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The Observer, April 2

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GURDON SIGHT: A former slave's resting place.
  • GURDON SIGHT: A former slave's resting place.

Over the weekend, The Observer trekked to Conway to help our friends Gerry and Jeff shoot a movie. The Observer and his bro were the off-screen muscle. We've always been good with mechanical problem solving, and some weeks back, Gerry had contracted us to build a rig that could send a stuntman flying up and backwards across an 18-foot-wide alleyway into a big pile of boxes, as if he had been propelled there by an unseen Force. With the help of some aircraft cable, a 420-pound-rated pulley, a fall harness, and a piece of iron pipe rigged like a ski rope (all of that hardware — including us — to be edited out later through the magic of some fancy software) The Observer and his equally ginormous bro were officially designated as that Force. Between the two of us, we outweighed our stuntman, Joel, by easily as much as all the chocolate in Switzerland. We feared for his life.

We stood around like teamsters all day, busily swallowing the bagels, granola bars and bottled water Gerry had brought for the crew. Shooting a flick is fun, but it does grind slow. Finally, at around 4 p.m., they were ready for our non-close-up. The boxes were placed just so. Joel was rigged up, complete with a jacket with a hole in the back for the cable. Gerry and Jeff hunkered behind their bazooka of a camera. The Observer held his breath. At the signal, Gerry said “pull!” and The Observer and his bro hauled on the cable like we were trying to right the leaning tower of Pisa.

Physics is a wonderful thing. One second, Joel was standing on his feet, noisily assaulting our damsel in distress. The next moment, he was airborne, a creature of the heavens, his arms and legs trailing behind him like streamers. As planned, he hit the boxes dead center with a whumpf. The second between that moment and when he emerged, smiling, might have been the longest of The Observer's life.

 

A few weeks back, The Observer wrote about taking Junior on a trip to look for the Gurdon Light. When we arrived down there, we parked across the tracks from a small cemetery. That night, we didn't venture into the boneyard, but reader George Gatliff has, and forwarded us a photograph he took of a tombstone there. The moss-spotted tombstone reads:

Mary Wilson

Feb. 14, 1863

Oct. 26, 1966

Born a slave, worked as a midwife, gone to eternal freedom.

Mary Wilson saw both the Civil War and the Vietnam War, slavery and civil rights — with her own two eyes. That's a long life. Hope you're having a nice afterlife, Mary. You've earned it.

 

Despite the unseasonable cold, a crush of humanity turned out Saturday for the Historic Arkansas Museum's opening of its new permanent exhibit “We Walk in Two Worlds” on Arkansas's native Native Americans. It was a happy event — a full gallery, dancing, kids smushing out clay, drumming, members of the Caddo, Quapaw and Osage tribes attending in colorful dress. They are not picture-book people, the Indians reminded their Arkansas audience.

But the cold came indoors for just a moment when The Observer saw, in a part of the exhibit dedicated to the removal of the Indians, a letter written in 1829 by an elected Choctaw chief. In elegant penmanship, the chief pleaded for the government to let his people alone. “The white man always said, The land is yours, it is yours, it is yours. We have always been true friends to the American people.” It was a one-sided friendship then. With “We Walk in Two Worlds,” Indian culture begins a new journey, returning to Arkansas.

 

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