Sunday, September 25, 2011


by Ken Brown
Springfield, MO

...what a critical and difficult mental exercise.  Interestingly, CHOICE is something for which adult chooser holds responsibility, she/he/it needs to be the judge of the selections.   Unless directly affected, one should be careful in judgments of other people's choices.  For example, presently too many within our American society cry out from one side of their mouths for unfettered "freedom to choose" while demanding legislation to end some choices of those not like-minded on certain issues.  The target group are the "haves" judging the "have-nots."

From the Ozark Uncle's perspective, quite a few judgments of others are clouded because the judge simply has too much food in her, his, it's gut.  Explain that, Unc!  Well, very hungry people just view things differently than the well-fed among us.  If you're in the latter group, then try it some time and notice the difference--your perspective could very well turn upside down after prolonged hunger.  This oddity is best explained by Maslow's Needs Hierarchy.

Maslow's Needs Hierarchy suggests that we start at the bottom tier (Physiological Needs) where our only concerns are food, shelter and the bare essentials.  Then as our condition improves we advance up to the loftier tiers.  In a nutshell, some people are stuck in the bottom tier just trying to obtain basic food, clothing and shelter.  Choice is irrelevant for those at the bottom; when rummaging through garbage for food, these poor souls don't bypass a morsel of discarded filet mignon simply because it is well done instead of medium rare.

Many of us, the Ozark Uncle included, started at or near the bottom of Maslow's chart and advanced up the tiers to where physiological needs are not so pressing.  Unfortunately, once a few rungs higher, we often forget what it was like when on the bottom.  Again, the disconnect is simply the result of having too much food in one's stomach.  Food for thought?

  • Relished (No Organized Religion) - Those who chose to read an earlier Ozark Uncle's blog posting, BAPTIST TURN GREEN, learned of the Ozark Uncle's choice of secular education over a narrowly scripted one based on the Protestant Bible.  That choice (which was a couple of decades in the making), plus a later decision to turn away from any formal religious institution, would set him on a path of spiritual loneliness but not hopelessness.  In the process, however, the message of Jesus somehow got hard-wired within the Ozark Uncle by no conscious choice of his own.  Perhaps, that's why the Uncle truly enjoys church services when he attends and observes the uplifted and ignores the indifferent ones.
  • Regretted (No Military Service) - While the Ozark Uncle is comfortable with his position (albeit ever changing) on religion, he probably only rues one of his most critical choices--to opt for college over military service.  It was the 1960s part of the Vietnam War era, and he wishes he would have chosen to join with those who served in the U.S. Air Force or the U.S. Navy.  [Readers, correct the Ozark Uncle if he's wrong on the following statement]   In general, those who either couldn't choose or simply neglected to do so were drafted by the U.S. Army and were closest to the action.  It was a war among men and a war within men where their morals and ethics were challenged.
         In the Ozark Uncle's opinion, those like himself who haven't served are not complete, and a little hollow inside.  (The Ozark Uncle's Vietnam-era vet friends know that he has the utmost respect for those who did that job for all of us).
Like all Americans, the Ozark Uncle has made thousands of choices during his 66 years of existence--choices about schools, jobs, relationships, money, religion, and even movies.  While he has few regrets regarding his choices, he does rue his choice to watch the 1982 film, Sophie's Choice, with Meryl Streep.  Her choice remains lodged in his brain like a festering splinter that can't be removed no matter how much he digs with the longest and sharpest needle.

Related to ABORTION, the Ozark Uncle has had three occasions in his life to encourage a women not to abort a child; once, his advice was taken, on another instance the child was aborted for perhaps the wrong reasons, and the third was aborted for perhaps a rational reason; but again, who is the Ozark Uncle to judge.  Being the last born to a mother of five whose health should have stopped her childbearing at one, the Ozark Uncle recognizes that life is a very random event; if it had turned out that his mother died because of his birth, the Ozark Uncle would wish she had aborted him.  She was a wonderful person, and her husband would die only four years later than the Ozark Uncle's birth.  Four orphans would have been created.  Make any sense?

Regarding GAY LIFESTYLES, the Ozark Uncle staked out his position in the posting MOST EVIL--MUSLIMS, GAYS, OR SERPENTS?  Credible individuals (e.g., Jerry Falwell's ghost writer, Mel White) have come out of the closet in recent years to report childhood and teenage same-sex attractions that they could neither explain nor control.  Who is the Ozark Uncle (or anyone) to not accept these testimonies such as that of  Mel White's.  A response from a conservative Christian friend to the aforementioned blog posting was "I don't care what he said, it's a choice he made, [damn it]!"  The Ozark Uncle pondered this response and now posts this rebuttal--really, only gays CAN possibly know whether it is a choice or not--just think about it.  At age five, the Ozark Uncle knew he had no choice in his attraction to the female gender.

But gay bashers need to call it "CHOICE."   To demonize a group of people, just say that the "sinner" can help it by simply making a different choice; then compassion is taken off the table helping to ensure that the group is expelled with no hope of re-inclusion.  In recent decades the same tactic has also been used to declare that all poor people choose to shun work and live the way they do.  Within that group are millions who deserve some compassion.  Read on.

UNCLE! SEGUE NOW--Readers Don't Leave Yet, Please....
Is choice good or bad?  Look at the definition of choice, and one will find that too much choice might be debilitating.  Still, the old "Professor Uncle" used to always counsel his students--"...try to control your lives to where your options (i.e., choices) remain open."

Professor Uncle encouraged open-mindedness always regardless of the perils that accompany it.  That segues to the stories of (1) Edith, Lot's wife, and (2) Ethel.  Both made dramatic choices that deserve some discussion.  Read on.

Magdalene Collums
The Ozark Uncle's wife (Aunt Joy) has a wonderful cousin, Magdalene Collums, who is one of Arkansas's best and most prolific poets.  She is in her 80s, has always had an inquiring mind, and her poetry reflects the world she sees--both good and bad.  Over the past year, the Ozark Uncle has been helping pull together a book of her poetry.  The draft is flirting with 200 pages at the present.

Magdalene's poetry is so wonderful that even the unpoetic Ozark Uncle has come to love all of it.  Magdalene's works are far ranging--flowers, birds, people, family and school memories, places and events, social issues, and religious dogma.  Also included are poems in which she defends Arkansas against outside critics' condescending remarks.  

When the Ozark Uncle was working on Magdalene's manuscript, several different poems caught his eye including a couple in which she provided a defense of Lot's wife as she looked back at Sodom and turned to a pillar of salt (Genesis 19 of the Protestant Old Testament).  Here's one of the two poems:

Sundown at Sodom
by Magdalene Collums, Hope AR
copyright 2011

They say she looked back out of curiosity, 
But she did have other reasons. 
She looked back mourning her silver bowl, 
Carelessly while tying her sandal strap, 
So she wouldn't have to stare at the righteous nape 
Of her husband Lot's neck. 
From the sudden conviction that if she dropped dead, 
He wouldn't so much as hesitate, 
Struck by the silence, hoping God had changed his mind. 
Their two daughters were already vanishing over the hilltop. 
The wife felt age within her, 
The futility of wandering. 
She looked back not knowing where to set her foot.
Serpents appeared on the path, 
Spiders, field mice, baby vultures. 
They were neither good nor evil now; 
Every living thing was simply creeping 
Or hopping along in the mass panic. 
She looked back in desolation, 
In shame because they had stolen away, 
Wanting to cry out, wanting to go home; 
A sudden gust of wind unbound her hair. 
It seemed to her that eyes were watching from the walls of Sodom 
And bursting into thunderous laughter again and again. 
She looked back in anger to savor their terrible fate. 
She ran on; she crept; she flew upward 
Until darkness fell and with it scorching gravel. 
She couldn't breathe and spun around and around. 
She looked back involuntarily 
Until a sudden crack froze her solid in her tracks. 

In both the above poem and in a second one entitled "Lot's Wife", Magdalene suggests that Lot's wife did not feel loved by her husband.  Even the Ozark Uncle has thought what kind of husband would be out front of his wife in that traumatic situation and not behind her in a protective manner.  He knows the story...the scribe wanted to illustrate what happens when God's Will is not followed.   Yet, was not God's Will communicated to her via a husband who did not love her--she was at a spiritual disadvantage, for Christ's sake?!  Wow, I'm good--maybe I'm ready to write for one of those big news channels where the censor of illogical news items usually has a hangover and fails to show up most days.)

For Lot's wife, Edith, her choice caused the end of her earthly existence but not the memory of her.  As luck would have it, Lot apparently went on over the hill, told his story to the elders and then relayed to the purported Genesis author.  Mention of her name was omitted from the Protestant Bible but Jewish lore identified her as "Ildeth" or "Edith"  (it was the answer to a 2004 Jeopardy question)."
In the early 1970s, the Ozark Uncle was climbing up his career ladder as a bean-counting bureaucrat at a state-funded college.  On a warm spring day, he'd just finished his lunch of hamburger and fries at the campus grill, and as he stepped out into the busy quadrangle, he noticed all heads were turned to the southeast where a clamor was developing.  In a split second, they appeared from that direction--running at a leisurely gait--two young men wearing nothing but head gear.  They were engaging in a new campus craze--streaking.

The second streaker lagging behind wore only a ski mask and was otherwise unworthy of mention.  His chosen head gear's statement was "I'm frightened--why am I here, and please, Lord, let this be over without my being identified.  What would Mom say?"

The laggard's companion in front, however, was most impressive--his only apparel were an vintage leather aviator cap, over-sized goggles, and a colorful scarf that draped around his face and neck before flowing freely behind him in the breeze--not unlike Snoopy as he chased after the Red Baron.

