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Archive for December, 2012

 “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD.”
—Proverbs 18:22 NIV

In an earlier post I described why and how Mari and I began dating in June 1961. In another post I presented a summary of Mari’s life, including her marriage to me and the family and home she created for me. In a third post, exactly a year ago, I told about our engagement, our honeymoon, and our first weeks of married life. (To read these stories, see the earlier posts titled “The Peacock Love Story,” “Facts about Marion Williams Peacock,” and “Our Honeymoon Was No Honeymoon.”)

In this fourth and final post on the subject of Mari and our romance and marriage I conclude the series by offering some short pieces I wrote about some of our wedding anniversaries.

In the first part I present a poem I composed about the nickname “Mari” that I gave her early in our courtship. Later I had the poem framed with a photo of her in her wedding dress and presented it to her as a gift on our twentieth anniversary.

In the second part I relate several amusing and sentimental anecdotes, short oral presentations I made at the local Methodist church at the time of some of our recent wedding anniversaries.

I hope this last tribute to Mari and our marriage will be of interest to you as we celebrate our fiftieth wedding anniversary on December 27, 2012. (To hear Andy Williams sing the “Anniversary Song,” popular almost a half-century ago, click here.)

Mari 

“My most brilliant achievement was my ability to persuade my wife to marry me.”
Winston Churchill

I had the following poem printed up with a border of hearts, holly leaves, and pink poinsettias (Mari’s signature color and our wedding flowers) with a photo of Mari in her wedding gown set on the opposite side and gave it to her for our twentieth anniversary on December 27, 1982.

A few years ago on our anniversary I gave her a gold pendant with the letters M A R I spelled downward. She wears it often as a reminder to both of us—lest we forget.

Mari Wedding

Mari

Her real name is Marion, Marion Williams,
Or at least it used to be,
Now it’s Marion Peacock,
A name she got from me.

“Do you mind if I call you Mari?” I asked,
After we’d dated a little while.
“Just as long as you call me,” she purred so sweet,
With an innocent little smile.

So Mari I called her, and called her, and called her,
I did it for quite a while.
And she was always there to answer my call,
With that same little innocent smile.

So now it’s been twenty years, or soon will be,
The twenty-seventh of December.
And I’ve never forgotten to call her yet,
I make it a point to always remember.

For it’s not what we call each other that matters,
Names go out of style.
It’s the fact that we call, and call, and call,
And answer with a smile.

“Do you mind if I call you Mari?” I asked,
Oh, that’s been now quite a while.
And I’ll never stop calling her, and calling, and calling,
‘Cause I love that sweet little smile.

–Jimmy Peacock
December 8, 1982

Recent Anniversary Remembrances

 “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.”
—Joyce Hifler, Tulsa World

In our church during the Sunday morning service the congregation is invited to come forward and report any special joys. These reports are usually accompanied by a token thank offering.

Here is my report delivered on Christmas Eve, Sunday, December 24, 2007:

“My wife [the former Marion Williams] and I were married [in the First Baptist Church of McGehee, Arkansas] at Christmastime [December 27] in 1962.

Jimmy and Marion at wedding

Mari and me on our wedding day (to magnify, click on the photo)

“When I went to get the marriage license, the county clerk happened to be the father of our best man [the late Cullen Gannaway of Arkansas City], so he was going to let me have the license for nothing. But then he said, ‘No, if I do that, it won’t be any good.’ So he sold it to me for a nickel.

Mari, me, Cullen, and Mary

Mari and me and Cullen and Mary getting our marriage licenses from Cullen’s father in 1962 (to magnify, click on the photo)

“On our twentieth wedding anniversary I wrote to thank him and said, ‘I want you to know that was the best bargain I have ever had in my life!’

“So today, in memory of Mr. Edgar Gannaway, who sold me that license; in honor of my wife of forty-five years; and in thanks to God, who gave her to me—for a nickel—here are the two dollars that I should have paid for that license.”

On Sunday, November 23, 2008, I sent the following message to friends and family:

“Every Sunday as part of the service in the local Methodist church people come forward and drop a dollar into the Joy Jar and tell something good that has happened in their life that week.

“Today I went forward, put my dollar in the jar, and said to the congregation: ‘Today is my seventieth birthday. But fortunately, like John McCain, I have a trophy wife who is much younger than I am and a whole lot prettier.’

“After the service several people, mostly older men, commented on my tribute to Mari saying, ‘You’re right, she is a lot prettier than you are.'” (See my view of her below.)

Mari as I still see her

Mari as I still see her (to magnify, click on the photo)

On Sunday, December 28, 2008, I went forward, dropped a dollar in the Joy Jar, and said to the congregation:

“Yesterday Mari and I were married forty-six years—which must be some kind of Christmas miracle because Mari claims that she is only thirty-six years old!”

