After we bought our place down in the hollow, I found a “Bill Clinton for Congress” bumper sticker stuck to a barrel in an outbuilding. Back in 1974, he ran for the House of Representatives in this district against the popular incumbent, John Paul Hammerschmidt, and lost by only a few thousand votes. Not bad for a 28 year-old lifetime student and law professor.
I saw Bill Clinton twice in Carroll County before he left Arkansas for greener pastures. In 1984, I skipped school and attended the famous “Super Cow Clinic” in Green Forest with Grandpa Jack McCall. The place was overrun with politicians, including Bill Clinton campaigning for reelection as governor. His opponent that year was businessman Woody Freeman, the clear favorite among old cattlemen and farmers.
One of the contests at the cattle show was the always popular buffalo chip throwing contest. The announcer asked the governor to come up and give it a try. When Bill demurred, the announcer started ribbing the governor pretty good. So Bill stepped forward, chose a buffalo chip and let it fly. It didn’t hardly go anywhere at all. Some in the watching crowd let their displeasure be known. The opponent in the governor’s race eagerly came forward and threw the buffalo chip like he was a professional. The crowd cheered.
A big attraction at the “Super Cow” was the free barbecue lunch. There was a long line waiting to get their plates filled and Bill Clinton started at the end and worked his way up the line shaking hands and talking to people. The governor just wasn’t in his element that day. When he was near us, I saw that he was pale, sweating and clearly nervous. He did look Grandpa in the eye, though, as he shook his hand and then he came to me. Excited to meet the Governor of Arkansas, I stuck out my hand. Well, Bill studied my face, apparently noting that I was not yet of voting age and withdrew his hand before it touched mine and moved on down the line looking like he wished he could get out of Green Forest, Arkansas.
The last time I saw Bill Clinton, I was driving east on Highway 62 from Eureka. I knew Bill was around for something or another, so when I came up behind one of those Lee Iacocca K-car specials with an Arkansas government license plate, I wasn’t too surprised to see the governor in the car. I was a bit surprised that he was alone. I followed him into Berryville and he turned onto Highway 21/221 north. I’ve always wondered where the governor was going.
A couple of years ago on a whim, I sent a copy of my book to Bill Clinton’s New York office and received a very nice reply. That more than made up for him not shaking my hand that miserable day in Green Forest. Like him or not, excluding Johnny Cash, Bill Clinton would certainly be considered our greatest native son.