Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Shoe's on the Other Face Now

Who throws a shoe? Honestly! (Apologies to Austin Powers.)

The Presidency is a dangerous business. Almost 10% of everybody who has ever held that office has been assassinated. Others have had close calls. Others still have simply died in office. Compare that to your line of work. Doesn’t seem so bad now, does it?

Consider that, during his “farewell tour” of Iraq, President Bush narrowly escaped full facial impact with not one, but two, Rockport walking shoes. Appeared to be about a 10 ½ D, traveling at somewhere around 40 mph. And he wasn’t even wearing a helmet.

Now, some have found the violent assault on the American President amusing. In fact, one lady being interviewed by a TV reporter, laughing, said “He threw one for the world”. Another person suggested the shoes be immortalized by having them bronzed.

CNN’s Michael Ware, reported “Opinion is divided – in support and in condemnation of this action”.

David Letterman, speaking of the President’s impressive lightning-quick reaction that kept him from being nailed in the face, said “I don’t think Bush has dodged anything like that since the Viet Nam war”. Later in the show, somebody chucked a pair at Dave.

Watching the video of this historic moment, I too was impressed with Bush’s agility. He may be the only president we’ve had in my lifetime that was capable of making those effectively thrown missiles miss their intended mark. I imagined what would have happened if previous presidents had been in his place.

Clinton, of course, was accustomed to having articles of clothing thrown at him. But he was never very nimble, and would likely have been carried out with at least one stiletto stuck in his forehead. Hillary would probably have removed the other one and walked barefoot to ride with him in the ambulance.

Bush 41 would have had a coalition of support that would have never allowed this to happen. Matter of fact, that reporter would likely have surrendered his shoes when he walked in the door.

Reagan. He took a bullet! Even a pair of Shaq’s shoes wouldn’t have awakened him from his nap.

Jimmy Carter? Nobody would throw a shoe at Jimmy Carter.

Gerald Ford, I’m afraid, would have been the first POTUS we lost to footwear. Sadly, the culprit might not have even had to remove them. Ford would have just tripped when he walked into the room and strangled himself on the laces.

It is accurate to say that I have not been among President Bush’s greatest fans, but I do want to go on record, right here, right now, condemning this atrocity. I mean, you just can’t go ‘round tossing brogans at the President of the US of A. I like to think that, had I been there, I would have stepped up and taken those shoes up-side the head for my country. Which leads me to wonder “Where was the Secret Service?”

Those dudes are supposed to be ready & able to take a bullet for their boss, and here the poor guy had to artfully dodge two articles of footgear on his own? Those things could have caused mass destruction right there in Iraq. And some of you doubted the weapons were there. The whole thing reeks of conspiracy if you ask me.

I understand the shoes have been confiscated by federal authorities and will be held as evidence. Rest assured that all “foot-age” of this event will be reviewed and studied for decades. A commission will be established, but the findings will probably not be released in our lifetimes. Books will be written. Movies will be made. Songs will be sung. An American legend was born this weekend.

Laugh if you will, but this was George W. Bush’s finest hour. Years from now, we all will remember where we were and what we were doing on the day those fateful shoes were hurled at the head of our very own head of state. And, great president that he is (was), he made ‘em miss.

By far, the smartest, and coolest, thing GWB has done in his eight years in office.

© 2008 Rick Baber

Monday, December 08, 2008

Rock 'n Roll Never Forgets

NOTE: If you're not from Batesville, Arkansas, this will mean very little to you. Just a word of warning....

Old rockers never die.

With too many irons in the fire, I’ve been out of the loop longer than I like to think about. But then, there are only so many hours in a day, and spending a good portion of them sleeping has always been one of my life’s passions.

Occasionally though, mama will drag me away from the computer to someplace other than our local Native American gaming establishments, and usually I end up glad she did.

Such was the case this past Saturday night when I was (apparently) the last usta-be rock singer in Arkansas to discover the remarkable talent of a guy named Darren Ray. Well, that’s not entirely true. Only a week before, I’d heard him at Cherokee Casino (West Siloam Springs) with his other band, “Big Bad Bubba”, but I was, let’s say, too distracted then to pay much attention. At this private party though, Darren was performing with his other band, “Big’Uns”, in a small venue. People, let me tell you, this old crooner was blown away. That guy had a set of pipes like I haven’t heard anywhere in a very long time, and the band itself was tight as a jug. They covered everything from Delbert McClinton’s “Every Time I Roll the Dice” to Michael McDonald’s “Takin’ it to the Streets”, and everybody involved hit every note. Then they ended up with a Beatles set, culminating with “Hey Jude”, that even had Republicans swaying and singing along. And here in Northwest Arkansas, there’s a lot of those.

