Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Not because I'm lazy...

"That's How I Got My Start"
(Image from

. . . but because I'm pressed for time, I'm posting some dialogue -- from the "Big 5-0" birthday post -- between Sonagi (a good woman) and me (a man of questionable character).

Sonagi first offered commiseration -- I mean, birthday greetings:
Happy Birthday, Jeffery! I'm sure you've heard of the saying that growing old is better than the alternative.

I'm still recovering from 'the shock of "the death of youth"' when I reached the big 4-0 two years ago. People in their thirties, especially those still single and childless, can mingle with those in their twenties and still feel young. Once that 3 rolls over into a 4, it doesn't feel right to be socializing with people fresh out of college with few work or life experiences.

Like Charles, I watched Hawaii 5-0 as a kid. I'll let you in on a couple of secrets - Jack Lord was my first celebrity crush and I secretly dig Asian men with longish hair because they remind me of the show.
I replied, in my usual witty (or twitty) manner:

Thanks, Sonagi, but growing younger would be a good alternative, too.

You know -- well, probably you don't, which is why I'm telling you -- despite the Hawaii 5-0 reference, I actually never much watched the show.

In my Ozark town, only one channel got reception, channel 3 out of Springfield, Missouri, which was NBC, so I couldn't watch Hawaii 5-0 until I went off to university, when I no longer had time to watch. But as a cultural reference point, the show was well-known to me.

It was strange, growing up watching only NBC, then going off to college, where everybody else had seen shows from all three broadcasting companies.

For the first time, I learned of Monty Python -- and did watch that. Somehow, between classes, studying, and working, I managed to add a little British irony to my life...
To which, Sonagi replied, first by quoting my words and then by responding:

"It was strange, growing up watching only NBC, then going off to college, where everybody else had seen shows from all three broadcasting companies."

I can relate. My parents were die-hard CBS fans during the decade of the 70s when ABC's youthful line-up propelled it past CBS to claim the top spot in the ratings. We watched All in the Family, Good Times, and The Waltons while our friends laughed along with Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley and oohed and aahed at the stunts of the Six Million Dollar Man, the Bionic Woman, and Wonder Woman. We only got to watch the reruns during the summer.

What were your favorite toys and what were your favorite movies growing up? My favorite toys were my Barbie collection, especially the Happy Family, the black version of the Sunshine Family. I always got the black versions of trendy dolls because a middle-class neighborgirl got the white versions first and I didn't want the exact same thing since we played together. It was unusual, I suppose, since I lived in a small town that was 99% white. My mom would ask, "Are you sure you want the black doll?" She wasn't being racist. She just wanted to make sure I wasn't pressured by the neighborgirl into not getting the white one. If Asian, Hispanic, and Muslim barbies had been available, I would have asked for them, too.

My favorite movies were It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Tora Tora Tora, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Herbie the Lovebug, and Star Wars.

Oh, and one more thing - I envy you for having come of age in the turbulent, exciting period of the late 60s/early 70s. Tell us few stories, won't you? If you don't mind.
Replying to this one, I revealed the poverty of my youth -- too poor even to be misspent!

Sonagi, my family was rather poor, and we lived without a car in an isolated town lacking a cinema, so I didn't have a lot of toys or see a lot of movies.

But we had board games like Monopoly, which I did like. We played card games like "Spoons" -- get two cards alike, grab a spoon (5 brothers, 4 spoons, a bit like musical chairs).

We played a lot of sports and walked a lot for fun, or went fishing ... even hunting.

As we became teenagers, we began working at summer jobs of various sorts, and when I had enough money, I bout a bicycle. I also used to deliver Grit, a 'family' newspaper.

I've told some stories on my blog. Perhaps this would be a time to label them for ease in finding.
Then, noticing my typo, I added with chagrin and a grin:

Sonagi, that should have read "I bought a bicycle," not "I bout a bicycle."

I certainly didn't fight one, as a "bout" might suggest.

I guess that I'm getting senile already . . . now that I'm old.
Sonagi replied to this story of my gritty childhood:

"I also used to deliver Grit, a 'family' newspaper."

Now there's name I haven't heard in a long time.

You may have been poor in money but rich in imagination and wide open spaces to play. I feel sorry for kids glued to their Playstations and Gameboys.

