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Archive for October, 2011

We are . . . products of place. Where we grew up and how we experienced the physical environment of our formation are . . . a part of who we are.”
—Kathleen Parker, “The nominee’s gender, geography,”
Tulsa World, May 13, 2010

In my life there have been at least three events that have always seemed to me to have spiritual significance beyond their physical importance.

“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”
—Jesus to religious leaders in John 5:39-40

The first of these three events actually occurred in the life of my wife as a child before I even knew her, though at the time she lived with her mother and grandparents on a farm outside of Florence, Arkansas, just a few miles up the road from my birthplace of Selma, Arkansas.

Her mother and father were married in 1941, just one week before the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii, which plunged the United States into World War II. Although Grover Williams tried to enlist in three branches of the armed services, he was turned down because of his flat feet. Later, however, he was drafted into the army and sent to the South Pacific. Some months after his departure, his wife Mary Elizabeth gave birth to a baby girl whom she named Marion (and whom I later married and called Mari).

Since little Marion had never seen her father (and he had never seen her), she had always been told that her father was the man in uniform in the photo on the bureau in her grandparents’ home. Needless to say, when he returned home in 1945, when she was three years old, she steadfastly refused to accept him because her father was the man in the photo.

Grover Williams in WWII uniform

The man in the photo who young Mari thought was her father

I have always felt that there is a spiritual lesson in that incident. It reminds me of the religious leaders in Jesus’ time. They had devoted their entire lives in earnest anticipation of the arrival of the Messiah. Yet they steadfastly refused to accept Him when He came to them in the flesh because their messiah was a lifeless image in a book.

Grover Williams with daughter Mari at age three

Mari's father with her at age three

Even today many devout believers make the same mistake. They worship the Bible instead of the One to whom the Bible points.  It is common enough practice to have been given a name: “bibliolatry.” That practice and this verse were the basis of one of my quotes on this subject: “As Jesus noted, as wonderful and as powerful as the Scriptures are, they are not the Savior; they are a testimony to the One Who saves.”  

“He will call upon me, and I will answer him.”
—Word from God in Psalm 91:15

The second incident is actually a series of incidents that took place during my childhood in Selma, Arkansas. Directly across a tiny stream from our rural family home place, just beyond the garden, the barn, and the feedlot, stood the Selma Methodist Church.

Selma Methodist Church

Selma Methodist Church

Erected in about 1874, and later listed in the National Register of Historic Places, it was a quaint white edifice with a tall steeple (that Mama always severely warned me not to climb with the other boys) and divided pews inside, separating the menfolk and the womenfolk who worshipped there.

Interior of Selma Methodist Church with divided pews

Interior of Selma Methodist Church with divided pews (photo taken from article in December 2010 issue of Rural Arkansas magazine)

For the first few years of my life these worshippers, on alternate Sundays, included my family, since the Southern Baptists (which we were) did not as yet have a church of their own. That latter building would be erected during the 1940s with my mother and her father, the Rev. Willis Barrett, the church’s first pastor, among the founders.

The series of events that always seemed to have an unidentified spiritual significance was as simple as it was profound (for such a young lad as I was at the time). I would stand on our property and yell across “the branch” toward the glistening white Selma Methodist Church in the sunlight. Unfailingly, my yell would be answered with an echoing yell. It was as though someone (or Someone) in the old church was responding to my call in the same words, tone, and accent that I had used in my exclamation.

This was the basis of my self-quote composed much later in life: “When God talks to me, it is always in pure Arkansaw!”

 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.”
—Isaiah 43:2

The third and final seemingly insignificant event with lasting importance occurred later in my young life, when I was back home on summer vacation from Ouachita Baptist College. For some unknown (or at least unremembered) reason, on the Fourth of July in 1960, four of us unsuspecting youth (two couples) decided to wade out into the middle of the Mississippi River to a submerged sandbar.

