Columnist: Arkansas news like evening shade after Michigan

Published 12:42 pm Monday, July 13, 2009

When City Clerk Jim Snow goes home to Arkansas, he brings me newspapers and I make the trip vicariously.
He knows I’ve been to Black Oak and in Evening Shade before it was a TV show. In fact, our family was just pulling into Cherokee Village when Richard Nixon resigned.
Wal-Mart was a local curiosity when I first started going up and down the hills of the Natural State.
There was a story with a Cherokee Village dateline about a talk to the Spring River Gem and Mineral Club about geologists searching for uncharted caves. (“How many holes are under the hills?”)
This time Jim brought me a Jonesboro Sun, a Decatur Herald-Review and the Sunday, July 5, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette from Little Rock – 20 sections, 214 pages, including an  entire section of international news.
It was nice to leave Michigan misery behind for a spell.
The Herald-Review, which calls divorces “dissolutions,” had enough newshole to devote an entire page to a guide to quirky bars in Florida and the circus parade returning to Milwaukee.
According to their sports poll, 69 percent see St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols finishing the season with 50 to 59 home runs.
Even the Michigan news making small headlines in Arkansas connected to the collapse of our economy: “Cops and Doughnuts” is the new name of the 113-year-old Clare City Bakery owned by nine fulltime employees of the Police Department. It opened July 1. Officers became concerned when the bakery was about to become the sixth empty storefront in Clare’s three-block downtown.
Perhaps my favorite story in all three graced the front of The Sun, right next to a fireworks photo: “Beer joint now church.”
Curt Hodges cut colorfully to the chase: “Swapping beer for Bibles, drunks for disciples and hell-raising for hallelujahs – God truly does work in mysterious ways.”
The Rebel Club is in Osceola in Mississippi County. Artists who played there live include Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis.
“Joints” and “dives” is what they call clubs like that. The rowdier ones stretch chicken wire across the bandstand to protect the players.
Matthew S.L. Cate of the Democrat-Gazette wrote this intro to a front-page piece about gun sales: “For at least one bullet-proof industry in this recession, these have been days of soaring demand and blazing revenue growth. Spooked by the bogeyman of gun-banning Democrats, the U.S. firearms trade has enjoyed a full-bore boom. Customers seeking handguns and tough-looking semi-automatic rifles have been clearing the shelves. Retailers have been ordering faster than manufacturers can produce. And sales have shot to record highs.”
I’ve also been to Pocahontas, which is what drew me into an interesting story about the Bonanza steak house with the big chicken out front and fried catfish fillets on the Friday and Saturday evening buffet.
I guess they still serve a sizzling sirloin every now and then, but the big chicken signifies fried chicken daily on the buffet.
“People are really responding to it,” said Murl Smith, who has been operating the eatery since the week before Thanksgiving.
“We have been able to see a 30- to 40-percent increase in business over the last six months.” With business hopping so, the Smiths may have to set a rabbit beside the hen.
“If anyone leaves hungry, it’s their own fault,” Brad Smith told The Sun.
Arkansas politicians traipsed around to the all the Independence Day picnics and fireworks displays.
At one, U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln noted the United States ranks 19th in health-care coverage efficiency. Lincoln also told her constituents that agricultural products are now the only things of which the United States has a trade surplus.
Democrat Gazette columnist Philip Martin wrote a tribute to Michael Jackson using only his song lyrics. Hey, I did that for John Lennon in 1980!
Iowa State Fair organizers announced June 30 that they will have a statue of Jackson made of butter to display alongside their annual attraction, a butter cow.
Both will beat it – the heat, that is – in a 40-degree cooler throughout the fair Aug. 13-23 in Des Moines.  The Jackson Five performed at the fair twice in 1971.
Marion, Ill., would welcome some of Guantanomo Bay’s more than 200 terrorism suspects from the Navy-run Cuban detention facility President Obama wants to close to fulfill a campaign promise.
“Bring them on,” said Mayor Robert Butler. First, his town’s medium-security prison would need to be restored by the Bureau of Prisons to the high-security status it enjoyed while housing mob boss John Gotti.
Contrary to the impression portrayed on TV, Thomson, Ill., Hardin, Mont., and Florence, Colo., are also clamoring for some of this action to offset their jobless rates.
Marion has more than 930 inmates and a couple dozen empty beds. It replaced San Francisco’s famed Alcatraz in 1963 as the nation’s most secure prison, but lowered its security level years ago at a cost of about 100 corrections jobs.

John Eby is editor of the Dowagiac Daily News. Email him at: