HE IS REMEMBERED as a teacher, an author, a lecturer, a Baptist and an outstanding citizen of Nacogdoches—among other things. But when I think of Dr. Archie P.McDonald, who died Aug. 16 at 76, I think of his excellence as a writer.
Published on this page of The Mirror’s Aug. 22 edition was a tribute written by Dr. Francis E. Abernethy, a colleague during Dr. McDonald’s 48-year tenure on the faculty of Stephen F, Austin State University.
And Archie left behind a number of columns that will continue to be a Mirror feature in coming weeks.
I have been re-reading the book, Back Then Again: More Simple Pleasures and Everyday Heroes, a collection of short McDonald essays published by the SFASU Press in 2010.
THESE WERE transcriptions of talks he gave each week on the Shreveport public radio station, KDAQ.
Though not morbid in tone, one of these short pieces apparently reflected his mood as the days dwindled down.
Titled Lay-By Time, the talk began with a reminiscence of the boy Archie’s summer visits to an uncle’s farm in Missouri, where he learned that urbanites have their vacations and some holidays, but “they miss out on one delicious season that farmers enjoy.” And that was lay-by time.
Here is part of the rest:
“Lay-by time comes when the crops have all been planted and cultivated to the point that additional tinkering with them would be detrimental. . .
“Farmers still have livestock to feed, fences to clean or med, and other duties that have had to wait because of urgent attention required during ground-breaking, planting, and cultivating times. But there is also time for leisure, to drive the end-rows and look out over the fields while nature works its annual miracle of transforming tiny seeds into a bounteous yield. Time to just be quiet, and still, and rest before the intensity of the harvest,
“You had to plan that harvest, make sure sufficient labor would be on hand because there is a limited span between the time crops are ready and too mature for maximum market yield, before weather or some fool reason beyond your control lessens the quality or quantity or price. But that is tomorrow—now, we are in lay-by time, an August time.
“Much of this is metaphor for folks far removed from their agricultural beginnings. For me, in fact.
“My crops are mostly laid by now. Looking across the field of life from the end-rows, I have planted my trees, taken a wife, and given the world some sons.
“Classrooms and offices became my farm, and from them have come thousands of students and many thousands of words, scattered through books and newspapers.Plaques and certificates clutter the walls, testimony to recognition far beyond what someone like me deserves. And I ask myself many questions.
“Here am I, laid-by, and anxious over the shortening days of September.”
THE MIRROR is privileged to be one of the newspapers where Archie’s words have been available to readers.