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The Reporter flees Riverfest 

This weekend, we wanted to stay as far away from Riverfest as humanly possible, so we took a small trip to the southwestern corner of the state to visit some family. When we returned on Monday, we heard all kinds of reports on the music festival from our friends who braved the crowds to attend. Some were good. Others weren't that great. But one story we heard topped them all.

Some friends of The Observer were headed to Riverfest early Sunday afternoon. On their way past the Peabody Hotel, they noticed a momma duck and five baby ducks contemplating crossing the busy street in front of the hotel. Thinking that this was an accident waiting to happen, and being the animal lovers that they are, our friends started grabbing up the baby ducks. Although they didn't know for sure, our friends had surmised that these ducks had grown tired of working at the Peabody, doing their daily marches to and from the water fountain in the hotel lobby, and were trying to escape.

According to our friend, the momma duck flew away, never to be seen again. After the five baby ducks had been corralled, one of our friends walked inside the Peabody to find help. An employee came out with a cardboard box for the little duckies to call home until they could be returned to a more suitable environment.

The ducks, as it turned out, did not belong to the hotel, but the employees were glad to help. Five more ducklings were also rescued from underneath a nearby grate on the street.

Comforted that the ducks were now safe from being tromped upon by music festival goers or flattened by an oncoming car, our buddies proceeded on to Riverfest. Later that evening, they went by the Peabody to check on the ducks.

The Duck Master was there and said the hotel had called their duck breeder, who came to rescue the ducklings. He said they were old enough to make it without their fleeing mother and that everyone would be under great care, and have plenty of room, on the breeder's farm.

The Duck Master then took our friends to the hotel gift shop and rewarded them all with souvenir rubber duckies.

For Memorial Day, The Observer went out to our aunt's palatial spread out in the country, which we're sure was placed here on earth simply to help us remember that there's a God and He wants good things for us. It's several acres of green grass and trees, with a pool in the middle of it, a nearby refrigerator perpetually stocked with beer, sodas and those long, skinny popsicles in plastic sleeves — the kind you used to eat as a kid. Nearby is a big grill that seems to be always smoking. This weekend, it was barbecued beef brisket, brats and grilled peppers and onions. Like we said: Good Things.

Our auntie's house is situated in a long valley, under the flyway for the Little Rock Air Force Base. All summer the C-130s come in low and turn in the blue sky over the pool. Floating on your back in the water, they don't look quite real, up there with the cotton ball clouds and the birds. Could there be a better place to spend a holiday? Not on this continent, we suspect.

The smell of chlorine, coconut-scented sunblock, beer and slowly-cooking beast haunch. This is summer. The Observer says: Welcome back, old friend.

The tornadoes up in Missouri and right here in the Natural State have us thinking of the old days a lot. We grew up in a farmhouse on a hill in Saline County. Ma Observer — whose grandparents had once had their house scraped clean to the foundations by a twister — was terrified of storms, so one of our first purchases when we moved in was a 'Fraidy Hole. The storm shelter wasn't much more than a concrete box with an iron door, buried into the side of the hill. A flight of steel stairs led down into the earth. Whenever the weatherman said there was a tornado in the vicinity, off we'd go: Pa, our two brothers, Ma and the dogs, all into the hole.

It was a close, dark, dank place. The flashlight down there was always yellow and dim with disuse. It smelled like the dirt, and of the wet dog. Ma was claustrophobic, so she'd always have to keep the door cracked. We remember her and Pa standing there, peering out into the darkness, their faces glimpsed in the lightning flashes while the wind whipped and howled, all of us huddling and waiting for the end of the world.

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