Peas & Fast Tillers in Small Town America

Emerson, Arkansas
Emerson, Arkansas, located in Columbia County  just above the Louisiana state line is small town America personified. Home to 358 mostly happy souls. There are no historical sites, no great museums, no ex-president was born here to brag about and to tell the truth, the good folks I talked to didn't know why Emerson originally came into being except maybe as a hub for the many farms and the timber industry in the area. Even with this lack of historical significance, the people who call it home are right proud of it. Emerson is perhaps most well known in the state of Arkansas for it's basketball and track teams.  The Pirates have ran and jumped and dribbled to so many state championships and won so many trophies, they've had to add several trophy cases and numerous shelves to hold them all.

So that's about all Emerson is known for and it most probably would have stayed that way except for one resident, Glen Eades. Glen was bored. Emerson was mostly boring - so boring there was no police department. Glen had an idea - a festival honoring the one delicacy grown in every garden worth calling a garden, the purple hull pea. And so, after discussing it and eventually convincing the area's most influential residents, the annual Emerson Purple hull Pea Festival was begun. Glen, being a fella with no lack of ideas, soon had another stroke of brilliance - what instrument does every gardener have? A rotor tiller. And thus the World Championship Rotary Tiller Race was added to the Pea Festival. If you haven't had a mess of purple hull peas with 'maters and cornbread, then you haven't tasted down-home southern cooking at its finest and if you haven't seen somebody till 200 feet of dirt in about 6 seconds, then you haven't seen tilling at its fastest!

Due to work commitments and the fact Mamma-woman and Youngest-daughter wanted to attend the festival (actually Youngest-daughter didn't really want to go, but she only gets 1/2 a vote and the parents wanted to go so...), we couldn't make it for the Friday Senior Day festivities and that was a shame. I didn't get to participate in the "Senior Walk For World Peas," I didn't get a free purple hull pea lunch (free for those of us who have survived 55 or more years), we didn't get to hear the Dudneywood Silver Hair Choir, and we didn't get to see the Purple hull Pea Festival 'Pea-tacular' Fireworks show.

It's a haul from Greenbrier to Emerson so I got up at what-the-hell-am-I-doing-its-still-dark thirty, took a shower and shaved so I'd look my prettiest, and threw my camera gear in Big Ford Truck. Wanting to be a good guy and let my girls sleep as long as possible, I waited until the last minute to wake up Mamma-woman and the child, a mistake I keep making and never seem to learn from. I am a morning person. They are not morning people. Even with me stumbling around in the dark, singing in the shower, and scrounging around in a drawer for clean underwear, Mamma-woman can sleep on. I usually carry a chair and whip into the bedrooms when I have to get them up early on the weekend. This morning was little different. After a good bit of "Let's go, let's go!" and "What are you doing now?!" we hit the road south.

Several hours later, we found ourselves at the Emerson High School parking lot. I knew we must be close to the action because there were a lot of cars parked everywhere, but all was quiet. Where were the people? Where was the festival? I finally saw an older gentleman and two ladies coming out of the white building I was parked by so I went up to them and asked, "Where's everything?" The very old gentleman answered, "Oh, it's going on everywhere." The two ladies smiled, turned and walked away. Those rascals. The gentleman started talking about Belgium and D-Day and the battles he had fought in during WWII. I was wearing my U.S.S. Kitty Hawk Navy cap so I guess he noticed it. I asked his name several times, but he never told me. He told a couple of stories though and after a few minutes, he walked back toward the door in the white building and motioned us inside. It was easy to tell this was the school cafeteria because it looked just like every other school cafeteria in America. And it was full of people sitting at the rows of tables visiting with each other and saying hi to folks who walked by.

Thanks for the friendly greeting and talk, Jane!
We made our way to a table in the corner and found Jane, who was selling t-shirts, raffle tickets for the pea quilt to be given away ($2 per ticket), guesses of how many peas were in a glass bear jar ($1 per guess - the answer was evidently not 205), and jars of Emerson's Best Gourmet Purple hull jelly. Jane was super nice and filled us in on what was happening and where to go. She told us all the money raised was going to outfit the town park that had been purchased with funds from previous year's festivals. I liked that.

