Favorite

The Observer, June 17 

The Observer is not a poet, and certainly not a philosopher, but we do have a tender spot for such lines as "I think that I shall never see/A poem lovely as a tree." We most recently saw these words, written by the American poet Joyce Kilmer, at a small memorial for a tree that had been removed from in front of the property at 217 Johnson St., in Stifft's Station.

For those who live in neighborhoods too new to have ancient trees outside their front door, it may seem a bit overly sentimental to get upset about the loss of an old oak — a tree is a tree is a tree. But for Cindy Brown and her daughter Emily, who had lived under what they believed to be the bicentennial shade of the oak they fondly referred to as Mr. Nelson for 20 years, having the tree removed was bittersweet.

Their neighbors thought so too, and once Mr. Nelson had been felled, on June 4th, a small notebook was placed on the stump where memories and goodbyes could be written.

Visiting the stump and flipping through the notebook, we were reminded of one of the nicest things that trees — Mr. Nelson no exception — provide for us: shade. It was a hot day and before too long sweat was beaded on our forehead. There is another tree closer to the Browns' house, but the front yard and sidewalk are now in the direct sunlight.

But why else should a tree be commemorated? we pondered. Emily, who had lived with Mr. Nelson since she was 3 years old, recalled sitting in the nook of its roots, where she would watch the sky and read books. Shel Silverstein, anyone? She said that even with the large window in front of their house, Mr. Nelson was so large as to block the view of the street.

The front page of the memorial notebook explains that there used to be many huge oaks of a similar age up and down the street, and that gradually they were all removed until Mr. Nelson was the only one remaining. The city had warned the Browns that eventually the tree would have to go, especially after damage it sustained during the ice storm 10 years ago. Looking at the stump, we could see where one side had begun to rot. Although the Browns didn't want to see Mr. Nelson go, they understood the risk that a tree — speculated to be over 50 feet tall — posed to the houses around it.

Perhaps the special attention paid to Mr. Nelson can be best understood as an acceptance of our mortality and our lingering ties to the environment. Emily told us that she thought of the tree as grounding, something to remind her, even in the middle of the city, that she was living in nature. Mr. Kilmer may have said it best: "Poem's are made by fools like me/But only God can make a tree."

On the Outer Banks in North Carolina, where this old cork spent several days bobbing in the waves in the week just past, is a metal spaceship. In years past, the spaceship, in Frisco, just above Hatteras, was called Out of This World Hot Dogs. Alien faces peered from the oval windows that ringed the ship. Today the disk sits on a pile of rocks next to what appears to be a backhoe business, but it is shinier than ever, so perhaps it is due for another launch on another mission.

We took our child to Out of This World Hot Dogs when she was small, helping her up the ramp that led to the saucer hovering above the sand and shrubs, and ordered up hotdogs. As we ate our dogs, we asked the captain about the metal disk. What was it really built for? Where did it come from?

And, as The Observer finds in so many out of the way places in this world, the answer was that it came from Arkansas. Apparently, in years past its inventor thought to make a go of it in the mobile home business (as we recall) with his new, aerodynamic design. It didn't take off, however, and somehow this model landed on the Outer Banks, destined to Serve Man.

It seems that no matter where we go, we find a little bit of unorthodox Arkansas waiting for us. Like the rattlesnake purveyor in Arizona. Another story.

While the hot dog place eventually flopped as well, the spaceship is more at home there in Frisco, on the Outer Banks.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • I'm sorry

    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.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • Show and tell

    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.
    • Feb 25, 2016
  • Yawp

    The Observer has been in a funk lately for a number of reasons: revulsions and slights, both foreign and domestic. We get that way most years as the winter drags on, once the tinsel and colored lights of Christmas drop into the rearview, soon after we come off the New Year's Day hangover.
    • Mar 24, 2016

Most Shared

  • Former state board of education chair Sam Ledbetter weighs in on Little Rock millage vote

    Ledbetter, the former state Board of Education chair who cast the decisive vote in 2015 to take over the LRSD, writes that Education Commissioner Johnny Key "has shown time and again that he is out of touch with our community and the needs of the district." However, Ledbetter supports the May 9 vote as a positive for the district's students and staff.
  • Workers stiffed

    How is it going with the great experiment to make the Republican Party the champion of the sons and daughters of toil instead of the oligarchs of wealth and business?
  • O'Reilly's fall

    Whom the gods would destroy, they first make TV stars.

Latest in The Observer

  • At the roadblock

    Dusk comes to the State Police roadblock on Arkansas Highway 388, about a half-mile from the Cummins Unit, where two men will be put to death tonight. A cool spring evening here, the broad acre of Delta dirt near the turnoff to the prison as manicured as a golf course, other than the occasional fire ant mound, which the reporters step around like landmines.
    • Apr 27, 2017
  • Snapshots from an execution

    The Observer stood in front of the Governor's Mansion on Monday night in a periodic drizzle, waiting on the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on whether a man would die, not knowing there would be no execution that night.
    • Apr 20, 2017
  • The chair

    The Observer's pal and former colleague, a dedicated Deputy Observer, ran across the following piece of writing while cleaning out an online folder to make room for still more of the snippets and starts and literary flotsam and jetsam that seem to pile up around a writer like snowdrifts.
    • Apr 13, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Fishing the Diamond Lakes of Arkansas

Fishing the Diamond Lakes of Arkansas

Arkansas angler and fishing expert Billy Murray shares his extensive knowledge of the Diamond Lakes of Arkansas

Event Calendar

« »

April

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30  

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation