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Archive for October, 2012

 “If it wasn’t for retrospect and introspect
I ‘spect I wouldn’t have any ‘spect at all!”
—Jimmy Peacock

Dedication

This post, a story about a bit of nostalgic nonsense that took place during our freshman year at Ouachita (WASH-a-taw) Baptist College in 1956-57, is dedicated to the memory of our late and lovely classmate Sara Lynn O’Cain. For more about Sara and her part in this story, read the following memoir by Hunter Douglas and my editorial notes at the end of it.

Ouachita Memories

In this Halloween post I continue a subject that I began in earlier posts: memories associated with our alma mater, Ouachita Baptist College (now University), and some OBC students and graduates who were a part of our shared lives.

Ouachita Baptist University

Ouachita Baptist College (now University) as it looked in 2011 with the Ouachita River in the upper left corner; our freshman men’s residence in 1956, O. C. Bailey Hall, is the small right-angled dorm closest to the river (to magnify, click on the photo used by permission of Ouachita)

I referred to this subject in earlier posts about Mari and me such as “Facts about Marion Williams Peacock,” “The Peacock Love Story/The Passing of a Friend,” and “Our Honeymoon Was No Honeymoon for Mari.”

Ouachita, its former president, and some of our fellow Ouachitonians are also the subjects of three other posts.

One, titled “Occupation in Exile, Deliverance in Time,” began with an anecdote told about Dr. Daniel Grant, a former president of Ouachita, who granted me permission to quote it in that January 2012 essay about my ongoing “Oklahomian Exile.”

A second, which appeared at Christmas time, was titled “The Three Unwise Men: An Arkansas Christmas Memory.” It involved my OBC buddies Charles Wright and Cullen Gannaway and me on a “pessimistic pilgrimage” to Hot Springs on Christmas Eve in 1960.

A recent post titled “Country Come to Town/A Youthful Trip to Dallas” also featured me and Charles Wright and part of Mari’s Clique and our 1958 trip to Dallas to attend the wedding of our mutual McGehee/Ouachita friend Jarrell Rial.

But this Ouachita post is a bit different from the others in two ways:

First, it takes place in 1956-57 and involves several members of our freshman class and one of the most outlandish pranks we pulled during that memorable first year at OBC; and

Second, it is written not by me but by Hunter Douglas, one of my closest buddies in that freshman class and one of the other leaders in that nefarious enterprise. I asked him to write his version of that story because he seems to recall the details of it much better than I do.

OBC Hunter Douglas

Hunter Douglas as he looked in our 1956-57 OBC yearbook with part of his handwritten note to me (to magnify, click on the photo used by permission of Ouachita)

So now here is Hunter Douglas’s memory of the now famous and infamous saga of “The Return of the Trumpet” just as he wrote it. I have edited it only slightly by shortening some paragraphs to fit the blog format. I have inserted some poor quality photos scanned from our 1956-57 Ouachita yearbook with permission of Ouachita and the “usual suspects” involved. There are some explanatory notes at the end of the post.

The Return of the Trumpet
By Hunter R. Douglas

Also known as “Guess What, Brown!”; “Sidney Brown Saves O. C. Bailey”; and more privately by the author as “Hippo Bill’s Revenge,” this is a story concerning times at Ouachita Baptist College during the freshman days of the Class of 1960.

In 2010 the Ouachita Fiftieth Reunion questionnaire asked us members of the Class of 1960 to share our favorite OBC stories. Jimmy Dale Peacock told me that his favorite story was about The Trumpet, but that he would rather another of us take the responsibility (blame) for the writing.

OBC 50 reunion

Mari and me at the Ouachita Class of 1960 fifty-year reunion held in April of 2010 (to magnify, click on the photo used by permission of Ouachita)

OBC Jimmy Peacock

Me as I looked in the 1956-57 OBC yearbook with part of a note I signed to myself reading “Oh, you are darlin’!” with an arrow pointing to the curl of hair on my forehead a la Elvis Presley (to magnify, click on the photo used by permission of Ouachita)

Joseph P. Dempsey was thereafter consulted, and after being interrupted several times by convulsions into laughter, we were agreed that it should be written, secrecy not being an issue at this time—the statute of limitations, etc.

OBC Joe Dempsey

Joseph P. Dempsey, known to us as Joe, as he looked in our 1956-57 OBC yearbook with part of his handwritten note to me (to magnify, click on the photo used by permission of Ouachita)

There have been those who would question the truth of some of these stories being told. The reputation of the institution being what it is, we students were expected to develop high standards of performance in life, and not waste valuable time, especially on skullduggery. Truth is always better than fiction, however, and this is the truth of it, as best we can recall it at this time.

In our freshman year, O. C. Bailey was the new dormitory for men. Some in our class were among the first occupants, and right in the beginning we formed a men’s fellowship dedicated to keeping boredom away from our doors by the means of smiling faces. There have been claims that we were the inspiration for the original smiley face logo. This is the same logo Bob Riley used with the patch over one eye, but that is another story.

OBC O.C. Bailey

O.C. Bailey Hall as it looked in 1956-57 when it was first built and some of our class were among the first students to occupy it (to magnify, click on the photo from the OBC 1956-57 yearbook, used by permission of Ouachita)

The dorm custodian, since the place was brand new, was expected to keep things looking very good. Our custodian was first known as “Mr. Miller,” because the dorm mom always called him that. We guessed he was sixty years of age at the time since he was so cranky. But he did try extra hard to please. Maybe too hard. We took notice of that.

Mr. Miller actually was harmless enough. No one had any reason to be afraid of him, even though he had a volatile temper, instantly available. He was quite a singer of hymns. Each day during classes as he ran the floor buffing machine in the halls, he would sing. Since this was before the advent of today’s praise music, there was never any question that it was both dignified and reverent, though homely.

We would hear the hum of the machine being accompanied by his singing of some beloved old hymn. Then the confounded contraption would malfunction. The buffer would go silent, and the words of the hymn would remain suspended in midair, interrupted by angry and loud curses, punctuated by something that sounded like a man kicking the stuffings out of a buffer. We figured that Mr. Miller had not recovered his religion from some previous traumatic experience. Since some of us came from the Delta, we knew about cotton farming, and we thought with some sympathy that maybe he had worked with mules.

When the machine decided to work again, Mr. Miller would resume his songs of praise, and go on buffing the floor as if nothing had happened. But, something had happened. We had taken notice of it.

We were still new freshmen when I got into a more personal situation with the good man. I was what some call a “Beagle Man.” I was raising beagles before I came to Ouachita, and I still have my beagles fifty-four years later. If this entitled me to some consideration, Mr. Miller did not give me any. We all knew that we weren’t supposed to keep a beagle in O. C. Bailey. I kept old Bill outside. That was not exactly like trying to keep him in the room, and I said so. And that is not exactly what started the trouble either.

What happened was that Mr. Miller saw my dog, and fearing the necessity of having to sweep the lawn for “land mines,” went after Bill with a broom. Now this dog was not just any mutt. His registration papers showed that his official name was “Carry Line Buddy’s Hippo Bill.” This was beagle royalty, the world championship bloodlines. I held him in great esteem. Also, it was not Bill’s fault that he was lame in one back leg and had to run on only three legs, and thus could not quite escape Mr. Miller’s wrath. Hippo Bill was sent home, but not forgotten. I had taken notice of it.

Mr. Miller was making a name for himself. It was noticed that he was not smiling. There was discussion in the dorm of how to teach the poor man how to smile like us. We sought a means to redeem him from his habitual curses, excesses of temper, and general unpleasantness. We were college boys now, Ouachitonians even. If anybody could teach him, we college boys could.

Since his ill temper and low self-esteem had brought dishonor upon the Miller name, we began to call him something else. I am not sure as of this writing just exactly how we came to a consensus about what to call him. In order that he might redeem his good name and take pride in it, we began to call him “Sidney Brown.” Of course, since it was not his real name, we got a real smile out of that. Predictably, he did not. Concerning the name “Brown,” it has been alleged that there took place some idle and irresponsible talk concerning his likely reaction if a certain container of brown paint got turned over above the stairwell and by an uncanny coincidence fell into the hair of his head. Anyway, that never happened exactly that way.

What happened was that he showed his temper again, even though the Brown name is an honorable name. He thus ignored and rejected a clear warning that bad luck might come upon him if he did not smile more. He just got grumpier. He even dared to speak to us by other than our real names. This information is given in order to clear up the confusion as to the identity of Sidney Brown. The reader will take note of him.

The Trumpet is to be identified with the band float in the 1956 homecoming parade. The homecoming season was a time when things happened. There would be marching units from the military and the band, and display of the floats with their queens. The floats had been constructed by the student organizations that were competing for the prize as best float. The band float, which was fervently and sincerely created, featured a large purple and gold trumpet, Ouachita’s school colors, following a musical theme. Now a trumpet made out of chicken wire and crepe paper might not have turned out to be the biggest nor most spectacular float, but the theme was most appropriate, and we band members had Sara O’Cain.

