The part of the country in which I live has two distinctions: first, it is the home of WalMart and second, it is the headquarters of Tyson Foods. These two multi-billion dollar corporations have been the lifeblood for our region as well as the economic engine for the rest of the state. (I think it could be argued the success of these two entities, both as employers and producers, has fueled an otherwise lackluster US economy for years. For anyone who has an argumentative inclination, no, I’d rather not debate negative stories or trash talk about either corporation.)
Right near where I live, there are numerous chicken farms with production houses that extend about 400 foot long (approximately) and house as many as 11,000 birds. When I’m out driving, it’s not uncommon to see an eighteen-wheeler with a trailer full of chickens destined for market. Through the years, we’ve seen stray chickens off the trucks scurrying along the street-side, and friends of mine have been known to capture the birds for their own backyard chicken coops or stew pots. Yes, it’s amusing.
As the home campus for the University of Arkansas, there’s also a large Poultry Science department with its poultry research and other assorted courses of study dedicated to poultry production. When my children were members of 4H, they entered the county’s cooperative extension office competitions for grilling chicken.
Given this environment, my versification has (on occasion) veered to the nonsensical for some light-hearted ribbing about the industry that has shaped the economy of our region. This poem is longer than I like to post here, but I can’t help indulging my silly side this week!
In writing this particular poem, I didn’t intend to demean the local accent nor the tendency in speech for some locals to drop syllables (which in this specific case, makes poetry sound very much like poultry. You might need to live here to understand.) So please, no offense intended, and I hope no offense taken!
Living in the home-land of WalMart, we have immense loyalty to the economic engine of our state. This is not just due to the stores themselves, but to the numerous other businesses that serve WalMart’s inventory needs who have also located in this area. This includes companies like Proctor & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Kodak (to name a few). There are likely so many others I’d have difficulty listing them all … even if I had an inside track to know exactly who they all are!
We remember the days of old, when WalMart was merely a convenient alternative to K-Mart. This was before the SuperCenter model was introduced with an entire grocery store located within the ordinary WalMart. (It quickly became extraordinary!) Then came the Neighborhood Market, a slimmed down version of the SuperCenter, designed mainly to compete with smaller grocery chains. As I understand it now, WalMart has opened its first one-stop gas station and quick-shop model in Bentonville. (I haven’t been there yet.)
Years ago, when my children were small, we would pile everyone into the car and as a diversion, take a trip to the local WalMart for shopping and entertainment. (It got us out of the house on those cabin-fever days.)
The poem below is a specific form, called a Pantoum. This is the only pantoum I’ve ever written and as the content shows, it relates to those long-ago trips to WalMart with my children. The repetitive lines conform to the pantoum structure, but it isn’t an easy form to use because you (obviously) want the lines to make sense!
When I wrote this verse, I think I felt pretty nearly as the poem describes: with four energetic littles one in tow, I definitely felt like the “circus just blown into town.” Of course, those were in the days when WalMart was a small home-town operation and so many of the faces were long-time “associates” so they recognized us as regular customers. The “check-cashing card” wasn’t like today’s debit or credit card; as I remember, it was rather a card that said your checks were good because they’d done plenty of business with you in the past.