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Archive for November, 2011

Barbecue in the South

In 1982 I wrote a letter to Gary D. Ford, a travel writer for Southern Living magazine at the time. My letter was in response to an article and map that Ford had published about the different types of barbecue and sauce throughout the South.

The map showed clearly that my native and beloved East Arkansas was part of the red sauce region distinctive of the Southeastern United States rather than part of the Southwestern region to which many in both regions often associate all of Arkansas.

Of course, in 1991 this geographical and cultural distinction was confirmed (much to my satisfaction) when the University of Arkansas elected to leave the Southwest Conference and join the Southeastern Conference.

May 12, 1982

Gary Ford
Southern Living Magazine
Box 523
Birmingham, Alabama 35201

Dear Mr. Ford:

Thanks for the confirmation!

Coming as I do from the Southeast Arkansas Delta country (McGehee, pop. 4000, right under that chicken’s back foot), I have long been both painfully and pridefully aware that we Eastern Arkies share more in common with the Southeast than we do with the Texas-dominated Southwest.

McGehee, Arkansas

My hometown of McGehee, Arkansas, as featured on the cover of an Arkansas road map with a viaduct and a portion of the city park. McGehee is said to be the only city in the country that has a cypress swamp as its city park! (To magnify, click on the photo.)

Your barbecue map serves to point out a truth that I have always suspicioned and forever championed against all gainsayers from both regions—the Mississippi River is not the western boundary of the real South (Southwestern Bell and the Southwest Conference notwithstanding).

It is not insignificant that my hometown is located geographically closer to the state universities of Mississippi, Louisiana, and even Alabama than to my own (twice over) Alma Mater (Wooooooo-Pig-Soooooy!) up in Fayetteville; it is culturally closer to these Deep South sisters as well. Your map clearly delineates that (up to now) physically invisible but spiritually discerned boundary. For that I thank you.

Barbecue map

Gary Ford's Southern Living map of the different types of barbecue and sauce in the South. Note my red circle around my hometown of McGehee, Arkansas, "right under that chicken's back foot" and in the red sauce region distinctive of the Southeastern U.S. (To magnify, click on the map.)

As for my favorite recipe-establishment, I only have one observation: My cousin Floyd Gibson [now deceased] from my birthplace of Selma (Drew Co.), Arkansas, makes the best barbecue in the world! No boast, just fact!
 
Gibsons Floyd and Madeline

A young Floyd Gibson, my cousin, with his bride Madeline Allison Gibson, Mari's cousin

Although named after that illustrious city in Alabama, Selma could well be called Georgia Colony, since so many of its early settlers (such as my own Peacock ancestors) were middle-Georgia planter, Methodist-minister visionaries who made the covered-wagon trek west just prior to the “late unpleasantness between the States.”

Selma-McGehee map

Selma is located near the center of this map of Southeast Arkansas, about fifteen miles west of McGehee, which is located on U.S. Highway 65. Monticello is to the west of Selma, and the Mississippi River is to the east of McGehee. (To magnify, click on the map.)

As a descendant of that hardy race, Floyd is the undisputed champion barbecuer of SEARK. As irrefutable proof I offer in evidence the fact that it is he who is chosen to prepare the meat for the annual Selma Homecoming. (How in the Sam Hill did y’all miss that time-honored commemoration in your “research”?)

Floyd Gibson

The late Floyd Gibson, the champion barbecuer of Southeast Arkansas, with his granddaughter Michele

Floyd is of the vanishin’-breed, whole-hog-in-the-ground, seasoned-hick’ry-smoked, all-night-long-watchin’-and-turnin’, secret-recipe-red-sauce-bastin’, the-ribs-is-good-but-the-cracklin’s-is-the-best-part, hand-me-the-dish-rag-it’s-drippin-on-my-shirt-front, gimme-another-RC-this-stuff-sho’-is-good-n’-hot, type culinarian. Be warned, his omission from this article is regrettable; from subsequent such articles, unforgivable!

Gibson barbecue at Selma

Floyd's sons continuing the tradition of preparing the Gibson barbecue pork in Selma: Glynn (left in cap), Lee (right in hat), with grandson Brian (center), and my late brother Adrian Peacock (on the right, behind Lee).

Finally, one small note on the origin of barbecue. My French coworkers tell me that the word comes from the French barbe à cul (pronounced “bar-ba-ku”)—literally (and vulgarly), “beard to behind,” indicating the method of cooking an animal (evidently a goat). How this expression and procedure came into American usage is beyond my ken. Any ideas?

Sincerely,

Jimmy Peacock

Below is a copy of the actual letter Gary Ford wrote to me in response to my barbecue letter. I have retyped it below the illustration for ease of reading and inserted a photo of Floyd about the time of the letter. 
Barbecue letter

Letter from Gary D. Ford in response to my barbecue letter

May 17, 1982

Mr. Jimmy Peacock
1926 S. Bixby Street
Sapulpa, Oklahoma  74066

Dear Mr. Peacock:

Of all the letters I’ve received in response to my barbecue article, yours had to be the best. I laughed throughout, especially over your 6-line, hyphenated description of Fred [sic] Gibson. There is a man I would like to meet.

