Sunday, July 15, 2018

Bringing Our Sales Tax Home

When we moved to Caruthersville, it didn't take me long to start asking myself why there was so little industry here.  It wasn't absent in the surrounding area so beyond lack of community self-promotion, it was a puzzle.  One part of the puzzle was 'why on earth is the Wal-Mart building still standing empty after being vacant for 19 months?'.  After six months of attending City Council meetings followed by a change in city administration, I started to glean the answer.

Back home, a small sales tax increase was pointed at gaining one single objective.  The library tax comes to mind.  What once was a library of limited hours and employees, is now a thriving local library that is still going strong.  Here, we have a similar need but one that is much more vital - our need for clean and well-treated water.  C'ville is a small community with limited access to growth because of our inability to provide sufficient water to large commercial investors.  With the loss of the Wal-Mart, we lost a key source of funding for our community.  We also lost jobs and easy access to basic household goods.  Now shopping trips involve planning and extra gasoline output.What we don't think about is the higher sales tax we pay when we shop out of town, tax dollars that support another town's needs, not our own.

Caruthersville's current sales tax is 8.75%/ dollar spent. The four most used shopping areas near us are Kennett (8.975%), Blytheville, AR (10.5%), Dyersburg, TN (9.75%), and Hayti (9.47%).  The city's proposed 1/2 cent sales tax increase would raise our sales tax to 9.25%, an amount that is still lower than the areas immediately surrounding us.  

This tax increase isn't a frivolous one and involved months of discussion, looking at other options, and planning.  Our water and sewage departments are in difficult straits and it is only the talent, dedication, and creativity of its men in the plants and rendering ponds that keep things going. 

Many of you remember the tornado of 2006 that devastated our town.  The loss of utilities left many of you without electricity for weeks.  What we are facing now is a different sort of tornado; it is one fueled by the relentless winds of time.  The system is old and at service capacity.  If we ever hope to bring jobs and prosperity back to Caruthersville, we must repair, update, and expand our water capacity and its companion, waste water treatment. Water is the gold standard of any community. A community's survival rises and falls with its water capacity.  Coming from California where water wars are historic, on-going, and as hazardous as any Grand Theft Auto video, believe me, I know.  I've lived it.

A 1/2 cent sales tax equals only 1 penny for every two dollars spent.  You won't even notice it but the benefits to the community will be immense and very noticeable. Water equals security, jobs, and growth, something that I think we all deserve.

So, inform yourselves. Go to the city council meetings.  If you get off work at five, arrive late. No one cares if you are late. Read the minutes to the meeting which always appear in the following Wednesday paper.  Go to the open forum scheduled  at one of the following locations:

 July 19th, 6 p.m.
Information tour at the Industrial Park location.
Hot dogs and beverages will be served

July 26th, 6 p.m.
American Legion Post 88 on Truman Blvd. Paul Shaw and Richard Lee will be presenting the program.

August 2nd, 6 p.m.
Caruthersville Public library in the Baxter Theatre
Paul Shaw and Richard Lee will be presenting the program

August 3rd
Backyard BBQ Booth - Information and photo booth

August 6th, 6 p.m.
Tour of 3rd street water plant. Hot dogs and beverages served as well.

And last but not least  . . .

Read recent past issues of the Pemiscot Press.  The information there is detailed and informative. The coverage is also available on-line at http://www.pemiscotpress.com/

I cannot think of a single more vital need for our community than an improved water and waste management system.  We only have one water power plant.  This plan also includes the reactivation of the 3rd Street Plant.  If our current, Industrial Park Plant, ever went off-line, we would be in another tornado situation.  Please vote on August 7th and support the 1/2 cent sales tax increase.

