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.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Black and White Dog

It's silly, really, to think that he was anything other than a stray, or maybe one of the mutts that run our neighborhood.  But I'd never seen him before, that black and white dog.  But at 2:00 a.m. this morning, when Marilyn and I came home from the hospital, there he sat on my front porch, guarding the front door like it belonged to him. 

Marilyn and I had had a nice evening, dinner with some friends; I was a bit preoccupied because I had asked my sister to keep me informed about Daddy; he was in the hospital in Waldron, seemed to be stable, but we weren't sure.  After dinner, my sister sent me a text that his condition had worsened and they were bringing him to Fort Smith in an ambulance. 

At the hospital, I could see how he had deteriorated since I had seen him the day before.  We discussed options with the surgeon, and decided to authorize exploratory surgery to see if we could find out why his abdomen was so hard and swollen.

The news wasn't good.  The doctors had found a tumor the size of a baseball on Daddy's pancreas.  It had spread throughout his abdomen.  There was no hope for recovery.

When Daddy was safely back in ICU, breathing with a vent, we left our brother Phil there and the rest of us went to our homes to get a few hours rest before we had to deal with what lay in store. 

Meanwhile, a black and white dog stationed himself on my front porch. 

He showed no desire to leave when we pulled up.  Exhausted, I told Marilyn to ignore him and hoped he would go away, but he didn't.  As I collapsed into bed, I suggested to Marilyn that he might be thirsty, and maybe we needed to put out some water for him to drink.  She did.  He appreciated it.

He was gone when we got up three hours later.  We went back to the hospital, all of us, and met with the doctor in charge of the hospice program.  He carefully explained what would happen.  And so, we gathered there, around Daddy's bed, along with the doctor, who stayed with us, and watched as Daddy's life ebbed away.  The monitor next to his bed told the story; his respiration and blood pressure slowly dropped until the machine could not register anymore, and the doctor looked at us and softly said, "He's gone." 

And we all felt a sense of peace.

So today, Albert Lee Yates, better known as "Abb," left us.  He was a good man. 

His main purpose in life, he felt, was to not cause anyone any trouble.  That's why he never once complained of any pain over the last few months while a tumor in his pancreas grew to the size of a baseball.  Abb Yates was a tough rascal.

And so, a chapter of my life ends today.  I knew it was coming; he was 89 years old.  But I've shed many, many more tears today than I thought I would.

And too, I think, the time has come to end Growing Up In Waldron.  I've been fortunate to get to share many memories with you; so many, in fact, that it's a struggle to come up with any new ones.  I got to put some of them into a book that I self-published, and I hope to put the rest of them into another sometime soon.  I've enjoyed tremendously the comments from people who have read this blog, and in particular I want to thank a couple of great bloggers, Jim Sullivan (Sulldog) and Uncle Skip, who have been so kind to link to this blog numerous times. 

So, I'm going to take a break from blogging for a while, but I may be back; I have a couple of ideas floating around. 

Now, back to that black and white dog.  I'm not into any of that New Age stuff, or Spiritualism, or any thing like that.  He was probably just a dog that happened by.  To make sure we got home okay. 

Like Daddy did.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Mystery of the Phantom Pooper

I'm going to tell you something incredible.  It's not about Waldron.  It's not about growing up.  It's just a bit of information that I have discovered that is so stunning, it demands to be shared.  Today, you will learn something.

It's all about some little souvenirs in my back yard.

The first one was about a month ago.  Out by our pool, on a concrete stepping stone, a perfectly formed little portion of animal scat.  I looked at it carefully, from a distance.  It was much smaller than the normal product of our little Yorkies, Gus and Gracie.  Hmm.  Must have been an afterthought.

Then, a week or so later, there was another one, identical to the first.  This time, it was on our patio near the back door.  It looked like this:

No, I didn't take that picture.  I found it on the Internet.  I'll tell you where in a bit; be patient.  I don't want to ruin the story.

I informed the lovely Marilyn that we had an intruder.  She scoffed at my suggestion that it might be a monkey.

You see, we have a neighbor who told my father-in-law across the street that, early one morning, he saw something that looked like a monkey getting fruit off of our other neighbor's fruit trees.  This report was met with universal skepticism from everyone except me.  You see, when I was a kid, our neighbor, George Hawkins, had a pet monkey.  It would on occasion escape, and when it did, it would head for the mulberry tree in our front yard, where it would consume as many mulberries as it could before the inevitable recapture.

Gee, I did actually work in something about Growing Up In Waldron.  I feel better.