At Christmas time in 2009, I went forward, put a dollar in the Joy Jar, and said:

“Mari and I are about to celebrate our forty-seventh wedding anniversary. The only smart thing I ever did in my life was marryin’ Marion, and even that I can’t take credit for. Mari and my mother and God got together and worked out that whole thing. All I did was show up at the church and say ‘I do.’

Mari and Jimmy at wedding

Mari and me saying “I do” (to magnify, click on the photo)

“But I’m awfully glad I had at least enough sense to do that ‘cause not only is she much younger than I am, and much prettier than I am, she’s also much smarter than I am.

“But then y’all already knew that, right? Which means that y’all are smarter than I am too, ‘cause it took me years to figure that out, and by then it was too late – it was a done deal!

“So, you young people, be careful who you say ‘I do’ to, ‘cause you just might end up like me—happy and blessed!”

On Sunday, January 3, 2010, I sent this message to family and friends:

“Although our anniversary was last Sunday, since we didn’t have church services that day due to the weather, this morning at church I went forward, put my dollar in the Joy Jar, and said, ‘Last Sunday, December twenty-seventh, Mari and I celebrated our forty-eighth wedding anniversary. So each year on Christmas I give thanks to God for the gift of His Son and then two days later I give Him thanks for the gift of His daughter.”

On January 4, 2012, I went forward, put my dollar in the Joy Jar, and said: “Last Tuesday, December 27, 2011, Mari and I were married forty-nine years. We have agreed to hold off one more year until our fiftieth anniversary before we decide whether this marriage is going to make it or not. I say that Mari is one in a million, ’cause that’s just about the number of women who would ever marry me!”

On December 23, 2012, I went forward, put a dollar in the Joy Jar and said: “Last year at this time I said that Mari and I had been married forty-nine years and that we were giving the marriage one more year to see if it worked out. Well, it has now lasted fifty years so we have decided we may as well wait to see if it lasts another fifty years.”

Marion and Jimmy in church photo

Mari and me after fifty years of marriage (Mari is the pretty one on the left who looks like Liz Taylor’s younger blonde sister; I’m the handsome one on the right who looks like Alan Alda of the old M*A*S*H TV show — note that we both wear glasses! To magnify, click on the photo)

For a final remembrance of our romance and marriage, listen to a song titled “Turn Back the Hands of Time” sung by Eddie Fisher which expresses my sentiments on the occasion of our fiftieth wedding anniversary.

PS Recently Mari and I attended one of our grandson Ben’s elementary school basketball games. As we were leaving, since I have both eyesight and balance problems, Mari was holding my arm to guide me and steady me. Just then I heard one of the referees ask me, “Sir, are you sure you are authorized to have a ‘cutie’ on your arm?” I sure hope so, ‘cause she has been there for fifty years, and I plan for her to be there for another fifty years—God willing!

Mari, Jimmy, Peacocks

Mari and me leaving the church after our wedding on December 27, 1962, with Mari holding my arm — fifty years ago! (to magnify, click on photo)

Mari as a "cutie"!

Mari as a “cutie”!

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Introduction

“One thing I have always admired about the Episcopal Church is that it not only keeps Christ in Christmas, it also keeps the Mass in Christmas. I also admire the fact that being Anglicans, its parishioners know how to conduct themselves in the Presence of Royalty.”
—Jimmy Peacock

In an earlier post titled “A Summary of My Personal Spirituality and Pilgrimage” I described in detail how after more than forty years I was led with Mari from the Southern Baptist denomination of our childhood and young adulthood to the Episcopal Church in our middle age.

Selma Baptist Church

Selma (Arkansas) Baptist Church which I attended as a child and whose pastor was my grandfather Rev. Willis Barrett (to magnify, click on the photo)

McGehee First Baptist Church

McGehee (Arkansas) First Baptist Church which Mari and I attended as youths and where we were married in 1962 (to magnify, click on the photo from McGehee Centennial 1906-2006)

In fact, after attending Southern Baptist churches for decades, graduating from Ouachita Baptist College, teaching in Baptist junior colleges, and doing volunteer work as houseparents in the Arkansas Baptist Home for Children, in January 1986 we were confirmed in downtown Trinity Episcopal Church in Tulsa.

Trinity Episcopal Church Tulsa Exterior

Exterior of Trinity Episcopal Church in Tulsa as it looked in 1986 when Mari and I were confirmed there (to magnify, click on the photo from Behold the Glory: The Iconography of Grace)

Trinity Episcopal Church Tulsa Interior

Interior of Trinity Episcopal Church in Tulsa as it looked in 1986 when Mari and I were confirmed there (to magnify, click on the photo from Behold the Glory: The Iconography of Grace)

The reasons we made this change are many and complicated and in a way almost impossible to explain. Oversimplified, over a period of time we simply felt led to seek a more traditional, sacramental, and liturgical church and style of worship—but without giving up our lifelong evangelical heritage and foundation.

During the months that we spent studying, investigating, analyzing, and exploring this call we talked with several representatives of the Episcopal Church, including a Tulsa retired bishop, a Trinity priest, and others to whom we were directed for information and direction. One of those guides was a laywoman, a member of a charismatic Episcopal church in Tulsa

As Christmas approached, it was this Episcopal laywoman who noticed an article written by a Baptist minister in California who had published it in his church worship bulletin. She sent the article to us, and it spoke to us so clearly that it helped to confirm our growing conviction that we were indeed following what we believed to be the leadership of the Holy Spirit in our lives at that time.

Here is the text of that Christmas message by Walter Fishbaugh, then pastor of Cambridge Drive Baptist Church in Goleta, California. It was reprinted from his bulletin titled Blest. Regardless of your Christian background, affiliation, association, beliefs, or practices,we sincerely hope it speaks to you as it did to us Southern Baptists at that time more than twenty-five years ago.

Note: I have retyped the article just as it appeared in the photocopied version sent to us. The italics for emphasis were added by me.

 A Baptist Pastor Finds Refreshment
in an Episcopal Christmas Service

“Once a year I need this hour of dignity, spiritual energy and calm authenticity.”

 By Walter Fishbaugh

Christmas day finds me exhausted, totally drained, on “empty.” This happens to me every year, more or less. During the four weeks of Advent I use what resources I have to offer, trying too hard to package Christmas to make it important and believable and spiritually real to those souls in my care.

Now I not only know what is wrong with me, but also what to do about it. What I need comes from God. It takes an hour. I call it my “Episcopal fix”—the powerfully wonderful and marvelously healing televised service of Christmas worship from Washington Cathedral [our national cathedral]. This Baptist who has been trying so hard to package and present Christmas desperately needs this less-fevered perspective from a cooler and more confident tradition.

National Cathedral Exterior


Exterior of Washington National (Episcopal) Cathedral (see http://www.nationalcathedral.org/)

National Cathedral Funeral of Reagan

Interior of the National Cathedral during the funeral of Ronald Reagan (see http://www.nationalcathedral.org/)

I need to see ivory candles thrust high in bold assertion by strong young men in white robes processing the great aisle. I need to hear those lay readers speak the ancient texts with such understanding and dignity that the words become indeed Word. I need the shrill voices of the choirboys whose choral praise entwines with the rich tonalities of a great organ into the lofty stone archways to resonate off the vaulted cornices and mortices, creating echoes of endlessness if not eternity.

I need to watch and hear the quietly sure clergy speaking from an ancient liturgy that carries the conviction of the ages in its calm authenticity—words and cadences so refined by the centuries that they are able to speak not to my surface, but to my very center. I need the deep scarlet and purple windows, the bold red velvet of the poinsettias like points of fire in the dark pine greenness. I need to hear a preacher who doesn’t try nearly as hard as I do, one who can be so thoughtfully reflective from the pulpit—and in so much less time.

And, surprisingly, I need to hear a chanted prayer whose tonal regularities evoke that special wonder of the unutterably excellent Thou toward Whom our praises and petitions ascend. I need the surging return of spiritual energy that comes through high worship. Not from it, but through it. It comes from God, the hem of whose garments we sometimes touch upon occasions of such need.

I follow Jesus in a Baptist style. I shall probably continue to do so. Most of the year it’s a good place for me to be. But on Christmas day, energy depleted, the last full measure of exertion having been spent, I turn with great gratitude to God through those who follow Jesus in the Episcopal style.

And annually I am renewed, healed, reassured, corrected. Suddenly I know Christmas does not need me. I and my displaced muscularity are not essential to it—indeed, may be offensive and hindering to it. Christmas can do very well, thank you, on its own. Within itself it carries all the God-given power and confirmation it needs.

Note: Mari and I are Baptists who discovered we needed all of this not once a year but once a week! For almost twenty years we found it in the traditional Episcopal worship services.

Now we find it in the traditional worship services of the Methodist Church of my Peacock ancestors which we joined after leaving Trinity Episcopal Church in Tulsa in order to be with our son Keiron and his family here in Sapulpa just before he was to be deployed to Afghanistan.