Friday, June 29, 2018

The Condition of Light

I've been thinking about light lately.  I remember, back home, there was a particular crossroad that had a certain quality of light from time to time that took my breath away.  Maybe it was an especially clean air day combined with a recently irrigated field.  I really don't know.  All I am sure of is that when I saw it, it was special. and for many years that crossroad was one of my happy places.  I had learned to watch for it. Light makes us feel safe.  We know exactly where we are.  We don't necessarily have a sense of direction that tells us where to go (yes, I'm raising my hand) but we can see what is around us including the slow movement of the sun as it points the way.

Darkness is a different matter. When a bird recently flew into the pool area at the local recreation center, I couldn't imagine how Nikki, the lifeguard, would show it the way out.  But the next work morning, Nikki located the bird.  Yes, it was still alive, having survived the weekend enclosed with no access to food.  She turned out all the interior lights and opened the side door to the dawning light. That scrap of light was all it took to orient the little guy and out he flew.  I  bet he was very hungry.

The night is a different matter.  I'm not afraid of darkness though I must admit that lightning makes me very uneasy.  Thunder and lightning was not a storm staple back home.  Oh, we had intermittent rumbles and flashes but nothing like here where the night can turn into an eerie sort of daylight that keeps coming at you in waves until the storm passes.

When I was a child, we drove cross country several times and my earliest memory is associated with desert night skies and blinking stars.  There is absolutely nothing so breathtaking for me as a desert sky on a moonless night.  The stars inhabit the sky like fireflies that never go out.  We didn't have fireflies where we moved from and I find this curious. 

 The Central Valley is agricultural as it is here. Lots of fireflies here but none there.  I can't chalk it up to dry and intense heat because my friend Sue, in Texas, has lots of fireflies.  I really have no idea. It's one of life's little mysteries.  But now, the June nights have become special to me like that particular crossroad back home and whenever I see a firefly, I have to smile. They are like a nighttime wink reminding me that life is always an exciting adventure and I sure won't argue with that.

I've had my share of adventures since landing here, some dramatic like climbing into a cotton picker and some quiet and close to the earth like the first time I discovered we had little brown frogs in our yard.  That was actually pretty cool for me and I would have loved sharing that moment with my grandsons.  They would have been wowed right along with their Gran'ma.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

I'm Back

Taking a couple of weeks off refreshed me.  Along the way, I had some interesting experiences and met some nice people.

Caruthersville has a surprisingly deep well of talent. Not only can we claim established artists, Gary Lucy and Pennie Brantley, we can also claim bragging rights to well-known comedian and actor, Cedric the Entertainer.  It doesn't take long, after meeting him, to realize that he is, certifiably, one of the good guys.

Someone else I met recently is a gentleman named Benny Bell.  I've always been partial to the dance arts and was glad when my son decided to study dance for a few years.  It's good to see Mr. Bell battling his way back from injuries. I hope to see you dancing again, though perhaps not quite so dramatically, and inspiring another generation of male dancers.
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Alongside the artists, dancers, and actors, we also have a fair number of published writers.  Ann Stokes (born a slave) contributed to Federal Writers' Project: Slave Narrative Project, Vol. 10 written and compiled from 1936-1938.  One of our current City Councilmen, Josh Rittenberry, has written three books and is working on a fourth.  His books can be found on Smashwords. Our librarian, Teresa Tidwell, is in print.  You can find her on Amazon.  And I have a book of meditations through Blurb

We can also call R&B, Soul, and Jazz singer Donna Hightower our own singer/songwriter who recorded on the Decca and Capital labels.  Miss Hightower also had a successful career in Europe. She passed away in 2013.  Also in the music scene from Caruthersville is Reggie Young, a leading sessions musician who has recorded with Elvis, Herbie Mann, Dionne Warwick, and Johnny Cash, just to name a few.  At 81, Mr. Young is still making music in the Memphis area.

Also to be noted is the screenwriter, Wendell Mayes.  While not born in Caruthersville, he almost was since he was born in Hayti, right next door.  That is close enough to claim bragging rights.  His first writing credit was the Billy Wilder film, "The Spirit of St. Louis".  Not too shabby for a first film credit.  He also wrote, "Anatomy of a Murder" for which he received an Oscar nomination in 1960.  His name can be found on many notable and recognizable film titles including The Posidean Adventure (the original).  Mr. Mayes died in 1992.