BTW, most of my favorite movies I watched not in a theater but on television. I wasn't born yet when many of those movies were made.
My mind still down in the grit, I replied:

Sonagi, I did watch a lot of late-night movies on television with my four brothers when we were supposed to be sleeping on the sofa bed ... conveniently and therefore temptingly close to the television.

I recall seeing a lot of WWII movies...

By the way, I think that Grit is still in business.
Sonagi, noting a lacuna in my reminiscences, then inquired about my intellectual upbringing:

Jeffery, You didn't mention reading books anywhere in your comments about having fun as a kid. Were you a reader? What/who were your favorite stories/authors?
My hand having been forced, I admitted:

Sonagi, I read every book for children and teenagers in the local library, including those old romance books meant for teenage girls.

There wasn't much great literature in that library, but at home, I did find a copy of my Uncle Harlan's college literature anthology, and I can still recall reading Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which I loved immediately.

I also read some stories by Poe, maybe Dickens's Christmas Carol, and a lot of Shakespeare and selections from other great English literature in my high school English courses.

I even recall reading Philip Roth's early short story "The Conversion of the Jews" in my high school English class.

But I didn't really discover literature until I went off to university, where I encountered Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Turgenev, Chekov, and eventually Bulgakov, among other Russian greats. Those were writers who opened my eyes.
Thus went our dialogue, which perhaps deserves this blog entry -- or maybe not -- but possibly you agree if you got this far...

Finally, something that will satisfy all of Sonagi's curiosity, an old Gene Autry song whose lyrics reveal all about me and which I've been searching for over the years and finally found here, courtesy of a 'guest' at the Mudcat Café:

That's How I Got My Start

When I grew up to be a man, I said I'd work no more,
But dad took me by the pants and kicked me out the door.
It's not because I'm lucky; it's not because I'm smart.
My old man said, "Get out, you bum!" That's how I got my start.

One time I did try working. My wages they were fair.
On payday, I got tipsy, then I got the air.
It's not because I'm lucky; it's not because I'm smart.
I drink a lot of moonshine; that's how I got my start.

I had a wife that loved me, and I loved her, you know.
She caught me with another gal, then I had to go.
It's not because I'm lucky; it's not because I'm smart.
I run around with other gals. That's how I got my start.

Last night I had a nice little gal. we had lots of fun,
But when we met her husband, he put me on the run.
It's not because I'm lucky; it's not because I'm smart,
But when he started shootin', that's when I got my start.

I've been all around the country; been most every place,
And all the lousy cops have given me a chase.
It's not because I'm lucky; it's not because I'm smart.
I do the best I can do. That's how I got my start.
I think that I've now covered all bases and also demonstrated why I'm a man of questionable character...



At 7:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now that I've stopped laughing, I can respond. It seems fitting for me to have the first post.

I can't believe you turned our comment exchange into an entry. Must be a light week with no papers to grade. Trying to relieve a bout of insomnia? Clicking in from North America, I notice that you sometimes post at a time when most folks in your hemisphere are asleep.

Your list of literary works was impressive, but as an elementary school teacher, I was more interested in knowing which kids' books were your favorites. I read all the Little House on the Prairie books and every Nancy Drew story in my local library. I must have read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe three or four times; somehow, knowing the ending did not spoil the experience of rereading the story. What else was there? The Boxcar Children and Ol' Yeller.

Your interaction with literature is nearly the opposite of mine. I loved reading as a kid but came to dislike literature classes in secondary school and university; I hated picking apart stories, labeling and dissecting, losing points on tests for the "wrong" answer. I just wanted to read and enjoy. Literature classes really take the fun out of reading.

"I read every book for children and teenagers in the local library, including those old romance books meant for teenage girls."

Did you read Lady Chatterly's Lover? A girl friend and I read and discussed that book in the 8th grade. The first time I had sex I was so disappointed because I didn't feel those "hot flowing juices inside" that the book talked about. My friend and I would joke around about that years later.

"I had a wife that loved me, and I loved her, you know.
She caught me with another gal, then I had to go.
It's not because I'm lucky; it's not because I'm smart.
I run around with other gals. That's how I got my start."

Well, I learned something new. Didn't have you pegged for a philanderer. I hope your wife has made an honest man of you.

At 8:08 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

You mean ... you stopped laughing? Without keeling over first?

