Archive for October, 2019

Omission apology

I was reviewing my anniversary and birthday getaway posts and the pictures I had included in them. I will spare you the absolute insanity induced by repeatedly uploading pictures to WordPress, only to find them lying on their right side when they get there – and then rotating them 90 degrees to the left, and uploading them again, only to find them lying on their left side the second time. Sometime the third time was a charm; sometimes not. Anyway, in looking back through things, it seemed like the sequence of pictures of courthouses somehow didn’t line up. I found a picture of the Baxter County courthouse, but I couldn’t remember the deal about it… Well, it dawned on me this morning. VERY early this morning, but that would be a whole ‘nother story.

Evidently I had totally forgotten Mountain Home! On our Sunday rainy drive home, after leaving the Calico Rock jail and before eating our gazebo-on-the-courthouse-grounds lunch in Gainesville, we made a significant stop in Mountain Home, Arkansas, the seat of Baxter County. Of course, we first drove around the (rather three-sided) town square and saw the courthouse,

but we had another more important stop to make in Mountain Home (and no, it wasn’t for a bathroom!). You see, for a few years as a teenager, Scott used to live in Mountain Home. His dad was a civil engineer, and their family moved their for Dad to build two highway bridges over Norfork Lake. BTW, Norfork Lake is so named it was formed by damming the 109 mile-long north fork of the White River. Scott graduated from Mountain Home High School, class of 1982. We drove by the (formerly Methodist, now non-denominational) church he attended, the ball field where he coached his sisters’ softball team, and with effort, we finally found the house he’d lived in. It’s a nice house and other folks live in it now.

It’s located on Live Oak Drive and backs up to a large neighborhood pond called Gardner Lake.

Our little stop in Mountain Home was a walk down memory lane for Scott, and I enjoyed seeing some places that had been significant in his life before we met. Scott has now spent more than half of his life married to me, and as far as I can tell, he’s quite happy about that.  = )

To Calico Rock and beyond

Highway 5 runs north from Allison roughly paralleling the White River on its western side. The road is one to ten miles from the river, so a lot of the time we couldn’t see the water, but the drive was pleasant.

In that part of the country, we’d seen a number of black and white informative signs, all of the same style, akin to this,

and if you’ve ever driven with me on a rural road, you know that it’s as hard for me to pass a historical sign as a good bathroom.

So Calico Rock. Even among folks who’ve heard of Calico Rock, AR, who really knows much of anything about it? Well, Scott and I now know quite a bit about it! As we came into “town” (and it’s not much of a town), we turned right and drove across an old one-lane bridge. That was fun, and at the far end of the bridge on the left side, facing the direction we’d just come from, was another one of those black and white historical information signs. We stopped to read it and learned that having just crossed Calico Creek slightly above where it enters the White River, we were now technically in East Calico, which back in its heyday was evidently a thriving little community and the true heart of Calico Rock. Not only that, there was a WALKING TOUR of East Calico! This brought back our old days of doing the walking tour of Eureka Springs on our seventh anniversary getaway and pushing seven month-old Josiah in his well-worn umbrella stroller up and done innumerable stone stairs and over many uneven stone sidewalks while reading a brochure about all those fascinating Victorian houses.

Standing there in “downtown” East Calico, we heard a train go past somewhere very close by. We heard it but couldn’t see it, and in looking for it we drove down a short dead-end street and found a section of overgrown railroad siding and an abandoned railroad bridge over the creek.

Hmm… Very odd, and we were quite keen to do the walking tour, but first, I needed a bathroom. 

Subway to the rescue, and in getting there we ended up driving through a different part of town and passing a log cabin with yet another one of those classic black and white historical signs. Turns out it was the Trimble House, a pre-Civil War log cabin, which was not open to the public, but into which we could look through the windows.

According to posted information (and wikipedia), it’s “one of very few pre-Civil War log buildings still standing in Arkansas.” We also read aloud the extensive and very informative verbiage on a series of signs on the cabin’s grounds, and learned that the land on which the cabin now sits is owned by the large stone church across the street.