So, I was convinced that a rogue monkey was scaling our fence at night, coming into our back yard, looking around a bit, possible smoking (I found some butts, but I think they were from the guy who fixed our air conditioner.  Maybe.  I'm not sure.)

And then last night, another deposit.  This time, right on our sidewalk that goes up to the pool.  I discovered it when I took Gus and Gracie out for their final backyard visit of the night.  (This is an interesting ritual, by the way.  Every night, around 10:00, Gus positions himself on the floor in front of my recliner and begins a plaintive whining routine.  This may go on for 10 or 15 minutes.  Now, we have a doggie door, Gus can go outside any time he wants, but he does this whining thing until I look him straight in the eye and say, "Gus, you wanna go outside and pee?"  Upon hearing these words, Gus explodes toward the doggie door in a motion so frantic that Gracie, who is normally sleeping on the couch, jumps from her perch and tries to intercept the crazed Gus.  Unable to tackle him, she trails behind him, barking furtively to get him to stop.  If I do not follow along with them, Gus comes back to the doggie door and scratches until I go outside.)

But I digress.

So, after finding this latest poop, I determined that I'm going to find out exactly what my nightime visitor is.

Now, I'm going to tell you the answer to the mystery, but you are going to say, "Bill, there is no way that this can be true."  But it is.  For we know one thing to be true:  THE INTERNET DOES NOT LIE.

Well, it actually does, that's why there's snopes.com.  But in this case, it's true.  So now, I shall reveal to you the answer to this mystery, the solution to the conundrum; I shall unravel the enigmatic excrement to reveal what lies at the core of this thoughtless beast who invades the sanctity of good people's back yards.

It's toad poop.

It really is.  I knew that every time I went outside with the dogs at night, there was always a fat toad somewhere out there catching bugs.  He is such a regular visitor that Gus and Gracie hardly pay him any mind now.  So, I googled what toad poop looks like and found this wonderful website:


And there, right before me, was the poop I kept seeing at night.  No skunk.  No rabbit.  No possum.  No armadillo.  Just a big fat, somewhat inconsiderate toad.

I'm still looking for the monkey.  I'll keep you posted...

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Five Best TV Shows Ever

The much celebrated blogger Suldog has produced another classic; his five all-time favorite TV shows.  You can read Sully's choices here.  In addition, he has challenged other bloggers to do the same.  Well, since watching TV is one of the things I do best, here is my list of the all time best TV shows ever.  Sully has specified that this list is only for shows not in current production, so that means excellent shows like Mad Men, The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, and New Girl are not eligible.  But you should watch them.  They're really good.

So, without further ado, here is my list of the Greatest Television Shows of All Time:

Number 1:  The Andy Griffith Show

Many people of my age are convinced that we grew up in towns identical to Mayberry.  That may be largely a figment of our imaginations, but The Andy Griffith Show was so carefully crafted with bits of realism that it seemed there was always something we could relate to.  That is why this show has stood the test of time.  It was originally developed with the idea that Andy Griffith would be the source of the comedy, but after it became apparent that Don Knott's character of Barney Fife was particularly humorous, the direction of the show changed and it all began to come together, with Andy playing the straight man to Barney's foibles. 

With the rich characterizations of series regulars Gomer Pyle, Thelma Lou, Helen, and the outlandish Earnest T. Bass and the Darling Family, and the wonderfully crafted scripts from the likes of Everett Greenbaum and Jim Frizzell among others, the show became a big hit for CBS in the early and mid 60s.  It's a show that I always watch when I see it on TV today.

Number 2:  The Twilight Zone

Quirky, original, and sometimes scary, The Twilight Zone was perhaps the most well-written television show ever.  Rod Serling, the chain-smoking host and creator, introduced each episode.  It's fun to watch the show today and see several well-known stars who were probably very thankful to get to star in an episode of The Twilight Zone when they were just starting out. My favorite episode is "The Hitchhiker," and I still get a chill up my spine when Inger Stevens looks in her rear view mirror and discovers the hitchhiker in her back seat.  What really made the series stand out was the clever twist that occurred at the end of each episode, something that you never saw coming but that would inevitably explain the events that had unfolded.  Great, great writing.

Number Three:  Are You Being Served?

A BBC show from the seventies, Are You Being Served? chronicles the hilarious exploits of the staff of Grace Brothers Department Store in London.  Slapstick, outrageous farce dominates each episode, with particular humor coming from Mrs. Slocum and the extreme difficulties she has with her cat.  My favorite character was Mr. Grainger, the elderly senior salesman.  The show poked fun at the British class system, with the employees expected to follow specific rules of dress and behavior based upon their ranking.  This show never fails to make me laugh.

