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june 2013





EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Catherine Frederick




Up Close & Personal


Heat, Bugs, and Veggies


Father’s Day Gift Guide


Ignite: Morning on the Farm


Urban Appeal


Caught in the Clearing

30 32 34

Urban 8

36 40

No Place Like Grandma’s

Let’s Face the Music and Dance


The Introvert’s Guide to Bodybuilding


CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Marla Cantrell Marcus Coker Zoie Clift John Davis, Jr. Catherine Frederick Shannon Hensley Jill Rohrbach Stacey Little Tonya McCoy Dave Malone Deriel Moore Anita Paddock

Life After Life




CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Marcus Coker Larry Durham Catherine Frederick Chuck Haralson Mark Mundorff Jeromy Price Stacey Little DESIGNER Jeromy Price

The Harpist Who Played for Presidents

WEB GURU David Jamell


PUBLISHER Read Chair Publishing, LLC


The Day Cornbread Salad Fixed Every Little Thing


Moscow Mule



54 58 62


Travel Back in Time Float Arkansas Fiction: After Arizona

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 and receive 12 issues per year for only $30. Log on to today.

letter from Catherine | 5


t just got real. I’m talking about life. About growing up. Some of my friends

“babies” have just graduated and will be leaving the nest for college in a couple of months while others are leaving elementary school forever and moving up to the big leagues, junior high. My own son is now officially a third grader and it leaves me

wondering, “When did this whole growing up thing happen”?

fields filled with chiggers and who knows what else, all the while being careful not to destroy my precious Jellies® shoes. Then the sun would start to wane and mom would yell for us to come in for dinner and warn us we’d better not bring those Catalpa worms we’d been collecting into the house. Seems so close I could reach back and touch it with the tips of my fingers. I’ve decided that this summer, I’m going to relax more. Live in the moment more. Make some paper boats and have a race with my son, turn off the electronics and show him how to get dirty and not care. I’m going to worry less about a clean house and worry more about spending every minute of time I can with my family. I’m going to take more pictures and write down the

Not just for him, but for me.

funny stuff so I don’t forget. I’m going to do my best to live in

It seems like yesterday I was the one going off to college.

no one.

But then again, it seems like yesterday my eight year old was learning to walk, so there you go. I guess what I am getting around to is something I often say, but rarely take the time to stop and let sink in: time passes by so very quickly, it’s just an instant really. I blinked and I’d graduated high school, another blink and college was over and I had a job, then a family of my own. Blinked again and now I’m hauling multiple kids, some not my own, all over town for baseball games, camps, and the occasional snow cone. And then I stop for a second and think to myself, it’s happened. Life is happening all around me and I’m

the moment with every minute because time slows down for

In this issue, we’ve gathered a few memory makers just for you. Get in the kitchen and make cornbread salad, and then eat it out on your porch where you can watch the hummingbirds. Not a cook? Then head to Grandma’s House for some of the best Southern food in the state. Read the story of the harp player from Heavener who ended up in D.C. with an invitation to play for President Kennedy. Need to get out of town for a few days? Head to Alley Spring, a gem of a place in Missouri, or set out on a float trip in Arkansas and reconnect with the majesty of our

moving too fast to really enjoy it.

glorious state.

I enjoyed childhood, lived every minute of it. I think back to

It is a wonderful life. Fleeting, but wonderful. I’ve got to go

when my cousin and I would make paper boats with toothpicks and copy paper and spend hours racing them in a flowing stream in my backyard. We’d play for hours, making up games

now. I hear my son calling. We have paper boats in the making that are begging for our attention. It’s going to be the best summer ever.

as we went along, chasing each other through the tall grassy

To reserve this free space for your charitable non-profit organization, email:

lifestyle | 7

HANDCESTRY @lines John Davis Jr. First published in Deep South Magazine

My hands are older today than I remember. Overnight, they’ve seasoned into my grandfather’s: one rigid blue vein ridging each index finger like long-repaired irrigation lines running our grove rows in black-kneed toolbox summer. Cut, splice, clip, patch, plug, cap – he taught it all using that pointer I’ve inherited, the same one that gestured during after-work naps. Jobs done, directions kept flowing – “That’s it. Right there.” Age-mottled, earth-brown digits twitched instruction. Those lines remain – pulsing, delivering life even after the pump has quieted, its cycles complete. The soil is filled and grateful.


