A whimsical look at life growing up in the small town of Waldron, Arkansas in the 1960s and 1970s, plus occasional observations from the present. Want to start at the very beginning? Click HERE.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Yates Family Goes Camping

Our campsite on the Fourche La Fave, just off Arkansas
Highway 28 East. 
You would not confuse any of the Yateses with The Swiss Family Robinson.  That is to say, we as a group are not noted for anything resembling a Quest for Adventure.  And so, there is actually no reasonable explanation why it was decided that we, as a family outing, would camp out on the Fourch LaFave River. 

The Fourche LaFave (pronounced locally as "fush") is a beautiful, winding river that originates in southern Scott County south of Waldron and makes its way towards central Arkansas, eventually joining the Arkansas River.  Fourche is a French word meaning fork, which the early French explorers, evidently a group lacking in creativity, assigned to the flowing body of water they had encountered as they were thrashing about wildly through the rugged underbrush of the New Land.  "Eh, look Pierre.  Zees leetle reevah seems to spleet, as though it were a fourche!"  "Ah, yes Andre; we shall call it the Fourche.  I'm sure there are no other leetle reevahs that do that," Pierre replied sarcastically.  Later on, "LaFave" was added to the name, just in case it didn't sound French enough.

Daddy, my brother Gene, and his sons Tony and Chuck,
and the Studebaker in later years.
I suppose the main reason that we went camping was due to the fact that Daddy had recently purchased a pickup.  Not a new one, but a late '50s model Studebaker, which he bought from James Hicks, who lived down the street from us.  With our flashy new pickup, the world of outdoors was now open to us.  It was simply a matter of jumping in!

So we did just that.  I don't remember whose idea it was, really.  I just remember that on a Friday afternoon, we loaded up the Studebaker with whatever supplies we had on hand, and then drove up to Sims Building Materials on Main Street to get the rest of our supplies.  Daddy went in and purchased enough camping equipment to traverse at least the first leg of the Oregon Trail in relative comfort, loaded it all in the back of the Studebaker where I was riding, and off we went.

It was me, my twin sister Janet, and Mama and Daddy.  The only family member left at home at that time was my brother Phil; he was working at the furniture factory in Waldron at that time and couldn't get off to make the trip with us.  Daddy, as regular readers know, worked for the phone company; I suppose he had come across our destination at some point when he was out working on phone lines and decided that we needed to camp there.  I don't know what must have come over him; Daddy was not an outdoorsman.  The only other previous outdoor adventure that I recall him participating in was a frog-gigging expedition a few years earlier with his friend Chee Jones and some other guys.  I don't know if any frogs were harmed during that outing, but we did have a pretty fierce-looking frog gig in our garage from then on.  But, even if he was not much of a sportsman, Daddy did have an appreciation for the beauty of the forests and mountains of Scott County, and I'm sure that's what led to the camping trip.

And what a beautiful place it is!  If you visited Scott County, Arkansas, you would not find a lot of industry or commerce.  But you would find the Ouachita (pronounced "Wash-ah-taw") National Forest, which encompasses about seventy-five percent of the land area of Scott County.  It's an outdoorsman's paradise; with abundant game for hunting and great fishing spots. 

And so, our Studebaker loaded, me in the back and Daddy, Mama, and Janet in the front, we headed down Highway 28 East toward our camping spot on the Fourche.  When Highway 28 was a gravel road, there were times when people coming in to Waldron from that direction were unable to cross the river due to high water.  But now, the highway was paved, and a bridge spanned the Fourche.  That's where we would camp; on the west bank of the Fourche, beside the bridge. 

We pulled off the highway and traveled down a short dirt road to the bank of the river.  Then, the excitement began, as we unloaded all the wonderful camping supplies.  We had air mattresses, flashlights, an ax for chopping firewood, just about anything you could need to camp.  Except a tent; we didn't have a tent, but sleeping under the stars, that's what camping is all about, right?

