When I ducked into the deep pine woods near Hope, Arkansas, I found myself twice having to dodge errant opposum on the highway, and watching a nearby doe deer skitter away. The entire weekend seemed like a convention for small box turtles trying to cross the highway. Fortunately, virtually all were unscathed. When I arrived in my folks' hometown in Camden, I loved sitting up late with my parents and my sister trading stories and barbs. (I assured my sister, who is easily the most dramatic of our crew, that she thought she was the co-star of our family soap opera, but in fact she was merely another bit player).
On Saturday, I took my sister's kids (boy, 8, girl, 5) and my sister's fiance's kids (girl, 17, boy, 12) on a hike to Logoly State Park near McNeil. In the 1920s Logoly was a resort area for mineral waters. Soon thereafter, folks realized that Logoly is largely what it is now--river bottomland, covered with ferns,
pine trees and varying clays and sands--more a health resort for mosquitoes than people. One trail was sufficiently dry after recent rains for a hike. We loved hiking past ferns and moss, in deep piney woods. I had to stop the party when I realized the stick just on the other side of the tiny bridge was a water mocassin, which is one of the local venomous snakes. Fortunately, I saw him before he noticed us, and we watched this little four foot long thin snake--colored something like a new car tire--as he slithered slowly off trail and onto a sapling tree. We saw a non-poisonous green water snake later, and I was able to use the living examples to point out the difference in head shape between the venomous vipers and the non-venomous snakes.
We had more time that morning, so I drove the kids over to Poison Springs State Park. Poison Springs is one of those obscure Arkansas Civil War battlefields, in which a Confederate army of locals, Texans and Choctaw Indians beset a Kansas wagon train of invading Union soldiers who had been foraging the local farms for food. Like all Arkansas Civil War battles, the conflict essentially accomplished nothing militarily, and was mostly remarkable for great courage and regrettable conduct displayed by both sides. The kids watched entranced while I used the diorama to summarize the course of the battle. It's hard to imagine shots fired in anger standing there now in a gorgeous pine forest. Then we went hiking onthe short nature trail, where the little brown anole lizard and the larger black lizard with red stripes whose name escapes me were the hits of the experience.
This morning, I got up at dawn, presented my mother with her Mother's Day gifts, and then hit the road early. I had to get home as quickly as possible, for today is our 12th wedding anniversary. During the drive, I had the radio set on a "classic rock" station broadcasting out of Shreveport. The music was all the music of my teen and college years. When Head East's "Never been any Reason" came on, I marveled how many times I've heard the song and still don't know the words and at how my high falsetto is not nearly as high as the falsetto of the "second lead singer" for Head East.
I turned the volume to TOP LEVEL for Rick Derringer's rendition of "Rock n Roll, Hoochie Coo" and waved my fist and sang along to the (rather politically incorrect) lyrics, and then found myself hitting the volume back to normal levels for Kansas' "Dust in the Wind" (whose words, perhaps tellingly, were much more familiar to me than the Derringer song). I thought it symbolic that U2's "I still haven't found what I'm looking for" was on when the reception started to fade out. Then another classic rock station came in loud and clear, and destroyed my incipient metaphor. I listened to an AM sermon by a lawyer turned evangelist who said that the only definining characteristic of a Christian should be love, and I contemplated actually sending an e mail to a radioevangelist on how much I enjoyed it. He was a contrast to the earlier evangelist (to whom I had flipped the dial when a particularly unfortunate Don Henley song came on) who assured me that every time he fought a cold he was fighting Satan off (which is, on reflection, actually kind of a cool notion). Sarah McLachlan exhorted me to "Sweet Surrender" while one of those pop metal godlings used every pun on the word "pink" that the average metalhead can muster.
I arrived in town, tired from the drive, but filled with visions of hawks and buzzards and evasive box turtles.
My wife and I exchanged gifts which were thoughtful and grand--it's so nice to have had things work out so well. I'm very fortunate to be happily married, and I do not forget it.
This afternoon I have a back yard to mow--don't know how I managed to separate my two postage stamp yard sections into different mowing schedules. In addition, the return of my booklet to ebay, and the accompanying "pseudo-intellectual" ad copy didn't work,
so it's back to the tried and true ad. Maybe money and my booklet no longer mix.
A busy week ahead! I'm going to be rested, and ready.
I'm eager to take it all on.