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CONTENTS EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Catherine Frederick MANAGING EDITOR Marla Cantrell CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Marla Cantrell Catherine Frederick Stacey Little Anita Paddock Austin “Skinny” Swearingen Corey Woodard CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Catherine Frederick Jeromy Price DESIGNER Jeromy Price PROOFREADER Charity Chambers


DESIGN INTERN Kristina Davis WEB GURU David Jamell PUBLISHER Read Chair Publishing, LLC




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58 I FOUND MY HEART IN HAITI What happens when a college student goes on a mission trip to Haiti? His world opens up, right along with his heart.

LETTERS HOME In 1944, Austin “Skinny” Swearingen left his home in Cecil, Arkansas to fight for freedom in the Pacific. His letters home tell his incredible story, from boot camp to his last days at sea.





Looking for a way to send a little holiday cheer? Head into the kitchen to make gifts for everyone on your list, including your furry friend, Fido.

For the first time ever, there’s a snow park in Arkansas! We’re taking you along for snow tubing, tobogganing, and a stop to see Santa.

ADVERTISING INFORMATION Catherine Frederick 479 / 782 / 1500 EDITORIAL INFORMATION Marla Cantrell 479 / 831 / 9116 ©2013 Read Chair Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved. The opinions contained in @Urban are exclusively those of the writers and do not represent those of Read Chair Publishing, LLC. as a whole or its affiliates. Any correspondence to @Urban or Read Chair Publishing, LLC., including photography becomes the property of Read Chair Publishing, LLC. @Urban reserves the right to edit content and images.

FOLLOW US Subscribe to @Urban! 12 issues per year for only $20, within the contiguous United States. Subscribe online at, or mail check to 3811 Rogers Avenue, Suite B, Fort Smith, AR 72903.

letter from Catherine

change. Time to be true to who we really are. As Martha Stewart says, “It’s a good thing,” and we couldn’t be more excited. We can’t wait for you to see SouthBound Magazine on January 1st! This name change has kept us busy, but not so busy we couldn’t bring you one of our best issues ever. We’re taking you to a winter wonderland in North Little Rock, Arkansas. Wild Winter Country has been blowing snow for a month now, getting ready for the first ever snow park in the state. Feel like a little snow tubing, tobogganing, a trip to the outdoor S’Mores fire pit? You can do all that, and drop off your wish list to Santa. After a day on the snow, we’re bringing you back inside to spend some time in the kitchen. We recently spent a day in ours, making We’ve been hinting for a few months that a big change was

things like bacon salt, dry rub, flavored butters, and even some

coming for @Urban. It’s time to let you in on our little secret.

cranberry infused vodka, to give as gifts this year.

We’re changing our name. Once you’ve got your homemade presents ready, you can check On January 1, @Urban officially becomes SouthBound Magazine!

out our book suggestions for everyone in the family, browse

Now don’t go getting all weird on me. I know how some people

through our handmade and local gift guide, and find out how to

get when you use the “C” word. You say the word “change” and

make the coolest twist on holiday eggnog.

they run for the hills! Remain calm. Nothing else is changing. We’re not being bought out, and this was our decision alone.

Read our story about a couple, fresh from Texas, who headed

We’re the same publisher, same writers, and we’ll still be writing

to Winslow, Arkansas for a slower pace, a bunch of new friends,

the same great stories you’ve come to love.

and an opportunity to spend their days creating art. Meet a college student who left Fort Smith for Haiti, and how that

Here’s the deal: Over the past three and a half years, we

trip changed his life forever. Dive into our story about Austin

discovered we aren’t really “urban” at all. We’re Southern

“Skinny” Swearingen, who left the farm to fight in World War II.

through and through. Our stories are about Southern culture,

His letters home chronicle his journey and his absolute love for

the people, the food, the places you need to put on your bucket

his family.

list. @Urban just doesn’t fit, and we know it. And speaking of family, we’d better get back to ours. Christmas We also felt the name @Urban was a bit confusing. Some people

is right around the corner and there is still much to be done. God

don’t know whether to call us At Urban or Urban. And when you

bless y’all and Merry Christmas. We’ll see you right back here on

search Urban Magazine online, it pulls up a racy little hip hop

January 1st, when Southbound Magazine makes its debut!

magazine in another state. So, enough said. Time for a name To reserve this free space for your charitable non-profit organization, email:



Merry Christmas @lines Austin Bell Swearingen – December, 1944

May the snow be white and The sky be blue, For even though I am far away, In dreams I’ll be home on Christmas Day.


Marica Porter Owner, Administrator & Ballet Instructor

Western Arkansas Ballet


Stay Alive. Stay Alert. About Western Arkansas Ballet Western Arkansas Ballet is an Academy with a pre-professional company that trains dancers and presents professional productions. Our service to the River Valley starts in the classroom where we not only teach dance steps, but also etiquette, discipline, time management, confidence, and respectful behavior, all in the spirit of enjoyment. It is our belief that dance education goes beyond the studio. We teach young dancers in gymnasiums, preschools, afterschool programs, even school cafeterias, all over the River Valley, provided free of charge to participating organizations. Our dedication to quality dance training continues with our highly qualified instructors. All have college degrees as well as Teacher Certifications from the world’s finest institutes. The full-length ballet productions presented are meticulously prepared for the enjoyment of our audiences and the dancers’ love of their art. Our commitment to professionalism is exemplified by our seventeen-year membership in Regional Dance America/Southwest, an organization of pre-professional and regional ballet companies. Membership is gained by a thorough audition process and maintained through annual evaluations that ensure all meet the highest training standards. We’re committed to training all our students to become healthy, productive, and confident members of society.

3 things Marica can’t live without

What’s your best childhood Christmas memory? Christmas Eve was a very special time for us. Mom and Dad made sure that it was set aside for our immediate family. We’d dust off the old kerosene lamp that has been in our family for generations and let its light fill the living room. By lamplight and the glow from the Christmas tree, we would gather around the family Bible and read the story of Christ’s birth. We would then take communion and sing Christmas carols. When do you open presents? Christmas or Christmas Eve? One on Christmas Eve and the rest Christmas morning. What’s the most sentimental thing you own? My favorite is the wool quilt made by my great-grandmother in the late 1800s. What’s the last photo you took? The Nutcracker banner. What’s the last album you bought? Food In The Belly by Xavier Rudd. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? A ballerina. Is there any item of clothing you wish would come back into fashion? Bell bottoms! What’s your all-time favorite dessert? Mom’s Cream O’ Cherry Pie and Dad’s Ugly Apple Pie. What’s the first thing you bought with your first paycheck, and how old were you? My first official paycheck came in college, when I was eighteen, and I probably bought food or pointe shoes. What’s the one toy you wanted as a child that you didn’t get? A swimming pool. Who was your favorite teacher in school? My second grade teacher, Mrs. Sanders. She was always very encouraging and helped me to be more confident in my abilities. What fictional character do you wish was real? Captain Picard. What was your first car? Dark gray Pontiac Sunbird. What makes you nostalgic? Memories of childhood, especially those triggered by smells and tastes. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for someone? Quit my job. How did you get your name? My first name was inspired by a family who attended the same church as my parents. Their daughter was named Marica and my mom really liked it. My middle name, May, comes from my maternal great-grandmother. Favorite song from your teenage years? “Life’s a Dance” by John Michael Montgomery. What are the three best decisions you’ve made in your life? Going to Stephens College and getting two degrees. Starting my life over at age twenty-eight and returning to ballet. Deciding to love and be loved again. If you could go back to school to study anything, what would it be? Medicine or Space Aeronautics.



Mizzou Spirit Wear




I Found My Heart

in Haiti

@story Corey Woodard @ images courtesy Corey Woodard

Corey Woodard shown above


Growing up in Lamar, Arkansas, the only living I knew was small

around in astonishment. It was just like the magazines and

town living. I had the kind of life where you knew everyone that

websites had portrayed, only worse. Had I not known better,

you went to high school with, their parents, and their birthdays.