First Methodist Sapulpa

First United Methodist Church of Sapulpa, Oklahoma (to magnify, click on the photo)

As noted in my earlier post, “A Summary of My Personal Spirituality and Pilgrimage,” we will always love the Southern Baptist denomination of our childhood and youth, the Episcopal denomination of our middle years, and the Methodist denomination of our golden years. That’s why we always refer to ourselves as “Baptistcopalian Methodists.”

But wherever your personal spirituality and pilgrimage have taken you thus far in life, we sincerely wish you and your loved ones a joyous Merry Christmas!

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“To flee despair and light out for the territories loses the moral universe and thus makes us atoms of self, prisoners of inheritance, not free at all.”
(The same is true of being exiled in the [Indian] territories for thirty-five years!)
—Clay Lewis, Battlegrounds of Memory

In this post I continue and conclude the two-post series of select anecdotes about the thirty-five years of my “Oklahomian Exile” from my home state of Arkansas.

Specifically, I conclude my responses to attacks against Arkansas and Arkies by Okies who for some reason seem to derive great perverted pleasure from berating and belittling my beloved homeland.

So here are several final examples of my responses to such questions and statements.

“You’re Can’t Be from Arkansas
‘cause You’re Wearing Shoes!”

Mari and I attended a Lenten meeting at our church, Trinity Episcopal in Tulsa. The service was led by an Anglican nun named Sister Ellie.

During her presentation I couldn’t help noticing that Sister Ellie didn’t have any shoes on. I wondered about it, and obviously so did the rector (pastor) who asked her about it.

She explained that going barefoot was a requirement of her order, in conformity to the divine injunction to Moses to remove his footwear because of the holiness of the place on which he stood. (See Exodus 3:5.)

Immediately I realized that I finally had a response to Okies who would say to me, “You can’t be from Arkansas ‘cause you’re wearing shoes!”

“The reason I’m wearing shoes,” I now explain sadly but politely, “is because I’m no longer walking on holy ground.”

Arkansas Mountain Card

Mount Magazine, the highest point in Arkansas (to magnify, click on the photo from Jenkins Enterprises, North Little Rock, AR 501-945-2600)

By the way, during that service Sister Ellie taught on her order’s strict requirement of poverty, chastity, and exile from home.

In response to her remarks I was moved to ask: “In view of our financial situation (mine and Mari’s) and our advancing age, and our twenty years here in Oklahoma, do poverty, chastity, and exile count as virtues . . . if they are involuntary?”

In deference to her person and position, I am afraid that Sister Ellie’s response must remain confidential.

“Why Do You Arkies Talk So Funny?”

Sometimes Okies, whose accents are as varied and their erratic behavior, will chide me about my Arkansas accent—especially when I use some rural South Arkansas expression such as “ain’t.”

When they do, I am quick to remind them that one of my three folk heroes (besides Elvis Presley and Robert E. Lee), their own Will Rogers, often used “ain’t”—not only in his speech and quotes but also in his newspaper columns and other writings.

Then I also remind them of what famed Arkie baseball pitcher and sports announcer Dizzy Dean used to say when criticized for using that particular word: “There’s lotsa fokes that ain’t sayin’ ain’t that ain’t workin’!”

When I am “corrected” by an Okie for such practice, my response is: “That’s jus’ th’ way us Arkies tawk. Me ’n’ them’s got to keep some vestige of Suthrun birth and upbrangin’!”

However, occasionally I encounter an Okie who actually has enough linguistic and cultural knowledge and taste to appreciate the beauty and grace of an Arkansas accent.

One of these sophisticated Okies I met at our church in Tulsa decades ago in a program called the Episcopal Women Road Show.

In this presentation a group of ladies dress as several Old Testament women and relate their personal stories.

On that particular night the biblical women were Eve, Mrs. Noah, Sarah, and Hagar.

After their individual portrayals, the ladies each answered questions from the audience in character.

That’s when I asked “Eve”: “If you’re supposed to be from the Garden of Eden, how come you don’t have an Arkansas accent?”

She didn’t hesitate or bat an eye. She merely and meekly replied with sorrowful downcast eyes, “The loss of my accent was part of the curse of being driven from Paradise.”

I know the feeling! Except that I have made every effort for thirty-five years to make sure not to lose a bit of my native Arkansas accent. Like the Razorback caps and shirts I wear, my accent is my way of letting everyone know that I am not an Okie, I’m an Arkie—and proud of it!

(For more on this subject, see my earlier posts titled “Keep Arkansas in the Accent” and “Some Southern Stuff IV: Do You Speak Southern?”)

“Arkansas Traveler? What Is That Supposed to Mean?”

Not long ago during the sports portion of a local Tulsa TV news program, the young male “anchor” reported the final score between the Tulsa Drillers baseball team and the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.