And, finally, while not an entertainer, I had to include James Oliver, because I just think this is a really big deal.  Mr. Oliver (born in 1914) was a zoologist, herpetologist, and educator who served as director of the American Museum of Natural History - NYC, directed the New York Zoological Park (now the Bronx Zoo) and was director of the New York Aquarium.  Mr. Oliver passed away in 1981.

While busying myself learning about C'villes many notable individuals from the past I also managed to finally get myself back upstairs.  Moving is hard work and for me, boring work.  Sorting, organizing, and tossing is a seriously boring business.  This is especially true because of the neverendingness of it. Yeah, I made up that word and told spellcheck to ignore it.  Anyway . . . fortunately, since moving here, shopping has slowed considerably.  My love of thrifting is pretty much a thing of the past and this makes the Pirate very happy.

I continue to learn that plans can be changed in an instant when a 100% chance of rain in pronounced (NOT predicted) and then turns into a piffle.  I've also learned that it's a good idea to call ahead to the produce businesses to make sure they are actually opened.  I've gone on produce trips twice now and both times left disappointed.  Thank you, rain, for delaying the bounty that is peaches and pears.

The best part of this little break, however, was my growing acquaintance with fireflies.  They have been stirring up a lot of desert night skies memories and I believe I'll be writing more about that next week.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Let's Talk About Swimming and Shopping

I discovered a couple of things this week.  The first is that I am brave enough to batter down the barriers that make up my comfort zone.  One of my major comfort zone challenges is entering a public pool area . . . in a bathing suit.  Yeah.  Just. Don't Go. There.  That is until I moved to Caruthersville.  

Did you know that you have an indoor, covered pool heated to 85 degrees year round?  Well, I'm here to say that this pool experience has been awesome.  It took me a year to get there.  I am highly resistant to public pools.  A certain local retired Judge can attest to that.  He told me six months ago to hit the pool and that would fix my knee up fast.  Did I listen to him?  Huh, no.  But then, Mayor Sue started badgering me and she brooked no excuses.  So what if I didn't have a bathing suit. Buy one.  Check out QVC. 

Well, the Judge was right.  And, even though I didn't find a suit at QVC, I DID find one elsewhere.  Once that was accomplished, I dove in. Literally.  I have to admit, my knee is feeling better and would have no doubt recovered by now had I listened sooner to smarter minds than my own.  But I got there and I'm not looking back.  Despite my "take my time" nature, (just ask the Pirate), I was quick to realize the recreation center and its pool would be seeing a lot of me.

So what about timing?  For me, mornings are best.  8:30 - 9:30 is perfect.  I don't want to be in a group so an 8:30 arrival works.  Plus I have a swim buddy that likes that hour as well.  Quiet.  Few people.  All oldsters like me. No kids.  Don't get me wrong.  I like kids but not when I'm swimming.  Sadly, this summer lifeguards are in short supply so instead of free swim starting at noon, the pool closes and does not reopen until 4 p.m.  Sad for the kids and the moms who would like to take their kids to the pool.  Where did all the lifeguards go?  You're on the books.  It's a job.  Where are you?  Any high school kids that want to be lifeguards?

Well, so much for the praise and the rant.  Your pool is fabulous.  Just ask the people from Tennessee and Arkansas who come over to use it all the time as well. 

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My second discovery of the week was so far inside my comfort zone that I'm almost giddy with joy.  One of my regular time out fun things I did back home was head out into the countryside to visit all the part-time hobby arts and crafts shops that occupied space at several of the orchards and dairy farms that surrounded us.  These charming shops, some seasonal, were filled with home goods, antiques, foods, and painting classes, enough to satisfy anyone who thinks boutique shopping is the only way to shop.  So when I saw this 

advertised on Facebook this past Friday, I HAD to go and see it for myself.  First problem.  The Pirate was out with the car and I had no idea when he would return.  Second problem.  The little shop closed at 2 p.m. and it was 1 p.m. when I saw the announcement on my feed.  And since the Pirate doesn't usually take his phone with him, I was stuck.  BUT, luck came my way.  He arrived home at 1:40 and I flew out the door.  I knew where Highway U was but that number looked awfully high.  But I went for it and I'm so glad I did.  