OBC Sara O'Cain

Sara O’Cain as she appeared in our 1956-57 OBC yearbook (to magnify, click on the photo used by permission of Ouachita)

Sara O’Cain from Pine Bluff was the band queen. Sara proudly represented the band and made up for whatever plain appearance the trumpet itself may have had. This is the same Sara O’Cain who cast the spell over my O. C. Bailey roommate, John McCown. We are reminded of Al Capp’s Dogpatch cartoon character, “Stupefyin’ Jones.” I was present when it happened, and I can tell you that all John did was look at Sara one time, which instantly stunned him of his normal senses. The rest of us fellows do not think he ever totally recovered again either. I never witnessed such a thing before, nor have I since.

OBC John McGown

John McCown as he appeared in our 1956-57 OBC yearbook (to magnify, click on the photo used by permission of Ouachita)

John and I were friends as far back as the third grade, and my father had baptized both of us in the same baptistery at Dumas, just south of Pine Bluff. I thought I knew him. After this event, John left our fellowship without a sensible reason and formed the “Friends of Sara O’Cain Fellowship,” with John and Sara as the only members. They kept all their smiles to themselves, and the only way one could get into their group was to be born into it. By the time we graduated, there were only two new members, and they were not even students. In fact, they were mere infants.

I have wondered if something about the trumpet had anything to do with any of this, but John does not know. John does remember that Sara rode on the band float. He does not recall ever knowing about the return of the trumpet. There is some question that he remembers the trumpet at all. No wonder.

OBC Homecoming float

An OBU Homecoming float similar to the one on which Sara O’Cain rode–note the 1950s car pulling the float (to magnify, click on the photo used by permission of Ouachita)

The trumpet was created by those in the band who, though few in number, worked hard together as a team so the band float could take its proper place, with Sara riding in her proper place. It was a good time, and it came to an end all too soon. The guys making the smiles, having agreed it was too soon, extended the festivities after their fashion. John McCown, being occupied elsewhere, missed out on the fun, and is therefore innocent of any of the following.

When the parade was over, there was this trailer which had to be returned to its owner. There remained this purple and gold orphan, a large stuffed wire trumpet contraption which had no known home. For those who believe in predestination, take note that the trumpet fell into good hands. It was duly discussed in O. C. Bailey by the interested parties. A Friends of the Trumpet Society was (informally) organized. The trumpet would not disappear into oblivion and be trashed, like the other floats. It bore the school colors, and represented the band as well. A decision was unanimously made that the proper place to both house and honor the trumpet was in one of the toilet stalls (locked from the inside, of course) in the third-floor bathroom in O. C. Bailey, near the showers.

The next day during classes the trumpet was present on the third floor at the time Sidney Brown normally came to clean up the bathroom. Many times history is made outside the public view. It appears that there were no unbiased witnesses present when the trumpet was found locked in that stall. We lament that there is no historical record of any kind that we know about which would tell us exactly what happened.

Today, the English department from some great university would surely pay a high price for a recording of the language for its students to study. A reality show would pay a fortune for a video. No recordings are known to exist. What is known to us is that when classes were over, the trumpet was not present in its place in the locked stall in the bathroom on the third floor of O. C. Bailey Hall. An investigation was made, and it was found that the trumpet had been unceremoniously dragged out in back of O. C. Bailey and thrown on the trash pile, with no regard for preserving its purple and gold colors. The Friends of the Trumpet took notice.

The next day during classes, the trumpet, which had been carefully restored to the locked stall in the bathroom on the third floor during the night, disappeared again. The trumpet was found this time not merely in rear of O. C. Bailey, but off the bluff, far down in the ravine entangled among the vines above the waters of the Ouachita River. It was not even considered safe to go down there. Brown seemed to be losing his temper again. The interested parties took notice.

The next day during classes, the trumpet having been restored to its proper place, a sign appeared on the stall door in honor of General Douglas MacArthur, which read, “‘I Have Returned.’ Signed, The Trumpet.” A grumpy sixty-year-old man who takes on a group of eighteen-year-olds is probably doomed to failure, but Brown was in no mood to take warning. He was not amused. There was no smile on his face, even though he was surrounded by a host of people who were smiling. Like the archangel Michael when disputing with the devil concerning the body of Moses, he dared not bring a slanderous accusation. (See Jude 1:9) Instead, he focused his wrath upon the hapless trumpet, which after that time could no longer be found anywhere on campus. An extensive investigation determined that the trumpet had been placed in residence at the Arkadelphia city dump. An appropriate committee was appointed. Notice was taken of it.

The next day during classes, the trumpet was again residing in the locked stall in the bathroom on the third floor of O. C. Bailey Hall, and another sign had appeared on the stall door which read, “Guess What, Brown!” The trumpet had changed a little this time, since garbage and refuse from the dump had become enmeshed in the chicken-wire frame. It was noticed that though the school colors were more subdued, the trumpet had maintained its glory. This time, you could know it was in there without even going inside the bathroom, since there was an unmistakable odor all over the third floor. Once again the opportunity to record the language was lost.

The trumpet disappeared again. Not only was it nowhere on campus, it was not to be seen at the dump either. A very intensive and time-consuming investigation by the committee finally revealed that the trumpet had this time suffered a regrettable and undignified fate. It had been taken back to the city dump, placed on a pile of combustible rubbish, and set afire. The charred remains had then been unceremoniously buried under a stinking pile of burnt rubbish and garbage by means of the city bulldozer. The only remaining visible evidence of its existence was a strand of burnt chicken wire barely showing from under the pyre, and this came to the attention of the committee.

Gone was the purple and gold. The bulldozer and the fire had reduced the trumpet to a twisted, charred, stinking wad of junk wire. Brown just ought not to have done that. We are reminded that a man’s sins will find him out. Notice was taken of it.

The next day during classes, the trumpet, now stripped of our school colors, in a most deplorable condition, ashes, garbage, stench and all, was found crumpled and piled onto the floor of that locked stall. That whole wing of O. C. Bailey reeked with the stench. A sign was present, which reminded Sidney Brown of his misdeeds. The sign read, “‘I have returned. You will never get rid of me. I will haunt you forever.’ Signed, The Trumpet.”

The next day during classes, word circulated that the trumpet was gone again. It had disappeared surely enough this time. No amount of investigation turned up even a clue. Homecoming had finally come to an end, and so the Friends of the Trumpet dissolved the committee and went on to the next smile.

It so happened later that I found myself out behind O. C. Bailey enjoying the view of the river, and having a friendly conversation with Sidney Brown. He was smiling now, and the subject of the whereabouts of the trumpet came up. Rather than throw a fit, he burst out laughing. In fact, it seemed to me more like cackling, if not choking.

“You’ll never see that @#$% @#*& *%$ again!” Sidney Brown exclaimed. “It’s half-way down to Noo-Aw-LEENS by now. I threw it off the Ouachita River bridge this time! Haw, Haw, Haw!”

Sidney Brown was laughing. We were laughing. Everybody was laughing. We never did know who got the last laugh.

Only The Trumpet knows. . .

Editorial Notes:

Ouachita Baptist College (now University) has been featured in earlier posts. It is located in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, an antebellum port city on the Ouachita River in the southwest part of the state. To learn more about Arkadelphia, click here.

Joseph P. Dempsey was of course my Ouachita buddy Joe Dempsey who, fifty-four years after the events in this story, designed this blog and its art work and helped me to launch it and continues to help me maintain it.

In regard to O. C. Bailey Hall, Hunter Douglas sent the following information in an email:  “I did not mention in the story that my mother was on the OBU Board of Trustees when O. C. Bailey was built, and that she took pride that her son was among the first occupants. Her name was on the cornerstone plaque in the lobby. I regret very much that she did not ever get to see this story written.” What is strange about O. C. Bailey is that when Mari and I attended my Fifty Year Class of 1960 reunion in 2010, we took a guided tour of the campus which had changed tremendously in the forty years since we had last visited it. As our young female student guide led us by O. C. Bailey, I asked politely if we could go inside to revisit the third floor and the room that I shared with Jarrell Rial when we were freshmen in 1956-57. “I’m so sorry,” the young guide replied in a soft, sweet Southern Belle voice and tone, “but now O. C. Bailey is a women’s dorm.” We wondered if any of the “women” had ever pulled a “trumpet prank” on their janitor.

It is not known what became of Mr. Miller after our graduation from Ouachita in 1960. It is also not known what became of Hunter’s beagle named “Carry Line Buddy’s Hippo Bill.”

Bob Riley, a relative of Hunter’s and a decorated World War II veteran, was a professor of political science at Ouachita during our time there and wore a Rooster Cogburn-type eye patch.