Floyd Gibson and grandsons Brian and Josh in about 1981

Floyd Gibson and grandsons Brian and Josh in about 1981

I’m glad you found the barbecue map accurate, even down to McGehee under the chicken’s back foot. And I’ll have to get by Selma soon and eat some of Floyd Gibson’s gimme-another-RC-this-stuff-sho’-is-good-‘n-hot barbecue.

Cordially,

Gary D. Ford
Associate Travel Editor

P.S. I, too, ran across your idea about the origin of barbecue. I also ran across so many others, that I thought discretion the better part of valor, and did not enter the fight. Your guess is as good as mine over how it came into American usage.

GDF/an

For other more recent Southern Living articles on barbecue in the South written by Gary D. Ford, click here and here.

Thirteen years later, I wrote a second letter to Gary Ford about another one of his articles in Southern Living. This one was about the “edge” of the South, and featured Oklahoma as being part of that “borderland.”

In my letter I mentioned an article I had written and enclosed about the cultural and linguistic differences between Southeast Arkansas and Northeast Oklahoma. I will publish that article and address that subject in a later post.

17 August 1995

Gary D. Ford, Travel Editor
Southern Living Magazine
P.O. Box 523
Birmingham, AL 35201

Dear Gary:

Although you may not recall the incident, way back in 1982 I wrote to comment on your marvelous —and now infamous—barbecue article, which epistle seemed to pique your interest (see attached).

Now I am moved to respond to your equally marvelous (and perhaps yet to become equally infamous) article “Life Along the Edge of the South,” the first and only piece in the August issue I have had a chance to read. (We editor/writers do stay busy, don’t we?)

As an exiled southeastern Arkie in northeastern Oklahoma, I was particularly interested in your report on the Sooner State and its indecisive denizens who “don’t know whether they’re Southerners or Midwesterners or Southwesterners.”

In support of this truth by one who has been there (for lo these eighteen dismal years!), I have taken the liberty of enclosing an unpublished but frequently updated article I wrote originally in 1982 (coincidence?) on this very subject.

Note the “coincidental” references to Okies’ lack of regional identity, my version of Oklahoma’s “crazy quilt of a cultural mosaic,” and Okies’ maddening use of the term “pop” for “Coke.” Your assessment of the situation here in Soonerland was right on the money! As I, a native of “the Holy Land,” tell these ig’nernt East Okies, “Thou art not far from the Kingdom!” (I also tell them, “Oklahoma’s okay, why it’s next to heaven!”)

Thanks again for the “confirmation” and keep ‘em comin’.

Your devoted admirer and kindred spirit,

Jimmy Peacock

PS  The next time you’re out this way, give me a call. We’ll git together to “call them Hawgs” while sharing a plate of real Southern-style barbecue and a Coke!

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A Piece from the Past:
Reflections on the Eve of My Fifty-fourth Birthday

The piece quoted below was originally written on November 22, 1992, and was titled “Reflections on the Eve of My Fifty-fourth Birthday.” I wrote it to express my feelings about my present and future life after having been diagnosed with lymphoma on November 11 of that month.

“When I have fears that I may cease to be,
Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain…”
—Keats

“In the life of a writer there are no extraneous experiences.”
—Unknown

As I face tomorrow, and the day and the days after it, how well I understand these words and how fully I empathize with their authors.

The “tomorrow” I face is my fifty-fourth birthday. The “day after” is the day I begin a series of tests to determine the nature and extent of the malignancy which I have just been told is gnawing away at my body.

The “days after” are the time that remains to me on this earth, the precious moments I have left not only to “glean my teeming brain” but also to fulfill that as yet unknown purpose for which I was placed “on this earth” in the first place.

It is in times like these that we are (as someone recently pointed out to me about my situation) “forced to face our own mortality.” That is true. But in a larger sense, each of us has to face that every day we live—or at least, perhaps we should.

In a few minutes my children and their beloved will assemble with my wife and me around the carefully prepared table laden with all my favorite dishes (and a couple of gaily decorated packages) to help me celebrate what could conceivably be my last in a long line of birthdays.

Yet has that not been the case in each of the fifty-three that have preceded this one? As the Bible clearly warns us, none of us knows what tomorrow (or the day and the days after it) will bring. In that, I am not unique, only perhaps more aware.

It is that awareness that I write of now. For no matter the outcome of this latest “non-extraneous” experience in my writer’s life, it has been made forcefully clear to me that, like Ebenezer Scrooge, the leading character of my favorite piece of Christmas literature, henceforth I will never be the same again.

If, indeed, like Scrooge, my days are prolonged, I am assured that without a shadow of a doubt I, also like Scrooge, will have learned an invaluable lesson, one summarized by the late Peter Marshall who once so eloquently and poignantly admonished, in my wife’s favorite piece of Christmas literature, “Let’s Keep Christmas!”

You will recall that after Scrooge’s life-changing experience with the spirits, “it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, of all of us!”—whatever our circumstances or outcome.

 So my birthday wish on this threshold of my fifty-fifth year is that “tomorrow, and the day and the days after,” all of us may truly learn to live each golden new day as though it were our last. For someday it will be. Until then, my prayer is that of Tiny Tim: “God bless Us, Every One!”

–Jimmy Peacock
November 22, 1992

A Piece from the Present:
Reflections on My Seventy-third Birthday

“Very few people my age who have such a diverse career can come back to see the same trees, the same soil, the same house, the same farm where they evolved as a child.” [I can!]
Jimmy Carter, quoted in Southern Living magazine in 2001

Reflecting on that piece I wrote back in 1992, on this my seventy-third birthday I wish I could say that I did indeed learn to enjoy life and to live every day as if it were my last. The sad truth is that I did neither. Now almost twenty years later, finding myself faced with even more serious health and other issues, I am much less able to handle them–either physically or emotionally.

So it seems that in the midst of all these trials and tribulations and my continued failure to face and deal with them in faith and courage, God is trying to tell me something. It seems to be what my devout Baptist mother (the wife of an Arkansas cattleman) used to tell me when I failed to do the kind of job she expected of me the first time: “I think you need to go back and lick your calf over again!”

If you were not raised in the country and thus don’t understand that rural phrase, ask someone (like Jimmy Carter) to explain it who was blessed to be born and brought up right–close to the soil and God’s earthy creatures.

So as old and as unhealthy as I am, and as far away from my rural roots as I am forced to remain, thank God I’m still a country boy!

Reflections on Both Pieces from
A Morning Devotional

“In old age [the righteous] still produce fruit; they are always green and full of sap.”
–Psalm 92:14 NRSV

The next morning after I had written the above reflections on my seventy-third birthday, I read the entry for the day from The Upper Room, the Methodist daily devotional. It began with the above quotation from Psalm 92 about the righteous still being active and productive, even in old age.

In it the writer, Ted De Hass from Iowa, told how he walked out into his yard and noticed that the wildflowers he had brought back from Alaska and transplanted were still blooming–in November.

Based on that incident he went on to write (italics mine):

“Our lives are like the progression of seasons. In springtime we are born and grow. Our summer years are our most active. In autumn we mature. And then comes our winter. Typically, we walk more slowly; we may not hear or see as well as we once did; and we know more about doctors’ offices, ailments, and prescriptions. But even in winter, flowers can still bloom.

“Some of us are ‘winter ‘ people who, like beautiful flowers, bloom finally in their later years.”

The closing prayer to that entry was short, simple, and sincere:

“O God, in our November may we still bloom.”

 Amen!

Note: The Upper Room, November-December 2011 issue, p. 11.

To view a nostalgic video about “what old folks do” narrated by comedian Jonathan Winters (whose last name reflects his age and stage and my own), click here.

 

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Memory and Memories

 “NO! As long as I’m a-hurtin’ I know I’m alive!”
—“Big Daddy” Pollit, refusing morphine for pain of terminal cancer,
paraphrased from Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof 

“I had rather remember and hurt than forget and be numb.”
—Jimmy Peacock

Someone much more knowledgeable and renowned than I once observed that God gave us a memory so we could enjoy roses in December. I’m sure there is a great deal of truth in that statement. A memory is a marvelous thing, a wonderful gift. But at the same time it must be noted that a memory, like a heart, is a mixed blessing.

Do you recall the sage words spoken by the Wizard of Oz to the Tin Man who so desired to have a heart? “You don’t want a heart, my friend,” the Wizard very astutely observed. “They are very impractical things, you know. They’re much too easily broken.”

Quite so.

For, you see, in order for a heart to be sensitive to the plight of others, it must necessarily be sensitive also to the slight of others. There is no such thing as callous compassion. If we are to be touched by the hurts of others, we must ourselves be liable to hurt.

Just as an iron butterfly remains forever beautiful, but also forever cold, so an armor-plated heart effectively shields against pain, but it also effectively eliminates all possibility of pleasure. Or sympathy. Or compassion. Only that which is vulnerable is ever valuable.

Life is reciprocal and cyclical. It is quite literally true that what goes around, comes around. Thus, we cannot remember the roses of June in the dead of winter, without also recalling the chill of December in the bloom of summer. Whenever we open our hearts to love, we open ourselves to lose. When we open our minds to remember the good, we also let in the bad. Laughter and tears travel the same circuit.

To some, the answer to painful memories is to keep the door of remembrance firmly and forever fastened. That is one solution, I suppose. But I don’t think it works. Even if it did, I wouldn’t adopt it. And for a very good reason: You can’t grow flowers in a closet.

No, I remember it all—the good and the bad, the sweet and the bitter, the pleasure and the pain, the victories and the defeats. And when I do, sometimes I laugh, and sometimes I weep. But I do remember. And remembering, I feel. That’s the important thing, to feel. Because as long as I still feel—whether it is pleasure or pain—I know I’m still alive, still aware, still sensitive. 

That’s why God gave us a memory. So we wouldn’t forget to care.

Jimmy Peacock
November 30, 1982 

Quotes on Memory and Memories
(set in regular type with emphasis in italic)

Mine

“The farther South you go, the longer the memory and the shorter the fuse.”

“Down home all the roads are paved with memories.” (At the time of life in which I am losing my memory, God seems to be restoring all my memories.)

“I’m so old I can remember when Wonder Bread built strong bodies only three ways.”

“I’ve got to that stage in life where the only things I can remember are the things I cannot stand to recall.” (That’s funny, I don’t recall losing my memory . . . well, duh!)

“If I can remember, I’m going to write my autobiography and call it ‘Gone with the Mind.’” (I’ve got to remember to pick up a mind at Wal-Mart, but if I could ever remember to do that, I wouldn’t need it.)

“The only two things I ever had going for me were my mind and my time—and now I’m losing both!” (See next quote.)