“Naturals?” the obviously uninformed “anchor” said with a raised eyebrow. “I don’t even know what that is!”

I debated about informing him that it is a name derived from the slogan of the state of Arkansas: “The Natural State.” (To read more about the name of this team, click here.)  (To read more about the Natural State, click here.)

Arkansas Natural State

The Welcome to Arkansas: The Natural State sign that appears at every highway entrance into the state (to magnify, click on the photo from the cover of Arkansas Destinations, Fall & Winter issue)

Now in this case, who was displaying his ignorance? Or at least his laziness in not Googling the term before he “put it down” on regional television?

But ignorance of Arkansas and facts about it (often accompanied with arrogance) is not confined to young TV sports “anchors.” Following is an example from “the print media.”

Some years ago in defense of cockfighting an Okie (who shall remain anonymous) wrote a letter to the editor of the Tulsa World stating that Arkansas Travelers were not people “but are a breed of gamecock that was bred and traveled by Arkansas soldiers during the Civil War.”

Of course, I had no choice but to write the World and let its readers know that that old dog won’t hunt.

Arkansas Traveler

The original painting of the Arkansas Traveler (to magnify, click on the photo from the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture; see link in copy)

For one thing, I noted, there was at the time a famous Arkansas newspaper column called the Arkansas Traveler which had been in existence for decades and which was written by Charles Allbright, a native of my hometown of McGehee, Arkansas.

Then I went on to state that there was also the Little Rock baseball team, to say nothing of each of the two million plus blessed citizens of the Natural State—all of them Arkansas Travelers.

“It will come as a big surprise to them,” I concluded, “to learn they are all roosters!”

Note: What I didn’t have time or space to get into was the origin of the term “The Arkansas Traveler” which dates back to the 1840s. It is a famous (or perhaps infamous) bit of Arkansas folklore about a traveler on horseback who encounters a rustic Arkie sitting outside his cabin and sawing on a fiddle trying to play the popular tune of the day, also aptly called “The Arkansas Traveler.” (To hear this song played on fiddle and guitar, click here.)  (To read all about this tale and the tune, click here.) This tune should be familiar to everyone since it is almost always played to give a musical impression of rusticity, as in that famous scene from the movie Deliverance. (To hear the song as played in Deliverance, click here.)

“Just Where Is Arkansas Anyway?”

But ignorance about Arkansas is not limited to Oklahoma, of course, as we learned when we lived in South Carolina where even college teachers thought Arkansas had deserts and cactus (i.e., Arizona)! There are people right in this country who don’t even know where Arkansas is located.

One of them, believe it or not, was a former U.S. president!

Arkansas Regions

The regions of Arkansas with the state’s visitor centers (to magnify, click on the photo from Living in Arkansas magazine)

Let me explain. Some time ago in a news article about satellite dishes, there was a map showing Little Rock as one of five cities that would soon be receiving Direct Broadcast television. Two other cities were Tulsa and Albuquerque.

After viewing that map I wrote the editor of the newspaper noting:

“Mari and I wondered whether placing Tulsa in Kansas and Albuquerque in Arizona qualified the artist as a graduate of the George Bush School of Geography.”

That was George Bush Senior who once referred to his opponent Bill Clinton as the governor of a certain state “between Oklahoma and Texas.” Of course, the fact is that Arkansas lies to the east of Oklahoma and Texas and not between them!

Arkansas Geography

Political cartoon showing George Bush pointing out Arkansas “between Oklahoma and Texas” (to magnify, click on the photo of the cartoon by Vic Harville in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

Speaking of geography, I once wrote to an Arkansas newspaper about one of our return trips from “down home” in Southeast Arkansas back to Northeast Oklahoma, which I noted is “uphill all the way”:

“As we got in the car, we heard a flock of geese going over. The geese were headin’ south and we were headin’ north, which proves that we Peacocks ain’t got the sense God gave a goose.”

Neither do some other people—especially some Okies—when it comes to identifying Arkansas and Arkansas Travelers.

“Why Are Arkies So Witty?”

Just as Oklahoma has its famed humorist Will Rogers, so Arkansas has more than its share of witty and clever humorists.

In recognition of this fact, C. L. Edson once wrote:

“But wit is so common in Arkansas that it does not distinguish a man—not while he is in Arkansas. It is the tradition of the land.”

So when Okies ask me why I left Arkansas if it is so great, I say that I had to leave “‘cause ‘back down home’ ever’body’s a wit—and them who ain’t are like Okies, either half-wits or nit-wits!”

“Why Is Arkansas So Religious?”

In answer to that question,I like to tell the story I once wrote up for an Arkansas audience.