The Mississippi River at Arkansas City

The Mississippi River at Arkansas City

The instigator of this bit of idiocy was our mutual friend from the old river port of Arkansas City, the seat of Desha County, which borders the Father of Waters. Having spent his entire life in, on, and under the River, this young man (like all Arkansas City youth of that era) was a true “river rat.” The rest of us in that quartet were not, having been brought up ten miles to the west of the River in the more earthly environs of the Delta.

While we were playing around on the unseen sandbar, as might have been prophesied by wiser souls, one by one each of us began to lose our footing and be carried along by the surging waters. When we realized that we were off the end of the hidden sandbar, the three of us “non river rats” anxiously began trying to swim against the current.

Desperately we struggled with all our might to get back to our invisible refuge. Just when it seemed that we were about to be swept under, our feet suddenly touched solid ground beneath us. Needless to say, it was a great relief and a close call, one that we vowed never to repeat.

Just then we realized that the “river rat” was not with us on the murky sand. Anxiously we looked around, only to see him a short distance down river, standing up, the muddy water reaching only to his waist!

The Mississippi River at Arkansas City

The Mississippi River at Arkansas City

Once we were able somehow to gather together, our AC friend explained that he “figured” that the rushing waters had sculpted out a deep hole at the end of the sandbar and that if he just let go and floated past it, the sandbar would once again rise up and he would be able to stand up.

Quite a “step of faith”! What if the submerged sandbar had not been there, as the “river rat” had believed it would be? The cautious trio of the group felt that in that case, as in others in our future lives, “discretion is the greater part of valor.”

That incident was the basis of two my later self-quotations: (1) “It is easier to stay out of trouble than to get out of trouble,” and (2) “Faith, without knowledge, makes a poor substitute for sense!”

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A Gathering at the River

A Memorial Day Remembrance

Old Man River, dat Old Man River,
He must know sumpin’ but he don’t say nuthin’,
He jus’ keeps rollin’, he keeps on rollin’ along.
–“Old Man River” from Showboat by
Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern
(To see videos of this song, click here and here.)

In May 1994, I made a sentimental journey down home to the Mississippi River Delta of Southeast Arkansas to mark the fortieth anniversary of my father’s death on May 25, 1954.

While there I visited with my former long-time pastor, then retired and now deceased, who had performed my marriage more than thirty-one years earlier.

Afterward I traveled the eleven miles from my hometown of McGehee to the riverport town of Arkansas City in a vain attempt to meet and reminisce with Cullen Gannaway, my best friend from those days and my best man in that wedding.

Arkansas City from levee

Arkansas City from the levee

Since Cullen was not home, I decided to take advantage of the situation and do a bit of “soul-stirring.” Turning my car up onto the levee, I followed the curving graveled road along its top for several miles north until I came to an isolated spot on the “Big Muddy.”

Mighty Mississippi River

Riverboat and barges on the Mighty Mississippi (photo taken from The Mississippi River by Ann McCarthy)

Once there I descended on foot to the edge of the flood-swollen torrent where I ceremoniously dipped my right foot in the dingy water in a customary ritual, renewing a time-honored vow that one day I would return to my beloved homeland. (To listen to Jimmie Rodgers sing “The Mississippi Delta Blues,” click here.)

As I stood there in reverie, watching a riverboat plow upstream against the powerful current, two seemingly inconsequential events took place.

Mississippi River Boat and Barge

Riverboat on the Mississippi at Arkansas City

First, a U.S. Corps of Engineers boat heaved into sight and landed right at my feet. From it a young man emerged and began to make his way toward a waiting truck. When I casually asked him what he and his colleagues were up to, his laconic reply was “Oh, just doin’ a little surveyin’” to which I thought “So am I.”

Mississippi riverboat

Mississippi riverboat "The City of Greenville (MS)" at Arkansas City

After the rivercraft had reversed course and headed back downstream. I sat down to continue my introspective vigil and to soak in the familiar sights and sounds when suddenly my eye caught a lone crayfish desperately making his way back toward the water.

Recalling that this was the same spot where in our youth my future wife and I, along with Cullen and his future wife, had once caught nearly a five-gallon bucket full of “crawdads,” I reached down and picked up the poor creature thinking it would make a nice “souvenir” to remind Mari of those simpler, happier days. (To see a musical video “You Are the River” made at this very spot, click here.) 

Cullen, Mary, Me, and Mari

Mari and me and Cullen and Mary getting our marriage licenses together in Arkansas City in 1962

The courageous crustacean had other ideas, however, and proceeded to pinch the blood out of my hand.

As I gingerly grasped him between thumb and forefinger, I realized the God-like power I held over him. I could crush him or take him away forever as we had done with his ancestors, never to see his home again, or I could release him back into the cafe-au-lait-colored waters where he belonged—which I did with a glance heavenward as if to say, “Do You get the message, Lord?”

Though surely the Lord “must know sumpin’,” as is so often the case in my experience He elected to “say nuthin’.”

So after a time I reluctantly turned my back on Old Man River, climbed up the bank and up the levee and up out of the Delta and headed back toward the plains of Oklahoma where for a while yet I must resign myself to “jus’ keep on rollin’ along.”

McCallie Landing on the Mississippi River at Arkansas City

McCallie Landing on the Mississippi River at Arkansas City (photo courtesy of Taylor Prewitt)

Quotes about the Mississippi River

“Muddy Mississippi River water leaves a stain on the soul that is virtually impossible to get out—assuming any fool would try!”
–Jimmy Peacock

“I once baptized our little Okie dog Jose in the Mississippi [Jordan] River to make him an ‘Arkie of the Covenant.'”
–Jimmy Peacock

“Even the rainwater that falls on Tulsa is drawn to run down to Southeast Arkansas to return to the Father (of Waters). Why should my heartfelt desire to do the same come as any kind of surprise?”
–Jimmy Peacock

“All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was [i.e., back HOME].”
—Toni Morrison, Today’s Cryptoquote, Tulsa World, 12-07-09

 “‘The water is very high in Mc GEE HEE [pronounced MaGEE], in DESH ‘a [pronounced DeSHAY] County in Ar KAN’ sas [pronounced ArkanSAW].’”
—Mrs. Marion Stroud, quoting 1927 radio announcer
speaking of historic Mississippi River flood

“When T.S. Eliot christened the Mississippi River the ‘great brown god,’ he was tipping his pen not only to the river but also to the people whose lives and fortunes were bound inseparably to it; a river-centered culture to which Arkansas was and remains, no stranger. From the brown Mississippi to the delta land it suckles . . . rivers have been veins of commerce throughout the state’s history, converging inextricably with the lives of [its] residents.”
—Tim Stanley, “The waters of life: Arkansas celebrates its river heritage with a full month of cultural events,” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 3, 1998

Kate Adams at Arkansas City during 1927 flood

The Kate Adams docked at the top of the levee in Arkansas City during the great flood of 1927

 “I’m not old enough to remember the Kate Adams, the steamboat that connected Memphis, Helena, Friar’s Point [MS] and Arkansas City, but I remember the Sprague, the world’s most powerful sternwheeler . . . . Interesting that the history of our rivers is still being written, yet Americans know so little about it at any age.”
—Richard Allin, “Rollin’ on the river,” Our Town column,
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, nd
(To view a video with the Kate Adams and other Mississippi riverboats set to Arkansas Delta Blues music, click here.)

Kate Adams Landing at Arkansas City

Kate Adams Landing at Arkansas City today (photo courtesy of Taylor Prewitt)

 “Weeping, we sat beside the rivers of Babylon [Oklahoma] thinking of Jerusalem [the Delta]. We have put away our lyres, hanging them upon the branches of the willow trees, for how can we sing? Yet our captors, our tormentors, demand that we sing for them the happy songs of Zion [home]! If I forget you, O Jerusalem [Mighty Mississippi], let my right hand forget its skill upon the harp [the computer keyboard]. If I fail to love her more than my highest joy, let me never sing [write] again.”
—Psalm 137:1-6 The Living Bible (paraphrased)

 

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Dreams

“I have a dream!”
—Dr. Martin Luther King

In this post we will first look at a brief philosophical piece I wrote decades ago about dreams and their nature and importance.