So, as they were loading out, doofus that I am, I had to go up and tell ‘em how good I thought they were – keeping them from getting their work done and getting home for just a while longer. Turns out Darren also performs with my ex-brother-in-law, Travis Kidd (Tulsa, OK). That was pretty cool. But the lead guitarist looked somewhat familiar, so I also bothered him to discuss the glory days and found out that the six degrees of separation thing really does exist. His name was Ed Nicholson, and he had been playing around, basically, forever. I quickly discovered that he was from Harrison, Arkansas. When I told him I was from Batesville, the names of musicians from the area he had played with came rolling out: Andy Buschman, Gib Ponder, Mary Henry, Danny Dozier…just the ones we had time to talk about before I finally recalled through my party-fuzzed haze what it’s like to try to load out with people bugging you, and started backing across the empty room toward the door. Ed told me he had only recently spoken with Andy on the phone – and I wondered how Andy had enough wind to do that while he was running. Always running. He must use a cell phone.

The meeting gave rebirth to a longtime fantasy I have had about getting all the old musicians from the Batesville area (and the new ones, too) together for some kind of big rock ‘n roll reunion concert. Would that be cool, or am I the only one that’s interested? Maybe some charity could use a few bucks that could be raised from such an event. Or, maybe that’s already happened at some point and nobody told me about it….?

I have always maintained that there is no place on the planet that has produced as much musical talent, per-capita, as Batesville (and the surrounding area). I could list all of them I remember here, in bold print, but I’d surely embarrass myself by leaving too many out. Surely, such an event would draw a respectable crowd, even if you only consider the families produced by the musicians involved. Kids. Grandkids. Oh my God, some of you are OLD! How much extra would it cost to have an elevator installed to get up to the stage? Maybe a few ambulances standing by, just in case?

When I recall the time we worked like dogs cleaning out the old, practically abandoned AC Gym to do a show, and all the people that showed up there; the crowds that used to come up the hill on Saturday night to the Salado Community Building or to Cave City or to the Jaycee building down by the bayou; and the way we used to curse the fact that there was just not much to do (anything changed?) – I can’t help but think my little rock ‘n roll fantasy isn’t such a bad idea.

Living two hundred miles away, and being the most disorganized person in the world, I would not be able to put such a thing together myself. I’m hoping there’s some other old timer reading this, with a lot of time on his/her hands, thinking he or she might just be the one for the job.

Who knows? Maybe it could turn into a yearly tradition. “The Batesville Whitewater Revival”?

Your thoughts?

© 2008 Rick Baber

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Rick the Writer

Hello. It’s me, again — Rick the Writer. We don’t use last names around this presidential campaign anymore. Just a first name, followed by professional pursuit, because apparently, it is important that people know what you do if you are going to speak out on behalf of a candidate. Or not.

The thing is, now, the candidates want people to know that those who support them are “hard working people,” because, apparently, if you’re not “hard-working,” you’re not worth the air you’re breathing.

You can tell this because every time one of them talks they say something about “hard-working Americans.”

Writing isn’t an occupation that is generally accepted by folks as one that qualifies, so heretofore, I didn’t use it. I started to go with “artist,” but that doesn’t really bring up an image of sweat amd toil in people’s minds either. Rick the Insurance Adjuster is just too long to say and it doesn’t roll off the tongue. And, by the standards of some of my friends, “that ain’t workin.’”

Not like their jobs.

I think that’s how the whole last name thing started out, way back around the time John McCain was born. Folks would just take their profession or their locale, and make that their last name. Blacksmiths became “Smith” — “Bakers” made pies and bread. People who blew flutes or something became “Piper.” Let’s not go there with how people named Johnson came about.

“McCain,” though, came from “the son of Eoin” — the Irish form of “John.” So “John McCain” actually means “John John,” or “John, son of John.” But we can just call him John the Hero. I assume you heard about that, somewhere. Heroing is hard work, I’m sure. So John John is OK by that standard.

Caribou Barbie’s maiden name was Sarah Heath. “Heath,” means “one who came from Heath” — which is a wasteland with low shrubs.

Uh. OK.

“Palin,” by the way, means “one who came from Paliler.” Now, I’m not sure about this kids, because you know how research hurts my head, but I think Paliler is in ... France! Neither one of those tell us whether or not those folks are hard-working, so let’s just call her Caribou Barbie. Huntin’s hard work. You betcha!

I couldn’t find anything on “Obama.” So I guess there’s another reason to be suspicious of the black guy. We’ll call him “Barack the Muslim” – which means “He who definitely won’t get a rednecks vote now.”


Whattaya think? Correctomondo! Not in there either! Is there a pattern here? But we have to call him something — how about “Joe the Puppy Kicker?”

No. Puppy kicking is hard work. Better use “Joe the Gun Seizer.” That should work.

Just for fun, let’s do “Bush” — dweller at sign of the bush (usually a wine merchant); one who dwelt near a bush; and “Cheney” — one who came from Quesney, Cheney or Chenay (oak grove), in FRANCE; dweller near the chain or barrier used to close a street at night. Oddly, that makes sense. We don’t care whether or not these guys are “hard-working” anymore, because by the grace of God, they’re outta here come January 20.

Joe the Plumber’s last name is Wurzelbacher. Like Obama and Biden, that one apparently doesn’t have a meaning or known origin, but it sounds just as foreign. It is unfortunate that Joe’s real last name isn’t “Plumber,” and that may well be the reason McPalin changed it. What if “Wurzelbacher” was discovered to mean “he who bets on the dark horse?”

Safer to just stick with “the plumber.”

I just wonder, when one of these two candidates gets elected, is he going to be president of the slackers too?

You know, guys who just sit behind a keyboard, making up sentences or digital images after a dozen hours or so every day giving away somebody else’s money?

What about professional golfers? Does that qualify as hard-working? Or professional bass fishermen ... or NASCAR drivers ... or Talk Radio hosts?

What about movie stars like ... I don’t know ... Ronald Reagan (descendant of Riagan -little king)? Do Joe the Plumber or Bob the Builder or Fred the Fireman or Doug the Ditch Digger allow lazy millionaires, or people who married them, into their club?

I have this plan to win the lotto, after which I’ll probably become a world famous international playboy, like Jethro the Bodine. Jethro doesn’t do much work if you don’t count hooking up two record players to the truck so he’ll have stereo. Is he going to have a president?

For some reason, the candidates, and lots of other folk, like to pat people on the back if they get up early and go to work and keep working until late into the night and then get up and do it again. Amen.

Those who never see their own kids, because the pursuit of legal tender is the definition of being a good American.

And we all want to be good Americans. Or “great Americans,” like Sean Hannity. That’s what we’ve all had drilled into our heads for as long as I can remember. Give ’em a gold star or something, but just make sure they keep working, “like a workin’ man do.”

I’m questioning that now. Could it be that if you’re too dog-tired to do anything but work, you’re easier to control?

Just askin’.

It seems that, if a guy figures out how to survive without breaking his back and ignoring his family, he better not plant a flag in his yard. He might as well move to the wasteland with low shrubs. Or, better yet, to France.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Barack 'n Roll Revolution

I tried to copyright (ala Stephen Colbert) that phrase, “Barack ‘n Roll”, on the Arkansas Times blog, but some smartypants pointed out to me that there’s a whole website by that name, so I was too late. Story of my life, I guess.

Here we go. Hillary has stepped aside and now the formal Republican trashing of Barack Obama begins in earnest. He’s best friends with some of the most radical leftists in the country - guys who condoned the blowing up of things in the ‘60’s. He’s a Muslim. Doesn’t wear a flag pin on his lapel. Refuses to eat apple pie. His wife hates Caucasians. His preacher’s a loudmouth. He’s going to put all the white people in chains. And the best one: He’s the AntiChrist.

I’ve received about 20 of those “antichrist” e-mails from various people who either actually believe it and are trying hard to save the world via the Internet, or they just have too much time on their hands. Considering the gems I have received from most of the same people in the past, I suspect the latter. But I won’t waste time and exacerbation of my already-arthritic fingers here trying to persuade any of you who might seriously entertain that thought of the likelihood that you are wrong. If you believe it, go ahead and send me all your good stuff, because the end is neigh and you won’t need money, cool cars, motorcycles, boats, rare coins, Cognac or artwork where you’re going. I could also use a couple of new computers. If my understanding of The Rapture – as learned from talk radio, bumper stickers on SUV’s, & TV preachers – is correct, only flag-pin-wearing Republicans will be sucked up into the sky. Guys like me, and all those poor jerks who live in other countries and/or subscribe to phony religions, will be left down here, scurrying around, siphoning what little gas is left in those abandoned vehicles, and apologizing daily to our Darth Cheney dartboards.

