In my column on the Voices page of today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, I write about a new book from Stan Parris.
I know most Arkansans will enjoy it since most Arkansans have their own Walmart stories.
When Stan retired as a full-time Baptist minister in Arkadelphia in November 2016, he told his wife he would like to take on the responsibility of grocery shopping.
"I also told her I would start cooking breakfast for us every morning," Stan says. "Cooking breakfast turned out to be the easier of the two."
Stan went to Walmart to shop and then posted on Facebook about his experiences. Those posts gained a following and have now been collected in a book titled "Just Unfriend Me .... Or Not." Anyone who has ever spent time walking the aisles of a Walmart store can relate to what Stan has written.
"I had gone shopping with her for years, mainly to do the heavy lifting, the reaching for items on the top shelf and the unloading of groceries into and out of our truck," he says. "My first solo trip to Walmart was a life-changer in that it motivated me to sit down and write some of my shopping frustrations. Each trip to Walmart provided another interesting experience, and those weekly writings became kind of popular as I posted them on Facebook under the title Walmart Words.
"The first 37 chapters of this book, with minor edits, were posted consecutively on Facebook from March 1, 2019, to Feb. 20, 2020. As my friends read those posts, they most definitely identified with my shopping frustrations and observations, and they also encouraged me to keep writing. So I did. Some of my friends suggested that I needed to compile these writings into a book. After writing about my shopping experiences for almost a year, I had a desire to write about other experiences .... life experiences."
Stan ended his full-time ministry in the town where he had starred in football at what's now Henderson State University, serving as pastor of Arkadelphia's Second Baptist Church until retirement. A fellow Henderson graduate, El Dorado native Dennis Byrd, went on to become one of Arkansas' most prominent journalists.
"When I began taking notice of the writing ability of Stan Parris, I probably was at least three deep into his Walmart Words postings on Facebook," Dennis writes in his foreword to the book. "That's when I knew it wasn't a fluke or lucky happenstance that made his postings both funny and readable. He has a way with words I thought as I read the newest installment."
Books are available online at www.pardpublishing.com. Book-signing events have been held in Stan's hometown of Hope and at Texarkana, where his son Kenneth owns the Old Tyme Burger Shoppe.
"I became a little concerned when friends began calling me the Walmart Man or Walmart Stan," Stan says of the period when he was making Facebook posts. "I began to ask myself if I really wanted Walmart stories to be my legacy.
"The final straw occurred one Sunday morning as I was preaching in a small church. An elderly lady walked down the center aisle during the closing hymn to tell me that she had to leave a little early, but she did not want to leave without telling me how much she enjoyed my Walmart stories. She didn't even mention the sermon I had just preached."