Jay Carter


Farmer’s Coop

Fort Smith | Van Buren | Fayetteville Rogers | 14 Locations

Words to Live By

Always make your boss look good.

What’s the one thing you want our readers to know about Farmer’s Coop?

Great customers and great employees! We’re blessed with great customers, in some cases we have 4 generations of a family who have shopped at the Coop. We had a 70+-year-old customer who was looking for a handle for his hoe that his grandfather had given him over 50 years ago. He talked about how he and his dad picked cotton for a penny a pound. We also hear stores from young people who just moved out and got their first pet, or a couple with their first home, or those who just moved back to the family farm. They choose us and that’s such a blessing. I’d put our employees up against any group in this country. At the end of the day that’s what it comes down to: great customers and great employees.

Q&A with Jay My parents wanted me to be a preacher. I love Arkansas because it is a beautiful state. The most Southern thing I say is y’all. My first job was pumping gas. My first car was a ‘62 Chevy Bel Air. I knew I wanted to be in this business when I started in sales. My best day at work? Every day Cowboy boots or work boots? Work boots Levi’s or Wranglers? Levi’s Farthest place you’ve ever been? Jamaica First Pet? A Chow named Rex. There are pictures of us together when I was a baby. He was with us until I was probably junior high. He was a great pet and always watched out for us three boys. Favorite ice cream? Homemade banana Best food your grandma/grandpa ever made? Fried potatoes and brown beans Favorite current TV show? NCIS Favorite season? Spring, because of hiking and gardening. Nickname? Jay Bird Hidden talent? Teaching Sunday school Favorite book of all time? The Bible Something you’ve done that’s unexpected. I once jumped from a plane.


Renee Durham

General Manager

Harry Robinson Buick GMC 6000 South 36th Street, Fort Smith 479.431.6534

Words to Live By

It’s not what you know; it’s what you use that makes a difference.

What’s the one thing you want our readers to know about Harry Robinson?

Harry Robinson sells new GMCs and Buicks, as well as any used car/truck/SUV a person could want. We repair wrecked and damaged vehicles, perform warranty work on any GM product and handle maintenance and repairs. We also invest in our people through education and collaborative work. We encourage community voluntarism and we volunteer together, which creates a special bond we all share. And we do such a great job at customer service that we’ve received the Women’s Choice Award for Customer Experience again this year, which is based on reviews by our female customers.

Q&A with Renee Best advice you’ve ever been given. People never forget how you make them feel. They won’t always remember exactly what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel. My parents wanted me to be? My dad wanted me to be in the automotive industry. My mother passed away before my sisters and I had an opportunity to really get advice from her. Best Razorback game I ever saw was the Sugar Bowl in 2011. Really wish we would have beaten those Buckeyes! The most Southern thing I say is bless your heart. My first car was a Pontiac Sunbird. My first job was as a receptionist at Harry Robison Pontiac Buick when I was fifteen. Levi’s or Wranglers? Levi’s Farthest place you’ve ever been? I thought it was going to be a cruise to Cozumel, which is approx 1,400 miles from home, but the farthest I’ve ever been is actually Portland, Oregon for Junior League President training. Portland is over 2,000 miles from home. Wow! Favorite TV show you’re currently watching? We mostly watch movies at our house. Some of our favorites are Blind Side, Invincible, Rudy, Rocky. Do you have a nickname? Nae Nae Hidden talent? I have a black belt in Tae-Kwon-Do.

10 | lifestyle

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Donations are always needed and greatly appreciated. Booneville Animal Shelter | Hwy 10 East | Booneville, AR | 479.849.7378 | Find us on

12 | lifestyle

Heat, Bugs, and Veggies Welcome to Summer in the South

@story and images Catherine Frederick @products Farmer’s Coop


’ve been told by many that they can’t take the heat. They just

bugs, we’re fighting to keep bugs off our kids and gardens.

don’t see how we Southerners do it, sitting out in the heat,

We’re watering the plants and the yard so they don’t die off. And

slapping at bugs, fanning ourselves with whatever piece of

we’re finding something to do with all of those vegetables while

paper we have handy. I just sit back, take a long drink of sweet tea

thinking about planting more.

and smile. This is what the South is all about. It’s how I grew up. I played in the heat from sun up till sun down, never once minding

A while back, I was feeling particularly overwhelmed, not even

the chigger and mosquito bites until I fell into bed and started

sure of where to begin, and a friend offered up this advice, “You

itching. And all the itching was forgotten come morning when I

eat an elephant sandwich one bite at a time.” Pretty good advice.

ran out and did it all over again.

