Last week, Mena was preparing to honor one of its war dead, PFC Herbert A. Littleton, who died April 22, 1951, in Korea. George O'Daniel, public relations officer for the Herbert A. Littleton Det. 1261 of the Marine Corps League, announced in March there would be a ceremony April 26 at the Polk County Courthouse and that the Marine Corps Reserve Band would give a free concert afterward at the Mena Middle School.
Last Thursday night, a tornado drilled a path across Mena, damaging the courthouse, wrecking the middle school auditorium and knocking out the walls of O'Daniel's two-story Victorian home. He and his family survived by taking cover in their bathtub.
If it's up to O'Daniel, he said, the ceremony dedicating the Medal of Honor Memorial will go on. “People are pretty down,” he said. “Honoring someone who gave his life for his country and listening to the Marine Corps Band might be an upper.”
But O'Daniel, who teaches a few courses in sociology and psychology at Rich Mountain Community College, where his wife, Clara, is library director, needs a place to hold the concert and a reception for honored guests, which would include the adjutant general of Arkansas. Meanwhile, he's cleaning out what's left in the home his family occupied for the last 20 years. The home was a total loss.
O'Daniel, 62, served in the Marine Corps and the Army, serving in Vietnam, Kuwait and in Bulgaria, during the Czech invasion. He's seen trouble before.
Littleton was a radio operator who threw himself on a hand grenade to protect the advancing artillery team he'd alerted. He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously. The 4-foot granite monument honoring him for his valor is in the courthouse, undamaged and still draped.
Found outside Community Bakery: One barely worn black patent leather high-heeled shoe, size 7 ½, from Banana Republic.
You've got to wonder how someone leaves a new, expensive (we checked) heel on the street. Abduction? Intoxication? Making a mad dash for a carriage that was turning into a pumpkin at the corner of Main and Twelfth Street?
At any rate, it's safe in the Observatory. We confess, however, that had the match been found, we might not be writing this right now. High heels do wonders for one's calves.
One of our intrepid deputy Observers, a member in good standing with our senior brigade, reports that while standing in line recently for something or other she overheard a group of teen-agers chatting in front of her. To their credit, this pack of pubescents was delving about as deep as most teen-agers get, trying to wrap their heads around the idea that they, too, would someday be eligible for the senior brigade. “Gawd,” one of the young things said, “What do you think I'm going to look like when I'm, like, 70?”
Always the cheeky sort, deputy O reached up, and tapped the girl on the shoulder. When spring chicken turned, our agent just smiled, pointed to her vintage visage, and said: “Like this.”
Ah, youth. Wasted on the young.
The Observer made it over to Hot Springs on Saturday. We skipped the races, but the day was grand nonetheless. The sun was shining. The trees were in bloom. Hot water trickled down the rocks into languid pools, while nearby kids sat on the lawn. Lovely. Back during the courtship of Junior's father, eons back, The Observer and soon-to-be-wife made it over to Hot Springs one April and strolled the boulevard. It was a much seedier place back then, but The Observer has always been drawn to that kind of thing. Hand-in-hand, we sat in the rockers on the porch of Buckstaff Bathhouse and watched the traffic roll by. Later, we went into a snake exhibit that used to be on the Row. It was housed in one of the buildings pushed hard up against the rocks, and the ceiling got lower and lower — and the slitherins got deadlier and deadlier — the further you went toward the back of the building. We know it couldn't possibly have been this way, but in our memory, by the time we were at the end of the exhibit, The Observer and paramour were stooped, back of head against the sheetrock, face to face with one of the most venomous snakes ever known to man. We were a redneck Adam and Eve, returned to the Garden.