Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Big Apple Christmas (parts 1 & 2)


The chillerins dropped word on us, several weeks back, to hold open the dates of December 17 through December 21…as if we ever have anything planned. Naturally, we assumed, given the broad window, that they were concocting some kind of trip. Being the anti-social type that I am, my first hope was that it would be to some remote corner of the country where there were very few people and maybe a lot of sand, cigars, and adult beverages. Maybe some place we could drive to in order to minimize my admittedly irrational hatred of air travel. But that was not how it turned out.

New York City, here we come.

We’ll fly straight from XNA to LaGuardia on Thursday, and by that afternoon, if, as my ol’ grandma used to say, “the Lord’s willin’ and the creeks don’t rise”, me ‘n the missus will be, for the first time in our lives, walking the streets of Manhattan with our big city-loving kids. And there will be other people there also, I assume. Millions of them.

Let me try to illustrate the gravity of this situation. A few weeks ago, James took his momma and me into a Wal-Mart in Bentonville to look at baby stuff (twins on the way in Spring), and, after about 15 minutes of being around those expanded-but-crowded aisles, I had to excuse myself and go sit in the car, and listen to a John Hiatt CD just to calm myself down. I know this is some kind of “condition”, but I swear I don’t know what you call it. Not like I’m afraid of people. Not a phobia. I just don’t like ‘em.

Is that wrong? Ya think?

After having some time to prepare myself, mentally, for this experience, I have come to the conclusion that the kids did the right thing. It is not foreseeable that we would have ever gone to the Big Apple on our own, and when the time comes to write my memoirs – like anybody would give a flying flip – how would I explain the fact that I’d never been to what is arguably the most important city in the world? Besides, I’ve about run out of stories about the other places I’ve been, and there’s gotta be new material there.

And pictures, just looking for somebody to shoot them. Above my desk here is a poster of a famous Bob Gruen photograph of John Lennon, standing, arms folded across his sleeveless white “New York City” shirt, atop the Dakota Hotel, shades on, just staring at me, like “Rick, I’m very disappointed that you haven’t been here!” You know, in a British accent. ‘Cause he was British.

People who go there seem to fall in love with New York the same way I have done with the mountains of Colorado and the Arizona desert and the Pacific Coast Highway and the narrow streets of New Orleans’ French Quarter. So, maybe it’s not such a bad place. Maybe I can put up with the huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, for just a few days. Maybe.

And, who knows, maybe I’ll bump into George Costanza, and we can compare paranoien. That’s the plural of “paranoia” – I looked it up. But my spell checker still has a red line under it. Some kind of an anti-columnist conspiracy, I’m sure. Some Mafioso New York cabal attempting to shut down my rant in order to quell disparaging remarks about their precious metropolis. I’ll probably be walking down the street and get snatched up in Spiderman’s web and pistol-whipped by that buddy of Tony Soprano who plays guitar for Bruce Springsteen. Jersey guy, but close enough. After that I’ll probably develop a Bronx accent and a penchant for aftershave.

Whattaya gonna do?

Just to be on the safe side, I’m going to be traveling under an alias: Art Vandelay, importer/exporter. And my entourage can be a small but dedicated group of marine biologists. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.More on the return, youze guys. Maybe with pictures.


You people thought I was kidding in the last column, I’m sure, when I told you we’d run into Spiderman when we got to the Big Apple. I gotta admit, even I was a bit surprised when we saw him on the very first night there – considering we were in Manhattan and Spidey lives way over in Queens. But, sure enough, there he was, on 7th Avenue, hanging out with a hot nuts vendor. You should never doubt me on matters such as this.

What I was surprised to find, after thirty years or so of swearing I had lost nothing in New York and therefore had no reason to go there, was that it’s just about the friendliest place I’ve ever been – even on the subway, where a couple of people got up and gave my pregnant daughter-in-law their seat.
No hitches. No problems. Just a good time. I mean, if you don’t consider that top ten blizzard to be an issue.

It was almost dark when we got there on Thursday, so we took off walking (that’s something they do a lot of in NYC) to Times Square and had a late lunch at Bubba Gump’s. There, we met the next pop singing sensation, Jenna Marotta, who took us to task with Forrest Gump trivia while waiting on our table. From there, we strolled through the cold and windy streets over to Rockefeller Plaza to check out the big Christmas tree and ride the psychedelic elevator to the Top of the Rock, and looked down on the lights of Manhattan, about eyeball level with the top of the Empire State Building.

After tromping through the airports and that much walking, preggo-preggo (twins, you know) was ready to crash, so we escorted her back to the hotel and took in the Hard Rock Café for supper.

Day two, Friday, they started talking about the possibility of snow on the Weather Channel. Maybe as much as 5 to 8 inches for the city. But there was still a chance it could miss us. Meanwhile, Miami was getting flooded, and the whole system was pushing north. As luck would have it, we were north, but convinced that thing would rain itself out before it got into the cold weather, we endeavored to persevere. We slept rather late, stopped off for some pizza, then rode the subway to Battery Park where we ferried out to Liberty and Ellis Islands. It was a chilly day, by Arkansas standards, but Lady Liberty was basking in the sun against a clear blue sky. I know it’s an overused word, but it was an awesome sight.

That night, after we’d worn Megan down again, Me ‘n mama and James grabbed some hot dogs at Papaya – a place our limo driver told us not to miss – and then caught a cab to Central Park, where our Turkish driver (never understood his name) and his Clydesdale, Pegasus, took us on a carriage ride through. Of course, it was all lit up with Christmas lights and the short ride would have been great, but Becky had to see Strawberry Fields, so we had to pay extra for the long one. From there, we could see the Dakota Hotel, where John Lennon spent his last days. For you kids, he was a singer, OK?

After the ride, we spent an hour or so at the ESPN Zone, enjoying some warming beverages before heading back to the hotel to pick Meg up for dinner at the Rainbow Grille. Imagine our surprise when we got there and discovered it had been closed down for 8 months. So, having brushed up on our trivia, we went back to Bubba Gump’s, snagged a window seat above Times Square and watched the people down below; and the scrolling marquee across the street, warning of “blizzard conditions” coming our way.

Saturday we slept even later. About noon we walked, as the first snowflakes began to fall, into Hell’s Kitchen for some more pizza. It’s not exactly Manhattan’s main tourist attraction and I think Megan may have looked a little out of place with her high heels and white fur coat and fuzzy white earmuffs. A lady walked up behind us and, thinking perhaps we were lost, told us if we wanted to shop they had this big store called Macy’s just a few blocks over. We thanked her and went on into Mitchel London Foods where, oddly, they sold pizza, burgers, and cupcakes. It was split up into two sections – burgers & cupcakes on one side, and pizza on the other. And run by a Mexican dude, who was so surprised to see us in there that he gave us each a cupcake when we finished our pizza. Mine was like fudge. Best cupcake I ever had. Then the girls did Macy’s while we…didn’t.

Back at the hotel, we got a black cab to take us to Pier 61 at Chelsea, where James had booked a dinner cruise of New York Harbor on the Bateaux. By the time he picked us up in the Denali, the snow was sticking, and we were glad he had agreed to come back for us at 11:30 that night, because if it was going to snow like they said it would, the cabs might have some trouble.

Anticipating some trouble with traffic, and not really having any, we got to the piers early. The driver left. The blizzard started. Waiting for our boat to board, we sat in a restaurant at Pier 59, watching the snow out the window.
When the time came to get on the boat, visibility was down to about two hundred feet. It was a glass boat, but a blanket of snow covered it pretty much completely, so it was nearly impossible to see out. We braved the arctic blizzard a few times to go out onto the deck, but got run off of there a couple of times by the deck hands, shoveling snow. James and I did get to stand out there long enough to (1) freeze half to death, and (2) watch as we went under the Brooklyn Bridge. The snow was coming down so hard when we passed the Statue of Liberty that she could barely be seen. Luckily, we had seen her the day before.

Back at Pier 61, our Denali didn’t show up. We called the hotel and they said they’d get somebody out there, but it didn’t look like they were going to make it. The snow was deep, and the wind was blowing, rocking the sailboats, whipping their flags. We decided to walk out to the street and try our luck at hailing a yellow cab (the black ones aren’t supposed to pick you up unless you call them first), but just before we got there, here came our car – a long stretch Lincoln limo. Perfect for NYC blizzard transportation.

Dude only had to stop a couple of times to wipe snow off his windshield in order to see his way to drive us back to the hotel. And, amazingly, we made it.
It had been a long day, and this old fat man was ready for a good night’s sleep. The weather channel was warning of a thousand flight cancellations from New York. My mom was texting, asking if I thought we would ever get home. My sister texted, suggesting we rent a car and drive home. I texted her back, asking for suggestions on which direction to drive – since the deepest snow was still to our south and west, and there was that ocean out there to the east. The hostile nation of Canada to the north. She told me my nephew, her son, was stuck in DC with three foot snow drifts, and he wished he would have left to go home for Christmas a day earlier. Well, he didn’t. And neither did we. As they say in New York, “Whatta ya gonna do?”

