Monday, December 06, 2010


Not many people know this, but I’m actually in the process of working on my 17th million dollars. The first 16 attempts were such abysmal failures that I gave up on them. But, this one…this is a sure thing! Here it is: “Fly Nekkid Airlines.”

Whattaya think? Here’s the copy for the TV ad.

Uncover the beauty of Fly Nekkid Airlines.
At FNA we’ll take the hassle out of air travel. No more invasive, embarrassing X-Rays or being groped by strangers who won’t even buy you a drink first. Strip off! Liberate yourself! And leave the flying to us.

Tired of “Sky Mall”? They won’t let you turn on your cell phone? Bored beyond belief as you sit for hours on the tarmac, waiting only to get your bird in the air? Think of the hours of entertainment you could provide yourself, simply by checking out the “carry on baggage” of the other passengers. Your bird could be in the air before you know it!

Remember the man who recently was arrested for getting a little too “excited” while being frisked by airport security? Well, at Fly Nekkid Airlines, there’ll be none of that. On those cold days at the airport, there’s no penalty for early withdrawal, and never any extra charge for happy endings! We aim to please.

How about standing in those security lines, trying to hold all your luggage, a camera bag, a laptop, cellphone and two $3 bottles of airport water while you attempt to remove those rubber boots you had to buy in New York after the unexpected snowstorm? You simply can’t do it without falling down! Look! Everyone’s laughing! But not here, at FNA. You’ll glide past those angry, garmented travelers with a smile on your face and your boarding ticket in your hand! No dangerous X-Rays. No getting only one shoe back after knowing you put both of them into that plastic tub. Those shoes are packed safely and securely in your luggage, which will arrive, on-time, at your destination – just like your luggage always does with the other airlines.

At FNA, we won’t treat the captain and crew any differently than the passengers. The only exception being that the captain will be allowed to wear a hat, so he’ll have a place to pin the golden FNA wings – to identify him as your pilot.

As an added bonus, Fly Nekkid will have its own rental car service at all the most popular destinations. Your car will be equipped with seat warmers and a special “N” front license plate – indicating to law enforcement that the driver of the car will be in-the-buff, in the event you’re pulled over for some traffic violation.

It’s a long trip. Why put yourself through the ordeal of driving? Twist that little knob – the one above your head. Turn the heat up as high as it will go, close your eyes, and pretend you’re in a sauna for the next three hours. We’ll get you there in style!

At FNA, your comfort and safety are our primary concern! Come fly our really, really, really friendly skies!

Investor inquiries welcome.

(Not responsible for colds, sunburn, rash, transmission of communicable disease or parasites, scuffing, chafing, scraping, scratching, itching, goosebumps or divorce. Fly Nekkid is not for everyone. Ask your doctor if flying nude is safe for you, and call your doctor immediately upon landing if your flight lasts more than four hours. In-flight blankets and pillows provided, as supplies last, for $100 each. No seat changes after boarding pass issued. No riding on another passenger’s lap. Please eat responsibly before boarding. Excessively spicy foods or beans of any form are discouraged. Your credit card will be billed for required seat cleaning.)

© 2010, Rick Baber

Monday, October 25, 2010

Forgive Us Our Debts

If you need any more proof that “trickle down economics” doesn’t work for the little guy, just look back a little ways to the bailouts of the banks and auto industries. How’d that work out for you? I mean, if you weren’t a bank or an auto company. Tried to borrow any money lately?
Here’s what I, with all my vast economic expertise, said back then: Give the money to the people, and let it trickle up. The gumment could have done that, with the qualification that if the individual who got the money owed it on a mortgage or an auto lien, they had to pay on those first. The end result would have been that the mortgage and auto industries benefited, as well as the individuals who owed the money – because, even if the money wouldn’t have paid off their liens, they would have owed that much less after making the payments. No?
But then we’d have had all these good Americans screaming that was “Socialist.” Of course, it’s not Socialism if the money is given to the corporations. That’s just another step toward the Oligarchy that is our destiny. After all, the corporations call all the shots here anyway. But, at least it’s not Socialism. We couldn’t live with Socialism. Socialism, bad.
Well, since that little plan worked out swimmingly, what do all ya’ll anti-Socialist good American citizens plan to pull the US out of this economic abyss we’re in? Give tax breaks to the big corporations…so they can…pay big bonuses to their top people, while mortgage foreclosures are at an all-time high? People are getting booted out of homes they’ve tried to pay on for years. Others, who can afford their mortgage payments, are walking away from them in what are called “strategic defaults,” because they find it economically impractical to pay more for their property than it’s worth. The Mortgage Bankers Association comes out and chastises those people for walking away from their obligations – belittling them – but, a little investigation by The Daily Show revealed that they, themselves, strategically defaulted on their own mortgage. Yep. They skated away from their bargain $41.3 million mortgage on their headquarters, because they found it was cheaper to rent. Ya think? Go back and re-read that, will you?
I’ve read editorials explaining how following the policies of this “socialist” Democratic Party are going to lead us all to serfdom. Say it again? Do you people know what “serfdom” is? Could you do us the favor of looking it up before you write something like that? When the bigshots (aka the corporations) have outright and total control of everything, and we’re all at their beck and call, what, exactly, would you call that system? Can anybody see us ending up any other way, no matter what party inherits control of the government? I don’t want to sound like an alarmist, or anything, but allow me to submit the idea that we’re well beyond the time to panic.
The solution to this crisis has to be some radical, out-of-the-box new thinking. And I’ve found it, in the form of an early 1900’s plan by an Arkansas visionary named William Hope “Coin” Harvey.
You may not realize this, but they were having some financial difficulties back then, also. Coin’s idea was to forgive all debt, and abolish credit. D’ja get that? Forgive all debt. That means, if you owe somebody something, the slate is wiped clean. You keep your house, or your car, or your boat or your big ol’ flatscreen TV, because it’s in your possession, and you don’t owe any more money on it. If somebody owes you, well, they don’t anymore. Then, we simply start all over, with none of us owing anybody anything, and nobody owing us, without credit.
“But, Rick!” You scream, “You socialist piece of something that can’t be printed here! That’s socialist, and therefore, it must be evil! What about those who are owed more than they owe? They’re getting the short end of the stick.”
You think? You mean, like, the Mortgage Bankers Association? Do you actually know anybody who is owed more than they owe? Do you think they would truly suffer from such an arrangement – say as badly as those millions who are getting tossed out of their homes, living in tents in the woods or in dumpsters behind restaurants where they can scarf up some of the food they throw away? Kind of hard to keep a job when you’re living like that, I’d guess. I mean, the co-worker in the next cubicle probably won’t stand for too many whiffs.
“But, Rick! That’s not fair to me! I’ve worked hard all my life to get all the cool stuff I have, and it’s paid for! Now you’re just going to let all these deadbeats who owe money catch up to me on the ladder to success?”
Poor you. Dig this. Every game has a winner…and an end. Let’s just say you won, and start a new game. Game over. Re-shuffle the deck and let’s see how you do going forward. Don’t worry about remaining ahead of others. There are plenty of people nowadays who don’t have anything, even that they owe for, and you can still look down on them!
Hey, it ain’t my idea. Like I said, it’s radical new thinking from the early 1900’s. I’m just tossing it out there for discussion. Tell me the downside. Try to make it believable.


