Archive for April, 2019

Burger Barn

After viewing Haw Creek Falls and then spending an inordinate amount of effort trying to get a decent selfie of the two of us in front of it/them(?), and being quite hungry, we sped off to the Burger Barn in Ozone. By this time, it was probably after 3:00 PM, and we wondered if they’d still be serving lunch. Aren’t smartphones a wonderful thing? While Scott followed Siri’s directions, I called the Burger Barn, but sadly that number had been disconnected or was no longer in service. Although I did not feel I had reached that recording in error, I tried again for good measure and got the same result. Not to worry; if the Burger Barn was closed, we’d just stop at some other restaurant in Ozone.

We were approaching Ozone on Highway 21 from the south, and I will say that there wasn’t really a great deal to see. Some readers may be familiar with the approach to Walnut Shade, and I’d say the two are comparable. There was an official green highway sign that said “Ozone,” but with no population given I had to assume it’s an unincorporated area. We tooled along for about a mile, looking for the Burger Barn and passing fields with cows (I guess those would be considered “pastures”), small houses with chickens about, a couple buildings that looked like they may have housed small businesses at some point, and the Ozone post office sporting its handicapped spot. [Note that this is not my picture; I pulled it off the internet and the only information I could find about it was that it was taken in 2017.]

Continuing slowly along, we passed through what seemed to be Ozone proper and appeared to be heading out of town when, rounding a curve to the left, we saw it at last: the Burger Barn! We had arrived at what turned out to be the only restaurant in Ozone, Arkansas.

This was not exactly what we had expected, but given how hungry we were, considering how good all the reviews in the guest book had been, and being determined to experience as much local culture as possible on our trip, we pulled in. A friendly, somewhat scruffy-looking, bearded and pony-tailed twenty-something greeted us at the window, motioned toward the handwritten menu on the marker board in the window to our right, and asked what we’d like. Cheeseburgers were $7.00, and cheeseburgers with fries were $8.00, so we went all out and each got our own order of fries. Good thing we’d brought cash; a hand-scrawled sign read, “NO Debit or CREDIT CARDS, Local Checks Only.” The man seated at the window said he’d get those cooking, and we wandered around the place while we waited.

Another guy of similar vintage and dress asked the chef something about certain cleaning supplies, and we later learned that he was on a motorcycle journey from Georgia to Colorado and had stopped in Ozone, Arkansas for a while. Interesting. I think he was earning his keep at the Burger Barn compound by doing some clean-up chores…

It was clear that eating at the Burger Barn would be a journal-worthy experience, so I took some pictures while we stood around discussing the environs and trying to figure out the history of the place. As the only customers in the mid-afternoon, we could have our choice of eating inside…

or outside.

We opted for the dining “room,” but future diners should be warned about that far picnic table. I sat down on one end of the bench and the whole thing went flying up, à la seesaw!

Cats featured prominently throughout our getaway; our guest house had at least five outdoor cats, including one who was pregnant and liked to sit behind me on the patio chair when I was reading or writing; they were fun to watch. One got into the Durango as we were loading up, and another one – or maybe the same one – spent some time one morning on top of the Durango. There were also cats hanging around the Oark General Store, a place one should NOT bother visiting even though it does claim to be the oldest continually-operated store in Arkansas (since 1890).

Scott on the porch of the Oark General Store and Café

The staff there were rude, the service was terrible, the price was high, and Scott’s shake was no good. In fact, the only two worthy things about the Oark General Store were the really neat (probably original) wooden floors and this sign.

But back to the Burger Barn and cats. There were several, including this one who played hide and seek with this chicken… after we’d chased the chicken off our table!

The “grounds” of the Burger Barn were interesting: a tiny house, two trailers (one temporary, one semi-permanent?), several portable outbuildings, a fountain that wasn’t running, a defunct basketball goal, what appeared to be a covered hot tub, children’s yard toys, a porta-potty, a satellite dish, and a finer assortment of miscellaneous stuff sitting around, seemingly wherever it had been dropped.