So, we got the girls to bed, and I started to undress to lie there and study the weather channel, but the phone rang. It was James. He hadn’t had enough, and wanted to take our new rubber boots (who knew they had a K-Mart in midtown?) and walk back to Times Square to see what it looked like in a blizzard. My face froze, cracked, and fell onto the sidewalk three times before we got there. It looked cool, all the neon and snow, but there were only a few people, having snowball fights in front of the NYPD building. One car was trying to pull out of a parking spot and the snowdrift tore the front bumper off. He would have kept going had we not beaten on his window and told him. That was just about as much cold excitement as I could stand, so, after shooting some more pictures, we trudged back, getting to our rooms about 1:30 am, just as I was playing off the voicemail from Becky, wondering if she was widowed and stranded alone in the big city. By that time, I had determined that it didn’t make any difference what the Weather Channel had to say about us not getting a flight out. It was what it was.

Sunday morning the snow had all but stopped. It didn’t look that bad. The Avenues were clear and traffic was speeding up and down them as if nothing had happened. 39th Street was still pretty deep and the hot dog vendors were having a time pushing those carts out of the building next door to us where they kept them. Mayor Bloomberg was on TV, telling us they were working on the highways and 6,000 miles of other streets in the city, and offering $12 an hour to anybody who wanted to sign up to help. I thought about it, but only briefly.
Our driver, Victor, who James uses on every trip to New York, showed up like clockwork, and took us on the scenic route, through Queens, to LaGuardia. There were a few minor glitches with security and an icy plane, but nothing worth mentioning. All in all, again, it was a fabulous trip. And, amazed as I am to say it, I will go back.

One thing about the trip home: Flight Attendant Jo, on American Airlines, will be Googling to see her name in print, so there it is. She has flown for 16 years and never seen a UFO. I think she’s lying.

Every story has a moral, and here’s what I learned on this trip. There isn’t a more diverse city than New York anywhere in the world. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, black, white, brown, and yellow. Put twenty people in a room and you’re liable to hear 10 or more languages. And they all seem to put up with each other. Maybe oblivious to each other but, still, in harmony.
In the spirit of the season, here’s hoping the rest of the world can catch up to them.

© 2009, Rick Baber

Monday, October 12, 2009


As a disclaimer, I should mention that many of the things we did “back in the day” were done before the creation of the word “stupidity” (look it up) and prior to the establishment of law & order in the territory of Arkansas. Matter of fact, should the statute of limitations on any of those acts, somehow, still be in effect, and any spunky young police officer decides to open up some “cold case” files, let me state emphatically that all of my stories are works of fiction from the overactive imagination of a semi-old man who, if truth were known, can’t remember by supper time what he had for lunch.

So, now that you kids have all those cool things to occupy your time like video games and blue tooth and 3G networks (whatever those are), you don’t have to resort to extreme acts of idiocy, like we did before the invention of electricity, to entertain yourselves. And, if you should decide to anyway, be advised that you could end up in jail or, like, dead, man.

It should also be noted that the wild bunch walking and riding the streets of Batesville in the late 60’s and early 70’s was a mere collection of wanna-bes, just trying to live up to the notoriety of those legendary ones who came before us. We didn’t think up The Great Ice Capades of 1971. We stole the idea from some older guys and were dumb enough to get caught trying to pull it off.

I could rattle off a long list of names of those older guys, dating back to the fathers of some of my friends, but, even though many of them have passed on, the truth is, I’m still afraid of them.

This story takes place in 1967, I think. Have I told you this? Stop me if I have. Directly across the street from my family’s house on Harrison Street, if you don’t count Chubby Menard’s house there between us, was Central Elementary School. Back on the west end of that property was the old school building. It seems like it was three or four stories tall – but you know how everything from your early years seems so much bigger. From the time we moved to Batesville, after the new school was built, this one was locked up and used only, I guess, for storage. The only thing I know for sure it was used for was to shield some of those 8th graders from the nosey Mr. Johnson and his meddlesome teaching staff when they wanted to have a nice relaxing smoke at recess.

One night that old building caught fire. For whatever reason, the fire department decided to just let it burn. And, man, did it burn! For days and days.

It was on one of those days that Chris’ sister, Pam, and one of her friends – Betty or Bim or Patti or Mary Jo, I can’t recall which – remembered that there was some paint stored in there that they desperately needed. The Newport game was coming up and they had to paint them some streets. So they told us they’d give us some ridiculously insignificant amount of money to go into that burning building and retrieve that paint for them. Well, we weren’t fools, so we held them up for twice the amount, maybe four bucks or so, before agreeing to their terms.
Making this short story somewhat shorter, I can attest to the fact that we both survived that expedition, maybe with some burned shirtsleeves, although I can’t recall whether or not we ever got paid.

It didn’t, at the time, seem to be any big deal. It was, after all, a rock building and we knew the walls would stay up – like those chimneys you see out in country fields.

On that same night I was sitting on the merry-go-round, watching the inferno before my mom yelled out the front door for me to come home and eat supper. I walked fifty yards or so before hearing the thunderous crash.

When I turned to look, that merry-go-round I was just sitting on had disappeared under the massive front rock wall.

But the streets got painted. Way to go Pam!

Friday, September 18, 2009


In that corner, you got your “seven deadly sins”. This is a list of bad stuff people do, thought by many to be listed in the Bible, but it isn’t. The list was actually compiled by Pope Gregory, sometime around 600 AD. Nonetheless, it has become part of Christian doctrine and, well, that’s all that really matters, isn’t it?

Over here, you’ve got a government, with lots of expenses, that needs to figure out ways to get “we the people” to give them more of the money that they actually print for us to use. Seems like they could just print some for themselves, but they don’t, so we just have to deal with the situation as we find it.

They get their money by taxing the people earning it. You get some, and then you take a little off the top…OK, quite a bit off the top…and send it to Uncle Sam. They take that and, after a good chunk going to administration costs, provide military protection, police, fire departments, road construction, and all kinds of good things that we need to function as a civilization. While many will argue that tax rates are too high, it is generally agreed that the concept of taxation is about the best way anybody can think of for a government to provide essential services to its populace. So, with that said, tax is not necessarily a bad thing.

“Sin Taxes” have been around for just about as long as taxes themselves. Sometimes the government decides that too many people are doing something they really shouldn’t be doing, but, rather than making that activity illegal, they put a tax on it. If that many people are participating, it must be fun. Why stop them, when you could just profit from it? Alcohol comes to mind. They tried to outlaw that once, but the people wouldn’t stand for it. So they came up with a better plan – heavy taxes. They even did the same thing with marijuana in the 1930’s and, more recently, with cigarettes. What more perfect vehicle for collecting tax revenue than addictive or habit-forming substances? Made to order for any cash-strapped bureaucracy.

Cigarettes have always been bad for people. But it has been only in the past decade or so that huge numbers of anti-smoking groups and citizenry have stepped up and made smoking truly socially unacceptable. Uncle Sam sees the polls, and grabs the opportunity to raise taxes on smokes, knowing he won’t get too much resistance from the people. It worked beautifully. Smokers keep smoking – albeit standing out in the rain, away from the decent folk – and those government coffers keep ringing it up.

Apparently, and as had been predicted by many of us not long ago, the cigarette tax increase worked so well that now they’re looking for other handy ways to raise revenue. Yard sales are just so much trouble. Enter now that list of “Seven Deadly Sins”.

Let’s take it from the top.

“Pride”. Well, Pope Gregory must have been having a bad day when he came up with that one. We encourage pride in our society. Dress nice. Mow your yard. Wash your car. Americans aren’t going to sit still for taxes on pride. Skip this one.

Greed”. The people with all the money, and thereby, all of the power, are obviously convinced that they already pay way too much in taxes. Just ask them. So, while this is a good sin to tax according to most of the people, it probably won’t happen.

Envy”. Seriously? How can you put a tax on envy?

Wrath”. We have penalties for wrath – imprisonment. They don’t pay those guys much for making license plates. Not much of a tax base there.

"Lust”.“ Here’s an idea. But it may be a little hard to enforce, requiring participants to be on the honor system. Maybe it could be extrapolated to include pornography, which seems to have some correlation to lust. The 2006 pornography revenue in the U.S. alone was over $13 billion. That’s more than the revenue of ABC, CBS, and NBC combined. Let’s put this one on the “later” list.

“Gluttony”. Yes! Here you go! With all the concern about health care costs, and all the stats pointing to diet as the main reason Americans are a bunch of fat, out-of-shape couch potatoes, this sin is the number one candidate to collect the big bucks that will bail out Uncle Sam, pay off China, and make us all live long enough to see that “lust” tax imposed on down the road. So, what do we start with? Soda pop! Everybody drinks soda pop! It’s a no-brainer. Next, French Fries. Because, no matter what you order at that drive-thru, you’re going to get fries with it. Potatoes are bad. Potatoes are evil. It was potatoes that brought down Dan Quayle, if you’ll recall. The best thing about this category is that it is virtually endless. Think of the possibilities. Donuts, Twinkies, pork ribs, bacon, cheese, everything in a Grand Slam breakfast. By the time we get through taxing everything in the gluttony category, lust will probably be obsolete anyway. And people can’t argue with it. After all, it is one of the seven deadly sins. It’s in the Bible! The next thing you know, jack-booted storm troopers will be kicking down our doors, scaring our kids and ransacking our houses, looking for that stash of goodies we’re brave enough to bring out only late at night, after Colbert goes off. Patriots, one & all, we’ll declare at that moment, “You can have my twinkie when you pry it from my cold, dead lips!” And that, friends, is what they will do, because once Pandora’s box is opened, it cannot be shut.

