I’m David Offutt, a student of and teacher of American history and western civilization. I am now retired and living in El Dorado, Arkansas, with my four cats.
I was interviewed twice for a Sunday newspaper column called Neighbors in the South Arkansas Sunday News. What follows is mostly an updated version of those interviews of 2001 and 2009.
Birthdate: In the tradition of Jack Benny, I celebrate my annual 39th birthday every December 29.
Why I write these essays – To provide historical and personal perspectives on current events
The one thing I’ve learned in life is AND my trademark cliché or expression is: “Offutt’s Law”: The more important it is for you to know something, the less likely it will be volunteered to you.
Occupation: I retired at the end of May 2014 after teaching at the Adult Education Center of SAU Tech in Camden, AR, for twenty years. Before that, I taught U.S. history and western civilization in various public school systems and in private college prep schools; I taught for nearly ten years in New Orleans at the Xavier University Preparatory High School, and I taught history in Ecuador two years each at the American School of Quito and the American School of Guayaquil . I taught honors U.S. history four years at Central High School in Helena-West Helena, AR, back when it was a thriving community. I also taught the honors U.S. history classes for two years at the high school in Wynne, AR. Overall, I taught history for nearly 21 years and taught practically everything in adult education for 20 years.
Family: Four cats – Tonka (12), Scout (8), Benny (10), and Cheyenne, a stray kitten that arrived in March 2015
Though I was proved wrong, I once said I’d never: Move back to El Dorado, AR. I returned in 1994 to keep an eye on my elderly father, who passed away in early 2001.
What kind of car do you drive? 2000 Nissan Quest minivan which I use on camping trips; 1986 Pontiac Grand Prix (In 2011 it became an antique; and, for the umpteenth time, no, I do not want to sell it).
My favorite presidents are/were: The Great American Triumvirate – George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt
My least favorite presidents are/were: The Three Nixonians or the Diabolical Trio – Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush
My favorite kind of music is: New Age, folk, classical, and some movie themes and soundtracks
What most people don’t know about me is: I have visited all fifty states in the union. My American history students used to say that there was nothing they could study that I couldn’t show them. I provided slide shows of our classroom topics.
If I had time, I would write a book about: My four years living and teaching in Ecuador
My favorite author is: John Steinbeck
You will never catch me wearing: a necktie if there is any way to avoid it.
My teenage idol was: actress Hayley Mills of Pollyanna, The Parent Trap, Whistle Down the Wind, The Chalk Garden, and The Family Way
My all-time favorite television show is: Route 66 with George Maharis and Martin Milner
My favorite comedian is: Jon Stewart when he was on The Daily Show
My hobbies are: canoeing, camping, traveling, photography, watching/collecting movies, and writing
My favorite performer is: the late Gregory Peck; he portrayed wonderful characters in such films as The Purple Plain, Twelve O’Clock High, On the Beach, The Big Country, and To Kill a Mockingbird .
My all-time favorite movies are: To Kill a Mockingbird and Judgment at Nuremburg
My heroes are: All gone now. As Angela Lansbury said in Something for Everyone, all that are left are mere facsimiles, if even that. I do concur with the American Film Institute’s choice of the number one screen hero of all time: Atticus Finch as played by Gregory Peck. Peck was a strong proponent of liberal causes and was listed among Nixon’s “Enemies List.”
The four guests at my fantasy dinner party would be: producer/director Stanley Kramer, journalist Bill Moyers, singer Pete Seeger, and historian Howard Zinn [my real fantasy dinner would include Tarzan, Peter Pan, Bugs Bunny, and Huckleberry Finn] (my original answer was Steve Allen, philosopher Mortimer Adler, filmmaker Stanley Kramer, and Thomas Jefferson)
My favorite restaurants are: The House of Wylie’s and Fayray’s (each in El Dorado, AR) and Brave New Restaurant (Little Rock)
My favorite junk food is: cocktail peanuts
If there’s one thing I won’t do, it’s: Go bungee jumping or jumping out of a perfectly good airplane
My pet peeve is: Litter bugs and slow drivers
My best asset is: I work hard and do the best I can
I absolutely will not eat: Pickled pigs feet ( My dad used to stink up the house cooking them)
A movie I walked out of was: I Know What You Did Last Summer ( I wanted to walk out on G. I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, but I was stuck with a friend who thought it was a great movie!
My mother/father would say I’m: Spoiled (Original answer: Very efficient—that was one of the last things my father said to me)
Books I’ve read or re-read in 2016: The Nick Adams Stories by Ernest Hemingway (1972); My Two Wars by Moritz Thomsen (1996); The Paranoid Style in American Politics by Richard Hofstadter (1964); It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis (1936); The Quotable Intellectual by Peter Archer (2010); Mr. New Orleans: The life of a Big Easy Underworld Legend by Frenchy Brouillette and Matthew Randazzo V (2009); Eight is Enough by Tom Braden (1975); A Nation of Immigrants by John F. Kennedy (2004); Mission Accomplished, or How We Won the War in Iraq by Christopher Cerf and Victor S. Navasky (2008) – the title is facetious; The Trouble I’ve Seen by Martha Gellhorn (1936); A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway (The Restored Edition by Sean Hemingway); Night by Elie Wiesel (1958); Hemingway – A Life in Pictures by Boris Vejdovsky with Mariel Hemingway (2011); The Imperial Way – By Rail from Peshawar to Chittagong by Paul Theroux and Steve McCurry (1985); Looking for Votes in All the Wrong Places by Rick Ridder (2016)
Books I’ve read or re-read in 2017: It Can Happen Here – Authoritarian Peril in the Age of Bush by Joe Conason (2007); The Gilded Age – A Tale of Today by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner (1873)