“My lack of remembrance
has been my great hindrance,
and left me in dark despair.
If I had been bettin’
On me forgettin’,
I’d now be a billionaire!”

Others’

“You can close your eyes to reality but not to memories.”

—Stanislaw J. Lec, Polish author (1909-1966),
Thought for the Day, Sapulpa Daily Herald, nd

“If it weren’t for flashbacks, I wouldn’t have any memory at all.”

—Bumper sticker seen in Sapulpa, Oklahoma

“Things I’ve Learned After It Was Too Late.”
“A whole stock of memories will never equal one little hope. . . I kind of like that.”

—Snoopy, typing on top of his doghouse,
Peanuts cartoon, Tulsa World, nd

“It is perhaps the memories of our lives that make us who we are.”

—Unidentified writer of devotional for Wednesday,
November 25, 2009, in Episcopal Forward Day by Day 

“ . . . so much of what the South is about is remembrance anyway.”

—Mississippi author Willie Morris as quoted by
Philip Martin, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist

“‘Think’ and ‘thank’ come from the same root. One cannot be thankful without thinking, recalling, remembering the things God has given us and done for us. Jesus took bread, gave thanks, and said, ‘Take, eat . . . do this in remembrance of me.’”

—Unidentified writer of devotional for Thanksgiving Day,
Thursday, November 26, 2009, in Episcopal Forward Day by Day

“They [memories] cut both ways. There’s no way to forget the worst pains, but nothin’ gives you the same kind of pleasure as rememberin’ your greatest happiness.”

—Elvis Presley, quoted on desk calendar

“Darling, I guess my mind’s more at ease, nevertheless why stir up memories?”

—Line from song “Don’t Get Around Much Any More”

“The richness of life lies in the memories we have forgotten.”

—“Remember When . . . A Nostalgic Look Back in Time,”
booklet produced by Seek Publishing, 1956 

“Leave the kids with great memories.”

—Advertisement slogan for Arkansas, the Natural State

 “Someday all you may have left . . . are memories that make you smile.”

—Andrea Eger, “Godfather a precious memory for a smile,”
Tulsa World, June 15, 2009

“A great part of knowing where we’re heading is remembering where we came from.”

—Southwestern Bell ad in Sapulpa
Daily Herald s
ometime in 2000

 “Remember who you are.”

—My mother’s last words to me
whenever I would leave home

“When you can’t remember why you’re hurt, that’s when you’re healed.”

—Jane Fonda

“Comfort food has always been about fond memories, the sensory memories of food reminding you of a place, a time, a person.”

—Chef Leslie Bilderback, quoted by Natalie Mikles
in “Comfortably yum,” Tulsa World, March 18, 2000

“Either way, what I know for sure is that all I had to do to discover that spirit was not to look or listen or taste or feel. All I had to do was remember; for what I was looking for I somehow already knew.”

—Bruce Feller, “The Bible: Myth or Truth?”
USA Weekend, March 9-11, 2001

“ . . . But even today’s generation feels a somber tug to the mysterious past, an inexplicable pull to a homeland they know only through family stories, . . . a ‘genetic memory’. . . . Perhaps the most touching words that speak of hope are [these] . . . ‘A people without a past are a people without a future.’”

—Dana Adkins Campbell, “Celebrating a Homeland,”
in the August 2000 issue of Southern Living 

“Most of us have no desire to go back and recapture the old times. We have invested too much in what counts for us now, but when something familiar comes to our ears, or a certain fragrance touches our memory, then we recall a part of us that remains in the past. . . .  Sometimes it takes the familiar for us to appreciate what we have today.”

—Joyce Hifler in Think on These Things column,
Tulsa World, December 7, 2000

“. . . and they [the national parks] remain a refuge for human beings seeking to replenish their spirit, geographies of memory and hope, where countless American families have forged an intimate connection to the land, and then passed it along to their children.”

—Quoted from Ken Burns’ TV series The National Parks

“Try as you might, you simply cannot remember everything that you have experienced—not yesterday, not a week ago, and certainly not when you were a child. . . . What memories we do hold on to are like the broken bits of ancient pottery, long buried in the sand. Yet, these fragments of memory can give us precious clues about our personalities. . . . We rely on our memories to tell ourselves who we are, to anchor us. People who have lost their memories . . . are condemned to drift through life. . . . Autobiographical memories—the memories of what we have experienced and done in our lives—are at once indispensable and notoriously untrustworthy.”

—Robert Needlman. M.D., F.A.A.P., “Digging into Your Personal Past: What early memories tell us about who we are today,” http://www.drspock.com/article/0,1510,6054,00.html – 30k,
accessed August 30, 2001

I think that deep in our DNA is this embedded memory of when we were not separated from the rest of the natural world, but we were part of it. The Bible talks about the Garden of Eden as that experience that we had at the beginnings of our dimmest memories as a species. . . . So when we enter a [national] park we’re entering a place where an attempt at least has been made to keep it like it once was. We cross that boundary and suddenly we are no longer masters of the natural world, we are part of it. And in that sense it’s like we’re going home. It doesn’t matter where we’re from, we’ve come back to a place that is where we came from.”

—Writer Dayton Duncan, quoted in
Ken Burns’ TV series The National Parks

PRECIOUS MEMORIES

(To view a video of Willie Nelson singing this song, click here.)