“Sloth”. What the heck is “sloth”, anyway? Who cares? We’ve already collected enough off tater tots to render it inconsequential. Go ahead and do all the sloth you want. It’ll never cost you a dime in taxes. And, if it ain’t taxes, you won’t mind spending it.
The door is opening. Last call. Drink up, grab your twinkies, and run.

© 2009, Rick Baber

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


Thank goodness the likes of Glenn Beck and other
great American patriots have warned us about the vast
communist-nazi-Nigerian conspiracy being waged upon
us by Barack Obama and his minions. Without these
ominous warnings, simple-minded people such as myself
would have taken this president at face value, and never
done any serious investigative reporting…like this.

You have heard, no doubt, of subliminal messaging – where your ears and eyes are hearing and seeing one thing, but your brain is registering something else. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways but two simple ones are by transmitting audio signals in a frequency that can be detected by the brain, but not recognized by the ears. Visually, images can flash on a screen so fast that, while you don’t realize you’re seeing them, you do, and they go straight to your memory.

This, my friends, is what this so-called president has planned for your impressionable school children in the “talk” he wants to give them the day after Labor Day. Probably, by the time you read this, it will be too late, because I have only just acquired this privileged information. But, thanks to those aforementioned patriots, and some really sharp school boards, many of those children will have been saved from this indoctrination.

Curious as to what was in this speech, I got online and requested a copy from the White House. Somebody screwed up and sent me a copy of the Master Speech – which includes the subliminal messages that will appear – shown in parentheses. Of course, space limitations preclude me from printing the entire speech, but just this first part will illustrate what was planned for the kids. To wit:

“The President: Hello everyone – how’s everybody doing today? (FLASH picture of Obama, holding hands with Jesus) I’m here with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. And we’ve got students tuning in from all across America, kindergarten through twelfth grade.

I’m glad you all could join us today. (AUDIO: Do drugs. Rebel against your parents.)
I know that for many of you, today is the first day of school. And for those of you in kindergarten, or starting middle or high school, it’s your first day in a new school, so it’s understandable if you’re a little nervous.(AUDIO: The black children are your superiors. Submit to the black children.) I imagine there are some seniors out there who are feeling pretty good right now, with just one more year to go.(FLASH picture of half-naked spring-breakers, partying in Cancun) And no matter what grade you’re in, some of you are probably wishing it were still summer, and you could’ve stayed in bed just a little longer this morning.(AUDIO: You can stay in bed all you want if your parents will vote for Democrats.)

I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn’t have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school (AUDIO: Plant drugs on the rich kids and call the police). So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday – at 4:30 in the morning. (FLASH picture of sleepy young children watching a pole dance.)

Now I wasn’t too happy about getting up that early. A lot of times, I’d fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I’d complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and say, "This is no picnic for me either, buster." (AUDIO: Mail your lunch money to me at the White House.)

Fast forward.

But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities.(AUDIO: Serve Obama. Obama is your only hope.) Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed. (AUDIO: If your parents are against Obama they are demons who must be dealt with.)

And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself. (AUDIO: Taxes are good. Support higher taxes.)”

OK. That’s enough. You get the message. The point is, if you ignored the warnings and allowed your kids to watch the president’s speech, you should get them to de-programming as soon as possible. Just tune into your local AM radio station to find out how.

Also, keep in mind that the Swine Flu vaccine is a CIA-developed serum that will make you succumb to the will of the president, vote to make Nigeria the 51st state, and legalize marijuana and gay marriage.

You’re welcome.

© 2009, Rick Baber

Friday, September 04, 2009


The pictures my niece emailed of Lock & Dam 1 early
this week at first seemed like some kind of Photoshop
trickery, perpetrated perhaps by Clayton Cavaness –
sitting before his computer screen in a dark office,
stroking his chin, laughing under his breath.

The dam was certainly recognizable in the photos, and
there was the lock in the background, the big rocks
below that middle spillway. I could even see Josie’s
back there in one of them, so I know it was the right
place. All that was missing was a little thing I like to
call the White River.

There was only a trickle of water below the dam, that appeared to be coming from underneath it. A couple of dudes were standing out there fishing, and not even getting their feet wet.

Over the years, I’ve seen the river down low enough that one could walk out across the top of the dam. Have done it myself on occasion. But never so low that the top of the dam was completely dry. Have ya’ll?

What’s up?

I posted the question on Facebook and got some interesting, though unbelievable answers. Consensus was that it had something to do with heavy rains in the spring and a lot of generating going on at the dams upstream. I guess they made more electricity than they had room for, so they had to just shut ‘er down and keep all that water in the lakes. Scuze me? If memory serves me, the definition of a lake has something to do with water coming in someplace and going out someplace else. Did somebody put the stopper in way upstream, keeping the water out of the lake? If not, how does all that water running in there keep from spilling over the dam and finding its way down to Batesville?

No, I think there’s something else going on. They’ve held water back in the lake lots of times. I’ve known that river since 1966, and I’ve never seen it that dry.

Once, when it was very low, Magouyrk’s grandpa told him it burned in half upstream. That makes more sense to me than that phony generator story, Diane! What if there’s a hole in the bottom up there somewhere and all the water’s going underground? It could happen! What if one day we woke up and the river was gone?

I’m fascinated with wondering what might be found in that dry river bed, above the dam, in “Lake Unico”. Somewhere in there are at least three engagement rings I heard stores about years ago. A few motorcycles. An alarming number of fire extinguishers that I probably shouldn’t mention. At least one Abbey Road 8-track with a broken tape. Some personal entertainment items ripped off from those yankee frat boys at Arkansas College who thought it would be a cute idea to string piano wire across the motorcycle trails in the woods, about neck high, to keep some bothersome “townies” from waking them up at all hours with loud pipes. So I heard.

If it didn’t float over the dam, there should be the remains of a big metal cooler full of adult beverages I threw in there very early one Saturday morning at the end of a long night’s detective work Rick Reed and I were conducting – but that’s another story. Possibly a 14 ft. flat bottom boat that an unnamed accomplice (some might guess) and myself stole one night in the slough. Well, let’s say “borrowed”. We took it back to where we found it, but it disappeared shortly after that. I’ve often wondered if maybe we didn’t pull it up on the bank far enough and it broke loose and drifted into the river. But we were in a hurry to get back to my house and sneak in the bedroom window before my mom woke up and found us gone.

I wonder what else is down there. White River Monster?

Let’s hope they turn the faucet back on soon and we never find out. Some things are better left a mystery.

© 2009, Rick Baber

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tell you 'bout Machine Gun Kelly

What I’m going to do now is let you in on what is
apparently one of the most well-guarded secrets in
American politics. Ready?

Democrats don’t want to take your guns away.

Somehow, bolstered by people with right wing agendas,
the myth that Dems, if left to their own devices, will
one day kick down your doors and confiscate all of your
huntin’ rifles, has been allowed to run wild. And, in
typical Democrat fashion, nobody has just stepped up
and made the announcement that this just ain’t going to happen. It seems that the powers that be in the Democratic Party hear craziness like this, sometimes early on, but, assuming that the masses have better sense than to fall for it, they just let it go. That’s foolish – assuming the masses have better sense, I mean.

Well, what kind of position does one have to hold in the Democratic Party to officially deny this one? I mean, will I do? You can tell I’m a real Democrat, because I refer to the Democratic Party, and not the “Democrat Party”. I’ve got “O, yes we did” stickers on my cars. I created them myself. Got a long history of malicious verbal & written attacks on the loyal opposition. Have generated countless letters to the editors, and even more emails & blog rebuttals, scolding me for my tacky, often-unwarranted badmouthing of those who espouse typically rightwing views. A yeller dawg, if you will, with an indisputable resume written on re-cycled paper. And I’ve got a bunch of guns in there in my closet, and a small cannon on the headboard of my bed. What’s more, I have lots of friends (though not many where I live, here in Republicanland) who vote for Democrats and have even more firearms than I do. Nobody I know straps them on and wears them to go to the mall or take the kids to play in the park.

Nobody’s going to kick our doors down and take our guns. The difference between us and those self-proclaimed 2nd Amendment advocates who are carrying firearms to town hall meetings on healthcare is that we’re not falling for the load of crap being put forth by people who simply want to disrupt these meetings and distract from the otherwise civil dialogue that should be taking place there. One of the differences, anyway.

Let me say that I honestly believe most of these people believe their second amendment rights are being threatened. They’ve been told this by more devious people with hypnotic powers and broader political agendas, who know that these gullible ones will act up, and by doing so further spread the word. The myth. And, it’s always cool to get on TV. But, if you’ll notice, you never see Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn

Beck, or the cast of Fox News packing heat at any of the events they attend. They leave that little task to their minions.

The argument that one brings a gun to an event such as this simply because they have the right to do so doesn’t really wash.. OK. You have the right. Nobody has said anything to the contrary, especially here, where the topic is healthcare. But why do it?

What do you suppose would happen to a “First Amendment advocate” who showed up at some GOP-sponsored town hall concerning, say, prayer in school, who stood up during the discussion and started shouting all of those words George Carlin made famous for not being mentionable on TV? Over & over. Just kept on shouting. Is that freedom of speech? Does that guy, however idiotic, have a constitutional right to do that? Well, probably so. But that wouldn’t keep him from being tasered, bro, and dragged out of there by his ears. Probably arrested. Convicted, for whatever charges they could make stick. Or, maybe, even shot by that guy with the 9 strapped on his hip. Would it?

