It's all a matter of perspective.

Friday, January 10, 2003

When you get to the corner of Arkansas highways 186 and 183 you are in Daleville. There are no signs that tell you that. There is not evidence of a town right there at the intersection. Just two gas stations situated on opposite corners and a light hanging from wire that blinks yellow one direction and red the other. On Arkansas 186, the street where you don’t have to stop, the speed limit slows down to 45. You would have to be from Daleville to know that there is a school just down from the intersection where 1500 kids attend k-12. It seems like there is a dirt road every quarter of a mile on those main highways and those roads weave in and out of each other in those wooded Ouachita Mountains with thousands of houses spaced generously apart.

Jimmie Lee Herringbone had lived down one of those dirt roads, the Hickory Holler Road, for his entire life. His folks had an old three bedroom farm house on ten acres and the saw mill. When Jimmy Lee was in Jr. High and trying to make the Daleville Fighting Beavers football team he would run to the highway and back every afternoon after school. He had his mom check the distance on the odometer of her car and it was 3.2 miles one way. When his dad made him assistant manager of the saw mill (he was in charge of the three other employees besides himself and his old man) he brought in an old trailer house he bought out of the Sunday classifieds and set it up about half a football field from his folk’s house.

Betsy and her dad stopped at the Citgo down at the Daleville intersection and called for directions to Jimmy Lee’s trailer. After he got off the phone he walked out in the front yard in those Sunday best clothes of his and leaned up against his truck with his thumbs in his belt loops and a twig of sage grass sticking out of his mouth. It was not long before Betsy and her father pulled into the front yard. They were in an old pickup, not much different than Jimmy Lee’s. Betsy had on a pretty little sunflower dress and her dad had a chartreuse cowboy shirt, black leather vest, bolo tie, and a big black Stetson with silver Mexican conchos around the band. A brown Swisher Sweets Little Cigar hung from his lips and his hands were locked onto the steering wheel in the ten and two position. He did not smile, he did not say hello, and he did not even look over. Jimmy Lee climbed through the passenger side door and Betsy scooted to the middle of the truck.

“I done called Brother Ronnie. He’s the one what baptized me when I’s 12 down at the 3rd Missionary Baptist Church of Daleville. My folks still go there most Sundays and I reckon I would if’n I could get up that early.”

Jimmy Lee’s new father in-law just grunted.

Jimmy Lee noticed for the first time that Betsy’s eyes were red and puffy from crying.

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