Daddy got a fire started and we had supper.  I think it was hot dogs, a sure-fire hit when it comes to campfire meals.  After supper, we got to fish for a while with the cane poles that we brought from home.  We didn't own any rods or reels, since we didn't get to fish very often, but fishing with a cane pole is pretty fun.  We caught a few little bream, but nothing big enough to keep.  As darkness began to fall, Mama got a little concerned about snakes, so we put up our cane poles and got ready to settle down for the night.

Mama's concern about snakes extended to the area surrounding our campsite, so it was determined that no one would be sleeping on the ground.  Daddy, in a grandiose gesture, volunteered to sleep on the soft bench seat of the Studebaker.  Mama, Janet, and I did our best to arrange our air mattresses in the now empty bed of the truck.  Thus situated, we tried to drift off to sleep. 

Along the riverbank, the word quickly spread among the mosquito population that The Buffet Was Open.  The high-pitched whine of mosquitoes is not conducive to a good night's sleep, so I quickly realized that I was in a pitched battle with the little buggars, and it was a skirmish that would likely continue all night.  My mind drifted back to the stories Mama had told me of when she was a little girl, and they lived along the Fourche, how the children would regularly come down with malaria and have to take quinine to treat it.  Then there was the spectacular chorus of the frogs, singing throughout the night.  Then an occasional howl (dog or wolf??) off in the distance, and every so often the sound of a car crossing the bridge.  I couldn't wait for morning!

Finally, the sky began to lighten, and soon a misty haze filled the air.  In other words, it was damp.  We dragged ourselves out of the back of the truck, and Daddy got another fire started.  Mama had brought her iron skillet from home, and we had eggs cooked over a campfire that morning.  They were really good.  Then, we determined that, as a group, we were pretty much ready to head back to civilization.  We loaded up the truck and, everyone back in their places, headed for home.

I can remember rounding the block and seeing our house come into view, with Phil's little red International pickup parked in the field by the back yard.  It felt good to be home!  Lucky, our dog, was happy to see us too.  I even got home in time to watch some of my Saturday morning cartoons.

I've often thought back on that little camping trip.  It's a good memory.  For whatever reason, we didn't do many things like that together as a family.  But there we were, not really knowing what we were doing, but trying our best to do something new.  And I didn't catch malaria.  Even better.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Growing Up In Waldron Book Now Available for Nook and Kindle!!!

We now have an ebook version of Growing Up In Waldron available for those of you who use a Nook reader.  This version joins the previously announced Kindle version of the book on Amazon.  Either version is available for only $0.99, a true bargain if I do say so myself. 

Here's the link for the Nook version:


Once again, here's the link for the Kindle version:


Thanks and enjoy!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Bill Yates, President

My wonderful tenth-grade English teacher, Mrs. Melba Owens, passed away this week.  This is a reposting of a previous blog entry that mentions her.  Melba was a kind, caring, and dedicated teacher.  We will all miss her very much.

I was not much of a joiner in high school.  I didn't participate in athletics (no confidence), I didn't participate in band (no talent), and I didn't hang out on the back porch of the high school and smoke (afraid of what my Mama would do to me).  However, there were occasional club meetings throughout the year, and during my sophomore year I found myself attending the meetings of the English Club. 

The English Club was the largest of the high school clubs.  It was sponsored by Melba Owens, who was a much beloved member of the WHS faculty.  She was kind and even-tempered, and her students thoroughly enjoyed being in her tenth grade English class.  Our main activities were a Halloween Hayride and a float for the Homecoming parade, and surely somewhere in there we must have worked to promote the proper use of the English language. 

Well, I loved to write, so English was my favorite class.  So, when selecting a club in which to belong, I easily overlooked the other options (Chess Club, Letterman's Club, Spanish Club, Future Nurses Club, and Library Club) and settled on the English Club.  I think I pretty much faded into the background during that sophomore year.  I'm sure I worked on the float and probably went on the hayride, but I don't remember it.  We held our meetings in the library/study hall, and there were so many of us that we pretty much packed the place out. 

