Not many people have heard of a town called Blackton in Monroe County. Although close to a ghost town now, it was booming in the early '50s thanks to farming, timber cutting and sawmilling. Homer Ridout, who later opened quite a few lumber stores, cut timber and ran a large sawmill there.
Tom Bonner, the former KARK television weatherman, and Ken Turner, once an assistant with the Arkansas Razorbacks, are both former Blacktonians. Also, B.J. Houser, who later became a problem solver with the Social Security Administration, was a former Blacktonian. I am also a former Blacktonian. Okay, that's another story.
In the late '40s and early '50s, there were as many as seven stores in Blackton with four of them selling beer. It wasn't too unusual to see someone flying through a window or door on a Saturday as a result of a fistfight.
However, as any former Blacktonian will tell you, Blackton was a friendly town where neighbors helped one another like no other town I have ever seen.
Donald Houser, my cousin, was also a former Blacktonian. Although his name doesn't ring a bell like the others, the ones who knew him will never forget him.
When Donald started to school in the '40s, we noticed that his back was beginning to sway, and he started falling a lot. His mother took him to several doctors, but couldn't find out what was wrong with him. Finally, she took him to a Dr. Walker in Brinkley who diagnosed Donald as having muscular dystrophy.
Although the disease progressed over the years, Donald and his parents knew how lucky they were to be living in a small town like Blackton. After he was confined to a wheelchair, the boys around town would push him to the woods to squirrel hunt or to a pond to fish, any place he wanted to go within pushing distance.
Donald watched a lot of television. His favorite show was "The Real McCoys," a show making fun of country hicks. Once when the family was driving to Little Rock just after the freeways were built, Donald's father got lost and became very agitated. After a few minutes and to his father's chagrin, Donald said, "Daddy, these freeways weren't made for the McCoys, were they?"
After a few more years, Donald's friends started pushing him to the local beer joint where Donald imbibed a little. A little later Donald started chewing tobacco.
A few years later I visited Donald and he told me he had gotten religion. He said he had quit drinking beer and had started reading the Bible. When he asked me if he should quit chewing tobacco, I told him he would have to decide himself.
Page 2 of 2 - On my next visit, he told me he had the answer. He said he had been reading the book of Revelation about how beautiful heaven was, about the city of gold and precious stones. Then he said, "Because heaven is so beautiful, I don't think God would want me up there spitting that nasty tobacco juice around."
What was so wonderful about Donald is that he was always positive. He never complained and he had a great sense of humor.
Donald had wonderful parents who would do just about anything for him. His mother became strong from lifting Donald over the years, and his father would take him anywhere he wanted to go. He also had two loving and caring sisters.
Donald died in his mother's arms at the age of 36. As he was dying, he said, "Mama, I see Jesus."
Now I am not particularly religious, but if anyone really ever saw Jesus just before death, I believe it was Donald.