It is not “patriotic” to cause additional work and concern for law enforcement officials who are there to perform their already-difficult jobs. Why do they hate cops? Just a suggestion, but maybe instead of a sub-machine gun, these patriots could carry a little flag.

Well, of course, they’re not going to pay attention to any suggestion made by me, because carrying a flag would be contrary to their true purpose. And that wouldn’t’ get them on TV. But, these gun-toters should know that, as more & more of them show up at these events, they’re going to become less newsworthy, and eventually rendered insignificant. The only way to be sure to make the news is to, somehow, stand out in that crowd. Try this. Ignore those red and green laser dots you see occasionally appearing on your chest. Reach down there, un-strap that bad boy and pull it out of the holster. If you find yourself still breathing, shoot it up in the air like the real cowboys did in Dodge City.

Now you’re on the news!

© 2009, Rick Baber

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Here's to your Health

Watching the Healthcare Town Hall Riots on TV, it’s
pretty obvious that there is a fair number of people in
this country that think such things are too important to
be left to the government. They could be right. What’s
the government ever done for the citizens? Everybody
knows, here in our capitalistic society, that it is private
enterprise that truly cares about the people.

Matter of fact, I’d go so far as to say that the only reason
for a national government at all should be to protect our
borders and print money. So, while we’re keeping that
meddlesome uncle out of our examining rooms, let’s get serious about this and kick ‘em out of all the other activities they seem to want to get their greedy hands into.

Food inspection comes to mind. What business does Big Brother have dictating to us what kinds of bacteria and such goes into our vittles? If a man raises hogs in garbage and a few folks get sick & die from eating his bacon, the market will determine whether or not that hog farmer stays in business. If people don’t want to get sick eating that pork, then they’ll quit buying it from that guy, and he’ll go out of business. Simple as that. Then, when he doesn’t have any form of income, he’ll be forced to get a decent job, because we’re kicking the Gov out of the unemployment business too.

If Mr. Pigfarmer can’t find another job (because there will be lots of people looking), he can become a thief, or a robber, or just shrivel up and expire before we let the government give him food stamps or welfare. He should have run an honest pig farm to begin with, and, frankly, we’re better off without him. His demise will further discourage other pig farmers from making people sick with their tainted pork chops.

Now, what becomes of his wife & kids? Well, they get off their spoiled fat ham hocks and get out there and get themselves some jobs too. It’s for their own good. If they were to get sick they’re going to have to pay whatever the going rate is for medical care, or they’re going to find themselves taking untimely dirt naps. Unless, of course, they turn to lives of crime to pay for their meds.

There’s another matter. Why should our hard-earned tax dollars go to pay the salaries and expenses of government-dole jobs like firemen and cops? Every house in America has a faucet and access to a water hose. If you want extra protection, hire somebody to stand outside and come runnin’ when you call. Maybe the rest of us don’t care if the place burns down. So why should we pay for your piece of mind? And why should a big tough guy pitch in to pay some cop to keep you frail little weasels from getting beat up by roving gangs of disgruntled, unemployed, mad cow-infected thugs? You’ve got a good

job, working for that private healthcare insurer who made billions in profits last year. You can afford your own personal bodyguards. That pig farmer’s oldest boy is a big ol’ strappin’ corn-fed lad, and I guarantee you he’ll work cheap.

Speaking of “cheap”, what’s the big deal about this “minimum wage” law? If Mr. Pig’s younger kids are willing to clean your jack boots and sew the cute little armbands on your brown uniforms for a dollar a day, then the gub’ment’s got no business telling you that you have to pay them more. They don’t know anything about running a business.

Am I right about this?

Sure I am. We all know it. This great country was built on rugged individualism and the entrepreneurial spirit, and nowhere in our rich history is there any record of the evil entity we call “government” doing anything of any benefit to we, the people. All they want to do is control us. You know, like they do with “laws” and “courts”. And the irony is, they charge us (via taxes) to pay for this. Why do we need the government to create and administer laws and run the courts? Surely, those are pursuits that some corporation, having only our best interests at heart, would be willing to undertake for a reasonable fee. Then, when they convict the accused, they can sentence them to hard labor in their sister company’s prison, or “draft” them into their other sister company’s army to fight our wars for us. What bigger and more serious business is there than war? You want to leave that in the bumbling hands of those bureaucrats in Washington? I think not!

We know for a fact that there are companies out there willing to pay pretty good wages to their employees do our warring. In his wisdom, our last president tried to utilize this service to cut down on the taxpayer expense to the lesser-paid “government” military. Of course he was stopped by the same socialists who are trying to suck up healthcare and every other should-be private enterprise into some kind of massive federal takeover of pretty much everything.

Finally, I also agree with the crack political team on The Daily Show that these “Death Panels” proposed by our Nigerian-born President should be made up of corporate citizens, rather than government employees. This way, we’ll be sure to get the best available people to decide which grandmas are the least likely to purchase the goods and services that made this the greatest county in the world, and pull the plugs on the right folk.

We’re on the righteous track, people! Keep yelling and screaming and pretending you’re total nimrods, and don’t allow anybody who wants to change this perfect healthcare system we have any opportunity to present their “rational” explanations. The good book warned us about the tree of knowledge. If we realize we’re naked, the next thing you know, the government will be wanting to clothe us. We don’t want none of that ‘round here.

© 2009, Rick Baber

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


Have you ever seen that TV show “To Catch a Predator”?

Sure you have. It’s the “Dateline NBC” specials with
Chris Hansen, where they have these online fake teenie-
boppers set up old pervs who cruise the Internet looking
for young victims to help them fulfill their twisted carnal
fantasies. Apparently there are a lot more of those guys
than any of us might like to think.

Some decoy gets on a chat room and hooks up with the
sicko, and convinces him that they are, say, a 13 year old
girl who is willing and ready to do unspeakable things
with just any old fat guy that they have never even met. It just so happens that her parents are away for the weekend, and the “kid” eventually sets up an appointment time for the guy to come to her house and play. When he gets there, Chris Hansen pops out and, in entertaining fashion, informs the guy that his intentions are all on film and broadcast on national TV. So, whatever kind of life the predator had is ultimately toast. But that’s not the end of it – because when the pervert walks out of the house he is immediately nabbed by a bunch of cops, handcuffed, and hauled off to the pokey, where he can experience somebody else’s fantasy.

The whole concept seems like pure justice to me, because there is no doubt as to the intentions of these men. But I cannot help but to wonder how any of this is legal, and I cannot fathom how all of them aren’t acquitted using an “entrapment” defense.

Let’s be clear. I’m not defending these guys. If it was me, and if it wasn’t against the law to devise such a plan, I’d have something more violent and illegal waiting for them when they walked into this set-up. And when, or if, they walked out, they would no longer possess the equipment required to conduct the activities they have in mind. But, sooner or later, it would be me that ended up in jail, because even in nabbing criminals there are some laws that have to be followed.

It’s just that when I get a question like this in my head, I can’t rest until I get some kind of satisfactory answer.

First of all, these aren’t really even kids. They are adults, posing as kids. So the culprit, even though he thinks he is, isn’t even communicating with somebody under-age. When he gets to the house he is invited in by the decoy, who is, in fact, an adult. There aren’t even any kids in the house. Can you arrest and imprison somebody for what they are thinking?

What about those wackos on HBO who dress themselves or their partners up in diapers and play with rattles and lollipops when they…you know…do what they do? What goes on in their heads has to be some kind of a crime. But you don’t see them getting dragged off barefooted to the big house in their little bonnets.

Here’s another analogy. You don’t like the jerk who lives down the street. You know he’s inclined to smoke a little weed now and then, and you come up with a plan to sell him some and get him popped. (Who’s the jerk?) You arrange a meeting where you have several cops and videographers hiding in the bushes; meet him there; and exchange a plastic bag of oregano mixed with cat litter for a hundred bucks. As soon as the exchange is made, six cops jump out and slam him to the ground, and load him up into the paddy wagon.

That guy thought he was buying marijuana, which, as you may know, is illegal. But he purchased cooking spice (and whatever cat litter is), which are not. Did he commit an actual crime? Will he end up in jail for it?

How ‘bout this one? There has been just too much speeding on the local by-pass. Somehow, law enforcement manages to get all your automobiles and tamper with the speedometers – setting them so that they register 15 mph faster than the car is actually traveling. You’re zipping down the interstate at what you think is 80 miles an hour, but you are, in fact, going only 65, on a 70 mph highway. Clearly, your intention is to speed. Lawbreaker! Which little box is going to be checked on that ticket? Can you be fined?

Or this. Say you’ve been making enemies of the wrong people, and you have discovered that one of them plans to (gulp!) assassinate you. Through some clever means you manage to set up a “Blazing Saddles” sort of fake scene out in the desert. Sitting there in a rocking chair is a spitting-image plastic replica of you, reading the latest Harry Potter book. Up in the rocks, two hundred yards away, the sniper is looking through a high- powered scope. The little laser dot appears on your head and the assassin squeezes the trigger. Boom! The cops jump out of their hiding places and drag the shooter down. What is he arrested for? Murder? Attempted murder? Destruction of private property?