Book signings for PURITY and DINNER with WT are tentatively set for November 20, a Saturday, at Paper Chase in Batesville. Call them to get your books reserved. We hope to see you there!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Confessions of a Grammar Nazi

No, you couldn’t tell by reading my column, or my books, or my blog, or anything else I write, but, I guess, I’m a grammar nazi. Reading some Facebook comments following a post by Alyson Low, this revelation hit me like a sack full of mud. I realize I have no right, but I get really irritated by the little things.
The catalyst for the conversation regarded the use of the word “less” in place of the appropriate word, “fewer.” It’s done all the time – even on TV commercials. This particular one was a TV network that advertised “less commercials.” Alyson explained that "Less" is a modifier for singular nouns, not plural ones. I don’t know if that’s how the rule is stated, having been blissfully unconcerned with such matters when I was expected to be learning them, but it sounds right. I’ve always applied my own rule that “less” would be used in reference to something in the abstract – say, “money” – and “fewer” would be used in reference to something more concrete – like, “dollars.” Less intelligence. Fewer brain cells.
Now, because I am so miffed by seemingly insignificant things like this, some would comment, “Rick, your a jerk.” And, this would just cause me to think “My what is a jerk?” See? The word is a contraction, joining the words “you” and “are.” I’m not angry because you called me a jerk. My wife calls me that all the time. I’m angry because you did it wrong. I wouldn’t say “My a jerk.” I’d say “I’m a jerk.”
Then, somebody might come along and write “Rick, you’re right about this, but you’re letting yourself get a little to upset about it.” And that would upset me even more. What does that mean? I’m letting myself get a little…to upset about what? I realize that the “to/too” thingamajig is an easy typo, and not necessarily indicative of the writer’s mastery of the English language, as much as, perhaps, there typing skills, but, when it happens every time it causes me to wonder. My son called me one day and told me I’d made this same mistake in my latest novel. He was right. But THAT was a typo!
Uh huh. Back up there in that last paragraph, I said “there typing skills.” That’s another one I’m seeing run rampant on the pages of Facebook. Just wanted to see if you’d catch it. Typing skillls? Where? Every time I see something like this, I instinctively duck my head, expecting to be whacked on the back of the neck with a ruler by Ms. Pittman or Ms. Felts. No, they didn’t really do that, but those red circles on the pages were probably more painful.
Come on, people! It’s a complicated set of rules, but the concept of adherence to their usage is the reason they’re there. There, there. Don’t be too mad at me for bringing it up to you, two times in the same paragraph. I know you’re aware that it’s your language, too. Truth is, if you simply want to ignore these rules, there are ways you can do it and never get caught. First, you could become a writer. We do it all the time. People who are smart enough to catch the faux pas don’t know if they’re really mistakes, or we’re using creative license – doing it for effect. Or, is that “affect”? Let the editor figure it out.
The second way to avoid this grammatical bondage is to join the texting generation. Do it while you’re driving, and maybe putting on lipstick and talking on your other phone, in a school zone, at 8 am, going 40 mph. You’ll fit right in.

“OMG ur so sweet 2 LMK iv got 2 cops OMT! Luv u 2!”


Book signings for PURITY and DINNER with WT are tentatively set for November 20, a Saturday, at Paper Chase in Batesville. Call them too get you’re books reserved. We hope to see you their!

Monday, September 06, 2010


This writing gig is an absolute joy, and it’s often hard to keep from feeling guilty taking money for it. For that reason, I can’t really write about this trade in reference to the Labor Day holiday. It just doesn’t apply. But, I’ve had some jobs in my life, and on this beautiful weekend here in northwest Arkansas, some of them come to mind.

The first job I had, in the 7th grade, was a subcontracting partnership between me & Chris and Rosco King, down at the Dairy Queen on Harrison Street. We picked up trash on the parking lot, way early in the morning, before school.

Following that, we landed some short gigs: working for Paralee Rust at the flower shop; stocking stores; cutting grass – stuff like that. Then, when I was in the 10th grade, we (me & Chris and Randy Tovey) discovered they were looking for some help out at Midwest Lime. I really don’t recall if we came upon that as a result of me dating the electrician’s daughter, or my dad being friends with Y.M. Mack, but there we were, again, independent contractors. Our job was to clean the debris out of the railroad cars (gondolas & hoppers), and plug the holes, so they could be loaded with agricultural lime and rock. As I recall, we were paid $2 per car, which we split between the three of us. They paid us the money whether the cars were empty to start, or half full of metal shavings, iron ore…whatever. From there, all three of us finding we liked being quarry men, expanded to other jobs, like mill operator, truck driver, loader operator, etc. We stayed for years. To this day, when strangers ask me where I grew up, I tell them “Midwest Lime.”

Being that there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to be a rock star (a job running concurrent with the Midwest experience), one day I took off my boots and, per a tip from my father-in-law who left before me, interviewed for a nice, cushy Industrial Engineer Trainee position at Arkansas Technical Industries. I figured the clean-up time after work on Friday nights would be considerably quicker, and I could get to our music gigs without all that white dust in my long, flowing hair. I walked out of that interview and got in a welding truck with James Kelly and rode to Dallas to pick up a single piece of drill steel for Midwest, never giving a thought to the idea that they’d actually hire me. When I got back, I found out that they had.

A year there, and then the layoffs came. The economy in 1974 was about as sweet it is now. But, all I had to do was ask and Mike Low took me back – rock star or no. I don’t think he even really had a job open at the time. Before I took up driving a Payhauler, they’d often find things…anything for me to paint. I painted the whole world gray.

Around ’76, I think, my dad had another friend who was running the Noland Company store out across from the airport, and got me a job there as a “management trainee.” I did a lot of training back in the day. Rock ‘n Roll continued in tandem with that job until I took off to seek a career as an electrician. But the guy we were working for got into it with Guenzel and fired him one day, so a few minutes later I quit and went to hang out with Larry at his apartment. After all, I’d get it all back when our band, Orion, had our first top 40 hit.

Then came the really lean times. Bad as the economy was, I had no concept of what that meant. There were no jobs anywhere, especially for an Arkansas College dropout. I started hanging out at a plumbing supply house on Lawrence Street (having experience with that trade, at least), and ultimately bribed my way into a job there in “outside sales” with six cases of beer. This was notwithstanding the fact that I had absolutely no experience or training in sales, but Kimbrough seemed to be doing OK back at Noland Company, so, I thought, could I. Well, it didn’t take me long to discover that I couldn’t sell a life jacket to a drowning man. Most days, I’d tell them I was going out to call on factories and contractors, then drive up to Ash Flat and shoot pool in a gas station diner until time to come back and clock out. I was in Newark one day and stopped by a little shack on a side street there where somebody told me “they” were hiring for some kind of job on the construction of the Independence Steam Electric Station. An interesting man named Bob Keller interviewed me and hired me, on the spot, to stand under an 80,000 pound hydraulic hammer, under the boom of a crane, and count the number of times it took the hammer to drive metal piles every foot down into the ground…at night. How could I refuse a job like that? Even I could count.

I rode that horse for everything I could, going from position to position within that construction testing company until, about 5 years later, the place was built and there was nothing else to do. And I still wasn’t a rock star. And I applied for emigration to Australia to work more construction jobs. And they told me to take a hike.

Enter the ol’ man again. He talked me into moving to northwest Arkansas and training (once again) to be an insurance adjuster. That was 1983, and I’m still doing that, while I wait to become a rock star.

