Old Clovis can always make me laugh


   Commentary By Arnold Dyre

   It is a remarkable thing to live as long as my old friend Clovis has lived.
   Clovis will be 98 years old if he lives until his birthday on June 16. I believe he will make it. Yet, he knows that his time on this earth is short, and Clovis dares not plan ahead too far. He lives his days one by one and pretty well makes the most out of each one.
   There are so many remarkable things about the life that Clovis has led. I can sit for hours talking to him and listening to his experiences.
   There were his young years, growing up the youngest in a large family of boys. All by himself as a little boy, Clovis trained a bull so that he could ride it. He used a light stick to gently tap it in order to signal where he wanted it to go;  he gave the bull “get up” and “whoa” signals by voice.
   As a boy hoeing corn with his older brothers, leaning on his hoe handle and gazing up at the sky, Clovis first learned to find “pictures” in clouds. He could see lions and elephants, fat ladies, old men with beards and all sorts of other things.
   He still does it. Clovis sits at his window and watches the clouds, telling me to look at that alligator or at that monkey riding a pony or such other things. Also, Clovis does it with the outlines of the foliage in the nearby trees, often pointing out to me something he can see from the shape and texture of the leaves.
   When World War II came, Clovis did not hesitate to step forward to serve his country.
   At first, Clovis was an air cadet and learned to fly light aircraft. However, some sort of disagreement with a flight instructor caused Clovis to “wash out” of flight school and he ended up as a gunner/bombardier in the nose of a B-17 Flying Fortress, and he completed 25 missions over Germany. That is a remarkable feat.
   Clovis went from America to England in a group of 50 men. Of that 50, only Clovis and two others survived the war. Clovis has now outlived the other two.
   Clovis was called back to the service for Korea. He has always answered his country’s call.
   The first Mississippi governor who Clovis worked for was Gov. John Bell Williams. No kin to Clovis. He last worked for Gov. Kirk Fordice. Clovis worked for others in between, mostly regarding federal programs administered by the state. Clovis said he always tried to help people whenever he could. He made a lot of friends along the way.
   He is too funny. There is hardly anything Clovis cannot accomplish when he sets his mind to it. He is a very determined individual. Awhile back, we were passing by the Madison-Ridgeland Airport, and Clovis spotted a Navy trainer plane. He remarked, “I could teach you to fly that plane.”
   After that, Clovis got fixed on teaching me to fly and often spoke of it. He would say, “There is nothing to flying a plane, except landing one can be a little tricky.”
   Not long ago, they up and built a tall fence around the Madison-Ridgeland Airport, and Clovis was greatly upset because I guess he had planned for he and I just to one day stroll out and get in that Navy trainer and take off. He still mutters about that fence whenever we go by there.
   On Monday of this week when all the tornados were threatening, Clovis telephoned me from Sunnybrook Retirement Estates where he lives to tell me that all the residents had been “evacuated” from their rooms and required to sit in the hallways on the lower floor.
   Clovis was not happy about it.
   He had previously told me many times about how, when the Germans were dropping bombs on England when he was there, he never went to the bomb shelters. Clovis would just stay in his bunk in the barracks and sleep through the barrage — that is, unless he was in town. In town, Clovis would tell how the English ladies seemed to get more amorous when the bombs were falling!  
   While complaining to me about having to go to the lower hallway during the tornado threat, Clovis said regarding the lady residents with whom he was sharing the hallway, “I did not see any of them that I wanted to mess with.”
   Clovis did go on to allow that he might have a different view of things if they got “evacuated” again later in the evening when some of the ladies might likely be in their nightgowns.

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