To view a PG-rated clip of Stupefyin’ Jones in action from the movie version of Al Capp’s masterpiece, click here. Coincidentally, my first memory of the mystical powers of Stupefyin’ Jones was during the Christmas holidays in 1960. It was then that Charles Wright and I took two Ouachita coeds on a double date from McGehee to Pine Bluff, a distance of sixty miles, to see the musical film version of Al Capp’s Li’l Abner, in which Julie Newmar “stupefied” Jerry Lewis in that now famous scene linked above. 

Sara O’Cain was a Ouachita beauty who married John McCown while both were students at OBC and who bore him two children before our graduation in 1960. Following is a brief biography of Sara contributed by her husband John at the time of the writing of this post in June, 2012:

Sara Lynn O’Cain was born January 12, 1938 in Pine Bluff, AR.

In the movie clip from Lil’ Abner, Jerry Lewis did a good job of showing how I was “stupefied” the first time I saw Sara.

We were married in Pine Bluff, AR on August 29, 1957. Sara died of cancer in Newport News, VA on March 28, 2005.

Just yesterday, for the first time in six years, I had all five of our children together–under one roof.  That was very satisfying.  There was (in order of birth):

Dawn Elizabeth Barnes: Born June 9, 1958 Dumas, AR.

Tana Lynn Haluska: Born July 18, 1959 Dumas, AR.

Julie Patricia McKercher: Born January 22, 1961 in Nurnberg, Federal Republic of Germany.

John Edington McCown Jr.: Born February 16, 1963 in Nurnberg, Federal Republic of Germany.

Porter Malcom McCown: Born June 4, 1965 in Arkadelphia, AR.

We all visited Sara’s grave today in Hampton, VA.

The Ouachita River, which passes directly behind O. C. Bailey Hall, begins in the Ouachita Mountains near Mena, Arkansas, not far from the Oklahoma line. It flows southeastward from Arkansas into Louisiana where it eventually connects with the Mississippi River on its way to New Orleans. To learn more about the Ouachita River and its course, with several photos and a map of its watershed, click here.

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“Take your kids hunting and you won’t have to hunt for your kids!”
—Ted Nugent

Arthur and sons on a hunting trip

My father Arthur Peacock (right) taking my brothers Adrian and Joe on a hunting trip in Southeast Arkansas in the early 1950s (to magnify, click on the photo)

Two weeks ago in my October 10 post about the early life of my cousin Donald, I began with a family photo showing two Peacock brothers: his father Adam Peacock and my father Arthur Peacock.

Arthur and Adam Peacock on an old car

Brothers Adam (left) and Arthur (right) Peacock as young men sitting on the running board of an old car (to magnify, click on the photo)

A week ago in my October 17 post I wrote about and published photos of my two humorous brothers Adrian and Joe.

Adrian and Joe against tree

Brothers Adrian (left) and Joe (right) Peacock standing against a tree (to magnify, click on the photo)

In earlier posts I have written about and shown photos of our two sons, brothers Sean and Keiron Peacock.

Seand Keiron as young men

Brothers Sean (right) and Keiron (left) Peacock in about the year 2000 (to magnify, click on the photo)

Now this week I am publishing a follow-up mini-post about younger Peacock brothers: Ben and Levi. It is a press release written by their father Keiron to announce the boys’ success in this year’s Oklahoma youth deer hunt. It is hoped that the press release will be published in the local newspaper, the Sapulpa Daily Herald.

 Peacock Boys Take Deer in Oklahoma’s Youth Season

 By Keiron Peacock

Two young Northeast Oklahoma hunters from Sapulpa, Ben and Levi Peacock, are off to a great start this deer season.

Ben Peacock (age 10) took the first deer of his life on the opening day of Oklahoma’s youth rifle season. Youth season ran from October 19 through 21, 2012, this year. Ben took the deer, a young seven-point buck, on private land in Okfuskee County with an amazing 131-yard shot. Ben was firing a Ruger American Rifle in .243 caliber. The buck field dressed at 100 pounds.

Ben with his first deer

Ben (age 10) with his first deer (to magnify, click on the photo)

Two days later, his brother Levi Peacock (age 12) took a 90-pound doe, field dressed, with a Howa .308. Levi was hunting on the same land and took his deer with a 73-yard shot. It was Levi’s fifth deer in his young life.

Levi with his fifth deer

Levi (age 12) with his fifth deer (to magnify, click on the photo)

The boys’ father, Keiron Peacock, said that he could not be any more proud of his boys and the shooting skills they have developed in a short period of time.

The boys have an exciting year yet to come. They have both been drawn for a special youth hunt in Okmulgee WMA (Wildlife Management Area), in which they are allowed to take two deer. They also both plan to hunt with their father in Oklahoma’s regular rifle season, which runs from November 17 through December 2, 2012, as well as participate in the special antlerless season during the Christmas holidays.

Note: Below is a photo of Ben and Levi’s father Keiron dressing a deer from an earlier season. Keiron is using the same block and tackle that his grandfather Arthur and his two uncles Adrian and Joe used to dress cattle on their family ranch in Selma, Arkansas, in the 1940s and 50s. I mentioned this fact in my previous post titled “My Two Brothers: A Humorous Pair.”

Keiron, boys, and block and tackle

Keiron, with his sons Levi and Ben, and a deer hanging on the old 1940s and 50s cattle block and tackle (to magnify, click on the photo from a few years ago)

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“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”
—Psalm 133:1 KJV

“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”
—Proverbs 17:22 KJV

In this post I celebrate the birthdays of my two brothers, Adrian and Joe, who were born on the same date exactly one year apart. Adrian was born on October 20, 1930, and Joe was born on October 20, 1931, in rural Selma, Arkansas, where I was born later, on November 23, 1938.

Adrian in later life

Adrian in later life (to magnify, click on the photo)

Joe in middle age

Joe in middle age (to magnify, click on the photo)

It seems that mine was an unplanned birth, seven and eight years after the births of Adrian and Joe. When it became evident that I was indeed going to make my appearance, Mama began to prepare my brothers for my arrival.

One thing she did was tell them that she was ordering me from a Sears and Roebuck catalog. Not the one in the outdoor toilet that was used for personal hygiene, but the latest issue (no pun intended) from which many of our other “store-bought” items were purchased. Since Mama figured that I would probably be little and scrawny, she told the boys to pick out the smallest and least attractive infant in the baby items section of the catalog, “’cause if we don’t take him, nobody else will.”

The amusing part is what Adrian and Joe did when I was born in that farmhouse in Selma on the night before Thanksgiving in 1938. As friends, relatives, and neighbors began to drop by to view the newly arrived “bundle from heaven” (actually Sears), the boys would run into Mama’s bedroom and bring out the baby items Mama had also ordered for me. Showing them off, they would proudly exclaim, “And just look what they sent with him!”

Daddy and Me as a Baby

Daddy sitting on the backyard fence and holding me as a baby with Old Shep in front (to magnify, click on the photo)

I find it amazing today that in a cattleman’s family which, as Mama often said, “bred cows at the supper table,” boys seven and eight years old did not know where babies came from. But that was a simpler, more innocent era and area.

Adrian and Joe as Boys on Fence

Adrian and Joe on the fence with Old Shep in front at about the time of my birth in 1938 (to magnify, click on the photo)

But I digress. Back to my brothers and their births. Mama often said that when Joe was born, Adrian, who was exactly a year old, regressed to Joe’s age so that she ended up with two infants instead of one. As an example, I recall her telling how she and my father once tried to take the boys, both on bottles, to a movie, a rare treat for Mama in those hectic days. Unfortunately, Daddy had stuck each of the bottles in a back pocket of his pants. When he sat down in the theater seat and scrunched down to get relaxed, the tops of the bottles were forced off, sending warm milk all down his pants legs. The long ride back home from McGehee to Selma over that rutted gravel road in the dark of night was miserable enough without both babies screaming for milk at the top of their lungs the whole way.

As the two boys grew older they became more and more alike in many ways. The result was a lifelong sibling rivalry. That rivalry was most evident in their devotion to Daddy and their determination to be just like him—especially in his work as a livestock dealer. Both of them began following Daddy from the time they could walk and were inseparable from him, learning “the cow bidniss” from him and emulating him in everything from riding horses to roping and branding calves to slaughtering cattle down under a huge oak tree behind our house.

Adrian and Joe with Daddy on Truck

Adrian and Joe with Daddy on his truck surrounded by hogs though Daddy usually traded in cattle (to magnify, click on the photo made in February 1937 before my birth in November 1938)

One of my earliest memories is watching them as they killed cattle by shooting them right between the eyes with a 22-caliber rifle, causing the poor beasts to hit the ground with a thud almost simultaneous with the sound of the shot. I also recall the piles of dried cow skulls around the slaughter tree, each with a neat little round hole between the eyes.