In this story, I began with a question posed to Jed Clampett of the Beverly Hillbillies by Miss Jane Hathaway: “Is it true what I heard about Jethro, that he went to Eton at an early age?”

“Oh, yes ma’am,” Jed replied proudly. “That boy went to eatin’ right off.”

For much of our lives, more than forty years in fact, like the majority of Arkies of our day Mari and I were Southern Baptists.

But later here in Oklahoma for a period of about twenty years we were active members of the Episcopal Church.

So active that I was elected by my home parish, Trinity Episcopal Church in Tulsa, to serve as a delegate to the 1999 convention of the Diocese of Oklahoma.

That convention was to be held in the lovely town of Duncan, southwest of Oklahoma City.

I couldn’t wait to write back to Arkansas and inform the good Southern Baptist folks back down home, “Guess what! Here in Oklahoma the Episcopalians are gonna go to dunkin’.”

“Why Do Arkies See Humor in Everything?”

Humor, like wit, is an integral part of the Arkie nature. Maybe it’s because our sense of humor has helped us to get through so many hardships and difficult times in the past—and to respond to so many “cute” remarks and outright insults from others.

As wonderful as it is to be Arkies and as proud as we Arkies are of our state and our heritage, to paraphrase Kermit the frog, the truth is that it’s not always easy to be an Arkie—especially when traveling, and particularly living, out of state.

In closing these two posts on the thirty-five years of my Oklahomian Exile, here is an example of the type of stories that have been told to me by often good-natured and well-meaning Okies.

This one goes like this:

An Arkie and an Okie are driving down the highway in an unfamiliar area.

Suddenly the Okie says, “I’m hongry. Pull over to that there store over yonder.”

Once inside the store he tells the clerk, “Gimme some taters ’n’ maters ’n’ nanners.”

The clerk responds, “You must be from Oklahoma.”

“How’dju know that?” the Okie asks in awe.

“Because you said ‘taters’ and ‘maters’ and ‘nanners.’”

The Okie can’t wait to get back to the car to tell the Arkie. “That fella in there knew I wuz a Okie ‘cause ‘a how I tawked.”

Amused, the Arkie decided he would try it so he told the Okie. “Pull over at the next store we come to.”

The Okie did so, and the Arkie got out, went inside, and told the clerk. “Gimme some taters ’n’ maters ’n’ nanners.”

The clerk grinned broadly. “You must be from Arkansas.”

“How’d you know that, ‘cause ‘a how I tawked?”

“No,” the clerk replied. “I knew it because this is a furniture store.”

But lest I end this fascinating Arkie-Okie linguistic and cultural treatise with a negative impression of Arkansas and Arkies, here is an amusing true story I clipped from the local Sapulpa, Oklahoma, newspaper:

“An elderly peeping tom interrupted a Sapulpa resident’s shower Tuesday, according to a police report.”

It turned out that the victim was a thirty-three-year-old man.

“He was taking a shower when he noticed his elderly female neighbor peeking at him through the bathroom window.”

The “peeking Thomas” (actually a “peeping Thomasina”) was about seventy-nine or eighty years old.

The newspaper report concluded:

“The man told police that when he yelled at his neighbor to get back out of his yard, she yelled back at him, ‘No wonder your wife divorced you!’—and fled. No arrests have been made.”

Yep, ‘ats ‘em Okies aw rite! Bless their pore ignernt hearts.

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“I moved from the Holy Land (Arkansas) to Babylon (Oklahoma) in 1977 (the year that King Elvis died, see Isaiah 6:1) to take a much-needed job in religious publishing. If ever a man put his hand to the plow looking back, it is me. I only miss home two times: night and day!”
—Jimmy Peacock 

When I found myself in “exile” in Oklahoma in 1977, thirty-five years ago, I began to write humorous and nostalgic, and sometimes poignant and sentimental, pieces about my exile, most of them with a spiritual or scriptural theme.

It was sometime during that thirty-five-year period that I began to refer to these writings in biblical terms as “My Oklahomian Exile Literature.” It is that collection of writings that I have been presenting in weekly posts on this blog.

In the next two posts I would like to share with you some more of these brief anecdotes, many of them expressions of my ongoing defense of my beloved native state of Arkansas. I hope you will enjoy this selection of some of the best of these literary missives and missiles as I continue to pour out my heart and soul in my words and writing.

In this first post I respond to some typical questions and statements from Okies about Arkansas and her people.

“If Arkansas Is So Wonderful . . .?” 

When an Okie asks me, “If Arkansas is so wonderful, why are you living in Oklahoma?” I always reply: “You call yourself a Christian, and you have never heard of foreign missions?”

(Incidentally, that statement is literally true since the job that brought me from Southeast Arkansas to Tulsa so long ago was as a French-English translator for an international Christian missionary organization.)