We were doing all this cabin scoping shortly before 11:00 AM on a Sunday, and people in Sunday dress were walking into the church as a bell rang the call to worship. How neat! And would you care to guess the name of that particular church? It’s the Calico Rock Cumberland Presbyterian Church! Attentive readers of my post “Our A and B getaway, continued” will recall that the Calico Rock Cumberland Presbyterian Church (at which we were now looking from across the road at the Trimble House) had been planted by the Mount Olive Cumberland Presbyterian Church (which we’d seen the day before, three miles off the beaten path during our drive home from Melbourne, of yard sale fame). And this very Calico Rock Cumberland Presbyterian Church had subsequently planted the Fifty-Six Missionary Baptist Church of which our good friend Don Thomas (the wonderful Stone County museum volunteer whose great-grandfather was the first official resident of Branson) was a member!

Really small world, huh?!?

I was thrilled to actually see how all these pieces of local history fit together. Wow!

Well, we were still anticipating our walking tour of East Calico, so we returned to that part of town, again crossing the Calico Creek bridge. The tour covered a deserted several-block area of town, and all the shops were empty and long-abandoned. In some places only foundations remained, but other buildings were partially or mostly intact, and from the signs we could usually figure out what businesses had occupied them. We saw remnants of two different car dealerships, a funeral home, a garage, a grocery, a boarding house, a movie theater, a flooring supply, and a feed store, among others.

Back in the day, wholesale supplies were delivered to the various businesses and manufactured goods were shipped out from them along that railroad siding and bridge we’d seen across the way. Not only that, back before there were any dams on the White River, heavy rains would cause it to rise and the backwash would come up Calico Creek and flood East Calico. Some of the signs on the walking tour told of people being rescued by boat from second floor windows of buildings that were standing in front of us today. Walking down the street we could visualize what that volume of water must’ve been like in that town. Almost unbelievable!

The final stop on the walking tour was the Calico Rock jail.


The blurb on that sign is interesting, and below are a couple pictures of the hole referenced in the final sentence above.


Yikes! But I do like an old-timey jail, so here are a couple more pictures.


Continuing north on Highway 5 through a drizzly rain, we located the Ozark County, Missouri courthouse – our fourth on this trip! – in Gainesville. With no offense to anyone from Ozark County, we weren’t terribly impressed with the town of Gainesville, but since we were hungry, we opted for “dinner on the courthouse grounds.”

This consisted of pulling our wheeled cooler of leftover groceries into that nice gazebo on the left, sitting on the benches within, making sandwiches (with our handy-dandy hot pink glove compartment knife) and rounding out our luncheon with grapes and Gardetto’s while trying to stay warm in the cool, rainy breeze. We succeeded! And from there it was a straight  shot (well, actually a fairly curvy shot) “home again, home again, jiggety-jig,”which My Hero drove while I lazily napped.

And thus ended our wonderful 32nd anniversary and 59th birthday getaway!

Driving me crazy

We drove out to the Ozark Folk Center, but it was closed and although I vaguely remember going there once as a kid with my family, I didn’t recall any details, and we drove away thinking (maybe totally incorrectly) that it didn’t look like much of anything. I think we were both still wanting to actually do something fun before calling it a day when we zipped past a place we’d already passed several times in the past couple days – an old, old-fashioned go-cart track. Country version. Not much to look at, but Scott said, “We could ride go-carts…?”

I thought sure he was kidding. This big girl? In a go-cart? I’d never been in a go-cart in my life! But although everything in me said, “No way, José!” on a wild whim I said, “Well, maybe.” And the man who, before marriage NEVER turned around to go back, turned around and drove a half-mile back to Mountain View Go-Carts, a small, family-owned operation that’s probably been in business for thirty years. There were a few people around, but no one said a word to us, and while we sat at a rickety picnic table and waited, I watched the three drivers who were on the course and wondered if I’d even be able to do it. I was heartened to see that one lady who seemed to be doing fine was significantly larger than me. When her ride was over, she came off the track smiling and saying that she’d never driven a go-cart before, her arms were still shaking, and it was fun. I was cautiously optimistic.

They had six cars, and this family of four potential drivers (mom, dad, teen girl, and grandma, plus a little kid) had been waiting before we got there. We’d all waited for what seemed like half an hour but probably wasn’t while the three on the course zinged around. The man told us they had five good machines, but that the green one had issues and because it wouldn’t go very fast, they only used it for kids or people who were doing it for the first time. I said that would be just the car for me! I didn’t want to go fast; in fact, my biggest concern was that the other drivers would get mad at me because I’d be going so slowly. Between tobacco spits, the man told me that the green car was 13 years old (I said that was fine), that I’d have to keep the pedal all the way down all the time (no way was I about to do that!), and that I wouldn’t be able to race (my kind of go-cart, for sure). So I clambered/dropped down very ungracefully into the driver’s seat and put on my shoulder belt. Scott called my name and when I looked back, he took this picture.