So it was that on that last meeting of the 1971-1972 school year, when we were voting in new officers for the next school year, I heard someone speak out "Bill Yates" when nominations were taken for the office of President.  Somewhat incredulous, for I had never been particularly popular, I stepped outside into the hall while the voting transpired, and came back in to the library announced as President of the English Club, to what in my mind today is recalled as thunderous applause.

Me, in my triumphant Junior Year
This, I told myself later, will change things.  In the exalted office of President of the English Club, I will undoubtedly be seen by the girls as what might be referred to as Really Something, and my social calendar, up to that point devoid of interaction, would undoubtedly soon fill up.  I would have to await the beginning of the new school year to see any benefits, but being the upcoming President of the English Club certainly put an extra spring in my step.

The beginning of the 1972-1973 school year, my junior year, finally arrived.  I had been looking forward to being a junior for a long time.  Juniors got to sell those World's Finest chocolate candy bars, which cost fifty cents each and were twice as thick as the dinky little World's Finest chocolate bars that you get today.  Juniors also got to order their Senior Rings.  I can still vividly recall the meeting where we met with the representative from Balfour, the company that made our rings.  The guy passed around some sample rings for us to look at, and the excitement grew as we grew closer to selecting the ring we wanted.  I personally was going for the most economical ring, which was the basic gold with a blue stone.  The cost of my ring was $32.  The Balfour representative explained the reason for such an exorbitant price by telling us that the price of gold had gone up to $77 an ounce.  I saw on the news the other day that the current price of gold had passed $1,500 per ounce.  If I only knew then what I know now. 

But, I digress.  Back to the English Club.  As time for our first club meetings of the year drew closer, my anticipation increased proportionally.  I would be leading the largest club on campus.  Could I handle the responsibility?  What lasting impact would I leave on hallowed WHS?  Would I maybe get a date out of this?

On the morning of club meeting day, Mr. Davis, our principal, made an announcement about participating in clubs.  In so doing, he delivered a bombshell.  WHS, he said, was very proud to announce a new club:  The Student Arts Guild.  This club was designed for students interested in music, art, and theater.  Oh, brother.

The Student Arts Guild.  First of all, it didn't even have the word "club" in its name.  Suddenly, the English Club, Spanish Club, and all the other clubs sounded a bit archaic.  The Student Arts Guild sounded cool, and fun, and oh, so seventies.  As you might expect, on the first day of clubs, students flocked to the auditorium to sign up for the Student Arts Guild.

There was, however, a reservoir of traditionalists, and we gathered defiantly in the library for the first English Club meeting.  Actually, the turnout was pretty good, considering.  With Mrs. Owens' assistance, I led the meeting without too many stumbles, and my tenure as President of the English Club was off and running.

Melba Owens, a kind and gentle teacher
The Halloween Hayride was our first big event.  The hayride was conducted at the Fox and Wolf Hunters ground at Keener, and I remember we had a sound system set up and I had to reluctantly get up and speak into a microphone for a bit.  We then loaded onto a trailer that was connected to a tractor being driven by Melba's husband, Mondell, and had a pleasant little drive along the back roads of Keener.  Overall, a very nice evening and certainly a success.  (Mondell, by the way, once told me that we were distantly related, and so everytime he saw me he would drawl, "Hello, Cuz.") 

Problems occurred, however, with our next big event.  We were constructing our float for the homecoming parade, and we were building it in the parking lot of the old, old bus shop, just east of the gym.  Several of us were going to go work on it during our study hall, and Mrs. Owens was kind enough to tell us that we could go over to Kathy's Candy Store and get Cokes to drink while we worked.  Well, the WHS campus had been "closed" that year, and technically we weren't supposed to go off campus, but Kathy's was adjacent to school property so we didn't think it would be that big of a deal. 

