The story of the June 14, 1986, croquet match played by former Arkansas Attorney General Steve Clark was so memorable to me I did not bother to check the facts when I summarized it last week. I had documents, I kept them in a file — a real manila paper folder, not an icon on a computer screen, so you know they’re true.
The folder has photocopies of my own write-up, now online. The humor column ran on the Voices, or op-ed, page of the Arkansas Democrat (no hyphen), Page 9C, a couple of weeks after the event. It mentions Tom Rystrom, about whom I forgot, and that needs correcting. I wrote the U.S. Croquet Association about the forming in spring 1986 of the Democrat’s croquet team Mallets Aforethought. The reply mentioned Tom and his Little Rock Croquet Club. Its members were young businessmen like Tom. Rystrom at the time was in real estate — leasing agent? — and while months later he left Little Rock, he and I organized the Arkansas Sesquicentennial croquet setup.
Next in the file are press releases. Tom’s and my role in planning is documented in a May 26, 1986, release from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. The purpose of the statement was to encourage people to sign up to play. The Democrat, the Arkansas Gazette, even the alt-weekly Spectrum ran info from the piece, in a variety of spots, but on the day just the two clubs and the state VIPs showed up.
The most incriminating document I’ve kept is a photograph of the state’s team. It is as factual as my story of how the game played out was not — a guest column. I made up how the game went, because otherwise the piece would be as dull as explaining badminton. Some games are better played than read.
From the picture I have to admit that Tom looked perfect, as proper croquet nowadays is more of a resort or country club activity. Neither club planned for the state workers donning 1920s’ garb so Tom’s people came in weekend casual. Mallets Aforethought showed up in our uniforms: jeans or shorts, our logo caps and loudest-available Hawaiian shirts. I have no idea why we’re not in the picture.
A June 19, 1986, Parks press release states that the team of state Treasurer Jimmie Lou Fisher and Clark defeated Department of Heritage Director Kay Arnold and Finance and Administration Director Mahlon Martin. The release goes on to say that Rystrom and his partner, Dr. E. Vester Wolber, defeated Randy Lilleston, Sarah Snyder, C.W. Browning and myself.
I’d like to remember it differently, but facts are facts, and the ones I made up for a column 22 years ago have hardened into something. –30–