Summertime in the South? Belly up and get ready to eat, one chore at a time. Hopefully the tips below will come in handy. And

For many of us, the days of paper boat races in a rain filled stream

who knows, maybe there will be cold glass of tea waiting when

have been replaced by chores. Instead of catching lightening

you’re through.

lifestyle | 13

Summer in the South can bring on the heat and sometimes the dreaded “D” word – drought. If you like the color green, and like me don’t have a sprinkler system, you’d better invest in watering hoses and sprinklers or you’ll be staring at a dead lawn this summer. Be sure to water deeply. It’s best to let the water soak in rather than watering more frequently for shorter periods of time, as this only allows the water to sit on top of the soil and not penetrate down deep. Some cities apply watering restrictions in the summer months so be sure you know which days you can water.

For your garden, check into a home garden irrigation kit. They are simple to customize based on your garden layout (number of rows) and easy to install. Simply calculate the length of hose you need from your faucet to the garden, then add on the couplings and watering tubes needed to water your specific area. A drip system allows for forty percent less water usage! There are a variety of systems to choose from and many are affordable, efficient, and sustainable.

Temperatures really start heating up in June so planting season is winding down, but it’s not over. You can start planting seed now for an early fall garden. Start tomato, pea, bean, squash, cucumber, and radish seeds in peat pots. Watering your seed is the key during the summer, but stay on top of it and you’ll enjoy the bounty come early fall.

Wondering what to do with your extra tomatoes or cucumbers? Start canning! I recommend reading the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. Once you’ve decided on what you want to can, purchase the items you’ll need. A canning set is a must have and typically includes a magnetic lid lifter, tongs, a jar wrench, bubble popper/measurer, canning funnel and a jar lifter. A pressure canner is required for low acid foods, but a boiling bath is sufficient for tomatoes, pickles and jams. Be sure to check out our delicious recipes for strawberry jam and sweet lime pickles at

No room or patience for a garden but have a love of fresh fruits and vegetables? Do you want to know where your food comes from – and know it’s local? Farmer’s markets are wonderful, but sometimes it’s difficult to be there bright and early on a Saturday morning. Visit your local Farmer’s Coop. There are several local farmers who sell a variety of fruits and vegetables there. You’ll regularly find farm fresh peppers, onions, potatoes, squash, tomatoes, and starting in July, watermelons and other fruits.

14 | lifestyle

Be on the watch for garden pests. If you’re already having problems, try a product called Eight™, which can be purchased in a spray bottle or as a concentrate for larger applications. It kills over 100 named insect pests like aphids, bagworms, Japanese beetles, armyworms, and fruitworms. It’s safe for vegetables, fruits and flowers and it keeps working for up to four weeks, so application is not difficult. If you’re looking for a 100% natural pest solution, there are several organic options available. Blight can also be a problem during this time of year. Watch your tomato plants for spotted leaves. Pull them off the plant and discard in the trash as soon as you notice them. This can help stop the spread of early or late blight and may save your plants.

Fire ants are painful and can be difficult to extinguish. If fire ants are your problem, check out a product called AMDRO®. It claims to kill the queen fast and destroys the mound.

My family loves to spend time outdoors, especially in the summer. What we don’t love are the gnats, mosquitos and other flying insects that join the party. We live in an area of town that stays pretty wet year round, so when needed, MosquitoDunks® come in handy. Simply toss them in free standing water to kill mosquitoes before they’re old enough to bite. Place them in roof gutters, flower pots, and rain barrels. The dunks are safe for birds and your furry friends, so don’t be afraid to use them in bird baths or in your pet’s outdoor water bowl.

If you have outdoor pets be sure they have a ready supply of fresh drinking water in the heat of the summer. When you’re at work all day, you can’t monitor if your pet’s dish is empty. Look for an automatic watering dish. They are inexpensive and a must have for our furry friends that must be outdoors in the summertime.