A hand-painted sign on a pole said the pedal on the right was gas and the one on the left was brake. Pretty simple; evidently go-cart driving didn’t require rocket science. The man filled my gas tank and I sat at the front of the line, waiting for everybody to be ready to go. We hadn’t read anything, signed anything, been told anything, or paid anything. The information board that said “Go-cart rides $5” was the sum total of what we knew.

The man said, “Go!” and I pushed my gas pedal. Nothing happened. I pushed harder, all the way down, and v-e-r-y slowly I began to creep forward. The pit stop area was on a slight uphill, and my ancient car couldn’t even make it out onto the track. I just knew everybody was getting mad at me. (Actually they weren’t, but they were all behind me, so I couldn’t tell.) The man came and gave me a shove to get up to the “top” of the slight incline, and finally I was going. Downhill. Toward a tight curve at the bottom.

My brain was racing through five thoughts in a split-second: I was going faster. Would I make the curve? How tightly could I turn? Would someone behind me hit me? Would I flip over? At the risk of angering the other drivers, I decided to slow down a bit.

I pressed on the brake pedal, but my car didn’t slow down. At all. Uh-oh. I pressed harder on the brake and kept coasting faster. I shoved that brake pedal all the way to the floor and basically stood on it with all my weight. It seemed that Green 07 had no brakes at all! This was very unsettling as the first curve (to the right) was right in front of me. Panic! I leaned hard right and turned as tightly as I could while other cars zinged past my right shoulder. Whew! I’d made it. Now full throttle to go back up the hill and into a curve to the left. Would this be endless anxiety? Sheesh! When I got to the pit area, I pulled off and told the man that something was clearly wrong; my car’s brakes didn’t work. He said yeah, that that green car didn’t have any brakes, that they needed to put brakes on it, and that I was fine. Then he gave me another shove to get me going uphill, and away I went. What a crazy thing.

After a few laps, I got into a working pattern of when to turn, how hard to turn, which way to lean, when to mash the gas, and when to let it off completely (this car was all or nothing; either max gas or no gas), and although I never really relaxed completely, it was actually was a lot of fun, and I’m so glad we did it.  = )

After our ride, Scott paid the man our fee of $5 each, and an older man who also worked there (maybe the original owner?) came up to me and said that if I hadn’t enjoyed my ride there’d be no charge. I assured him that it had been fun, and as we left, I wondered aloud what go-cart rides cost in Branson. At Mountain View Go-Carts, we got 15 minutes for $5 and both thought that was a steal of a deal. I guessed that Branson would charge $15 for five minutes!

As per the forecast, Sunday morning looked tuttish for sure, but we were able to load everything up in the dry. Actually, Scott did all the loading, heavy and otherwise, while I washed dishes, collected dirty towels, and gathered all our stuff. Scott had decided he’d like to go home via Highway 5 up to Gainesville, MO, which was a county seat, and our drive from Allison to Gainesville took us through an interesting town full unexpected surprises.

To be continued…


I’ve mentioned previously that here in my late fifties, I’m finding that my experience of time seems to expand and contract like elastic. In some ways time is going way too fast, and in other ways what seems to be short is actually quite long.

Our fridge light has been on the fritz for several weeks. Initially it blinked intermittently – a truly obnoxious situation when one is bent down, peering in, and trying to figure out what needs to be used up first. For a while I tried to ignore the problem, but eventually I decided that the bulb must be about to burn out and I should just go ahead and replace it, for crying out loud. I put “appliance bulb” on the Walmart list, but the day before that shopping spree, I happened to look in the dishwasher and, SURPRISE! I already HAD a spare appliance bulb. Wowza! One point for the homemaker who at some point in the past had planned ahead.

I unscrewed the old defective bulb, screwed the new one in, and… it did the exact same thing. Ugh. The bulb was clearly not the problem, so I figured I’d save the new one; I just put the old one back in. Then after a few more days of intermittent blinking, it started just not coming on at all. This exasperated me, but I thought to myself, “I really shouldn’t be so frustrated about this. I mean, we have a great fridge. We have lots of food. Am I really justified in complaining because the fridge doesn’t automatically light up (and stay lit up) when I open the door? How ‘entitled’ is that?!?” 