I also recall accompanying Daddy and my brothers as they delivered meat to the stores in McGehee. Since it was during WWII and meat was rationed, I remember seeing the customers lined up at the front of the stores, ration books in hand, as my family carried the meat in the back door. (To read more about Daddy and our life in Selma, see my earlier posts titled “The Way We Were,” “Yo Recuerdo (I Remember),” and “My Father’s Brand and Seal.”)

Peacock Family in Selma

Our family (left to right: Adrian, Joe, Daddy, Mama, and me) in front of our house in Selma in the 1940s during one of the rare Southeast Arkansas snowfalls (to magnify, click on the photo)

However, as noted in an earlier post titled “My Favorite Childhood Books,” I differed from my two brothers not only in age, but also in interests. I was more of a Mama’s boy who had rather stay home and help Mama do housework than to go with Daddy and work with cattle—especially buying and selling cattle. To me, working with stubborn ornery cattle was messy and tiring, and buying and selling them was boring and tedious.

Adrian and Joe and Me as a Child

Adrian (left) and Joe (right) with me (in the center) when I was about three years old and they were in elementary school in Selma (to magnify, click on the photo)

Not so for Adrian and Joe. They loved to go with Daddy and learn what he called “horsetradin’.” (Note this term as used later in this post by my brother Adrian to describe his business.) Each of them spent most of their adult lives engaged in some type of buying and selling. Joe died in North Little Rock on March 24, 2004, and Adrian died in Helena on November 27, 2010.

Amusing Memories of Joe and Adrian

There are many, many memories of the years my brothers and I spent together, but in this post I want to focus on the humor in their personalities and lives.

In an earlier post titled “Reader’s Digest-Type Humorous Anecdotes” I recounted an amusing anecdote about my brother Joe during his service in the Arkansas National Guard back in the 1950s and 60s.

To read that jewel of military comedy, click here.

In addition, I recall the time in Selma when Joe, just a boy, was writing on the blackboard in the country school. He was so timid that he could not bring himself to ask the teacher if he could be excused to run to the outdoor toilet. Instead, he just tried to “hold it” until recess. This time, however, the urge to relieve himself was just too strong, so Joe just continued to write on the blackboard as he peed in his overalls. Despite the squeals of laughter from the other kids, Joe, the back of his neck beet-red, just went right on writing while urine ran down his pants leg and formed a nice little puddle at his feet.

Adrian and Joe and House

Adrian and Joe as boys in front of the shotgun type house in which each was born in 1930 and 1931 (to magnify, click on the photo)

On another occasion in that same country schoolhouse, Joe and another boy had done something wrong. Their punishment was to stay after school and fill the wood box for the heater. This task involved taking a little red wagon and walking out to the woodpile, filling the wagon with a few pieces of the heavy wood, and then transporting the fuel back to the school. There, Joe stood on the ground outside an open window and handed the wood up to the other boy who took each piece from him and stacked it in the wood box in the classroom.

As Joe handed up each piece of wood he was complaining about the injustice of the punishment and calling the teacher all kinds of impolite names, saying how mean and cruel and unfair she was. What he didn’t know was that the other boy on the inside was telling the teacher everything that Joe was saying. When confronted by the teacher who asked him what he had been saying, Joe was too embarrassed to even look up, much less to recount his misdeeds. The teacher, knowing how timid he was, let him go with a verbal lesson about the proper respect to be paid to his elders.

On that subject, Mama had always warned Joe and Adrian (just as she did me years later) that under no circumstances were they to go anywhere near the “branch” that ran between our house and the Selma Methodist Church and the general store. However, disregarding her admonitions, on the way home from school one day Joe accepted a challenge to ride his bicycle across the branch on a “stackin’ strip,” a two-by-two-inch board used to separate planks in a pile of lumber at the sawmill.

Selma Methodist Church Rear View

A rear view of the Selma Methodist Church in the summer of 1984 with livestock and cattle egrets (to magnify the photo provided by our Selma cousin Hal Gibson, click on the photo)

Of course, any thinking person could foretell what was going to happen. Sure enough, as soon as Joe’s bicycle tires began to roll out over the branch, the “stackin’ strip” turned over, and Joe and his bicycle tumbled into the muddy water.

On the way to the house, Joe stopped off at the peach tree, snapped off a small limb, and carried it to the back door where he called out for Mama.

When she came out on the back porch, Joe looked up in what Mama often called “shame-faced” remorse and regret, and with huge crocodile tears streaming down his dirty face, snubbed and sniffed to Mama, “I rode my bicycle off into the branch, so here’s a switch. I reckon you’re just gonna have to switch me.”

Mama later said that she was so moved by Joe’s contrition and his bedraggled appearance that she just didn’t have the heart to switch him. So, like the kind teacher, she let him off with a word of caution about the consequences of disobeying his elders.

As he got older Joe outgrew his timidity and, like Adrian, became quite outgoing and convivial, loving to entertain others with his wit and humor, a trait that I believe I may have also inherited to some minor degree from our grandmother Simmie. (To read about Simeon Sumrall Peacock and her tale-telling and sense of humor, see my earlier post titled “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”)

Adrian and Joe as teenagers

Adrian (right) and Joe (left) as teenagers standing in front of the house in Selma in which I was born in 1938 (to magnify, click on the photo)

Adrian and Joe with Daddy and Simmie

Adrian and Joe with Daddy and Grandma Simmie before my birth (to magnify, click on the photo)

In his eulogy for Joe, his son Perrin Peacock recalled:

“My father loved many and was loved by many.

“He was a lovable man. We think of him fondly, recalling how lovable he was. He was such a character, my dad. But he was so loved I think because he was so giving of himself. He was also willing to show his own inefficiencies and shortcomings—to reveal that he was very human. People loved my dad because he gave of himself to others.

“Never was that so apparent as now, when folks have come up to my sister Desha and me to tell us how much they loved him. They have told us how much he did for them and why he made them feel special. He had that gift—the gift of making others feel special.

“Joe Peacock loved to laugh, joke, and have a fantastic time. He liked to talk on the phone. He liked to talk face to face. He just liked to talk. He was extremely giving. He could motivate anyone in all kinds of circumstances. His optimism was contagious. He was very strong-willed. He loved his family and he loved his many, many friends.

Joe Family at Easter

Joe and his family at Easter (to magnify, click on the photo)

“Desha and I never doubted that he loved us and would do anything for us. We are very thankful for that. In this life, you can do without a lot of things. You can do without money, you can do without material possessions, you can do without status or fame or physical comfort. But it’s hard to do without love. My dad always had an abundance of love to give. And if I had to choose one of his many attributes to highlight, I would choose his abundant love.

“Dad, we love you, and we will miss you.”

To conclude this memorable birthday salute to Adrian and Joe, here is a copy of an article about Adrian that appeared in the East Arkansas-North Mississippi edition of a Memphis newspaper back on August 28, 1978. I think you will see the humor in it also.

 “Peacock Parlays Country Roots, Humor Into Business Success”

By LINDA ROSS ALDY
From: The Commercial Appeal
Arkansas Edition
Northwest Miss. Bureau 

WEST HELENA, Ark.—Adrian Peacock is a mixture of Hee Haw’s Junior Samples and Jerry Clower with Sample’s voice and Clower’s humor. [For more about country comedians Junior Samples and Jerry Clower, popular at the time of this writing, click here and here.]

He sells boats, motors, motorcycles and campers here and has a sizeable following for his five-minute radio program in Arkansas and Mississippi.

Peacock, 48, claims the radio show, in which he argues and advertises with the disk jockey, pulled him out of near bankruptcy, but it’s hard to tell when he is serious or being the character he has developed.

“Some feller wanted to know who my publicity agent was. I told him bankruptcy. I figured owning a couple of radio stations wasn’t gonna hurt us any worse than we were hurtin’ already,” Peacock laughed.

[Adrian’s son Johnny, who shared this clipping with me, notes about it: “There’s one typo: ‘owning a couple of radio stations’ should read ‘owing…’ He was going to owe them for the advertising (air time used during the phone calls). These were phone calls that were broadcast live every weekday morning at 9:00. At one time he was talking to two announcers from two radio stations—one was KFFA AM 1360 in Helena, and the other one might have been an FM station in Clarksdale, MS. I can’t remember. WKDJ 96.5 FM maybe; it’s the only currently listed country station, but these ads were done in 1978, so I don’t know if there have been any changes. Only the locals would know, especially those who listened to him.”]

“Most folks who just hear me and don’t know me, they come in here and say they thought I was fat, short and bald.”

Just the opposite is true. Peacock looks more like an art professor with his salt and pepper beard.

Adrian and Ann

Adrian and his wife Ann (to magnify, click on the photo)

He claims to have three personalities, one for buying, one for selling and one for getting his customers serviced.

It’s the homespun humor that is making Peacock a personality in the Mid-South.

