Thursday, January 17, 2019



     Hock the ham, Henry!  It’s gonna be a ragtag year!

My mom was a member of my hometown’s
Eastern Star group, which was the ladies’
version of the Mason’s.  Both groups used
the same lodge, and one was clearly meant
to be subservient to the other, but there wasn’t
much of that Masonic mystery when I was a kid.  
At least that’s not my memory of things.  But I
do recall that Mom had to participate in some sort 
of inaugural or hazing event in order to qualify or be-
come a member of my hometown’s Eastern Star group.
I’m not sure whether her materials were mandated or
whether perhaps she got to choose from an list,
perhaps of ladies of the Bible, but I remember that
her presentation was on Ruth.  She had to mem-
orize it.  And I helped her do so.  Or probably more
like annoyed her while she tried to do so.  The 
presentation  was done in the first person, 
by which I mean Mom played Ruth; it was 
a performance of some sort.  And 
that’s about all I remember of that.
It was a time, as I recall, when most
Henrys had made it back from the 
war(s), but rarely would any make
it to Sunday church service (save
Easter and Christmas, of course).
Maybe they were all of making
movies, as many of the Henrys
had the pronounced features
of the leading (or pleading) men
that would appear like clockwork
on the silver screen for every
Sunday matinee.  It was small-
town Arkansas, back when
even every small town had
its own cinema; so, presum-
ably, there were many Henrys 
floating back and forth on 
many silver screens on
Sunday afternoons across
the nation.  While all of 
these large Henrys were
appearing larger than life
all over the nation, there
were a lot of Henrys daughters,
too.  And it is purported that
daughters of Henrys often 
had a predilection toward
deviant behavior.  Much
to the chagrin of the Henrys.
And of particular distaste
and alarm to the moms
of Henrys daughters.
Of the deviant daughters,
perhaps they were all (or
mostly all) over the fact
that most everyone in
their worlds were smitten
by Henrys.  And, ew, Henry
was dad to each and every
Henry’s daughter.  There
was even a candy bar.
O Henry.  Which, by the
time of me and my aware-
ness of such nonsense, always
seemed just a bit out of fashion
or old fashioned to my senses.
Aged.  In much the same way
I thought of my grandfather’s
Old Spice bottles, of Sadie
Hawkins dances, of Vicks
Inhalant or vapor rub (of
which my great grand-
mother’s bedroom 
drawers were full)
and of Tarzaan (in
any incarnation),
I thought of O Henry
and, truth be told,
of most Henrys?
Yeah, probably.
I had an Uncle
Henry.  I had a
lot of uncles.  But
only one Uncle Henry.
Uncle Henry seemed
rarely to ever move (to
me, anyway).  Except to 
pack his pipe or pick it up
or smoke it a bit.  And de-
spite being the patriarch of
a fairly large and (again, to
me) very active family, many
members of whom would always
be present, it seems, whenever I
saw my Uncle Henry.  Wherever
I saw my Uncle Henry.  Generations
of them, always there, keeping Uncle
Henry company.  He did not seem either
Happy about that nor irritated by that.  He
Would just stand or sit, barely moving, 
looking super tall and thin (he was both)
whether sitting or standing (also, by the
way, almost always wearing overalls).
But the pipe.  It’s the first thing that 
comes to mind the moment I reminisce
about Uncle Henry.  Perhaps because it
was such a foreign item (it wasn’t until
I was older than the Henry era that Dad
Started smoking one), and surely also
Because of the very distinct and pleasant
sweetness that came from it.  Uncle Henry’s
pipe.  And the ritual of it all.  While he 
never seemed to move, the act of getting
the pipe ready to smoke and then smoking
it was a pyrotechnically dazzling, in that
subtle Uncle Henry way.  But dazzling,
for sure.  Dazzled, I was.  By Uncle
Henry’s pipe.  This, I think in the
early hours of this morning, in a
place many miles away from those
times, and lots of other things in
between that time and place and
this one in which I am now writing
to you my memories of Uncle Henry
and the Henry Era.  I can almost
smell the sweet smoke from his
pipe’s tobacco.  And wonder,
presently, what occupied his
mind while he so silently and
contemplatively smoked it.