Precious memories, unseen angels,
Sent from somewhere to my soul;
How they linger, ever near me,
And the sacred past unfold.

Precious father, loving mother,
Fly across the lonely years;
And old home scenes of my childhood,
In fond memory appears.

In the stillness of the midnight,
Echoes from the past I hear;
Old time singing, gladness bringing,
From that lovely land somewhere.

As I travel on life’s pathway,
Know not what the years may hold;
As I ponder, hope grows fonder,
Precious memories flood my soul.

Chorus
Precious memories, how they linger,
How they ever flood my soul;
In the stillness of the midnight,
Precious, sacred scenes unfold. 

Music & Lyrics by J.B.F. Wright
© 1996 Stamps-Baxter Music & Printing Co.

FORTUNES IN MEMORIES

(To hear this song sung by Ernest Tubb,
one of my father’s favorite Western singers, click here
.)

I’ve got fortunes in memories
Of your walk, your talk, your smile.
I’ve got treasures of heartaches,
And old dreams out of style.

I’ve got bundles of broken vows
Collected through the years.
I’ve got fortunes in memories,
And they all were bought with tears.

All my life I’ve been in love
With you and now you’re gone.
All I own is memories
Of you that linger on.

In some ways you left me nothing
But the loser’s share.
In some ways I guess I am
A sort of millionaire.

Take the pretty little lies
You told me one by one.
Take the careless, cruel things,
The sweet things you have done.

Count them all as loss and
They are more than I can bear.
Count them all as memories
And I am a millionaire.

Written and sung by Ernest Tubb

MEMORIES

(Sung by Elvis in all his later concerts.
To hear Elvis sing this song and view
photos from his life, click here.)

Memories, pressed between the pages of my mind
Memories, sweetened thru’ the ages just like wine

Quiet thoughts come floating down
And settle softly to the ground
Like golden autumn leaves around my feet
I touch them and they burst apart with

Sweet memories
Sweet memories

Of holding hands and red bouquets
And twilights trimmed in purple haze
And laughing eyes and simple ways
And quiet nights and gentle days with you 

Memories, memories,
Sweet memories,
Memories

 Words and music by Billy Strange and Scott Davis

THE [MEMORY] CLOSET

As I meet the new things in life,
I put the old away,
placing the worn-out yesteryears
where they will not decay. 

On a shelf in a memory closet,
I store the misty past,
along with other bygone years
that faded all too fast. 

There is a spot for sorrow,
and a place for joy and glee,
and a special place used only
for the things most dear to me. 

I have a spot reserved for my childhood days,
those happy carefree years,
when life seemed bright and hopeful
and not much room for tears. 

At times I delve into this spot
known just to me alone,
and it is always sure to take me back
to a used-to-be I have known. 

It’s a search in my memory closet,
and old scenes come back to view.
It is like an endless movie
from the old things to the new. 

So when I am tired and lonely
and my life seems filled with care,
I search in my memory closet
and find consolation there.

—Dan Webster (born December 12, 1883)

(To view a video of Hermione Gingold and Maurice Chevalier singing
“I Remember It Well” from the musical Gigi, click here
.)

 

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“When I am overcome with homesickness, I refer to it as being ‘all down in the South’ or suffering from ‘y’all withdrawal.’ The only answer is to ‘take a pilgrimage to the Holy Land’—or at least find some ‘sweet young Southern thang’ to ‘tawk Dixie to me.’”
–Jimmy Peacock

Sometime in the summer of 1989 after one of my “semi-annual pilgrimages to the Holy Land” of my birth and youth, I wrote a letter to the director of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism about a radio program I had heard while taking that trip. I have inserted a copy of that letter below.

I sent a copy of that letter to the radio station and to the young woman whose lovely voice I heard narrating that program. A few weeks later I received a gracious reply from her, which I have also inserted below. (I have deleted her name to protect her privacy.)

I hope you find both of these epistles interesting and encouraging as evidence of my long and tireless effort to preserve the disappearing soft, sweet Southern accent that means so much to me and to so many others (especially males) of my generation.

My Letter to the Arkansas Tourism Director

[Summer 1989, no day indicated]

Joe Rice, Tourism Director
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
One Capitol Mall
Little Rock, Arkansas 72201

Dear Mr. Rice:

Some weeks ago I embarked on my semi-annual sentimental journey back home to spend a few precious days in my native Southeast Arkansas.

As I approached the Central Arkansas region, I turned on the car radio in hopes of assuaging my aching ears with some authentic “down home” Arkansas speech.

Suddenly out of the clear, hot July sky there came a whiff of cooling relief in the form of the dulcet tones of a young “flower of Southern womanhood” whose magnolia-blossomed voice drawled out bits of interesting Arkansiana.

My attention was instantly riveted to that soft symphony of Southern sweetness as my Dixie-starved soul eagerly drank in every languid, languorous syllable of that honey-laden vocal mint julep.

On subsequent visits in and around the Little Rock area, I continued to tune into “Traveler’s Information Radio, 1150 AM” to hear about my beloved state and also just to listen to “the voice”—which I was to learn belonged to one [name deleted] of your department.

My congratulations to you, the department, and the radio station on your excellent presentation of the beauty, wonders, and attractions of our fair state (so dear to homesick, exiled Arkies like me)—and on your impeccable choice of a spokesperson.

