Archive for the ‘Tributes’ Category

For over forty years a group of male friends has had lunch together once a week and taken a trip together once a year. I’ve written about this unique friendship several times before and the trips we have taken to first class places like Park City, Utah; Breckenridge, Colorado and Scottsdale, Arizona. Not that Branson is less than first class … in fact we stayed in a beautiful 7 bedroom, 7 bath home overlooking Table Rock Lake. So why “did” “we choose Branson? Mainly because it’s close to Little Rock, has a lot going on and more of our guys could make the trip. Good Move … Until the Major Cold, Ice and snow event threatened to disrupt our plans. The weather. as predicted, was bad … even the owner of the house we rented recommended we reschedule. No way for this group! There was a little drama and uncertainty before, during and along the way … but, We made it and SST 2023 (number 44) is now in the record books.

Typical scene along our route to Branson

Mr. G’s Downtown Branson, Missouri

We have several good cooks and most meals were prepared in our well equipped rental home. Below is a photo sampling of food, fun and fellowship.

In spite of our penchant for the fun facet of our time together, we always find time for something a bit more culturally enriching. This trip, we visited Bass Pro founder, Johnny Morris’s Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum at Ridgedale, Mo. There are over 75,000 artifacts representing about one third of Mr. Morris’s Collection.This place is truly a “must visit” in the Branson Area. Plus, this is only a small portion of attractions under the Top of the Rock/Big Cedar umbrella. Below are a few photos. Of particular interest to me was the Edward S. Curtis Gallery. I just recently read an amazing historical biography … Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan. This book portrays the lifelong passion of one man in the early 1900’s as he captures in photographs the pictures and stories of disappearing Native American Indian Tribes. This gallery alone is worth a visit to Ozarks Natural History Museum.

Once again it was illuminating, energizing and reassuring to know there are friendships that can last a lifetime. I have seen old guys (ROMEOS … Retired old men eating out) in small town restaurants across America. We are they! However, I bet there is not another like ours that has for over four decades had the consistent commitment to keeping a friendship bond right at the top of the calendar and priority list as we have. Thank you Fellow SST members.

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For more than a decade, a few of my family and friends have taken to the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas in search of Charlie Brown’s Christmas spirit. The first five years, we backpacked into remote wilderness areas, set up our tents, gathered firewood donned Santa Hats, selected a small lonely cedar tree and with much pomp and ceremony, decorated it with a few items from home plus edibles for birds and animals. This has become a tradition as seen in the above December 2022 photo. The only difference from earlier years is we now go to one of the beautiful camp grounds along the Buffalo National River near Jasper, Arkansas. Incidentally, the free flowing Buffalo was the first river to be declared a “National River” by Congress.

Above is one of the beautiful limestone bluff lines at Kyle’s Landing where we set up camp.

Just in case you are wondering who would wear a jacket like the black and white one above, it is I. It’s truly perfect for camping in cold weather … down lined with a hood and it didn’t cost much at all. I found it in a discount store in Colorado and immediately declared it my camping jacket. Retail $300 … on sale $32. Enough said?? Also, how about the guy in the first photo with the Goldilocks Santa Hat?

Charlie Brown Campout 2022
The guys … Bryan, John, Daryl, CB, Renie. Showing up later … DJ and Don.

Above is a typical afternoon routine … tents erected, fire started, a little relaxation… happy hour not too far behind. Below, one can see what “roughing it” means to us … Renie preparing our main dish for the evening … pork tenderloin over an open charcoal and wood fire. WOW!! I can attest, his secret marinade made this meal as good or better than any 5 star restaurant!! BTW … Renie and his wife just returned from 9 months in France. Thus, “laissez les bon temps rouler”… “let the good times roll”

It was another unique and special weekend with friends and family. The older I get, the more I appreciate the freedoms and the blessings of living in the United States. In particular, I appreciate how so many before us have seen the value in preserving National Parks, National Monuments and State Parks, especially those here in Arkansas, The Natural State. We are truly blessed!!

Because Charlie Brown Christmas Campout has become a tradition, I am including a few photo memories from Christmases Past !!


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Aaron and the author at Panera Bread in Little Rock, Arkansas

It’s been awhile since I’ve written one of my LOCAL HERO BLOGS … this one is very special!