Of course, if Obama is indeed the boogieman, it is part of the Divine Plan that he comes to power, so all of ya’ll who are planning on voting against him for that reason might as well forget that, and get ready for the carnival ride of your lives.

It’s hard to understand how anybody could win a primary based on “change” – what with everything going so well and all. And, in case you didn’t know this, my preference for the office of President was Hillary Clinton. Not only because I thought she would make the best president, but also because I thought she would be more difficult for the right wing machine to discredit. They’ve been trying for about 16 years, and she’s still standing. It was so painfully obvious, listening to them as I do, that Obama was the preferred Democrat by Republicans, because they knew they’d have a better chance of waging a successful smear campaign against him. Little jabs, here & there, but no big punches until now. They were either waiting for Hillary to do that, or waiting for him to secure the nomination. Well, she didn’t. He did. Now it’s on, brother.

Republicans will try to cite Obama’s lack of governmental experience as a reason he shouldn’t be President. It just so happens that’s the same reason they can’t discredit him based upon what he actually did in government. (Like they can be discredited themselves.) That won’t work. People who are smart enough to figure out how to find a voting machine will realize that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld had more experience in government than any two white men in modern history, and their counsel, whispered into the ear of that cool cat dancing badly behind the big desk in the oval office has brought us to this point in the nation’s history where, if you’re really rich, everything is hunky-dory. If you’re not, you’re actually considering the prospect that everything is so bad, the end might be just around the corner. So that is the fire they will pour the fuel upon.

It’s a frenzy. A movement. A revolution! Them youngins and black folk and homos are even voting. That can’t be right. It must be the end of the world!

From the opposite perspective, I don’t believe another four years of George W. Bush (via McCain) would bring about the end of the world. Maybe just the end of the United States as a so-called “world power”. But don’t look for prophetic doomsday e-mails from me explaining how McCain fits into the boogieman role better than Barack does. I could make the case, but I don’t have time. Busy working to get money to pay $5 a gallon for gasoline, so I can keep working to buy gasoline, so oil executives and other friends of the president can retire very, very rich in November.

Expect to hear, in the next four months, some of the wildest stories you have ever heard. Clean out your e-mail boxes to make room for the incoming revelations. Like I said, believe them, if you will. I need the stuff.

© 2008 Rick Baber

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

OBX Jumping Turtles

There’s something about the persistence of the ocean that’s inspirational. Maybe that’s why so many famous people come from or live on one coast or another.

The Outer Banks of North Carolina is kind of a different place. Me ‘n Mama took a few days to travel down to that part of Dixie, shoot a beach wedding at Nag’s Head, and seek out some light house photos for our art prints. I don’t want to jinx anything – writing this from the beginning of the trip home at the Norfolk, Virginia airport – but the journey down here went about as well as one who hates to fly could expect.

We handed off our rental car to our gracious host, who’s going on to Williamsburg for a graduation, so we’ve got about five hours to kill here in the airport. Perfect for telling ya’ll about some of the oddities of the narrow strip of land we spent the last three days on.

Down here, being in the heart of tobacco country, you can smoke pretty much everywhere – bars, restaurants, grade school, church…. But the “drinking” thing is really screwed up.

Beer & wine, you can buy anywhere. K-Mart has a nice selection. Mixed drinks & liquor is a situation about as complicated as the Democratic primary process. Down the Outer Banks, toward Cape Hatteras, you just can’t get them. If you order a mixed drink, it’s made with champagne. Yummy, I bet…

Back up around Nag’s Head and Kitty Hawk you can buy liquor, but only from the ABC stores that keep, pretty much, banker’s hours. These stores are owned by the county and regulated by the State of North Carolina. The guy behind the counter is actually an employee of the county. Bars & restaurants also have to purchase liquor from these stores, and, instead of getting a discount or wholesale price, they pay the same thing a retail customer does, plus a tax of about $4 a bottle. So mixed drinks in a bar are way expensive.

The “drive-thru” beer & wine stores are literally that. You actually drive your car through the building – like a “quick lube” or something. You just point out what you want and they hand it through the car window to you.

But, it ain’t like my only interest is in the local drinking and smoking customs. As many of you know, I also have a borderline-unnatural affection for turtles. And they’ve got some weird ones in Carolina.

We’re driving down Highway 12 toward Bodie Island, and I have to swerve to miss what I first thought was a dead Rottweiler in the road. As I passed it, I could tell it was what we call an alligator snapper – the biggest turtle I’ve ever seen outside a zoo. It didn’t appear to have been hit, so I pulled the car over and got out to go move it out of the road. The closer I got, the bigger that rascal appeared. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you it had a head about the same size as that of a Boston Terrier.

My vast experience with turtles has taught me better than to try to pick this big fella up, but I wanted to get a picture before I did anything. As I walked up to it, a local schoolboy, maybe 12, came up behind me with a sucker in his mouth.

“I wouldn’t get too close to him if I was you.” He warned.

“No.” I said. “I’m gonna get him to bite this stick and I’ll drag him out of the road.

“You better get a bigger stick”, he said.

A school bus already had traffic backed up southbound, and a van had the northbound traffic stopped.

“Be careful”, he said, “these ones can jump.”

OK. I was glad the kid was trying to help, but what does some youngster know about turtles that I haven’t learned in a half century of intense study?

“Yeah. Thanks, kid”, I said, “I think this’ll do fine.”

So I stuck the stick down by the turtle’s head and he lunged at it, coming up about three feet off the ground. That was about two feet short of how high I jumped, screeching like a girl.

“These ones right here, you gotta get ‘em by the tail and drag ‘em.” The boy continued, without even saying “I told you so”.

Both of those lines of traffic, including that busload of impressionable children, were sitting there, watching, patiently waiting for me to move this monster from the road. I didn’t want to disappoint them, but, after seeing that thing jump, I was … (what’s the word?)….scared!

So I hauled off and kicked him (the turtle, not the kid) in the butt. Then he pushed himself up, like a dog, and slowly walked off the road. I was off the hook.

We got our lighthouse pictures – two of four, anyway. But we were very careful walking around the marshlands to do it. You never know when a giant snapping turtle is gonna jump out of the weeds and take your head off.

© 2008 Rick Baber

Monday, March 24, 2008


I woke up Sunday morning with no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt. For some strange reason I couldn’t quit thinking about Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash.
But it was Easter, and I could smell bacon frying, so I thought I’d get up and give it a try.

“What’s for breakfast?” I asked the little woman as I stumbled into the bathroom.

“Bacon & eggs”, she said, disappearing back down the hall with an armload of dirty clothes.

When I caught up to her in the kitchen there was bacon…and biscuits… on the counter, but that’s all.

“Where’s the eggs?” I grumbled.

She looked up from the paper for a moment and said “Outside. You gotta find them.”

Not being one to be contrary, I took the little wicker basket she handed me, grabbed a piece of bacon for the trip, and sauntered out the back door to gather up my morning meal. There were some in the half whiskey barrel. Some in the opening to the pool skimmer. Some more under the lid to the grill.

I brought in my booty and tossed it into the trash, washed my hands and made a bacon and cheese sandwich.

“Not gonna eat ‘em?” she asked.

Funny. They were blue and green and red, with little stripes across them in various other colors. And they were dirty.

“You’re not s’posed to do that with scrambled eggs.” I told her, as something out the kitchen window caught my eye.

I walked out the front door, then around to the side yard, and there was a rabbit, just sitting there. As I got within 10 feet or so, it scampered off under the neighbor’s outbuilding. But, it left behind something there where it had been sitting. A white, spherical object there in the grass I mowed yesterday.

“No way.” I said out loud, walking toward it.

Nope. Don’t tell the youngins, but rabbits don’t lay eggs. Even on Easter.

It was a ping pong ball one of the kids down the street had been playing with yesterday. No chocolate inside or nuthin’. I guess the rabbit just stopped there by chance. What are the odds? Ruined my whole morning.

Later, surfing through the TV channels from my favorite prone position on the couch, I came across a special holiday presentation of “The Ten Commandments”.

On Easter? Really?

That didn’t make much sense to me. Do you think the program director for that channel had any idea what he was doing? I wondered if the special holiday presentation of “The Odyssey” was coming on next.

That Charlton Heston sure made a good looking Moses, though, didn’t he? I noticed that, all through the movie, there were no guns hanging from his warm, live fingers. If he would have had one then, he could have done a number on that Pharo and his boys. They really must not have known who they were messing with – kind of like the program director, I guess.

It got me to thinking that holidays sure are strange times. And that brought my headache back. So I went back to bed.

Monday, I got fried eggs at Waffle Hut. They were white and yellow, just like eggs are supposed to be.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Last week I saw on the TV news that, for the first time in American history, one out of every 100 of us are presently incarcerated. A full one percent. And, further, the rate of incarceration is growing faster than the population. Right now, we have a higher percentage of people in prison than any other country in the world. 2.3 million of them.
And there’s another four million or so currently on parole or probation.