In about 15 minutes, our host called out the window that our food was ready, and when we picked it up, he said that he’d given us some tots because he’d run out of fries. It all smelled wonderful. A wide variety of condiments were available on our covered table, and the food was quite good and filling, although I did briefly wonder if the health department even knew the place existed… In any case, the weather was absolutely gorgeous, Scott and I were outside together, and we got to enjoy a tasty meal in what can only be described as very unique surroundings. (And yes, I realize that’s redundant.)

We were very happy campers, and I can wholeheartedly recommend the Burger Barn in Ozone. Everyone really should eat there once. And have their picture taken in the rocker. = )

Haw Creek Falls

In thumbing through the guest book at Panther Cabin, several things were mentioned repeatedly by numerous guests. Unfortunately, I realized I wouldn’t be able to navigate the two-mile round trip (downhill and back up) hike to the much-acclaimed Glory Hole Falls, but having definitively conquered the fire tower and its accompanying Jiffy Lube precursor, we pressed on to Haw Creek Falls. It was early afternoon, we hadn’t packed a picnic lunch because we were planning lunch out at a special location, and Scott was quite hungry and munching on trail mix as we tooled along.

We did eventually come out – that is, off the dirt road onto pavement – and in less than five miles arrived at our next scenic destination: Haw Creek Falls Recreation Area. This is the one that claimed an “accessible trail to the falls,” which would surely be just the ticket for me.

I will add here that virtually all our goings-on during this trip occurred within the Ozark National Forest, a massive swath of primarily forested hills covering much of northwest Arkansas. Wikipedia informs me that “… the Ozark National Forest was created by proclamation of President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 to preserve 917,944 acres (3,714.79 km2) across five Arkansas counties,” including our long-time favorite, Newton County. I’ve decided that I really like the Ozark National Forest. Its recreational areas, sites, and trails are not as heavily used those of state parks; its minimal signage, while making some trail heads difficult or impossible to find, lets me enjoy the natural beauty more; and in each of my multiple visits to several of its vault toilets, I found them all to be clean, not foul-smelling, and well-stocked with T.P. What’s not to like?

Arriving at Haw Creek Falls Recreational Area, we (in the Durango) forded a low water crossing, parked and could see from our parking place that the “accessible trail to the falls” was actually about a thirty foot-long flat gravel path, and the falls themselves actually weren’t very high.

But they were definitely unique, with water flowing over in two criss-crossed directions at the same time.

I took  several pictures of the falls, and Scott worked hard – and we laughed a lot – trying to take selfies of the two of us with the falls in the background. (I plan to update this post with some of those pictures from his phone when I get them.

All in all, it was a delightful stop before hunger drove us on to the Burger Barn.

Finding Jiffy Lube (continued)

I frequently have a hard time letting go of things (thoughts, worries, and ideas, as well as actual, physical stuff) when I can’t achieve a level of closure, and I kept thinking about that abandoned tower and those puzzling foundations. “You know, Scott, what would be great would be if we could somehow find someone who knows the local history and could tell us about the tower and what the heck those foundations were for.” I don’t recall his response because I was busy inhaling the deep beauty of the drive, what with the redbuds in bloom and the dogwoods just on the verge of flowering and sunlight filtering through that special “new spring growth” shade of light green new that so refreshes my soul. Ah!

Up ahead, an older man crossed the road left-to-right in front of us. I think he was carrying a shovel or a rake or something. In the past decade or so, I’ve overcome my embarrassment of looking like a fool when I want to know something, so I asked Scott to slow down from our rip-roaring 15 mph, and I leaned out the window toward the man. It was an absolutely picture perfect, sunny spring day, about 70 degrees with almost no breeze. I said “Hi” and “How are you today?” and he replied that he’d been better but he guessed he was okay. I commented that he must be a rebel [his hat said REBEL], and that we were out on a joy ride and had driven up to that tower back there [pointing], and he nodded knowingly.

