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The Observer, April 29



On the way to work this morning, in the parking lot down by the freeway, The Observer found some money among the pigeon poop. It wasn't a lot — two fives and two singles, rolled up tight as a cigarette butt and then flattened into the pavement, as if a car had rolled over them. Pondering life's mysteries as we are wont to do, we dropped our head just in time to spot Mr. Lincoln's warm and gentle eye staring up at us like a kid looking through a knothole in a fence. A second sooner or later, and we would have stepped over or on it and kept on strolling.

The Observer's posture is terrible, and we keep our head down like a man riding a horse into a gale most of the time, which makes it all the more surprising that we haven't found more dropped cash in our time here on earth. Either that, or people tend to hang onto currency way better than we give them credit for. It has happened rarely enough to us that we can remember every time it happened, along with the amount.

The first time was when we were 9 years old, walking home the half-mile from school, down dusty Hammond Road where we lived in those days.

The Still-Percolating Observer kicked over a clod and there, beneath it, was a single rumpled $100 bill. Twenty-five years later, The Observer still lies awake at night sometimes, wondering how that forlorn and dusty Benjamin came to be under that clod. It doesn't seem to make sense – almost as if our 9-year-old mind wished it into existence there.

It's probably a hell of a story, and in the unlikely event we're lucky enough to make it to heaven, the origin of that bill is gonna be one of the first things The Observer inquires about during our time with The Big Guy, right after the formula for Coca-Cola and the whereabouts of Maud Crawford.

I can't quite remember what I did with that hunnert, though I recall there was a lot of candy involved, and a remote controlled boat — along with a trip out to dinner for my family to rid myself of the dreaded curse of found money, which my older brother assured me would surely perch on my head if I didn't share the love. All these years later, as I stooped to pick up the $12 bucks this morning, I heard him again. That didn't mean I was dumb enough to leave it lying there, though.

Went out to Lorance Creek Natural Area, south toward Pine Bluff, last weekend. We don't remember Aprils of years past being this green.

The leaves are big, obscuring the new arrivals at Lorance, the yellow-throated vireos, the yellow-throated war-blers, the prothonotary warblers, the Louisiana waterthrushes. You can hear them, though, loud and clear.

We were on the boardwalk with our yellow mutt when a couple approached, also in the company of their dogs. An older Chesapeake Bay retriever, a young fancy terrier of some sort.

Because dogs allow strangers to strike up a conversation, we did. The gentleman pointed to a spot and said he had shot his first squirrel there in the Lorance Creek swamp.

Skinned and ate it that night. Not his favorite food, he confessed, but a fine moment in a childhood that included walks in woods just where he grew up.

He wasn't unhappy he couldn't hunt there any longer, we were relieved to hear. He was glad the swamp was still there, still wild. He and his wife visit often. It's nice to know it will always be there, still thick with gums and sweetspire and cardinal flowers and royal ferns. Water rippling past the cypress trees. Wood ducks hiding. Birds, even if they are obscured by a spring that comes a little too fast these days.

Sign seen in South Arkansas for a store up ahead: Jehovah Java. There's a lot of Jesus on the billboards in this state, this one suggesting that you stoke, not just save, your soul.

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