This is fun, and I could go on with these scenarios all day. I won’t. Just hoping here that some legal scholars out there will think this over (for free) and let me know their thoughts concerning how this “perverted justice” bunch makes the charges stick on these astonishingly stupid would-be child predators.

Then I can find something else to wonder about.

© 2009, Rick Baber

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


What do you take with you (speaking metaphorically) on
your journey through this life? Most people, I think, don’t
want the additional baggage of the bad memories, so they
use the available storage space for the good ones. And
generally, there’s only room for the best of those.

I tend to be a packrat – never throwing anything out unless
there is just absolutely no place to put it. If you don’t
believe that, please take a look in my garage. Tools, for
example, scattered all over the place. There are cases
for some of them, and as I try to put the sockets back
into their corresponding slots, there are times that I mix them up. “Metrics” in the “SAE”
box, and visa versa. They look alike. It is an easy mistake to make.

It isn’t the packrats, like me, that have the neatest and most organized tool boxes. It is those guys that keep only the best and most useful of the things they have accumulated.

History, you know, isn’t necessarily what has happened in the past. It is simply what somebody wrote down about what happened in the past. It could be an accurate record. It could be embellished to fit the particular needs or whims of the author. Or, it could be completely false. Historians, like the late-great Wilson Powell, and his contemporary, Larry Stroud, I imagine, always had really organized garages. They research, and write accurate records of things gone by. When they do that, you can generally take it to the bank.

Not me, OK?

I’m just shooting from the hip here – trying to get the toolboxes cleaned up before somebody trips over something and sues me.

After my last column about the Landers Theater becoming a church, an epic conversation was generated via email and Facebook, wherein I discovered that I am not the only packrat in the world. This is a good thing. To paraphrase Judge Smails, “The world needs packrats, too!”

It all started when Janice (Martin) Price (SHS ’68), my sister-in-law, called me to ask if maybe I had my bouncers’ names mixed up. She thought the person I described was “George”, and not “Clyde”, as I had written.

No sooner than the words had left her mouth, I realized she was right. It was indeed George I had seen in my mind’s eye, chomping on that unlit cigar. I immediately posted a sort of retraction on Facebook, and the replies started rolling in, reassuring me that there were many others out there who carry on seemingly insignificant items when they travel. So maybe they’re not so insignificant after all.

In the discussion, it was resolved that previous to George, there was a bouncer named Claude at the Landers. Being insolent teenagers, we called him “Clyde”, just to make him mad. When George came along, for the same reason, we called him “Clyde.” So, for history’s sake, I’d like to correct that point.

Now, whether or not that is accurate will have to be a matter left for the real historians. The noteworthy thing, to me, is that so many people thought the Landers Theater was an important-enough part of their lives to take it 35 to 40 years down the road with them. I think that’s fantastic.

My BHS 1973 classmates, Ceil (Glenn) Smith and Dianne (May) Thomas were there to set me straight. They hadn’t forgotten. Another classmate, Steven Gillihan, all the way from his pulpit in Colorado, came to my defense, planting the seed in the conversation that we might have just made up our own names for people back in those days. He remembered, even after leaving for college, living all over the Midwest, and ending up (so far) as a preacher in Arvada, Colorado. And Ol’ Curt Wainwright, way down yonder in Saraland, Alabama, who has been there, pretty much, since a week after graduation day, 1973, had recollection of the sticky floors being patrolled by “Clyde”, and thought perhaps Bill Milum and Tommy Dodd were the only people who managed to sneak in the back door without getting caught. He must have forgotten about Gillihan, I guess. Lots of other memories that I’ll have to save for my next book.

And there were those upper classfolk, whose reminiscences of the place go farther back than mine. Gary Humphries (class of ’68), joined the Air Force in 1970 and spent some time in Alaska before finally settling down in Indianapolis a decade ago. But the cold up there didn’t freeze from his mind the fact that the Landers had curtained windows between the theater and the lobby, where us smokers could do our thing and not miss any of the movie. Matter of fact, I remember making RJ Reynolds rich while Becky (’71) sat alone watching “Gone with the Wind”. Then, Dana (Bone) Teichart (’71) had some ideas on where to look for those “naked lady” lights that used to hang on the walls inside.

Mine wasn’t the last class to remember roaming the dark aisles either. There were the youngsters like Barbara (Bruce) Rivera and Rene Montgomery (’75), Nancy (Sturch) Weaver (’76), Bob Wallis (’77), and even Heather Jeffries from the class of 1991 – a quarter century after “Hump” stood back there peeking through the curtains. They all had their comments to make, because the place and the people associated with it meant something to them.

Now, if any of you “accuracy freaks” find mistakes with any of those names or classes, take it up with the historians. My point is simply that any place important enough for the smallest details to be burned into people’s minds, so far down the road, deserves some sort of tribute – and while I promise this will be the last of it, this is mine.

Claude, Clyde, George. What does it matter? They knew who they were. No matter what we called them, we knew who they were, too. They were a big part of Batesville’s history. And they won’t be forgotten.

© 2009, Rick Baber

Monday, July 20, 2009

Landers Theater Gets Religion

During a quick trip home to Batesville over the weekend,
finding it necessary to make the 300 mile drive from
Westside to over near Newark, where the entire city has
apparently decided to relocate, me ‘n mama took our
customary vehicular stroll down Main Street on the way
back – just to get a look.

Imagine our surprise when we saw the gutted remains of
the Landers Theater, and a sign there proclaiming it to
be the location of a new church.

My first words to Becky were that this should not happen, because so much sinnin’ had taken place inside that building. I know this, because I was responsible for much of it, myself.

In 1967, about a week after moving to town and temporarily residing in the American Motor Inn, my folks determined it might help alleviate some of our Blytheville blues if they took my sister and brother and I to the movies. For whatever reason, they decided to take us to the Landers instead of the more… respectable Melba Theater down the street. I don’t really recall whether or not we actually stayed for the movie. All I remember is that I learned instantly that this was the place a young teen wanted to be on a Friday night in Batesville – the closest thing to the wild west this kid had ever seen.

Within a few weeks my parents rented a house on Harrison Street and one-by-one I was introduced to the guys in the neighborhood: James Milum, Chris Magouyrk, Kevin Bowie, and Randy Magar. It wasn’t long after that we would meet early on Friday nights in the Central Elementary School yard and walk to the Landers, where we’d put up our (as I recall) 35 cents and have our weekly adventure.

Once inside this cultural melting pot, I was actually able to meet and interact with kids from the other schools – Westside and Eastside. This was something that was just not done in Blytheville, and it opened up a whole new world. And the most amazing part of this experience what that there, inside that dark theater, were girls who were looking for adventures of their own. How cool was that?

Even the wild west had its sheriffs. Stealthily walking the aisles of the Landers was a large, flashlight-totin’, cigar-chewin’ mountain of a man named Clyde, who was charged with the awesome responsibility of attempting to assure the few people inside who actually wanted to watch the movie that they would be able to do so. It would be many years before I was able to appreciate the difficulty of this man’s job, but I learned the power of the flashlight very quickly.

Blinded by the light, the first time I heard his famous words, “You wanna leave the show?”, I had no idea what that meant. Kevin explained to me that, although we had paid our thirty five cents, this man had the authority to toss us out onto the street if he determined that we were not behaving properly – which, of course, we never were. So, each of us ultimately found ourselves sitting on the curb, waiting for the others to get bounced before we walked around town long enough so that we didn’t have to tell our parents that we got kicked out of “the show”.

Once, on Halloween, we even landed a job at the theater. They were showing some scary movie, and management thought it would be a cool idea to have guys dressed up like monsters run down the aisles and scare people. We put on our costumes upstairs in the projection room, and they opened up the projector to charge these illuminated, glow in the dark get-ups with the bright light. Then, in the most intense part of the movie, we attempted to run down the side aisles and freak everybody out. It seemed like fun when they explained it to us, but we weren’t considering the fact that there were a hundred other guys like us in that audience, and I think some of them knew we were coming. Maybe all of them knew we were coming, because, no sooner than we started through the doors, we were dogpiled and beaten within inches of our young lives as we fought and clawed our ways down to the emergency exits to escape.

We only took that job once.

Older now, after healing up and having a car and a girlfriend, no, a wife, of my own, me ‘n Bec and David & Tammy took in an “owl show” one night that offered up some new surprises. Apparently, they hadn’t screened the movie very well and it turned out to be something that, in the day, would have been more appropriately shown with an 8mm projector in the back room of a warehouse. From the very first scene, it was obvious that this wasn’t the typical late night movie in Batesville. But, sitting close to the front, there was no way we were going to walk back up that aisle to leave, facing everybody on our way out. It wasn’t that dark. We decided to wait it out and blend in with the crowd when the credits were showing, before the lights came up.

Of course David, being David, found much humor in the situation, and took the opportunity to introduce Becky to the ol’ pickle in the popcorn trick during one of the more poignant scenes. Well, yes, she screamed, drawing the attention of everybody in the theater to us. Now, we knew, they were all going to try to see who we were when this thing ended. But determined that we had a foolproof plan, we stuck to it.

Who knew? At the end of the movie, apparently realizing that since nobody had ever heard of any of these “actors”, there was no need to show the credits, the screen just went blank and the house lights popped on, full force. With all four of us scratching our foreheads walking out, trying in vain to conceal our faces, there at the top of the ramp, cigar stub in this mouth, grinning wildly, was Clyde.

