On the 125th anniversary of my college alma mater – Ouachita Baptist Univeristy – bloggers have been asked to write about their favorite faculty or staff member. Many things in life are hard, but this one’s easy.
I always knew one day a man would come and quote The War Song of Dinas Vawr. The quoter of Thomas Love Peacock’s classic was me. The seer who held out hope that such a man would one day come was Dr. Johnny Wink, the most beautifully strange professor I befriended during my days at OBU.
I was a science major, convinced a career in medicine lay in waiting for me. As such, my course-load was full of words like organic and quantitative and others with ology endings. Alas, I spent much too much time in the old Moses-Provine science buildling instead of gathering rosebuds while I might. But my junior year offered some elective-reprieve, a chance to choose a few classes removed from atomic charts and laboratory cologne. I chose an English elective led by Dr. Wink. I did not know him, but I knew of him based on the opinion of others: Well, he’s sorta strange.
One of our early assignments was reciting a piece of poetry. I chose Peacock because it sounded rich and lusty, two words not usually associated with being Baptist. I loved learning the lines, breathing the rhythm and rhyme:On Dyfed’s richest valley, Where herds of kine were browsing, We made a mighty sally, To furnish our carousing. Fierce warriors rushed to meet us; We met them, and o’erthrew them: They struggled hard to beat us; But we conquered them, and slew them.
I showed up in Dr. Wink’s office to offer my barBaptist yawp and he looked me square in the eyes and said I always knew one day a man would come and quote The War Song of Dinas Vawr. Little did he know but those words held the power of prophecy, for I later opted out of medicine, leaving it to my more organized companions, and I now find myself a writer and poet, carousing with words and paragraphs, fiercely sallying to string together thoughts and imagery. Dr. Wink opened up a world of dead poets and living fictioneers, classic penman and outlaw scribes, bards and psalmists. His singular passion for poetry, beauty, and romance was not only contagious, but infective.
So thank you, Dr. Johnny Wink, wild beautiful provocateur in Dyfed’s richest valley. Your educare in that graceful room near the slow waters of the Caddo was both rich and lusty, there
where the wine and beasts were ours for taking and a life well lived I started a’making.