I was trying to recapitulate that old Monty Python skit in which a gag writer in wartime London comes up with the world's funniest joke ... and dies laughing. A team of translators working separately -- each translating a different word to avoid further deaths by laughter -- render the joke into German, and the British troops march through Germany shouting out the joke in German as German troops spill out of trenches, tanks, shelters, holding their splitting sides as they collapse into hysterics ... and die.

Not that I wanted you to die ... merely to surrender.

Light week? No, quite the opposite.. Hence the borrowed entry.

As for books, I missed out on a lot. No one in my town had ever heard of C.S. Lewis, let alone read his books. I did read Ol' Yeller, though. And Nancy Drew. And the Hardy Boys.

But Lady Chatterly's Lover? That's not for teenage girls ... even if Lawrence did have laughably immature views on sex.

In my English classes in high school, we didn't much analyze. I just recall reading a lot and enjoying that.

As for my alleged philandering, the message in that song was metaphorically intended ... but I was once a single man ... before meeting Sun-Ae, who cured me of all the things that needed curing...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was shocked when you commented on my blog. I didn't realize there was a way to track visitors and yes, I browse your blog from time to time to kick my mind into gear. You clearly know your literature and you can write well. I hope you're not offended that I was lurking, but I figured that's why you have a blog, right? To share your thoughts with the world?
Thanks for catching my typo (fixed). That'll teach me to use the damn spell check. Hope you had a swell birthday.
--Liz Shine

At 12:55 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Liz, I didn't imagine that I'd shock you by posting a comment. I guess that I'm so accustomed to "Site Meter" that I assume that everybody uses it.

I've noticed your occasional visits and have returned the lurk. I went from a lurk on a lark when I saw the typo.

Anyway, thanks be that you got over your shock and thanks for posting a comment here -- and for your kind words.

See you again...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that perhaps Jeff had the rare treat, as I have since learned, of having a lit teacher who made every effort to make the subject interesting.

However Jeff seems not to realize that he was not the only one reading works other than the limericks in Playboy. I suppose it may've been that like hiding under covers to look at the pictures in National Geographic, it was just something a feller didn't want his fellows to know about. Sometimes a feller didn't realize the reputation he was working so hard to foster would both hide the notion he was "knowledgin' up", and that he had "another side".

Growing up in the Ozarks was not of necessity, a life deprived of culture, but I admit, books were the primary vehicle. And Jeff, perhaps you were falling asleep too soon. If you managed to stay up just past eleven, and tweaked the rabbit ears just so, Jonesboro's ABC would come in. Dick Cavett was up too. And of course there was WLS.

And I look back in amazement that even a scrawny asthmatic kid could gather a bunch of kids and ride bikes as far as Calico. And not get pressed into the asphalt.


At 9:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy (belated) birthday Jeff.

I fondly remember Fulton County Library and reading darn near every book in that place. Maybe not a lot of "literatoor" but good exposure nonetheless.

Hope all is well...


At 4:08 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, the Ozarks had its brilliant raconteurs, and the many off-color jokes that Vance Randolph uncovered in his research on Ozark folk culture demonstrate that whatever the learning -- or lack thereof -- in the Ozarks, a lot of the folks who didn't give the impression of being intellectuals nevertheless had a rich sense of irony and a truly funny sense of humor.

I hope that I've inherited those things.

As for television reception, I recall that occasionally, when the atmospheric conditions were just right, the Little Rock channel would come welling over the hills and touch down in the valley wherein Salem lay nestled, and one could obtain a fuzzy sense of Arkansas instead of the more usual, clear vision of the Missouri Ozarks via Springfield.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:20 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Pat, reading is reading, in my opinion, and one can't do too much of it growing up.

I recall checking a book out of that library, reading it as I walked home, as I was lying on the sofa at home, and as I was walking back to the library, where I would finish just in time to check out the next one.

That worked fine until I tripped over a garbage can one day and embarrassed Tim and Shan, who asked mom, "Isn't there something that you can do about Jeff..."

But I hadn't broken any laws (that anyone knew about), so I was allowed to continue.

I suppose that I could have been cited for littering...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff, (sonagi too)

"Little House" (the TV version) was set in Kansas. Truth be told her original childhood home was Mansfield Missouri, a 1.5 hour drive at 55 mph from Jeff's childhood abode.

