Dateline: Mayflower, Arkansas
Have you ever stood on the sun.
Ever surfed lava.
It is 95 degrees, humidity is pooling in every place on my body that can pool, heat index=6,302 degrees. Will tell you something gross here, for the only time in my entire 62 years of life, the bottom of my FEET, are sweating.
And a little kid in a backwards baseball cap just whacked my knee with a Bass Pro Shops Zebco rod & reel.
“Uh, can I help you young dude.”
He’s six, maybe eight, and he has mirrored sunglasses on.
The mini-me hands me his kids combo, “Here’s your rod and reel back, Mister.”
And as he turns his back on me and starts to walk away, I take the rod and reel, stretch out my arm and bop him on the top of his backwards hat…karma you know is a …..
Before he can launch into anything, I flip the rod up in the air like a baton, catch it by the tip, and reach out and put the rod handle on his chest…I’ve just Zorro-ed him.
“Here, it’s yours man, you keep it.”
“But it ain’t…”
“Yeah it is.”
“But it ain’t…”
So I bend and creak and get down on the one half of my good knee that doesn’t need replacing, “Hey, dude, did your house get hit by the tornado.”
“Did you lose your fishing stuff, your rod and reel.”
“Would you like to go fishing again.”
“Well then, here, this is your rod and reel…”
And as I say that his lower lip begins to tremble, “But it ain’t…”
“…it is, it is yours to keep, look at me (and he looks up as a tear runs down his cheek) there are anglers all over this world that want you to have this, they gave it to me to give it to you, it is yours, really.”
And I took a long walk over to the air conditioned Arkansas Game & Fish building’s bathroom, walked straight into a bathroom stall, closed and locked the door, put the toilet seat down, sat down on it fully clothed,
“…brother, brother, brother…”
When the earth turns on us, the only thing we can do is to turn to each other.
I met a child today who was afraid of…clouds. A mother told me that her children, “Cry when it rains.”
“…ain’t got nothing left….”
“…sucked our house and foundation right out from underneath us…”
Things can be replaced, huh. Yeah right. Try replacing my Tom Swift and his Diving Seacopter book. Sure, I could buy a dozen of them on Ebay, but not a one would have written in it, “To Donnie, Love Aunt Irma 12/25/58”
It was my first “big boy” book. It is the book that started a lifelong love of reading…of words…of imagination. After my wife, the children, the dog, it would be the one material thing I would run back into the fire to save.
For me, and maybe for you, the cinema in my head that plays the memories of my life, those pictures, those moments start playing on the screen, not so much when I look at photographs, but when I hold the past in my hand.
When my thumbs run over the material, each bump, each bruise, each spot, brings back, yesterday, way back yesterdays. When I miss my long gone Aunt, all I need to do is to hold that book, turn those pages, and suddenly Aunt Irma is on the couch next to me sounding out the words I’m stuck on.
The most valuable commodity on earth is the time that has past. As you age, you will learn that gold is valueless, silver, platinum, all the so-called precious metals, worth squat.
Memories, are priceless.
And that is what this Sunday was all about.
“…you know we've…”
“db, this is the hottest weekend so far this year,” Jim Alexander, president of the Arkansas B.A.S.S. Nation, is telling me, trying to comfort me as I’m already on my 2nd shirt of the event…and it is already stinky.
I’m walking through the line talking to the families, the kids and hear over and over again of the horror, the loss, the tragedy, but also of the blessing. A man who lost everything, I mean EVERYTHING told me, “We were lucky, my family wasn’t hurt none.”
I hear the story of a mom and dad whose two young boys were killed in the tornado, hear that the mother has said that two days before the storm hit one of her sons told her something like he was ready for heaven…and when I meet the mom and dad they have scars all over them, suffered when crushed under flying debris…and the lady, a young pretty woman, reaches out and HUGS ME because we gave her a fishing pole.
I’m thinking I may need therapy, or Bourbon, after this event.