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Outdoors with Larry Dablemont: A good spot in heaven

         The pool hall was empty except for me and Preacher Lampkin. He had been trying his best to answer my religious-oriented questions. I ‘spect he was in his 60s and I had turned 14 that very week. He wasn’t as good at answering ‘em as I thought he orta be, but then he hadn’t been a every-Sunday preacher for a while, just one for every now and then when some country preacher had took sick or went to visit a relative and needed a spell-in. He didn’t know about my big question, whether or not a fellow needed to drink water in heaven… and if he did, did he need to pee later?  



         Probably shouldn’t be writing about something like that, but shucks, other people wondered about that too when they were that age. I told preacher Lampkin I would not like to think that there was no need to drink a cold strawberry Jic-Jac soda on occasion nor a big tin can full of cold spring water. He said he just couldn’t say about some of the things I wondered about. I wondered about a lot of things.

         I wondered if heaven was gosh-awful beautiful, as my Sunday school teacher said, how could it be beautifuller than the Piney River? The preacher said he was pretty sure it was, but what if heaven had no black perch or goggle-eye, and what if muskrats didn’t set on a grassy clump in the river with columns of gray mist coming up off the water? If it didn’t have things as spectacular as a pair of wood ducks taking to flight when a mink came along and jumped at ‘em right under one of those sky-high jagged bluffs, then how could heaven be prettier? Didn’t seem to be a great place if you couldn’t float the river and catch a catfish on a trotline. A big flathead was sort of beautiful in its own way.

         Preacher Lampkin thought about it for a while. He said that however a feller felt when he saw them wood ducks and muskrats and that big bluff, that would be a small fraction of what he felt in the way of happiness when he was in heaven. He asked me to think of what made me feel the very best that week, like eatin’ a watermelon or swimmin’ in the crick, or beating Billy Bob Woods in a game of snooker. He said happiness in heaven would beat that by a mile.

           I had heard several preachers by the time I was 14 and they all talked about mansions and streets paved with gold. I knew if there was a street paved with gold anywheres in the Ozarks there would be a bunch of folks on it with hammers and chisels trying to dig up a chunk of it. Gold didn’t impress me at all. I liked the golden color of a smallmouth bass all right, but rainbows had no gold in them, nor did a punkinseed perch, which was the most beautifully colored thing I had ever seen. And if St. Peter was a fisherman, what would he rather have, a big string of punkinseeds or a gold necklace? What would a gold watch be worth if every bloomin’ street in heaven was paved with the stuff.

         I sure didn’t want no gold mansion neither, if I ever got to heaven, which I couldn’t be sure of back then. If I was to get accepted, I would like to move right in to a nice log cabin in a big woods right off the edge of one of them Canada lakes where geese and ducks nested in the summer, and moose walked by every now and then. 

         I figured too that it might be that there are different heavens. Surely there is a separate one for those natives in Africa who love where they live. I remember hearing one preacher say they were all going to hell if the missionaries didn’t get ‘em converted. I can’t buy that. If God created them as they are, he surely loves them too, and understands them enough that He isn’t going to put them in a place where there are Vikings from Norway or Sioux Indians from South Dakota. How much sense does that make? And there has to be a heaven for lawyers. I can’t see God allowing them to be with folks like me and my grandparents or Preacher Lampkin. I suspect there is a wonderful place with tons of money for lawyers and politicians, and one president I know of. Thinking that, I know there has to be a place for me, and people like me, and my family and some of the great dogs I have owned. How can anyone be happy anywhere without a dog?          

         Sometimes, when I am camped alone on a river gravel bar and the fire burns low and I lay back and look into the sky, I get to thinking about things that boggle the mind. How many heavens might there be on planets too far out to see? How big is God and what does He look like? Then I remember my grandpa’s advice. “Don’t think about how many stars there are or where the sun went or what God is thinking. That kind of thing can drive a man nuttier’n a pet coon. And the Good Lord don’t want us worryin’ about things only He knows,” he said. 

         “Just think about how good fried catfish tastes,” Grandpa told me back then on that Piney River gravel bar, “and worry about whether or not we can get enough dough-gut minnows tomorrow to bait the trotline. Cause if we don’t we ain’t gonna have no fried catfish!”

         I wonder if you can get fried catfish in heaven?

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