But for you Jeff, doggone, you've heard of Vance? I shouldn't be surprised reading "Gypsy". Have you heard of Vance Bullock of Eureka? Another historian of Ozarkia, grew up in Pineville, an adopted son of a family who raised a natural group of fishing guide, machinist, and physician? Vance Bullock whose mother was Kiowa taught his young admirers, well suffice to say he taught. He didn't do off color jokes though.

Littering was not an offense when you dropped your book. Unless you had it checked out in your own name. We had the Knob separating us. Rabbit ears could not get Little Rock no matter the weather. You were within the frame of the ridges which fringed US 62.

And yes, books got us further than 24/, well I can't find a key that has a "cents mark" on it. Jeff, being 50 is problematic. Tires had inner tubes too I seem to recall.


At 8:29 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, I guess Salem Knob would block out a lot of transmissions -- also Blackjack Knob, which is thirteen feet higher than Salem Knob, or so Gene Franks told me, and he would have been one to know, having worked for decades in that fire tower atop Salem Knob.

Salem Knob used to be called Pilot Knob, by the way, but you probably knew that.

Gene used to watch things happening all over Salem and probably saw me trip over that garbage can and send the litter (not my book) spilling out. He didn't report me though. Probably just laughed. He liked me because I used to hike up the Knob once a week and visit him in his tower. He showed me how to use his powerful binoculars to see the man over at the tower near Calico Rock.

I was saddened when those towers closed down. A part of history gone.

I haven't heard of Vance Bullock, but Mr. Randolph is famous. In fact, I read his book Ozark Superstitions while I was still just a lad. It was in the Fulton County Library.

That book explained a lot of things to me that I had wondered about.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


If you'd do a bit of googlin' you'd find that Gene and my Dad were first cousins.

Occasionally one finds that there is more to things than one might imagine, or thinks he might know. I know for instance the two fence posts between which a fellow lost his hand. I know the "sour milk taste" Pat detected came from shine Gene provided to Doc. I know it came from "around" Fox Arkansas. I knew some years after, that Doc adulterated the shine he expected to lose with colostum. Gene told me that.

Gene showed me where the chinkapins were on the Knob. Do you know where the Knob got the Salem "title" of Pilot Knob? Not the usual Mark Twain kinda thing. It was conferred in 1861 following a retreat from Springfield by the forces of a Stirling Price.

The Ozarks, have three "knobs", topographically speaking, one is called the Springfield plateau, the Harrison plateau, and the Salem plateau.

1861 was a very wet year, the Southfork of Spring River was only fordable at one place, that is what you and I know as the "mouth of the town branch".

In 1861 it was known as "Morgan's Ferry". You might recall Hunter's Cemetery? That extensive bottomland on the north side of Southfork? At one time there was a Morgan family that possessed the delta-like bottoms of Southfork from just south of what we know as "Jesse's Bottom", west of Lanton, to Saddle. Two sections of bottomland.

The "Town Branch" wasn't always known by that name. From about 1845 to 1864 it was known as "Davis Creek".

Gene and Daddy had a common friend whom you might've known. Guy Jenkins. Jenkins Boat Dock on White River, near Calico. That's where the pool table Pat knows came from. But you may not. Pat though does know the table. The Winship Place. The skating rink. The "old skating rink".

For those of you who read Jeff's blog regularly, when Jeff and I were young, we went to a roller rink. Wore metal wheeled roller skates affixed to strap-on rigid boots, songs were a nickel on a thing called a "juke box". Hamburgers at May's Cafe were 35 cents, and she had "pinball machines" 5 cents a play.

Jeff at that time would call me "a fortunate son". All I can say is that, well, I had good luck picking my gene pool.



At 4:24 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, that certainly brings back memories -- and adds a few new ones. I think that I've seen the pool table, and I remember the old skating rink at the base of the Knob.

What strikes me is how little familiar I was with the part of Salem where the bottomland was along the Southfork River. I tended to head in other directions on my walks -- up the Knob, up the Town Branch behind my house, and on special occasions off to Viola to my other grandmother's place, at the end of a dirt road and only five miles across the fields and through the trees from there to Lake Norfork.

I tended to head south or west in my little trips about and away from town. Mammoth Spring, to the north, as with Ash Flat, to the east, seemed 'foreign.'

Strange to think about, but I suppose that I headed toward the wilder areas ... a bit like my life's direction out of the Ozarks, too.

Jeffery Hodges

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