Sunday, October 23, 2016

Raised to Back the Blue

          My TV debut at age three was very exciting.  I have only vague memories of appearing on a locally produced show that was broadcast to our hometown and surrounding areas. It was fun sitting with the other kids and watching cartoons, and waiting for our turn to talk to the host, and his microphone. This is the part that made my mother, in the studio audience, very nervous.  You see, I had two well meaning- translate that ornery- teenaged neighbor boys who had been helping me rehearse for this moment. Along with learning to repeat my name, address and age, they coached me to answer the question “What does your Daddy do?” with the answer “Drinks beer.” I can remember sitting on the curb with them as they dissolved with laughter after my sweet pronouncement. The answer would have been embarrassing to any mother, but in this town where everyone knew everyone, they also knew that my Daddy really spent his days and nights as the local state trooper. Luckily, that question didn’t come up during the interview, and Mama’s nerves were preserved.
          My Daddy and his police car were a common sight in our little town. I remember standing by with pride when he led the college homecoming parade down our main street with his lights and siren blaring. Another early memory involves the time I had taken a spill, and he used it to transport me to the emergency room for stitches in my chin. So, yes, I must confess I have ridden in the back of a police car once in my life.
          The other policemen in town were our friends, and we spent time with them and their families during their precious off hours. Since I was the older of two girls, my Daddy was often assigned the duty of keeping me out of Mama’s hair, so we would go for a ride (in our private car) to one of his buddy’s houses. Not many people know that the sheriff in our Kansas county was the owner of a parakeet. I was captivated by this pet, and must have begged for one, because we had a few in our house when I was small.
          My parents divorced when I was five.  But, we were still very close to the law enforcement community. We would always wave at policemen as they passed. We always still viewed them as our friends.
          As I grew up, I learned that a policeman’s job was not always glamorous. My dad was fortunate never to be seriously injured while on duty, but he did have a glass baby bottle broken over his nose during a family disturbance, and his eyebrows were singed when he pulled someone out of a burning car. He did, of course, continue on the force in his new home, ending up on the Kansas Turnpike for most of his career. His fifteen minutes of fame came when the Kansas City Star newspaper did a feature story about him. They reported that he spent many more hours changing tires and rescuing stranded motorists than he did issuing speeding tickets.
          With a background like this, it is predictable that my husband and I raised our kids to respect and admire police officers. Where other children may have seen them as someone who would take them to jail if they did wrong, our kids were taught to seek the men in uniform when they were lost or in any trouble. We knew that these men and women were public servants, with our best interests in mind, and that they had families at home who couldn’t wait for them to return safely after their shift was over.
          Today, with criticism of police officers showing up from all directions, we tend to want to hear their side of the story. Of course, there are some who should not be wearing the badge. Just like there are probably some very poor examples of human resource analysts and monthly magazine columnists out there. But, overall, these young men and women have pledged to support us, and we should return the favor.
          I still wave at police officers, and often tell them “Thank-you” for standing in the gap for us. They are all someone’s son, or daughter, someone’s brother or sister, someone’s Mama, or if the kids are very lucky, someone’s Daddy.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Finally! Fall Festivities

  It’s October in the Ouachitas, and not a moment too soon. Summer wasn’t all that bad, really. We had a lot more rain than usual, and only the expected number of really hot days. But Autumn in Arkansas. Now THAT is why we all love living here. Can I get a Woo Pig for that? So, because I am in a festive and frivolous mood, here’s what I am most looking forward to in the weeks ahead:
        Fairs:  Our county already had theirs, and we enjoyed it with two of our grands this year. However- one past memory of that same fair came to mind as I smelled the funnel cakes and tripped over the power cords in the midway. When hubby and I were first dating, I informed him that I loved carnivals, but the whirly rides, like tea-cups and tilt-a-whirls had never worked for me. They triggered my motion sickness in quite drastic fashion. “Oh come on, scaredy cat.” Or something to that effect. Well, I decided there was only one way to prove it to him. So, with an unfortunate tag along friend, we boarded a ride that whirled and rose into the air, and went round and round, and .. . . about halfway through, my supper came up all over them. Point well taken. He never forced me onto a ride again.
        Festivals: Our hometown has a really fabulous one on the town square. I’ll wager that wherever you are, you can find one too. Folks with various talents and products set up booths, and there is always a lot of activity to fill a fall day. One year, I was in the Ouachita Life booth telling stories every hour on the hour. Hubby had to find a way to stay busy, so he entered contests. One, in particular didn’t seem to be getting a lot of entries. So, he bought 5 or 10 chances, and guaranteed that we would win. As everyone was cleaning up at the end of the day, we were among a very small crowd listening for the winner to be drawn. He proudly stepped forward before his name was completely out of the announcer’s mouth, and we took home a brand new television! That is probably my very favorite “I told you so.”
        Fundraisers: Because of the usually beautiful weather, many groups schedule events to attract attention to their causes, and raise some necessary operating capital in the bargain. A crisp fall morning is the perfect time to don a long-sleeved t-shirt and sturdy running shoes and walk through the streets of our favorite nearby big city. Though officially a race, there are very few if any who have winning on their mind. It’s the camaraderie, the shared concern for others that keeps us tromping across the bridges and past the tall buildings. Of course, dancing fire-fighters are a big plus as well. The thought just occurred to me- I wonder what will happen if the Broadway bridge is out of commission for this year’s Komen Race for the Cure? Hmmm. Recalculating.
        Football: Of course! We are fans on every level. Oldest son was in a pee-wee league, and we have great memories of learning the rules and taking some hard knocks, with little siblings playing and cheering on the sidelines. High school games are still the thing to do on Friday nights in our neck of the woods, whether witnessing them in person, or listening to our preacher/play by play man on the radio. Of course, there are the Razorbacks on Saturday. Even our front door is in the spirit this year.
The weekend is always built around what time the Hogs play. And hubby and I are planning a trip to a professional game in November! Don’t forget about the cheerleaders, pep-steppers and bands. One of my favorite memories ever involves looking up into the bleachers to see our percussion section performing their own version of “Devil went down to Georgia” with drumsticks converted to fiddles. Uncommon, for sure. Also, if you have never seen the Bryant Legacy perform what they call Trombone Suicide, you are in for a treat. Go for it kids, one day your energy level will drop drastically!
        Family:  The common thread here? Besides the frequently found fantastic first letters?  Autumn brings back so many good memories. The crispness of the air, the beauty of God’s creation as it winds down and prepares for a rest. The promise of sunshine and cool breezes, and campfires: Oh My. I could go on all day. But, you have places to go, people to see. Turn to the middle of this magazine and find something fun to do with your own family and friends. I firmly believe God sent October to renew our faith and lift our spirits. Enjoy!!!