Since then, my bride has asked me (occasionally) to drive up to Magness Lake to see the swans. Who knew there were swans in Arkansas.
Actually, there are a couple of swans in Little Rock at a small lake near the Searcy Building (west LR near the ice-skating rink).
But, there are scores of swans on the lakes near Heber Springs.
So, yesterday we drove up to Magness Lake and found one swan.
One swan. (He’s the lonely guy in the pictures above)
Sadly, the little guy was injured, which accounts for him being the sole swan on the lake. Everyone else has fled.
We found more swans down the road here.
I hope the injured swan’s leg will heal and he can escape, before the heat of summer arrives. He is, after all, from the Arctic Circle and he will not welcome the brutal Arkansas heat.
Bonus: Can you spot the other Swann from the arctic region in the photos below?
|Grandpa reading to my Grandmother|
And I’ve managed to keep breathing for another year.
Which doesn’t really seem to me like an accomplishment.
Not everyone gets the chance to see another birthday…
But like my mom used to say, “It’s just another day Paul…”
When I was younger, I’d buy my mother a present for my birthday and explain that she was the one who’d done all the heavy lifting, not I.
She liked this little tradition.
When I was in elementary school, I would tell classmates that I was born a year and one day after President Kennedy was assassinated.
“Wow” they’d say. Which of course (as an ignorant kid), is what I was going for.
As if that was something I had any control over or that the terrible event was something that I wanted to be associated with. I think I was probably in the 7th grade before I stopped telling people about my “association” with Kennedy.
I am, however, just happy to be here and to maybe see another sunset.
I don’t know him, but I wave back.
I am pretty sure that if I tried that in New York I’d be assaulted and or arrested.
This little hand-waving thing reminds me of my dad and riding in his truck.
My dad had a habit of always waving at approaching vehicles – one hand on the wheel, another hand holding a Pall Mall cigarette (ashes on the seat and floorboard). If a hand was empty, it’d would be holding a cup of sugar and milk – with a touch of coffee.
My dad grew up in a little town in Alabama. I’m guessing they waved a lot there.
I grew up with the smell of these aromatic (not) cigarettes and, although I don’t mind the smell of some pipe tobacco and most cigars, cigarettes just kill me.
My dad was a real life red-headed step-child.
At the age of 17, he lied to join the Army. He made it just in time for the end of World War II. This gave him a chance to see some more of the world than Choctaw County.
Once he told me, during commercial breaks of Black Sheep Squadron, that he’d been, in no particular order, a driver for an Army general, a mechanic, and a drill instructor. At Camp Campbell the Army even taught him to jump out of perfectly good airplanes.
He didn’t stay in the Army long.
And in the big picture, he didn’t stay here for a long time either.
He died when he was 55.
That was a lifetime ago.
I can’t imagine how he’d react to knowing that I married a Russian or that smartphones exist, or even what Bluetooth is.
I wish he knew.
Sometimes I can still imagine him driving that blue and white 1974 Chevrolet Pick-up truck with white toolboxes on each side. He’s holding a cigarette and a large cup of coffee is precariously situated in front of him – sloshing occasionally all over the dashboard.
He takes a puff and stretches back against the seat.
And waves at an upcoming driver.
Before it was a park in the middle of the now heavily populated Satsuma, Alabama, under a canopy of oaks and home to a few squirrels, there stood a small wood framed house with a detached garage, or as I liked to remember it – our horse barn.
We didn’t have horses.
But we did have a few dogs who could pass for horses any day – at least to a four-year-old boy with lots of imagination.
There was no asphalt or cement for the short driveway – only fine granulated Alabama top soil baked in the afternoon sun.
It was ideal for mud pies.
Behind the house sat a little one-room barbershop and beyond that – train tracks.
My dad caught rides on trains from our personal train station. The train took him to Chickasaw or Mobile for work. I’m hoping it slowed to a manageable speed as there was really no depot in Satsuma at the time. I don’t know that there ever was one there.
The post office was across the street. I think that the house is still there today, although the Postal Service relocated the mail office across Highway 43, near what used to be a neighborhood store. I liked the old house better.
Once, as a three or four-year-old, I wandered away from the homestead and into the parking lot of the post office.
I say wandered, but it was about 10 yards away.
I heard galloping. There weren’t many buggies left in circulation, but some still non-conformists chose to travel by horse.
I would call the horse Mr. Ed because he’s what I think of when I remember this scene, but that young rider of the horse now has a son with that name so I’ll call him Speedy.
I starred as the traveler dismounted his horse, looped the rope over a chain-linked fence, and walked inside.
Speedy tilted his head a few times, un-looped the rope, backed away from the chain-linked fence and smiled at me.
OK, maybe he just winked. Regardless, one second later he was galloping down 4th Street towards East Orange Ave.
Soon thereafter, the rider exited the post office with his mail, but with no visible horse on which to return home.
For only a brief second, the horseless rider glanced at me.
Did he think that I had freed Speedy?
He didn’t wait around to ask. He took off in a gallop after his horse on 4th street towards the high school.
The only way I know – or am reasonably sure – of the rider’s identity is that years ago, I recounted this story to a friend.
And he told me that he was most likely the rider who failed to properly secure his horse when he went into the post office.
Years later after we’d moved to the only slightly larger city of Saraland, Mr. Baldwin (for whom the park is named) demolished (or moved) that old house. In 1982, the Baldwin family gave the land to the city of Satsuma and it now serves as a public park.
In 1992, I brought a young Russian Princess to this place where I had a kind-of “beginning” (i.e., my parents had moved from Louisiana to Alabama when I was four – so this was my beginning in Alabama. I know it’s a stretch but work with me!)
I kneeled and asked her to begin a new journey with me.
She said yes.
My children don’t care too much for this story – especially after the 100th time.
But I like it.
It reminds me of home.
My wife and I were in college at the same time.
And one of the benefits of attending said school was free health care.
Of course, it wasn’t really free, but an option for students at a reduced price.
Thank you tax payers!
One of the riders to that health insurance was that pregnancy was covered. For some reason I think this was a popular addition.
We already had an 18 month-old girl when I started law school.
But my wife wanted 2 girls. And she wanted them to be about the same distance apart in age as she was from her sister.
There are a few things that professors will tell you not to do when you are in law school.
Don’t get married.
Don’t have a baby.
Don’t rob Federal Reserve banks.
Thankfully, my experience in these is limited.
And the statute of limitations hasn’t run yet, so…
I’ll just stick to my story here.
In other words, law school is stressful enough so don’t complicate it by doing more stressful stuff.
Which is apparently why we decided to have a baby in my second year of law school. I missed my Evidence final exam to welcome our second girl into the world.
Hey, some law school classmates got married.
But that’s still not the point.
We went to the university health clinic for a pregnancy test.
Now, upon your first visit to said clinic you must deal with a life-size Barbie doll staring at the sick students waiting to receive Benadryl or other life saving medicine.
Let me say that again: A life-sized Barbie doll. Well over 6 feet tall.
She was creepy.
I don’t know if it is still there but it was not very appealing, unlike the Russian Barbie I had bought for my bride.
Which was pretty and stayed that way until one of our girls gave her a hair cut years later.
Now, for reasons I can’t go into here, we were pretty sure that the wife was pregnant. But we had to get the official test from the clinic so some insurance official could make a car or house payment that month.
A few minutes later a young woman sits down in front of us with a stern look on her face.
And I could tell that she didn’t want to tell us the results of her findings.
Just tell us the news.
“Well,” she began. She was nervous.
“The results are back and, well… Well, um, you’re pregnant.”
(Actually only one of us was…)
But we both breathed a sigh of relief and happiness.
The worker, for a nano-second, was confused and also breathed a sigh of relief.
She was sincerely relieved.
I suspected that this announcement wasn’t always met with happiness. I wouldn’t want her job.
We said thank you to the nice clinic worker and a hearty goodbye to Barbie and went shopping for diapers and baby clothes.