Afterward in a lighter vein we will read about some of the amusing dreams I have had about celebrities such as Barbra Streisand, Faith Hill, George W. Bush, and Elvis Presley.

Dreams

“America is a collective dream that is always in progress,
reviving its hopes and meanings as it unfolds.”
—Robert Neralich, “Poetry of place, the place of poetry,”
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, nd

I have been called a dreamer, and that not meant as a compliment. I suppose I am a dreamer; at least I hope so.

For what would life be without dreams?

Dreams are not the idle fancies of sentimental fools; they are the spiritual threads from which the fabric of the physical is woven.

It is from the dreams of the visionary that the realist draws the blueprint for reality.

Dreams are nothing less than the ideas of God in the mind of Man—bright beams of celestial sunlight illuminating and warming the dark, dank dungeon of cold and sterile practicality.

Without dreams and dreamers the first shovelful would never be unearthed for the foundation of Tomorrow, the first brick never laid in the edifice of Time.

A mason builds a wall, a builder constructs a house, an architect draws a plan, but a dreamer molds a destiny.

This universe was not built by sweat and toil; it issued from the mind and will of Almighty God.

The realist sees only with the eye, but the dreamer sees with the heart.

Without a vision the people perish (see Proverbs 29:18 KJV). Without a dream there is no life.

Thank God for dreamers.

Thank God I’m one.

Thank God He’s one too.*

            Jimmy Peacock
November 1982

* In the King James Version of the Bible the word “dream” and its variant forms (“dreams,” “dreamer(s),” “dreamed,” etc.) appear more than 120 times. Obviously dreams are of some importance to God.  

Me as a childhood dreamer

Me as a dreamer from childhood

Amusing Dreams about Celebrities

“Remember, it is the dynamics of history that is important, not history itself.”
—“Professor” in one of my dreams 

“In your writings I see things that are not just historical but also jest historical.” [Or maybe it was “just hysterical”—my dream journal is hard to read. As I say, “My handwriting may be indecipherable, but the message in it is indelible!”]
 —Dream Voice addressed to me on March 8, 2000 

Following are copies of two letters I wrote to celebrities, only a couple of the many I have dreamed about over the years.

Letter to Barbra Streisand

Barbra Streisand

Barbra Streisand

29 November 1992

Miss Barbra Streisand
301 North Carolwood Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90077

Dear Miss Streisand:

Because of you I am in trouble with my wife to whom I have been married thirty years come December 27! Let me explain.

A couple of months ago Mari and I watched a repeat of your enjoyable musical Hello Dolly! I must have been quite impressed subconsciously with the movie and/or your performance. [To view a video of this song from the movie version sung by Louis Armstrong and Barbra Streisand, click here.]

After our return from church today Mari was in the kitchen preparing a special holiday meal for us and our two sons and their wife/girlfriend, respectively. After reading the Sunday paper I decided to take a little pre-dinner nap. It was during this late afternoon siesta that the strange event occurred.

I dreamed that I awoke and came back into the living room where the family was sitting around watching television. As I walked into the open kitchen area, suddenly I became aware that you were outside the window and engaging me in a bit of playful banter [from the movie] at the end of which you exclaimed rather melodramatically, “Horace Vandergelder, if you are thinking about asking me to marry you, you just put that idea right out of your head this instant!”

It took a moment for me to catch on. When I did, I looked for you, but you were nowhere in sight. Going to the patio door, I opened it and cried out, “Dolly Levi, you are the most exasperating woman I ever met!” Seeing the reaction of my elder son (a USC cinema graduate), I turned and said, “Oh, Sean, it’s a line from a movie.” 