Pat Thrasher and Mitzi Leek have been friends for 30 years.  It seemed more than natural to join together and create a shop featuring old furniture that has been refurbished, sweet collectibles, jewelry, and miscellaneous treasures.    Their dream is starting small and out of town for now.  The big dream is to have a bricks and mortar shop in town offering up a relaxing haven for boutique shopping.  They also offer up yummy cookies and bake goods.  Simple, homemade, and tasty delights are always on the menu.

For now, they are open on Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Park in front and go around to the back.  You will probably see Sassy the Goat along the way but no worries; she's a sweety.  In fact, I heard that she is a bit of a goat personage around here.  In her younger and slimmer days (didn't we all have those, ladies?) she would ride in the truck and go everywhere with her Daddy.  

So, visit them.  Show Pat and Mitzi some love.  If they get enough traffic on Thursday-Friday sales, who knows?  We may have a sweet little downtown boutique to add to the scattered treasures that already exist down here.  

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

From My Archives

Many people have asked us why we moved to Caruthersville.  Most know the story of Don growing up here, our daughter moving to Tennessee with the grands, and our choice to move here to be closer to them.  What many people don't know is that we were here, serving on a domestic mission,  in the winter/spring of 2014, one of the worst winters ever.  

Back in 2013, I was writing about preparing for that visit here.  After that experience and now actually living here for a year, I've discovered that some of what I wrote five years ago is still fresh for reading today.   So, I thought I would share one of those posts from five years ago.


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Mission Post #16 - What Unites Us?


What unites us as human beings?  What is it that we all have in common that makes us one?  In answer to this question, at its most essential, what unites us is blood and bone.  We are all human.  We are men and women.  We may come in various shapes, sizes, and colors, but, we are all human.  We all experience joy, satisfaction, and the desire to do good.  We suffer pain and sorrow, know hunger, want, and thirst, and we all experience the impulse to commit acts for good or evil.  We are complicated creatures that act on more than instinct.  Sometimes this sense of unity comes home in a very real way and we find that we may be the sum of our individual parts but we are all also brothers and sisters beneath the skin.


This weekend Don and I took our next big step in preparing for our mission to southeastern Missouri this coming winter/spring 2014,  Saturday and Sunday we spoke at all of the English and Spanish Masses telling our community of Catholic brethren at St. Anthony's of our upcoming mission; we introduced them to the small community of Glenmary nuns, priests and brothers who serve Appalachia and the South and their mission to serve the poorest of the poor in areas where there is often no Catholic presence at all.


We spoke of Mother's House in Hayti, MO and Sr. Darlene's mission to serve the many impoverished single moms of the area.  We asked, not for money but, for donations of maternity clothes, baby clothes and baby food and baby toys.  In a community where children wear uniforms to public schools, we asked for navy and khaki pants and red, blue and white  polo shirts that would fit teens..


After seven Masses, I found myself reflecting on what unites us.  We of St. Anthony's are a community of people where some have great wealth, many are ordinary middle class, and more than a few are the working poor and not a few who are undocumented and living in the shadows.  We are Anglos, Latinos, and Filipinos.  But at the end of the Masses, at the end of our appeal, I felt so united with all of them.  The response was so overwhelming and positive.  People understand need no matter their "station" in life.  Giving is something we can all do.  There is always someone who has less than we ourselves have and giving fills the need to reach out and help another even if we have a hard time helping ourselves.