Cool festival t-shirt

No expense was spared on signage!

We made our way out of the cafeteria and along a covered walkway beside what we later discovered was the gym and as we turned to the left, the whole festival came into view. There were a few kids rides, but it was mostly folks selling watermelons and cantaloupe along with the normal totally unhealthy, but oh so tasty festival fare such as deep fried chocolate, turkey legs, funnel cakes and Bar-B-Que.

We walked down several blocks and came to the field of battle - the site of the world's fastest garden tillers. The field is 200 feet of brown Arkansas dirt. The tillers are no ordinary tillers. Oh they started life as a tiller, but with modified motorcycle engines powering them now, they barely resemble their former purpose. Imagine if you can, a person running behind, barely hanging on is much more like it, as a tiller churns through dirt at up to 24 miles per hour (the world record as of this year), throwing up dust and dirt clods all over the place and sounding like a herd of angry bees. Unique among motor sports, this is the super bowl of the tiller racing season. Of course, as far as is known, the tiller racing circuit consists of this one race, so it's kind of an easy thing to proclaim.

Tiller girls
Entry to all of the events was free, but Tiller Girls walk around in the crowd with sacks and you are encouraged to donate a buck or two to your favorite. The girl who ends up with the most $ wins the coveted title of Queen Tiller! There's a kid's race, using those small little Mantis mini-tillers, and a ladies race, which usually doesn't have many contestants, but when the big boys and their toys come out, well, it's a bit hard to explain. I found a couple of video's on YouTube and you really do have to see it to believe it, so here's the links for you to get an idea of what its like. and

Competition tiller

You have to really be fleet of foot to keep
up with the tiller!

Interesting tiller train

After the race

Tractor barrel race - not as easy as it looks!

The tractor show, kids bicycle races and tractor barrel racing which came afterwards was a little boring in comparison. Not so much for the parents of the entrants I'm sure and I reckon you could look at as a way to calm down and get ready for the "Million Tiller Parade" coming along a bit later.

Before long, it was time for lunch. Rather than buy festival food from the vendors, we decided to go back to the cafeteria and for $6 per plate, have the purple hull pea lunch. That was the best decision we made since deciding to come here. A mess of peas cooked perfectly, served with a couple of slices of vine ripened tomato's, fresh onions and hot peppers from area gardens, 2 slices of corn bread, and a generous helping of some of the best peach cobbler I've had in a long, long time, all home-made by women who really know how to cook. A glass of iced tea to wash it all down and that there was some darn good eatin'!

Pea Queen
This year the festival was only about 999,999 tillers short of the mark for the Million Tiller Parade, but there were some interesting motorcycles, 4-wheelers, a few floats and a couple of cars with beauty queens. Most of them were throwing candy to the watchers which added a nice little desert after lunch.

Parade float

Vette cycle?

Born to be mild!

At 2:00 o'clock came the much anticipated World Cup Purple hull Pea Shelling Competition. If you don't know how, it's pretty simple really. Slit one end of the pea pod and just slide your thumb down the length to release the peas. Of course, knowing how to toss and catch a baseball in your backyard doesn't exactly qualify you to play in the major leagues and it's the same here. This is THE world cup competition and you might as well not even try it unless you can slit and spill peas so fast your fingers can't be seen. Evidently all that time when Emerson is so boring, folks sit around shelling purple hull peas!

I have to say by this time, the sun was beating down without mercy and it was hotter 'n heck so we retreated to the gym (not air conditioned, but they did have a bunch of big fans going) to peruse the arts and crafts. After browsing all of the tables and a jar of salsa and a hot pad holder purchase later, it was time to head to the next event.

Next up was the Purple hull Pea and Cornbread cook off. Along with plain old peas were pea dishes of every sort imaginable - Pea Salad, Pea & Rice Casserole, Pea Chili, Pea Dip, Pea Salsa; if you can possibly put a pea in it, people baked it. And the cornbread was just as varied. I could have spent the rest of the weekend grazing on all of that wonderful food!