I asked Scott to look into it (no pun intended), and he did all same the things I had done with the same results, so we just lived with the strobe effect for a few more days. Until the day I discovered that our treasured and much-enjoyed pineapple dip had turned blue, buried back in the fridge where we never saw it because it was too dark in there. After a moment of appropriate and respectful sadness, I threw out the dip and told Scott that it might be time for us to suck it up and actually pay Mintex a service call to come fix the silly thing, before something even more important succumbed in the darkness. Following which comment he said in a questioning tone, “We shouldn’t be having a problem with it. It’s a new fridge. We haven’t had it very long. Maybe three or four years.”

To which I replied, joking, “It’s probably closer to ten years! Hey, look on the side.”

When we bought the fridge, we had taped some paperwork about it, maybe warranty information(?), to the left (far) side, the side you can only see when you come up the cellar stairs or walk out of the pantry. Scott studied the left side of the fridge and eventually said, “Hmm.”

“Hmm?!? What does ‘hmm’ mean?”

“It says here we bought it on April 26… 2010”

“Seriously?!?” tells me that was 9 years, 5 months, and 18 days ago!

Scott did do something to the light – screwed the bulb in more firmly? – and now it’s working perfectly, but our “new” fridge is getting pretty close to ten years old!

Our A and B getaway, continued

I’m so determined to get this written relatively quickly because I’ve learned that if I don’t write about a trip within about a week, the chances of me remembering what I wanted to say and making time to say it just get slimmer and slimmer.

We knew rain was expected on Sunday when we’d be leaving Gracie’s Place Cottage and driving home. The idea of driving some two and-a-half to three hours on curvy country roads in the rain didn’t sound all that fun, so we were strongly motivated to enjoy as much other outdoor stuff as we could on Saturday.

We’d conquered two town squares so far, and Scott – Scott?!?! – suggested that since we were already in Izard County, well, at least 1/4 mile into it, we could drive over to the county seat of Melbourne and snag another one while we were in the area. I’m always game for a scenic rural drive that might involve a town square, so we did it. Now, I must warn my fellow travelers that there is truly nothing on the stretch of Highway 9 between Allison and Melbourne. No towns, no traffic, no billboards, and almost no houses; just a winding, scenic, two-lane road that can’t be traversed at an average speed above 40 mph. In fact, there was literally only one section of about half a mile that had a dotted yellow line. ALL the rest was double-lined, and the 19.6-mile drive to Melbourne took the better part of an hour.

As we finally came out of the woods and approached the town, we saw a yard sale.

Since I began intentionally decluttering my life a few years ago, I have been practicing avoiding yard sales (book sales are another matter), and I believe I have mastered the skill. There was a day, especially when the kids were young, that I would occasionally stop at one and  actually find good deals on things we really needed and used – along with an array of junk – but I am not in that season of life now. Now my goal is to get rid of something every day, not to bring more in! So the yard sale on the edge of town did not tempt me at all. We saw another one less than a mile farther along; it was obviously a clear, sunny, Saturday morning in Small Town, RA (Rural America).

As we drove around looking for the center of town, we came to a stoplight, and at that intersection there happened to be two yard sales in the parking lots of two businesses on diagonal corners. Melbourne-ites clearly had their pick of yard sales that day! But little did I know.

Thanks to my diuretic, I needed to go to the bathroom, and as My Faithful Chauffeur tooled along the main drag, I was looking for anything akin to a McDonald’s (they always have great bathrooms, but unfortunately Melbourne is McD-less) or even a gas station with a convenience store. We did see one of those, but it looked pretty seedy, so we continued on, and as we did, amazingly, it seemed like there were yard sales in EVERY parking lot in town! I mean on every corner and in between every corner! In steadily increasing urinary desperation, I told Scott to pull into Dollar General; at that point, any bathroom would do. Several people were waiting in line at the check-out counter, and when I asked the lone and very busy clerk if they had a public restroom, he just nodded, pointed, and quickly handed me a purple plastic ruler with a key on it. I found the restroom and when leaving it, as instructed, re-locked the door. As I returned the key to the clerk, I thanked him and then commented in general to the folks still in line, “There sure are a lot of yard sales in this town. Do y’all do this all the time?”

