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— A few months back, I wrote about six-word stories and asked readers to write their own and send them to me. The idea came from an article I had read, stating that Smith Magazine did the same thing and got so many responses that they ended up publishing a couple of books.

The challenge, as you can guess from the description, is to write a complete story using only six words. Some say the idea got started when Ernest Hemingway made the claim that he could do it, and followed up by writing, “For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”

Well, the response I received was nothing like that of the magazine’s, but I did get a few six-word stories to pass along in subsequent columns.

I thought I was finished with that topic. Recently, however, through an unexpected twist, several more six-word stories came my way from a group of inmates in a Pine Bluff unit of the Arkansas Department of Corrections. No, I am not kidding.

Not exactly sure what to do with these once I had them in hand, I thought about it for a while, finally deciding to include them in a column. You might find them interesting and insightful, as I did.

Several of the stories, for example, alluded to analyzing the past.

Been one heck of a ride.

Mistakes, they happen when you live.

Looking back taught me a lot.

Others refer to challenges to get lives back on track.

Wise men learn from their mistakes.

Didn’t take the same road twice.

Remodeled clown; still needs some work.

Still trying to find my way.

Some hinted of finding spiritual freedom.

Been lost but now set free.

Even though … He never left me.

Locked up, but I’m still free.

And, emphasis on hope for the future came from other stories.

Gone astray; on my way back.

Remembering the past but looking ahead.

When combined, the memoirs piece together a more complete story of lives in process of coming full circle with the hope that the past doesn’t hold too much control over the future.

In life on this side of the razor wire, I too, have been thinking about the future. For some time I have been trying to decide what direction to go with this column for the coming year. I know it is still a few weeks away, but I wanted to get a plan in place before the busyness of the holidays sets in. Earl and I will finish up the last of our state-park visits shortly, and with that goal met and park topic concluded, I wondered what I might do next.

A couple of Sundays ago the answer came to me while at church. No, it did not come directly from God, but hey, I’d like to entertain the notion He had a hand in it.

Following the morning church service the congregation had a luncheon, and as I visited with some column readers, they came up with a great idea. I had been thinking of something along these lines, but couldn’t get my ideas focused until talking it out with these helpful folks.

Here’s the plan: Starting in January 2010, I will write about fun things to do and neat places to see (both indoors and outdoors) within 50 miles of the hometown area. My challenge will be to find plenty of interesting and / or entertaining places to visit and write about that are affordable and don’t require a long drive.

I think our area holds plenty of great opportunities that fit this criteria, and I am excited to get started checking them out. Included in the 50 mile radius are parts of northwest Arkansas, southwest Missouri, and eastern Oklahoma. Anyplace inside the area is fair game, and if there is something just outside the circle that is really neat, we might even fudge a little.

To give you an idea of what might be covered, here is a list of places which have already been suggested: Tara Studios, Crystal Bridges Art Museum, Har-Ber Village, and some things around Grove, Okla. Even though parks aren’t completely out, I won’t focus too much on them for the coming year since we’ve been there, done that (and bought one T-shirt) in 2009.

I know many of you are aware of places that I might not be familiar with, so I welcome your suggestions. I will start checking them out and, beginning in January, will let you know what I find. Meanwhile, I have four more parks to visit first. I better get moving.

You can contact me by e-mail at awalkinthepark50 @ or by snail mail to me in care of the Gentry Courier Journal, P.O. Box 677, Gentry, AR 72734.

Opinion, Pages 5 on 11/11/2009

Print Headline: A Walk in the Park Needed Plan, New Year at Hand

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