“I don’t have no sense, I just see things and relate them to everyday life. I saw a tombstone one time that said, ‘Here lies the second fastest gun.’ That’s kind of like a salesman coming in second[,] might as well be last.”

Peacock says he is an unusual guy.

“I jumped the track, but you’re born an individual, you don’t become an individual.”

“I was born and raised in the country. I come from a town [Selma, Arkansas] with a population of 160, 100 of ’em in the cemetery and 60 of ’em living. We didn’t have no indoor plumbing and didn’t get electricity till I was 18 years old. We had high ceilings in the house and my daddy didn’t believe in wasting no money. We used 40-watt bulbs and when you pulled that strang cord, it looked like a star a-shinin’ off in the sky,” Peacock said. [For more about this subject see my earlier post titled “The Way We Were.”]

“When you picked out your cow feed that was when you picked out the color of your underwear. One reason I never learned to swim, much as I love the water, was because I didn’t want nobody to see my flour sack underwear.

“I get my horsetrading natural. I’ve seen my daddy sell my mother’s milk cow with her a-milkin’ it,” he said. [In my fifteen years as a “cowboy” with Daddy I often heard him say that everything in his life was for sale at the right price—“even the wife and kids.”]

One of his favorite stories is about his graduation from high school.

“I was valley-dick-tore-rean of my class and I had me a D-plus average. There were only three boys and me in the class. I was supposed to get a scholarship because it didn’t matter what kinda grades you had if you was valley-dick-tore-rean. I had to give the speech at graduation.

“We had graduation at the Methodist church, well, it was the Baptist church, too, on every other Sunday. [For more on this subject, see my earlier post titled “My ‘Bucket-List Trip’: The Selma Methodist Church.”] I always prided myself on my good memory and I had that speech learned. The president of the college was there and my momma was so proud, she was setting on the third pew.

Interior of Selma Methodist Church

Interior of the Selma Methodist Church where Adrian gave his graduation speech (to magnify, click on the photo)

“I had the speech in my pants pocket, you know, under that old graduating gown and I rattled off the first paragraph looking down at the floor. I figured I was so smart that I could look up and stare the people in the eye, so I did and my mind went plum blank. I said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry, but I have forgotten my speech.’

“So I reached down, clear to my ankles to get the end of that graduating gown and went under it to get the speech out of my pocket and I read every word of it. If there had been a trapdoor under that third pew, my momma would have gone through that thang.”

But with all the scatterbrain, country-boy image aside, Peacock is a smart businessman. He bought his business one morning after breakfast when he didn’t even know it was for sale. He told his wife that night in 1973 and went to work the next morning with less than 30 cents in his pocket.

His goal for the first year was to do $250,000 worth of business. He did $350,000, he said.

Peacock Pleasure Products will be awarded the Diamond Award in October by Evinrude Motors for the highest volume of sales in Eastern Arkansas and has won similar awards from some of his 17 other franchise dealers. [Since Adrian is now deceased, this business no longer exists.]

He doesn’t like hearing about self-made men.

“No man can be successful by himself. It takes the bank, his wife, his customers and his employees and luck . . . Naw, I’m gonna change that. I just told a man this morning I don’t believe in luck.”

He adds, “This is not a success story. I’m still overdrawn at the bank, but my banker, when he let me borrow this money for this business, said, ‘I’m going to let you buy this business because you’ve got two collaterals—you ain’t lazy and you don’t have a clock.’ And that’s what it takes.”

But if Peacock can’t make it selling, there might be room in the entertainment world for a man who has telephone linemen scrambling off the poles to get to a radio for his program and the entire line in a factory shutting down to listen to him every morning.

Note: A framed copy of this article was displayed beside Adrian’s coffin at his visitation and funeral, which like Joe’s, included humorous anecdotes about their lives. As mentioned, this subject of “down-home” folksy humor in our family has been touched on in some previous posts and will be visited again in some future posts.

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“Everybody needs his memories. They keep the wolf of insignificance from the door.”
—Saul Bellow

As suggested by the title and subtitle, this post is about my cousin Donald Peacock, specifically the early years of his life. It is published in commemoration of his seventy-fourth birthday.

Donald and Lucy

Donald and his wife Lucy in about 2004 (to magnify, click on the photo)

It so happens that Donald and I are of the same age. He was born in October of 1938, and I was born in November of that same year, the sons of brothers Adam and Arthur Peacock of Selma, Arkansas. Through the past seventy-four years Donald and I have been friends as well as relatives. We were particularly close during our boyhood years though I was brought up in Selma and McGehee, Arkansas, and he in Montongo and Monticello, Arkansas—twenty-five miles or more from one another.

Peacock family

The Peacock family in about 1941 (front row, left to right: Papa Tom, Grandma Simmie; Vera with Donald on her lap, Dorothy Nell, Adam; Vivian with Jimmy on her lap, Arthur; back row: Floyd Gibson, Troy Gibson, Nellie Jean Gibson, Betty Peacock Gibson; Joe and Adrian Peacock) (to magnify, click on the photo made in front of a Selma church)

However, in his memoirs of his early years it should be evident to anyone who has followed my own early life that, with some notable exceptions, his childhood and youth in SEARK was not greatly different from mine in that same geographical and cultural environment.

So here is Donald’s account of his early years as told in his own words with only slight insertions by me in brackets—primarily for the sake of the uninitiated reader—and a few long paragraphs that I shortened to fit the blog format. Most of the photographs were provided by Donald and me and Donald’s daughter Allison. Some of the photos of Florence Raines and her husband Monroe Barrett were provided by their grandson Stephen Coburn.

MY EARLY YEARS 

By

Donald Peacock, 2007

Donald at age six

Donald at age six

My mother, Vera Mae Raines, and daddy, Adam Jessie Peacock, were married December 25, 1934. [My own parents, Vivian Barrett and Arthur Peacock, were married December 25, 1927.] It was a joint ceremony with Florence Raines (her sister) and Clayton Monroe Barrett. [Monroe Barrett was one of my mother’s cousins.]

Adam and Vera

Adam and Vera Peacock

Daddy was the youngest of three children of Thomas Benjamin Peacock and Simeon Marius Sumrall. He dropped out of high school and worked a variety of jobs before marriage: blacksmith, oil fields, farming, etc. He told me that most repairs on Ford Model T cars could be taken care of at the blacksmith’s shop and sometimes required “hay wire” to complete the repair. Even with little formal education he had a wealth of practical knowledge and seemed to know all facets of automobiles, farm machinery, water pumps, etc. He was quite adept at repairs and progressive in what we needed on the farm.

Tom and Simmie Peacock 2

Tom and Simmie Peacock with their first child, daughter Betty, in the early 1900s (sons Arthur and Adam were born later; to magnify, click on the photo)

Mother was the younger of the two daughters of Samuel Joseph Raines and Jody Lee Rogers. They resided about 10 miles north of Monticello near a community called Montongo.

Samuel Raines

Samuel Joseph Raines. Vera and Florence’s father

Jodie Lee Rogers

Jodie Lee Rogers, Vera and Florence’s mother

Vera and Florence were quite different. Mother was the one who followed her daddy around and helped on his farm and was outgoing. Florence was shy and stayed in the house with her mother. In fact Florence did not want to go to school alone, so she started a year late in order for the two to go together. After high school, mother and Florence went to college in Monticello at Arkansas A & M [now the University of Arkansas at Monticello] for one summer. They both dropped out of college to start teaching school. Mother got her job at Gourd (near Selma where my daddy lived) for $50 per month and stayed at a boarding house. It was quite challenging at her age of 17 having to deal with some students bigger than she was.

Vera and Florence in 1912

Vera and Florence in 1912

Granddaddy Raines owned a fairly large farm with a new home on the highway (Highway 81 at that time). The old home was about a half mile from the highway.  When the girls got married, he gave Florence the new house and 40 acres and he gave Mother more acreage and a piano.

Florence in later years

Florence in later years

There was an understanding that Monroe who had done carpenter work would be a major contributor to building a new house for Adam and Vera. Mother did not like the fact that her mother had to move back to the old house in the woods. According to her, Granddaddy told her confidentially that he was confident that she and Daddy would be better able to get by on their own. Florence had quit her first teaching job soon after starting it. Mother never forgave Florence for taking the new house. She also claimed that Monroe’s help was marginal. It forever shaped her compulsion to treat me and my sister equally to the dollar on all gifts.

Monroe Barrett

Monroe Barrett

Our farmhouse, about a quarter mile behind Aunt Florence’s house, was built mostly by Daddy, with some help from Uncle Monroe and probably some hired or bartered help.  I do know that his daddy, Poppa Tom to me, gave him standing timber from his place near Selma.  The local sawmill in Selma cut the logs on the halves (they kept half of the boards instead of charging any fees).  The boards were hauled by wagon to the building site.

Daddy did not want a fireplace because too much of the heat went up the chimney.  He built a brick flue in the center of the house so wood burning stoves could be installed in the living room as well as one of the bedrooms.

