A couple weeks back, The Observer's cousin — more like a sister, really — had her truck stolen. Cuz lives in apartment over in North Little Rock. A few weeks back during a torrential rainstorm, she went out to take her kids to school and found her parking spot empty.
This wasn't just any truck to her, but her first truck; 200,000-plus miles and nary a bent pushrod or blown head gasket, dang near still as shiny and good-running as the day she drove it out off the lot with the window sticker on it over 15 years ago. She could have replaced her old Chevrolet over the years, but it was more than a vehicle to her. By the time it disappeared, the truck was, on four wheels, the last tangible connection to her life as a single young woman, before marriage and mortgages and kids.
If there was one silver lining, it was that she had been just anal-retentive enough to keep full coverage insurance over the years, so she got a check in the mail in the weeks following the theft. With the truck's age and mileage, however, it was much less than she could replace it for, and close to infinitely less than what it would have taken to ever get her to part with the keys in any other circumstance.
That would have been that, but last week, Cuz's step-dad was running an errand over in the wilds of North Little Rock when he happened to spot a familiar truck, sitting on a trailer in the front yard of a house. There would be no happy ending, though. Cuz's truck was only a ghost of its former glory by then; flat on its frame with the wheels, motor, transmission and pretty much anything else that could be unbolted gone. Questioned by the police, the homeowner said he had bought it from some guys he knew for the still-spotless cab and bed. Price: a couple hundred bucks. When the cops searched the truck, Cuz's registration and insurance info were lying on the front floorboard.
It was hard hearing her talk about what it was like to see her beloved in that condition — to know that as the stripped hulk of her truck was being winched onto a flatbed and towed away to the impound, it likely had an eventual date with the crusher once the legalities were solved. To the thieves, it was a quick buck. To the police, it was another car theft statistic. To Cuz, it was a mechanical member of the family.
Visitors to the legislature are manifold, but some days bring in a weirder crowd than others. To wit: Razorback Day on Feb. 11.
As the House Rules Committee met on the fourth floor of the Capitol, a harsh skronking suddenly intruded on the body's Socratic proceeding. It soon became clear that the University of Arkansas marching band had planted itself in the most resonant part of the Capitol rotunda, thereby robbing peace from even the building's remotest corner. As a large party of war veterans exited the committee room, their spirits low because they had not achieved a tax cut they sought, they may have been cheered to see crowding the steps the sprightly forms of Razorback cheerleaders, clad as per the norm in thigh-bearing attire. The Observer will not conjecture how they felt when they exited the building to witness Tusk, the grotesquely large pig that serves as the Arkansas mascot, being hauled up to the Capitol steps in a cage.
The Senate, which met later in the afternoon, is usually a place of dignified business, a respite from the unruliness of the rest of the statehouse. Anarchy soon ruled again, however, as Sen. Steve Faris unexpectedly offered country-music legend Charley Pride an opportunity to sing several of his hits on the floor. Accompanied by only a shoddy CD player, Pride belted out two songs at the Senate lectern. After about 10 minutes, Sen. Faris asked the heretofore gracious crowd if it would entertain a few more tunes — a joke by all apparent measures. But the humor was lost on Pride, who quickly launched into another ... then another ... then another ...