Maybe all this “real work” does have something to do with my writing after all. They tell me you write about what you know. I’m always finding myself using characters and places and situations I’ve experienced working all those jobs in my books and short stories. And they paid me to work the jobs. And now they pay me to write about them. Is that cool, or what?

Happy Labor Day everybody!

© 2010, Rick Baber

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Linking up with the Boys

Lesson One: Always drop in the shade.

When my young, athletic son called me on Friday morning to ask if I wanted to be the “fourth” early Saturday morning I gave him pretty much the same answer I always do. “Why don’t you call Uncle Beeper. If he can’t make it, I’ll do it.”

That was a pretty safe bet. My brother, the doctor/lawyer, loves to get on the greens, and will jump at just about any opportunity that is presented to do so. With golf being near the top of the list of sports for which I have no apparent ability – such as basketball, football, baseball, ice hockey, tennis, volleyball, motocross, fishing, hunting, jogging, hiking, climbing, camping, wrestling, boxing, curling, bobsledding, billiards and Twister – and considering the fact that the heat index on Saturday was supposed to be something like 180 degrees, I felt comfortable that Beeper would jump at the chance, leaving me to sleep until noon in air-conditioned comfort.

Not the case.

It wasn’t that l’il brother didn’t want to do it. It was just that, like most doctor/lawyers, he didn’t answer his phone, and didn’t get the voice mail until after tee time on Saturday. So, late Friday night, I get the call instructing me to be at The Creeks by 8:45 am.

It’s an odd affliction, but I’m one of those who can’t get to sleep at night if I know I have to get up early in the morning. Five or six hours just seems like such a waste of effort. I dozed off sometime around 3 am. Then, I didn’t go back to bed Saturday morning after my 6 o’clock visit to the little office off the bedroom. There was work to be done.

That started with me digging through unidentifiable rubble in the garage in a frantic search for my clubs. I knew they were in there somewhere, and in about half an hour I found them, on top of one of those broken lawn mowers, underneath the giant orange plastic jack-o-lantern. So I drug the bag out the garage door and took another half hour rolling the cat hair off it with one of those sticky rollers. I’m pretty good at that, at least. Then, I rolled up my tee shirt sleeves and waded back through the junk to find a useable cooler, which took about the same amount of time to locate and clean up.

By the time I had everything loaded up into the car, with it already about 90 degrees, I was exhausted, and sweat was dripping off the end of my nose. But I still had to stop at McAdoodles for gas and ice, so I had to hurry.

I arrived at The Creeks right at 8:39 to find the parking lot full, with the only place to park being in the “overflow” section, down in the gravel lot, facing the first tee box. James and the boys weren’t there yet, but it looked like everybody else in northwest Arkansas was. Great. I love it when I have an audience. It’s so much fun to see them ducking and running for cover.

The boys, all of whom are good golfers, showed up a few minutes before our 9:15. James, being the gentleman he is, took me so neither Brad nor Bennie would have to fight with people playing behind us – or adjacent to us on other fairways. It was about 98 degrees when we teed off.

I’m pleased to report that nobody was killed on the front nine. And I still had a few balls left in my bag. Lesson One was learned by the fifth hole, and, when we went to the club house for some much-needed sustenance before the back nine, I was taking the first step in learning Lesson Two: Beer & Brats for breakfast – not a good idea when the temperature is about the same as my golf score.

Lesson Three: When you have a “thing” about hitting into water traps, don’t play at a place called “The Creeks”.

One week and one day later, I’m finally physically able to type this column.


Want to be a PUBLISHED WRITER? Ol’ Uncle Rick is starting up a Publishing Company – “TigerEye Publications.” Catchy, huh? We’re taking submissions for eBooks now. Check my website for details: . Please take a look.


Late note: Our dear old friend, Ed Huddleston, the Keith Richards of the insurance claims business, formerly of Batesville, passed away this morning (8/8) in Fayetteville. There’ll never be another one like him. May he rest in peace.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Things to do today

1. Let Batesville Guard readers know that “Purity” is my best book so far, and that a .PDF download can be ordered, really, really cheap at, using almost any Debit or Credit Card, or PayPal.

2. Work on formatting “Purity” for paperback printing, Ipad and Kindle.

3. Call Pablo to mow the yard again, because I never got around to calling the lawn mower fixer guy.

4. Check with June, next door, to see if she has Pablo’s number. I can’t find it.

5. Buy some sticky notes, so I can leave them on June’s door when she’s not home.

6. Call the lawn mower fixer guy.

7. Look for wallet. Lawn mower fixer guy’s number is in there.

8. Dig through the trash in the car to see if I can find the money to pay Pablo if he just shows up.

9. Clean trash out of car.

10. Buy some bigger trash bags when I go to pick up the sticky notes.

11. Wash $3.29 in green, sticky pennies, nickels and dimes.

12. Buy some dishwashing soap.

13. Gas up the car when I leave, so I can make it to the store to pick up sticky notes, garbage bags and dishwashing soap.

14. Look for wallet again. Check the laundry hamper.

15. Make hide-a-key place outside front door in case I lock myself out again.

16. Add “new stuff at hardware store to fix the door I had to kick in” to shopping list for after finding wallet.

17. Take shower. Pretty hot to be working outside like this.

18. Call Water Company. Tell them I’ll pay the bill as soon as I find my wallet. Ask if they can just turn it back on long enough for me to wash the soap off.

19. Call Dr. Beeper. Ask what’s the best medicine to use for chigger bites. Also, ask
if he knows how ticks know to get in places you can’t reach to pull them off.

19. Find Jeff Foxworthy’s email address

20. Email the following to Jeff Foxworthy: Suggestion: You might be a redneck if you’ve ever mowed your entire yard with a battery-operated weedeater because you couldn’t find your wallet and the illegal alien you wanted to hire to do it for
you saw the trash in your car and caked-up hair, and didn’t think you were the kind of guy he could trust to owe him twenty bucks.

21. Call Microsoft. Ask them how to fix their stupid auto-formatting thingy that automatically numbers things when you list them.

22. Make new list for tomorrow, in case today doesn’t go as smoothly as expected.

* * * * *

© 2010, Rick Baber

Sunday, July 25, 2010

"PURITY" Download for sale now.

DON'T LET the shopping cart fool you. You don't have to have a Paypal account to make a purchase. Tell it you don't, and it'll continue to let you use Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover!

This self-publishing thing is gonna be the death of ol' Uncle Buck, I can tell. Still working on the Paperback version(s) of "Purity", and hope to have them in print real soon. Meantime, in keeping with the modern paperless age, I'm making available a .pdf download of the book, which can be ordered here, by clicking on that "Add to Cart" button over there on the right. You pull the download up on your computer and (best) view the page layout in "continuous - facing", and it's just like looking at a book. But no trees are killed for it! Also working on downloads for Ipad and Kindle, and all the other popular reading contraptions, which will be coming soon. THERE IS no automatic download when you make the purchase. I'm notified by PayPal, and then I email the download to you - so be sure to fill in the box showing your email address! Delivery could take up to 24 hours.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Lawn Mowers and Aliens

Believe it or not, this writing stuff takes up a great deal of time that normal people might use to do things like keeping their cars clean and their yards mowed.

John Harris and I used to mow yards, much bigger than the one I have now, for five bucks. Imagine my surprise, after both of my lawn mowers decided they didn’t want to run, when I called my neighbor and asked her what her guy charged. She said she paid him fifty bucks! Fifty! And her yard is even smaller than mine.

Racing against the clock to complete the editing on my novel, “Purity”, and having tried, unsuccessfully, to fix the mowers I had, I saw the dude over at Miss June’s house and went to talk to him. Upon her advice, I just asked what he’d charge to mow the front and side yards (the back’s so horrible I don’t let anybody in there) if I did the weed-eating myself, and when he said he’d do it tomorrow, for twenty, I jumped on it with both feet. Viva la Mexico! Little victories, you know?

That gave me the time to work on the book, and with the huge (and much needed) editing help from the kind and lovely Wenona Edley, from Batesville, all that remains to do on that project is design the cover and get it published.

Purity will split off into two simultaneous sequels, following both the primary and secondary protagonists into different realms, and those books will interact with each other in various places. I’m pretty excited about the possibilities, but it’ll be a while before the sequels are started. For one, I’d like to see if there’s any interest in it. Secondly, I’ve already begun writing a “tween” novel – something very challenging for me, because I’ll have to find a way to replace my normal “Arkansas adjectives” with, let’s say, more intelligent and socially-acceptable words.

I haven’t settled on a title for this one yet, but it’s about two modern-day fifteen year-olds; best friends; one black and one white, who are picked up by an alien space ship near their homes. When the aliens return them to what they believe is the same place they picked them up, there’s a little mistake made, and they’re dumped out of the ship near 1972 Batesville, Arkansas, and their adventure begins.

The plan is to use as many real names, events and places that I can remember, and get away with. At the beginning of the book the boys are given a ride from out near Cushman by my father-in-law, Von Price, and dropped off at Hedges Grocery on the north end of Batesville, where they’re offered help from Harlon and Shirley Martin. From there, once figuring out they’re “not in Kansas anymore”, they start walking toward the lights of town.

Now, I’ve asked around on Facebook for some help with things that went on during football season, 1972, and have thankfully received quite a bit. But, I’ll take all the information I can get about that time – if anybody has anything to contribute. Being stuck here in Chickenopolis, 200 miles from home, it ain’t like I can just drop by the Independence County Library and look through the Guard archives - as much as I’d like to. So, I’m asking anybody who has any info regarding places, events, interesting people, etc. around October, ’72 to drop me a line. Oh, there’s no money involved, of course. But, when you die, on your deathbed, you’ll achieve total consciousness. And I’ll be happy to list your name in the book as a “contributor”.

Meantime, please watch for “Purity” to come to a bookstore near you soon. You can still read the first chapter on

Monday, July 05, 2010

Degrees of Integrity

Upon the occasion of driving the Cherokee Turnpike, at 75 mph, on the way to Tulsa the other day, I got to thinking about a wallet I found a few weeks ago. We were going to the smoke shop over in Siloam Springs to find some cigars for James to celebrate the birth of the twins. There on the road I opened the door and scooped up a long leather billfold and instantly thought “biker”. It just fit the profile, you see.

You have to open them to see who they belong to, so don’t hold it against me that I counted the money. Thirty one bucks. We went into the smoke shop and asked if anybody there knew the dude whose name appeared on the drivers’ license, along with a scary photo. Nobody did. So just as we were walking out to go check it with the casino next door, the clerk said “Hold on a minute.” She disappeared for a moment and then came back and said there was a biker at the drive-thru window asking if anybody had turned in his lost wallet. I walked outside and gave it to the guy. He was thrilled, and said if he had more money he’d give me a reward. Of course, I told him that wasn’t necessary. He thanked me again, cranked the hog, and roared out of the parking lot – back to the campground at the river where he told me he lived. I felt good about being the one who found it, assuming that many other people who did would not have returned it to the rightful owner. Karma, I thought, would surely be smiling on me, so we went on into the casino to test that theory. And Karma gave us both big swift kicks in the butt.

Until making the long, straight drive to Tulsa, I had forgotten about it. But, boredom, you know…

I wondered if the same wallet had contained, say, $3100, would we have been so quick to seek out the owner. Or, what if it was $31,000? I mean, are there degrees of integrity, or is it an absolute? Not knowing the answers to these questions myself, I was quick to pat myself on the back for this minor act of decency. But, maybe Karma did know the answers and was treating me accordingly.

What if there had been a whole bunch of money in that thing and I knew the owner, and it was somebody I didn’t like? What if it belonged to some rich jerk who likes to go around rubbing his wealth in the faces of the have-nots? What if it belonged to Ann Coulter or Osama bin Laden? What would I have done then? Sure, if it was Ann Coulter’s and it had, say, twelve bucks in it, I would have surely returned it, just so she’d know I knew she only had twelve bucks. But, twelve hundred?

If it had been Osama’s, how would I find him? Would he answer a “Lost & Found” ad in the paper? Then, I thought of a way to catch bin Laden. Remind me to tell you about that sometime.

I got to wondering, if biker dude had found my wallet, would he have returned it? That, in itself, didn’t seem to matter. And I didn’t know the guy, so I couldn’t make that judgment. But then I wondered, if I was the guy living at a campground down by the river, would I have the luxury of returning any amount of money I found? If he was to keep it, I wouldn’t hold it against him. But would I hold it against me under the same circumstances?

The miles clicked away, and my mind continued to wander. Karma, it seems, has never really smiled upon me for doing the “right thing”. I mean, not that I noticed. I’ve given rides to stranded strangers, only to go so far out of my way that I ran out of gas before getting home, and had to walk, myself. I’ve given my last five dollars to panhandlers beside the highway and had to skip lunch. I’ve been attacked by vicious turtles after stopping and risking my life to drag them out of the road so they wouldn’t get smashed by a truck. Matter of fact, I can’t think of a single time I’ve ever done anything selfless or generous and been “rewarded” for it, in any recognizable way. And yet, like a dummy, I continue to do stuff like that.

Once, about two in the morning, we picked up a female hitchhiker on Hwy. 412, pretty much in the middle of nowhere. She started telling us stories about working for the drug task force and being taken prisoner by meth dealers and them cutting her breasts off. Really more information than I needed, there on that dark highway with her practically invisible in the back seat. She informed us that her truck had broken down, and her three kids were several miles back, waiting for her to return. I offered to go back and get them, but she said, “They’ll be OK. They have a gun.” I wondered if the youngins had the only firearm the family owned, or if the other one was pointed at the back of my head, and it did tend to make the rest of the trip a tad uncomfortable. But we made it to the house where she said she could “borrow” another car to go back and pick the kids up. The payoff for that one was not sleeping at all that night.

By Saturday I had thought about it all long enough to start mentally composing this column, while driving to Bella Vista to take a photo of a friend. Just about the time I concluded that the self-satisfaction I get from doing “nice things” is worth whatever price I pay, my right rear tire blew out.

© 2010, Rick Baber

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Retraction, with a Bonus

I’ve been called out, and I feel the need to defend myself. A visitor to my blog – – has basically chastised me for abdicating my responsibility as a serious journalist (snort!) in misinforming you, the readers, with my statement that if you voted Democrat in the primaries, you cannot vote for a Republican in the general election. Note that I did not say you couldn’t vote for a Dem if you voted for a Republican in the primaries.

OK. Dude’s right. I didn’t say that outright, but it was heavily implied, and for that I sincerely apologize. What I meant to say was that if you voted for a Republican in the primary, and your candidate lost, you are barred from voting in any election again for the next four years. It’s some little-known bill that was put through Congress without much fanfare. The bright side is that you’re also ineligible for jury duty for the same period, so go ahead and ignore any notices you get from the court to show up.

Be advised that I could also be wrong about this, so you might want some independent verification. My political advisor, Joey, has been known to be almost right almost 92% of the time, so I’m pretty comfortable with it.

On a less serious note, if that is possible, after almost slaving away, almost 92% of my spare time over the last almost nine months, I have completed my third book: a novel, called Purity. If you hung out with me on Facebook, you’d know this. You’d probably be sick of hearing about it. But, if you don’t, you can still go to my aforementioned blog and read the draft of the first chapter, if you are so inclined.

Here’s the “blurb”:

Four young girls have gone missing in Arkansas in the last six months. A fifth is apparently killed in a car accident during her abduction, as is her kidnapper. When insurance adjuster, Jeff Davis, receives a simple assignment to determine if a construction crew working at the scene has any liability for the damages, he stumbles upon a, literally, “out of this world” religious sect’s scheme to save the missing girls from Armageddon. Possible involvement within the investigating sheriff’s department, and beyond, forces Davis to use the limited resources he has available to locate the hostages and return them to their families.

There’s more, involving the whacko religious cult’s belief that the apocalypse is going to be caused by an alien deity when he comes to … well, we don’t want to give too much away. They only allow you about a hundred words for the blurb.

Fair warning. The book is written by…me. That means it is ripe with irreverence and “Arkansas adjectives”. That’s what I like to call them. You may know them as “dirty words” I write what I hear, kid. So, if you are offended by such things, while I’d love to have you as a reader, it might be better if you selected some other manuscript for your perusal.

Presently, the thing is still in the self-editing stage, and I’ve found some wonderful volunteers to put themselves through the gruesome chore of reading it and providing input. Once that is done, we’ll begin the joyful process of looking for a publisher. If you want to have a noticeable impact on the future of the world, you should immediately write your favorite publishing company and ask them why in the world they aren’t calling me about this book.

Having committed this little act of shameless self-promotion, I am off now to warn my Republican neighbors about the unpublished changes in the polling locations for the November election. Seems like I have to do everything around here.

© 2010, Rick Baber

Monday, June 14, 2010

PURITY by Rick Baber

The new novel is completed (the writing part, anyway), and now we begin the tedious process of tweaking, editing, and finding a publisher. Some have asked me what it's about. So, here's the "blurb":

Four young girls have gone missing in Arkansas in the last six months. A fifth is apparently killed in a car accident during her abduction, as is her kidnapper. When insurance adjuster, Jeff Davis, receives a simple assignment to determine if a construction crew working at the scene has any liability for the damages, he stumbles upon a, literally, “out of this world” religious sect’s scheme to save the missing girls from Armageddon. Possible involvement within the investigating sheriff’s department, and beyond, forces Davis to use the limited resources he has available to locate the hostages and return them to their families.

Working on the cover art now, and will post it here as soon as developed.

READ CHAPTER ONE by clicking on the link at the top right of this page. See it?

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

All About Balance

Gather ‘round, chillerins. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Ol’ Rick ain’t as far to the left, politically, as you may believe.

When we – me ‘n mama, the only yellow dogs in all of northwest Arkansas, it seems – were walking across the school parking lot to cast our highly visible votes in the runoff election, we ran into another couple we knew. They, of course, being well-to-do businesspeople, are what you’d call “right-wingers”. So, I had to take a few moments (half hour?) of their time to harass them about…pretty much everything. A discussion ensued that served to entertain the others, passing by, on their way to cast their out of party votes against the candidate (Bill Halter) they figured had the best chance to beat Mr. Boozman in the general election. It got particularly loud when we informed them we’d be pulling the trigger for Halter. I explained to them that Blanche was a little too much like a Republican for me, and that the irony of it all was that, in my opinion, it was she who had the better chance of winning in November. “Why then,” they asked, “would you vote against her in the primary?”

Well, that’s a little convoluted, but let me try to explain.

Say, you have a set of balances with about the same amount of weight on each side. The farther out to each end you place that weight, the more leverage you have to offset the weight on the other end. From my observations, the bulk of the weight on the right end of that balance is teetering there on the edge, just about to fall off, while the weights on the left end are hanging around there on the middle of the tare plate, conforming to ASTM standards, like good little weights. See that? The balance is tipping to the right. All because those weights on the left are too scared, or too comfortable, to get out there on the edge. Some of them, like Blanche Lincoln, are closer to straddling the middle. Sooner or later, if that thing keeps tipping, it’ll be like a see-saw with a fat kid on one end and my skinny little niece, Izzy, on the other. The thing’ll go vertical and Izzy’s going to tumble into that fat kid and both of them are going to fall off.

Somebody’s got to get the nerve to walk closer to that left edge to keep that from happening, and, from all appearances, Blanche Lincoln wasn’t the one to do that. If she was to win the nomination, the scales stay tipped to the right. If Halter, who was willing to set his weight on out there, a little, was by some miracle to win, then the thing at least gets closer to the middle. And little Izzy gets to keep playing.

“But Rick,” you say, “If, by your own calculations, Halter had a lesser chance to beat Boozman, his winning the primary, then losing the election, would take all the weight off the left side, and the balance would go vertical anyway!”

Calculated risk that goes back to that miracle I mentioned.

Halter’s win in the primary, because so many Democrats are ordinary, sensible people without extreme political views, aka “moderates”, really depended upon how many sneaky right-wing Republicans crossed over to vote for him, thereby surrendering their votes in the general election. If he had won, I think, some of the other weights on the balance, seeing him prevail, would have gotten the nerve to step on out there closer to the edge, and level it out – once the absence of weight on the right (those who cannot vote R in the general election) is considered. That would have at least given him a fighting chance. If he wins the GA, then bully for me. If he loses, I don’t think the balance tips that much more with Blanche off the plate.

Ms. Lincoln has stroke. Anti-incumbency or no, it ain’t easy to unseat somebody who has spent a career building power and making friends in high places. Bill Clinton, to name one. Even after giving up the cheeseburger diet, that’s a lot of weight on the new set of balances. Pollsters are already writing her off, based primarily on the anti-incumbency factor and the number of farther-left voters who supported Halter. But not all of those were balance freaks like me. Some of them…many here, I think…were those crossovers, who are not factors in this new equation. She’ll get the balance freaks votes, if we see her scoot over to the left, even just a little.

Prediction: Blanche defeats Boozman in November. Based entirely on the pretzel logic and hopelessly mixed metaphors outlined above. And with crossed fingers.

Now, about Obama and the oil leak. You’ve heard about that? I’m confused on exactly what it is that people expect him to do about it. Best I can tell, most of the rage is in that the government isn’t doing that much to clean up the gulf and the beaches. But wouldn’t that be a little like washing your car before a dust storm? Maybe it’s better to wait on that until they plug the hole. Meantime, if you’re going to be mad at somebody, try the policies that allowed BP to set up that rig with no plan for dealing with a situation like this.

I saw some of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” a while back, and think I’ve figured out how to do it. Stop it up with that fat kid on Izzy’s see-saw.

© 2010, Rick Baber

Double Trouble

We got the call at about 10:30 pm on Monday, May 24. I had just gotten back from the grocery store, after suffering a case of late night munchies and picking up an apple pie and, since I was there anyway, a turtle cake. Seems the girls had decided they didn’t want to wait until their scheduled arrival on Thursday. And they didn’t want grampa to be clogging any more arteries for a while.

Maci Paige was the first out, at a little after midnight on Tuesday, followed closely by her little sister, Kennedy Alexis.

I’m not sayin’ that the kids are braniacs, or anything, but Maci, knowing she was first, actually held up the “Number 1” sign for the first picture her dad took of her. Kennedy, destined to be the humanitarian of the brood, showed the “peace” sign in hers. They’re not identical twins, so I haven’t had to get one or both of them tattooed for ID. Maci looks just like James and Kennedy looks just like Megan – the exact opposite of what we thought would happen, based upon their completely different activity in the womb.

They were/are, to say the least, perfect, weighing in at just under 6 pounds each and at 19 & 20 inches. I won’t bore you with the minute details. Not because it wouldn’t be like me to do that, it’s just that I’m not straight yet on all those weights and lengths and stuff.

Mom and dad are doing great, and learning the joys of three-hour feedings, times 2, in between all the diaper changing, etc. We’re trying to let them nest a while, so the twincesses can get used to their new home, but I’ve had to purchase some shackles for Grannie Bec and have some big metal hoops installed in the brick wall on the patio. Fact is, they’re so dang cute, everybody’s playing the lottery now, trying to get rich so they can quit work and sit and stare at them all the time.

They went home from the hospital on Saturday. Sunday, as we were sitting, phone in hand, waiting for the call telling us they needed some help, it came. Meg was finally willing to eat something and requested chicken strips. No problem. We can get chicken strips anywhere. We grabbed the camera and sprinted to the car to make the trip – 12 miles or so – over to their house, after driving by somewhere to pick up the grub.

There were only three cars in front of us at the first drive-thru. But when we got to the window, they politely informed us that they didn’t have chicken strips on the menu. I apologized for the trouble, and told them I’d have to keep driving.

The next place, I was sure, had chicken strips, because I practically lived off of them from that franchise in Little Rock a few years ago. But, whattaya think? Everybody’s gone to Buffalo strips and such, and abandoned the original item. We had to wait for 5 cars in front of us to get that information, after which I excused us and, again, went down the road, in a now desperate search to appease the li’l mama.

We drove another two miles, looking, before finally deciding to turn around and go back to the first place we passed on the way into Bentonville. Viola! Thanks, Zaxby’s.

Now, we’d killed about 35 or 40 minutes. We imagined that the girls, by now, had boyfriends and pierced places and cars of their own, and had hopefully at least been taught to feign an interest in saying hello and goodbye to their grandparents. We missed it! Goofing around, looking for chicken strips! They had grown up and become professional golfers and pop-music stars and business moguls and presidents. We should have pitched a tent in that field about 3 blocks from their house so we could get there faster. We should have had a cooler full of chicken strips and a hotplate in the trunk.

Surprisingly, when we finally got to the house, they were still there, and still just little tadpoles. And mama ate. And we sat holding them, staring, as if we’d never seen babies before. We’ll do it again, as soon as the phone rings.

Sure, their parents have big plans for them. But Grumpa Buck has some of his own. To borrow a theme from Jimmy Buffett: I’m gonna teach ‘em how to cuss; teach ‘em how to fuss; and pull the cork out of a bottle of wine.

Welcome to the world, Maci & Kennedy!

(c) 2010 Rick Baber

Friday, May 14, 2010

Facing Strange Changes

If you watch TV long enough, any night of the week, early enough for the kids to still be up, you’re likely to see commercials featuring voluptuous young underwear models strutting around wearing barely enough to cover their naughty parts. It’s the kind of stuff for which we used to make fake ID’s and pay good money to see at the movie theater. In the words of Eddie Murphy in “48 Hours”, “TV has changed.”

And then there are some bad changes.

I was speaking with our young office assistant a while back as I was working an insurance claim for a company called “Nottingham”, something or other. Flippantly, I said something about that Sheriff of Nottingham claim.

“Who?” she asked.

“Sheriff of Nottingham”, I said, “You know, like in Robin Hood?”

When the words “Who’s Robin Hood” came out of her mouth I couldn’t believe my ears. But she wasn’t joking. The same girl had never seen “The Big Lebowski” or heard of Cheech & Chong. Three cultural icons, right there. My day was ruined.

She explained that she was a young mommy, and most everything she had to deal with was mommy stuff. That’s understandable. Robin Hood has probably been replaced with something equally as compelling in literature for young people. I didn’t have the nerve to ask her about Tom Sawyer. And maybe the Big Lebowski, and certainly Cheech & Chong, were geared for an older audience. So after a few weeks of that – or more likely my own mortality – wearing on me, I let it go.

Just about the time I was over it, last Wednesday, the wife and I were eating dinner at a local steak place and a young man (maybe 26) we knew from his previous job there, happened to be in the building and sat down to talk with us for a while. We had a nice visit, until, somehow, something was said about fried eggs.

“Fried eggs? What’s that?”

Of course, at first I thought he was kidding, and I laughed. “OK, I know you probably have a healthier diet than us.”

“No,” he said, “Is that like scrambled eggs?”

About to choke on my steak, I patiently explained the concept of fried eggs to him as he listened with genuine interest. On the one hand, I was happy to be expanding the boy’s horizons, such as they were. On the other hand, the letters WTF kept running through my mind. I started flagging over waitresses so I could point at the kid and tell them that this restaurant’s ex-assistant manager didn’t know what fried eggs were, and they all found it mildly amusing. A few minutes later, one of them came back to the table and said “I was telling (let’s say) Brandi about that and she asked me what fried eggs are.”

So I asked her to go get Brandi, and she returned to the table with the (even younger) girl in a couple of minutes. Sure enough, this girl had never heard of them. The young man started explaining the concept to her, using the information I had given him, and their conversation turned in to a series of “Eeeeww!” and “Gross!”, and “You mean that yellow stuff just runs across your plate?”

Compelled to fork out my own eyes, I resisted, if only because that would surely have been more traumatic for these kids than the mental image of some over-easy chicken embryos.

My son is a brilliant and worldly businessman who carries more information in his cell phone than all that I acquired in the first fifty years of my life. He wheels and deals, making multi-million dollar contracts on a daily basis, jetting from one coast to the other with the captains of commerce and industry seemingly in the palm of his hand. He has an inherent understanding of mysteries like “blue tooth” and “4-G” - terms that are completely foreign to me. But he recently asked me where to put the stamp on an envelope. I realized then that he had never had to involve himself with such an archaic method of communication as what we now refer to as “snail mail”. He pays his bills, sends his messages, and does God knows what else, all from that I-phone – in less time than it takes me to text back an answer to the envelope question. But the boy knows The Dude, and he’s actually met Cheech & Chong; and he’s eaten many real American breakfasts. He even knows Robin Hood and Huck Finn and Becky Thatcher, so the past is not completely forgotten, and my spirit is not totally lost.

Now, if I can get him to utilize that information to help me find some tapes for my VCR, me ‘n the missus are going to watch a movie at home tonight….in color.

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© 2010, Rick Baber

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The 4th Amendment Follies

It’s totally mindblowing (that’s an old 70’s phrase) that so many good Americans are paranoid that the government wants to control them completely, and yet, they support this recent “immigration law” in Arizona.

People are worried about Uncle Sam keeping up with their guns, asking nosey census questions, requiring them to have health insurance and wear seatbelts when they drive their cars. Here in Chickenopolis, where we’ll all be really healthy when we can barter with doctors for poultry, they’re making us inject microchips into our cats – in case there’s some kind of terrorist feline uprising, I guess.

Those are all terrible burdens to put upon white people, who just yearn to breathe free. Everybody knows the white man came to this land, with our slaves and our women, so we could round up all the red people and stick them in Casinoland, strap on our guns, and live the American dream of making boatloads of money so we could get out of paying taxes and get government bailout money. Freedom, man, freedom.

Lately, to protest these all-out assaults on our liberties by our democratically-elected government, some brave patriots - sponsored by a real American TV network - have hung teabags from their ears, painted up misspelled signs, and gathered in large, loud numbers to take our country back…from somebody.

In Arizona, at least, the effort appears to be paying off. For once, the government is picking on somebody besides the white man. They made being an illegal alien against Arizona law. Cops there are now required to stop anybody who looks like they might be an illegal and have them show proof that they’re not. Practically speaking, that means if you have dark skin, hair and eyes it’d be a good idea for you to have some papers on you. You know, like they did those skinny folks in 1940’s Germany.

Now, this isn’t too upsetting for most of us natural-born, blue-eyed citizens because, let’s face it, they’re Mexicans. They’re not entitled to the freedom from government that our ancestors fought the British and the Indians to win for us. If they want that, they can go back to Mexico – if they can get back over the fence. If the legal ones don’t like getting pulled over every time they drive their perfectly detailed cars down Main Street – well, that’s their own fault for not looking like Ken and Barbie.

Surely, once the Arizona government gets away with this, some other state – maybe Utah – won’t decide to do the same thing with Baptists. Here in the south, maybe the doors will be opened up to finally get those black folk back out of our schools….and our states. Sure, they’re legal citizens, most of them, but some could have sneaked in here from Africa or Haiti. Mexico, you know, isn’t the only place people slip in here from. How are we gonna spot those Canadians?

And why stop at nationality or religion? How ‘bout political preference? Blue states can harass out all the right wingers, and vice versa. Maybe Texas can become a whole ‘nother country, just like they’ve always wanted. Gee, it’ll be great!

More later. Now, I have to catch my tomcat and get him in that box so I can take him for his microchip injection – or pay the $150 fine. Funny. He was born in Arkansas. I guess the following language doesn’t apply to cats:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

(c)2010 Rick Baber

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

You Tube Moment - Deleted

Man, ya’ll missed a funny story. I had it all ready to go for Tuesday’s paper, and it got blocked by the subject of the piece, my wife. Seems some of the few folks who got the advance preview convinced her that the column was just so humiliating for her that nobody (besides them, of course) should be allowed to read it.

Humiliating? Do these people know who they’re dealing with? I may not know a lot of stuff, but, let me tell you, I know something about humiliation. One autobiographical story in my first book was called “Golden Shower”. See if you can guess what it was about.

Then, there was another one, in the same book, about a turtle biting me on a place that, polls suggest, 27% of the half of you that have them won’t even admit you have. But, me? I just laid it all out there for the sake of humor and full disclosure. Humiliation is frequently necessary in the pursuit of humor.

By the way, I just made those statistics up.

Probably, the same people who complain that I sometimes go to far are among those laughing the hardest when they’re watching those funniest videos shows and see dad take a plastic bat to his business when Junior swings at the tee. Oh, yeah, that’s funny! Look at him rolling around on the grass, writhing in pain, cursing the day he was born. But, even dad will watch that video, one day when he’s no longer sitting around holding an ice pack, and laugh.

Now, I don’t get out much anymore. I spend about 11 hours a day sitting behind this keyboard, writing reports to insurance companies. OK, occasionally, I’ll squeeze in a little time writing columns like this. Maybe an hour or so on my old guitar, trying in vain to transform myself into Andy Buschman or Tommy Lewis or Danny Dozier or John Baxter. Working on art prints. Facebook. The occasional nap. Let’s make that 16 hours then.

The point is, I’ve just about written up all the stories from the “old days” that won’t get me whooped by the surviving participants. My budding career as a political satirist was snuffed because, apparently, some humorless prudes were “offended” by my less-than-subtle approach. Attack the messenger if you don’t like the message. Word cops.

Certainly, every embarrassing thing that has ever happened to me is in print somewhere. If I’m not getting any new experiences, and I can’t write about things that happen to Becky, and I can’t write the incriminating stories of old, and I can’t write about politics…I’m going to have to quit writing, or get out of the house sometime so I can pick up some new material. That would mean I have to get dressed. In the words of Ron Burgandy and Joe Biden, “That’s an effin’ big deal.” I’m not sure I’m up to it.

My dad told me, way back when I was a youngster, “Never argue politics or religion with people. You cannot win.” But I wasn’t really arguing with people, I was printing it in the paper. And, as everybody knows, if they put it in the paper it has to be true. So how come you people can’t just take what I tell you to the bank, make your deposits, and be done with it? It’s the paper! Believe it! Not like it’s talk radio or something.

That, my friends, leaves me only with the option of writing a satirical column on religion.
So, here goes.

Just kidding. Even I am not that stupid. Now, where did I put those shoes?

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© 2010, Rick Baber

Sunday, March 21, 2010

YouTube Moment

(Thanx, prudish old ladies with no sense of humor)

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


Late at night, right around the witching hour, and I’m lying on the couch, watching “My Name is Earl” re-runs, eating something called “Death by Chocolate” directly out of the box. That’s only because I’m a courteous guy and don’t see the need to dirty up an ice cream bowl that would have to be washed. That’s how I roll.

I only wanted a few bites, but after I laid down here and covered up with a blanket the cat got up on my hip, like she always does, and if I disturb her to return this thing to the freezer she’s going to be really ticked. Also, I didn’t notice, until I had consumed the delicious treat, but it’s really cold in here. If I just set it over there on the reachable turtle ottoman, it’s going to melt. It appears that, in the interest of those starving children in China my mom used to tell me about, I’m going to have to eat the whole thing. Couldn’t be more than a quart, I guess. I’m sure it says how big it is, somewhere on here, but in order to read it I’d have to get up to turn on the light. You see my dilemma.

“Death by Chocolate” seems, at least at the moment, to be an appropriate name, but maybe not the best one from an advertising perspective. I mean, if they named a bacon cheeseburger “The Angioplasy”, I might think twice about eating it. I’d probably pass up “Gasping for Breath” cigarettes for something with a more cheerful name…like, I dunno, “ChickMagnet”. You gotta wonder if they pay somebody big bucks to think up these names for them. I could do that. If the cat would let me up to get a note pad.

Speaking (or writing, as it were) of cigarettes, Earl just lit one while Joy was spraying her hair and the fumes ignited and toasted them both pretty good. Then he yelled to Randy to come see, because they looked like a cartoon. Now Joy’s not going to make it to her spokes-modeling job, where she’s supposed to get paid with a hot tub. So Earl’s gotta add getting a hot tub for Joy to his list. Poor guy. It never ends for him.

Getting paid with a hot tub is a pretty good deal. This girl here on this commercial is going to get paid in gum for babysitting. See, that doesn’t sound like a good deal to me, although everybody else on the commercial seems pretty excited about it. But, if the gum was called something like “Root Canal”, it might not be so appealing.

Once, when I was a kid, a bunch of us loaded and hauled hay from that big field down under the viaduct in the hot summer for another kid’s grandpa, thinking we’d get some spending money to take to the movies. When we were finished, he took us out to the

Tastee Freeze on Hwy. 25 and bought us all the ice cream we could eat. They didn’t have “Death by Chocolate” back in those days. It was just plain ol’ vanilla, as I recall. If they would have had it, it might actually have killed us all, and then, they’d really have something to base that ad campaign on. Sitting in pools of our own sweat on the back of that flatbed truck, in 100+ degree heat, you might be surprised to learn, a kid can’t really eat too much ice cream before he gets sick and doesn’t want any more ice cream. They should have called it “Sick by Vanilla”.

But somehow I think grandpa knew that. And he didn’t even have, I can only assume, the advantage of laying on the couch at night, eating stuff to keep it from going bad, watching commercials about somebody clipping the babysitter out of a night’s pay. He just thought it up all on his own.

There! Finished that box before they got to the unappetizing part about Joy’s swollen big toe. I hope those kids in China appreciate my sacrifice.

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© 2010, Rick Baber

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Canine Conspiracy

One day, about 15 years ago, my son shows up with a cute German Shepherd-looking puppy that he says he & his friend Adam found inside a paper sack in the middle of the road. Being the kind and compassionate kids they were, they couldn’t just leave the poor thing there to get smashed by some road hog, so they brought him to my house and named him Corona.

About three years ago, my son off in the world with a dog of his own, I found old Corona on the back patio, with hip dysplasia so severe that he couldn’t get up, and had to give serious consideration to the idea of putting him down.
But not just yet. I’m the guy who has resurrected dead goldfish. With the help of the Internet and a kindly veterinarian in Batesville, named Suzanne, I concocted a highball of drugs and herbs and had that old feller up and walking around again in about two weeks. He’s deaf as a mule, and half blind, but he still tries to jump up on me at suppertime every night.

After the kid left home, we really started ignoring the pool in the back yard. In the last two years we haven’t even opened it up and it has become a green abyss that would get me arrested if it wasn’t hidden back there by the privacy fence. Until I get it fixed, they tell me I have to keep at least some water in it to keep the whole thing from floating up out of the ground. So the green stuff is about three feet deep on one end.

During the recent freaky cold weather it, of course, froze.

OK. There’s the set-up.

Monday night we still had about three inches of snow on the ground, and the light-colored patio around the abyss was still covered in ice. I’m laying on the couch at about 9:30 pm, waiting for Jon Stewart to come on, and I hear old Corona whimpering out there, sort of like he does when he wants another dog biscuit. But this time it was different. I turned down the TV and could tell that he wasn’t just outside the door, whining softly. He was farther away and yelping like I’ve never heard him do. So I run outside, barefoot in the snow, and there he is, down there at the deep end of the pool, with his head sticking up through the broken ice, hanging on for dear life.

Becky came out and immediately started crying, as I tried to figure out how to get him out of there without getting into that nasty pit myself. He was too far down to reach by leaning over the side. The shallow end was still frozen, but not enough for me to walk on without falling through. I mean, the old dog has been with us for 15 years, but sentiment, when weighed against the fear of typhoid, only goes so far.

I told Becky to talk to him while I ran back through the house to the garage to retrieve my fiberglass stepladder. Without taking time to put any shoes on, for fear that he’d slip beneath the ice and be gone forever, I stuck the ladder down into the deep end, and she held the top to keep it from slipping while I descended to get a hold of him.

Somehow, probably due to adrenaline and frost-bitten feet, I was able to grab him by the nape of the neck and, with one hand, yank his big wooly, stinky 85 pound you-know-what out of there and back onto the patio.

He’s been embarrassed ever since and will only come into the house to eat. We try to make him sleep in the garage, where we can’t get Babykitty to leave, but he simply refuses.

This morning, while I was on Facebook, chatting with Kim Harris, down in Little Rock, I received a Summons, notifying me that he had retained an attorney and was suing me for bodily injury and “other considerations”, due to my gross negligence.

Well, of course, that’s ridiculous. I mean, he’s a resident of the household and, besides that, he was aware of the icy conditions and assumed the risk when he decided to walk so close to the edge. And I can’t help it if he’d rather lay out there in the snow than in front of the electric heater I put right in front of his fluffy soft bed in the garage.


And, oh yeah, just a while back, James finally admitted that he didn’t really find the dog in a sack – he bailed him out of the pound. So, it is evident he has a record. We’ll see what my lawyer can find out about that. I bet he’s been setting this scam up for the last fifteen years.

I’ve gotta go now. There are 16 pages of interrogatories to complete.

© 2010, Rick Baber

Monday, January 04, 2010


It was cold at 4 am on New Years day, standing between my car and that Malibu with the annoying red and blue lights, flashing in my face as I blew into the little plastic tube.

“Keep blowing….keep blowing…keep blowing…”

Geesh, dude, whatta ya think I am, a compressor? Put in another quarter!

Only three minutes before this, passing some poor joker they had nailed just beyond the turnoff to XNA, and knowing for sure that this town – only a fraction the size of Mayberry – could only have one cop, I said out loud “Looks like we got a clear shot through Cave Springs!”

Well, no.

I told the guy he was wasting his time. Over the course of the previous nine hours I had consumed maybe 6 cervezas (so I told him 3) and a single glass of celebratory champagne. Granted, at 4 am in Cave Springs, Arkansas, it wasn’t like he had that much else to do. Given the community’s reputation, I assumed he had already stopped everybody else who had driven through there in the past eight hours or so. Surely I was the last one.

So, as I’m standing there in his headlights while he called me in, providing some boring footage for his dash cam, and considering whether or not I should do something to provoke a tasing, for pure entertainment value, I began to worry about my guitar, in there, being affected by the cold. I could have been home by now and moved it to the relative comfort of my living room. I wondered if there was anything else in there that was getting frozen. And, oh, yeah, there was Becky and Martha, freaking out in the car, wondering how they were going to get home when this guy drug me off to the bighouse.

Waiting for him to return my license and registration and insurance card to me, I gazed up into the clear winter sky to see the celebrated “blue moon”. The last one of these things to occur on my birthday (New Year’s Eve), they tell me, was twenty years ago, and the next one will be another twenty. We had discussed this phenomenon earlier in the evening and determined, due to its sheer rarity, that it could only bring about good karma for 2010. For that reason, coupled with the fact that I was stone-cold sober, I wasn’t worried in the least about that anxious cop. This seemed to be the most appropriate moment I could fathom to come up with my New Years Resolutions.

Considering that in the previous 54 years I had never managed to keep a single one of those resolutions, and recalling Einstein’s definition of an idiot, this year I developed a new approach.

I resolve to smoke as many cigarettes and eat as much chocolate as I possibly can. I resolve to leave the three books I have started writing untouched until at least the beginning of next year; to put off updating my arts website; and to try and pile just a few more things into my garage. I will become complacent with the unfinished floor tile in the laundry room and pantry and embrace the appearance of that sludge pit in my back yard that used to be called a swimming pool. I will spend more time lying on the couch watching TV. I resolve to let the fingertips on my left hand go soft and smooth while my guitar collects dust in the corner. I will make every effort to lose as much money as possible on games of chance. I will never, under any circumstances, consider taking up any sort of exercise program.

That should about do it. It’ll take me all year to keep those promises.

For the moment, my quest is to get Martha to her house and make it home without getting stopped again. Then, for the next week or so, explain to my family and friends exactly why I was so stupid as to attempt to drive through Cave Springs at this hour, in any state of sobriety, and not expect to get pulled over.

Just testing the new karma, ya’ll.

© 2010, Rick Baber