign, the fan belt on our faithful but long-in-the-tooth Ford came apart — ting-ting-ting-kerclang! We coasted into a chiropractor’s parking lot, where we soon found that the problem wasn’t just a busted belt, but a locked-up water pump. Ol’ Blue proceeded to hunker guiltily over a growing puddle of her own fluids. With any parts stores or shops closed for the night and Monroe being a city where most businesses still hang the Gone Fishing sign on Sunday, we were soon on the phone with the in-laws. Forty-five minutes later they showed up to retrieve us, a sleeping Junior in tow.

And that, friends — to make a long story short — is why The Observer and beloved Spouse spent the best five or six hours of Mother’s Day in the parking lot of a chiropractor’s office in Louisiana.

While changing a water pump ain’t quite the heart surgery of shade-tree mechanicin’, it’s in the same ballpark. Call it an al fresco appendectomy. With all wrench-handy acquaintances in the 870 area code off visiting their own mothers, Spouse drove me back that morning in a borrowed car and then pulled an assist, handing sockets and putting her finger there — no, there, right there — for her hot, greasy and increasingly grumpy husband. When Ol’ Blue finally cranked up and held her water, the two of us actually did a little dance, right there on that parking lot.

Wife, friend, mother of my child and now: partner-in-greasemonkeying. There are some things that just won’t fit on a Mother’s Day card. Thanks, sweetheart.

A concerned citizen wrote a letter to the editor of the Daily Citizen in Searcy recently, expressing concerns about the possibility that terrorists had interfered with the frozen food at a local supermarket.

He became suspicious, he wrote, after he noticed that bags of frozen peas had tiny holes in them, as if they’d been pierced by a needle.

Then a friend called, and indeed, she had holes in a bag of vegetables too. What’s worse, the food had apparently spoiled.

He called the grocery store. “During the course of all this, I advised the manager that I was a former Federal Agent, and after some 25 years I was well versed in terrorism and given the present situations in our world today, he needed to err on the side of caution and have the proper authorities examine the bags.”

But he could get no joy from the grocery store management. They didn’t see it his way.

“Mr. Editor,” he wrote, “when are we going to pull our heads out of the sand?”

Perhaps he meant the sands of Iraq — as in when are we going to get our asses out of there? Seems like that might be a first step. At any rate, we hope the terrorists leave White County alone.

News that Australia is considering moving healthy Tasmanian devils from Tasmania to keep them from going extinct from contagion has got a correspondent to The Observatory thinking.

“The safest place for wildlife in the world is the residential area of Little Rock, Arkansas. In addition to uncounted birds and squirrels, we have raccoons, deer, armadillos, opossums, groundhogs, coyotes, feral cats, Dirty Men and, for all I know, emperor penguins running around our back yards in great proliferation. Move the Devils in, I say. Since they are scavengers they can eat up the rodent remains the neighborhood cats leave on my doorstep.”

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