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The Observer, April 1

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The Observer was headed for lunch last week when we stumbled into the middle of a Tea Party on the sidewalk outside the Tower Building. The Tea Baggers chose this spot for a protest because Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's office is in the Tower Building, and the Tea Baggers want him to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new health-care law, and he has declined to do so, saying that such a suit would be frivolous.

It wasn't a big crowd, but the angry people who were there took turns bulling on a bullhorn and carried signs with messages like “Just Say No To Socialism” and “Bring it back,” it referring to the country, apparently. We didn't even know it was missing. Some drivers honked as they passed. There were no black people at the party, The Observer noted. We believe this is not coincidental. (There were no Hispanics either, and this was certainly not coincidental. One of the featured speakers was a woman who's big in the anti-immigrant movement too.)

We didn't stay long. They weren't a particularly dangerous-looking bunch, but they did look like the sort of people you don't want to spend much time around. Seriously lacking in judgment. Deeply discontented and not sure why. Rebels without a cause.


A bumper sticker we'd like to see: “Tea Baggers: Steeped in Hate.”


Speaking of caveman mentality: A faithful reader of the Arkansas Times wrote The Observer last week after he read our article about the closing of caves on public property in Arkansas to slow the spread of a fungus that's decimating bat populations on the East Coast and into Tennessee. It's not easy protecting bats in Arkansas. Our reader, who worked for the Ouachita National Forest some years back inventorying archeological sites in caves and old mines, discovered that people were going into smaller caves and burning bats off their roosts. The ONF tried to protect an abandoned mine entry west of Hot Springs that had become a bat cave by putting up a barrier of 2-inch rebar. Someone took the time to haul a cutting torch and fuel into the forest to cut a hole in the rebar. They would not be kept out, by golly.

It took a couple of years for the fungus to spread to eastern Tennessee, so Arkansas biologists hoped it was a year out from here. But news came this week that the fungus had infected a state park cave, which was exempt from the cave closure order, in middle Tennessee, only months after its discovery in the state's eastern mountains. Human foot traffic, rather than bat-to-bat transmission, looks like the culprit.

Things aren't looking good for the bats in Arkansas.


The owner of caves outside Harrison plans to put up wire mesh once his bats leave to keep them out again next fall. That's not a bad idea, really, if it works. If only The Observer could do that to our own bat cave, which is, unfortunately, our attic. A couple of years ago a bat swooped down the stairs and into the living room. We showed the bat the door, and, we're happy to report, he exited. God knows what he picked up in our attic, though.


“There are an awful lot of good people in the world.”

That's Flo Cato, 85, The Observer's favorite writer of letters to the editor, marveling at the goodness she's seen since she and her husband, Poppa, 95, were blown out of their south Little Rock home by a gas explosion two days before Thanksgiving.
Relatives always said it would take an explosion to blow them off the half-acre that Poppa has gardened all these years, but they didn't mean it literally.

The Catos are now in a cottage community in Otter Creek and, Flo says, “We have all new things and don't owe a cent.” The story of the Catos walking from their devastated home, upbeat as always, proclaiming, “God will take care of us,” struck a chord all over Arkansas.

Letters poured in, along with cash and checks, enough for a new living room suite. A man Flo babysat as a boy brought a 32-inch TV. And so on.

“We're happy as we can be,” Flo said. Poppa still drives her to the grocery nearby and to pick up mail, but he stays off the freeway. He has spots on the porch to tend flowers.

Best news of all, she told The Observer that she hopes to begin writing letters to the editor again. Some Republicans need schooling ? still.

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