The house had a tin roof, and he captured the runoff from rain in steel cistern tanks on each side of the house. From one tank a pipe and faucet ran into the kitchen sink, but was not used for drinking water. That was the entire plumbing in the house.

I know there was some phasing of the construction as some was completed after I was a toddler. The bathroom and sleeping porch were last to be added. There was no electrical service available at that time, but Daddy bought a Delco brand generator and installed a few car batteries to operate a few lights and a DC refrigerator. The generator had to be run every day by manually starting it. Prior to this, milk or some perishable food was kept in a bucket submerged in the well during the summer.

My sister, Dorothy Nell, was born on January 30, 1936, and I was born on October 12, 1938. Mother was afraid that Dorothy Nell was too frail and skinny and was always trying to get her to eat more. She did not have that problem with me. Unknown to Mother, she developed diabetes during her pregnancy with me. I was born about a month late and weighed 12 pounds and 4 ounces. The doctor broke my right arm between the shoulder and elbow by pulling on me. Mother bled profusely and remained in bed for several days. My arm was taped to my chest to heal.

Joe, Adrian, and Dorothy Nell

Dorothy Nell with cousins Joe and Adrian about the time of the births of Donald and Jimmy (to magnify, click on the photo)

That October was unusually hot, and mother said that I had a lot of heat rash. I started walking at 7 months and apparently got in everything such as climbing on top of the upright piano and eating baking powder or flour. Mother grabbed me by my ankles and spanked my back to dislodge the powder and get me to breathing. She was always afraid I would develop diabetes and did her best to keep me away from sweets, even letting Dorothy Nell have candy while hidden behind a door. Throughout my early adult life she would remind me to get my blood sugar checked once a year.

In September of 1939, Florence gave birth to her only child, Nan. I grew up closer to Nan than to my sister due to our ages and interests. Granddaddy Raines who was born in 1870 was fairly elderly by the time I can remember him. He had one glass eye and always used a cane. His old house was about a quarter mile from ours, and he visited every day. We had a radio, and he listened every day at 5:00 pm to get the news of World War II.

Nan Barrett in 1955

Nan Barrett in 1955 (to magnify, click on the photo)

I heard a lot of his tales from his past. Frequently Nan and I would both sit in his lap and ask for a repeat of some story he had told many times. It was like replaying your favorite video or DVD. Some were not politically correct by today standards as he had played practical jokes on uneducated black workers.

One story I remember well took several days to set up. He kept telling the workers about an escaped crazy woman that was killing people. Every day or so he would mention that she had been spotted coming toward this area from another community. Then he talked one field hand into bringing his friend down a trail through the woods. Meanwhile he had dressed up in some of Grandmother’s clothes and had a big knife (shades of the “Psycho” movie including the bonnet). He thought it was the most funny that the man who knew about the joke ran faster than the other one when Granddaddy jumped out from a tree.

He also told us about walking alongside a covered wagon when he was 13 as his family immigrated from one of the Carolinas to Arkansas. He once dated two girls at the same time, and one wanted him to shave his mustache.

As a joke he shaved one side.

Granddaddy and his brothers and cousins competed in physical feats such as running, jumping, and probably wrestling. He claimed to be the only one who could high jump his height of approximately 5 feet 8 or 9 inches. When they were in Monticello, they would go by the cotton gin and see who could register the most weight on the scales by pulling on some of the balance beams.

When Granddaddy found out that his eye had to be removed by a surgeon in Little Rock, Daddy only had a pickup truck. Since a car was needed to have the space for all occupants to make the 90-mile trip, a deal was made with Mother’s first cousin, Bill Henry. Daddy could swap vehicles but would change all the tires from his truck to the car for the trip. Rubber was rationed and tires did not last nearly as long as they do now.

Grandmother Raines did just about all the chores at their house including the garden. She was some 18 or 20 years younger than Granddaddy and was in good health except for an occasional migraine headache. She was usually very quiet, but I can remember being told repeatedly, “Don’t slam the screen door!”

Of course I had a closer relationship with my maternal grandparents since Daddy’s family lived in Selma. All their kids and grandkids called them “Momma” and “Poppa,” except Dorothy Nell and me. Mother taught us to say, “Momma Simmie” and “Poppa Tom. ” I suppose it was because we were grandchildren instead of sons and daughters. Speaking of names, Daddy’s birth certificate or family Bible showed his middle name as “Jessie,” but Mother told him that was the feminine spelling and got him to use “Jesse” instead. There were many Jesses in Peacock history, but apparently the person writing in the Bible didn’t know the different gender spelling.

Tom and Simmie Peacock

Tom and Simmie Peacock in later life (to magnify, click on the photo)

We visited Selma at least once per month, and Momma Simmie would cook a big dinner. Back then we had breakfast, dinner, and supper. For many years after growing up, I wasn’t sure if someone mentioning dinner was talking of a noon or evening meal. One of Mama Simmie’s quotes was, “It doesn’t do any good to cook up a big bunch of food. It just gets eaten right away.”

Poppa Tom mostly just sat on the front porch in a wooden rocking chair. He had facial characteristics of an American Indian. Supposedly some Indian woman was in his lineage, but I never got the details. He even slept there some and insisted that he never closed his eyes many nights.

I would play with my cousins, mainly Jimmy Peacock. Lumber from the Selma sawmill was stacked to dry right across from Poppa Tom’s house. Sometimes we would play there. I remember Jimmy telling me about Superman as I had never seen the comic book. [Superman comics appeared in 1938, the year Donald and I were born.] Poppa Tom’s oldest grandchild, Floyd Gibson, did a lot of chores and took care of his farm. Daddy told me that as a child he frequently would go to sleep on the bench at the dining table after supper. Once after being warned several times, he was left on the bench to spend the night.

Me about age nine

Jimmy Peacock at about age nine (to magnify, click on the photo)

Gibson Family

Floyd Gibson (front left, and his family: sister Nellie Jean, brother Troy, father Ray, and mother Betty Peacock Gibson; to magnify, click on the photo)

Daddy was farming and running cows about the time I came along. He purchased some more land from Granddaddy, and I think some from others who had moved away. We always had a large garden, and I hated helping Mother pull out Bermuda grass and shake off the dirt from the roots before throwing it over the fence. Daddy always had a patch of tomatoes and sometimes cabbage and cotton, but mostly had cattle.

He planted tomatoes in wooden flats early in the spring and kept them in a cold frame until the weather was warm. The cold frame had a cover of canvas which could be pulled back in the day and then covered with pine straw at night if it was too cold. One year after the tomatoes were harvested the cows got into the patch and ate the tops off the vines. After a rainy late summer, the plants made a nice fall crop.

Also next to our house was 5 acres of Alberta peaches. The orchard required a lot of work, pruning, thinning, poisoning, picking, wrapping the mature but not ripe peaches in bushel baskets. Tomatoes were also sold as “green wraps,” and trucks would come to our house to pick them up in bushel baskets with lids attached.

Daddy made a tool out of a broom handle stuck in a large rubber hose. When the trees were too loaded in small peaches, we would beat the limbs with the hose to knock off some peaches to make sure the ones left would grow to a large size. One year we had a hailstorm that knocked off a lot of peaches just as they were about ready to pick. We gathered them and washed them in galvanized tubs.

Speaking of galvanized tubs, Dorothy and I would fill one with a little water in the summer and place it outside in the sun. This was our warm bath water and prevented the house from getting so hot by firing up the wood cook stove.

Donald and Dorothy Nell

Dorothy Nell and Donald as kids in the country (to magnify, click on the photo)

Daddy had a black family of sharecroppers living in an old house on one of the properties. O. G. Brazil was the man, and Noreen was his common-law wife. O. G. did the hard work such as splitting posts and firewood as well as plowing with a mule.

Later on we got a Ford Ferguson tractor (used I’m sure). I enjoyed talking with O. G., especially if it was raining and he couldn’t work. We would stand under one of the sheds watching it rain. I’m not sure what the financial arrangement was with O. G., but Daddy had to be careful not to pay him all his share at one time. Once he went to town and gambled it away in a crap game. O. G. could read and write, but I don’t think Noreen could. Mother would pass along our outgrown clothes for their kids.

Sometime during the 40’s we got electricity from the Rural Electrical Association which I assume was a part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal. [See my story of getting electricity in my Selma home in 1947 as described in my earlier post titled “The Way We Were.”]

The well in the back yard was filled in, and Daddy installed a water pump in the yard to pump water in the kitchen. There was a long suction pipe from a spring up the hill on the south side of the house.

Even though we lived in the sticks at the end of a dirt road, had an outhouse and very little cash, we did not consider ourselves poor or deprived. Our cousins and neighbors had a similar lifestyle. There was always plenty to eat, and our needs were simple. Mother saved the flour and feed sacks that were designed for making clothes after the contents were gone. We also had store-bought clothes as well as hand-me-downs from relatives that were older. Much of our shopping was done through the Sears and Roebuck Catalog. When I wore out the elbow on a long-sleeved shirt, it became a short-sleeve shirt for summer. Similarly long pants to short pants.