Yes, we came home with a jar of purple hull
pea jelly. And it wasn't bad at all!

Reluctantly, we had to take our goodies back to the truck and head on home. Sad to say we missed out on the Pea Plant judging and I'm sure the Pea Stompin' Street Dance featuring The Dick's Hat Band later that night was a hoot. Maybe next year we'll book a room somewhere close and enjoy the whole weekend. Mamma-woman said, "That was fun!" Youngest-daughter said she had a good time and was glad she came after all. Me? Well, I'm already looking forward to another purple hull pea lunch plate!

Snake in the Grass

I don’t like snakes. Let me rephrase that – I hate snakes.  I don’t think you understand yet – I really hate snakes.  They are the devil’s spawn, his playmates, his friends, his compatriots.  I've never established any kind of enjoyable relationship with a snake except one - it dies and I live. 

Actually, there haven’t been very many snakes die at my hands. That’s mostly because if I see one I give up all pretension of being manly and brave and run in the opposite direction trying not to squeal like a little girl. I can be in a car driving 70 MPH, see a snake on the other side of the road and every hair on my body will stand on end; chill bumps will pop out looking like small mountains; I stop breathing for a few seconds; I am embarrassingly unreasonably, uncontrollably afraid.
I’ve been told there are “good” snakes. Somebody once tried to convince me there are snakes who eat other snakes. I doubt it. That’s probably an absolutely false story propagated by poor misguided foolish people who think all creatures are equal.  Give me a break. Look at a cute little puppy or an adorable little kitten. Now look at a baby snake. Difference!  There’s not even a sweet little name for a baby snake. A baby dog is a puppy. A baby cat is a kitten. They conjure up images of sweet little adorable balls of fluff. A baby snake is a snake.  I've never laughed at the antics of a baby snake.

So the other day I was in the back of the house pulling flowers from one of our weed gardens.  Actually it’s a grass garden, but don’t get the wrong idea; Bermuda grass is what I’m talking about. I water, fertilize, trim the grass in the yard and can barely keep it alive most of the time, but the patches in the former flower beds can go months in 100+ degree heat with no water and still flourish; growing densely up to my knees in deep, dark green.  With the amount of neglect we heap on those beds, one would think nothing would grow in them, but one would be wrong.  Every now and then, I get a bee in my bonnet about making the beds into flower beds again and for a few days attack the grass and weeds like a man possessed. It usually lasts for about a week or less until my back hurts from bending over hour after hour, my hands hurt from pulling handfuls of tough, stubborn grass/weeds and I have a bunch of cuts on my arms and hands from the few wooden stemmed flowers and bushes hardy enough to not have died yet. At that point I declare the beds to look better than they did and beat a hasty retreat back into the air conditioned comfort of my abode.

I was in the 3rd day of my weeding frenzy, wearing thick gloves to assist in gripping handfuls of grass for pulling, tugging, and yanking. I reached into a particularly dense clump, back where I couldn’t see, grabbed a good handful and pulled. I felt some break, but some held so I pulled again and then a third time when the clump came loose. And that’s when I saw that along with a few blades of grass, I had grabbed a huge, squirming, man-eating snake! It was in my hand, slithering!  I’m telling you, it was about the size of my arm and that’s just the part I could see!  I wondered why there were not as many dogs in the neighborhood as there had been in years past and now I knew why. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure there are a couple of teenage boys missing too! I’m not overly religious, but oh my Lord God Jesus Mary and Joseph I've got a *%&$# snake in my hand!!!

Blink your eyes. Go ahead and blink them as fast as you can. Pretty fast, huh?  Well that was glacier speed compared to how fast I threw that snake down. I threw it down so fast it didn't have a chance to rear up, unlock its lower jaw and eat me whole. In my mind I could see it above me, its mouth open, coming down around my head and slowly working its way downward, swallowing me agonizing inch by agonizing inch. So yes, I speed of lightning quick flung it down, down and away from me, and off to the side.
I breathed a huge sigh of relief and started to turn back to the task at hand when oh blessed Jesus the damn thing starting slithering back toward me! I cannot believe this; it really is coming back at me!  I had a pair of grass clippers right there beside me so I quickly grabbed them up and brandished them at the evil monster. I warned it. I swear I did. "I have clippers and I’m not afraid to use them!" It fazed him not. He continued slithering through the grass right at me. I do believe he had only one thing on his little snaky mind and he was not looking for a best friend.

So I did it. I held my breath, extended the clippers toward him and quick as a guillotine, scissored the blades together, cutting it neatly in half, 3 inches on one end, 3 inches on the other. And I felt no regret. The monster had been dispatched and I had once again somehow, someway, cheated death.

Dead Man Walking

Happy anniversary to me! Exactly 6 months ago today, I died. If you don't know the story, feel free to read my earlier blog entry where I talk about it. The short version is that I had a severe heart attack and died, twice - as in no pulse, no response, plug pulled, all systems shut down, clinically dead. Both times I was brought back into the land of the living by mouth-to-mouth, chest compressions and having the crud shocked out of me by medical people welding those little electric paddles. I suffered the blue screen of death and got rebooted. Even though I remember none of that happening, it was a life changing experience to say the least. So today I feel like I need to say something about it, about getting a 2nd chance, about the extra 6 months I've been given (so far) and hopefully many more. I don't have anything prepared and haven't thought a lot about what to say; I'll just wing it and if you don't want to read my ramblings, no hard feelings.

I am well aware it sounds weird, but in a very strange way, a piece of me considers what happened to be a gift. It's real easy to say, "Stop and smell the roses" and theoretically everyone knows they should, but few really take it to heart and it's oh so easy to forget with the little day-to-day crap that always seems to come up. There's always tomorrow to spend time with your kids; there's so much stuff that needs to be done at work and there's not enough time to go see that friend. We all get through life knowing that some day we will die, but some day is never today. Until it is. And then it's too late. For most people anyway. Just not for me and the approximately 12 million  other people who peaked behind the curtain and beat a hasty retreat back for a 2nd round of life. And that's why to me, my heart attack was a gift. I've gotten to look into my daughter's eyes for 6 more months and give her lots of hugs and butterfly kisses and tell her goodnight every night and sing her the goodnight song and hear her say, "I love you, Daddy." And I've gotten to hold my wife's hand and give her kisses and eat her cooking and occasionally sit on the couch together just enjoying being next to her and hear her say, "I love you, babe" when we go to bed at night. I've really felt and appreciated each and every time. No taking any of it for granted now or not enjoying the moment just because some bozo did some bozo thing at work and I'm all upset about it.

Don't get me wrong and think I'm now this angel person who never gets upset and goes out of his way to help little old ladies cross the street. I still get pissed at a bozo at work, I still do not like playing kids card games, and I still hate going shopping with my two girls (being with them is wonderful, but shopping with them is pure torture). However, being pissed off at Bozo usually now ends by about 5:01 every evening and I have made myself play kids games with my daughter a few more times and smiled the whole way through. The shopping, well, no, I still don't do that. My God, what do you expect? I'm only human, you know. I have found myself to be a lot more tolerant of people (even the bozo's; well, some of the time), I enjoy the little good things more, the smell of honeysuckle, coffee in the morning (especially when I didn't have to make it), the feel of cool water cascading down my body in the shower after I've gotten hot and sweaty working in the yard. Enjoy more, get pissed less. Not a bad thing at all.

On a different level, another reason I consider it a gift is because I'm really not afraid of dying now. No way am I looking forward to it, but not because it's some big unknown scary thing; I want to spend more time with my family and friends, I want to see my daughter graduate, I want to see more places (so many places, so little time) and meet more people, and I want to see if my Texas Longhorns win another national championship. But dying itself is not that big of a deal to do. It's not something in and of itself to be afraid of. Pain goes away, there's no hot or cold, no anger, no wailing or gnashing of teeth, and you don't think about having to pick up little Johnny after school today and take him to soccer practice or buying the groceries - all of those annoying day-to-day hafta's go away. No, I didn't see a bright light or my dead relatives or hear angels sing. What I felt and was totally aware of was floating in blackness that was comforting and soft and peaceful, no regrets, no longing, and I didn't have any fear at all. I felt safe like a baby falling asleep in their mother's loving arms. There are answers on the next level, answers to questions we think we know the answers to but don't; answers to questions we don't even know to ask. It was so nice. And then, I was being gently, but very quickly pulled back and in the blink of an eye, I woke up surprised as hell to find myself in the hospital and most surprising of all, to find out it was almost 5 days later! To know death is not this thing to be so frightened of brings peace.