I focused on the leader, quite impressed, until he disappeared in the direction of the dormitories to the northwest.  His head gear suggested a daring and adventuresome fellow who no doubt went on to lead an interesting life.

The Ozark Uncle secretlhy wanted to join the students who applauded the escapade but withdrew into his conservative and prudish 1970s self .  Several seconds after the streakers had departed, a couple of overweight campus security guards came shuffling along the same path asking what direction the miscreants had gone.  They got little assistance, and they probably didn't really want to catch them anyway.

The Mooning of Ethel
Streaking eventually faded away but stayed long enough for comedy musician, Ray Stevens, to get a hit from his 1974 song, the Streak.  A link to his delightful music video is provided at the bottom of this post.  Here is a portion of the lyrics: 
Ray Stevens

Once again, your action news reporter in the booth at the gym covering the disturbance at the basketball playoff.  Pardon me, sir, did you see what happened? 
     Yeah, I did.  Halftime, I's just going down there to get Ethel a snow cone.  Here he come, right outta the cheap seats, dribbling.  Right down the middle of the floor.  Didn't have on nothing but his Keds!  Made a hook shot and got out through the concession stand. 
     I hollered up at Ethel, I said "don't look, Ethel!"...too late.  She'd already gotten a free shot.  Grandstand.  Right there in front of the home team.

The song finishes with the following:
      "Ethel! Is that you Ethel?  What do you think you're doing?  You get your clothes on!" "Ethel, where you going?  Ethel, you shameless hussy!!" Ethel!!

Bantering around about the relationship between Ethel and her husband would be fun.  Was he trying to protect her from an act of indecency or was he controlling her?  Deep down, did he sense that Ethel was impressionable and secretly had a desire for independence--for the freedom to choose?  Taking Stevens' song further, the Ozark Uncle wonders how Ethel's marital relationship changed after her wild moment of self-expression.  But he had better get on to the point of this post lest his few loyal readers rebel themselves.


Both Edith and Ethel made critical choices in their lives.  For Ethel--did her choice lead (1) to a free and enlightened existence, or (2) to a shameful and depraved phase in her life?  The Ozark Uncle doesn't want to judge her act but only hope she experienced the former and not the latter.  Edith--of course, bless her heart, she didn't live to tell her side of the story--if you must judge choices, has your scorn for her abated any?  Moses left little information for those of us who cannot read Sumerian clay tablets--that's a whole other posting.  Please don't miss the video by clicking below.

Friday, April 22, 2011

J.B.'s Deer Camp

by Kenneth Brown, Springfield, MO
The Ozark Uncle's 
Facebook friends have read his occasional postings about the project he calls "Deer Camp."  The project is little more than a small house on a vacant lot at the edge of the Wilson Creek flood plain barely one-hundred yards outside of the Springfield city limits.  But the Ozark Uncle and several of his family members see it as a chance for a temporary existence without TV, phones, or air conditioning, and a pot-bellied wood stove for heat in the winter.
J.B. & Magdalene (Neal) Collums
Hope, AR
The "Deer Camp" designation is in honor of the late J.B. Collums of Hope AR who passed away in April 2010 at the age of 81.  J.B. had a real deer camp in southwest Arkansas, although he befriended every buck and doe that wandered into his kingdom.  While the Ozark Uncle's skill set is so limited that he must hire everything done at his "Deer Camp", J.B. had been a welder and mechanic--he had his own tools and even his own bull dozer.  He did all the work himself at Deer Camp including putting a dam across the creek to create a lake.  He even engineered an efficient spillway and flood control valve for his dam.  J.B. Collums was married for 63 of his 81 years to Joy's cousin, Magdalene Neal Collums.  In the past decade, the Ozark Uncle and Joy got to know them and see that they were an almost perfect couple--supporting each other through thick and thin--always sensitive to the needs of the other.
Magdalene's skill set is unique too -- she got her college education in English at nearby Henderson (AR) State University, and has been a prolific writer and award-winning poet for the past almost forty years.  
A couple of weeks ago, the Ozark Uncle told Magdalene about his "Deer Camp" and he asked her if she could be moved to write a poem about J.B.'s "Deer Camp."  Her first response was one of hesitance but within 48 hours, she had produced this wonderful piece of verse.
Should you have asked him what it meant to him-
He would have answered, he would have told you
That it was piece of  him and peace in him,
A wonderful place
Where shadows were still
And oak trees hung low,
An 80-acre tract
On the banks of a lake,
His hands had made,
Where songs could be heard
From flocks of birds,
A magical place,
A sanctuary  that restored his equilibrium,
Soothed his soul and calmed his racing mind.
With J. B. gone almost a year -
Not just in November but all of the year,
We cherish the time we had with him
And wish we could do it all over again.

by Magdalene Collums, Hope AR
March 2011