Stacy and I met late toward the end of high school. Arkadelphia is a rather obscure town in Arkansas whose population of some ten thousand has been unchanged for at least the five decades of my life. It is home to Ouachita Baptist University and Henderson State University, bitter rivals separated by ‘the ravine.’ Henderson is a state school while Ouachita is an expensive private concern.
My mother Jewell Dean, was born and raised in the backwood sticks of Graysonia, Arkansas, a town some twenty or thirty miles from Arkadelphia and straight out into the wooded wilds. Graysonia came to being because of the logging resources and had mostly died out by the early 1950s. The three-room shotgun house she was raised in is one of only three buildings from that era that remain standing today. My father, Earl Smith was born in Enola, Arkansas north of Little Rock, but lived mostly around Arkadelphia down ‘below the railroad tracks.’ Though my mother graduated high school, my father only made it as far as the eighth grade. After they met and married, my mother never wanted to go back to Graysonia. My father started a business laying natural gas pipelines that eventually operated over a dozen crews in three states.
Stacy’s mother, Johnnie, was a country girl from Sherwood, Arkansas, then a small rural town which has since become a large suburb of Little Rock. She met Gilbert Morris, Stacy’s father, at a dance and eventually they married. She worked at the local telephone office. Gilbert went on to eventually get his Ph.D. and was an English professor for many years at Ouachita. He also became an ordained Baptist minister and is today a well-published Christian author. Though Stacy had the privilege of attending Ouachita free of charge, she went only a few semesters, mostly because of me. I was a Chemistry major at Henderson with hopes of being accepted to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Medicine in Little Rock.
Stacy married me just before Christmas of 1977. It was February of 1979 and we were waiting on ‘the letter’ hopefully telling me that I had been accepted. All the medical school acceptance or rejection letters went out on Friday the 16th and by Saturday, the following day, everyone else I knew had their letter in hand. Of two dozen fellow medical school applicants from my college, only two had been accepted. I sulked to myself that I was probably the only applicant in the state of Arkansas who’s future, medical or otherwise, was in limbo.
I was on edge to be sure. My rural mailbox was devoid of my letter on Saturday. Because Monday was also President’s Day, no mail was delivered at all. Stacy and I got into a brief argument which culminated in me slapping her as we drove over the cow grate into my parents long driveway. She immediately returned me the same favor and I was suddenly yanked back into the real world. Thankfully, I made up quickly so that it was both the beginning and the end of our spousal abuse period.
Tuesday arrived and I didn’t wait for the rural postal carrier to come to my mailbox. I chased him down. My letter said I was accepted. I was going to be a doctor, something I had been talking about, so they tell me, since I was four years old.
That summer Stacy and I moved to the married floor of the Jeff Davis ‘roach motel’ dormitory. Having just turned twenty-one I was one of the youngest of the hundred and thirty-six medical students entering our class.