“I’m wondering if you know anything about that tower – I assume it’s a fire tower? – [he nodded] and the foundations of some kind of buildings we saw up there. There were some really weird walls and things that my husband said [here I laughed ashamedly] look like an oil change pit!!!”

“It is an oil change pit!”

“You’re kidding me!”

“No, that’s really what it is.”

Now I’ve known some older men—and some not-so-old-men—who have delighted in telling me crazy stories that I’ve been naïve enough to believe. I couldn’t tell if this man was stringing me along or not.

“You’re pulling my leg!”

[shaking his head and grinning slightly] “No. There used to be a house up there, a really big house. And the family that lived there had some kids that I rode the school bus with. The bus came over the mountain and picked up those kids—”

“You mean up by the tower?!? Up that road?!?”

“Oh, yes! The bus went up over the mountain, up that road and got those kids. Then it came down and [motioning the direction we were headed] picked up my wife down in the little red house, then came back around and didn’t go over the mountain, but went back out and picked up one other boy just this side of Salus [“SAY-luss”]. I rode that bus. And yes, we went up and down that road to the tower every day. And you should’ve seen that bus making that trip in the winter in the snow!!!”


“Yes. See, the family that lived there, the man, he was the fire spotter, and he went up in that tower at a certain time every morning and stayed there till a certain time in the evening, to look for fires. That was his job—“

“Kind of like a lighthouse keeper?”

“Yeah, I’ve been up there many times when he was up there. And his kids rode the bus to school. They had a really nice big house, and that was their oil change pit. For real.”

“Wow… the foundation was so big, we thought maybe it was some kind of business or hotel or something.”

“No, it was a house, just one family, and when they closed the tower, then they left.”

“I have better manners than to ask how old you are, but—”

“I’m seventy.”

“… so… it’s been a while since you rode that school bus.”

“Yes, it has.”

“Do you know what happened to the tower? When they closed it?”

“Well, it was about in the 70s. They used to have fire towers everywhere, but then they brought in planes and they started closing the towers. It was in the 50s and 60s that they lived there and I rode the bus up that road. They left this tower after it was closed, but a lot of them they took out. They used helicopters to carry them out. They disconnected them from the ground and then lifted them out with helicopters!”

Wow. His was the most amazing story, and he was glad to share it with us. We thanked him and headed on our way. Since he lives on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, I’m guessing not too many people have asked him about that tower lately, but I was so thrilled to hear that history. There’s nothing quite like a living, breathing primary source, and we were surely blessed with a wonderful one on April 10, 2019 on the side of Johnson County Road 5598.

Who’da thunk? It really was an oil change pit.  = )

Finding Jiffy Lube

Scott and I are enjoying a mini-vacation at a cabin deep in the woods of Johnson County, AR, and yesterday we decided to take a little road trip in search of a hiking trail that a previous guest at Panther Cabin had mentioned in the guest book. “We didn’t get to do as much hiking as I would have liked, but I would definitely recommend Pam’s Grotto. Details are below… Access is off Hwy. 123 about ½ mile from Haw Creek Falls Recreation Area. The trail head is not marked but can be found. The hike is ~1/2 mile one-way and starts moderate but ends with a short stretch that is STRENUOUS. The reward is a waterfall & pool (small) with a large shelf cave. Good luck!”

So our immediate goal was to get from where we were, out on a logging road about three miles northwest of Ozone, to the Haw Creek Falls Recreation Area, which we were able to locate on our trusty Arkansas highway map. As it turns out, it would have been most helpful to have had a Johnson County map that shows all the little dirt back roads, but alas, the only county maps we own (Taney County, MO and Newton County, AR) are currently at home in our map bin in the playroom.