Number Four:  Fawlty Towers

And speaking of slapstick, Fawlty Towers does that better than any other show.   Another BBC show from the seventies, the show features John Cleese as Basil Fawlty, the owner of a hapless hotel called, naturally, "Fawlty Towers."  The humor comes from the interplay between Basil and his domineering wife Sybil.  Since Basil lives in complete fear of Sybil, it results in his bullying of his employee Manuel, who comes from Spain and encounters many hilarious problems because of his unfamiliarity with the English language. 

The outrageous, improbable disasters that befall Basil on a regular basis are responsible for the hilarity of this series.  Another one that I never miss when I find it on TV.

Number Five:  Our World

I must include one show that you've probably never heard of.  Our World was produced for about one season in the 1980s by ABC News.  It was hosted by Ray Gandolf and Linda Ellerbee, and each week took the viewer back in time to a specific time period in the 20th century.  In depth stories about the events going on in America at that time were presented, such as the development of Levittown or the panic that ensued after Orson Wells convinced radio audiences that we were being invaded by Martians. 

The show never took off, which is unfortunate.  It was really interesting TV.

Honorable Mention 1:  All Creatures Great and Small

This BBC series was based on the books by James Herriot, the British veterinarian and author (real name Alf Wight).  The stunning beauty of the Yorkshire region of England was the series backdrop, and young James traveled around the countryside treating the animals of the farmers of the region.  I still have a strong desire to go to England and see Yorkshire after watching this show.  I also recommend the books by James Herriot. 

Honorable Mention 2:  Newhart

Bob Newhart was able to perfect the character of the everyday man who seemed to be humorously at the mercy of the loony people around him.  The humor came from his attempts to maintain calm in the face of the improbable events that unfolded around him.  The show's opening scene of a drive through the beautiful forests of New England set the tone for this show, and it never failed to deliver some good laughs. 

So, there's a look at my favorites.  How about yours?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Katie Bar The Door

It's a curious expression.  Katie bar the door.  Or, more properly, "Katie, bar the door."  It may be an expression unique to the south, I'm not sure about that.  But it was the first in a long line of misunderstood concepts that permeated my childhood in Waldron. 

It was one of Mama's favorite sayings.  For example, "If you don't quit playing and come in and get ready for church, it'll be katie bar the door."  One of my earliest memories is of trying to figure out exactly what a "katie bar the door" was.  Once I set my brilliant little infantile mind to it, I was able to conclude that a "katie bar the door" was, in fact, one of these:

As I said, the first in a long line of misunderstood concepts.  What this is, actually, is a sheepsfoot compactor, used in road construction.  I suppose that my efforts to understand the concept of "katie bar the door" happened along about the time the dirt streets of Waldron were first being paved, so there was lots of wonderful heavy equipment parked at various locations around our neighborhood for a while.  So maybe, I was playing around this curious machine, and Mama told me to get away or it would be katie bar the door for me, and so I somehow made the connection between the two.  I don't know.

Soon, my sophisticated mind realized that this concept was just plain stupid.  Katie bar the door.  I knew one of those words.  I knew door.  So, it must have something to do with a door.  And then I had it.  Every night, we would slip a butter knife into the side of the door facing on our back door, thus blocking any intruders who might try to enter the house for purposes of no good.  The butter knife, securely preventing the door from being opened, must be serving the purpose of katie barring the door.  So, when one katie bared a door, they surely stuck a butter knife into the wooden door facing to provide security.

I was happy with this explanation for a number of years, but then, somewhere in my late elementary days, it occurred to me that katie bar the door was actually a snippet of conversation between an unnamed individual and someone named Katie.  It was in fact a command.  "Katie!  Get up off the couch and bar the door!"  Whereupon, young Katherine would dutifully rise and, perhaps picking up a butter knife, proceed to "bar" the door against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.

A website called thefreedictionary.com explains the phrase this way:

Prepare immediately for an advancing threat. Katie bar the door, the grandchildren are here and they all look hungry.

And that's how Mama used it.  If I was doing something wrong, I'd better prepare, because there was an advancing threat, and it was called Mama with a switch from the hedge in our back yard.  But in spite of my inability to fully grasp the definition, I was at least smart enough to take advantage of the warning, and stop what I was doing before any barring of doors was necessary. 

Well, most of the time anyway.