“Well, Becky Price!” he said. “Does your mama know where you are?”

Somehow, she never found out.


© 2009, Rick Baber

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


NOTE: This is a story derived from the Into Focus column, expanded to become part of the next printing of my book, "Dinner With WT", as one of a few bonus stories. It is much more meaningful within the context of the rest of the book - which can be purchased from the publisher: Please check 'em out if you get time!


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. In the spring of 2008, 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 lighthouse 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, attracting much unwanted attention from other travelers – but the journey down here went about as well as one who hates to fly could expect….up until “the incident”.

You may not be aware of this, but for what it’s worth, there are no turtles mentioned in the Bible. That’s because they are such vicious and violent creatures that God booted them out of Heaven and condemned them to roam the earth for all eternity, you know, like Cain, in Kung Fu, carrying their houses on their backs. When the books of the Bible were written, the authors were so terrified of these creatures that they dared not even mention them.

For the record, I don’t really know whether or not that’s true. Actually, I may have just made it up. But that seems to make sense to me. Especially now.

Anyhow, 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 actually 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.

Notwithstanding my unfortunate experience with WT, back in the early 90’s, my affection for reptiles, particularly turtles, remained with me. I had convinced myself that bad things sometimes happen, and sometimes nobody is to blame. The thought of leaving this big fella in the road to likely be hit, and possibly even injured, by some speeding tourist was unacceptable. Besides, I imagined, anything short of a Hummer hitting this guy at more than 50 mph was going to be totaled. So I pulled off into the tall grass beside the road and hiked back, while Becky sat in the rental car, leaning over the back seat watching me through the rear glass and laughing, to do what I could about getting him off the road.

As I walked toward him, of course, I thought about WT. And I thought of the giant sea turtle that tripped me with her big front flipper as I wandered Satellite Beach in Florida - in the middle of the night - because it was too damn dark to see it there in the sand burying it’s eggs, because the Florida Turtle Cops wouldn’t allow me to take a flashlight. They didn’t want to freak out the turtles. Freak out the turtles! For a moment, that time, lying face-down in the sand in total darkness, I considered the possibility that I was going to become a meal. It literally scared the shit out of me. But I survived. Possibly because the odor ruined big mama’s appetite and she said “to hell with burying these eggs”, and split. It’s a survival mechanism.

My vast experience with turtles has taught me better than to try to pick this big one up off the highway – as if I possessed the strength to do that - 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.

Smartass. I resisted the urge to ask this little turd if he had ever lugged this guy’s cousin around by the beanbag for several hours.

A school bus already had traffic backed up southbound, and a van had the northbound traffic stopped. The bus driver was standing just inside the door, chatting with another stopped motorist, and about 30 kids were hanging out the bus windows. I could see this turning into an impromptu learning experience that they’d all be talking about when they got back to school on Monday. Here I am, making an impression on the impressionable young ones.

“Be careful”, the kid 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. I got this.”

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! Flashbacks. Beads of sweat dripping down my forehead and cascading off my nose. But I had to look cool…and brave…for the children.

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

There was still just about enough of him in the highway to flip a car, and my conscience battled for a moment or two with my fear before I decided to give it one last heroic effort. As I approached the beast I was interrupted once again by the know-it-all Carolina kid.

“You might wanna tuck that string in,” he said, “He might think that’s a big worm or somethin’!”

He was referring to the white drawstring hanging from the front of my kahki hiking shorts.

I walked on up beside Goliath.

“Kid”, I asked, “Don’t you have to be getting on home? I think I hear your mama calling. Hear that?” I put my hand up behind my ear.

The kid threw his arms out to his side, like he was tired of explaining something to an imbecile. “I’m just sayin’, they eat eels and snakes and…”

I didn’t hear the rest. Goliath’s massive head had shot forward and to the side and his huge jaws had opened and snatched my shorts, strings and all, right between my legs. Of course. As quickly as he had lunged, he retracted back into his shell, dragging me down by the crotch toward him. I laid across this shell, front to back, with my face being beaten by his smelly tail, like a windshield wiper across my nose, as the monster raised up and took off galloping into the woods toward the Atlantic Ocean.

Through all the fear and pain, my curiosity won out, and my first thought was about how high off the ground I was and how fast he was moving. The Carolina kid and the big yellow bus and all the horrified school kids were getting smaller and smaller as the turtle banged my ass into trees on his journey, not able to see where he was going because my little friend was in his mouth and even his eyes weren’t as wide as my body. Aside from the trees, it was a relatively smooth ride. Like air shocks. And after I regained some of my composure I realized that what he had locked in his mouth was mostly a big wad of pants, and just a little bit of wiener, which popped free just before the Carolina kid disappeared from my sight, looking down, shaking his head. Four or five men were running behind us, losing ground, carrying sticks and screaming.

We broke through the tree line and into the high weeds at the top of the beach and then started down through the sand toward the water. My confidence that this fresh water animal wouldn’t carry me down into the sea rapidly diminished. He wasn’t slowing down. I could hear the waves crashing against the shore and I smelled the salt air as this gargantuan brute carried me toward my aquatic grave. In all the scenarios I had concocted over the years, I never imagined it would end like this. It was just about then that the button popped loose on my shorts, and an idea was born. With my eight seconds completed, many times over, I quickly began to wiggle out of my pants to free myself, without regard to the fact that, here on the beach I found no reason this morning to put on underwear.

Just as we came upon the wet packed sand I freed myself from my khakis and flipped over the turtle’s tail, landing prostrate - face down again among the crustaceans and assorted dead things from the ocean – ecstatic to be alive. And the monster took my pants to Atlantis. Then a wave rolled in between my legs and reminded me that there were witnesses to this rather odd event. Many, many witnesses.

I rolled to my side and, there it was, Bodie Island Lighthouse. I shook my head to clear my eyes and I could see tourists up there with telephoto cameras, pointed at me. Then, it sounded like every Saturday at the Little League park when I heard the laughter and chattering of children. I placed my chin into the sand and looked back up the shoreline, and here came all those school kids, and the bus driver, and the motorists from Highway 12. And, like a guy who had just wrecked a bicycle, I jumped up to prove to them I wasn’t hurt. That’s when the park security people tackled me back to the ground and threw a jacket over my exposed nether regions.

The Carolina kid strolled up within inches of my head, with just enough breath left to say “I wouldn’t lay down there with them crabs with no pants on.”


The next day was Friday, and already the story had made the tabloids around Nags Head, complete with amazing pictures. By today, Sunday, when we arrived here at the airport, the Norfolk paper had picked it up. And wouldn’t you know, there are a lot of flight delays. People have nothing else to do but read the paper, and recognize me, and point and laugh.

A few of them even have the nerve to walk right up to me and ask “How’s the family jewels?”

And I do not hesitate to answer.

“Yummy. Want a taste?”

© 2009, Rick Baber

Monday, June 08, 2009


I picked up a virus, called Koobface, on Facebook. Trying to figure out how to get back in. Now that I have (I hope) removed the virus from my computer, I seem to be locked out of Facebook.
Here's a tip, DON'T OPEN ANY VIDEOS ANYBODY SENDS YOU ON FACEBOOK! Especially if they come from me. I understand this thing will attach itself to my "friends" list, and send invitations, etc. on my behalf, and infect the computers of those who open them.

My goal in life, at this point, is to track down the malicious pigshit little bastards who created this menace and torture them an additional 48 hours after they beg me to kill them. Slime-sucking little bags of festering shit, they are.

Meantime, if you have found this website. And you're not a malicious little bastard hacker, please feel free to communicate with me here.

UPDATE: I don't know how, but I managed to log back onto Facebook today. Maybe they got my e-mails... Anyway, I hooked up with an old (44 years ago) friend there, so that's cool. I guess the hackers can breathe another day.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Tired as shit of working for a living, I'm gonna start up a Powerball Lotto Pool. I think I'll call it "Uncle Buck's Powerball Pool #1". Looking for 30 to 50 members willing to invest $5 per week for an equal share of any winnings. Will do Saturday nite drawings only, because, like I said, I don't want to have to work for a living. I'll be working (see, what I mean?) on drawing up the agreement between members. Leave me your e-mail address here if you're interested. I'll be in touch.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Teabagging Texans' Treasonous Talk


I’ve been looking for a valid excuse to use the term
“Teabagging Texans” ever since a trip to Dallas I took
with James Kelley in August of 1974 in that un-air
conditioned welding truck to pick up a piece of drill steel.

As Arkies, we weren’t treated very well. I should say,
“I” wasn’t treated very well. James had the worldliness
and maturity to keep his mouth shut when being insulted
by the Texicans, but, being a kid of 19, I had not acquired
that ability. All that stuff about marrying sisters and not owning shoes from those smug rednecks just rubbed me the wrong way. Of course I “owned” shoes. It was just too damn hot to wear them in that truck, in Texas, in August.

The capper, I suppose, was when we stopped at a gas station, to pay them good Arkansas money for filling up the truck, and that cow-loving three-toothed attendant growled “We don’t need your Arkansas trash here” as I carried the soft drink cans and potato chip bags from the floorboard to put in the receptacle, conveniently located there between the pumps – apparently missing the “Texans Only” sign.