A brochure in our cabin indicated that Haw Creek Falls campground had an “accessible” trail to the falls, so we thought we’d head there first, then maybe locate the trail head that “is not marked but can be found,” and possibly hike to Pam’s Grotto before eating a late lunch at the (highly recommended) Burger Barn in Ozone.

Scott drove, which is always the best option on country roads. He is better at navigating them than I am, and it leaves me free to ooh, ah, point, enjoy, and commentate. According to the Arkansas highway map, we’d need to take Highway 21 north to Salus (a town whose name we didn’t know how to pronounce), then spend some eight to ten miles on a road that was gray and unnumbered. We like exploring those kinds of roads, and with Scott driving and ¾ of a tank of gas, I was merrily unconcerned.

It was a fairly rugged dirt road (think rocks, ruts, and 15 mph), and maybe two miles in, I spied, very high up in front of us, a TOWER! It looked like a fire tower; you know, one of those with lots of flights of steps zig-zagging to a little covered deck at the top? Oh, how exciting! While dozens of steps don’t do anything in particular for me, I have known Scott to be compelled to explore such structures, sometimes even climbing past warning signs… Anyway, I saw the tower, and the road was definitely climbing, but somehow I lost sight of it, and when we seemed to be up on a relative flat that was surely near the top of everything, the tower had completely disappeared from view. Bummer! How could something to prominent suddenly be so gone? The road curved, and then just at the point where it appeared we would start heading down, we passed another dirt road that cut off to the left.

“Scott! I bet that’s the road up to the tower! Let’s go check it out.”

He hesitated. Genetically, Robertses are disinclined to turn around and go back—in any area of life, and especially on road trips. [NOTE: I do clearly recall that he did turn around and go back (I think for the first time in his life) when we were on a road trip to meet his parents before we got married. We were headed up the Blue Ridge Parkway and had just passed the last bathroom for many miles when I announced that I had to go. He looked at me in a certain tone of voice, asked if I could hold it for fifty miles (I could not), and somewhat grudgingly turned around. I think one of my subconscious goals for the past 32 years has been to avoid asking Scott to turn around, J and I will say that nurture has triumphed over nature; he has mellowed greatly on this point through the years.]

This time he said, “You really want to?”

“Oh, yes! We’re so close, we’ve just got to check it out!”

And he backed up (no problem as there was absolutely no traffic) and nosed the Durango up a very deeply rutted, very steep dirt road, strewn with large tree limbs and big rocks, and several places where it seemed we might bottom out. It was like walking the Durango up a ladder, one tire at a time. I was praying for God to have mercy on me (for making this crazy request) and protect us from damaging the car and/or getting stranded in the middle of nowhere with no cell service. Well, Scott is an excellent driver who loves a challenge, and he inched that baby over, up, and through every obstacle without so much as a scrape, and as we finally got up on the flat and turned to the right, there in front of us was the base of that glorious tower. How terribly exciting!

Durango left

3041 left

Like virtually all fire towers these days, its lowest flight of steps had been removed, probably to keep vandals, teenage boys, and people like My Hero from climbing up and possibly getting hurt. We walked around it and took pictures, but with all the trees grown up around it, it was hard to even see the whole thing. Originally, I think it must have had something like seven flights of wooden steps. We scoped the bluffs behind it. Although much smaller, it reminded me of Petit Jean or Mt. Nebo: similar height, flat on the top, with gorgeous views in several directions of faraway valleys and ranges that stretched away to the horizon.


It was definitely a worthy fire tower, and while we were up there, Scott strolled over to the other “side” of the mountaintop and called back, “There’s a house here. More than one.” Of course, this I had to see. The actual house(s) were gone, and joining him, I stood looking at a series of curious rock foundations. Curious because, for one thing, they were built on the side of the mountaintop that faced away from the gorgeous views (why would anyone do that?), and for another thing, there were several squares or rectangles of them all in a row. Had this been more than one house? Or some apartments? Or, a la Mt. Nebo, some kind of hotel for guests?


