The Mother Lode

I really got lucky this past week. Kirby Shofner, my step brother, asked me to come to his home in Little Rock to see if I’d like to take some items off his hands. It was everything from dad’s study.

When Orville Henry, my father, passed away 15 years ago, I really didn’t step in and ask for anything. Kirby was asked by his mother, my step mother, to clean out his study. I guess no one really asked her what would happen to that stuff. I sure didn’t. Not my place. I was gone from the home when my dad re-married years later after my mom’s illness. Kirby didn’t live in the home with my dad, either.

Kirby had boxes and boxes from my dad’s files. He kept all of the important letters he wrote, working with carbon paper for about 50 years. He had all the important letters he received, filed by persons names. You can probably imagine the kind of stuff he had from Arkansas head coaches of different sports. There are also personal letters from the likes of Darrell Royal, Bob Devaney, Doug Dickey, Hayden Fry, Eddie Sutton, Nolan Richardson. The list goes on and on. The letters date from the 1940s.

There are also important columns he had written, along with clips from other papers all filed by subject.

Among the things Kirby gave me were my dad’s Masters caps, brief case and clip files of his early days with the Arkansas Gazette when he was named sports editor at age 19. There is the original story with his mug when he was named SE. There is an introduction of my dad from Ben Epstien, the SE who left. It is literally amazing.

The real prize is something I’d never seen, a Bobblehead doll of my father. It says Big O on the base. It’s a little bigger than most. I didn’t know that anything like this exists. Maybe someone else has one, but I suspect it’s some kind of prototype. In talking about it, I’ve discovered that my dad was embarrassed by it and it was never displayed. It was hidden in his desk, but Kirby wound up with it. I’d never seen it. Maybe there are more, but I am not aware of them.

There is also something I didn’t know, my dad was an Eagle Scout. There is his Eagle Scout sash with all of the merit badges.

There is also a picture of him between two men when he was 18. He was working at the Gazette. He had taken six years of Spanish. The Travelers signed a Cuban catcher. The manager did not speak English. My dad was asked to come handle the translations. The paper ran a picture of him between them. My dad was 5-5, 120 pounds at the time. He looked tiny.

There is also a picture of the entire group of writers who covered the old Southern Association. It had to be taken in the mid-1950s. My dad looked like a junior high kid amongs these veteran writers, most of whom were in their 50s and 60s at the time. That had to quite the experience sitting in those press boxes. That was in the day when the writers traveled to cover the teams. He told me he had covered games for the Travs all across the south and was looking forward to the SEC days. You see this picture and the names of the men and their papers and it hits home.

I’ll ask Matt to put the picture of the OH Bobblehead on here sometime this afternoon.

The first thing that came to my mind was future stories Clay can write from his finds in the Mother Load. Congratulations Clay…I cannot imagine how big this is for you and your brothers. OH is a state treasure and having this history is just amazing.

So how long will it take you to arrange all these treasures into a book. I’m thinking this would actually be several volumes, in order to properly cover the 50+ years of your dad’s career.

Inquiring minds want to know…

I don’t know when I’d get to something like that. No doubt, it’s a retirement project. There are some real personal items that I probably will not ever share. I was surprised to find letters from politicians and it ranges from mayors to Presidents.

I believe the Bobblehead will be displayed in the south end zone of Reynolds Razorback Stadium. There is already an exhibit there with some things, like his typewriters, notebooks and computers.

I didn’t mention that there are many spiral notebooks in this latest batch of stuff. He saved his interviews. There are also some cassette tapes. Tiny little things. I don’t know that I have anything to play them, but I’m sure going to try to get something. I am not sure I can read my dad’s notes. He had his own form of short hand. Letters he wrote by hand are clear. But his notebooks from interviews – and there are many with head coaches in this batch – are different.

that is really awesome, what a joy it must have been to discover these treasures. I’m very happy for you clay.

Good for you, Clay! My dad started me reading your dad when I was a kid growing up in Pine Bluff. It was the gospel in our house. So happy for you that you have found those treasures…

I got cold chills reading your post, Clay. What a wonderful discovery that is! Not only will you enjoy going through all of your treasures, I’m sure that your girls and your other family will love it too.

That was what Kirby said to me Sunday, “Becca and Sarah should get this stuff and hand it down.” They were both excited when they saw it. Obviously, they have special memories of their “Grandpa O.”

Hopefully there will be a book about the greatest sports writer in Arkansas history that comes from this mother lode. i want one signed by the author, the next best sports writer in Arkansas history.

West is always kind in what he writes. He’s probably in a good mood after killing lots of ducks.

I will add my thanks to Kirby for doing this for you and your family! Very cool story, just hearing about you getting your hands such a bonanza! I could lose myself in something like that for weeks!!! I hope you get some free time to pour through it.

This stuff is priceless. Enjoy.

[quote=“ClayHenry”]

… The real prize is something I’d never seen, a Bobblehead doll of my father. It says Big O on the base. It’s a little bigger than most. I didn’t know that anything like this exists. Maybe someone else has one, but I suspect it’s some kind of prototype. In talking about it, I’ve discovered that my dad was embarrassed by it and it was never displayed. It was hidden in his desk, but Kirby wound up with it. I’d never seen it. Maybe there are more, but I am not aware of them. …

[/quote]Clay, I spoke to Nick Jones last night. I told him about your treasure. He told me a story about helping O.H. file his stories when they were both living in Malvern. He remembered the bobblehead, but said that it was behind O.H.'s computer in a pile of other stuff. That way it couldn’t be seen, at least not by O.H.

Absolutely fantastic.

Wonderful news. I can only imagine your joy receiving this treasure. I grew up
near Travlers Field 40’s and 50’s. Travlers of 51 won league title. Bigger than Yankees to a 10 year old boy. Of course loved your dads Monday state of the Razorback columns.

Clay, I grew up reading your dad’s articles. I would be thrilled to have that mother lode; I can only imagine what it means to you. Congratulations–and enjoy.

Clay, reading your post just gave me chills. As an only child, I reckon I inherited most of the stuff Dad would have left me already. But, there are some nuggets at Sylvan Hills High School that actually belong to the school that pertain to him. I can totally imagine how thrilled you must be feeling right now.

I am so happy for you.

Clay, that is a real blessing. Count yourself blessed. GHG!