Understand, this includes all Americans. So, if you were to factor out, say, everybody under the age of, I dunno, ten, and assume that none of those were in jail (with the possible exception of a few in Texas & Florida where they consider those kids to be “adults”), then that takes that percentage even higher. And growing.

If this trend continues, sooner or later, everybody will be in jail. I gotta wonder: When that happens, who’s gonna feed the prisoners? Furthermore, that just shoots the heck out of your chance for a parole or early release, because there won’t be anybody outside the bars to let you out. A week, tops, and everybody’s going to starve to death. That’s cold, man.

Say we get down to a dozen un-imprisoned people in the country. How are they going to make up a judge, jury, prosecutor and defense attorney for those last folks? Then, you’ve got to have somebody to take them down to the jail and lock ‘em up. I just don’t see how this could work.

Wha’d they do?

In 2004 – the last year for which I could find statistics – only about 52% of those folks in the orange jumpsuits were there for violent crimes. 21% were there for property crimes, and 20% were there for drugs. I have to assume, since they list them separately, that those “druggies” were there for non-violent drug offenses. If that 20% figure is current, we’re talking about 460,000 people in the slammer for buying, selling, or doing them. A big chunk of those (I couldn’t find the stats, because, frankly, I’m too lazy to look too hard for them.) includes folks involved with a recreational weed that is purported by many to be less dangerous than tobacco or alcohol. But those are legal. Go figure.

Seems like we’ve just got a thing about locking people up. You know, to rehabilitate them. Because everybody knows those people who finally get out of prison become model citizens. Prison fixes them. This may be why the town of Brattleboro, Vermont has passed a resolution to arrest George W. Bush and/or Dick Cheney, should they ever show their faces in town – for war crimes. Personally, I don’t have a problem with that one, but I really don’t see how it’s doable either. The town has something over 12,000 population (meaning, I guess, that about 120 of them are in jail), so how many cops could they have? Can you see Barney walking up to the Secret Service dudes in the dark glasses, telling them to step aside so they can snag the Dubyuh and cart him off to the pokey? But, say he prevails. GWB goes to jail, court, and then to the Big House. Cheney comes to town to rescue him and they grab him too. Now they’re both making license plates. Eventually, by the numbers, the rest of us join them.

Would they still be President and Vice President? Couldn’t they just pardon themselves? Who’s going to use those license plates? This is so confusing.

My goal, at this point, is to hold out and be the guy who slams the door on the next-to-last guy. Then, when everybody else is in there banging on the bars with tin cups, I’m going to go to all your houses and steal your stuff. What are you going to do about it?
Once I’ve got it – having nobody to sell it to – I’m going to let everybody out again.
Except Bush & Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, one little fat guy I used to work for, and that puppy-chucking soldier from YouTube. And maybe, out of the goodness of my heart, I’ll leave a few of those really mean violent bad guys in there to keep them company.

It’s good to be king.

© 2008 Rick Baber

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Although my short term memory is somewhat akin to that of a goldfish, I still have rather vivid recollections of growing up in Batesville in the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s. It was a fun time, and nostalgia from fun times just seems to burn deeper into whatever part of the brain that stores those things, I guess. Biology wasn’t that much fun for me, so maybe that’s why I can’t remember those brain parts.

After all these years, I’m quite sure I could recognize the faces of most everybody from the BHS classes of 1971 through ‘74. That might not be all that unusual, given that it wasn’t an exceptionally large school, but, oddly enough, I can still remember a lot of their pets as well. To wit:

When we first moved to Batesville, and were temporarily staying at The American Motor Inn, I had a Piranha named Freddy that I brought with me from Blytheville. One night we had returned from dinner at Kelly’s, and found that Freddy had jumped from his coffee can into the dry sink, committing fishicide. I guess the move was just too much for him. No police report was ever filed.

Desha Byrd had a cat that was reincarnated from Satan. I don’t remember his name, but I do know that years later he was re-reincarnated into a big white monster named B.C, who lived with my brother-in-law, Larry Price. He remembered all the harassment I dished out to him in the previous life, and every time I’d walk within twenty feet of him, he’d latch onto my leg, digging teeth and claws in as deep as he could.

Mae & Sylvia Strickland had a cat that, although they might not have known, drank like a sailor. And Randy Tovey had a Spider Monkey, said to have been snatched from the jungles of Viet Nam.

Karla Reynolds had horses, on a lot right beside her house there in town. They were large, frightening animals that I never got to know very well, but one of them once woke me up chewing on my foot as I slept in my car one night in that field. Don’t ask me what I was doing there. Like I said, I have a terrible memory.

