Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Life and Times of Larry and Ernest

(Run originally 3/20/04 on our old site)

Ernie Simpson

The following is a short excerpt from some thoughts I put down some time ago, and was brought to mind by our friend, Tom, when he posted Mary Kay’s wonderful pictures of lovely ladies in the summer of ’54 at Echo Dell. This is really about that place, Echo Dell.

Chapter Three -Graduation Day

May 17, 1957, was a nice warm Friday. For me it was a strongly profound day, and somehow surreal.

We had our day off, but we had commencement practice that morning at Lion Stadium and, after that, had only to report that evening for the ceremony. Those who were speaking in the program were required to stay a while after the processional rehearsal. Verna was doing the opening prayer, and turned to leave. Jo Ann asked, “Verna, aren’t you going to stay and practice?” This is where Verna issued her famous admonition: “Jo Ann, you don’t practice the prayer.”

I think only three people heard that statement; I was lucky enough to be one of those.

We were not in the band to play at graduation; funny, somehow, that we weren’t there. We had passed the torch to the juniors to play the graduation march, but we had been there so many times before, it seemed for some of us as though we should still have a duty to do that one last thing at Searcy High.

After the rehearsal, Larry and I took my ’49 Ford and went out to my house on North Main, by Rocky Branch, past the little Ballew community church, had a snack, and headed to the river. Little Red River is where Echo Dell is located. It’s sometimes called Flat Rock, where the ‘upper dam’ is, with rocks so flat and huge, you could wade across the river, where the water is low in some spots. I had spent many an hour here as my brother, Jim, and I grew up on the farm. I always loved it in the summer, when dad came in from work at the shoe factory, so we could ask him to take us swimming in the river.

That day, it was just Larry and Ernest, winding it up after twelve years at the same school. So, we just visited and talked and waited for the evening.

Larry and I had great conversation that afternoon about a lot of things, just young men/brotherhood kind of stuff, what was fun and how far we had come, and how far yet we had to go. Little did we know.

We even decided to go swimming, it was warm enough, so what the heck. Let’s go.

We laughed about it many times in years later that on our graduation day, Larry and Ernest went skinny-dipping in the Little Red River at Echo Dell.

We got back to my house, where Mom had made dinner for us: spring foods, with cornbread, and it still gave us enough time to get ready for the ceremony that evening.

The greatest remembrance of that day was not of the great ceremony and receiving the long-awaited diploma, but our time together as friends. I believe the value of that day carried our friendship forward for many years.

I learned to swim in that river, at that place, as a teenager growing up. It was a great swimming hole, and was even a great place before the Municipal Pool on East Moore. It was a sanctuary for many who wanted a cool respite from town, at a wading and swimming place that was peaceful and cool. Echo Dell, not easily forgotten by those who had a chance to go there.

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