I would have thought the deadly earthquake had happened

I loved my Southern roots. I grew up comfortable and had a

the day before instead of a year and a half earlier. Tent cities

loving family and great friends. I planned on going to college

stretched for miles along with crumbled buildings that served

at the University of Arkansas Fort Smith, getting a degree in

as makeshift housing for millions of homeless Haitians. Trash

English, and becoming a baseball coach. It was the American

overflowed in the rivers and creeks while children rummaged

Dream, and I wanted to be the poster boy for it. It wasn’t until

through it. This place actually existed. These were real people

my sophomore year of chasing American idealism that I realized

living in a real life situation that had real problems and

that there was more to life than me. I was in for a very rude

heartaches. The thing that is so convenient about a magazine

yet, beautiful awakening that would change my world and

is that you can turn the page and look away. I didn’t have that

perspective forever.

option. I was in the middle of it, forced to look desperation in the face. I prayed for guidance and a way to show these people

It all started with a man named John Schaffner. He was the

God’s love.

director of the University of Arkansas Fort Smith Baptist Collegiate Ministries (UAFS BCM) when I started college, and I

Over the next couple of days we completed miscellaneous

got to know him over the course of my freshman year. As we

projects throughout Leogane. It wasn’t until our third day there

developed a close friendship, I learned from John what it meant

that I found my heart in Haiti.

to be a man in pursuit of the heart of Christ. Three of us were going door-to-door doing street evangelism. It One afternoon during the summer between my freshman and

was my first time doing such a thing, and I failed miserably. I came

sophomore year, I received an invitation from John to take a

back to our compound defeated. How was God going to use me if

week-long trip to Leogane, Haiti with the UAFS BCM. My initial

I couldn’t even do this simple task? I stayed down the rest of the

reaction was to pretend to give some serious thought to the

afternoon. Around five in the afternoon we loaded up our vehicles

matter, but have no real intentions of going. Not only was

to take our group to a nearby orphanage. I didn’t care. I wanted to

Haiti considered one of the poorest countries in the Western

keep beating myself up about what had happened earlier.

Hemisphere, but it also had fallen victim to a 7.0 magnitude earthquake a year and a half earlier that sent the already

When we pulled past the cement walls that surrounded the

unstable third world country into an even deeper state of

orphanage, the first thing we saw were forty tiny feet running

hopelessness. It was dangerous; it was risky; it was reckless. But

our way. The car doors barely opened before little Haitian

as my head resisted, my heart grew closer to Haiti. I began to

hands wanting our attention, latched on to us. I had never seen

research the country. Eventually, I caved. I knew that I needed

anything like it. Every child just wanted to be loved. I began to

to go. I didn’t know what I could do, or how I was going to do it,

realize what I had taken for granted back home. Growing up, I

but I felt what I believe to be God’s call to Leogane.

had a mother and father who tucked me in at night. I got three meals a day, maybe more if I wanted it. My closet was full of

Five months later, as I boarded my first plane out of Bentonville,

clothes, and I had the privilege of receiving a formal education.

Arkansas, all I could think about was my mother’s worried face as

And for the first time in my life, I met children who had none

I walked through security and out of her reach. I had my typhoid

of that. They were lucky to get one meal a day that consisted

shots, malaria pills, clothes, extra food for the flights, and was

of cornmeal and water. They had a headmaster, a man named

ready to go. But where I saw adventure, she saw a potential for

Jean-Claude, who told them when to go to sleep instead of

disaster, as any caring mother would.

tucking them into a bed. And I think, for me, the hardest part, was knowing that someone wasn’t there every day to tell them

When we landed in Port Au Prince after roughly twelve hours of

that they were loved; to tell them that they mattered. So when

travel time, my heart raced with fear and excitement. I looked

I became privileged enough to spend time with them, I wanted




Brittany Chandler

to make every second count. As the time sped by, I fell in love.

greatest gift to humanity. It goes beyond every barrier, including

These children, despite the position they had been given in

language. Love endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:13 “And

life, were some of the happiest kids I had ever met. Their eyes

now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest

weren’t glued to an iPhone, or the latest video game. We played

of these is love.”

tag and soccer for hours in hopes of, if even for the small time we had, letting the kids in this orphanage know they did matter to someone and that someone did love them. To learn more about the University of Arkansas Fort As we left, sweaty and tired, I knew that this would not be the

Smith’s Baptist Collegiate Ministries, look them up on

last time I would see these children. And it wasn’t. Exactly one

Facebook, or call Corey Woodard at 479.214.1032 or

year later I returned. One of the greatest joys when I came back

Susie Thompson at 479.597.8263

was seeing one of the children recognize me immediately, despite the passing of time. All in all, I’ve been able to go to Haiti four times in the past year and a half with the UAFS BCM. If I’ve learned one thing from my travels it’s this: true love, that’s unconditional, is the


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Jolly Saint Nick

Ho Ho Ho! Craft yourself a magical holiday with this simple, yet adorable, Santa wreath. @diy and images Catherine Frederick


{ Materials } ÑÑ 12” white Styrofoam wreath form (rounded edges) ÑÑ 50 yards white tulle on a spool, cut into 15” strips ÑÑ Santa hat – adult size ÑÑ 3” piece of ribbon for hanger ÑÑ Glue gun and glue sticks ÑÑ Scissor ÑÑ Pen

TIP: Be sure your Santa hat fits your wreath form. If you already own a Santa hat, be sure to take it with you when shopping, as wreath forms come in a variety of sizes.

{ Method }


Place the Santa hat on the wreath form. Using your pen, place a mark where the hat ends on each side of the wreath form. You will only need to tie tulle up

to these marks on the form. Tip: If you use a green wreath form, wrap it with white tulle before tying on the tulle strips so the green does not show through.


To cut tulle into equal strips quickly and easily, wrap entire spool around a form that is approximately 15” wide. You could use a box, a baking sheet or even a

picture frame.





Using scissors, cut the tulle down both the right and left sides of the form, instantly creating 15 inch strips.


Starting below the pen mark on one side of the wreath form, begin tying 15� strips of tulle to the form, securing with a simple knot. Continue until you

reach the pen mark on the other side of the wreath form.


Form a loop with the ribbon. Using your hot glue gun, secure the loop on the back of the Santa hat. Then, glue the Santa hat to the wreath form on each side

with hot glue. Stuff the inside of the Santa hat with extra tulle or newspaper to give it fullness. Finally, hot glue the front and the back of the Santa hat to the wreath form.



class, and they become more aware of cultural differences. The girls are all afraid of her, and the boys admire her because of her blossoming bosom, her athletic ability, and her faulty English that sometimes comes out naughty. Christmas is coming, and plans are made for the annual Christmas program. The preparations and the resulting near disasters make for a delightful glimpse into life in the 60s, and the realization that we’ve come a long way in embracing cultures different from our own.

Books for Everyone on Your List @reviews Anita Paddock

David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell $2900


the book review sections in magazines, check out Amazon’s new

Malcolm Gladwell (Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers) has a new book

titles, listen to NPR’s interviews with authors. It’s so much fun

out by publisher Little Brown. Its title is David and Goliath, and

deciding who’s going to get what and offering gift suggestions

Gladwell uses this well-known story from the Bible to illustrate

to my friends. Here are just a few of my favorites.

that “the powerful are not as powerful as they seem, nor the

s soon as I place my Pilgrim salt and pepper shakers on the top shelf of my kitchen cabinet, I’m thinking about Christmas, and my passion, which is books. I pore over

weak as weak.” Gladwell says David had the advantage of a sling with a far reaching range versus a spear with a short range. He also uses personal stories combined with scientific data to illustrate what is beautiful and important in the world often

Wishin’ and Hopin’ by Wally Lamb $1999

arises from what looks like suffering and adversity. In another example he points out that losing a parent at an early age may make the child more intellectual growing up because he or she didn’t have the advantage of the comfort of a two-parent childhood. This is a book for any of your friends or relatives you’d classify as “intellectually curious.”

A new Christmas book is always a gift to myself, and this season I chose Wally Lamb’s book, Wishin’ and Hopin’. Two of his earlier books, She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much is True were Oprah Picks. In this fictional town of Three Rivers, Connecticut, Felix is in the fifth grade and attends St. Aloysius Gonzago Parochial School. He is the shortest boy in his class, but he’s smart and his third cousin is Annette Funicello. He is just learning to question what “the birds and the bees” and “French kissing” really mean. When their

One Summer by Bill Bryson $2895

teacher leaves because of a nervous breakdown (Felix fears he is the cause), she is replaced by a French woman who attempts to immerse her students in the French language and customs. While

For fans of history and fine prose, One Summer by Bill Bryson

the fifth graders begrudgingly comply, a girl from Russia joins their

should be at the top of their wish list. His other books, A Walk


in the Woods, I’m a Stranger Here Myself, The Life and Times of

the first time ever as a picture book with beautiful art work

the Thunderbolt Kid, were immensely successful and introduced

by Mark Buehner. It is the story of Rob, who wants to get his

many traditional readers of fiction to non-fiction and the art of

father something special for Christmas. The story and the art

telling a good story. In his new book, he focuses on the summer

complement each other in such a warm and heartfelt way

of 1927 when Charles Lindbergh became the first man to cross

that this will be a gift cherished for a long time. Be sure to

the Atlantic non-stop in a plane and how he became the most

personalize the book with the date and a “to and from” so that

popular man on the planet. It was also the summer of Babe Ruth

the recipients will always remember that it came from you.

and his sixtieth home run; the gangster Al Capone; the filming of The Jazz Singer, which was the first talking picture with Al Jolson; and America was experiencing a booming economy with zero percent inflation and a budget surplus of 630 million dollars. This is a history lesson told the way all history lessons should be told: with excitement, delicious humor, and a keen

A Christmas Memory

One Christmas

by Truman Capote $1899

by Truman Capote $1595

eye for detail.