@Urban is a proud supporter of our local Farmer’s Coops, where many of the products mentioned in this story can be purchased.

Our Guide to

16 | lifestyle



Moleskine Notebook Cover Starting at $85 Colsen Keane Custom Leather Goods - Charlotte, NC



Leather Cigar Case $110 StacheWarden Pipe and Cigar Apparel – West Palm Beach, FL



Whole and Ground Coffee Bean Varieties $13.99 King Bean Coffee Roasters - Charleston, SC



License Plate Koozies $28 3 Sisters Design Co. – Bradenton, FL

Our Guide to



Hand Painted & Stamped Vintage Lure Prints, 11” X14” $35 Anne Hall Designs – Miramar Beach, FL


$ 50

Bourbon Marshmallows $7.50 Wondermade - Orlando, FL

lifestyle | 17



Men’s Shaving Kit $30 Buffalo Girls Soaps – Ocala, FL



Longitude/Latitude Personalized Keychain $26 Dakota Designs Jewelry – Kansas City, MO

Our Guide to

18 | lifestyle



Fossil Dinosaur Bone Cufflinks $550 William Henry at John Mays Jewelers – Fort Smith, AR



Patriotic Rustic Plank Wall Art Starting at $35 Rustic Post Trading Co – McKinney, TX



Tennessee Moonshine Cakes $12 Chattanooga Cookie Company – Chattanooga, TN



Tequila Buffet $115 Robert Lock Studio – Candler, NC

Our Guide to



The Outdoorsman Basket $52.85 Panola Pepper Company – Lake Providence, LA



Portable Kitchen® Cast Iron Grill and Smoker $299.99 PK Grills – Little Rock, AR

lifestyle | 19



“The Blackfin” Polarized Sunglasses $179 Costa Del Mar available at Dr. Steve Stiles – Fort Smith, AR



Root Hog 13” X 20” Letterpress $40 The Old Try – Somerville, MA

20 | lifestyle

@story Marla Cantrell @images Mark Mundorff and Courtesy Jeremy Prater

morning on the farm

All around us people are doing miraculous things to make life better. In our Ignite series we’re bringing you some of these stories, in the hope that they will encourage you to think about ways you can make a difference, right where you live.


he whole earth is green today: trees flush with new leaves, rose bushes on the cusp of blooming, fields so bright they shimmer in the early light. And no place is

lovelier than this farm in Crawford County, Arkansas, where three generations of Praters work more than 200 acres of pristine land.

lifestyle | 21 Here, Larry and Janice and their grandson, Jeremy, have been

When they arrived, there was just a dog trail between here

working long before most of our alarms went off. Today is the first

and the nearby town of Cedarville. They jumped in, naming

day they’ve used their new milking machine on their goats that

the place Windset Ranch. They worked the land and livestock

are used to a more hands on approach, and the Praters realize it’s

the way most farmers were at the time, using chemicals that

going to take a few tries to get used to the new system.

seemed to fix a multitude of problems.

“I thought they’d hit the ceiling and we’d have to peel them off,”

It wasn’t until 2007, when Jeremy moved back, that things began

Janice says, “but they did really well. Now, we need a little more

to change. He was certain the farm could operate differently.

work to figure it all out. You should see Larry with the goats. One

“For generations, animals weren’t given hormones or steroids

day when he was milking he said, ‘Nobody would believe how

or antibiotics, and still they thrived,” he says. And so he started

much these old goats love me. And I left and grabbed my camera,

his own business called Cedar Creek Farms, which works in

and I came back and said, ‘They will now.’ And I took pictures of

conjunction with his grandparents’ ranch. “I’d really studied,

the goats kissing Larry and laying their heads on his shoulder.”

and I even had graphs of what kind of grasses we had in the pasture. I love the science of farming. I wanted to approach the

Janice tells the story while taking a short break in what will be a

farm differently, and Granddad agreed, as long as I obeyed two

very long day. She sits at her kitchen table that rests on a floor

rules. He said, ‘Rule one: I’m still the boss.’ And, ‘Rule two: It can’t

made of great slabs of native stone, the varnish so bright it looks

cost me anything.’ So, I’ve offset the things that cost money with

as if the rocks just endured a blinding rain. Just outside, through

savings in other areas. Our cows are grass fed,” Jeremy says.