Donald and Friend and dog

Donald and childhood friend and dog on the family farm (to magnify, click on the photo)

For entertainment we had cards, dominos, and jigsaw puzzles. Mother was particularly impressed that I at a very young age could put together the adult puzzles. Dorothy Nell played with dolls or read books, and I checked every cow, hog, horse, and watermelon and played with the dogs. Nan got a horse for Christmas one year, and we rode it together. I can remember the blister on my butt from sitting on the back edge of the saddle.

We probably made it to the movies about once a calendar quarter. There was always the war news, a cartoon, coming attractions, and then the feature. [See my reference to this subject of movies in my earlier post “The Way We Were.”] Nan and I then would play the main characters such as the war pilots who crashed behind enemy lines. We would eat unwashed radishes or onions out of the garden to stay alive in those dire circumstances and live in her tree house that Uncle Monroe built in a large crepe myrtle.

Nan and I occasionally got into trouble, and I recall one switching from Aunt Florence. Whereas my mother used a slender shoot (small limb) from a peach tree for any switching, Aunt Florence used a grass tassel to switch our legs. I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing, but Nan cried.

Nell, Florence, and Nan in Hot Springs

Florence (center), her daughter Nan (right), and Nellie Jean Gibson (left) in Hot Springs in about 1955 (to magnify, click on the photo)

I started my home schooling at an early age. Apparently after Dorothy Nell started school at Montongo, she would share her lessons with me. I’m sure Mother arranged this and also taught me. By age five, I could read children’s books and do some writing such as signing my name. It irritated Mother when the librarian in Monticello would not let me sign for my own books. She had a rule that you had to be at least 7 years old to check out your own books.

In the fall of 1943, Mother had an opportunity to join her cousin by marriage, Bessie Raines, as the second teacher at Montongo School, and I went along to be in the first grade. The school house consisted of one large room with a removable partition to provide two classrooms. In the entrance were two cloak rooms for our coats and lunches. Heat was provided with wooden stoves and air conditioning with open windows. Cousin Bessie, as I was taught to call her, had the first four grades, and Mother had the fifth through eighth grades.  After graduating from Montongo, a student would attend either Monticello or Drew Central, the county school. My classroom had the only stage which was used for school programs with the partition pushed back. Each grade sat in their row of desks and a long bench was at the front of the class. One class at a time went to the bench for personalized instruction.

Vera during teaching years

Vera during teaching years

Of course recess was our favorite activity, and during lunch break we played “work up” softball, because there usually were not enough participants to have two teams. There was wild garlic in the ball field, and you didn’t want to slide just anywhere. Also it was most fun to be selected as the one to go outside during class and clean the erasers. The erasers collected so much chalk dust after a while that a lucky student would get to bang them on a rock or side of the building to knock out the dust.

One year the students got to plant pine seedlings in a hillside next to the highway. I think it was a program to control erosion, but whatever, we were glad to spend a couple of days outside. Another time, I got into the biggest trouble of my childhood. During lunch break, we could cross the highway and purchase items from a mom-and-pop-type store. The Montongo area actually had two roadside stores in sight of one another. One was called “The Loop” after the light rail loop in Chicago. I guess the owner had lived in Chicago. (Back to the crime) I followed the lead of some older students and stole a banana. My cousin, Paul Henry, told my sister who told my mother. I got my worst whipping when we got home and later had to apologize and pay for the banana. As far as I remember no one else was caught and punished. Bananas are still my favorite fruit.

In addition to the annual Christmas program, we had a Mulligan Stew party in the fall, probably on Halloween. A black pot was placed on an open fire and every family brought some food such as vegetables or meat to make the stew. The stew was cooked until the meat fell off the bone. I liked it okay, but I remember the stringy bits of squirrel meat in my bowl. At one of the Christmas programs, I got to participate before I was going to school. I quoted a nursery rhyme about Little Jack Horner while dressed in riding pants like Teddy Roosevelt wore.  Later that night as I was going to bed in my longhandle underwear, Daddy teased me about going on stage in my underwear, and I started crying. Mother reassured me that I was indeed dressed and gave Daddy a hard time.

He loved to joke with kids and repeated numerous little ditties, such as my name is “George Wonkcom, shoe nonkcom, short name, and speakit quick” or “go to Guinea and holler papah rak.” The first was in response to a child who asked his name, and the second was a mild version of where to go. In case you didn’t get it, guinea hens squawked something like “papah rak, papah rak.” In response to “how are you doing,”  he would say, “fine as frog hair, split 16 ways and sanded down.”  He considered that finer than “fine as hen’s teeth.”

Donald and Adam in Hot Springs

Donald and Adam in Hot Springs (to magnify, click on the photo)

By the end of the first semester of school, Mother with Cousin Bessie’s blessing decided that I fit in better with the second-grade students, since none of them came to school so learned as I. So, there I was at six years old in the second grade with the much older kids. Although Mother never regretted this move, I ran into difficulties in social life and athletics in high school. So I turned my efforts toward scholarship, avoiding fights, and joining the band.

We went to church at Mount Zion Presbyterian Church, which was located a couple of miles north near Relfs Bluff. It was a small white frame building with a cemetery behind it. However, Mother’s deceased family members were buried at Camp Ground Church (not sure of denomination) located a couple of miles south of our place. The women and children went into the church on arrival, but the men stood on the front steps until after the singing started. I still remember seeing the neck size of 17 on the white shirt of one fat man standing on the steps. The size was printed very low on the shirt, but he was fat enough for that part of the shirt to show.

One summer during Bible School, we made wooden hymnal holders which were attached to the backs of the pews. At about the age of 9, following Mother’s prompting, I went to the front to be confirmed. Worship services were very simple with a goodly amount of singing. There were no icons, stained windows, robes, etc. We did however have cardboard fans with wooden handles to fan our faces in the summer. [See my earlier post titled  “Thank God, I’m a Country Boy.”]

Both Daddy and Uncle Monroe got jobs in government agencies related to agriculture. Daddy worked in Star City, which was about 10 miles north of our farm. During my early elementary school years, Uncle Monroe got a job in Hampton, Arkansas, and the whole family moved there. Of course, I missed my closest playmate.

Donald and Lee Gibson

Donald and cousin Lee Gibson in about 1948 before Donald moved to town (to magnify, click on the photo)

About 1947, Daddy bought a very large corner lot in Monticello on West College Avenue.

Grandmother and Granddaddy Raines moved into the house. It was configured as a duplex with each side consisting of two large rooms plus bath. There was an entry hall and back door hall. They initially rented out one side. Also Aunt Florence lived there for a while after Uncle Monroe died. Later she moved into the Baptist Home for Children as a house mother. [After the death of my father Arthur, in her later years my mother Vivian Peacock also worked at the Baptist Home for Children with Florence where Mama died in 1973.] Also Nan lived there part of the time that her husband Doug Coburn was in the Air Force.

I’m not sure of the sequences of events, but Mother got a job teaching in Monticello, we moved in town in 1948 [the same year that my family moved to McGehee from Selma], and Montongo School closed. Most of the students transferred to Drew Central.

Ever the one to get a bargain, Daddy bought a military-style barrack and had it moved adjacent to my grandparents in town.  (I drove by the site in 2005 and both houses had been replaced, but the original farm house Daddy built and later moved on the lot was still in use). After build outs, it was a three bedroom, one bath house with asbestos siding and a carport. I think it had been part of a confinement camp for European POW’s or possibility Japanese Americans.

There had been more than one of these camps in the surrounding area. After the war and release of the occupants, the one closest to Monticello was turned into a county fairground. While still at Montongo, I was in the 4-H Club and took a calf to the county fair at an early age. I didn’t win any prizes, but I can remember dumping the sawdust out of my new cowboy boots and finding out I had forgotten to wear socks.

Montongo had a much briefer school year than Monticello, so Mother took a teaching job at Monticello Elementary for a few weeks after Montongo finished. I attended the last of fifth grade there to have a place to go while she was at work. I did not like many vegetables, especially spinach, but to get the Dixie cup of ice cream, you had to complete your cafeteria lunch. Somehow I would spread it around on my plate or talk someone into eating part of it in order to get that dessert. Once I was reprimanded for giggling when Mrs. Canter was talking about breeding horses. Another time I got in trouble for going down the stairs three steps at a time.

