When you think on it, it’s amazing just how much of nothing can go on in a little town. In the seventies and eighties, Monette, Arkansas had at least a half dozen places dedicated to doing nothing. If you wished to laggard about and pick up on the latest second-hand hearsay, there was a group and a place just for you.
Claud Earl Barnett’s parts store was headquarters for some of the older, more refined, town loafers. It was an exclusive club and the store was configured so patrons could park around back. Those who took a view from main street were none the wiser who was there.
Farmers had two primary loafing hot spots. The offices at Keich-Shauver Gin were appointed with fifteen wooden chairs around the periphery where some of the more legitimate loafing took place and the topics focused mostly on farming. Gin manager Raymond Miller was one of the smartest men in town, the kind of man a kid could listen to forever.
Not a hundred yards south at Ball-Hout Implement was where the real cut ups and the tallest tales got told. Of course, it was David Watkins go-to place of belonging. Oftentimes, I thought, the center of his world.
Loafing hours started at 6 AM and ended at 5 in the afternoon. Ball-Hout, known to locals as the International (Harvester) Place, was the only location in town with a room dedicated entirely to hosting town loafers. In retrospect, it was some of the most brilliant marketing of the day. A rectangular room with two extra-long couches and a couple of vinyl cushion chairs, there was an industrial-sized coffee pot that parts manager Doyle “One-Eye” Yates freshened on the hour. All this across from the long parts counter and a small room where you could buy Nacona boots and toy tractors. The store and its loafing customers were so amalgamated, there was a huge framed art piece above the parts counter featuring a Western bar scene with dozens of characters, each named for store employee, or a special customer. I spent hours admiring the piece in the near eighteen years I accompanied my dad there. It hung until the store closed forty years later.
In many ways, loafing with dad at the International Place taught me a lot about what it meant to be a man. One day you’d hear stories of uncommon valor from some of World War IIs bravest veterans like J.L. Kimbrell or Tinkie Wimberley. The next, a rambling tale from some of town’s most lovable drunks.
It was in the International Place where I learned that in casual settings a man can cross his legs one of two ways — with one leg perpendicular straight across the other, or hanging down in a more feminine sort of way. Some of the toughest men in town went with the feminine style, and by four years old I was replicating their behavior — a young boy’s admiration for some of America’s finest. A little of each lives on in every child who ever loafed there with his dad.
Inaugural picnic on the grounds of Tranquility Base. 2/29/20 (Photo, Frances Merrell)
After eighteen months of writing, and a half-year of (ongoing) editing, we’ve set Saturday, October 3 as the release date for The King of Highbanks Road.
There is much to to share. The book’s foreword is set to be authored by a New York
Times best-selling author at the top of his game. We’ll have some commemorative ceremonies, but more about those things later.
Today, I’m happy to tell you that KOHBR will release as a traditional limited-edition hardback with a 500-volume numbered press run. That means you can get a “one and only.”
So I hope you’ll make plans to buy one one of these signed, limited-edition books now. They will be released for sale in two phases: first at a ceremony in the King’s hometown of Monette, AR; the second phase a few hours later via online order. Hardback copies will sell for $24 each, plus shipping. #1 goes to my mom. #2 goes to my wife. #3 through #500 are up for grabs.
Both unnumbered hardbacks, and paperbacks will also be available via Amazon. The paperback will sell in the $15 range.
I’m also pleased to report there will be an audio version of KOHBR, narrated by yours truly. More to come on that as well.
Stay tuned for future announcements. We’re not finished yet!
Which number will be on your bookshelf???
Fog lingers across Reelfoot Lake and up to the cypress tree line in Tiptonville, TN on 2/1/20. Reelfoot formed in a series of major earthquakes in 1811-1812 when many locals said the Mississippi River ran backwards for a time. The 15,000-acre lake is known for some of the finest crappie fishing in the world and was the filming site for the movie US Marshals.
TOMORROW: The Top 10 Real Life People Who Shaped My Storytelling, and How.
(WRITER’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of blog posts featuring recipes from a beloved “back-home” group I call the Crock Pot Brigade. Hope you enjoy.)
I LOVE Thanksgiving. Everything about it. Always have.
I love that we have a dedicated season of gratitude. I love cooking for a big group, family and friends gathering together. Leftovers for days. The smells, and oh, the anticipation!
This first featured recipe changed my life. As a kid we only had chicken and dressing (my all-time favorite food) once a year. When this idea came around it made the dish possible just about any time. I cook Crock Pot dressing three to four times a year. It’s perfect every time. Here it is:
Crock Pot Dressing by Patricia Adams
1 large pan of cornbread, 6 slices of day-old bread, 2 cans chicken broth, 2 cans cream of chicken soup, 4-5 beaten eggs, sautéed onion and 2 cups celery, salt, pepper, 2 tsp. poultry seasoning. Mix all the ingredients with shredded chicken. Cook on high for 4-5 hours.
BUTTERMILK PIE by Shirley Cloud
2 cups sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 3 tsp. flour, 1 tsp vanilla, 4 beaten eggs, 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, 1 pie crust.
Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla. Add beaten eggs, then buttermilk. Mix well and pour into the pie shell. Bake at 350 about an hour.
You’ll find a bonus story here and there through The King of Highbanks Road manuscript. One such bonus is a list of my dad’s favorite sayings. Several are toned down in color. Ha.
Are any of these tossed about in your family?
•She’s as nervous as a sinner in church. (as nervous as it gets)
•Never get in a fight with a pig in the mud. You get dirty, and the pig loves it. (some things just aren’t worth it.)
•He’s choppin’ in tall cotton. (acknowledging a nice accomplishment)
•Don’t know about you, but I’m wore plum out. (more than just tired – very tired)
•How’s your mom and them? (greeting between families close in friendship)
•You beat all I’ve ever seen. (hard to believe)
•Colder than a well digger’s @$#. (very cold)
•He’s gettin’ way too big for his britches. (braggart)
•Slow as molasses in winter. (usually reserved to describe an adolescent male)
•I’m full as a tick. (what you say after every meal in the South)
•Look to the West. It’s comin’ up a storm. (rain and wind will be here in twenty minutes)
•I’ll swan. (my, oh, my)
•Yes, sir, that (rain) was a toad strangler. (rain that leaves water standing in row middles)
•Tight as a banjo string. (a cheap old man, or a nut on a bolt that won’t budge)
•I swear to my time. (personal exasperation, disbelief)
•He doesn’t know his @$# from a hole in the ground. (downright dumb)
•He’s cruisin’ for a bruisin’. (luck is about to run out)