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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

"Do you want a good news story?"

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I'm working at my desk when the phone rings.

"Do you want a good news story?" the voice on the other end asks.

"That's what I'm here for," I replied.

"Well, I live in Union, Arkansas, where that little tornado hit (in mid-May)," said the man, who identified himself as Robert Foster.

Foster described how the storm had damaged a couple of outbuildings and the roof of his house and, worst of all, lightning had knocked out his heat and air system.

"On top of all that, I had to go to the hospital with pneumonia," Foster explained. "They were taking me to Little Rock but, I got so bad, I only made it to Searcy, so they treated me at the hosptial there."

Interesting. But I didn't hear a news story yet.

"When I was in the hospital, my heating and air conditioning guy went to the house to check out the lightning damage," Foster added.

'Here we go,' I thought to myself. At this point, I expected the call to turn into a horror story about a theft from the home or paying for costly work that didn't fix the hvac system.

I'm more than a little used to hearing complaints and hard luck stories.

For years, I was the WAVE Troubleshooter. A Louisville, Kentucky television reporter who received complaints from people about companies that had ripped them off or done shoddy work and refused to make it right, or government agencies who ignored obvious community problems.

I would investigate and, in cases where evidence documented the complaint was valid, try to help the citizen get justice.

I guess that job has made me the suspicious type.

"So CSI Heating and Air Conditioning from Evening Shade came over to the house," Foster continued.

But, to my surprise, his call wasn't to make a complaint or seek an expose.

"Wayne Compton runs the company and he's a great guy," said Foster. "If I have a problem, I call Wayne. But, this time, he went above and beyond the call of duty."

While Foster was in the hospital, his wife, Jeanne, was holding down the damaged fort.

Part of that job involved going out to the dog pen to feed Foster's dogs.

Mrs. Foster wound her way through downed limbs to the barn, where she found the dog food. Then, as she left the barn, dog food in hand, she noticed it.

"It" was a three or four foot long SNAKE at her feet.

"There's a King snake that has lived out there in the back for quite a few years," said Foster.

"She (Jeanne) didn't know about it and, when she saw it, her dog feeding mission ended," Foster laughed.

Foster calls the King snake "his special snake." While they are big and scary looking, Foster says King snakes eat rodents and, best of all, other snakes.

"We've never had any poisonous snakes around here that I know of," said Foster. "So I don't want to hurt it (Mr. King snake) and I don't want anyone else hurting it."

In retrospect, Foster agrees maybe he should have mentioned to his wife the small fact that there was a big snake living out back, that she may one day encounter.

While she certainly was not about to go back to the dog pen, Mrs. Foster realized the dogs still had to eat.

So she asked Mike Compton if he would consider doing something "unairconditioning," and venture out to feed the dogs.

According to Foster, Compton wasn't crazy about the idea. Compton is no fan of snakes either, poisonous or otherwise.

But Compton eventually got his courage up and grabbed the dog food and headed for the dog pen.

Mr. Foster doesn't know whether he saw the snake or not, but the dogs got fed.

"So my air conditioning man not only fixed the air conditoning, he fed my dogs," said a grateful Foster.

As a younger man, Foster lived all over the United States, doing construction work.

In 1991, he came to the area to visit his brother and, liked it so much, he wound up staying.

One of the things Foster likes is, the people around here.

"They'll do about anything for you," said Foster.

People like Wayne Compton, who fixed his damaged air conditioner and ignored a "special snake" to feed the dogs.

I'll let Mr. Foster's call be a lesson to me and not expect the worst when I get a call from someone wanting to give me a news story.