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Not Eudora   By Harry Welty
Published June 25, 2004

Arkansaw

Kansas does not rhyme with . I know this because I was born in Arkansas City, Kansas. Thatís R-Kansas City, Kansas, not Arkansaw City, Kansas.  My birthplace lies on the banks of the and yes, the River is pronounced Arkansaw!

Like me, my Mother was born in Kansas. To this day she has strong feelings for the state even though she departed from it forty years ago to raise her family. She still regrets that the state chose the stolid "Home on the Range" over her favorite song, "Iím a Sunflower from the sun flower state" as its anthem. There are few things Mom enjoys more than joshing about Kansas . As a Kansan, even forty years removed from the state, she feels this is her prerogative. On the other hand, nothing makes her angrier than some outsider poking fun at Kansas.

I suppose I ought to follow the reciprocal of my Motherís anti-Kansas bashing stance, which would prohibit me from dissing any other state, but Iím a cynic. Someone said so after a recent column of mine. So, Iíll just go ahead and vent my spleen on that poorly pronounced state, Arkansaw.

Perhaps itís Bill Clintonís door-stop sized autobiography that has me in such a snit. Bill is, of course, Arkansasís most famous export and bad boy. The brightest, if not the best, of the ďme generationĒ Bill managed to discredit most of the centrist policies I support. I just don't understand why the home of Orville Faubus should have been allowed to contribute a President to the American political pantheon while Kansas has been shut out of the Oval Office.

Kansas did get two cracks at the Presidency. In 1936 itís then Governor, Alf Landon, got the Republican nomination. He was so badly beaten by FDR that he became a national joke for the next 36 years until the Democrat, George McGovern, got beat even worse.

Then in 1996 Senator Bob (I got a withered hand in combat) Dole got a crack at the draft dodging Clinton . (I should cut Bill some slack on this. The Selective Service system is like our tax system. Avoidance is legal, evasion is not. If you doubt me just ask Dick Cheney.) At any rate, Bob Dole lost just like Landon did. Dole did get sort of a white elephant prize. His wife, Elizabeth, was later elected to the US Senate from where she joined the newly elected New York Senator, Hillary Clinton. I wonder if they get together in the Cloak Room to compare notes about their husbandsí fixation with younger women, Viagra, and Brittany Spears.

Now... back to my dark memories of Arkansas.

My earliest remembrance goes back to first grade. My family visited, Little Rock, the State's capitol and soon to be center of the High School integration storm. One of my Aunt Maryís lived in the City.

I didnít know much about baseball back then but I was excited when the kids in my Aunt Maryís neighborhood invited me to play with them. They made me the catcher. I was a little vague about my responsibilities but the position evidently required standing behind another kid who swung a big wooden bat. I had no idea how much easier it would be to hit a big, stationary head, resting on a pair of shoulders, than it would be to hit a small flying ball. I had the good sense to avoid Arkansas for the next quarter century until I had small children of my own to traumatize.

I havenít yet mentioned that my wife hates snakes. This is important for the story to come. Claudia is damn near phobic about them and has been so ever since she pulled a drowned garter snake out her washing machine after the rinse cycle.

Although I was not terribly upset to hear that my son-in-lawís python was accidentally roasted recently, I rather like snakes when they stay put in their own habitat. In fact, I once tried to help cure Claudia of her Ophidiophobia by having her touch a twenty-foot long boa constrictor. Try as I might I just couldnít convince her that the snakeís skin was silky smooth. There are, however, limits to my affection which I discovered the afternoon we pulled into an Ozark campground by a scenic, meandering stream. We rented inner tubes and took a long, leisurely float downstream.

Our ride was idyllic for all of ten minutes. The crystal, clear water was rarely more than six feet deep. It was pleasantly cool under the warm sun. We dived and frolicked until I spied a baby water moccasin slipping into the water beside us. It wriggled lazily along the bank looking for frogs to poison. After a mad scramble we perched ourselves as high above the inner tubes as their slippery rubber skins would permit. For the remainder of the ride, long after we lost sight of the reptile, we kept our toes and our bottoms out of the water. Iíve stayed clear of Arkansas ever since now that I know more about its reptiles, both the herpetological and political.

Oh damn it. Iíve made a mistake. The creek wasnít in Arkansas after all. We were in southern Missouri . Frankly, Iím not that surprised and if you knew Missouri like I know Missouri you wouldnít be surprised either. Iíll have to write a column about the ďshow meĒ state someday. That's sure to be a revelation too.

Welty is a small time politician who lets it all hang out at www.snowbizz.com