Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Originally run on the old site 10/17/03.

Ernie Simpson (2004) Posted by Hello

I’m at that time in life when I should know better. By “that time in life,” I mean a time to look back and see what you learned from who – or what. I’ve looked back at my own life, and the things I’ve learned. It took my old friend, Ernest, to remind me that there are times when we should look back a little farther. He shared one of his memories with me that deserves to be not only preserved, but shared with others. With his kind permission, herewith, my part of the equation:

Grandpa and Tom Martindale

Ruben Ralph Bennett was my grandfather. He died in 1956. He was a friend to all his grandkids, and I shared lots of things with him growing up. I was ironing a pair of Levis at home that Saturday morning, when Dad came from the hospital and told me Grandpa was gone. There were lots of colorful things about Grandpa, and some were good, some were not so good. One of his hobbies was being a horse trader, sort of, but more about trading mules than horses. If the old mule had a skinned place, Grandpa would take shoe polish and use it for makeup to hide the blemish before going to the sale barn to trade the mule. His objective was to get more for his mule than he paid for the next one, of course. When he was a young man, he loved to drink and carouse. In his later years, he was not proud of the fact, however, and had long repented of the sins of his youth. Somewhere around August of 1953, Grandpa and I were baptized together at the First Baptist Church at Kensett, Arkansas. This is one of my treasured memories of my Grandpa. It was a milestone in my life as well as his. Grandpa was very emotional in this service, and was concerned that his friends would not have confidence that he had truly changed his ways, partly because his change of attitude came later in life, and partly because his reputation still lingered with some of his old friends. One of whom was Tom Martindale.

In their early twenties they were close as two young men could be, friends in any endeavor, and partners in crime and punishment. One of the favorite social activities of the time was dance -- socials -- generally held at a school on a Saturday night. The one-room school was a perfect auditorium for having such a social event. Furniture or school desks were moved aside for space, and a three-piece string band was the live entertainment. If it was cold, the old pot-bellied stove was fired up; however, summer or fall was the most favored time for such a gathering.

On a cool autumn night when Grandpa and Tom were young men, they had spent the better part of one Saturday taking care of some home brew they had made and stored previously. By sundown, they were feeling no pain, and looking for mischief. Walking down the road, they came to the school at Sidon and, lo-and-behold, there was a Saturday night dance. They walked up the steps to the door, looked in, and saw a nice crowd inside, a crowd just having fun and enjoying themselves. They went in, but were soon asked to leave, since they were inebriated, and presented none of the social graces that would be necessary to stay and enjoy the fun.

Outside, they conspired to create an uprising. Their plan would disturb the dance, as a part of their revenge and self-righteous indignation for their being asked to leave. Grandpa told me the following as a direct quote: Grandpa said, “Tom, let’s go in and bust up this dance.” (He pronounced ‘dance’ like ‘daints’, which I thought was the correct pronunciation until I was 21 years old and, now that I’m in my 60’s, believe it truly the more colorful pronunciation). Tom agreed, and they discussed who would go in first to get things started. Tom said, “I’ll go in and bust up the dance, and you stand here at the steps, and get them when they come out. Be ready to start in when they head your way.” Grandpa says fine, he’d be ready.

Tom went in, and the commotion began, yelling, cussing, women screaming, furniture crashing, and the sound of blows and scuffle. Pretty soon, the door swings open, and someone comes rolling down the steps, head over heels … and a voice says, “Ruben, don’t start now. This is me.”


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