a bank of wide windows, the same stone forms a patio where

“The meat goats forage for about sixty percent of their diet.

songbirds rush the bird feeders, and water tumbles across a

Our pigs run around in the woods. We stopped worming the

stone fountain Larry built after one of his four retirements.

cattle six years ago. When those worming chemicals exit the cow, the cow pies kill everything they hit on the ground. It kills

“Each time he retires,” Jeremy says, “he builds something new.

earthworms, dung beetles. When we stopped doing that the life

The kitchen expansion was one retirement, the porch another,

beneath the soil exploded, and it shows in our pastures. We test

the rock waterfall another. He’s laid brick, worked in a plant that

the cows regularly, of course, and they’re happier now.”

made animal food additives, and he was a State Representative for six years, and then he worked for the county highway

He also started to question the use of routine antibiotics,

department. He makes the rest of us feel lazy.”

which he believes is growing stronger and stronger antibioticresistant bacteria. “I met a Missouri farmer at a conference in

Retirement is a word that makes Janice smile. “I get RE-tired

Little Rock,” Jeremy says. “He’d been a commercial hog farmer

every night,” she says, and then laughs. She is a small woman,

until about ten years ago when he got nipped by one of the

with blue eyes so lovely it’s hard not to stare. She’s worked

boars. It just scratched him a little but it almost killed him.

beside the men in her family for decades, herding cattle,

Bacteria had accumulated on that farm because of the low-

helping birth sheep and goats, tending the chickens. After all

dose antibiotics the animals were taking. He woke up about a

these years she’s still mesmerized by the farm.

week later in the hospital. Because he understood the science behind what he was doing, he knew what was going on. He

“I grew up in Amarillo, Texas, but I spent summers on my

told the doctors to get a certain antibiotic and that would

grandfather’s farm,” Janice says. “Larry grew up on a dairy farm.

fix him. They told him he would have died had he not woken

I love to see things grow. I love animals. We were married eight

up and told them that. It was a wakeup call; he completely

years when we bought this farm for $50 an acre in 1959. It was

changed his whole operation.”

not easy; we stayed in Amarillo to pay off the down payment.”

22 | lifestyle Around the same time, the Praters got rid of their commercial

ones he’s crossbred with a New Zealand breed to deal with the

chicken house. Now, their chickens spend their days in a row of

tribulations of Arkansas weather.

bottomless chicken tractors that hold about seventy-five birds apiece. The portable enclosures move on wheels, allowing

Back at Janice and Larry’s house – Jeremy lives with his wife

the birds new territory for bugs as well as fresh grass. Jeremy

and daughter in a house his father built across the road – Janice

points to the swatch of grass in their wake. It is greener than

is surveying her kitchen garden, just yards from the compost

the surrounding area, because the chicken droppings fertilize

bins and worm bed. Jeremy waves, his tall frame illuminated by

the spots where they spend their days. Enough days, enough

the noonday sun. Sometimes, he says, he thinks about his time

moving, and the entire pasture benefits.

away from this place, when he landed in Alaska.

Not far away, cattle graze. Jeremy moves them twice a day, which

There he worked as a trail ranger on the Chilkoot Trail (the

lets the land rest and gives the cows the best grass possible.

setting for Jack London’s Call of the Wild) near Skagway. Jeremy

“We used to move them much, much less. We’d have to go out

saved hikers who fell from great heights, lived among Grizzly

there when we needed to tag them, for instance, and as soon as

bears, so high up he was able to look down on the clouds.

they saw us trying to point them in another direction, their tails would fly up and they’d be off in the woods. We’d bring treats,

Still, Alaska wasn’t Arkansas. “I’d been traveling around for

call them, and now we set up an electric hallway with electrical

almost a decade, and it was just time,” Jeremy says. “I wanted

fencing and I open the gate and they graze their way in. We

to be close to my family, and the farm grew more and more

haven’t had to go rescue one cow in the fog at night since we

important to me.”

changed the way we do it.” He turns the conversation to his eighteen-month-old daughter. Jeremy demonstrates, taking one of the fence posts and lifting

“She’ll be the fourth generation working this land. Right now it’s

it high above his head. He calls and the cows begin to move as

me, my grandparents, and my father. I like thinking about that. I

easily as children through a crosswalk.

like picturing her growing up in this place.”

