Ozarks: Dextrous Laboratory and the Housing from Hell
Yesterday, we drove to Horseshoe Bend, a 1960s-era development community where my maternal aunt Ava Jo has settled with her husband, Clarence Bowling, who retired back to the Ozarks after 40 years away working as an entomologist in Texas.
They have a lovely, two-story home overlooking Crown Lake on the Strawberry River, a spot more beautiful than I had remembered from my teenage years, when I used to visit Horseshoe to see my friend Pete Hale -- whose full name, by the way, was "Charley Peters Hale," but that name got as much off-color comment as my first name "Horace," so we'll not get into that since Gypsy Scholar holds to such high ethical standards...
As I was saying, Uncle Clarence has returned to the Ozarks for his retirement. He has not, however, truly retired, for he's still working on a special technique for growing rice without draining the field during the germinating process. I say "still" because he was working on this back in the 1970s when I stayed with his family in Beaumont, Texas over Christmas and Easter breaks while I was studying at Baylor. He seems to be making progress in developing a technique that will use calcium peroxide to gradually release oxygen for the inundated rice seeds, allowing paddies to remain flooded at a stage when draining usually occurs. Retaining the cover of water prevents weeds, insects, birds, and other undesireables from harming the rice sprouts and reduces labor costs associated with the normal draining of rice fields. If Clarence can perfect the thin sponge coating that he's developing to cover each grain of rice, he'll be able to encapsulate the calcium peroxide -- along with fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, if desirable -- and obtain a patent as a legacy to his children.
I was surprised that he could work on this technique in the isolated Ozarks, but I suppose that they're not isolated anymore. I noticed a tome on chemistry that lay on his coffee table -- for light reading, no doubt -- and he mentioned his laboratory in the garage, where he has rice germinating under cover of water. I hope that I'm just as intellectually dexterous at 81 as Clarence is.
We returned from our Horseshoe excursion to enjoy an evening meal among family and listen to amusing stories of the ridiculous situations that various of us have gotten ourselves into through daring to take trips outside the Ozarks. My brother John had an especially funny story of taking his wife, his daughter, and our mom to Oregon to see our brother Shan officially obtain his PhD in a doctoral ceremony. I don't want to embarrass the family by recounting the entire, sordid tale, but I'm not above calling attention to a detail or two.
Perhaps the worst -- and hence best -- experience was the housing from hell that Shan provided, in which John ended up sleepless on a procrustian sofa facing a curtainless window ten feet long and eight feet high that looked out on a busy sidewalk where people passed by all night long looking in on my brother as if he were some museum exhibit dedicated to illuminating the sleeping habits of poor white hillbilly trash.
My mother sat in her chair listening to this story and shaking her head as if to say, "Where did I go so wrong?"