Over on west side, Mike Roper had a little short-legged canine named Otto, and on Main Street, Curtis Wainwright had Blue, one of those cattle herding dogs.

On the east side, we had two “neighborhood dogs”. Sid was a rowdy, snarling Boston Terrier who was supposed to belong to Ginger St. John’s family, but he spent all his time running around from place to place, keeping in touch with his buddies. One of his favorite things to do was chase the swings on the schoolyards, and actually jump up and catch them with his mouth. At some point, I lost contact with Sid. Over the years, I have wondered how many teeth he had left when he went on to the big doggy swing set in the sky.

Diane May’s German Shepherd, Socks, had a compulsion for chasing vehicles. Cars, motorcycles, bicycles – anything that moved. Sitting around at Tommy’s Kingburger or the bowling alley with not much else to do, ultimately, somebody would say “Hey! Let’s go let Socks chase us!” Then, one at a time, we’d zip our motorcycles down the street in front of Dr. May’s house, just to see who would come out alive. Most of us made it, but one day forensic investigators will discover several bikes and Volkswagens buried in that back yard, and CNN will have a field day speculating on what happened. Nancy Grace will, no doubt, blame it on some man who had it out for his ex-wife, and Paula Zahn will try her best to make it a racial thing. In reality, it was just a big, big, dog, who didn’t like things moving up and down his street.

Although he was really only a fictional character, designed to get us out of typing class to go feed him, Larry Guenzel’s pet buffalo, Sid (perhaps named after the Boston Terrier), once got him into serious trouble with Mrs. Moore at school.

One day, Eddie Runyun turned up with a pet dinosaur – a huge Iguana named Boris, as I recall. Thinking that was about the coolest thing ever saw, I had to get one for myself. Strangely, I can’t remember his name, but he as a good boy. When he was still relatively small, I’d let him hang onto the inside of my army jacket and take him to school with me. Then, when he got a little too big to do that, I put him on a leash in my back yard during the day. Somehow, during warm weather, while I was away, my mom “accidentally” dropped a log on his head out there in the back yard. I really don’t recall us having a fireplace in that house on Boswell Street. But my mom is still sticking to that story.

Years passed, and my affection for reptiles remained. I had a troublesome turtle named W.T., who became the title character in my first book. When my son was a young teen, I had to get him a couple of Iguanas of his own. Cheech & Chong were with us for a number of years. Then, one cold winter night, the ground-fault tripped in the garage and they became lizardsickles. We tried really hard to thaw them out by the fireplace when we found them, but it was to no avail.

Thinking back on it, most of my reptilian pets have met with untimely endings. Perhaps it wasn’t meant for man and lizard to coexist, peacefully (as the President would say).
My wife will be glad I’ve come to this realization.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Dealing With It

You know what’s annoying? I mean, other than getting lemon juice squirted in your eyes by an angry waitress? People who don’t look at the camera when they’re being interviewed on TV.

I think that all started with those local “news teams”, doing their commercials. You’d be watching them, talking to some camera, from the side. As if, you were just some bystander in a room where they were being interviewed. But, in fact, they were talking to you, weren’t they? OK. I admit it. It was kinda cute when it first started out. But now it has spread like “reality shows” and the flu. Now, I’m seeing TV commercials with people talking about all kinds of stuff – looking off in some other direction.

It’s like some prodigy TV director somewhere said “Well, that’s just fine, but next time let’s film it from over there, and you pretend we’re still here. That way the viewer will think they surfed into a channel where they’re seeing something they’re not supposed to see, and that will cause us to sell more of our merchandise.”

People imitate what they see on TV. That’s got to be obvious to purt’near everybody. So now I find myself trying to do group portraits of people at various events, and inevitably, there’s some goofus staring off into space as I count to three. That lady either thinks she’s on one of those stupid TV commercials, or she doesn’t understand the significance of a photographer counting to three. Like, “What’s he counting, birds? Let’s look up and see!”

You know what else is annoying? Of course you don’t. That’s why I’m telling you. No, I’m not talking about that guy with a heavily-pierced, tattooed face and flaming orange, spiked hair, handing you your breakfast at a fast food drive-thru as you come home from the casino at 4 am with just enough money left for the dollar menu. It’s too dark to examine that food for foreign objects while you drive and, more than likely, you’d probably eat it anyway after you took that off. (Who’s gonna know?) It’s those recordings you get when you dial a phone number, thinking it’s a long-distance call and it really isn’t a long distance call. “We’re sorry. It is not necessary to dial a one or a zero when calling this number. Will you please hang up and try again?”

