Willie Wirehand: Friend or Fiend?
He appeared on REA Day.
No, not like "Leah"! "R-E-A"! Get it right.
REA was short for "Rural Electrification Administration" -- but I doubt that any of us kids knew that. What we did know was that every summer on what was officially called "REA Day," big tents would go up on the large grounds of the local Rural Electrical Co-operative in Salem, popcorn and snow cones would be hawked to quicken and quench thirst, grilled meat would be splattered onto paper plates, new electrical contraptions like the microwave oven would mystify the masses, and gospel music would come belting out of big speakers -- all brought to us courtesy of Willie Wirehand.
The entire population of Fulton County, Arkansas seemed to show up for a meeting that despite its official name went on for several days, from early morning till late at night.
As a kid, I worked at the popcorn and snowcone stand and dreamed of escaping town with Willie Wirehand, joining him in his travels around the country and enjoying REA Day every day.
I was a little confused. I must have imagined that the REA was a kind of circus . . . or like a carnival, rolling around with the seasons.
But what drew me to Wille? What can I say -- he had an electrifying personality. He was Lord of the Dynamos and could work miracles.
I saw some with my own eyes -- like the bacon slice inexplicably frying on an unheated paper plate in that microwave contraption. If that was 'technology,' it was indistinguishable from magic.
And they said that Willie turned water into electricity.
That part was a bit worrisome. I had seen Norfork Dam, where the transformation took place, and we sometimes swam in that lake. What if it all suddenly turned to electricity?
That would be hell.
Surely, Willie wouldn't do something like that.
I decided to stay in Salem, town of peace, and keep my distance from Willie . . . just in case.
You can never be too careful.