Gilbert Davis.  Probably a nice man in real
life, but he wasn't going to let any of us know it.
We were mistaken.  As we happily worked on the float and sipped our Cokes, we were surprised to see a dark, ominous presence in the form of one Gilbert Davis, Principal, suddenly in our midst.  "Someone called me," Mr. Davis strongly intoned, "and told me that you were drinking Cokes up here.  You are forbidden from leaving this campus."  Mr. Davis looked around the group with cold, steely eyes.  "I had better not hear of this happening again."  With that, he left us, chagrined, to finish our Cokes and ponder the error of our ways.

Assuming the mantle of leadership, I decided that I should report to Mrs. Owens exactly what had transpired.  I went into her classroom and told her what had happened.  She never demonstrated any disapproval of her boss, but judging by her facial expression, I'm pretty sure she didn't agree with his actions.

Well, the rest of the year tooled along uneventfully.  We had occasional meetings, didn't do much, and couldn't help but feel a bit left out as we saw the multitudes flocking to the Student Arts Guild meetings.  Then, it was spring again, and another election was held, and someone else got to be President of the English Club.

As a senior, I couldn't bring myself to join the Student Arts Guild (the interlopers!).  So, I once again joined the English Club.  If nothing else, I'm consistent.  But, with everything going on that goes on during your senior year, club meetings didn't retain much space in my memory.  I suppose we had a hayride, and I suppose we made a float, and I'm pretty sure it was built without the destructive influence of Coca-Cola.

If you look at my senior picture in the 1974 yearbook, you will see a minimal listing of activities next to my name.  But, sure enough, if you look closely, you will see forever immortalized the words President, English Club.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Another Post About Coca-Cola

Far and away, the most frequently viewed posting on this little blog is The Proper Way To Drink Coca-Cola, a little piece that I tossed off one day when I couldn't think of anything else to write about.  As of today, it has had 8,559 page views, which is about six times more than my second-most popular post.  People from all over the world have viewed that post; I have been constantly amazed at the amount of searching for coke-related terms that has led people to my blog. 

So, I must admit, it would be very tempting for me to write another post about Coca-Cola, which sometimes comes packaged in a coke bottle, since I can see on my Feedjit gadget (recommended for any blogger) specifically which search words have led people to Growing Up In Waldron.  Now certainly, I enjoy a glass of coke as much as the next person, but to write a post specifically to attract large numbers of people to this blog would be wrong.

Of course people all over the world are drinking coke.  Our friends in China often enjoy a refreshing can of 可口可樂 .  In Russia, it's fun to head down to the corner drug store for an ice cold Кока-Кола.  In Japan, many shoppers take a break to enjoy their コカ・コーラ.  If you hop on over to Korea, you'll be asking for 코카콜라 .  In Arab regions, whenever you come in off the desert, you'll want to sit down with a nice glass of كوكاكول.  And, should you ever find yourself in a place where Marathi is spoken, you, like me, might have no idea where you are, but you'll feel better if you can get someone to bring you a bottle of कोका-कोला.

I'm not real sure how they serve Coca-Cola in all those places, maybe they just serve a can of coke, but if anyone over there needs suggestions, I'll refer you to my previous post.  I hope it will make sense to you and not be Κόκα κόλα, which is Greek to me.

No, the purpose of this post about Coca-Cola (It's the Real Thing)  is not to blatantly increase my number of page views.  No, not at all.  I just want to share with you the tremendous interest that Coca-Cola holds with people all across the world. 

I just read recently that, in honor of the Summer Olympics of 2012, Coke is going to distribute cans with the Coca-Cola logo written in other languages from around the globe.  That's what is pictured above.  And that's great!  If there's anything that might interest people more than Coca-Cola, its the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Growing Up In Waldron eBook for Kindle!

Great news!  The Growing Up In Waldron book is now available on Amazon as an eBook for Kindle.  And, best of all, the price is only $ .99!  Just follow the link below to get your Growing Up In Waldron eBook: