Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Give Me A Dow For A Boomerday...

Since moving to Arkansas, I have taken up a new hobby of reading newspaper classified ads. This always is a good way to learn about those smaller matters of life that seldom hit the major newswires. The Arkansas Democrat/Gazette is a top-notch state-wide newspaper published in Little Rock. Following are examples of some of the ads I have seen in that paper.

“Bridle Gown for sale. Cheap.” Of course we know that they mean “Bridal Gown” unless this was a bridal gown for a horse. But spell checkers on computers will not catch these types of errors. That’s why typos can be so embarrassing at times.

How about this one. “Jack Terrier Dog for sell. Very friendly. Not good with chickens.” Doesn’t this gem just seem to tell a story?

See if you can figure out the story told by this ad. “Wedding ring set worth
$ 5,100 will trade for boat, motor and trailer.”

“Will trade my Ford 1988 ambulance for a Honda 300 4-wheel drive ATV, in good shape.” Seems like it would make more sense to trade a 4-wheel drive ATV for an ambulance.

How about this? “Will trade hater mermaid for something of equal value.” My wife says that should read “halter mermaid.” Either way, I’m dumbfounded.

I have seen numerous ads from cemetery space owners wanting to sell their plots through the classifieds. This is well and good except that the paper persists in spelling the word, “cemetary.” Actually there is no such word. Look it up. The correct spelling is “cemetery. I work at a cemetery so am particularly sensitive to this miscue.

Here is one that continues to run nearly every day. “Man, 50 yrs old seeking white female between 50-100 . The coffee pot is on.” I cannot imagine what this is all about and most likely am better off never knowing.

Sometimes ads tend to mix together under the wrong categories. For example this one appeared recently under the heading “Musical Instruments For Sale.” The list included, “one clarinet, one trombone, two trumpets, one drum set and two refrigerators.” I wondered if those refrigerators came with carrying cases?

And how about this one? “Accordion for sale. Old. Works great. Has lots of buttons.” You know a full accordion has 120 buttons but I guess the seller just didn’t bother to count.

Just to be fair to the Arkansas Gazette, I recall seeing the following in the Beaumont Enterprise years ago. It stated, “Chester Drawers for sell.” I’ve always wondered if he ever sold them.

Back in the 1950s, the Circle Drive-in Theater in Beaumont ran an ad stressing casualness. But it came across as, “Don’t bother to dress…come on out for an evening of fun.” No comment.

There is a sign down the highway a piece from our house here in Arkansas that reads, “Hurricane Lake Mobile Home Park.” Now the thing about the sign is that none of the locals think there is anything unusual with this. When I joke about it, they look at me like, “why did the turnip truck dump that guy off here?” But think about it. When you have just encountered Hurricanes Ike and Rita, not to mention Katrina, you most certainly would not choose to live in a mobile home close to anything called Hurricane Lake. Ironically some two years ago, a tornado ripped right through this mobile home park. Fortunately no one was killed. But I’ll wager there’s no way they would ever name that area, “Tornado Alley Mobile Home Park.” I guess it’s all based on where you’ve been and what you’ve done.

I’ve made many more than my share of typos. But it’s still fascinating to see what can go wrong with words.

Winston Hamby

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Texas, My Eyes Are Upon You...

My Dearest Texas:

Love of my heart. How are things going? Thought I would drop a line to explain why my wife and I moved to Arkansas. Certainly this was nothing personal directed toward you. You see, about two years ago, our grandkids who lived in Baytown moved to Arkansas. So for the past two years my wife has been thinking we should leave Texas and move to Arkansas. And so we moved to Arkansas.

As you know I was born in Port Arthur. St. Mary’s hospital to be exact. That was in 1935. I lived in Beauxart Gardens, Nederland and Beaumont. And when I graduated from South Park High School in 1953, I moved to Abilene and graduated from college in 1957. Never in all my born years did I think I’d be writing to tell you I migrated to Arkansas. In fact it still has not registered fully in my aging brain.

There are a lot of adjustments when moving from Texas to Arkansas. First, I find myself in what the local folks call, “Razorback Country.” Can you believe that? Most of my new friends are Hogs. I was already confused enough. My son worked on his masters degree at the University of Texas in Austin. Then my son-in-law headed off to College Station and worked on his masters degree at Texas A & M University. So we had Longhorn and Aggie banners all over the place. Now I guess I’ve got to get a Razorback flag to hang up somewhere. What an ordeal.

Having the license plates changed on the cars was not too much of a problem. They wanted to see the titles of the automobiles and that was about it.
But having our drivers’ licenses changed proved to be something else. These folks wanted to see our birth certificates and our marriage license. I had to write a letter to Good Samaritan Hospital in Watertown NY and request a birth certificate for my wife. Forget the phone and the internet. They wanted a letter with original signature.
And the marriage license? We had never seen it. I was praying that the old preacher that married us in Fayetteville NC in 1963 had indeed filed the document. Bless his heart. It was filed. I had to write a letter requesting the license. It’s sort of coincidental I suppose but these documents in New York and North Carolina cost $9.00 per copy.

Well, Texas, I did not intend to run on about the details of our moving away. I intended to say, “Thank you for being my home state.” I want you to know how much I enjoyed being with you. Our lives together were beautiful. There is nothing like being a Texan and I am so proud to tell people that “I’m from Texas.”

And you know what? Sometimes when I say that I am from Texas, a lump forms in my throat. You see, down deep I wish I still could say, “I live in Texas.” Seventy-three years in Texas and four months in Arkansas is a pretty difficult adjustment.

I’ll keep in touch. In fact, Mr. Tom Taschinger, Opinions Page Editor of the Beaumont Enterprise has assured me that I can continue to write my guest column for the paper. So I hope to do just that.

Texas, just know that I love you. I miss you. And I will try not to be jealous of my big sister. She still lives in Texas. She’s been there all of her life. And, as you will recall, she is even older than I am.

But as you know, grandkids carry a powerful punch and so now we live in Arkansas.

Keep that Lone Star burning brightly.

Winston –

Sunday, October 11, 2009

To Get To The Other Side...??

Very early one morning back in the 1950s, I drove out north of Beaumont to Pine Island Bayou. The sun was not yet up but I could see the rim of dawn preparing to make her grand entrance.

I rented an old row boat and tied up to a bridge piling. That bridge crossed over a slough just off the bayou on Cooks’ Lake Road.

As the sun began to ascend, the mist covering the waters seemd to linger, not willing to let go. However, as light became more distinct, the reluctant mist began to lift, eventually fading into nothingness. The old-timers explained that the mist “burned off” as the sun became warmer.

Anyway I sat there in my boat preparing to fish. Underneath that bridge was ideal for catching sun perch and an occasional white perch. The “Suns” liked worms while the “Whites” seemed to prefer yellow-feather lures. Don’t ask me why. I just knew that different fish went for different baits. Maybe that is where I learned a meaning of the phrase, “If it works, go for it.”

But while the foregoing was taking place, something happened that still lingers in my mind. In fact it prompted this column.

A water moccasin some three feet in length slithered to the bayou bank not far from my boat. I watched him for several minutes. He was just sitting there or I should say lying there. Snakes can’t sit I suppose. After a bit, the moccasin eased into the water and swam across the bayou.

This presented a question to my 16-year-old mind. Why did that snake cross the bayou? Reminded me of the chicken that crossed the road. But this new question of the snake crossing the bayou was a new challenge.

You see, there were plenty of frogs and lizards. The snake could have had full-course meals anytime on my side of the bayou.

This started me to thinking. Why do living creatures always have to go places? Even people have to go places. We go to work. We go home. We go to church and/or to the golf course. We go shopping. At least my wife does and oh, does she ever go shopping. I think that is her mental therapy. When she gets into a shopping mall, she grows very calm. It seems to reduce her stress levels. When I go with her it seems to increase my stress levels. But I digress.

I know for a fact that every day in Houston, more than one million cars travel on Highway 59. That’s not counting the million or so that travel on I-45 and I-10. Everyone has to be someplace other than where they are.

We go to bed and hopefully go to sleep. Rarely do I get to go on a vacation but when I do get to go, I go. Numerous pages could be filled with places where everyone must go.

I am just thankful that we have the word “go” in our English vocabulary. We would have many problems expressing ourselves otherwise.

Then while mulling over all of this I saw a snake in the water heading over to my side of the bayou from the other side. It turned out to be a water moccasin about three feet in length. He slithered right back to where he had been before. Maybe he went out to eat. Or perhaps he visited with a snake friend. Could he have gone shopping? I’ll never know.

I only know that I caught a nice batch of perch then realized that it was time to go home.

I really didn’t go to write this much about an old snake swimming across the bayou.

But I did.

Winston Hamby

Monday, October 05, 2009

The Sensitive Rippp...

It was embarrassing to say the least and really there is nothing else to state. However there is one thing I need to ask and that question is, “How could such a thing have happened?” But I am ahead of the story so allow me start at the beginning.

MacArthur Junior High was a trying experience for me. Everything in life was horrendous and/or terrifying. The school year was 1947/1948. I was 12 years old and a very green 7th grader.  I was one year younger than my classmates due to starting school at five years of age and skipping the second grade due to implementation of the 12th grade system. Keep in mind that by now I was very aware of girls. I felt extremely self-conscious and almost felt guilty because girls were so beautiful. Was I the only one? Did other boys like girls? What was wrong with me? Daily there were surprises in my life of adjustments.

I have explained briefly my situation at that time so you might more easily grasp my feelings of embarrassment that I am going to share.

One day we were having a sort of “field day” at school. I suppose it was a school picnic. All the administrators, teachers and students were outside involved with various activities.
We had picnic lunches provided by the school. South Park Independent School District Superintendent Joe J. Vincent made a highly motivating speech. Prior to educational pursuits, Vincent had been a Colonel in the military. Following his rousing challenges to life, we began our softball game.

The teachers organized two softball teams. They appointed me to be the pitcher for one of the teams. Don’t ask me why…I don’t know why. Each team had girls and boys and we were scheduled to play five innings. There must have been two hundred kids bunched up along the bleachers to watch and cheer.

My team took to the field first. The pitchers were told to throw only slow easy pitches and to let the batters hit the ball. That was a relief to hear because all I could do was to throw slow and easy and anyone should be able to hit my pitches.

The first batter came to the plate. I eased the ball his way. As I released the pitch I felt something rip. Something in my clothes. Every pitch caused whatever was ripping to rip a little bit more.

Remember that there were more than one hundred girls watching from the bleachers and some were on my team. I was very aware of them and also I knew they were watching my every pitch. I began to fear that the ripping I heard and felt might be the seat of my britches. However, during one of the innings while my team was in the dugout, I had opportunity to check. My pants were not ripped at all. Thus the ripping mystery thickened.

Finally in the fourth inning, I stretched really hard to make a nice easy-flowing pitch to the batter. Whatever had been ripping made one final rip and something broke loose. Then I realized in stark horror that it was my underwear. Yes my Fruit-of-the-Loom had ripped apart. Ever so gently the underwear made their way down my right pants’ leg. I kicked my foot a little and the undergarment plopped out of my pants onto the pitcher’s mound. I attempted to act as though nothing had happened. Maybe no one would notice. Wrong. Everybody started laughing. The girls, the boys, the teachers, and even Superintendent Joe J. Vincent. So what did I do? I laughed too but I was so embarrassed.

That day I learned to laugh when life throws you a curve ball.

Winston Hamby