I consider it a gift to learn who my true friends are and who truly cares about me. Laying in that hospital bed in a coma with tubes sticking out of me everywhere and looking like death warmed over, well, it could not have been a pleasant visit for anyone. But I had people who came and stayed, people who went out of their way to visit and check on me multiple times, friends and family members who helped my wife and daughter get through the long days and nights when they didn't know if their husband and daddy was going to come back or not. Friends who sacrificed vacation days and drove hundreds of miles to come and stay until I got back on my feet again. Those wonderful folks will never know how much that truly meant to me unless they find themselves needing help and they will find I'll be right there for them for as long as they need. You need somebody to have your back? I got it, my friend. I also found that a few who I thought were friends and loved ones were actually strangers. Hang with me when times are good, but disappear if you might have to go out of your way or use a couple of precious vacation days or drive a few miles. I'm glad to know that about them. Forgive, yes. Forget? I don't think so. When the bullets are flying, you need to know who you can trust.

When I first started to comprehend what had happened, I lay there in that hospital bed thinking, so this is what it feels like to have been on the other side and come back. I didn't have broken bones, but I did have a broken body, a broken life. Will my body repair? Will my life repair? Will I ever be the same? What about me is going to be different than before, different than before my body turned traitor on me. Yesterday I was myself. Today I'm somebody different. It was forced on me. My old me was taken away, never to be seen again. I didn't realize how I felt until I didn't feel that way anymore. And then I so wanted to feel that way again.

So here I am 6 months later, happy to be alive and mentally probably in a  better place, but I still have a way to go physically to regain the old me. I'm not sure that's possible. The old me thought nothing of hiking 4 or 5 difficult trail miles just to see a waterfall or a natural stone bridge; the new me cannot as yet walk more than 1 mile without my body saying that's enough and I can't go further. I have to remind myself that when I first got out of the hospital, walking from the bedroom into the living room resulted in sitting on the couch for 10 minutes just to recover. I used to hate taking any kind of medicine, especially anything stronger than an aspirin and now I take 5 pills every day. I used to never bruise, now, because of the blood thinner medicine, I bruise so easily I often don't know what caused it.

Life is different now, but all in all, it's all pretty good. There are so many others who have it a lot worse than I do so yeah, 6 months after I died, I consider myself to be an exceptionally lucky fella who was given a rare and precious gift. And I fully intend to keep on enjoying it.

The Raven

One hot Saturday morning, with a temperature of 91 and rising at 9:11am when I left, I set out in my pickup to see a 12-foot tall raven along Highway 63 in northeast Arkansas.  I simply had to see it for myself.

At Poe's home in Philadelphia!
In high school, I fell in love with the writings of Edgar Allan Poe and my favorite poem was "The Raven." I read it over and over until I could recite it from memory with only 1 or 2 slip ups or pauses. Sadly, that astounding little feat never got me a high-paying job or impressed a raven-haired beauty enough to share her treasures with me so, with that absolute lack of reward and with the inevitable passage of time, the stanzas slipped away to some deep recess in my cranium. My fascination with ravens has lingered however. No, I'm not some fanatic Corvidologist nor do I have a collection of hundreds of little plastic, glass, or wooden ravens sitting upon shelves cluttering my home, but I have studied them and know a thing or two about them.

Raven statue outside Poe's home in Philadelphia.
Ravens have been both vilified and held in high esteem by various cultures throughout history. The raven is both the symbol of the sun and the symbol of a moonless night. She is the birth giving light in the center of our galaxy and the black hole in the center of the universe.