And even more curious was a long set of two-tiered concrete “beams” jutting out from the rest of the foundation(s) on the downhill side and supported by extensive rock work. Scott examined them and said, “Looks like an oil change pit!” Yeah, right!


Finding historical gems like these always delights and intrigues me. Being naturally curious, I’m highly motivated to figure out what they are and who created them – and when and why. We wandered around the ruined foundations and took a few pictures—just in case we ended up in Clarksville and went to the Johnson County courthouse and found some elderly history buff-ish person whom we might ask about the fire tower and the interesting foundations near it; we could show the person the pictures so he or she would know what we were talking about. Walking back to the Durango, we also noted a long line of equally spaced, upended boulders on the opposite side of the circular dirt turn-around that seemed to indicate a parking area. It seemed like this whole development must’ve been some kind of a commercial enterprise, but up on the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere?!? We laughed about Scott’s crazy statement about those concrete “tracks” being an oil change pit, then piled back into the Durango, inched our way back down that treacherous road to the main dirt road, and turned left heading (hopefully) toward the elusive Pam’s Grotto trailhead near Haw Creek Falls.

To be continued…

Overly ambitious

Given our innate differences in personality (introvert/extrovert), our differences in what we consider fun, fulfilling, or energizing (“why do something with people that your could do by yourself?” vs. “why do something alone if you could do it with someone else?”), my current physical limitations (minor knee issue, major foot issues), and my ever-increasing “loss fatigue” (weariness with and resentment about nearly always losing to Scott – even at pure luck games!!!), we have been challenged lately to come up with things that we enjoy doing together. But we have realized that we both very much like to declutter. = )

We’ve successfully tackled the kitchen junk drawer and one or two other small areas, but I think we bit off more than we could chew with our choice the other day to “set a timer for 30 minutes and clean off the high shelf in the shop building.” Now really, what WERE we thinking?

For one thing, the shop is full of all kinds of things about which we disagree. More accurately, there are many items in the shop that we agree we don’t need to keep, but in most cases, I want to throw it out and Scott wants to give it to someone who could use it.

For another thing, even getting to the high shelf is a bit of a logistical challenge. I didn’t think to take any before pictures, but here’s the shop interior as we left it 30 or 40 minutes later.

While Scott navigated around the bike, stood on the end table, and pulled himself up onto the armoire, I fulfilled rather useless tasks like driving the Durango up to the shop and then walking back and forth to the house to get a broom and dustpan, enabling My Hero to handle all the climbing and heavy lifting. He’s a gentleman, for sure.

I could see the blue baby bath and a bed rail, and I knew the Christmas stuff was up there (~4 boxes), but the number of additional boxes he hauled down was truly impressive. Even more impressive was the fact that most of those boxes had numbers on them.  I had labeled those boxes with Sharpie marker numbers when we packed them in Little Rock 23 years ago, and I had listed in a small red notebook the main contents of each numbered box. As Scott heaved them down, weaved around the piles of furniture, stumbled over the rolled-up carpet, and hoisted them into the back of the Durango, he panted, “Some of these boxes we haven’t looked at since we moved! “My college textbooks; why on earth do I have these?”

“You don’t even like to read.”

“I never read them in school.”

[Note that my husband completed his bachelor’s degree in pure mathematics at one of the most academically rigorous schools in the state in three years without reading any books. I’m telling you, the guy is really, really smart. A scholar and a gentleman.]

“And if you didn’t read them then, you’ll surely never read them now! Even if you did want to read something, you wouldn’t pick up a 35-year-old college textbook. Throw them out!!!”

And so it went.





But there were also a number of boxes of sentimental things, and on those I decided that I (or maybe even “we”) would need to go through those boxes, reminisce, cry, save a FEW especially meaningful items, take pictures of some – or a lot – of the others, and then either throw them out (my preference) or give them to someone who can use them (Scott’s preference).

In the meantime, our excessive ambition means I won’t have to worry about losing at pool any time soon.

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