Just then you rushed into the house and into my arms so that we ended up in a “passionate embrace”–right in front of my wife and family! When I finally came up for air, I whispered to you, “Aren’t you afraid of catching something from me?”* To which you replied, “I don’t know, let’s try again!”

At that, I woke up—more than a bit nonplussed. When I told Mari the dream, she was quite upset—and it’s all your fault. Henceforth I’ll thank you to stay out of my dreams and my arms (at least when Mari’s around)!

Sincerely yours,

Jimmy Peacock

*An obvious reference to the lymphoma for which I am scheduled to begin [chemo]therapy on Tuesday, December 1, 1992.

Letter to Faith Hill

Faith Hill

Faith Hill

5 July 2007

Faith Hill
P.O. Box 24266
Nashville, TN 37202

Dear Miss Hill:

Thought I would let you know that in the wee hours of this morning I had a dream about you that woke me up and left me sleepless.

In my dream you and I were sitting in a booth in the soda fountain section of a 1950’s-style drugstore. It was obvious that we had a strong attraction to one another but equally obvious that a relationship between us was impossible—not only because we are both married but also because we are of different generations (I am on the downhill side of sixty-eight). 

I was trying to explain this fact to you when, with tears in your eyes, you said to me, “You think there’s too much difference between us?” to which I replied, “No, I think there’s too much life between us—and I don’t want you to miss it!”

Instantly I realized that that phrase “too much life between us” sounded like the title of a country song. So, my dear Miss Hill, I dreamed it and said it; now it’s up to you to write it and sing it. You have my permission to use it—just think of it as a “parting gift” from me to you.

Your aging “dream lover,”

Jimmy Peacock

Dream about George W. Bush

George W. Bush

George W. Bush

“If a man wants his dreams to come true, he must wake up.”
—Anonymous 

“I have quit wishing my dreams will come true
and started hoping my nightmares don’t.”
—The Born Loser cartoon, Tulsa World, nd 

Here is a piece I wrote some time ago right when it seemed that the Democrats were taking control of the country from the Republicans. It describes a humorous dream I had about George W. Bush, one of several politicians I have dreamed about including George Bush senior, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and others.

“I’m not a member of any organized political party . . . I’m a Democrat.”
 —Will Rogers 

“If Will was alive today he might say, ‘I’m a Republican.’”
—Jimmy Peacock 

A couple of years ago during the presidency of George W. Bush, I dreamed that he was visiting Little Rock. The amazing part is that for some unknown reason I was chosen as the person to guide him around the city and show him the sites—in my late father-in-law’s old worn-out pickup.

As I was doing so, I apologized to the president that I was no longer as familiar with the city as I once was because, as I said, “I have been living in Oklahoma for the past thirty years.”

He didn’t seem to notice my remark, but suddenly turned to ask me a question. It seems that at that time one of his appointees in the U.S. government had gotten into some kind of trouble and was having a hard time convincing people that he was innocent. In the midst of his crisis, he had obviously asked Bush to help him out.

“Jimmy,” Bush said to me confidentially, “d’ya think I oughta help this guy or not?”

“Well, Mr. President,” I answered cautiously, “if you do, your critics will say that you are just doing it for political reasons. On the other hand,” I observed, “if you don’t do anything, they will say, ‘Aw, that George Bush, he don’t care!’” 

His response was, “So either way I’m screwed, right?”

“Yes, Mr. President,” I replied truthfully. “Unfortunately, it does look that way.”

Before he had a chance to respond, I woke up. I have often wondered what he would have said . . . and done. In any case, it’s too late now—for him and me. He’s out of power, and I’m out of position (as his chauffeur).

The difference is, he’s back home, and I ain’t.

My Most Recent Dream about Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley

“You don’t deserve to dream!”
—Southern bumper sticker
(I laughed out loud when I saw this one.) 

Over the years I have dreamed about Elvis Presley at least a half-dozen times, probably more than about anyone else except Mari.