Monday, May 21, 2018

It's Been A Year

This Friday, May 25th, we will have been in Caruthersville for one full year.  The change for the Pirate has been amazing.  He is like a different man.  Oh, the basics are still there, first and foremost, his single-mindedness, but socially, he is a man I never knew in California.  And, in all the changes I've experienced in my own first year here, this change, his emergence into a more social person, has been the biggest one for me.  More so, of all the social changes that I've noted, the biggest one is that he laughs more. A lot more.

So now I march into my 2nd year here though limp might be a better word choice considering my knee injury from six months ago  A lot has happened.  First off, let's talk about coffee.  Daily Starbucks visits are no more. but the Roundhouse has a decent brew and I can spend an hour or two there reading, writing, and visiting.  I also discovered Sweet Tea quite by accident (choke).  Sorry folks, but I'm Team Unsweet  The closest my tea ever gets to tasting sweet is when I have an Arnold Palmer and somehow the lemonade/ice tea combo is okay as long as it's made with ice tea, unsweet.

The library makes me feel pretty special.  The ladies got to know me right away.  I'll go in now to pick up a book I've had on hold and I'm likely to find another one waiting for me with it.  Like a mysterious Facebook algorithm, they know what interests me and so far, they have been right.

I have a sense of loneliness here but not of being alone.  The loneliness comes from the loss of all that I knew and the occasional yearning for a visit back to my old home isn't uncommon.  But here I have found easygoing friendliness and welcome that has born the fruit of invitations to clubs, service organizations, and church groups.  

Life speeds up here during the summer.  Yes, it's HOT and life speeds up. Grandparents visiting or being visited by grands are a summer staple.  And, wow, do the women travel.  My Facebook feed is alive with travel adventures to please even the most deeply rooted armchair traveler.

The first time events came at me quickly and fast last summer.  I experienced thunder so loud, it actually made me scream.  Not squeal, but outright scream. I had no idea I could hit such high notes.  I was a passenger in a car rear-ended by a semi. I saw my first funnel cloud sailing peacefully across the sky, not the least bit interested in making a fuss for we human below.  

I HEARD an earthquake.  None of that San Andreas rolling swaying for me anymore. The New Madrid fault had decided to introduce itself to me with a clap and a bang. 

I toured a cotton gin AND climbed up into a cotton picker.  Can you say WOW? The picker ride was like an old E-Ticket ride at Disneyland.  I fell in love with your river and the barges and push tugs.  Flood watching became my daily winter activity.  Now if I could just get a ride ON a tug.  

I cried over lost baby birds, blown from their nests during foul weather.  I love my bunnies, birds, and squirrels that live in our yards.  And this week I discovered that we had finches, too.  Splash and dish rainfall adds to humidity.  Sideways rain adds drama to life.

JAX and Jammin' at Joy's, not to mention Radio 1370 AM and its old school music and radio shows have brought music to my personal front burner with regular dates noted on my Android calendar.

I tried my hand at canning. Once.  My kitchen is too small so, nope, I won't be canning again.  And what I didn't know about mice before I moved here, I sure know now.  And speaking of learning, I'm learning a second language.  It's called Southern.  

Voting and high school graduation are almighty community events unlike anything back home.  Back in California, stranger gathered in line, voted, and departed.  It was all very serious back there.  Here?  Neighbors met.  People laughed and chatted. Gossip about what was happening at the other Wards was the main theme.  

Graduating seniors, for that one moment, became everyone's children. Their dreams were on the cusp of starting to come true.  We can't predict how long they may have to wait for the dreams to unfold; I know the Pirate had to wait a lifetime for his to be fulfilled.

So, what are my hopes, dreams, and goals for this second year of my new life?  Two things immediately come to mind: (1) I WILL drive out of town, farther than Hayti, this year, and; (2) I will finally, FINALLY, get upstairs and finishthat room that has been patiently waiting for me.

Bringing Our Sales Tax Home

When we moved to Caruthersville, it didn't take me long to start asking myself why there was so little industry here.  It wasn't abs...