Mr. Roy Griffin

I was watching Saving Private Ryan recently, and my thoughts turned to Mr. Roy Griffin.

Roy is a gentleman 90 years of age who lives by himself in a house with a large vegetable garden a block north of my house on Tyler Street in Hillcrest. I’ve met him only twice. On a particularly chilly Sunday morning a few years ago, I was stepping out in my pajamas to get the newspaper when my front door closed behind me, locking me out. Barefoot in 35 degree weather at 8 a.m. on a Sunday, I knocked on a couple of neighbors’ doors to no avail. A black Ford SUV pulled up and the man at the wheel was Mr. Roy Griffin, on his way to church. He asked me if I needed a ride somewhere, and I figured my friend Sara’s place would be the next best bet, so he took me there.

He told me, “I know what it’s like to be cold. I spent a winter in Belgium in World War II.”

He dropped me off at Sara’s and waited with me until she answered the door (which she did very grumpily, of course). I just needed to get the number of my friend Kathy, who had my spare key, so I waved Mr. Griffin goodbye and he went on his way. A few days later I took him some cookies to say thanks. He was on the phone when I went by, so I didn’t stay to visit. And, because I’m naturally kind of shy, I never got around to going back to his house just to chat.

Truthfully, his statement about knowing the true meaning of the word “cold” always kind of intimidated me. I never figured I’d have anything to offer the guy – he’s a WWII vet who still drives to church and works in his very impressive garden, so the guy is clearly tough as nails.

And today I found out just how tough. I Googled him. As it turns out, AETN has a vast website of veteran interviews and archives at Here is Mr. Griffin’s page. He was an amphibious engineer in the Army. He fought WWII from the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia to Omaha Beach, and helped liberate the concentration camp at Buchenwald. It’s a lot to dig through, but here are some highlights to get you interested.

From Video #9:

When I first come home, I was just hanging. What I wanted to do most of all was to get my feet on the ground, just be a normal person. And I could picture myself going way out into the Rocky Mountains and get so far out I couldn’t hear a train blow or nothing. It didn’t work that way. I know if it hadn’t been for my family I’d have probably lost it all. I never did get depressed, but I was worried because I was with this tough outfit for five years.

Also in that video, he tells about finally getting home from the war, to Camp Shelby in Mississippi, just a few hours from his hometown of Yazoo City. He was being told about his options for assignment, none of which involved getting home to see his family any time soon. When an officer told him he didn’t have any privileges while awaiting assignment, he said:

Then I told him which side his bread was oleo’d on. “I’m a tell you something. I haven’t seen my wife in three years. Do you think I’d recognize her if she walked in?” I said, “if you need me in the next few days, get a bunch and come after me, don’t come by yourself. Just sure as God made little green apples, I’m gonna go home.”

I won’t give away the ending, because it’s great.

All of this made me realize that war stories are only stories to those who didn’t live them. The rest of us can only sit back and be fascinated and enthralled. Reading about Saving Private Ryan on, I see in the trivia section that the film is listed as President Bush’s favorite movie. Neither President Bush nor I have ever seen combat, but I can’t help feeling like he missed a lesson there: War is a last resort. And as the world is coming to a slow realization that the Iraq War represents either the world’s most colossal intelligence blunder or the world’s most cynical exploitation of warfare for corporate gain (or both!), maybe we’ll even start to realize that there was a justifiable war once.

And even it was hell.

Happy New Year. Here’s to 2009 being a time for learning lessons.

Thom Robb: Klan Blogger

Today I stumbled across the blog of Knights of the Ku Klux Klan head cheese Thom Robb.

It’s adorable, typos and all. Here are some highlights:

“Barack Obama, if elected, will try to take the bread from our children’s mouths and send it to Africa.”

“I want to thank all of those who have been praying for my recovery from the flu.”

“The repulsive little black kid that stared [sic] in the pro-race-mixing show of the 80‘s, Different Strokes has recently gotten married.”

“The Bible tells us that we should “not follow a multitude to do evil.”

“Surprisingly an awaken[sic] White populous[sic] would not only allow us to regain our racial integrity and survival but would also provide greater safety and a brighter future for Negroes as well.”

“I had written a post on my blog yesterday and as I went to post it I evidently hit the wrong key and it disappeared.”

But then my giggles subsided when I read his celebratory Black History Month address[1]. Caution: dander-raising ahead. Further shudders came from the White Pride Home Schooling website.

Fortunately he doesn’t seem to have many followers on the web, as I notice he gets about as many comments as I do, so I’m assuming his readership to be roughly the same size (10? 15? Feel free to give a show of hands here). His son has an apparently even less popular blog.

Some final amusements, though: the Knights’ website, was apparently registered by someone who thought they were getting .biz but instead got the top-level domain for Belize[2]. Also, on that site is a story with the headline, “Grizzly Hate Crime Gets NO National Attention.” For a moment I wondered if this was some kind of anti-bear, Stephen Colbert-inspired cross-mammalian hate crime, but I think they just meant “grisly.”

1.) The man’s deft satire is as sharp as a Nerf® basketball and his argument just as firm.
2.) White nationalists, if they in fact exist in Belize, are understandably peeved. Doubly so, since the Knights, as a non-profit organization, don’t qualify as a “biz” anyway.