We were still living at the farm during some or most of the sixth grade, and I had a friend from school spend the night at the farm. His name was Sonny (Zach McClendon, Jr.) and he was a born naturalist. I got to show him our animals and all the bird nests I had spotted. He had collections of butterflies and bird eggs and was already stuffing birds. Once he accidentally left a candidate for stuffing in his desk over the weekend. An aroma awaited us on Monday. Sonny’s dad owned the cotton gin and probably other enterprises. It was quite a change for me to spend the night at his house. It was the first time I had ever had soup for breakfast. When he asked his mom for a clean shirt, she told him which drawer to get one. He opened it and selected one of several brand new shirts still folded with pins in them.

My first schoolyard girl friend at Monticello was Laura Lee Stephenson, a cute blonde. Her dad owned the local funeral parlor. The only picture I had to give her was a snapshot of me with my calf’s rear end most prominently displayed in the photo. She later told that her daddy asked which one was me. These classmates were way ahead of me in worldly ways. She admitted to changing out the salt and sugar at home for April Fool’s Day. Then on Valentine’s Day, she gave me a chocolate heart. Shucks, I didn’t even think of a gift, much less be able to buy one.

Donald as Teen

Donald in 1948 about the time he began school in Monticello (to magnify, click on the photo)

Work in progress . . . .

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Introduction

A few weeks ago the fifth-grade students in our grandson Ben’s class were assigned to do reports on different explorers of the New World. Ben happened to draw the name of Hernando de Soto, the Spanish explorer who traveled throughout the Southern portion of what is now the United States, including our home state of Arkansas.

In this post, with permission of Ben and his teacher, we present Ben’s report about this famous explorer and his travels and travails. It is interesting that I mentioned De Soto in an earlier post on this blog, titled “Arkansiana II: Pronunciation of Arkansas,” but which Ben did not consult in composing his report. (To magnify the illustrations, simply click on the images.)

De Soto Front Cover 18

Hernando de Soto

The Great Conquistador

1496/1497-1542

By

Ben Peacock

Sept. 21, 2012

Contents

The Life of Hernando de Soto
Interesting Facts about Hernando de Soto
Map of the World Showing Hernando de Soto’s Travels
Hernando de Soto’s Expedition Landing in Florida
Map of Proposed Route of the De Soto Expedition
Acrostic Poem about Hernando de Soto
Original Portrait of Hernando de Soto by Ben Peacock
Bibliography
Cartoon of Hernando and Isabella in Heaven
(added for extra credit)

The Life of Hernando de Soto

Childhood:

Hernando de Soto was born in Spain either in 1496 or 1497. He was born to a noble family but his parents were too poor to send him to school. He was educated by a rich count named Don Pedro de Avila.

Growing up he rode horses, played sports, and was a very skilled hunter. He also heard many stories about lands of gold across the seas and dreamed of exploring these places and becoming a man of great wealth.

As a young man, Hernando fell in love with Don Pedro’s daughter, Isabella. However Don Pedro became very angry and told De Soto, “My daughter will marry only a man of great wealth!” A discouraged De Soto decided to seek his fortune in the New World.

Francisco Pizarro, another explorer, was making an expedition to Peru. De Soto joined him and traveled to the rich land of the Inca Indians. In time, De Soto returned to Spain with enough gold to marry the beautiful Isabella.

De Soto and Isabella lived happily in Spain for two years. But De Soto was anxious to explore again. So he decided to sail to Florida in the New World.

The Journey:

The King and Queen of Spain made De Soto Governor of Cuba and gave him money for the trip. He and Isabella left Spain in April 1539. He had seven large ships and three smaller ships. The flagship was the San Christoval. It had a carved skull on the bow of it. All his ships were like regular ships of that time. The voyage to Cuba was exciting and fun. All members of the expedition had dreams of finding gold, silver and other riches. This party landed in Havana, Cuba, in early 1539.

Then De Soto began to get ready for the expedition to Florida and other parts of the New World.

Around the middle of May, De Soto left Havana with a fleet of nine ships. He left his wife Isabella and the lieutenant-governor in charge of the public affairs in Cuba.

He took with him an army of over 500 men and 300 horsemen dressed in shining armor. Many of them brought their dogs. They all brought their own equipment for camping and fighting. De Soto brought tons of supplies—a cannon, gunpowder, crossbows, shields, lances, armor, helmets, seeds, nails, axes, saws, 200 pigs, and many cattle.

The expedition also included many carpenters, mechanics, navigators, lords, engineers, shipbuilders, farmers, blacksmiths, herdsmen, merchants, and prospectors. He also took a number of priests, monks, holy relics, and sacramental bread and wine to make Christians of the natives they would meet.

The Discovery:

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Landing of Hernando de Soto and Men in Florida in 1539

De Soto landed in Florida in 1539. His main goal was to conquer Florida for Spain and he did. He and his men left Florida and traveled to what we know as North Carolina. From there he went to Tennessee. He was very disappointed that they found no gold. However he discovered a great wide river. He named it the Mississippi.

De Soto 2

De Soto Discovers the Mississippi River

Discovery of the Mississippi by William H. Powell (1823–1879) is a Romantic depiction of de Soto seeing the Mississippi River for the first time. It hangs in the United States Capitol rotunda.

Actually, the river was a problem to De Soto because he and his 400 men had to cross it. The river was constantly patrolled by unfriendly Indians. It took De Soto’s men about a month to build several floats and they finally crossed the Mississippi River near what is now the city of Memphis, Tennessee. They continued their travels through the present states of Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.

In his explorations, De Soto met both friendly and hostile Indians. Finally, in 1541, the expedition became the first Europeans to see the Valley of the Vapors, now called Hot Springs, Arkansas. De Soto and his men enjoyed bathing in the warm, healing waters of these springs. De Soto also claimed this area for Spain.

De Soto 3

De Soto Meets the Indians

After a hard winter the Spaniards returned to the Mississippi River. On May 2, 1542, De Soto died from a fever. To keep the natives from knowing about his death his men wrapped his body in blankets weighted with sand and sank it in the middle of the Mississippi River during the middle of the night.  He was only 45 years old.

During the long expedition all of the men experienced many hardships and pain. Diseases killed many of the men. The remaining Spaniards finally built seven boats and floated to the Gulf of Mexico. The men were so happy to be back on Spanish soil they kissed the ground.

Word of De Soto’s death reached Isabella in Cuba many months later. She had been very ill for a long while. Heartbroken, she died three days later.

De Soto 4

Like De Soto, Ben Likes Hunting and Fishing

My Opinion;

I think De Soto’s expedition was beneficial to Spain because De Soto conquered Florida and claimed it for Spain. He also discovered the Mississippi River and he claimed other areas in the New World for Spain. This made Spain a richer and stronger country.

Five Interesting Facts About Hernando de Soto

1. Walter Chrysler introduced the De Soto automobile in the summer of 1928.  This car honored the explorer Hernando de Soto.  It was made 386 years after his death.

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First De Soto Automobile in 1928

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Hood Ornament on a More Modern De Soto Auto

2.  When Hernando de Soto died, his crew wrapped his body in blankets weighted with sand and sank his body in the middle of the Mississippi River so his enemies would not know he was dead. His place of burial is only a few miles from McGehee, Arkansas, where my grandparents grew up.

De Soto 7

The Burial of De Soto in the Mississippi River

3.  When De Soto fell in love with Isabella, her father refused to let her marry a poor man. Isabella’s father became very angry with De Soto and ordered him to leave. De Soto did leave and later joined an expedition to Peru. He discovered lots of gold in Peru and returned to Spain a very rich man. By then Isabella’s father had died but De Soto and Isabella were still very much in love and they married.

De Soto 8

De Soto and Isabella

4.  This is a portrait of Hernando de Soto, a drawing of his Coat of Arms, and his signature.

De Soto

De Soto’s Portrait, Coat of Arms, and Signature

5.  Hernando de Soto was the first European to see the Mississippi River. He was on the border of what is now Tennessee. His crew crossed the river into Arkansas, close to where the town of Helena, Arkansas, is now. My great-uncle Adrian Peacock lived in Helena, Arkansas.

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De Soto Discovers the Mississippi River

De Soto 10

The Mississippi River as It Looks Today

De Soto Voyage map

Map of the World Showing De Soto’s Travels

De Soto 12

Acrostic Poem about Hernando de Soto 

He was a Spanish
Explorer who
Roamed the
New World
And was
Not afraid to face
Danger
Or hostile Indians.

Dying near the Mississippi River
Ended his mission.
So his men sank him in the water.
On went his crew
To tell the world
Of all his wonderful discoveries.

By Ben Peacock

Portrait of De Soto

Original Portrait of De Soto by Ben Peacock

Bibliography

The Story of Arkansas by Hazel Presson
Pages 46-65    Copyright Date 1963
Publisher:  Democrat Printing and Lithographing Company

The Big Arkansas Activity Book
Pages 6 and 28   Copyright Date  2001
Publisher:  Gallopade International

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia on the Internet

Other free Internet websites

De Soto Back Cover 19

Hernando and Isabella Driving a 1958 De Soto in Heaven (to magnify, click on the photo)

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