Paul Greenberg

"The Helena World says that I'm a carrot-haired, red-faced, load-mouthed [sic], strong limbed, ox-driving mountaineer lawyer. That I'm a friend to the fellow that brews 40-rod bug juice back in the mountains. Now, I have a little boy, God bless him, and if I find that boy is a smart boy, I will go and make a preacher out of him. If I find that he's not so smart, I'm going to make a lawyer out of him, but if I find he has not a bit of sense on this earth, I'm going to make an editor out of him and send him to Little Rock to edit the Arkansas Democrat."

Not till Louisiana's Huey Long came along was there a more entertaining demagogue on the rollicking American scene than Arkansas' Jeff Davis. Naturally he was careful not to correct any unreconstructed Arkansas voter who might confuse him with the Jefferson Davis of Confederate fame. To quote one of his avid followers, "Not only is he a great man, but a mighty long-lived one!"

But any comparison to Huey Long is unfair. Of course the Kingfish would be able to tell more stories about political corruption, being from Louisiana and all.

As for ghosts I have known in my time, I can't be sure that's what they were. (The headline on this column was just to get your attention.) My ghosts were certainly not frightening. Anything but. I suspect they weren't ghosts at all but angels, for the ones I've encountered emanated nothing but pure love and care.

I'm thinking of a recurrent vision I used to have of my grandmother peeking in my bedroom door to check on me the way she used to do when I was a child. Then there was that conversation with my long since departed grandfather after I'd had too much of the sabbath wine and was doing a vigorous hora at a religious retreat. It was as if these ghosts had come to assure me that all was well in this world, and the next.

As an old black man down in Louisiana once told me, "It ain't the dead folks who'll hurt you."

He had a point. It's the living who scare me.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.