The raven has historically represented impurity, mortification, destruction, deceit, desolation and has been seen as an Omen; a bird of death, of mysticism and of magic. Ravens are carrion and the smell of death is so wonderful to them that when in passing over sheep and a tainted smell is perceptible, they cry and croak vehemently. It may be that in passing over a human habitation, if a sickly or cadaverous smell arises, they make it known by their cries, and so has risen the idea that the croaking of a raven is the premonition of death.

The first bird Noah sent out from the Ark to check on the receding flood waters was a raven. Noah got pissed at him for not coming back and sent out a dove who brought back the olive branch.

In Native American tradition, the raven is the guardian of both ceremonial magic and healing circles as well as the patron of smoke signals. Raven symbolizes the void - the mystery of that which is not yet formed. Ravens are symbolic of the Black Hole in Space, which draws in all energy toward itself and releases it in new forms. She is a messenger spirit, which Native American shamans use to project their magic over great distances. In many northwestern American Indian traditions, Raven is the Trickster, much like the Norse Loki. Observing ravens in nature, they are often seen stealing food from other animals, often working in pairs to distract the victim.

In the Norse shamanic tradition, ravens represent the powers of clairvoyance and telepathy, and they were guides for the dead.

In Beowulf, an Anglo Saxon poem, is written " . . . craving for carrion, the dark raven shall have its say, and tell the eagle how it fared at the feast, when, competing with the wolf, it laid bare the bones of corpses."

In Shakespeare's Macbeth, Lady Macbeth sees the raven as a herald of misfortune as it "croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan."

Tower of London Ravens from our trip
 to England in 2010.
In England, tombstones are sometimes called "ravenstones" and legend has it that failing to keep ravens at the Tower of London will mean the great White Tower will crumble and a terrible disaster shall befall England.

The Irish Celts associated the raven as the Chooser of the Slain as it flew over battlefields.

The Scottish Goddess of winter, The Cailleach, often appears as a raven. A touch from her brings death. 

Giving a child his first drink from the skull of a raven will give the child powers of prophecy and wisdom in the Hebrides and Scottish Highlanders associate ravens with the second sight.

With all of this somewhat interesting, yet ultimately totally useless trivia about ravens floating around in my head, you wouldn't really expect me to take a pass at laying eyeballs on a 12-foot raven now, would you?

The small town of Ravenden, Arkansas was established in 1883 along the banks of the Spring River. The original name was Ravenden Junction because of the large number of ravens found in the area and a proposed railway junction in the town, but when the railway plans fell through, “Junction” was dropped from the name.  The town has dwindled to about 511 residents and if the day I was there is any indication, the ravens have moved on as well.

For more than 100 years, Ravenden was a quiet little town with nothing at all to distinguish itself and most folks, even in Arkansas, had never heard of it. Then one fine day in 1991, members of the Ravenden Volunteer Fire Department were sitting around the coffee shop shooting the breeze and started talking about how New York City has the Statue of Liberty and St. Louis has the Gateway Arch. Bobby Clements proposed they build a big statue of a raven to represent Ravenden and seeing as how there was never much to do anyway, everyone decided it was a grand idea.
After holding a bingo party to raise funds, the group of volunteer firemen got to work on the statue. Enough money for concrete or steel wasn't available so using rebar wrapped in wire mesh, they created the skeleton of a bird and covered it with fiberglass.  And just like that, the town of Ravenden had something to crow about.

The proud 12-foot-tall raven in Ravendon.
In 1996, the raven statue was burned down by vandals. The criminals were never caught, but the community rallied behind the burned bird and replaced it with another one, also made of fiberglass. Unfortunately, just 2 weeks later, the evil-doers struck again and Raven 2 joined its predecessor in ashes.
Most towns would give up at this point and there would be nothing but a pair of charred claw stumps. Not the good folk of Ravendon though. Rising together once again and shouting "Nevermore!" the town vowed to create a more durable, fire-resistant model. This time they created a 12 foot tall Raven standing on top of a 2-foot-tall base, all made of concrete and stucco and covered in flame-retardant paint.  This latest version was constructed in 1996 and it endures to this day. Located near the intersection of US-63 and AR-90 in Ravenden, tourists don’t exactly flock to see it, but it does generate a lot of pride from the proud, persistent locals.