In most of those dreams Elvis and I are riding in a vehicle or sitting at a table and having a relaxed conversation, as close friends would do. I usually realize what is happening and can’t believe that I am actually in the presence of such a famous person. I also occasionally wonder how it is that he is there with me since he is dead.

Here is my latest dream about Elvis as I described it in a recent email to my friend and high school classmate Pat Scavo (the former Patsy McDermott) whose 1955 encounter with Elvis I wrote about in a recent post. (To read that post, click here.)

Patsy McDermott

Patsy McDermott at graduation from high school in 1956

5/29/2011

Patsy Mc:

Just thought I would let you know that last night I dreamed about Elvis again—as I do occasionally, at least a half-dozen times in the past.

In this one he and I were sitting at a small table and he had a laptop opened up to what I presume was his Web site because it had a photo of him in one corner of the screen. As we were viewing the screen, he suddenly got up and said, “Jimmy, you keep lookin’ at that, and I’ll be right back.”

Mari was sitting at another small table across the room so I looked over at her with an expression that said, “Mari, did you notice that Elvis and I are on a first-name basis?” She looked at me like she couldn’t believe it. Just then I woke up.

So you see, I am indeed a dreamer—as evidenced by the fact that I think I could ever have been kissed by Barbra Streisand, attractive to Faith Hill, consulted for advice by George Bush, or friends with the ghost of the King of Rock and Roll!

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The first part of this post is an entry I submitted to Carrie Rengers of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on October 11, 2001. At the time Carrie was publishing first-person stories of how couples met and married.

Unfortunately, with heartfelt regret Carrie informed me that the Peacock love story could not be published by the Arkansas newspaper because Mari and I lived out of state—one of many “curses” we have endured as the result of  living in exile for lo these past thirty-four years.

So here is that story now in slightly edited form to avoid repetition of information presented in earlier posts and to update and enhance it a bit. It will also serve as an introduction to the second part of this post, a tribute to Cullen Gannaway, the friend who “introduced” me and Mari and who was thus responsible for our courtship, romance, and marriage.

The Peacock Love Story:
As Described by Jimmy Peacock
On October 11, 2001

Peacock Feather Walkthrough

“In this life I have never come closer to experiencing true divinity than when experiencing true femininity. That’s why in the presence of a real lady—like my wife—I have the distinct impression that I am standing not only in the presence of God’s highest creation, but indeed in the very presence of God herself!”
—Jimmy Peacock’s anniversary note to Marion

In previous posts I have described how Marion and I were raised in two separate rural communities near McGehee, Arkansas, where our families moved after World War II and where we were aware of one another in school and church, but only vaguely and disinterestedly. Although we later both attended Ouachita Baptist College, since we were four years apart in age, I graduated from OBC the year that Marion arrived there. 

Ouachita Baptist University in 2011

Ouachita Baptist College (now University) in 2011

After I graduated from Ouachita in 1960 I entered graduate school at the University of Arkansas where I found myself without a steady girlfriend for the first time in two years.

Jimmy at graduation from Ouachita in 1960

Jimmy at graduation from Ouachita in 1960

Although I dated a few nice girls during that year I never seemed to find the one I felt was “the mate that fate [God] had me created for.” It was only later that I realized that it was because she was simply not there. She wasn’t in Fayetteville or at the University of Arkansas; she was, in fact, “back down home” in McGehee and Ouachita. It just took me a while to recognize her–and for her to recognize me.

It was after that first year in Fayetteville, in June 1961 when I was back in McGehee for the summer, that my best friend Cullen Gannaway of Arkansas City, also a Ouachita student, began first to suggest and later to insist that I start dating Marion Williams.

Cullen Gannaway at Ouachita
Cullen Gannaway at Ouachita in 1960
I was hesitant to do so for two reasons: First, Marion was a blonde. And at that time of my young life I was still addicted to “black-haired beauties.” (See my earlier post titled “My Lifelong Attraction to Black Beauty.”) Second, although I had always thought that Marion was very pretty, I had also always had the distinct impression that she was a “cold fish”–an impression and indeed a reputation that she freely admits she developed on purpose as a defense mechanism.
 