All this thought about how to graze cattle paid off last summer

Off to the east, Larry appears on his tractor, his overalls covered

when the drought caused many ranchers to sell much of their

by a rugged jacket, his work boots scuffed and muddy. Larry

herds. “We actually bought cows during that time,” Jeremy says.

tips his hat and Jeremy raises his hand in response, the two

“We still had to deal with the stress of the weather, but we

connected by blood, hard work, and the land that grows gently

weren’t severely affected.”

under their careful watch.

Once the cows are tended, Jeremy moves on to the hogs that wallow in the mud. Some of the sows are in the late stages of pregnancy. Two rumble over to Jeremy, brushing up against his jeans and tall Muck boots. He bends to rub their backs and they

The Praters sell beef, chicken, pork, goat’s meat,

lean into him, happy for the attention.

eggs, and goat’s milk. They’re regulars at the Fort Smith Farmer’s Market off Garrison Avenue. To find

He finishes his morning rounds – it is nearly noon - by checking

other ways to buy their products, visit

on the goats. Several of the twenty-seven babies play nearby,

running along the fence line as if they’re in a race. They are beautiful creatures, and Jeremy seems especially proud of the

24 | lifestyle


veryone is doing what they can

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lifestyle | 25

Armitage Sideboard (2 Door 5 Drawer) 61” w x 18” d x 34” h


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26 | lifestyle

Caught in the Clearing

@story and images Deriel Moore

lifestyle | 27


y Dad, DW Moore, worked hard clearing our

Dad’s hard work didn’t go unnoticed. I really wanted to help,

homestead in Octavia, Oklahoma. It had been a

so one day when I got home from school, I ate a quick snack

dozen years since the last family lived there. Briars

and headed outside. I looked across the pasture and saw these

like you’ve never seen, brush, and small trees were everywhere.

small trees neatly placed across the pasture. They were about

Dad would work all day and then come in and clear land. He

eighteen to twenty feet high. It seemed to me that if I got

didn’t have a tractor; he did it the old fashioned way, by hand,

started early I could have these trees down before Dad got in,

ax, and brush hook.

and he would be so proud that I had helped him. I knew where he kept the ax and saw, so I got the big sharp double bladed ax

He started clearing around the house, before we moved in, and

and started for the pasture.

then cut a swath toward the barn. The briars and small trees – I particularly remember hickory and sweet gum – were even

It was a pretty October evening, just perfect for some hard work.

with the roof of the house when we moved in. The house was

I remember the sun was just a little over the big ridge to the

just two rooms, a kitchen and a combination living room and

west, its last hour of warm rays enhancing the beginning colors

bedroom. Forty acres of land came with it.

of the coming fall.

One day when Dad was doing some clearing, I was following

As I saw it, you begin at the beginning, so I started on the first

him and asking questions. “Why are we doing this?” I asked.

tree I came to. No real reason to be selective after all, clearing

Dad stopped, took his gloves off, and wiped his sweaty brow.

is clearing. They all needed to go. The first swing of the big ax

“One day this place will be beautiful, and you will be proud of

felt good, as it sunk deep into the first hickory. The next swing

it,” he said.

brought a big chip of wood flung into the air. Dad had her sharp, so the ax did its work well. I had chopped for about an hour

All week long he’d arrive home from his job with the county

it seemed, the sun was down behind the ridge, but there was

road department, sometimes never stopping at the house.

still plenty of daylight, when I heard the familiar sound of Dad’s

He’d grab his gloves, a brush hook, chainsaw, and ax and start

1960 Ford pickup coming up the hill. Boy, I picked up the pace

working the land.

then, getting the last few chops in before Dad had a chance to admire my handy work. The pickup stopped at the house.