Then I usually add: “Oh, but Oklahoma is okay. Why it’s next to heaven!”

Arkansas Map

A topographical map of Arkansas showing the major land features such as the Ozark Mountains and the Ouachita Mountains in the north and west (upper and lower left) and the Gulf Coastal Plain and the Mississippi River Delta in the east and south (upper and lower right and center), Arkansas’ location in the U.S., and miles to different major cities (to magnify, click on the photo from Living in Arkansas magazine)

“Why Do Oklahomans Say ‘Over in Arkansas’?” 

Several years ago an Okie wrote to the editor of the Tulsa World:

“I am fascinated with the phrase ‘over in Arkansas.’ I hear it from TV weathermen and newscasters. Never ‘over’ into Texas or Kansas. What is there about Arkansas that you go ‘over into’?”

Then he went on to elaborate:

“The jet stream usually goes west to east; the Pilgrims went east to west; the Gulf air goes south to north, and the Canadian air masses go north to south. No answer here. Why do we go ‘over into Arkansas’?”

Of course, provided such an opportunity to offer a bit of enlightenment on a subject that is near and dear to my heart, I was quick to write a responding letter to the editor of the Tulsa World to answer that burning question:

“The reason Oklahomans go over into Arkansas is the same reason that the Children of Israel went over (Jordan) into the Promised Land. It is also the reason why, when we devout Arkies of the Covenant are uprooted, we tell our Okie pilgrims, ‘Thou art not far from the kingdom, over in Arkansas.’”

As far as I know, the Okie never responded to my explanation.

“Why Is Arkansas So Poor, Ignorant, and Uneducated?”

As an example of the way Okies often make disparaging remarks about Arkansas, here is what an Oklahoma newspaper columnist once wrote after spending only five months in Fort Smith:

“Arkansas is another country. I experienced none of that legendary Southern charm. I saw only a state that is mired in poverty and ignorance, with an educational standard that is next to last in the country.”

(What is both ironic and tragic is that it is Oklahoma, and not Arkansas, that now holds the distinction of being forty-ninth in education!)

Then the Okie columnist went on to write:

“Arkansas is a beautiful state. But . . . . Arkansans don’t seem to have the concern Oklahomans do for their environment. The minute I hit the Arkansas state line, I begin to miss Oklahoma.”

Arkansas Mountian Scene

An Arkansas Ozark Mountain scene in autumn (to magnify, click on the photo taken from Living in Arkansas magazine)

Again, I could not let that kind of attack against my beloved home state go unanswered, so I responded:

“That’s funny because the moment I hit the Oklahoma state line, I begin to miss Arkansas!”

Then I added: “I am reminded of an observation by Harry Ashmore, a native of South Carolina and Pulitzer Prize-winning editor of the Arkansas Gazette. ‘To the practiced ear, Arkansans, when explaining their peculiar ways to outsiders, sound as though they are accustomed to dealing with fools, but are too polite to say so.’”

So true to form, I was too much of an Arkie and a Southern Gentleman to say that I was dealing with a fool. I also refrained from stating that the person who made those disparaging statements about my native homeland was—at best—only an average Okie as indicated in a daily Bible Thought that I saw in the Tulsa World about that time:

“Dearly beloved, average not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Romans 12:19.”

So although as a Christian gentleman I could not avenge myself, I could not refrain from writing the World:

“Perhaps your version of Romans 12:19 sets forth an equally applicable principle in this age of mediocrity. I have come to adopt the point of view that when it comes to intelligence, the average person falls way below average.”

I could have added, “Especially any average Okie who has the audacity and the impudence, to say nothing of the lack of good manners, to attack an innocent geographical neighbor without cause or provocation.”

One of my endless self-quotes is that my devout Southern Baptist mother taught me to be honest and to be a gentleman. She just never taught me how to do both at the same time!

But even with those maternal constraints I do what I can to defend the honor of my sainted motherland, remembering the words of an earlier Arkie who warned: “God loves not him who loves not Arkansas!”

“In the Civil War Neither Side Wanted Arkansas!”

Here is an even more serious and despicable example of an anti-Arkansas attack from an Okie to which I felt obligated to respond on behalf of my fellow Arkies who probably never saw it in print:

Some time ago an Okie wrote a letter to the editor of theTulsa World in which he stated:

“The two Arkansas products most reported in the Oklahoma press these days are Bill Clinton in the capital and chicken manure in the Illinois River.”

