Nelson: Air conditioning is important in Little Rock

Farm Forum

Step out of a Little Rock hotel at midday at the end of July and your glasses instantly become a wall of fog. Little Rockers (Rockites?) truly love their air conditioning, setting their thermostats at levels often associated with ice cream manufacturing.

A sprinkle of rain falls as you stroll the scorching sidewalk and you feel as though you are in a small room with an old Swede who is muttering something indecipherable as he drizzles water onto superheated stones.

It should come as no surprise that a certain power couple have left a big mark on Little Rock, Arkansas. Your first clue is when you walk off the plane and into Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.

My wife and I recently visited Little Rock on book tour business. As always, we opted to combine a little pleasure with our business, by which I mean sightseeing.

Hydration is key to enduring the subtropical environs of Little Rock. As we ambled the streets, we often stopped to rehydrate in climate-controlled establishments that featured water-based barley products. It would take a minute to acclimate to the inside air which was chilled to the point where a guy could almost see his breath.

One such establishment featured a hand-painted wall sign that said “As far as we know, Bill Clinton never slept here.” OK, then!

We asked locals if there was anything we absolutely should not miss while we were in Little Rock and many recommended the William J. Clinton Library and Museum. The museum sits on the banks of the Arkansas River, at 1200 President Clinton Avenue. Too bad they couldn’t have moved it a bit and made the address 1600.

We visit presidential museums whenever possible. We went through the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum where we learned that Abe was both honest and tall. And we visited the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum where we discovered, thanks to the numerous love letters he sent, that Harry really had the hots for Bess. I bet Harry wishes he had Snapchat.

The Clinton Library and Museum was designed to resemble a bridge. This seems to be huge waste of resources as there’s a perfectly good abandoned railroad bridge nearby that probably could have been repurposed into a museum. But that’s just the practical farmer in me talking.

It was fun to wander the gleaming expanse of exhibits and review historical events that, historically speaking, took place when my wife and I were around to experience them. Seeing your past in a museum is always somewhat jarring.

I’m interested in how the sausage was made, to see what happened behind the curtain. It was like finding a peephole into history when I read handwritten notes from a Clinton staffer that said in part, “For God’s sakes don’t heighten the alienation!” Wise words for almost any situation.

We were meandering the museum when one of its volunteer guides approached us. “I understand that you’re from South Dakota,” he said. We replied that we were and he said, “So am I!”

He introduced himself as Dennis Hackbart and told us that he had grown up in the South Shore area. We chatted for a pleasant while and discovered that we knew some people in common. What are the odds that we would journey 1,200 miles just to bump into somebody from home? Not only was Dennis a very nice guy, he also a decent docent.

My wife maintains that it’s a violation of federal law to visit a museum without buying something at its gift shop. I’ve heard this so many times, I’m actually beginning to believe it.

We browsed the gift shop and found several items that we didn’t know existed up until that moment and simply could not live without. My wife struck up a conversation with the sales clerk. Her name was Connie Fails and she is the museum store manager. My wife asked Connie if she is acquainted with a particular power couple.

“I’ve been friends with the Clintons for 39 years,” said Connie, “I designed Hillary’s clothes when she was first lady.”

“Of Arkansas? Or of the United States?” asked my wife, who is fascinated by fashion.

“Both,” replied Connie.

Angling for a glimpse behind the curtain, I asked Connie what the Clintons are really like.

“They are very good friends of mine,” was all she would reveal.

The museum features a replica of the Oval Office. “We would make a great power couple!” I said to my wife as I admired the room, adding, “This office is much smaller than I imagined.”

“That’s because your head has gotten so big,” she replied. “But at least it’s nice and cool in here.”

If you’d like to contact Jerry Nelson to do some public speaking, or just to register your comments, you can email him at His new book, “Dear County Agent Guy,” is available at and at booksellers everywhere.