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai $2600

Of course, no Christmas would be complete without a visit from

For the teenage girls in your life, buy them a copy of I am Malala:

Truman Capote and his novellas, A Christmas Memory and One

The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban.

Christmas. It’s obligatory reading for my family and friends. If

It is an inspiring story of a brave young woman who faced

you aren’t familiar with these delightfully poignant novellas,

death rather than give up on an education. It may become this

you can attend A Christmas with Capote at the Miller Branch

generation’s The Diary of Anne Frank, and it will shame any of us

Library, 8701 South 28th Street in Fort Smith, on December 5

who ever took an education for granted.

at 7:00 pm. The staff there has been bringing in Christmas with this celebration for over ten years now, a tradition that rivals the serving of fruitcake for Christmas dinner.

Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl Buck $1699

A Christmas book for all age groups is one originally published in 1955 by Pearl Buck, winner of both the Nobel and Pulitzer prizes, and the author of almost 100 books for adults and children. Christmas Day in the Morning has been issued for




Submit your events to

1 2 3 4

Carnival December 5, 7, 8 // See website for details Alma, AR // 479.632.2129 // A story for all ages, this musical performance is a tale of rescue, love, puppets, and the magic of the traveling circus. This adaptation of the 1953 film Lilli is sure to leave audiences in awe. The event will be held at the Alma Performing Arts Center.

A Christmas Carol December 6 – 8 // See website for details Van Buren, AR // 479.208.1738 // Kick off the Christmas season with this adaptation of Dickens’ classic. This performance by the Earthen Vessels Drama Co. is a show for the entire family with a message that continues long after closing curtains. This holiday story will be held in the King Opera House in Van Buren.

Fort Smith Christmas Parade December 7 // 1PM // FREE Fort Smith, AR // Garrison Avenue // There’s no better way to start off the Christmas season than with tradition. The annual Fort Smith Christmas Parade is a community staple and features colorful floats, marching bands, cookies and hot chocolate, and, of course, Santa Claus. Bring the family to this seasonal event on Garrison Avenue.

Singing Men of Arkansas December 8 // 7:30PM // Tickets are $15 Fort Smith, AR // 479.466.8208 // Come hear the dynamic vocals of this spectacular men’s choir from across the state of Arkansas. This group composed of about 50 men will be performing songs from their album Home for Christmas. Don’t miss this awe-inspiring concert at the Fort Smith Convention Center.


5 6 7 8

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy:Wild & Swingin’ Holiday Party December 9 // $30 - $40 for adults, $10 for students Conway, AR // 501.450.3265 // Get ready for a high-energy night of swing and dance featuring Big Bad Voodoo Daddy! This legendary nine-piece ensemble is sure to make it a rockin’ Christmas party with hits from their Christmas album Everything You Want for Christmas. Join Big Bad Voodoo Daddy for a holiday party like no other at the Reynolds Performance Hall in Conway.

Polar Express Family Time December 14 // 4PM – 9PM // FREE Fort Smith, AR // 479.783.0205 // Experience the magic of this children’s holiday classic come to life at the Fort Smith Trolley Museum. Readings of The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg will take place in the vintage railroad dining car. There will also be free photos with Santa, trolley rides, hot cocoa and cookies! Don’t miss the holiday magic.

Western Arkansas Ballet 28th Annual Production of The Nutcracker December 14 – 15 // Tickets are $20 // See website for details Fort Smith, AR // 479.785.0152 // This annual performance is made up of over 95 area children and adults. This showcase of incredible performers has become a favorite Christmas tradition for the River Valley, with an enchanting story of heroism, romance, and adventure. This event will premiere at Western Arkansas Ballet in Fort Smith.

4th Annual Fayetteville Half Marathon & Companion Races December 15 // See website for details Fayetteville, AR // 479.200.7718 // The Fayetteville Half Marathon is a race that will visit some of Fayetteville’s most unique spots. Saturday will feature the vendor retail expo on the downtown square. On Sunday there will be a half-distance marathon, a community fundraising 5K, and a 1 mile fun run/walk. The most unique aspect to this event will be the finish line...the John McDonnell Outdoor Track Complex! Runners will enter the track and make a lap with crowds cheering them on from the stands.




That takes some of the pressure off when you’re listening to “What’ll Keep Me Out Of Heaven.” The song is about a married woman about to make a decision that will change her life. She’s standing near the elevator in a hotel lobby, debating whether to step inside and go to the man who waits with champagne and candlelight. “What’ll keep me out of heaven will take me there tonight,” she sings. It’s this kind of writing, where every word seems to be impossibly important, that makes this album stand out. On “In Some Corner,” she’s thinking about the man who got away. Whatever happened between them didn’t last, but on this night, as she’s remembering the fire that flew between them, she realizes she’s not nearly over him. If he called her right then, she’d throw on her coat and head his way. But not all the songs are as introspective. There’s a lot of action on this album, from praying to Jesus to playing the lotto. In “Crazy Women” the woman at the center of the story heads out with her Aqua Net and a cigarette to set fire to her lover’s car. She wasn’t drunk or high, Clark sings, just tired of wondering

12 Stories Brandy Clark

@review Marla Cantrell

if he was coming home. In “Stripes,” Clark tells the story of a woman who decides not to kill her cheating lover because she knows how bad she looks in both orange and stripes. Beyond her anger, she realizes that showing up in a mug shot on the front page of the local paper would be a far worse fate.


ard knocks, daddy issues, cheating issues, anger

All the songs are worth a listen; however, the one that’s likely

issues. That’s just part of the songs written and sung

to get you is “Just Like Him,” a mournful song about a woman

by newcomer Brandy Clark. In her debut album, 12

trying her best not to end up with a man like her daddy. He

Stories, she sings the way you hope a country singer will: with a

broke hearts and dishes, she sings, as she waits all night for her

dose of despair, a whole lot of rebellion, and a voice that stays

lover to come home. This waiting makes her feel like she did

in your head long after the music stops.

when she was six years old, she says, and your heart breaks with hers. That’s what great songs do, they break your heart. But you

Maybe one of the reasons she’s so good is that she’s been

still go back and listen again and again.

writing for other artists for fifteen years, recently winning the ASCAP award for The Band Perry’s “Better Dig Two.” Clark credits her grandma and her brothers and sisters for teaching her how to craft a story. She sat with them at the kitchen table, listening closely, seeing the ways the tales played out, always entertaining, full of imagination. In a recent interview she said the one thing they taught her was not to let the truth get in the way of a good story.

I Rate It



Letters Home @story Marla Cantrell @images courtesy Tanya Dedmon

In 1944, when the world was at war, the draft found Austin “Skinny” Bell Swearingen. At eighteen, he’d seen little outside of Cecil, Arkansas, a town so small it was barely a dot on the map. He finished school, graduating from nearby Charleston High, and dreamed of college. He fancied himself a bit of a writer, penning poems, writing long letters, sometimes jokingly signing his name “Shakespeare.” Months after his draft notice came, he petitioned the University of Arkansas, working out a deal so he could study by

a shadow crossing their faces as they listened for any news that might tell them something about their sons’ circumstances. There was also a special girl, Betty Jean, a telephone operator in Fort Smith, and if time permitted, he believed a full blown romance might have blossomed. He loved his pop, and he worried after him – the hard work he did in the coal pits, the sorry condition of his teeth – but it was his mother, especially, that made his heart break. The thought of not sitting down with

correspondence no matter where Uncle Sam sent him.

her, of not eating her fine cooking, of not sharing the harmless

But as he set out – first to Camp Robinson in Little Rock, and

was over, seemed too much to bear.

then to San Diego, and finally to sea – his heart always turned to home. He was one of six children, four boys and two girls. His two older brothers, Walter and George, were already serving in the Army. He’d watched his parents sit by the family’s one radio,

small town gossip that kept them chatting long after supper

Heading out, he knew he’d have to find a way to stay tethered to home. His letters started as soon as his feet hit Camp Robinson.


Aug. 3, 1944

We have been kicked and cussed around all day. We got our G.I. haircuts and we are all bald headed. We have been issued our

Little Rock

clothing and equipment, and they have been trying to show us how to pack our bags, and make our beds, and confidentially it

Dear Folks, I arrived in Camp Robinson about 7:00 o’clock, and

has been very boring. We will have to spend 12 weeks in boot

ate our supper. Then they took us to the barracks. As soon as they

camp, then maybe we will have it a little better. I guess you got all

turned us loose we took out for the P.X. and bought postcards.

the cards I sent on the trip. .. Well, it is about time to start cleaning

There is six of us in each barrack. We won’t be inducted until

the bathrooms, guess I better quit scribbling. All the boys feel

tomorrow, we don’t know anything yet. I am lying on the floor

pretty badly, and pretty blue tonight, but maybe it will get better

writing this. I will write as soon as I can.

in a few days.