One lady said, “Yep. Every year. The first weekend in October and the first weekend in April.”

“Wow!” I replied. “We’ve never seen anything like it!”

And as we continued our search for Ozarka College (quite small but seemingly adequate) and the town square (here’s the Izard County courthouse)…

…we counted yard sales. Get this: we verified – in this small, remote town of 1813 people – at least 32 (thirty-two!) yard sales on one Saturday morning. That was truly amazing, and I’m guessing that since the total population of Izard County is only 13,686, with Melbourne being the largest city in the county, the whole county must come in to Melbourne twice a year for its yard sales.

As we drove back “home” to Allison along Highway 9, looking for a nice spot to stop and have lunch, we pulled off at a sign for a historical marker and started down a nice paved road. I will say that Izard County is not known for its abundant signage. We stopped briefly at Devil’s Shoulder and surveyed the Devil’s Gap trailhead, but decided that for several reasons we really weren’t up for a hike. At my urging, we continued down that road (I later learned that it was Mt. Olive road) despite Scott’s repeated comments that we must’ve passed the historical marker or maybe there wasn’t a historical marker and we probably ought to turn around. Some three miles on, we turned a corner and saw the white frame Mount Olive Cumberland Presbyterian Church, organized in – can you believe it? – 1826(!!!) with a historical marker in its side yard. So there! I felt vindicated. As the crow flies, that church building is only a quarter-mile from the White River, where we saw a number of folks fishing for trout.

There being absolutely no bathrooms – or woodsy areas far enough off the road(s) to provide any privacy – at Mt. Olive or anywhere between Melbourne and Allison, we hurried on home, ate lunch, and rested a while. But by 3:00, I was itching to try the Stone County museum again. Assuming its volunteer showed up, it would be open 1:00-4:00 that Saturday, and that would be our last opportunity to see it. Scott is always kind and and accommodating to me, but on this trip he really outdid himself; we drove back into Mountain View to the Stone County museum, and, lo and behold, it was open!

We wandered around the interesting displays for a few minutes until the volunteer docent, Don Thomas, a wonderful elderly longtime Stone County resident, greeted us and asked where we were from. “Near Branson” launched him into a series of stories about Stone County, Arkansas history in general and his own family history in particular. It was fascinating to hear newsy historical details from someone who had experienced them personally.

Don comes from a family of missions-minded Ozarkian Christians who, way back when, had had the goal of establishing and growing a rural church that would thrive to the point that it could send out people to other rural areas of Stone County and to plant a like-minded congregation. And it just so happens that a Flatwoods, a substantial church there in Mountain View had been planted by the Missionary Baptist church he currently attends out in Fifty-Six near Blanchard Springs Caverns. Way back in the day, it seems that believers in that area were more concerned about congregations of growing Christians than about denominational labels, and it turns out that the Fifty-Six Missionary Baptist Church had been planted by a group of folks sent out from the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Calico Rock. And the Calico Rock Cumberland Presbyterian Church had been established by a handful of people who went out from the Mount Olive Cumberland Presbyterian Church which we’d been standing in front of just a couple hours earlier!!!

Not only that, it turns out that Don’s great-great grandfather (born in 1822), was the man who in pre-Civil War days had owned the land on which the city of Branson (founded in 1882, incorporated in 1912) now sits. Calvin Gayler is listed as the first permanent resident of Branson and is buried in the Branson City Cemetery down by the railroad tracks. I haven’t scoped out his grave yet, but I thought that connection between our Stone County, (AR) museum guide, Don Thomas, and our own fair tourist town was very interesting.

It was still a warm and wonderful afternoon, so we returned to the lovely Mountain View City Park and enjoyed three games of cuppers (yes, we were traveling with both cuppers and cornhole boards; Scott in particular likes to have options), the final one of which I won decisively – cupping with the VERY last washer of the game! Nice and satisfying.

And as we left town for the final time, we noticed quite a crowd on the courthouse lawn. It looked like a small stage was set up and maybe they were having a concert or something. Hey, a free concert on the grounds? Maybe we’d get to hear some pickin’ and grinnin’. It sounded fun, so we parked and pulled out our bag chairs. Yes, we had those with us too. No, we never travel light. We also had a flip-top box of games packed below our dry food… Anyway, the folks on stage were singing some country-sounding song about love. Some guy was holding a boom mic that was as fuzzy as a sheep, another couple guys were holding up a reflector, and somebody had a professional-looking TV camera on his shoulder. I figured this must be a big deal concert, and maybe some local TV station was getting footage of it for the evening news. But then, IS there really any TV station local to Mountain View Arkansas? Well, when the song ended, some stocky smiling guy with long hair and a beard said, laughing, “So we record it and then we do it thirty more times.” Now, that sounded odd. Who ever heard of a concert where they did the same song 30 times?!? The singers wandered away from the stage, and the guys who’d been holding the reflector traded it for a huge translucent thing on a hinged frame, which they moved to different locations, I think in an effort to focus onto the stage sunlight with no shadows. Then some lady behind us struck up a conversation with me, and I asked her what was going on and she said they were recording a movie! We sat around for about 30 minutes while nothing was happening and then left.

[Update: I later corresponded with someone from the Stone County Leader newspaper in Mountain View. She told me that she thinks the movie they were recording is called “Falling In Love In Mountain View,” which hopefully some television network will buy and show somewhere at some time.]

What we found between the courthouse and our cabin was really something else!

To be continued…

Getaway, Day Two (Friday, October 4)

After ending my birthday by not setting an alarm and then sleeping for nine glorious hours- ahhhh! – we packed a picnic lunch, a few games, and set out on what we hoped would a fun scoping expedition. Scott had learned that there was a swinging bridge in the area, and the day before we had seen a sign for “Swinging Bridge Road,” so that was our first stop.

Our cabin, Gracie’s Place Cottage, was located about a half-mile up a steep dirt road that cut off the highway at the east end of the Highway 9 bridge over the White River, where Sylamore Creek flows into it. The White River is the dividing line between Izard County on the east and Stone County on the west. Our cabin was in Izard County, and the swinging bridge over Sylamore Creek was in Stone County. We were hoping to be able to park near the swinging bridge and spend some time walking around, skipping rocks, and enjoying the area, but because it turned out that every square foot of land around the bridge is privately owned, posted, and inaccessible, all we could do was roll down the window, take a picture of the informative sign, and drive across the bridge. This post (by someone else) includes pictures and describes the interesting history of the bridge, which is evidently one of only two wire-cable suspension bridges in Arkansas still open to vehicular traffic.
Next we headed into Mountain View to explore the town and visit the Stone County museum. I also wanted to find the little bakery that we’d taken the kids to for breakfast-y treats during our camping trip at Blanchard Springs in 1993. We did find the white water tower near the square that I remembered, but as best we could figure, the bakery must’ve been torn down and has been replaced by apartments. Towns can change a lot in 26 years. So can people…
We found the history museum, but it wouldn’t open till 1:00 PM, so we went back to the square and wandered into the courthouse to ask where we could get an Arkansas state highway map. The paper kind. I’m old school. How and why we’d left our map in our cabin was a mystery that could not be solved. They had free maps (I took two, one for the car and one for the house) and gave us directions to the city park which was billed as a good place to walk and “really pretty.” With thirty minutes to kill before the museum opened and not yet hungry enough for lunch, we went for a walk in the park, and it was indeed most lovely. Scott pointed out an unusual tree that I thought was possibly bald cypress and might have the scientific name of taxodium distichum. 
I had not brought our tree book, but being a true tech whiz (HA!), I whipped out my cell phone and looked it up on wikipedia. (Yes, I do realize that wikipedia is not a definitive reference source, but hey, I wasn’t writing a research paper.) And YES! Not only does the above photo show a bald cypress tree, I even spelled its scientific name correctly!!! Pretty impressive recall, when you consider that that piece of information came from a botany class I took 40 (can it really be forty?) years ago as a freshman in college! That although I almost daily walk into a room and can’t remember what I went in there to get.
Back at the Stone County museum at 1:10 PM on Friday, October 4, the sign out front said CLOSED, although the sign on the door said “Open Thursday-Saturday 1:00-4:00 PM, April through October.
Hmm. We were sorely disappointed, but after waiting around till about 1:25, Scott made some calls and we eventually learned that the museum is staffed by volunteers; evidently that day’s volunteer was a no-show. Maybe we’d try again Saturday.
We drove out to Blanchard Springs and had a nice picnic while playing Sequence and reading a bit of our cherished tome,  The History of the United States: A Christian Perspective, by Robert Spinney. Then we took a short walk to the spring. It was impressive, and due only to prohibitive signage, Scott resisted his extremely strong urge to climb up behind the waterfall, muttering, “It just screams to be climbed.”