However, since the First Baptist Church of McGehee was holding one of its semi-annual revivals that month, I took that occasion to take a closer look at this Marion Williams whom Cullen had kept encouraging me to date, though I had been more or less aware of her presence for most of our lives.
 
McGehee First Baptist Church

The First Baptist Church of McGehee as it looked in 1961 when Jimmy looked at Marion Williams

Since we happened to be seated on opposite ends of the same pew one evening at church, I leaned forward while we were standing to sing a hymn and looked her up and down a time or two. Feeling my eyes upon her, Marion glanced at me with a less than warm, inviting expression on her face. (After we were married I asked her if she remembered that incident and she acknowledged that she did. When I asked her what she was thinking at the time, she replied rather coldly, “What’s Jimmy Peacock looking at me for?”)

Marion in 1963
Marion, the “cold fish,” about the time Jimmy looked her over at church

This same icy reception was evident a few days later when I called Marion to ask her out for the first time. It was to be a double date with Cullen and another one of Marion’s friends from their high school Clique. Marion somewhat reluctantly agreed, primarily (she later admitted) only because she, like all the girls in the Clique, thought Cullen was “cute.”

So the four of us went to the Malco Theater in McGehee to see Inherit the Wind, the story of the Scopes “Monkey Trial” with Fredrick March and Spencer Tracy. After an initial aloofness, Marion seemed to loosen up and even have a pretty good time, but only (I was sure) because Cullen was not only cute, but also funny and entertaining.

The Malco Theater in McGehee

The Malco Theater in McGehee: the site of Marion and Jimmy's first date in June 1961

When I called Marion for a second date, with just the two of us, her rather chilly response to my invitation was, “I can’t. I’m working in Bible School that night.”

Taking that decidedly less than enthusiastic response as an indication of her total lack of interest, I almost signed off. Had I done so, I would never have called her again. But just before I did so, I decided to “test the waters” just a bit to see if I was correctly reading her intended message of “thanks but no thanks.”

“Well, there’s another night in this week,” I ventured.

“You mean Friday?” she asked in that same ambivalent, “get away closer” tone.

“Yeah,” I answered cautiously, prepared for another, not so gentle, but final rebuff.

After a slight pause, as though she was considering her options, Marion finally responded with almost studied indifference, “Well . . . okay.”

Thus with that auspicious beginning we embarked upon what was to become an eighteen-month courtship that finally culminated in our marriage in December 1962 and our now almost forty-nine years of wedded bliss.

The following tribute to the late Cullen Gannaway, my best friend and the best man in our wedding, is a reminder of that whole precarious but now precious “affair to remember,” which almost wasn’t—not because of “cold feet” but because of a “cold shoulder.” 

Mari at Ouachita

Marion in her dorm room at Ouachita in July 1962 before our wedding in December. (Note my photo on her desk.) By that time her shoulder was much warmer; hence the fan. (See next photo.)

 

Marion as a hotsy-totsy

Marion as a hotsy-totsy in a Ouachita play, July 1962

The Passing of a Friend
But Not a Passing Friendship:
A Tribute Written on April 15, 2002

 “Lovers may come and go, but a friend is forever.”
—Anonymous

Mari and I were saddened this evening to receive a telephone call from one of Mari’s high school classmates informing us of the unexpected death of our longtime mutual friend, Cullen Gannaway of Arkansas City.

Mari and me and Cullen and Mary getting our marriage licenses together in 1962

Mari and me and Cullen and Mary getting our marriage licenses together in 1962

The news was especially poignant to Mari and me because it was “cute and witty” Cullen who first “introduced” us to one another (though we had known each other vaguely since childhood) and who was instrumental in our dating and subsequent marriage.