It only took Austin six short days to take out the life insurance policy


he prayed would linger in a drawer inside his childhood home.

Another postcard, written the following day, announced what

Dear Folks, I have taken out an insurance policy which I must send

he considered a grand piece of luck. He had been chosen by the

home, and also I forgot to send the receipt for my ration books.

Navy. Perhaps he thought the wide sea, the hulking ship, would

The lights go out in the barracks here at 8:30, and the recreation

be the things that kept him safe.

room is full so I am writing on a window sill, so don’t expect me to write too much. This insurance I took out is just like the one

On August 5, he found time to write home again.

George has. I took out $10,000. If I get killed you and Pop will receive about $130.00 per month as long as you live.

Dear Folks, I have been sworn into the Navy, and am leaving for San Diego at 9:00 this morning. We stayed in the Y.M.C.A. building

He pushed on, doing his best work, learning to type, hoping he’d

last night.

test high enough to become a radio operator or a radioman.

He marveled at the train he rode. The Pullman car, the towns

Not long after, Austin asked for pictures of everyone in the

zipping by. He sat with his face pressed to the window, taking it

family. He asked his pop to wire money before his first leave,

all in, this land away from Arkansas, this world with deserts and

just in case he came up short. A round trip ticket will cost 44.00.

palm trees.

I will have to eat on the train for about three days, so it will cost about 50.00. The church he attended – they all were required to

Dear Folks, We passed about 50 yards from the Mexico border.

go – could hold 3,000 people. He described the big ships, how

We stopped in Yuma, Ariz. for a short time and there were some

he could see them in the channel from his spot in the barracks. I

old Indian women sitting right flat down on the sidewalk selling

guess we will be seeing all the ships we want before long.

beads and little trinkets. They couldn’t even speak English. They had the price of every article written on a little piece of paper that

The typewriter he used cost ten cents for every thirty minutes of

was attached to the article.

use. They have a slot in them just like a Nickelodeon only you have to insert a dime instead of a nickel. But Austin believed it was a

Once settled, he picked up his pen again.

good investment. If I get to go to radio school I will need typing so I am killing two birds with the same stone.

San Diego Cal. In September, Austin experienced one of the great wonders of Aug. 9, 1944

California: Balboa Park in San Diego. They have the third largest zoo in this country out there, and it is a beautiful place. While we

Dear Folks, I arrived here in San Diego Tues. night about 11:30.

were out there we had our picture made by an old man who did his




own developing. They aren’t good pictures but maybe you can tell

and raising heck. He then turned his attention to his brother,

what we look like in our uniforms. Incidentally both of my buddies

Lawrence, asking for a picture of him in the suit he’d given him.

are Arkies. They are swell guys too.

And he asked after his brother, George, who was in Belgium at the time. Mom! Have you heard from George lately? ..I have been

Back at camp, Austin studied hard, getting up at five in the

a little worried about him since the German counter attack, but I

morning, attending lectures all day. He was a smart guy, and his

guess he’s still alright.

diligence paid off. He wrote home telling his folks he’d been chosen to be a radioman. His job was critical, working with a

The New Year dawned, and the world was still at war. Austin was

team that picked up radar signals and communications and

now at a temporary camp in San Francisco, waiting still to be

transcribed them for the officers on board.

shipped out. He wrote home, talking about the lush land, the fat Holstein cows he’d seen, the beauty of the valley where the

In early December, he wrote home telling his folks he’d gotten

camp was. He signed the letter, Salty, and added, I now have a

the gifts they’d sent. He’d also sent a suit to his little brother,

mustache and sideburns.

Lawrence, and a coat to his mom. He joked, I want you and Pop to both get you some good clothes and step out once in a while.

He must have been full of trepidation when he finally boarded

When I get out to sea and am made an admiral I am going to send

the aircraft carrier, the USS Franklin, on January 13, 1945. The

you $100.00 and I want you to buy a bunch of new clothes and

ship, nicknamed Big Ben, was thought by many to be invincible,

get out every now and then. I know you would really enjoy it, and

a notion that comforted Austin. It weighed 21,000 tons, was

don’t worry about we boys, we will make it OK when we get out. ..I

970 feet long, with an 880 feet long flight deck. The fuel tanks

sent to the University of Arkansas for a course in first year English.

carried more than 200,000 gallons of gasoline for the 103

It just cost me $8.25 and I will receive three college hours for it

fighters, bombers and torpedo planes, and carried another

just the same as if I were in college.

7,000 tons of oil for her own boilers. There were 3,500 people aboard. Their destination was the Pacific.

On December 12, he graduated from Radar Operators School. His diploma, no bigger than a half a sheet of notebook

On January 28, he wrote home, trying to comfort his mother.

paper, brought him great joy. He sent it home to his folks for

I certainly hope George got his Christmas packages. Mom, I

safekeeping. On the back he wrote, Some people may say I’m

wouldn’t worry about him too much. I don’t think it will be long

ignorant, cause I haven’t been to college, but just show them this.

before he will be home again. But I don’t mind your telling me

It will prove my knowledge. No doubt about it. This is the best rate

about it, if it makes you feel better to get it off your chest just go

there is, so you can say with pride, My boy is a radar man. Gee Wiz!

right ahead and don’t mind at all. I have been keeping up with the

He signed the note, Shakespeare.

war news pretty well lately, and it sounds pretty good now. ..I will be going out before long now, and dog-gone it! you had better not

The following day he moved eighteen miles from San Diego, to

start worrying about me. Do you think that after all the battles

a place he called a distribution center. It was hot as heck in the

George and I survived when we were kids, we would be hurt in a

day and cold at night, and the first night, before he was assigned

little scrap like this?

a barracks, he slept in a “shack made out of cardboard.” He was given a physical, and was waiting to be shipped out. He thought

In February, he apologized for not writing. He’d been in the

he might go to Pearl Harbor, but he didn’t know. I hope Old

sick bay for five days, reeling with a bout of tonsillitis and sea

Santa Claus is good to all of you this year, and you have a merry

sickness. He wrote, Bye golly! if I don’t have a stack of letters

Christmas, he wrote. He signed the letter, Skinny.

from you, every time our mail barge pulls alongside, I am going to quit writing (ha). Another letter came at the end of the month.

Christmas Day, Austin ate in the mess hall, the food so good he

Austin hadn’t received mail for several days and he was aching

sent the menu home. I didn’t mind Christmas like I thought I would.

for word from home. He signed off, saying he had the twelve to

We were all in the same boat, so we just had a good time griping

four overnight shift.


When March rolled in, the stress of battle was showing. He

The family of Austin “Skinny” Bell Swearingen never knew

wrote, We had our first mail call in over a week, the first and I

where he was when the bombs hit. Perhaps they heard the

had been anticipating a great stack of mail, so when they sounded

reports that made news across the globe, and prayed Austin

mail call I dashed up the ladder and began shuffling letters right

had been spared. But by March 26, 1945, the last letters they’d

and left. You can’t imagine how I felt when I couldn’t find a single

written their son came back unopened, a terrible omen, and on

one for me. I felt like I had been slapped in the face. But that night

April 5 they received the telegram that broke their hearts. Their

we got more mail aboard, and one of my buddies woke me up and

dear boy had been buried at sea.

gave me a letter from you, which tended to ameliorate my broken morale. Mom, I don’t want any of you to worry about me at all, but

The letters, along with the Purple Heart, were gathered up and

for goodness sake! please don’t forget to write. I can make it fine

put away by Austin’s mother, who never stopped grieving. The

as long as I can be assured of getting a big stack of mail every time

letters Austin mailed in the U.S. were sent free of charge. Once

we have mail call. ..It is hard for anyone back home to realize how

on ship, Air Mail cost six cents. The stamps show the underbelly

much a letter from home can mean to a man overseas. It makes

of a red plane that looks unstoppable on the tiny rectangle. The

him feel like someone still thinks of him, and cares what happens

envelopes are now yellowed, and are marked by Austin’s mother,

to him. It lessens the feeling that he is just a tramp, cast out miles

2nd one from the ship, and so on, until the final letter, 6th and

from home to suffer the punishments of fate.

last one from the ship. The ink on some of the correspondence – each one began with the greeting Dear Folks – has faded so

In his next letter, on March 14, he talks about the girl back home,

much it’s almost gone. The Western Union telegram has been

Betty Jean Robertson. Mom, Betty Jean would like for you to let

laminated, as has the sermon preached for Austin, most likely

her know in the event anything happens to me. ..This may sound a

well after his flag-draped body, probably weighted with a shell

little grim, but we may as well face facts. You can’t hide from life,

casing, was lowered into the sea.

or live in fear of death and be happy. But I am not worried about it. He ends the letter this way. I had rather have letters from you and

There is no grave here, but Austin’s name is engraved on a

Pop than anyone I have ever written to. I wish you were nineteen

monument at the Franklin County courthouse. When his family

and I had met you before Pop did, but then I wouldn’t have such a

visits, they reach out and trace the letters. They think about this

swell Pop. He signs the letter, My sincere love, Austin Swearingen.

young boy who left on a bus to Little Rock and only returned once on leave. They think of his two brothers who made it back.

Just after seven in the morning on March 19, while the crew

They wonder what might have become of Austin if he’d been

was eating breakfast, a Japanese Kamikaze pilot emerged from

able to finish his degree, if he’d been able to survive the war.

the clouds on a suicide mission. He headed right for the ship,

They wonder what it would have been like to see him spring

dropping a 500 pound bomb on the flight deck. First-hand

up onto the porch of the folks’ little house, this tall, skinny boy.

accounts say the bomb incinerated some of the men standing

He would have called out, Mom, I’m home, and the celebration

in the chow line and shot others straight into the sea. Floors

would have begun. It would have lasted well into the night and

buckled, crushing men between them, and trapping others in a

on into the inky hours of the morning.

cave of metal. Pipes burst, spilling fuel that caught fire. Smoke billowed, sirens sounded, and a ricochet of explosions quickly wiped out the Combat Information Center. If you’d like to write to our military men and women, Not long after, a second bomb hit. The attack killed 724, and

past and present, contact Groups,

wounded another 265. The chaplain, who had been on board only

schoolchildren, and churches can also participate. The

seventeen days, was not injured. He grabbed a life jacket, a vial of

next deadline is January 15, for letters and cards for

holy water, and headed through the smoke toward the damage,

Valentine’s Day, 2014.

giving last rites, and doing all he could to help the medical crew save others. His actions that day earned him the Medal of Honor.






The Heart of Christmas

@story Marla Cantrell


ing Crosby’s playing in the background, and the talk

area facilities. The list of things the residents ask for is humbling:

in the common room at this long-term care facility is

warm socks, sweatpants and sweatshirts to wear for doctors’

about what the holidays used to be like when these

visits, undershirts, lotion, bras, a decent razor, pajamas, robes,

seniors were children. Today, they remember, detailing the

large print Bibles.

way the smell of their mother’s cooking filled the air, how they helped their father chop down a cedar tree and decorated it

Those who volunteer with the program tell heartbreaking

with popcorn and handmade ornaments, how excited they were

stories. At times, they say, the elderly are dropped off at a long-

waiting for Santa.

term care facility with only the clothes on their backs. Imagine what that must feel like. Imagine the helplessness.

The memories help, but sometimes it’s just not enough. Some have outlived their families and friends. For them, this time of

So all year long, the charity gathers care packages for residents

year can be an especially lonely time.

in need. And at Christmas they make sure that everyone in the thirty-one facilities they service gets a present to unwrap. One

That’s where Hearts of Gold, an outreach program of Project

of the top requests is lotion, like Jergens or Oil of Olay. They like

Compassion in Fort Smith, Arkansas, comes in. Last year alone

jigsaw puzzles with jumbo pieces, books with large print, and

they gathered enough gifts for 2,000 residents in thirty-one

house shoes with non-slip soles.


The cost to make their Christmas a happy one is minimal. You can pick up any of these items on your weekly shopping trips. Some of the residents hardest to fit are those in the plus sizes, so

For more information on how you can help, visit

consider that when you’re in the store. And if you’re especially, or call 479.783.2273.

busy this year, you can donate cash that will be used to buy the gifts. When you’ve decided what you’re going to do, you’ll

The Hearts of Gold campaign kicks off on Tuesday,

need to take your unwrapped present to any local Simmons

December 3, 2013, with an open house at the St.

First National Bank in the River Valley or Fayetteville, through

Scholastica Retreat Center, inside the Trinity Junior

December 24.

High building at 1205 South Albert Pike Avenue, in Fort Smith, Arkansas, from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm. The

You can even adopt a resident if you’d like, buy the gift they

Jack and Jill Daycare singers will perform, 40/29’s

requested and add a personal card to let them know you’re

chief meteorologist, Drew Michaels, will emcee, and

thinking of them on Christmas. It could be a wonderful family

there will be door prizes and refreshments. Bring your

tradition, getting your kids involved, even handcrafting your

unwrapped donations with you, and enjoy being part

own card. If you own a business, you and your employees might

of our great community.

want to adopt several residents. It’s a wonderful way to be part Donations will also be accepted at any Simmons

of something special.

First National Bank location in the River Valley or So give if you can, and if you can’t, consider this. There are

Fayetteville, Arkansas until close of business on

many ways to help. You can volunteer to visit residents who

December 24.

are unable to leave their rooms. You can volunteer to bring your well behaved pets with current shot records to visit. Many had

NOTE: There are many requests for plus sizes for both

to find other homes for their pets when they moved in, and

men and women.

being able to interact with these animals is a great source of joy. So far, people have brought in cats, dogs, parrots, even sheep.

Please bring gifts unwrapped.

Or you could join the “Read to a Resident” program, which only Drop off Locations are at Simmons First National

requires thirty minutes a week.

Banks in the River Valley and Northwest Arkansas. One final note. Remember that these items are needed throughout the year. If you can’t give now, consider putting

Deadline to drop off gifts is end of business on

a reminder on your calendar for later in 2014, and give then.

December 24.

Because giving back really does make life better. For the person you’re giving to, absolutely. But also for yourself.

List of Needs Hearts of Gold Wish List


Disposable Razors



Large Print Bibles



Large Print Books

Non-Skid Socks

Lap Quilts

House Shoes




(Jergens and Oil of Olay are the most requested)

Jigsaw Puzzles with Jumbo Pieces



What We Love This Christmas… 1


4 3






$10 – $30

John Mays Jewelers


Brow Bar

Jay Strongwater 2013 Nutcracker Glass Ornament

Magnolia Lane Razorback Platter

Wet Brush Detangler, Lip Glosses and Baked Blushes



Silk Floral Arrangement Johnston’s Quality Flowers


5 6

7 8


$22.99 & $7.99

Breyer Truck & Gooseneck Trailer with Stablemates Mystery Foal Surprise Farmers Coop



B12 Dyeties Hair Ties Unique Boutique





Season’s Garden Home & Gifts Find us on Facebook

Stiles Eye Group


Diane Whitehead Canvas Goat Print 26-1/2” square

Bvlgaria 8126-B Sunglasses with Swarovski Crystals


A homemade Christmas gift is extra special because it says you cared enough to invest your time and skill into it. It says, this is personal. It says love. Check out our homemade food gifts - one for everyone on your Christmas list - even Fido!

Bacon Salt Place 1lb bacon on a baking sheet and cook in a 350 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Place on paper towels to remove excess grease – let cool. Place bacon, 1 1/2 tablespoons sea salt and 2 teaspoons cracked black pepper in food processor and pulse until fine, or to desired consistency. Store refrigerated in an airtight container.


Spicy Dry Rub Combine 1/4 cup smoked paprika, 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1 tablespoon cumin, 1 pinch red pepper flakes, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon sea salt, and 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper. Pour into airtight container.

Compound Herb Butters 2 sticks softened salted butter per compound. Orange Zest, Cointreau, Honey Butter (great for breads & muffins): Combine 1 tablespoon Cointreau, zest of 1 navel orange, 2 tablespoons honey, butter. Orange Zest, Tarragon, Dijon Butter (perfect for fish): Combine 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon, 1 teaspoon Dijon, 1 tablespoon orange juice, zest of 1 navel orange, butter. Black Pepper, Dill, Lemon Zest Butter (great for veggies & fish): Combine zest of 2 lemons, 2 tablespoons thyme, 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper, butter. Herb Blend Butter (perfect for artisan breads): combine 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon sage, 2 teaspoons rosemary, 1 tablespoon thyme, dash of salt, splash of lemon juice, and butter. *Place on plastic wrap, form into log. Wrap in parchment paper.


Cranberry Lime Infused Vodka Rinse 1lb of fresh cranberries. Poke a hole into each cranberry. Add cranberries to your container, filling it 1/3 of the way. Peel the rind from a lime. Add half of lime rind to the container. Add another layer of cranberries, then another layer of lime rind, finishing the container with cranberries. Add 2 tablespoons sugar. Fill container with vodka. Seal container and shake well.


Red Velvet Cupcake in a Jar Using boxed red velvet cake mix, bake cupcakes according to directions, let cool completely. Slice cupcakes in half to create tops and bottoms. Place a cupcake bottom in a wide mouth 8oz. Mason jar. Add a layer of store bought cream cheese frosting. Add a cupcake top, press down gently. Frost the top of the cupcake. Cover with lid and store in the refrigerator.

Rudy’s Good Boy Biscuits Mix 1 cup whole-wheat flour, 1/4 cup cornmeal, 1/4 cup oats, 1/4 cup wheat germ, 1 cup unbleached white flour, 1/4 cup grated Asiago cheese, and 1 large egg. Add up to 1 cup chicken broth, pouring slowly as you mix the dough to the desired consistency – not too wet or too dry – either by hand or in a food processor. Roll dough on floured surface until it is 1/4 inch thick. Cut with cookie cutters. Place cut dough on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.





Dream a Little Dream: Hand printed Letterpress Poster, 12 x 6 Roll and Tumble Press / Little Rock, AR


Handmade Custom Painted Fishing Lures

Hawker Custom Lures - Mountain Home, AR




3 Dog Tea Towel Bundle, Printed with Eco Friendly Inks Gingiber – Zest for Your Nest / Edmond, OK


Homegrown Arkansas Tee

Rock City Outfitters / Little Rock, AR




Ozark Float Trip Coffee

Johnny Cash Necklace

Mollyjogger / Fayetteville, AR

Robinson Lane / Little Rock, AR


$ 99 $

Crispy Cakes



The Crispery / Little Rock, AR




Smokehouse Shaving Soap 4.5oz

Southern Girls Soapery / Little Rock, AR


Sweet and simple. Forego the glitter and glitz and get back to nature when wrapping your gifts this season. Wrap your gift with brown craft paper. Attach a twig from your yard to the package with store bought twine. Make two simple poms and attach them to the ends of the twig with hot glue. Add a craft paper tag, use a stamp to add the name of the lucky recipient. You could also use small pinecones or sprigs of holly or spruce.

Wrap yarn around a fork until the yarn it thick. Cut end of yarn.

Cut a small piece of yarn and thread through the middle prong. Tie it in a tight knot.

Slip the yarn off the fork. Cut the loops with scissors. Roll pom in your hand to fluff.

NOTE: The more yarn you wrap the thicker the pom will be. Make different sizes of poms by using various sizes of forks.



Two Artists in a Tiny House @story Marla Cantrell @images Jeromy Price


n a house that’s only 700 square feet, in a town that’s yet

artist sits near a handmade rocker they brought with them from

to surpass the 400 mark in population, two artists with big

Texas. And everywhere is art. One of Allen’s specialties is lamps.

ideas are settling in. Not long ago Dianna and Allen Price

Several of his pieces light their home, one with two wooden

were living in Amarillo, in a much larger house. And in that

boxes fitted one atop the other to serve as the shade. Dianna’s

house were many things. Letting go of most of it opened up

paintings show up in almost every room.

their world, clearing a way for a much different life. Most of her work is done in acrylics. She likes to get messy Dianna talks about the process inside her immaculate little

with it, dipping her fingers in paint and doing away with the

home. She stands near the counter Allen made, a beautiful work

brush at times. In one piece you can see the way she’s used

of sheet metal and wood that separates the kitchen from the

this technique to get Albert Einstein’s hair just right. “There’s no

living room, where a handcrafted cedar bench made by a local

other way to paint Einstein,” she says.


In other works, she uses pages of her journals, cut into pieces,

skinny she was, her grand fashion sense. Mel was shimmering,

and affixes them to the canvas and then paints over them. That’s

beautiful, bright. She’s also the reason Dianna ended up, finally,

one of the great joys of her work, to have these hidden bits of

as a grief counselor.

her life used as the foundation of a painting, even though the words don’t show through.

“We lost our daughter in 2004, after a five-year battle with cancer. She was twenty,” Dianna says. “A counselor friend of

All the way back in junior high, her dream was to paint. But

mine told me something one day when the loss was pretty new.

then a school counselor took her aside and told her she might

I said, ‘I guess I’m going to be an expert at grief now.’ And she

starve as an artist, and suggested drafting or engineering as an

looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘That’s a gift Mel gave

alternative. She listened, becoming a draftsman. But later she

to you.’

changed course, getting her nursing degree and working in surgery. She then when back to school to get her Master’s in counseling so that she could serve as the emergency mental health counselor at a Texas hospital.

“At first I didn’t know if I could do it,” Dianna says. “But then it hit me, either people turn from God or they get more spiritual when something catastrophic happens. For me, I felt like she was closer and God was really,

During that time she worked and worked and worked. “You were there at the

really close. And so I did it. I became a grief counselor.

hospital for as long as you needed to be,” Dianna says. “It didn’t matter

“When I buried my child – she was

what the clock said. If you had

my only one – I buried all those

patients in crisis, you stayed. I


remember Allen coming by, actually

much. That was the end. It feels like

coming to the hospital to make sure

‘game over’ once the shock lets up.

I was okay, because he couldn’t




Once the grief lifts just a little bit

believe I’d been there so long.”

you wonder how you’re going to find your worth again.

While Dianna was gaining experience in the medical field, Allen was finding his own footing. He’d been a ditch digger, a draftsman, an engineer, a radiation safety technician, and finally, a scientist in charge of disposing of hazardous wastes. “About every ten years I’d try something else,” Allen says.

“I started painting about six months after my daughter died. We were sitting at a restaurant and this young gal had this art show with big, bold paintings. I thought, I might be able to do this. My background helped. My family made everything. Dad made our furniture. Mom made our clothes. We always made gifts.

As they talk about their life in Amarillo, the two often finish each other’s sentence. Their dog, Lulu, is nearby, watching the two,

“I went to Hobby Lobby where these little gray-haired ladies

wagging her tail. Outside, the songbirds sing and the last leaves

teach you to paint for twenty dollars. They were so sweet and

of fall flutter to the ground.

so non-intimidating. I needed that. I then took workshops with bold, contemporary artists.

It is a picturesque setting, the small house with the red roof, their studio just across the way, where they make everything

“Painting helped. You’re just lost. You don’t know what to do

from tiny clay birds to herbal soaps to great works of art.

with that energy that was spent on another human being. You don’t want to go hang out with other moms because they’re

But their story takes a somber turn when they talk about

always talking about their daughter getting married, or their son

their daughter, Mel. Dianna describes her, talking about how

graduating from college, and it just breaks your heart.”




At the same time, Allen was so low he didn’t have the energy to

They started selling their art at Ozark Folkways not far from

do much of anything. He’d sit and stare at the TV. He’d fall into

their house. Now, on Saturdays, they meet downtown at the

books. And as Dianna watched, she knew he needed to get up.

tiny mercantile that also turns into a coffee shop on Saturday

“I told him he needed to be doing something. He was this great

mornings only. Their group of eclectic friends talks about art

welder, builder. He could do anything. We went and got these

and books, and many belong to a drum circle. The leader of the

industrial parts and started making these funky lamps.

group is planning a trip to Africa with Dianna and Allen, and several of the other members, in the near future.

“And I painted and painted and painted, creating a new reality because I didn’t like my own. We got hooked up with a batch of

Dianna can’t wait. She’s never been across the ocean. And Africa,

artists working out of a mall that had closed down in Amarillo.

for years and years, has been her dream. As she’s telling the

You go to this mall and all the little stores are artists’ studios,

story, the UPS truck rumbles up and leaves a large brown box.

and we were practically living there. We’d be there in the middle

Dianna can’t wait to open it. Inside there is a broad fork, which

of the night. People were smoking and drinking and making art

looks like a giant metal fork, its tines spaced far apart. Dianna

all night. Giving really blunt observations about the art. And

pulls the fork from the box and demonstrates how it works, how

when you got it right, they’d say, ‘That works. Walk away.’ It was

it pierces the earth and turns it over, so much better than a tiller,

a whole different world, and I needed to recreate my world.”

she says. It is another love of this couple, the opportunity to work the earth, to plant vegetables and herbs and flowers.

The two – married for more than thirty years – held onto one another, working their way through the worst time of their lives.

Allen smiles at his wife, happy to see her so happy. It’s been a good,

Their art was gaining momentum. They started thinking about

long marriage, full of love, filled with hope. And the best is still

their future, about the big house and all the things they owned.

ahead, just over the horizon, in a little town called Winslow.

Allen was retiring early, and that gave them the opportunity to consider other places. They’d come to Winslow periodically for Allen’s family reunions. His mother was born in this tiny town. They loved the hills, they loved the seasons changing. And so

To see Dianna and Allen’s artwork, visit,

they decided to move. They began giving away things from You can contact them at

their homes, even artwork. They bought the house they live in, if you’d like to schedule

now, which had been home to a single mother and her brood

a visit to their gift shop/studio.

of children for decades. It didn’t even have an indoor bathroom until the seventies.

Many of their pieces are at Ozark Folkways at 22733 North Highway 71 in Winslow.

The move, sixteen months ago, opened up their lives. They transformed the little house, filling it with color and light.



