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The observer, July 23 

It's an Arkansas story, our friend said. About her 88-year-old parents.

They've decided to do some pre-planning and chose a particular funeral home, their daughter said, because it “does so much business” at the retirement facility where they reside.

So they were talking with the pre-planner and knew they wanted to have a service at their church in Little Rock — St. James United Methodist. (No, they're planning on going together in a single whoosh to heaven, but their plans are the same.) Both are from Clarksville, so they thought they might have a service there as well. The pre-planner said it could be done; the funeral home could arrange for transportation after the St. James service to Clarksville, a luncheon there and the church service. And then, the graveside ceremony.

So our friend's dad looked at our friend's mother and asked, “Do you think that's too much for us to do in one day?”

 

Our friend had another Arkansas story, but it was told to her by a doctor and involved a patient who'd told him he'd broken a body part that we didn't know could break, and it's too risqué for the Arkansas Times.

 

You might as well be light-hearted about the inevitable, what The Observer's brother calls paddling the canoe down the underground river. The survivors of a woman whose obit ran in last week's Democrat-Gazette injected a note of gaiety in their loved one's final press. They wrote that they were “glad that she died peacefully and not in a shoot-out.”

“Born in Levy to Sylvia and Chester Thorn on February 11, 1926,” the obituary continued, “she married at the age of 13, had two children by the age of 16, was a jack of all trades, and lived in 12 states before she died. She was most proud of her career modeling shoes with her tiny little size-4 foot. … Almost to the end she was still making people laugh, cussing people out, and looking for the perfect husband.”

Now, that's what The Observer calls a good read. We've always thought it a shame that folks don't get to see their own obituaries in the paper. But we could read them before that good night, it occurs to us, with what we guess would be called pre-penning.

In the 1968 Rolling Stones homage to the plights of mankind, “Salt of the Earth,” Keith Richards moans, “Let's drink to the hard-working people, spare a thought for his back-breaking work.” 

Well, breaking camp for lunch recently, The Observer pulled into a Riverdale favorite and parked deep behind the joint and prepared to hike up to the establishment for our take-out order. Riding out a favorite song before shutting off the motor, we noticed a man entering a car parked next to ours. Unnoticed, we observed as he rummaged through some belongings and dangled a half-cooked cigarette from his pursed lips. We figured it was either a burglar who knew precisely what he was after or, we hoped with a tinge of optimism, it was the rightful owner who knew precisely what he was looking for. Turns out it was Option Two. And he found exactly what he was looking for — a band saw and a plastic liter of spiced rum — which he put a significant dent in while filling his Everyman travel cup. Well, a man's entitled, we thought, and watched him trudge into the lower level of the neighboring business.

By the time we had received our change from inside the restaurant, the band saw was in full effect, and, presumably, the spiced rum as well. A Stones fan, for sure. Drinking to, and with, the hard-working people.

 

The Observer drives a 15- year-old Ford pickup, mostly out of necessity, but somewhat because keeping it running has become a mechanical quest. We used to be a fairly accomplished shade-tree mechanic back in the day, and we still don't mind getting our hands greasy.

Driving along Markham the other day, the old girl quit on us. Popping the hood revealed the mangled remains of the serpentine belt, wrapped firmly around the fan. Standing on the hot sidewalk, we called around to relatives, but found that none of them was where we needed them to be. Finally, a bit embarrassed, we called the Times newsroom. Within 15, a fellow wordslinger pulled up, then ferried us out to the parts store to grab a belt (thanks, Lindsey!).

It's good to have friends. But it's an absolute necessity to have 'em when your truck was built before you graduated from high school. 

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