If you are like me, you enjoy Panera Bread. You enjoy it for the good food, especially for the fresh baked bagels, mouth watering sugary iced cinnamon rolls and in-house brewed coffee. Generally speaking, that covers breakfast for me … moving on to lunch, I love the soups, the sandwiches and the occasional Margherita pizza. But, that’s not all … I love the ambiance, the refreshing art, the open seating and the interior architecture. But, most of all, I keep coming back to the Panera Bread on University Avenue in Little Rock because of the friendly staff … they make this place “feel like home” with their smiles and helpful attitudes. In a way, they are all my local heroes.

That said, there is one employee who always and I mean “always” has the biggest smile, the most spirited helpfulness and the most gracious manner. He is pictured above … his name is AARON. I don’t know his last name and that’s okay because, for all I know and based on the way he represents this store, his last name could be “Panera.” He treats his job and his customers as if he owns the company. Aaron completes that proverbial “customer experience” … Good food, good place and great service.

AARON, MR. AARON, MR AARON PANERA …. I am so honored to know you and to declare that you are truly one of the best of the best and … MY LOCAL HERO !!!

See you soon … at “your” Panera Bread Company

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Stanley Ski Team 2020

A 41 year bond of friendship …

Yes, for over four decades a group of guys has shared lunch together once a week and an annual trip … the first three decades we went to ski country … now we go to Scottsdale, Arizona.  The pictures are almost self explanatory … however I will add brief comments.

Most all flew from Little Rock but JC and I drove so we could hike in route.

These next few photos are from the Acoma Pueblo area, then a few from Window Rock and then from Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Northeastern Arizona.  The canyon is beautiful and our hike to the bottom was awesome.




Below are photos from Scottsdale.  We have stayed in this beautiful home for several years where we enjoy cooking in as well as eating out and where we explore the museums, golf courses and other many assets of Scottsdale. 

First … our group … matching shirts of course.

Tim, Loyd, John, Renie, Bart, Bill, Jim, JC




One of the most important parts of a full healthy long life is the power and bond of friendship.  We are blessed to have this shared life story.  We are unique individually and we are unique collectively.  As we age I even say ” we are every bit as smart collectively as we once were individually” … LOL … We are a beautiful mosaic of different opinions, political persuasions and upbringings.  Truly, we are a special tale for the ages.

I doubt there is another group like ours … SST … 41 years and Counting.  Thank each of you for holding this family of friends together.  May God allow us a few more!

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Thanks to Sam Walton (Walmart), Alice Walton (Crystal Bridges) and now the Grandsons … this sleepy little town is truly the best example of what a successful city of the future looks like.  

After spending three days attending the Arkansas Parks and Tourism Commission meeting in Bentonville, I am pumped up.  This place is alive … it is exhilirating … it is energizing … it is the place I would choose to live if I were younger… It is the place to be … It is the future!

Patti and I went to the University of Arkansas years ago and would drive  to Bentonville to sit on the park bench in the square.  We were the only ones there … now this place is teeming with commerce, hotels, restaurants, brew pubs, bike shops and people from all over the world.


From the new Buckminister Fuller Fly’s Eye Dome to the soon to be opened inside/outside Dale Chihuly exhibit to a converted church (now that’s pretty funny) into a restaurant and bar called the Preacher’s Son, to a closed cheese factory to be an art and activity center … on and on and on … this place is changing for the good and for the future.  The quality of life amenities such as mountain bike and greenway trails and fun places to eat or have a craft beer, Bentonville is the place to live, be creative, be active, be educated, seek a fulfilling career or simply visit.

I made this comment after one presentation about even more plans in the works:

“I am proud of the things that have been happening in Little Rock over the past 25 years, but after spending three days in Northwest Arkansas, I am convinced that Bentonville is becoming THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE !!

I’m just happy that Bentonville is in our state of Arkansas …                                    




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Nice way to be greeted at Comfort Suites Amarillo 


When Patti and I travel West by automobile, we often stop in Amarillo.  It’s a great place for overnight plus dinner at our favorite Italian Restaurant, Napoli’s, in downtown.

We also enjoy the convenience, quality and friendliness of Comfort Suites on Soncy Road at Interstate 40.  Friendliness, yes … of particular note, Teandra, pictured above with me. What a beautiful smiling face … what a wonderful engaging personality, what a perfect representative for Choice Brand Hotels.  Even more amazing is her personal story …  a story that would have many mothers bitter, resentful, unable to function or even show up for work.  Like too many tragedies in our world today, less than a year ago Teandra lost her son to a bullet. in spite of her painful loss, she continues to glow with warmth and love.

For her courage, attitude and loving way she serves others each day, I declare TEANDRA … MY EVERYDAY HERO … a true inspiration and example for all.