Cross Burning in Arkansas

Bill Clinton and Mike Huckabee may both be from Hope, but to the south lies the town of Friendship, not far from where a cross was burned last week in the yard of a mother of biracial children. A week later, her house burned to the ground. From the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:

Jacob Wingo, 19, is charged with terroristic threatening and aggravated assault, jailers said. Hot Spring County Chief Deputy Richard Tolleson said there could be other suspects in the reported cross burning and it was still under investigation. Tolleson, who refused to release Wingo’s arrest report, also asked that Wingo’s name not be printed as “a courtesy.” Wingo was questioned Friday about the house fire. “He was first,” said detective Barbi Koder with the Hot Spring County sheriff’s office. Yvette Briggs, Wingo’s mother, vehemently defended her son, saying he turned himself in to authorities earlier and “told the truth.” “It was all a joke,” she said about the cross. “He’s got mixed friends. He’s got black friends — he does not hate people. If he knew it was considered a hate crime, he would never have done anything like that.” She said he couldn’t have been involved in the house fire because he was with his father after bonding out of jail.

I can’t find any reports from last week of the cross burning. Maybe it never made it to the papers. If so, I’m very disappointed in the local and state press. I’d hate to think that this sort of thing happens and is kept under wraps. Also, I find it really odd that the paper tells you the kid’s name and then tells you that the chief deputy asked the paper not to print the kid’s name. And I find it amusing that the kid’s mom said it was “all a joke.” Because, really, what’s funnier in Arkansas that a good old fashioned cross burning?

Plog Splurge

Finally added two new sets of photos to the much-neglected photo log. The first is a collection of random pictures from New York and the second mostly from Harrison. The highlight is a finely kept and festively decorated home in Harrison, just a few blocks from my dad’s house. It was such a delight that my uncle Barry wanted to be in the picture.

Note the tasteful addition of candy canes in the yard, glad tidings of holiday cheer.

Also, Emily wants to say hi:

This Is Where I’m From #5

The governor of my state was quoted in the Arkansas Times as saying this:

“I think schools also ought to be fair to all views. Because, frankly, Darwinism is not an established scientific fact. It is a theory of evolution, that’s why it’s called the theory of evolution.”

Well, gollee, Mike, check out the theories of gravitation, special and general relativity, and quantum theory. And then see defintion #1 at It’s so sad that a semantic misconception is causing our country to distrust one of our most valuable scientific tools. Plus, Mike, you’re forgetting that being “fair to all views” means that we must expose our children to the glory of His Noodly Appendage. Or worse, Scientology’s intergalactic warlord, Xenu.

This Is Where I’m From #4

You go, Scott Hoffman. Scott has organized an anti-bigotry movement in Harrison. From talking to my mom, I hear it’s getting a little split on the issue of homosexuality, but these things take time. For those who don’t know, Harrison, and Northern Arkansas in general, has a near-zero black population and is generally known as a haven for the KKK and other white supremacist groups. It’s a status based more in perception than in actual fact, though. The old urban legend [1] goes that the grand wizard of the Knights of the KKK came into the Harrison post office for bulk stamps for his operation, and they gave him a packge of Martin Luther King, Jr. stamps. Not sure if it’s really true, but I think it exemplifies most of the population’s stance on the issue.

1.) Harrison is rural, so does it still qualify as “urban”?

Win Rock Drops Out

Winthrop Rockefeller has officially dropped out of the 2006 Arkansas Governor’s Race. He has a blood condition that may become leukemia. This saddens me greatly as it probably means I won’t be able to vote for independent Rod Bryan because the only other Republican alternative to Rockefeller is Asa Hutchinson. And I don’t want that guy running the state. Win Rock I trust. Hutchinson I can’t stand.

Doing a Google search on “Asa Hutchinson” brings up at #1 an error page at the Dept. of Homeland Security’s website. I feel really safe when HS can’t keep its website operational…


I found links to my site in Wikipedia today under “pictures of Dogpatch.” Wikipedia, for those who don’t know, is a free, interactive, online encyclopedia. It stays remarkably up to date, as it notes below:

There are also quite a few pictures of the property, overgrown and decaying, posted on the Internet, suggesting frequent visitation. However, as of June 28, 2005, signs have been posted threatening prosecution of trespassers, and a guard has been seen camping in an RV on the property.

Good to know. I also found a local urban exploration site with more Dogpatch photos, Underground Ozarks.

This Is Where I’m From, #3

In what’s slowly becoming a continuing series on this blog (click here for #1, here for #2), I offer a link to The Guardian‘s article on a Creation Museum in Eureka Springs, near my hometown of Harrison.

This new museum prominently features dinosaurs, thus reversing the earlier God-as-Merry-Prankster paradigm of Creationism, wherein God planted fossils throughout the planet as a way to challenge the faith of his beloved children. This new version presents Adam and Eve as Fred and Wilma Flintstone, living side by side with dinosaurs.

This Is Where I’m From, Part II

Actual items from the Harrison Daily Times Police Beat:

• A man went to the HPD about 9:30 Saturday morning to get information about churches that might help him with lodging for a few days. The man was arrested on a Berryville warrant for failure to appear in court with bond set at $1,060. He was later released to Berryville police. [ed. note: Berryville is about 30 miles from Harrison]

• Sunday afternoon, a woman called the HPD and said a recliner was in the southbound lane of U.S. 62/65 at the traffic signal near Home Depot. Officers responded, but the recliner was gone on arrival.

• About 8:45 a.m., a Dairy Queen employee called Harrison Police and said a naked man was in a vehicle in the drive-through. The owners declined to press charges against the man, but officers made contact with him and told him he'd be cited for criminal trespassing if he returned.

For those who may have missed it, here’s Part I of Where I’m From.