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FOR A MOMENT, A ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME DIVE SEEMED THE LAST-OF-A-LIFETIME
Grady James Robinson
June 18, 1979
I peered down through the willow leaves into the white and green water of Jackass Junction, concentrating, psyching myself, gaining courage to execute a dive that no other sane human would dare attempt. This performance, I was convinced, would live forever in the minds of those who watched. I was known all over Sebastian County as the wildest tree diver ever to launch from a swaying limb.
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June 18, 1979

For A Moment, A Once-in-a-lifetime Dive Seemed The Last-of-a-lifetime

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I peered down through the willow leaves into the white and green water of Jackass Junction, concentrating, psyching myself, gaining courage to execute a dive that no other sane human would dare attempt. This performance, I was convinced, would live forever in the minds of those who watched. I was known all over Sebastian County as the wildest tree diver ever to launch from a swaying limb.

My toes ached from gripping the willow branches between them. My lilywhite, bare bottom flashed brazenly through the trees at passing motorists on Highway 10, only 300 yards away.

"Do it!" they screamed from below.

"I'm goin', I'm goin'," I said. I had to. It was too late to back out. You didn't climb down the willow tree.

Most of the guys had already performed their top vote-getting dives. Each in turn had climbed the tree, verbally described to all present their own personal dive—and jumped. But this would be my alltime best, the once in a lifetime: a forward-flip-catch-a-Snicker-in-midair (thrown from the creek bank at the precise moment)-and-eat-it-before-you-hit-the-water dive. A feat to shame all other attempts, the World Series of belly whoppers.

It all started in May of 1957, these daily treks to the best swimming hole around Greenwood, Ark. We rode old fenderless bicycles out to the second bridge on Highway 10. Usually the whole gang showed up, and just about everybody rode a bicycle. Everybody, that is, except Wayland T. Jackson. He never rode a bicycle. He usually just appeared out of the bushes, or someone would spot him wading from upstream or crawling through the thick brush along the banks. We'd be swimming or playing chase when all of a sudden there would be Wayland T. with that strange look on his face. His family had moved into town from a far-off region—Louisiana or somewhere. He never said much and never joined in the races or the diving contests. He was very skinny and had olive-green skin and slanted brown eyes. Everyone thought Wayland T. was a little strange. One day he brought a snake to school. That did it: everyone knew then that Wayland T. had not been blessed with a full deck. Any sane, normal, red-blooded American was deathly afraid of snakes, especially cottonmouth water moccasins.

During the summer, the intrusion of a cottonmouth was the only thing that could separate us from the cool waters of Jackass Junction. An Arkansas thunderstorm couldn't budge us, even the kind that rolled in from southwest Oklahoma, spewing lightning bolts like buckshot. Nor could a tornado approaching from over Backbone Mountain or the blessed news of an unprotected watermelon patch make us move. Only one thing, one obscene word—snake—could empty the water in an instant.

But now I was ready to dive. "O.K.," I yelled at Billy Joe, my designated Snicker thrower, "don't throw until after I come out of the flip, you hear? After!"

"Yeah, got it," he replied. "You ready?"

"No, for God's sake, no." I whispered, but they couldn't hear me.

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