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I just watched this TV special celebrating 50 Charlie Brown Christmases.  I must admit, I love it.  Clearly I’m not alone … however, I do claim a special relationship with Charlie and Snoopy and the Gang.  Why, because “my gang” just celebrated the sixth  annual Charlie Brown Christmas Tree Decorating Backpacking trip way out in the wilderness of Arkansas’ beautiful Ozark Mountains.    Plus, I have my own Charlie Brown Christmas tree … and to prove it the attached photo shows my tree in front of the real Charlie Brown tree as seen on the ABC special.

How could it get any better?  See for yourself!


As a reminder below are a couple of pictures of previous Charlie Brown in the Ozarks Christmas Trees.

DSC00156The Gang … with “The Tree”

IMG_7492The First tree with the founding characters … Jim, JC, Bryan

IMG_7534Year two … maybe year three!

DSC01284The beauty of Richland Creek … even Santa loves it!!

DSC08935As I said … I love Charlie Brown.  I also love Christmas and especially Christmas Lights.  In fact I’m already getting nervous because today is December 26 and folks will begin taking down the Christmas Lights.

Oh well, the positive spin is this … we have once again celebrated the Spirit of Christmas, the spirit of this Holy Season and the spirit of love and giving and sharing.  Let’s let the Spirit continue now and until next year.

One closing celebration I want to mention … Patti and I, along with Charlie Brown, are celebrating our 50th Christmas Together.

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As People of Paris hurt, we hurt too …

Arkansas State Capitol

We stand united

When I took this picture last week, I was immediately struck by the awesome beauty of the sky and also by the powerful symbol of our Democracy … the Arkansas State Capitol.

As I follow the brutal attacks on innocent people in Paris, I am reminded once again of those who wish to destroy the fundamental foundation of our Democracy, liberty and our freedom of religion.

In his poem “NO MAN IS AN ISLAND”, John Donne assails us to acknowledge that everyman is a piece of the continent and the death of anyone diminishes us for we are all part of “the main”… mankind. As I have seen on TV, Newsprint and Facebook today, people across the world exemplify this spirit standing unified in support of families and friends of those killed or injured. Likewise, I sense a renewed resolve to stand together with France and our allies to defeat these radical forces.

My personal editorial comment is how important it is for us to never forget 9-11 or the attack on Paris. Typically we humans, forget in a few days and move on … in this case we cannot, must not move on until these evil forces are eradicated.

Fifty State Capitol buildings along with our National Capitol building stand as symbols … may they also stand as monuments to our passion and resolve to protect our freedoms and liberty as One Nation Under God.

Symbol of Democracy

Symbol of Democracy

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I’m proud to call Coach Bielema my Alma Mater Football Coach …

I’m proud … not only because he is building a good team of good ball players but because he is building a great team of young men with character. I’m proud not only because of Bowl invitations but because of Life Invitations. I’m proud not only because of good contact on the field but good contact lessons for the future …. for career opportunities, for stable family life, for unselfish community involvement. Richard Davenport’s article below says it better than I have. This article should be proudly read by every Razorback Fan, every business leader, every church and political leader … for that matter EVERYONE!

This is the way to not only build a team but to build Arkansas.

Coach Bielema … You are my Hero pick of this week. Thank you!

My Hero ... Coach Bielema

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Teamwork and a public servant


This note to the Ouray, Colorado City Manager tells a local hero story.

Mr Manager ,

This is a short note to recognize and thank Office Crandall for going above and beyond to help a visitor to Ouray.
My wife and I spent two nights at the wonderful China Clipper B&B this past week. A young couple, Bryan and Becky, were there as well. Unfortunately their SUV was the victim of apparent vandalism in the form of a slashed tire. When I came out to the parking area, officer Crandall was assisting. At the height of frustration when the vehicle’s small jack would not fit under the frame, when calls to garages had failed, when the creative energy of a gathering group came up short and when tears were streaming from Becky as she began seeing her first weekend of climbing with her husband after hip surgery drift away, Officer Crandall left and returned with a rolling jack capable of lifting the vehicle.

As the former Mayor of Little Rock for fourteen years I have witnesses many examples of public service. I just wanted you to know Officer Justin Crandall demonstrated one of the finest examples I’ve seen of a true “Public Servant”.

We love Ouray … Now we have even more reason to give high praise to your City.

Jim and Patti Dailey
Ps: I will appreciate your sharing this with Justin and his Chief.

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