He went on to quote an anecdote that appeared in Carl Sandberg’s biography of Abraham Lincoln:

“The cause of the (Civil) War in its later phases was given in a folk tale of Lincoln and Jeff Davis meeting on neutral ground and deciding the war by dividing the territory and stopping the fighting. Lincoln took the Northern states and Davis the Gulf and seaboard Southern states. Lincoln took Texas and Missouri and Davis Kentucky and Tennessee, so that all were parceled off except Arkansas.

“The leaders were said to have backed off when it came to Arkansas.

“Lincoln didn’t want it─Jeff wouldn’t have it─neither would consent to take it.

“So what happened? On that they split; and the war has been going on ever since.”

Arkansas Civil War

A brochure featuring a cover photo of a reenactment of a Civil War battle in Arkansas (to magnify, click on the photo from the Department of Arkansas Heritage)

Of course, I could not let that salacious attack on Arkansas go unchallenged. So I wrote to the editor of the Tulsa World:

“As a native Arkansan living in Oklahoma for 21 years I cannot refrain from commenting on today’s letter citing Carl Sandberg in attributing the continuation of the Civil War to an alleged dispute between Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis.

“The truth is that both Lincoln and Davis greatly wanted Arkansas, witness the fact that they each sent several thousand troops into the state to fight and die for it. To reduce to a rude and offensive farce the tragic struggle and sacrifice of these men is an unconscionable affront not only to them but to all those who honor their courage and devotion.”

Arkansas Confederate Statue

A statue in the Confederate Cemetery in Historic Helena, Arkansas, which produced five generals for the Confederacy; such monuments are a common sight in many Arkansas towns and cities (to magnify, click on the photo from a postcard purchased at the Delta Cultural Center in Helena)

I went on to cite a quote from Alan C. Paulson’s Roadside History of Arkansas about the state “which was known as a land of opportunity before the rebellion [i.e., the Civil War].”

I also quoted Peter Applebone of the New York Times who noted: “If any place can engender a sense of being permanently dissed, it’s Arkansas.”

I concluded by quoting native South Carolinian and Pulitzer Prize-winning editor Harry Ashmore of the Arkansas Gazette, the oldest newspaper west of the Mississippi River, who wrote: “Deep in the Arkansas conscious is a tragic sense that across nearly three centuries of existence as a colony, territory and state its people have been misunderstood and put upon.”

I repeat such exchanges on this blog simply to illustrate the fact that after thirty-five years in exile I am still fighting the good fight of faith─defending Arkansas.

“Do We Want Our Country to Look Like Arkansas?”

Years ago the now defunct Tulsa Tribune printed an editorial under the headline “Go Easy on Arkansas.”

In that article the Tribune noted that Marilyn Quale had just unleashed her rhetorical blast, “Do we want our country to look like Arkansas?”

If you don’t remember Marilyn Quale, she was the wife of Dan Quale, the Republican vice-presidential candidate under George Bush who was opposed by Bill Clinton of Arkansas, the Democratic presidential candidate for president.

The Tulsa editorial admitted, “She might as well have answered herself with a resounding ‘Yuk!’”

It then went on to describe Arkansas and comment on “its beautiful lakes and rivers, its lovely hills and hollows, quaint towns and the lovable phoniness of its many tourist attractions.”

Arkansas Lake

Greers Ferry Lake at Heber Springs, Arkansas (to magnify, click on the photo from a postcard by Jenkins Enterprises, North Little Rock, AR 501-945-2600)

It noted that Okies know that Arkansas is more than all that.

“They know the delights of an Arkansas catfish dinner with fried potatoes, fresh tomatoes, green onions and cornbread with a bowl of pinto beans on the side. They know friendly people who aren’t too hurried to engage in a conversation with a stranger.”

In closing, the Tribune stated, “Clinton may be fair game for the Republicans, but they should be a bit more balanced in talking about his state.”

In view of such an unusual defense of Arkansas by an Oklahoma newspaper, it raises the question of whether that kind of unbiased reporting about a friendly neighbor might be one reason the Tulsa Tribune is no longer in existence.

“Can Anything Good Come Out of Arkansas?”

While carrying on this three-decade-long defense of my much beloved and much maligned native state, in my capacity as a religious copyeditor I began to refer to myself by various biblical-based titles, such as: “An Arkie in Whom There Is No Guile,” “The Defender of the Holy Land,” and “The Prophet from Arkansas.”

Of course, these self-composed titles sometimes prompted the equally scriptural though spiritually judgmental question: “Can anything good come out of Arkansas?”

To which I always respond, “Maybe not, ‘cause I must have been a terrible sinner to be driven out of the Promised Land and banished here to Purgatory!”

In my next post I will present some more positive, or at least more amusing and less confrontational, anecdotes about Arkansas and Oklahoma and Arkies and Okies.

So tune in next week, folks, the fun is just beginning.

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