Peppermint Bark @recipe and images Stacey Little


One of the things I enjoy most about the holiday season is having family close and spending quality time together. There’s just something about family time around the holidays that seems more important – almost like the moments are more precious and more valuable. Every year for as long as I can remember, we have gathered for our annual Christmas candy and cookie making day with my mom the weekend before Christmas. It’s a fun time for us as we shut out the hustle and bustle of the season and just be together. Some of the recipes have changed over the years, but several always make their way to our holiday menu: Martha Washington Balls, Peanut Brittle, and this Peppermint Bark are good examples. The faces present have changed a bit over the years, too. Adding my wife and then my son to the mix has brought me even more joy. We spend the day listening to Christmas music and cooking and baking away. Food is a central theme in our family, as it is with most Southern families, and the holidays just give us the opportunity to pull out all the stops. The holiday season is a time for traditions, much like our baking day. It might be finding the perfect evergreen for the Christmas tree or perhaps it’s loading up in the car with coffee and hot chocolate and taking a tour of the holiday light displays. Regardless, it’s a time for family. This Christmas, my wish for you is to be able to pull your family closer, hold them longer, and squeeze them tighter. I hope you can find time in the chaos of the holiday to gather together and just be family. And no matter where it is or who you’re with, I hope you can find your way home this Christmas.




Ingredients 1 (12-ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate chips 1 (20 to 24-ounce) package vanilla almond bark 1 teaspoon peppermint extract 1 (16-ounce) package round peppermint candies Red and white sprinkling sugar

Method 1. Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper. Melt chocolate chips in microwave using 30 second intervals. Stir frequently. 2. Spread the chocolate on the waxed paper in a thin layer. Allow the chocolate to set at room temperature for about 30 minutes. 3. In the meantime, unwrap the peppermint candies and place in a gallon-size zip top bag. Place the bag with candies between a dish towel and crush with a rolling pin or meat tenderizer. Be sure to break up candy, but do not completely crush. 4. Once the chocolate is set, melt the vanilla almond bark in the microwave using 30 second intervals, stirring between each. Once melted, add about 1/3 of the crushed candy and the peppermint extract to the melted bark. Lightly toss to coat, but don’t overmix or your white bark will turn pink. Pour the white bark mixture over the chocolate layer and spread thin. Work quickly so the chocolate layer won’t melt through. 5. Top with the remaining crushed candy, being careful to use the chunks and not the finely crushed powdery stuff. Sprinkle with red and white sugar crystals. (This step is not necessary, but it sure makes this stuff sparkle.) 6. Chill in refrigerator until set. Then break into pieces.

Stacey Little

is the author and publisher of, an award-winning Southern food blog dedicated to sharing his family’s Southern recipes.



Hot Cocoa Bombs @image Jeromy Price

In saucepan over low heat, mix together 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, 1 cup heavy cream, 1 tablespoon sugar, Ÿ teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. Stir until smooth. Cool in refrigerator until firm. Place small scoops, about 2 tablespoons, onto parchment lined baking sheet. Place in freezer for one hour. Remove, and with your hands, roll into balls. Dredge balls into topping of choice (cocoa powder, crushed peppermint, cookies and cream). Wrap each ball in plastic wrap, freeze until ready to use. Place cocoa bomb in 1 ½ cups of hot milk. Stir & enjoy!



Peppermint Eggnog Milkshake @recipe adapted from Sugar and Cloth @image Jeromy Price

Peppermint ice cream Peppermint white chocolate bark Crushed peppermint Eggnog (with or without alcohol)

Light Karo syrup Paper straw In a blender, mix together two parts peppermint ice cream to one part eggnog. Add a few tablespoons of Karo syrup and a splash of water to a saucer. Mix together with a spoon. To rim the glass with peppermint, first twist the edge of the glass in the syrup mixture and then twist in the crushed peppermint. Fill glass with ice cream mixture and place in the freezer until ready to serve. Break peppermint bark in half diagonally, and place on top just before serving along with a paper straw.

Please drink responsibly.



Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

Wild Winter Country @story Marla Cantrell @images courtesy Chris Shillcutt


It’s a warm day in November, with highs reaching the seventies. Chris Shillcutt is at work in North Little Rock, without even a jacket, though he may rethink that decision later. Because it has started to snow, furiously. This snow is blowing from two 25-ton machines Chris ordered months ago. When Chris tries to explain the machines, which have been running twenty-four hours a day since the first of November, he says you have to imagine a giant snow cone maker. They freeze water, and then blades cut the ice into flakes. The flakes ride a conveyor belt into the blower that shoots the snow across Wild Winter Country. Does it feel like real snow? It absolutely does. The company that makes the machines also has equipment at Legoland in Florida and Snow Mountain Park in Georgia - big parks with big ideas. But not too big for Chris. “We lived in Atlanta when I worked for Six Flags,” he says, “and I thought if they can get snow in Atlanta, we most certainly can get snow in North Little Rock.” These two mammoths are part of the master plan that turns Arkansas’ biggest water park, Wild River Country, into Wild Winter Country, for the first time ever. As the months pass – the park remains open through March – more snow will accumulate, simply because the temperatures will be dropping and less and less snow will be melting. The water slides and lazy river are farther back on the property, so nothing interferes with this new addition. And at the front is a big hill, which is perfect for snow tubing and tobogganing. One of the main attractions is Tubin’ Ruben’s Slippery Slopes, where kids and adults hop on snow tubes outfitted with hard shells on the bottom and fabriccovered inner tubes on the inside. The ride takes passengers about 300 feet down, through the snow, and each ticket is good for ninety minutes of fun. Chris thinks this ride is so important because many of us never get to places like Colorado or the Poconos to see endless landscapes of snow. With the opening of Wild Winter Country, he’s hoping to offer a little of that winter wonderland right here at home. There is no specified age limit on Tubin’ Ruben’s Slippery Slopes. Chris says the park is deferring to parents to monitor their children. If Chris could offer any advice before you head out, it’s this: check the website’s calendar for their days of operation – they vary as we get closer to the holidays – and reserve your tubing tickets in advance. If the weather interferes you can get your money back, or come back another day. “We’re selling 100 snow tubing passes every hour. There’s only 100, so if you come here without booking ahead, you could be disappointed. I sure don’t want that.” But if your kids are too small for tubing, there’s the Polar Bear Playground, where you can make snow angels, build snowmen, throw snowballs at targets in the




off the day with a visit to the park. Companies are also taking advantage, seeing this new venue as a great place to hold parties, and people are booking birthday celebrations. Wild Winter Country, which opened in late November, will stay open through March 30, 2014, to accommodate those on spring break. There is nothing else like it in the state. Chris and his staff are ready for the crowds heading to North Little Rock during the next few months. There are snow guards – the cold weather equivalent of lifeguards – all around the park, watching those on the slopes. The lights twinkle, the hot chocolate waits, and all across the park the snow falls, turning Snowball Alley, and toboggan on a gentler slope called Cub

the water park into a winter wonderland.

Paw Raceway. As for those of us dreaming of a white Christmas, it’s Chris All this winter fun will work up an appetite. No worries. There

Shillcutt - not Kris Kringle - who can deliver, no matter what

is plenty of food, including coffee, hot chocolate, soups, chili,

the forecast predicts. “Let it snow!” he says, and then turns back

burgers, pulled pork sandwiches, chicken salad sandwiches, hot

to the two machines that are guaranteeing just that.

dogs, ice cream, cookies, and tarts. There is also a S’mores pit, so families can buy a kit with graham crackers, chocolate and

Let it snow, indeed!

marshmallows, then head to the outdoor fire pit and make their own treats. To make it an even happier holiday hotspot, there are Christmas lights everywhere, Christmas music plays, and there’s a gift shop to boot. The big guy himself, Mr. S. Claus, is at the lodge on the property through December 23, and he is posing for pictures with all the good boys and girls. For Chris, the best part of Wild Winter Country is seeing all the kids in Arkansas enjoying a day playing in the snow. “I can’t wait to see kids who’ve never had the opportunity to do anything like this before, get in here and do this. They’ll be excited and smiling. I like being part of that. “That’s why we’re opening Christmas Eve morning and Christmas afternoon. Those two days are the busiest at the movie theaters, because families are looking for something to do together. This gets them out, gets them doing something active.” Already, clubs, like the 130 students from Russellville High School, have booked group packages. They’ll be heading to Little Rock for an educational trip in January, and finishing

Wild Winter Country 6820 Crystal Hill Road North Little Rock 501.753.8600 To plan your trip, visit Check calendar for dates and times. Open through March 30, 2014. Park admission $5.43 + tax and includes access to Snowball Alley, Polar Bear Playground and Cub Paw Raceway. Under 24 months enter free of charge. 90 minute snow tubing session is $16.29 + tax. (please book online in advance) Call for group rates or email


back story

Hambone @fiction Marla Cantrell

As soon as Cletus Burkhart crossed the Arkansas

Why Cletus ended up with the suit he couldn’t say. But it arrived

border he was no longer Cletus. Everyone he knew here called

in May, inside an old Montgomery Ward box. Before that day, he

him Hambone, a nickname his older brother had given him one

thought he’d spent his last Christmas in Tisdale. The funeral in

Sunday when he was four, while he was sitting at the kitchen

March had been a terrible thing. His sister Wanda doubled over

table eating the last of the ham. He didn’t remember gnawing

on the casket, and then accused Cletus of not coming home

on the bone, but when you’re the baby in the family your stories

enough once their daddy took sick. His brother Murl rushed

are never yours. They’re hand-me-downs, worn rough at the

everybody from the cemetery so they could go back to the

knees, ripped at the elbow, patched on the rear end. Cletus

house and divide up what was left in their old childhood home.

gripped the steering wheel harder.