When I walked briskly toward the duck-tailed greaser, screaming all the obscenities I had learned growing up in a rock quarry (a rich vocabulary that remains with me to this day), Ol’ Eli grabbed me by my flowing blonde locks, flung me back into the truck and kicked the door shut. I had no problem messing with the Texan, but I wasn’t going to tangle with Kelley.

As the years went by, I don’t recall a single good thing that ever happened to me in the Republic of Texas. The only time I was ever “bumped” from an airplane, after boarding and sitting on a tarmac for two hours, was in Dallas. The only time I ever sat for three hours in a traffic jam, in 103 degree heat? Dallas. The only time I ever stepped out of an airport at midnight with a country music fiddle player, to catch a smoke while waiting for a replacement flight crew that they had to call and wake up to come to work – and got locked out of the place? Well, you know where it was.

Jimmy Buffett was right. Pass it by.

So, on April 15, while watching clips of all the Fox News staged “tea parties”, on another network, I could swear I saw that Goober Pyle gas station dipstick in one of those crowds, still wearing the same uniform. He looked 35 years older, but I don’t believe he had washed that shirt yet. Same nametag. “Bud”. Somebody else must have spelled it for him.

Then, here comes Texas Governor, Rick Perry, echoing the now too-familiar veiled threat, as so brilliantly espoused by the well-known intellectual, Chuck Norris, that, if things didn’t start meeting with their approval, Texas might just pick up its marbles and secede from the Union. That right, Perry (and Norris) explained, is in their state constitution.

First of all, there seems to be some disagreement regarding whether the Lone Star State could legally secede from the United States. From some of the information I have read, they actually do have in that document the right to split into five separate states – which would have saved us all a lot of grief if they had done in the first place. Second, a US Supreme Court ruling, sometime around 1869, I believe, was that they did not have the right of secession.

In the middle of the 19th Century, there were seven southern states (including Texas) that declared they were bailing out because they didn’t like the way things were going politically, and they obviously thought they had the right to do that. When a bearded hippie liberal president took exception and called up troops to quash the revolt, they were joined by four more states – one of them being Arkansas, whose trash is not welcomed elsewhere.

That didn’t work out too well for the secessionists.

But I’m thinking “Can’t we all just get along?”

If the treasonous Texans want to leave, can’t we just wish them well, and warn them about Oklahoma hitting them on the rear-end on their way out the door? Can we box up Mike Huckabee and ship him down there to live with his buddy, President Chuck Norris?
And Secretary of the Interior, Bud. In fact, with all that room they have down there, and have always gloated about, couldn’t we just let all the whining crybaby losers of the last presidential election take up residence in the new country? They would all be so happy there. And, really, don’t we want everybody to be happy?

It will take a bunch of wire and even more labor to build a fence around that place to keep all them Texicans from sneaking into the United States to steal our jobs. The US will have to do it, because the Texicans will be busy working on their own fence down south. That, in itself, would probably be sufficient to stimulate our economy.

Just a thought. While ya’ll are thinking it over, I’ll be looking for a good passport photo camera. I’m seeing a potential opportunity for business expansion.

Now, where’d I put those shoes?

© 2009, Rick Baber

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Second Hand Tater Tots

Not that it will do any good, but let’s try to go over this
cigarette tax thing again, shall we?

Now that the latest round of taxes has taken effect, folks
who purchase coffin nails in Arkansas will be paying a
total of $2.16 per pack, in taxes, to satisfy their cravings.
That’s $1.15 for the state and $1.01 for the feds. In taxes
alone, that’s about $1.81 per pack more than the first
cigarettes I remember purchasing from a machine, and I am
under 90 years old. (Of course I am. Smokers don’t live
that long.) After the taxes, if anybody wants to make
any money off manufacturing & distributing them, you have to tack on some more
charges. When all is said and done, here in Arkansas, the average price of a pack of premium smokes is now about a hundred bucks per pack. OK. That’s not accurate. Truth is, I lost count.

The point is that both the state & federal governments just keep piling on with the taxes on smokes.

I’m not here to argue the merits of smoking. Frankly, I don’t think there are any. I’m not even here to argue on behalf of the “poor” people who are, studies show, the ones most likely to smoke, and therefore most likely to be victimized by the burdensome taxes. I just don’t understand how it is constitutional for a government to pick an item, any item, and disproportionately tax that item.

Seems like they tried that with tea once, a long time ago.

Sure, the anti-smoking zealots will scream that the poison smokers exhale invades their personal space. I don’t disagree with that. I think, for that reason alone, smoking should be illegal in public places. I think it is OK for owners of businesses to ban smoking in their facilities, if they choose to do so. OK to say you can’t smoke with a kid in your car. OK to say you can’t smoke in the workplace. But all of those things have been done, and still, they keep heaping it on the smokers. How? Why? Every time some yuppie drives by in an SUV, I can feel myself choking on the carbon monoxide fumes, but I don’t see them piling taxes like that on V8 engines. Don’t see them raking it in on those dangerous, noise-polluting crotch rockets.

Some will say that the government is being a good big brother by making it so expensive for people to smoke that they’ll just up & quit – and that would be the best thing for them to do. That will happen. It is happening, among those who feel a genuine financial pinch from the new cost of cigarettes. But, even though the numbers are proportionally lower,

there are still people who can afford to smoke. So they do. What shall we do to stop them from puffing away in the privacy of their own Escalades?

Once the lower incomers have quit, there goes a huge chunk of all that beneficial tax money. After budgets have been set based on that money, where do they go to make up the difference? Maybe, if the state would levy another $100 per pack tax, they could keep the coffers filled up just off the rich smokers. Probably not. But what’s to stop them from trying?

So they try it. And the specially funded projects go broke because, ultimately, everybody quits smoking cigarettes. Big Brother has forced the populace away from an unhealthy habit, without ever even making it illegal! They’re going to have to find some other vice to tax now. What shall it be?

Fat, I think. That seems to be the next big bogey man on the horizon. When cheeseburgers cost twenty bucks because there’s $17 in taxes, how long will it take for the industries associated with that nasty habit to go belly-up? But we can’t let those special hospitals go down the tubes, so we seek out another victim.

I’m going with tater tots. Those things are just disasters looking for a place to happen. I mean, not only are they catastrophic to the well-being of the person who consumes them, they have a tendency to generate violent gaseous expulsions that invade the breathing space of innocent bystanders – causing babies to be born naked and old ladies to faint onto their bingo cards. Let’s say five bucks a tot, for starters.

And on it goes, until, eventually we get back to taxing tea, and eating salad. Nothing but salad. And we’ll all live healthily ever after.

Please. Spare me. The government doesn’t give a flying flip whether or not their taxes contribute to the physical well-being of the soon-to-be ex-smokers. They’re piling on the taxes on tobacco products because they need the extra money and they have found a villain, and they can get away with it. Smoke = bad. If smokers don’t like it, all they have to do is quit. Who’s going to raise much of a stink about that?

Once the monster has been let into the room, who is going to be the one to put it out?

Here’s the question. Sorry about all that leading up to it. “If smoking is such a terrible thing, why don’t they just outlaw cigarettes?”

Re-read for the answer.

© 2009, Rick Baber

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Gimme Back My Bullets

You see, even when this column doesn’t make it to
print in The Batesville Guard, I still publish it on my
blog (, and occasionally on And when I e-mail it out to
the editors, there’s a massive “cc” to a worldwide
cabal of very important people, called my “Focus Group”.
Some of these are of the conservative persuasion, and,
since they haven’t asked me to stop, I include them
just to get back at the voices in my head, and on the radio.
Mostly on the radio. So I get a degree of feedback.
And what that feedback is telling me is that I was just too
… abrasive with the last column, and that’s why it didn’t make it to the paper.

At first, I just thought that, with so many talented writers at The Guard, including some very good new ones, they simply didn’t have room for it. But then, the e-mails and Facebook comments started coming in, and I realized that, maybe, I had gone over the line in my criticism of “conservatives”, indicating that they were all pretty much like that Rush Limbaugh. And then I read about Batesville’s own little cabal down at the Chamber of Commerce. Who knew?

Now, I realize that the newspaper is a business and they, unlike myself, cannot afford to publish my left-wing hippie ramblings just to piss (newspaper euphemism replaced) people off for the sake of perpetuating a conversation that many people would just as soon had never been started. And I know that not everybody is a news and political junkie like I am. But, dammit , I don’t start this stuff, I just respond in print to the bullshit I force myself to listen to. At least it keeps me from climbing up on my roof and shouting it all over northwest Arkansas with a bullhorn. I once knew a guy who got arrested for that.

Maybe I picked the wrong medium and the wrong political affiliation. I mean, you occasionally hear people arguing points with the conservative talking heads, when they can get a word in edgewise, but you hardly ever hear anybody chastising them for being unfair, or too mean. Isn’t that what they’re there for? I thought I was supposed to be expressing my own opinions here. And truth is that I have a very low opinion of some people and some platforms. That doesn’t make my opinion right. But it does make it mine. That’s why they call them “opinions”. I’m just an old writer with a keyboard in my smoky office at home – a radio behind me, and a 13” TV up on the shelf next to my framed John Lennon “New York City” poster, with CNN on all day and all night. Usually with my white cat sitting up here on the desk beside my keyboard, like a Barn Owl. It’s not like I’m in charge of, I don’t know, the Chamber of Commerce or something.

