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I caught a glimpse of her from the corner of my eye as Baxter took me for a walk around the Bentonville square. I liked her instantly -- a little girl, about 4 years old, with a mop of long brown hair that she hastily wiped from her sweaty cheeks. She was dressed in nothing but an electric blue swimsuit and red cowboy boots. Her eyes locked on Baxter.

In a drawl thicker than I'm used to hearing outside of the Arkansas Delta, she looked toward me and hollered, "Can I pet your dawwwg?"

Bax sighed, and in a voice heard only by me, he said, "You know how I feel about the diminutive variety of your species. All the squealing and pulling of my ears and tiny fingers that tangle my mane -- why, it's hardly dignified for someone of my stature. However, this one does seem intriguing in a Jerry-Springer-Hello-Kitty kind of way. I will allow you to draw near."

"I think we can do that," I replied with a smile, as we walked toward her.

She looked Baxter over, as though she was sizing him up, just as he had sized her up. She placed her hand gently on his back and gave him a scratch all the way to his tail. Bax leaned into her with approval.

"I dressed myself," she announced.

"You don't say," I countered, trying to stifle a chuckle. "I like it."

She nodded emphatically one time like the old men in the fields back home do when they're told supper is on. She then rocked back on the heels of her boots, bid us a goodbye, and walked methodically along the concrete seating like it was a balance beam. She was her own theater, and we were allowed entrance for a brief moment.

Ah, summertime can be a magical spell, especially if you're allowed to marinate unplugged in the full glory of its splendor. It's a world filled with lightning bugs, tree swings, screen doors, afternoon rain, ice cream and bicycles. It's learning to spit watermelon seeds -- back when all watermelons had seeds -- running barefoot in cool grass, dangling your feet in the creek, finding faces in cloud formations and laughing like conspirators. And it's best savored by those still liberated from societal norms, before one is socialized on how to "properly" dress and act a certain way, before one is called upon to be an adult.

Oh, how much we adults miss by trying to conform to worldly standards. When was the last time you wore all your favorites at once -- your favorite yellow socks with your favorite floral pants and your favorite blue plaid flannel shirt? I'm guessing it was before your Aunt Edna tried to confer a sense of style on you, when you still smelled of fried bologna sandwiches and Mr. Bubble bath soap.

Well, I'm inspired. My red cowboy boots are by the door. Oscar Meyer is on my shopping list. I might even tug on Bax's ears.

Bax reserves time for rebuttal.

NAN Our Town on 06/20/2019

Print Headline: In the good ol' summertime, seek simplicity

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