Then we did something that was sad to me. We went looking for the spot at the end of the road where we’d had our first-ever camping trip as a family. As I think I already mentioned, it was site of the “It’s a BIBLE, Mommy!” incident, and I knew I’d know it when I saw it. But there was a problem: that camping area was marked “CLOSED!” In October, prime camping season. How very odd. Even the memorable bathroom was closed. The road was overgrown and crumbling, and here’s the picnic table at “our” site, being taken over by vegetation.

Scott insisted that I pose, leaning on my trusty walking stick, in shock and awe. Back in the day, our tent had been set in the right foreground.

We later found a couple of Ozark National Forest employees on break, and I asked them why that area was closed and so overgrown. It turns out I wasn’t the first person to ask. They, of course were young enough to be our kids, but they told us that in 2012, heavy rains had submerged that part of the campground, and around the same time 20 people who were camping at Albert Pike campground in the Ouachita National Forest in southern Arkansas died in flash flooding. Our campsite there at Blanchard Springs was up on a little bluff, some 15 feet above the river. The volume of water required to flood that site is almost unimaginable. Although no one was injured here, a camper (a vehicle, not a person) was washed away, and to prevent future risk to guests, the Forest Service permanently closed this part of the Blanchard Springs campground. The employees told us that lots of people have come back and asked about it and that “our” site had always been the most popular in the whole park.  = )

Before going back to our cabin for a nap, a sad Cardinals game, and yummy shish-ka-bobs on the charcoal grill, we stopped back in town (Mountain View) for a picture of what is now my very favorite propane tank of all time.

Over the river and through the woods

In honor of our 32nd anniversary last month and my 59th birthday this month (and let me just say that both of those numbers are, in the literal sense of the word, incredible to me!), Scott and I are taking a few days off and away in the general vicinity of Mountain View, Arkansas. We hit the road yesterday on my actual birthday, and it was an extremely delightful day.

We had a wonderful lunch in Harrison at Neighbor’s Mill. Although we’ve driven past it dozens of times, we’d never been there, and we’re so glad we stopped. I’d told Scott I wanted to eat my birthday meal at “some place different. I don’t want a heavy meal that puts met to sleep. If we could find a place kind of like Panera, maybe a neat little sandwich shop or something, that would be great.” Neighbor’s Mill was perfect – a soup, salad, sandwichy place that just happens to be run by Christians, and which serves up an amazing array of baked goods. We ate out on the porch, and my potato soup and Scott’s tomato basil soup were both quite tasty. We enjoyed our salads and left satisfied and not stuffed – just want I wanted. Well, before we left we actually made a couple more purchases.

On our getaways, we usually bring some food from home and then enjoy shopping at some local grocery to get the rest of what we’ll need for our meals at the cabin and picnic lunches. We often splurge on deli meat and smoked cheddar cheese, and we like to find some kind of special sandwich bread that’s more exciting than what we normally get at Walmart. Well, let me tell you that Neighbor’s Mill was the place to get bread! We picked out a Garlic Triple Cheese loaf that right now, at 9:00 AM, makes me think about lunch, just typing about it. And then, since it was my birthday we also picked out a slice of Italian Cream Cake to share last night after supper. It was amazingly rich and DELICIOUS.

I also collect town squares – the old-fashioned kind, county seats with courthouses in the middle – and we hit two without even planning to. First we found Yellville, the seat of Marion County.

Marion County Courthouse in Yellville, AR


The lighting is bad, but it does say “Marion County Courthouse.”

I was especially pleased to see that this courthouse is surrounded by a square full of real businesses with real live customers. In many towns, the “downtowns” and the “squares” are dead or dying, boarded up, vacant, and depressing, but not so Yellville! If we’d had time, I would have walked the square and checked out a lot of the little shops. = )  But get this: a sign in front of the courthouse advertised a book sale at the Marion County Library.

WOW! A book sale? In a library? In a small town? On my birthday?!? How great is THAT?!? So I climbed the courthouse steps – I do love an old courthouse, what with its worn steps and 1950s wooden office doors and a feel that reminds me of the Andy Griffith show – and walked into the county collector’s office (just because that was the first office I saw) and asked the friendly lady there where the library was, and she gave me directions.