No, he did not think he’d be coming back for Christmas.

In the backseat of Cletus’ Chevy pickup was the Santa suit he

When he opened the box, the smell of his daddy rose out of

inherited from his dead daddy, who used to put the suit on and

it. Tanned leather, Ivory soap, Old Spice. Cletus dropped to his

come through the kitchen door every Christmas morning, an

knees then, and cried the way he hadn’t at the funeral. And now,

old feed sack across his shoulder, the white beard crooked, and

all these months later, he knew his daddy would expect him to

hand out the presents, stopping to read the tags. “Got a box

go home at Christmas. In his glove box were twelve envelopes.

here for Hambone,” he’d say. “I’ll bet there’s some drawers in

The exact same amount of cash his daddy would’ve handed out

here, maybe some long johns.” And then he’d laugh and tussle

to the raft of relatives gathering at Wanda’s house. He stopped

Cletus’ blond head.

at a gas station outside Needmore and bought a box of candy canes. He changed into the Santa suit in the bathroom, amidst

After the kids grew up, his daddy kept up the tradition, the suit

the graffiti and the dripping faucet. When he returned the key

getting looser and looser as the years passed. After Cletus’

to the middle-aged clerk, she looked up and smiled. “Mr. Claus,”

mama died, he quit buying presents and started handing out

she said, “I’ve been a very good girl,” in a way that suggested

cold hard cash. A hundred dollar bill for his kids, twenty dollar

she certainly had not.

bills for the grandkids, fifty dollars for anybody who married into the Burkhart clan.

He handed her a candy cane, an automatic reaction, he thought, brought on by wearing the suit. She took it and then pulled

back story

off her eyeglasses. “Happy Christmas,” she said, touching her

Cletus smiled. “Old,” he said, the two men laughed.

throat, touching his hand. She had eyes so blue they looked unreal. “I get off at five.”

“Tell her Buck asked after her. Ask her if she remembers watching Field of Dreams at the old drive-in theater.”

It unnerved him, the attention, the Happy Christmas. Only around here did folks say Happy instead of Merry. “That’d be

When they left, the Hard Times was empty except for Cletus.

really nice, miss,” Cletus said. “But me and Rudolph will be clear

When the waitress brought his food, she slid into the seat

across the ocean by then.”

opposite him.

Back inside the truck, he turned on the station playing Christmas

“You mind?” she asked, and Cletus shook his head.

songs. His daddy’s hat was on the seat beside him and he put it on. It was velvet, worn in spots, the rabbit fur only a little yellow.

“I need to get off my feet.” She looked at him, swiped at the

In Pottsville he stopped again, pumping gas. He was the only

tabletop with a rag attached to her apron. Leaned back against

customer there. Across the street was the Hard Times Café. He

the bench and closed her eyes. Even tired as she was, she was

looked at his watch. Three in the afternoon. He wasn’t supposed

a thing of beauty. Red hair in a pony tail, cheekbones like the

to be at his sister’s until six, and he was only an hour away. Three

women in the J.C. Penney catalog. Lips that turned up, so even

truckers were inside the café, each on a stool at the counter.

now, slack-jawed and reclining, it looked like she was smiling.

Cletus took a seat in a wide booth. The waitress came over. Cletus paused. He eyed his burger. He considered asking her if “Nice hat,” she said, and Cletus bloomed with color.

she wanted a fry, but surely she could get her own, so he dug in, finishing the burger in no time flat.

“You one of them store Santas?” she asked. “You got a name?” he asked, finally, and the waitress opened “Nah,” he said, and slipped the hat off. “Just a family Santa. Over

her eyes.

in Tisdale. Got a passel of nieces and nephews. Thought I should fatten up a little before I got there.”

“Madonna,” she said, and then laughed. “Try to live that one down. I had to either become a saint or a material girl. When

“Kids come in, see you without the beard, they’ll get confused.”

I moved here from Kentucky I shortened it to Donna. Nobody expects much from a Donna.”

“Never thought of that,” Cletus said. “My name’s Cletus, but everybody around these parts calls me “You could slip the jacket off,” the waitress offered.


So he did, stripped down to his T-shirt and red velvet pants. The

“My mama used to sing me a song, ‘Hambone, hambone, where

boots were his, black ostrich cowboy boots.

you going? Got some tugboats need some towing.’”

When the three truckers headed out, all together, the skinny

“Never heard that,” Cletus said.

one stopped and looked Cletus over. “Hambone?” he asked. “She might of made it up.” “That’s me,” Cletus said. “I never saw a man young as you wear a Santa outfit.” “It’s Buck. Buck Heffington. I used to date your sister Wanda. How is that old girl?”

“It’s my daddy’s,” Cletus said.



back story

“Why ain’t he wearing it?” Donna smiled. “There’s a guy said he might stop by.” She looked “He’s gone to the grave.” Cletus paused, he rubbed the knee of

at her hands. “He says a lot of things he never does.”

the velvet pants. “In March.” “Then come with me,” Cletus said. “Meet my family. My sister “Must hurt.”

Wanda’s a mess, a little high strung, but she has a good heart, I believe. Even my brother Murl has his plusses, though I can’t

“Something awful,” Cletus said, and felt his throat close. “I don’t

think of one right off the bat.” Cletus’ brow furrowed. “Wait,” he

much want to be Santa,” Cletus said. “But my daddy left me the

said, “there was this one time, about four years ago, when he

suit. There was a note with it. Happy is the heart that gives much

sent me a fifty dollar check, out of the blue. Wrote a note with

and expects little. I doubt those were his own words, probably

it. It said, ‘You’re the best brother I got. Course you’re the only

found it in a magazine when he was getting his hair cut, or heard

brother I got.’ I was down on my luck then. Out of work. Sad as

it from one of those radio preachers. But I guess it’s how he

if somebody had died.”

felt when the grandkids tore into the envelopes, pocketed the cash, and then headed over to Minnie’s Quick Trip to load up on

Donna tapped the table with the spoon. “I guess I could. You’ll

candy and who knows what else.”

need some help pulling that getup off. The real Santa is much smaller and much rounder, but I have a couch pillow at home

“I met Santa once,” Donna said. “Mama was working Christmas

that could help. And you could slump a little.”

Eve, at a rest home where she washed sheets and mopped floors. I was nine. Alone. Miserable. I heard bells, just like they say you

“I could do all that,” Cletus said.

do, and when I walked out of my room, there he was, his back to me, his red suit sparkling. He left me a pair of turquoise boots, a

“Meal’s on the house,” Donna said. “Santa doesn’t pay for food

jumbo Hershey bar, bubble bath for Mama. I stood in the hallway

at the Hard Times. My rule. Just made it up, but it’s mine.”

transfixed. And then he just vanished. I swear to God.” The kindness welled up inside Cletus. He reached over and Cletus looked at her. She was close to tears.

touched Donna’s slender hand. “Happy is the heart,” he said, “that gives without expecting something in return.” Donna

“I don’t tell that story to many people. They think I’m crazy.”

blushed. “That right there is magical thinking,” he said. “That’s the key to a mystical life. My daddy taught me that,” Cletus said,

“I got an aunt who saw a leprechaun. Right after a big rain

and then paused, “though I only realized it at this very moment.”

washed out the road to her house.” Donna stood, untying her apron as she did. “I think it’s going “You’re joshing me.”

to be a happy Christmas,” she said, and Cletus slipped on his Santa jacket.

“No, she really did.” She rose to her tiptoes. She kissed Cletus on the cheek, and “Life’s a mystical thing,” Donna said, and then wiped her eyes.

then his arms were around her, and they stood like that in the Hard Times Café for what seemed like forever, and didn’t seem

Cletus thought about his own life. The last mystical thing he

like long enough, all at the same time.

could remember happening was winning six dollars on a scratchoff ticket he bought when he went to Colorado to hunt elk. “You got plans tonight?” Cletus asked, and his heart pumped a little harder.

“I can all but guarantee it,” he said. “A happy, happy Christmas.”

Read Chair Publishing, LLC 3811 Rogers Avenue Suite B Fort Smith, Arkansas 72903

@Urban Magazine: Jolly – December 2013 Issue  

@Urban is a free, monthly lifestyle magazine focusing on the great state of Arkansas, primarily the NWA and River Valley areas.

@Urban Magazine: Jolly – December 2013 Issue  

@Urban is a free, monthly lifestyle magazine focusing on the great state of Arkansas, primarily the NWA and River Valley areas.