For heaven’s sake, don’t ever replace that young lady with a bland, Styrofoam-voiced “professional” announcer: Keep the accent on Arkansas by keeping Arkansas in the accent!

Appreciatively yours,

Jimmy Peacock

xc:  Traveler’s Information Radio, 1150 AM
       [Young lady’s name]

PS Enclosed are two personal vignettes to explain who I am. Somewhere in department files, you should have my formal resume on file since 1968! Would love to come home and help you spread the good news about Arkansas!

A Letter to Me from the Young Lady in Question

Here is a copy of the actual letter I received from the young lady in response to my letter to Joe Rice about her above. I have retyped it below the illustration for ease of reading and have deleted her name from the bottom. I think you will perceive in this writing the same Southern softness, sweetness, and graciousness that I found so appealing in this young woman’s lovely voice on the radio.

Paula Graves Letter - Crop

The abbreviated letter I received in response to my letter to Joe Rice

 
September 10, 1989
 
Mr. Jimmy Peacock
1926 S. Bixby St.
Sapulpa, Oklahoma 74066
 
Dear Mr. Peacock:
 
To say I was flabbergasted, flattered, and definitely pleased by your kind and unique letter would be an understatement. I cannot tell you how much I appreciated you taking the time to write such a letter and then forwarding copies to all the people who are definitely interested in my presentations on Traveler’s Information Radio AM-1150!!!
 
I thoroughly enjoy doing this program, and knowing that at least one listener is pleased by my efforts means the world to me. I promise that I will keep the accent on Arkansas by keeping Arkansas in the accent as I share information with the Arkansas Traveler about all the wonderful events, festivals, and goings-on in the Natural State . . . Arkansas.
 
Your letter, suitably framed, hangs on my wall now as a reminder to me to continue to keep on doing my best, cause’ you never know when a WONDERFUL KUDO such as yours, is going to come along to forever brighten my day. Again, thank you so much.
 
Wishing you a wonderful day,
 
Select Jimmy Peacock Quotes on Arkansas
 
“Listen, Keir—he’s already callin’ th’ Hawgs!”
—Jimmy to son Keiron about
newborn baby Levi’s first yell 

“When God talks to me, it is always in pure Arkansaw.” (See the post titled “Three Significant Insignificant Events in My Life.”)

“In God’s eyes at least, nobody from Arkansas is ever a nobody from Arkansas.” (See the post titled “Thank God I’m a Country Boy!”)

“Arkansas: God’s prototype for heaven.”

 “Heaven: Arkansas without the heat and mosquitoes.”

“I believe in a literal heaven because I was literally born and raised there.”

“This cain’t be heaven ’cause I ain’t dead—so it must be Arkansas!”
 
“I never said that Arkansas is heaven; I just said that Saint Peter holds the keys to it.”

“I cannot prove that God is from Arkansas, but I know for sure that He has family there.”

“You are a true Arkie if . . . you think the fall in Eden refers to autumn in Arkansas.” (Used by the Arkansas Times.)

“Pore ole Arkansas was treated by the Confederacy the same way it has always been treated by the Union—like a red-headed stepchild.”

“I have often threatened to go back home and run for public office since it seems that in Arkansas it is easier to get elected than to get hired!”

“Arkansas is the South of the Midwest and the Midwest of the South.” (Arkansas sits squarely in the Mid-South, lifts her head up to the Mid-West, leans her hip against the Southwest, and dangles her legs into the Deep South, and my hometown is on her left ankle.)

“In 1977 [the year that King Elvis died, see Isaiah 6:1], like the prophet Isaiah, the Lord appeared to me in the Holy Land [Arkansas] and sent me to the foreign mission field—in Babylon [Oklahoma]. If ever a man put his hand to the plow looking back, it is me. I only miss home two times—night and day!”

“The geese are headin’ south and we’re headin’ north, so I guess that proves that we Peacocks ain’t got the sense God gave a goose!” (The thing about comin’ back to Tulsa from down home is that it’s uphill all the way! That’s why the Arkansas River runs toward the southeast–to git back DOWN HOME! I wish I could!)
—Jimmy Peacock observation on leaving
McGehee, Arkansas, for Tulsa, Oklahoma 

“I’m not an [Okie], I was never an [Okie], and I don’t ever want to be one. I am [an Arkie].”
—My paraphrase of a quote from Sean Connery
about being a Scotsman, not an Englishman,
Celebrity Cipher, Tulsa World, on July 22, 2011

“In one way at least I am a Sooner—I’d sooner be in Arkansas!”

“When asked by Okies, ‘If Arkansas is so great, why are you living in Oklahoma?’ I always reply, ‘You call yourself a Christian, and you never heard of foreign missions?’”

“When chided by Okies, ‘You can’t be from Arkansas ’cause you’re wearing shoes,’ I always respond, ‘That’s ’cause I’m no longer walking on Holy Ground.’”

“When the writer of a letter to the editor of the Tulsa World asked, ‘Why does everyone here always say “over in Arkansas?”’ I responded, ‘Because like the Children of Israel, they are “not far from the kingdom—over in Arkansas!”’”

“You are a real Arkie if . . . you have lived out of state for more than 20 years and still take up for Arkansas against all comers.” (I ought to know! See entry below.)
—Jimmy Peacock, Letter to Editor of Arkansas Times,
November 13, 1998 

“Hog fans: Get back to the farm”
“If Arkansas fans want to read about the Hogs [in the Tulsa newspaper], let them go to Fayetteville. The only reason most of them are over here anyway is because they had to come to Oklahoma to get a life. This is Oklahoma, not Arkansas.”
—Unidentified caller, “Call the Editor,”
Tulsa World, October 24, 1998 

“I am calling in response to the caller who said that Arkansas fans should ‘go to Fayetteville (because) . . . . The only reason most of them are over here anyway is because they had to come to Oklahoma to get a life.’ As an Arkansan, a two-time graduate of the University of Arkansas, and a religious editor, I came to Oklahoma 21 years ago from Arkansas [i.e., the Holy Land] not to ‘get a life’ but to share a Life; has this caller never heard of foreign missions?”
—Jimmy Peacock, “Call the Editor,”
Tulsa World, October 26, 1998 

“Coming back [to Tulsa] from down home we stopped to eat at the Dixie Cafe in Russellville, then crossed the street to visit one of those antique/crafts/collectibles shops. I saw a small wall cross with the inscription: ‘Where would you be right now if Jesus had come back five minutes ago?’ My immediate thought was: ‘Right where I am [i.e., in Arkansas].’”
—Email written by Jimmy Peacock in July 2000 

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My Personal Spirituality

“Look to the rock from which you were cut
and to the quarry from which you were hewn.”
—Isaiah 51:1

“Take off your shoes,
for you are standing on holy ground.”
—Word of God to Moses in
Exodus 3:5 TLB

My personal spirituality is perhaps best expressed in the words of Christian writer/author Frederick Buechner who summarized his basic philosophy of life as “biography as theology.”

The fly-leaf of his book Now and Then states of its author:

Now and Then

Now and Then by Frederick Buechner

“Searching through the events of his life—the crucial as well as the seemingly less important—Buechner discerns meaning in each moment, as he illuminatingly points the way for each of us to draw on our own experiences as bountiful sources of truth.

‘Listen to your life,’ he advises; ‘see it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because, in the last analysis, all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace [emphasis mine].”

In an interview in which he was asked about his book A Room Called Remember, Buechner went on to say:

“The title suggests a theme that runs through much I’ve written lately,

A Room Called Remember

Frederick Buechner's A Room Called Remember

and that is the great importance for all of us, as I see it, of taking time to remember our lives, of straining our ears to listen back to our own individual pasts for what it is God has been saying to us. Nowhere, I think, does God speak more powerfully to us than through the events of our own lives, but more often than not we don’t take the time to listen. I think this kind of listening is closely related to prayer and that without it we’re not fully alive [emphasis mine].”

Finally, when asked about the inward journey, trying to get in touch with our own spirit and God’s Spirit, Buechner replied:

“Try this. Keep track of any event in the course of a week, a month, a year, that brings tears to your eyes. They may be happy moments or sad moments, moments that on the surface seem quite unremarkable, but in whichever case they are moments when you have been stirred to your roots, and it is there, at your roots, that God is at work in your life. Examine those moments with great care, ask why they brought tears, and you will learn much about God and yourself too [emphasis mine].”

That is what I mean when I say that “where you’re from is who you are” and that “the best thing that can happen to anyone is to be shaken (or stirred) to his roots!” It’s also why I refer to my own beloved Arkansas homeland—“the rock from which I was cut and the quarry from which I was hewn”—as “the Holy Land.”

My Personal Spiritual Pilgrimage 

“The road to the future runs through the past.”
—Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Faith:
Rethinking Evangelicalism for a Postmodern World

I wrote the above piece years ago after reading an interview with Frederick Buechner that appeared in a 1984 mail-out from Cokesbury, the bookstore of the United Methodist Church.

Cokesbury interview with Frederick Buechner

The actual 1984 Cokesbury interview with Frederick Buechner with my original yellow highlights and red marks on it

Intrigued by Buechner’s interest in topics such as memory, the past, roots, heritage, etc., which reflected my own interest in these areas, I was led to buy and read the books mentioned in this interview, especially A Room Called Remember.

Curiously, as a Southern Baptist at the time it was through reading Buechner that I was introduced to the books of Agnes Sanford, a former Presbyterian laywoman who was married to an Episcopal priest.

Intrigued by the fact that she was a Charismatic, I began to read some of her early works to learn how she, an Episcopalian, could have become involved in that movement before it was even widely known, much less before it became extremely popular.

It turned out that she and some other Episcopal ladies of the time had experienced the Baptism of the Holy Spirit within the Episcopal Church without even knowing what it was, which interested me even more since I had been editing for the Tulsa-area independent Pentecostal Charismatics for several years.

I wanted to learn how this woman could be both Charismatic and Episcopalian in a time when those two did not seem to have anything in common. The truth is that it was in searching for information on the renewal movement within the Episcopal Church that I discovered the Episcopal Church itself.

In order to buy Agnes Sanford’s books, I found that I had to go to the bookstore of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Tulsa. When I drove up in front of St. John’s with its traditional English gothic church architecture, I was instantly drawn to it as though some “inner cords” of familiarity and past connection were being strummed. The sensation continued every time I went back to St. John’s to visit the bookstore for more books.

St. John's Episcopal Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma

St. John's Episcopal Church in Tulsa

Eventually, I bought, read, highlighted, and made marginal notes in Agnes Sanford’s autobiography titled Sealed Orders. The more I read of her life and her association with the Episcopal Church, the more interested I became in both subjects. Gradually, I began to purchase and read books on the Episcopal Church, Anglicanism, and Anglican spirituality. Finally I became curious enough about what I was reading that I decided I needed to experience it for myself.

Sealed Orders by Agnes Sanford

Sealed Orders, the autobiography of Agnes Sanford

Since I happened to be working in Tulsa at the time as a copyeditor for an independent Pentecostal Charismatic publisher, on my lunch break I began to “drop into” the noon Eucharist services at downtown Trinity Episcopal Church, the closest Episcopal church to my workplace.

Trinity Episcopal Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma

Trinity Episcopal Church in Tulsa at the time I first visited it in the 1980s (photo from: Behold the Glory: The Iconography of Grace)

Known as “the finest example of English Gothic church architecture west of the Mississippi River,” Trinity’s magnificent cathedral-like structure filled with striking symbols representative of historic sacramental worship again “strummed all my cords.” The very first time I worked up the courage to walk into the nave (what we Baptists called the “sanctuary”) of that awe-inspiring edifice I was struck with the feeling that (if I had put it into words), “O God, this is where You live!”

Trinity Episcopal Church interior

Nave of Trinity Episcopal Church in Tulsa at the time I first visited (photo from: Behold the Glory: The Iconography of Grace)

Each time I visited the noon Eucharist, the same priest, one of several on the staff at Trinity, seemed to be in charge of the service. Since the number of worshippers was few, and since this particular priest seemed to be approachable (even to an insecure Baptist who was still not sure that all of these “Catholic” trappings and customs were “all right”), I finally asked if I could meet with him one day after services. He warmly agreed, and we began a series of one-on-one lunch-break interviews that in time led to my regular attendance at the main eleven o’clock Sunday morning services, even though I lived in Sapulpa, a thirty-minute drive away.

Trinity Episcopal Church stained-glass window

Trinity Episcopal Church stained-glass window of Mary and child with portion of the Apostles' Creed below it (photo from: Behold the Glory: The Iconography of Grace)

For a while I continued to meet with Mari at our “regular” church but also continued to visit Trinity and to learn more about it in particular and the Episcopal Church and Anglicanism in general. And I also began “passing on” much of what I was learning to Mari, usually while she was doing handwork and I was sitting opposite her in an easy chair with my Episcopal books, pamphlets, and prayer book balanced on my lap.

After a prolonged period of my persistent and incessant “catechism,” Mari finally put down her handwork with a jerk, looked me directly in the eye, and firmly stated, “Look, if you think I’m going to become a Methodist or a Presbyterian, you can forget it!” Needless to say, I inwardly thought, “Oh, darling, you have no idea!” Then I immediately said to God, “Lord, it looks like we’ve got our work cut out for us!”

Despite her initial rejection of my “message,” I did continue to talk to Mari about the Episcopal Church whenever I could get her attention. Eventually I even talked her into attending services with me at Trinity. Slowly she began to become more comfortable with both the Episcopal Church and Trinity and to want to learn more about them. Finally, after attending church services, Sunday school, and confirmation classes for several months, we were both confirmed at Trinity in January 1986.

Trinity Episcopal Church statue of Mary and child

Trinity Episcopal Church statue of Mary and child (photo from: Behold the Glory: The Iconography of Grace)

Over a period of time we became more and more involved in the life of the church. We eventually served on several important committees, taught Sunday school, worked in Vacation Bible School, and engaged in other important activities such as the Every Member (stewardship) Canvass and several small-group Bible and discipleship studies. I once taught a special class on the spirituality of home, parts of which I have quoted in these writings, and co-wrote an amusing program called “Pearls from the Pew” as part of a fund-raising dinner for the parish. For eleven years I wrote a column in the Trinity newsletter on different members of the church and their individual ministries, was chosen three times as a delegate to the annual diocesan (state) convention, and was even elected to the vestry (the church board).

However, after almost twenty years we felt led to leave Trinity and the Episcopal Church and come back to Sapulpa to join a local church in order to be with our son Keiron and his family, especially since he was about to be deployed to Iraq. (He is now in his third overseas deployment, this time back to Afghanistan for the second time.) We have now been members of the First United Methodist Church of Sapulpa for about four or five years where we have taught the younger children’s Sunday school class (which included our own two grandsons), and Mari has served on several important church committees.

Sapulpa First United Methodist Church

Sapulpa First United Methodist Church

In describing my spiritual pilgrimage to this point in time, I say that I have a Methodist heritage and current membership, a Southern Baptist formation and education, and an Episcopalian affinity for liturgy and sacraments. (I now often refer to myself as a “Baptiscopalian Methodist.”) I also say that since I was a Baptist for forty years, an Episcopalian for almost twenty years, and an editor/writer for the Charismatics for twenty-five years, I am trilingual; that is, I am conversant in the languages of all three branches of the Christian Church: evangelical, sacramental, and pentecostal.

I hope that all that exposure to the three main branches of the body of Christ has prepared me to continue to serve Him in whatever way He chooses for whatever time I have left on this earth. I also hope that publishing my writings on this site is a small part of that continued service and that it may encourage others to do as I am doing, and as Frederick Buechner recommends: to reflect back on their own life and to discern their own spiritual heritage and path.

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