Well, here’s my question: If that machine is smart enough to recognize that is a local call and I don’t need to dial a one or the area code, or whatever, why doesn’t the thing just go ahead and put the call through? What’s that gonna hurt?

I’ve tried to convince myself that there are just some things put here on this Earth that serve no purpose other than making folks lives a little more miserable. Ants, meth, and Ann Coulter come to mind. And software technical support, of course. But, try as I might to just go with it, understanding that everybody else has to deal with the same crap, sometimes it just gets to me, you know?

So I put my TV way over in the corner of the room, facing right along the wall, and left my easy chair there where it was. And, sure enough, this Ann Coulter interview came on and she was looking away from the camera, but it was as if she was looking right at me. I had outsmarted the director. I called the network to tell them about it, but forgot to dial one and the area code, and a recording came on, telling me that I had to dial one, plus the area code. Then I went to the refrigerator and got that plastic lemon and squirted myself in the eye.

That’ll show ‘em.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


#5. Cats are flammable. Who knew? I told Skinnykitty to stay out of my lap when I’m working on the computer, but it’s like he doesn’t listen or something. I know it’s a bad habit, but I like to have the occasional cigarette while at my desk. (You can do that when you work from your house….for now, anyway.) He doesn’t smoke, as a rule. A little spark fell off as I reached around him to get to the keyboard, and, next thing I knew there was that same smell as when Sheila sat Terry Horn’s hair on fire in the back seat of my Mustang in front of Ray’s Corner on Main Street. Skinnykitty got a little more excited than Terry did, but I got him put out OK before he bolted out of the room.

#4. That Oprah Winfrey must have some stroke. I don’t watch daytime TV since Bo & Hope sailed off to parts unknown with a newborn baby around 1980. It just made that whole show seem somewhat unbelievable. I do keep CNN on while I’m in my office, but I don’t consider that TV. Anyway, I guess I just wasn’t aware of the power a “personality” like Oprah could wield. Snatched a for-sure Iowa victory away from Hillary and gave it to a black guy with a Muslim middle name – in IOWA, of all places. Iowa folk are different, Ms. Gump. Has anybody noticed whether or not they’re all driving new Pontiacs? Personally, I have no problem with Obama, and I’m sure he’ll get my vote if he gets the nomination. But, did I mention that he won in Iowa? Iowa? Isn’t that the same place where the Huckinator won for the bad guys? Seems odd, that’s all.

#3. Red Bull doesn’t really give you wings. But it’ll sure keep a whole bunch of obnoxious drunks awake a lot longer than anybody else wants them to be. Seems this is the new thing – mixing alcohol with energy drinks. In the old days, it was sort of rule-of-thumb that when somebody got slobbering stupid, you just kept giving them drinks until they finally passed out and quit annoying people. Now, with our wonderful advances in science, we can look forward to hours of enjoyment from these hardcore partiers with amazingly bad taste buds. Thanks, food science people. Next New Years, is there anybody with your organization I can call to drive these folks home? My upholstery can’t take it again. Is that Red Bull thing, by chance, a trend in Iowa as well?

#2. If God intended for lights and decorations to be on trees and houses, they’d come that way. It might be different for you, but I don’t put those stupid things up because I’m overwhelmed with “holiday spirit”, or because I’m just plain fascinated with colored lights. As I’ve gotten older, it takes a little more than that to retain my attention. The only reason I do it is because the kids get ticked if I’m the only one on the block who doesn’t light up. And they don’t even live here. Putting them up is bad enough, but then – unless you’re a redneck girl – you have to take them down. Then, you’ve gotta box ‘em up and carry them back up to the attic on Sunday when you should be in your office, working on art prints and writing columns, trying to keep from setting the cat on fire.

And, the number 1 thing I learned over the holiday season? Global Warming is going to kill us all. I don’t necessarily believe that, but if I have to listen to some redneck Republican mocking Al Gore every time it gets cold outside, I can sure as hell give it back when I have sweat dripping down my nose as I take down the Christmas lights, in a tee-shirt, on January 6. Whatever it is – whether it’s caused by cows passing gas, or volcanoes, or burning cats – this just ain’t right. I mean, I dig it, but it’s strange. If it would stay 70 degrees until Spring, then turn off pretty, that would be fine with me. But they say storms are coming tomorrow. That means I’ll have to shut the windows and let the cats back in.

Happy New Year, ya’ll.

© 2008 Rick Baber