But still, I fully understand that it isn’t my paper and I don’t have any say-so about what goes in it, or when. I’m just thinking “How ‘bout a little something, you know, for the effort?”. Like maybe a short statement: “Rick Baber’s column will not be published this week because he was too mean.”

Then, at least, those of ya’ll that want to read it because you agree – as well as those who want to scold me for being such a jerk – can come on over to my blog and tell me what an outstanding job I’m doing balancing the radical radio right. Or, you can tell me where to go.

I don’t care which. I’m an insecure liberal who craves the attention.

Sure, I could mellow out and watch Wheel of Fortune & Oprah, and listen to the same old songs over & over on the classic rock radio station, and tell you cute stories about my cats. But, ultimately, I would get to the parts about the cats being radical liberals and then go on to tell you that my granddog is not only liberal, but also black, and we’d be back to square one, wouldn’t we?

Can’t help it, I guess. I tried the peace & love can’t-we-all-get-along thing for a while, but it just didn’t work for me.

So, to those of you I continue to anger with my rants, let me say that I know I should apologize. And to my editors, let me say “Thank you for the times you have allowed me to express my opinions in your fine newspaper, knowing you’re going to catch it from some of your readers.”

To the Batesville Chamber of Commerce: “Dudes!”


© 2009, Rick Baber

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Somebody tell them they lost

Isn’t it strange how long it takes to create anything
compared to the time it takes to destroy it? You can
take a lifetime building a home, for example, and come
back from a weekend at grandma’s to find it all reduced
to a pile of ashes. Just like that.

One of the very few things you can be sure of in this
world is that everything comes to an end. Everything.

Now, it appears that all of the economic prosperity the
good ol’ US of A built up during those eight wonderful
Bush years has, in a period of under two months, been destroyed by that evil Barack Obama. I mean, that’s the way it sounds, listening to the Republican’s talk. They’re not arguing that everything wrong with this country is his fault – just the stuff that wasn’t screwed up by Bill Clinton and, before him, Jimmy Carter. Apparently, the economy was plumb rosy before November ’08, but now it’s swirling around, counter-clockwise in the bowl under the porcelain throne.

Big Business is blowing gaskets, laying people off, slashing wages, closing facilities. Wall Street looks more like downtown Saigon in the days of the evacuation. Sean Hannity, self-appointed leader of the “conservative underground”, is preaching the end. Woah is us.

Saturday, Rush Limbaugh spoke to nine thousand rabid “conservatives” at the “Conservative Political Action Conference”. That one speech alone will have a profound influence on repairing the broken economy, because, most likely, all of those people will have to undergo knee surgery from jumping to their feet, screaming & clapping, every time their guru made some nasty insulting remark about liberals, in general – or about the “liberal media”, which the Bloated One refers to as the “drive-by media”. That should generate a lot of money for doctors & hospitals.

The top dog in that drive-by media, CNN, carried the hour and twenty minute speech live, without commercial interruption. How one-sided of them.

Anybody, such as myself, who put themselves through the torturous ordeal of watching the entire spectacle (I had my wife tie me to a chair, facing the TV, and tape my eyelids open) can take away from it that the reason the conservatives lost the presidential election was that they have not behaved “conservatively” enough. That might be an astounding revelation to some, but I spend a lot of time listening to this guy on the radio, so I already knew that.

Limbaugh defended and re-asserted this hope that President Obama “fails”. That, you see, is how conservatives show their patriotism – declaring (in a time of war!) that they want the president of the United States of America to fail. So, the president’s attempts to straighten out this terrible economic mess (the one he single-handedly created since January 20) needs to crash & burn. More businesses can shut down. More people can lose their jobs and their homes. Maybe some of them can even starve to death. Wouldn’t that be swell? After all, people deserve to suffer for allowing this country to elect somebody who doesn’t agree with Limbaugh and the rabid Neocons. That’ll show us, by golly.

It is more than a hope, however. They know that Obama’s stimulus package won’t work. Somehow, they have been imparted with this knowledge, either by their Creator, or by His representatives here on Earth – Limbaugh, Hannity, Coulter - the Republican Trinity. The answer, they proclaim, is to do exactly what GWB did during his terms….only more. Those of us who were under the false impression that Bush’s policies are what brought us to this edge of depression, were blindly led here by the media. Everything was fine all along, until now. What fools we were to believe what we read in the papers and saw on TV; what we saw with our own eyes and felt in our own stomachs. There is no truth other than what is preached on talk radio. Obviously. Even CNN must have come to that realization just prior to airing that loveable little fuzzball’s sermon to the choir. Conservatives are the chosen ones. The master race. They will prevail!

Makes sense. Most of the individuals who control big business are, by definition, conservatives. If you’re the top dawg, raking in all the money, why would you want anything to change? If you’re the top dawg, you have some control over that. You can lay off people, cut wages, and shut down facilities to help bring about an expeditious end to this foolishness and get somebody back in office who’ll look out for the big guy. Big guys need friends too. Even if your business isn’t hurting, it is your duty as a fat cat to help out your fat cat brethren. Do this now, for the cause, and you will be rewarded when things return to “normal”. Rush said he just wanted it to be like it was when he was a kid. You know, back when black folk weren’t allowed to vote.

Sorry about the mixed animal metaphors. I couldn’t decide which one I liked better.

Liberals have many enemies: hunger, homelessness, despair, inequality, ignorance and greed, to name a few. Conservatives have but one: liberals. So who has the easier fight ahead of them?

(c) 2009, Rick Baber

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Boom Boom. Out go the lights.

This is what I always imagined it would look like at the
end of the world – strangely beautiful from a respectable
distance, but really no place you want to be.

If any tree in northwest Arkansas survives this ice
storm, I think it will be my big Spruce out there by the
street. Rather than snapping and collapsing to the
ground with terrifying sounds resembling those of
an avalanche, it just dropped it’s many arms and is
standing there, slumped, like some dejected, frozen
child who didn’t get the toy he expected for Christmas.

It was Christmas, or just after, in 1993 when I removed the lights and decorations from the tree and carried it out there to plant it by the sidewalk. Just a five-foot tall baby then, and I never really expected it to get this huge. I hope it makes it.

Three days after the frozen rains started here, I understand there are still something like 50,000 people without power. The hotels are full (some have folks sleeping in their lobbies) and, according to what I have heard from people staying in them, some have doubled their room rates. What a lovely humanitarian thing to do when so many people are displaced from their homes, freezing. There’s a conspicuous absence of public shelters, as if the few short years since have erased everyone’s memories of Hurricane Katrina. Not that I would compare our little disaster with that one, but the concept is the same.

We decided to ride this one out at home. Our power flickered a few times before going out for most of the day following the storm, but then came on for a few hours before going out again, then back again staying on all night, and so far this morning. Survival instincts kicked in while it was out, and we turned our living room into a big tent by putting up curtains and photography backdrops over the openings to the dining room, foyer and hall. This left us with just the living room to heat with the fireplace when it was supposed to drop to 6 degrees that first powerless night. The only problem with that was…. we had no firewood.

Rather than burn the furniture, (*mark this spot) we heated with the gas log lighter. I found a piece of sheet metal in the garage and bent it into an “S” shape so that the flame was hidden, under the metal. The little fire heated the sheet metal and the top of the “S” forced the heat out into the room, rather than letting it all go up the flue. Pretty clever, if you ask me.

Then we dug out the old tailgate propane cooker, left over from our son’s college football days, and made bologna melts for lunch. Odd as it seems, we were rather looking forward to “camping out” in the house.

Then the power came back on. Our disappointment didn’t last long, because it was soon off again. Then, into the night, it came on again for good – or so we thought – and we slept warmly in our own bed, in much better shape than thousands of other folks out there.

Three paragraphs up, you’ll see (*mark this spot). That’s how far I had gotten with this column before the electricity went off again, at about noon Thursday. It’s 5:23pm now and I have had just time enough since the lights came on to power up my computer and get this much more written. I wonder how columnists did this stuff back in the cowboy days when they couldn’t use their computers.

We found two restaurants open today and had Mexican food for lunch. Most of the people in that place were talking about their power still being off, and wondering aloud when they might have it back.

The sun was out, heating it up slightly above freezing today, and a lot of folks think this thing has passed. Not so. The thawing itself will release more tree limbs that will fall into more power lines, and more people will find themselves in the dark. By about Sunday, when the frozen pipes in the dark houses finally thaw out, water leaks will occur all over the place, flooding houses, ruining floors, and sending lots of already frustrated people back to hotels. Most will have insurance to cover those repairs and additional living expense, but many of those staying out now, because the power is out, mistakenly think their homeowners policies will reimburse them for the expense. That won’t happen unless a tree fell across the electrical service line on their property. There’s no coverage for such things during area-wide power outages. And guys like me have to be the ones to tell them.

That won’t be fun, and I’m not looking forward to doing it.

But the worst part of this whole thing for me is this: I came up with this scheme to win the Powerball by playing the same red ball numbers every time, until it hits. A whole bunch of white ball numbers, all with the same red ball. Of course, the odds are greatly against me on this, but I figured sooner or later “4” would hit.

Wednesday night, after all the weather problems, and the first time in forever I didn’t buy my tickets, guess what?

This year isn’t starting off so great.

© 2009, Rick Baber