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My older sister Helen said she had to laugh at some of my articles as I might tell of something happening in Arkansas when it actually happened in Nebraska, and vice versa, since I was only eight when we moved here. So, I don’t know in which state the following tale happened. I just recall the hot summer day when my brother Verne buried Can’t.

Probably Verne had gotten sick and tired of us kids always saying “I can’t” when our older brother told us to do something. So one day, with determined face, he marched out to the field beside our farm house west of Gravette. His siblings followed, forming a solemn procession behind him. He carried a shovel and “the body”. As he began to dig a hole we younger kids gathered round. Holding up a large piece of yellow tablet paper Verne had earlier peppered with holes, using his BB gun, he intoned, “We’re here for this simple graveside service to bury someone who needed to die.” He held up the bullet-riddled piece of paper. Sunlight glanced through the tiny holes.

“On this paper,” he intoned, “you see the letters C, A, N, T.” He knelt down and laid the paper in the shallow grave, then threw a shovel of dirt (or sand, if this happened in Nebraska) over it.

Wiping his brow, he said, “Today we bury Can’t.” He threw in another shovel full. “From this day forward Can’t is dead. I don’t want to ever hear its name spoken again.” He threw in a final scoop and grandly patted the mound with his shovel. Unable to keep straight faces any longer we all exploded with laughter before my serious brother.

This same ingenious brother claimed an attic room in an old log cabin beside our garage as his room. We kids were told to “stay away”. I often went up the steep stairs andpeeked into the forbidden attic room, my brother’s private bedroom, though. It seemed so mysterious. There I imagined living in a different, secret world. The log walls, still holding their cement intact, joined a tapered ceiling, covered with the shiniest wood. Verne’s bed was always neatly made, not sloppy like in our house, where we had two or three beds in each large upstairs room and two or three kids to a bed.

My eyes always turned to a picture hanging on his wall, a picture Verne had painted of a ship with sails. If no one caught me I would sit on the top step gazing at that picture until I imagined I actually saw those sails moving in the blue sky as the ship rested on the green, choppy, white-capped ocean. To a young girl, living with bare necessities, it appeared exquisite.

My father must have had a lot of trust in Verne because he bought him a Model A Ford, which had to be cranked to start. Papa expected him to drive us to school in Southwest City, Missouri, in the vehicle.

Verne and George played the lead trumpets in our family band. They still play those horns in church. Verne taught all seven of his kids to play instruments and his family is very talented. Many of his children attended college and have become extremely successful. After graduation the imaginative young man, from humble roots, excelled in diverse professions - carpenter, mechanic, inventor, farmer, pilot - even owning his own plane. I believe his greatest accomplishments and influence, though, came through becoming a preacher.

Verne recently moved to Arizona and is probably the oldest school bus driver in the country. This boy from northwest Arkansas never said Can’t.

Marie Putman, one-time Gravette resident, shares her thoughts with our readers twice every month.

Opinion, Pages 4 on 03/31/2010

Print Headline: How Burying “Can’t” Taught An Important Lesson!

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