Thus, it was no incidental or coincidental matter that we asked Cullen to serve as best man in our wedding, which took place in the First Baptist Church of McGehee on December 27, 1962—almost forty-nine years ago.

Marion and Jimmy and their wedding party with Cullen Gannaway as best man

Marion and Jimmy and their wedding party with Cullen Gannaway as best man standing next to Jimmy; Jimmy's two brothers; mutual friend Charles Wright, last man on the right; and Mari's sister, friends, and a couple of the girls from the Clique on the left (to magnify, click on the photo)

But unfortunately, as close as we were for years before and after our wedding, through time and over distance Cullen grew further and farther apart from us as he gradually became ever more soulful though no less spirited.

It wasn’t until after a period of many years in which we had had virtually no contact at all with him that we were finally able to reach him and persuade him to attend one of the annual reunions of Mari’s Clique—a group of the “girls” from her graduating class of ‘60 whom Cullen and I and another of our friends Charles Wright had dated or double-dated throughout our long-ago “Archie and Reggie, Veronica and Betty” days.

Cullen Gannaway in later life

Cullen Gannaway in later life

As trite as it may sound, that evening back in 1993 at what had been the old Skyway Drive-In outside the hometown of our youth, Cullen was once again “his old self,” the “life of the party,” laughing and joking and “cracking us up,” a reminder to all of us of why he had always been so beloved by everyone—male and female alike. 

The Skyway Drive-In as it looked in the early 1950s

The Skyway Drive-In as it looked in the early 1950s

However, in the midst of our merriment, none of us was aware that would be the last time most of us would ever see our witty but gloomy friend “this side of heaven.” Yet, as sad as that thought may be—and as much as we will miss him—nothing will ever erase from our minds his mirthful memory or lessen his legacy of love and laughter.

So here’s to the melancholy clown, Cullen Gannaway, who is now happily entertaining a much greater and grander audience. Save us a place “in the Sky(way),” Old Friend. By the time we meet you there, we will all need a good laugh.

 

Cullen Gannaway's memorial

Cullen Gannaway's memorial

 

Select Quotes on Friends and Friendships

“He who loses money, loses much; he who loses a friend, loses much more; he who loses faith, loses all.”
—Eleanor Roosevelt

“A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.”
—Anonymous

“The image of friendship is truth.”
—Anonymous

“If you have no enemies, you are apt to be in the same predicament in regard to friends.”
—Elbert Hubbard

“Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry and you cry with your . . . friends.”
The Family Tree, April/May 2003

“You have riches: rustic mountains
 Crystal waters, diamonds rare—
 But by far your greatest treasure
 Are the friendly folks who care.”
—Poem titled “Arkansas” by Doris Gordon,
framed and sitting on my file cabinet

“Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty.”
—Job 6:14 NIV

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”
—Proverbs 17:17 NIV

“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.”
—Proverbs 27:9 NIV

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
—Jesus to His disciples in John 15:15 NIV

“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
—1 John 4:11 NIV

“Every beginning and end,
 Every turn and bend,
 Every acquaintance and friend,
 Every fashion and trend,
 Every borrow and lend,
 Every receive and send,
 Every injury and rend,
 Every repair and mend,
 I remember them all—
 Every now and then.”
Jimmy Peacock

“I never met a woman I didn’t like—all my friends are female.”
—Jimmy Peacock

Obviously this last self-quote is an exaggeration since it follows a tribute to one of my best male friends, now departed. However, there is a kernel of truth in it since as I look back over the course of my seventy-two years on this earth I can count only a half-dozen or so really close and loyal male friends—an average of less than one per decade.  If necessary I might be able to count an equal number today, which would be gratifying if they were all able and available —and willing—to serve as my pallbearers!

Note: These quotes I either collected from my own reading or created in my own writing. For other quotes on friends and friendship, click here and here. Or simply Google “Friends and Friendship.” There are a great many, and many are great. The photo of the peacock feather was taken from kalaalog.com which offers information about it.

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