The Raven
Edgar Allan Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.'

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
`'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; -
This it is, and nothing more,'

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
`Sir,' said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you' - here I opened wide the door; -
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!'
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!'
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
`Surely,' said I, `surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore -
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; -
'Tis the wind and nothing more!'

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door -
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door -
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
`Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,' I said, `art sure no craven.
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore -
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning - little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door -
Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as `Nevermore.'

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered - not a feather then he fluttered -
Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before -
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.'
Then the bird said, `Nevermore.'

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
`Doubtless,' said I, `what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore -
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of "Never-nevermore."'

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore -
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking `Nevermore.'

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
`Wretch,' I cried, `thy God hath lent thee - by these angels he has sent thee
Respite - respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -
On this home by horror haunted - tell me truly, I implore -
Is there - is there balm in Gilead? - tell me - tell me, I implore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us - by that God we both adore -
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named Lenore?'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!' I shrieked upstarting -
`Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! - quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!

Elvis Found!

Portia, Arkansas is a small town in far northeast Arkansas in Lawrence County. It's one of of places you shouldn't blink while driving through or you'll miss it - and be none the wiser or sadder for it. Situated along Hwy 63, a grand total of 445 souls call it home. It's a clean, quiet, unassuming little place. Even the houses in Portia are little with the median home price being only $51,300. Nope, not much going on in Portia, even on Saturday nights.

So imagine my surprise as I drove through Portia last weekend on my way to see a raven when I found something astounding, something amazing, something some people have been striving to find since  August 16, 1977 - I found Elvis Presley! Elvis, the man, the myth, the legend.

Elvis and Mini-Elvis!

Difference Makers

If you think back on your life, you will see how even the smallest things have affected you. Most of all you remember the people who have made a difference. Sometimes the biggest influence might be somebody who doesn’t remember you or doesn’t  even know you exist, but without that person, you would not be who or where you are today.

Maybe you have made a difference in someones life, a big difference. And you don't even know it. I like to think I have. It doesn't have to be a big thing you had to go out of your way to do. Maybe it's a smile given to a person when nobody but they knew they really needed one.  Maybe it's the quick little phone call to a friend at just the right moment. Maybe it's just the calm way you react to a delay in the checkout line at the grocery store. There's really no telling what could make a positive difference in someones life.

It's so trite to say and we've all heard it so many times, but it doesn't hurt to pay it forward; to live each day like it's your last chance to be a good example. It's a lot harder to do than it sounds, but really, what harm would it do to try?

Schools Out

For my youngest daughter, today was the last day of school for the summer. She'll be in 7th grade this fall. I don't seem able to recall grades 3 - 5. She must have completed those grades in about 3 days or most likely jumped from 2nd grade straight to 6th because she's so smart and knows everything - I asked her and that's what she told me.

I used to have a little girl who loved for her daddy to show up at her school to eat lunch with her. All of a sudden there is now a young lady, an almost-a-teenager living in my house and showing up for lunch at school is no longer exactly desirable. I used to be big Daddy-man, knower of all things, able to leap tall buildings, faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive. But here in just the last year, my big red S seems to have gotten washed with the bleach laundry and I no longer hold the key to knowledge. As a matter of fact, I seem to now be an Opposite - I somehow say the opposite of the truth. I'm getting used to being wrong about everything, but I still can't recall when I fell on my head or developed a tumor or whatever occurred for me to go so dumb so quick. It's a feeling all parents eventually have in common.

She's a good kid though, a really good kid and I'm proud as can be. It's time to start spreading her wings and figuring things out on her own, but I'm going to ensure she always has a safe place to retreat to, a sanctuary filled with love. My baby girl is growing up fast and I just might be having a bit of difficulty with that, but I'll just have to get over it because for now it's summer time and for her, the living is easy. And that's the way it should be. Wonderful summer-time memories are waiting to be born. Enjoy it while you can, Baby-girl. Daddy will take the pictures.