Although I didn’t fully peruse the Marion County Library, like any small library it did make me sigh deeply and smile inwardly. Probably outwardly too. I have no idea how they made any money on their book sale. Maybe it’s like me decluttering my stuff at home; if a bit of money can be made, that’s great, but my main goal is for the stuff to just leave the premises and never come back. Anyway, they were charging $2.00 a bag. Not $2.00 a book, which would’ve been a bit steep but which I still would’ve paid, but $2.00 for a Walmart bag of how ever many books you could put in it! And if you wanted to a get a lot of books, they provided boxes – those big produce boxes that grocery stockers use when they’re setting out bananas or apples – and the books were $3.00 a box!

Scott is not an avid reader, so while I was leafing through the stacks, I was really surprised to see that he was too. I picked out two: a kid’s book that I thought was neat (but it’s out in the car and I can’t remember the title now) and The Summons by John Grisham. I’m trying to branch out into a bit of fiction, and this one sounded like I’d enjoy it. Scott, meanwhile had picked out several. I was initially shocked and slightly embarrassed, but he said he was getting them for the houses. Oh, the houses, our vacation rental houses! Well yes. So I picked out several more kids books for the houses that I recognized as good, while wondering aloud, “Do kids even read books anymore?” So we got a whole bag of books for a total of $2.00. Amazing.

We were headed to the general area of Blanchard Springs Caverns. I especially wanted to go back there to see the camp site of our very first family camping trip, the one where Jessica made her very loud middle-of-the-night “It’s a BIBLE, Mommy!” proclamation, and where Scott shoved a video camera in my face as I crawled out of the tent at dawn. We weren’t planning to tour the cave, but I will note here that it’s located at Fifty-Six, Arkansas, the naming of which we later learned “primary source” from a an elderly local volunteer historian, but that’s another story. Can you imagine living in a town called Fifty-Six? Its population was 173 in 2010, but had increased to 177 in 2017; the nearest post office is 13 miles away in the unincorporated community of Timbo.

Fifty-Six aside, our drive from Yellville to Mountain View involved about a hour and fifteen minutes on a very scenic (and we do like scenic) and very curvy stretch of Highway 14 that could legitimately be described as a throw-up road. Scott was driving while I commentated, and a good time was had by all. On that section of our drive we did have one experience that we had never had before. We were traveling roughly southeast from Yellville toward Mountain View, and at one point we passed a green highway sign that said, “Mountain View 20 (implied ‘miles’).” As we continued along Highway 14, about five minutes later we passed another such sign that said, “Mountain View 22.” Go figure!

Mountain View also has a town square around the Stone County courthouse. The courthouse was closed when we arrived, but I did document its existence.

Our cabin is up a very steep dirt road in the woods on the Izard County side of the White River. It is all wood inside and out,



and has both a great back porch with porch swing and a king bed that has so little clearance space around it (small bedroom) that I have to turn sideways to walk around it and is so high that I need a stool (provided) to vault into it!

Being vacation rental home owners, we tend to note either interesting features and great ideas that we might want to incorporate at Roberts Vacation Rentals or omissions and problems that strike us as funny. We’ve had a couple of the latter today. Now, we don’t care about these things; they are just funny to us. And while RVR rents out fairly upscale “luxury” vacation homes, this cabin is (like all the places we typically choose to stay in), by definition, rustic, woodsy, and not necessarily immaculate. But we found a half-full water bottle behind a potted plant on the bathroom counter,

and when Scott opened the freezer to get some ice, he found an open box of (originally 12) Great Value ice cream sandwiches. Six were missing (no problem) and five intact were in the box, along with one half-eaten ice cream sandwich. We ditched the half, grinned, and mentally noted the water bottle and ice cream offering as housekeeping “oopses.” Most cleaners make them from time to time, but RVR cleaners only very rarely. And we tell our cleaners to either ditch all food left by guests or take it home and enjoy it! And they do. Our guess is that “Ms. Lola” wasn’t going straight home and so couldn’t take the ice cream sandwiches with her. Or maybe she’s diabetic. She did leave us this note next to a bottle of bleach on the kitchen counter.

We are enjoying our time here and expect the next few days to be packed full of rest, relaxation, and no responsibilities!


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