THE RECENT death notice of Robert James Waller, author of the novel, "Bridges of Madison County" brought back memories of the excitement it caused in Barnesville, Belmont County when it was first released.

The reason for the excitement was that one of the two main characters, Robert Kinkaid, was portrayed as a native of Barnesville, Ohio, Belmont County, where he and his parents lived on Franklin Street and he attended Barnesville schools. Although Kincaid was strictly a fictional character, many of us here wondered how and why Waller used this reference. Many speculated on possible connections with the authoer.

"BRIDGES" WAS panned by all the critics, but its readers loved it and it became No. 1 on the New York Times Best Seller List and remained on it for more than three years. It also became a movie starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep.

BEFORE WALLER'S fame was established, I was able to get him on the pone and had a great phone visit. He as still in Cedar Falls teaching in a college there. He explained how Barnesville, Ohio was chosen as the hometown for his fictional character. He said he just blindly put his finder on an Ohio map and it landed on Barnesville. He was surprised to learn there was a Franklin Street here. He added that he had spent some time at Battelle Institute in Columbus, so that must have been the reason for his having an Ohio map. After reading Waller's obituary in the paper, I understand what must have taken him to Battelle.

SPRING ARRIVED officially last week and April arrives this Saturday. This month is noted for April showers, but we hope Mother Nature will go easy on us because she has been too generous and we need some time to dry out so farmers and home gardeners can get their spring planting done. That first day is also known as April Fools Day when everyone can play jokes and have fun. The one person I know who relishes playing jokes on this day is Sally Neal. We'd better be careful or we'll be the butt of Sally's jokes.

jeanealities is compiled by Jean Palmer Davies, lifetime Barnesville Enterprise associate. She may be reached at