Unfortunately, with heartfelt regret Carrie informed me that the Peacock love story could not be published by the Arkansas newspaper because Mari and I lived out of state—one of many “curses” we have endured as the result of living in exile for lo these past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
“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.
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.
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.
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?”)
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
“A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.”
“The image of friendship is truth.”
“If you have no enemies, you are apt to be in the same predicament in regard to friends.”
“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.”
“I never met a woman I didn’t like—all my friends are female.”
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.