I was nine years old during this time. As an only child I would

I heard the truck door slam and then the old screen door on

play around the yard, or on occasion tag along and watch. Dad

the east side of the house screak open and slap shut. All this

worked hard, but seemed to enjoy the toil. He would work often

actually was going on out of sight of me and my work. It was

until dark, then go to the house and start his third shift for the

a good hundred yards back up to the house from where I was

day: house work and supper. Dad lost my mom, his soul mate,

working. Plum trees and other stuff, outbuildings and such,

when I was two and a half years old, and she was buried in a

blocked the view.

cemetery not far from our house. Soon though, I saw Dad walk out of the back gate of the yard, So Dad was left to do it all. He made dinner from scratch. There

smoking a Pall Mall and looking over his forty, as he always did.

were no microwaves, no quick dinners in 1963. “Cat Head” biscuits, fried taters, meat of some kind and veggies from the

He stopped, looking straight forward. I wasn’t sure what he saw,

garden. We would eat, visit about school and work. Dad washed

but you can tell a lot from a person’s body language. He was

the dishes after supper – not in a sink – there was no sink. There

crouched down a little, and moving forward, eyes still glued

was no running water. Just two dishpans. One filled with soapy

in my direction. He picked up the pace and straightened as he

water, the other with clean water for rinsing.

came. In a few seconds he was close enough so that I could

28 | lifestyle

see his face. That smile that would bring me praise wasn’t

Dad had a habit when he was proud of me. He’d ever so lightly

there. Instead, he had the expression of a gunfighter walking

place his big hand on my shoulder and nod his head without

toward his adversary. He stopped at the first tree stump, which

speaking a word. This is what he did as we walked back to our

was about two and a half feet high, looked ahead to the next

little house. He blessed me with that big hand, and my heart

scraggly stump, dropped his cigarette and put it out with the

swelled. Then he handed me the ax, a sign I believed showed

toe of his boot, and then started walking again.

that he trusted me to do the right thing with it. It’s something I haven’t forgotten, not in all these years. The slow walk back

I let the heavy part of the ax fall to the ground. As he came

to our house, the promise of supper and then sleep and then

closer I began to see a hardening of his features, his eyes

another day. If I close my eyes I can still feel it all, the grass

narrowed. This wasn’t a good sign. I knew at this point what

scraping against my pant legs, the last of the waning sunshine

George Washington must have felt like when he cut down the

lighting our way, the weight of the ax in my hand. But mostly

cherry tree. Difference is I had cut down a bunch of trees and

it’s his hand I remember, guiding me in the way I should go, as

I couldn’t have lied if I wanted to. I was holding the evidence.

gently as he possibly could, through that day and the next, and all the days that followed.

When he walked up and I looked into his face, his countenance softened. He looked at me for a while, looked back at the tree stumps and the trees laying on the ground, which suddenly looked pitiful and all wrong to me. He said, “Deriel, I meant for these trees to be left to grow. I had already cut the ones I wanted gone.” I dropped my head, ashamed and holding back the tears. Dad reached over and took the ax from me. He studied it for a

SUBMIT YOUR STORY When we started @Urban Magazine, we made a commitment to be the best storytellers possible. You, our readers, responded enthusiastically, and now you’re giving back to us by sharing your own wonderful stories.

while. “But Deriel, I really appreciate the work you put in this

If you’d like to see one of your true stories published

evening. This is our place and I’m glad you cared enough to help.

in @Urban, email it to us as a Word document to

I’ll show you some trees that need to be cut and you can chop

editors@AtUrbanMagazine. You may see your story in

all you want tomorrow. I think this land where the trees stood

our print edition of @Urban Magazine.

will do better in grass anyway. Let’s go cook some supper.”

30 | entertainment

Submit your events to

1 2 3 4

The Roaring Twenties June 4 – 8 // Free Admission Tulsa, OK // 918.549.7492 // Chautauqua in the Park: The Roaring Twenties, is held under a big-top tent on the OSU-Tulsa campus, at 700 N. Greenwood Ave., Room 150, North Hall next to the campus fountain. Each night, a different scholar gives a presentation in character followed by a Q&A session. Audiences will meet 5 historical figures from the 1920s, depending on the night: Zelda Fitzgerald, Babe Ruth, Will Rogers, Henry Ford and Bessie Coleman.

18th Annual Hot Springs Music Festival June 2 – 15 // See Website for Details Hot Springs, AR // 501.623.4763 // This unique event brings together over 200 international musicians in 20 concerts over a twoweek period. The concerts will feature a variety of orchestral, solo recital, vocal, choral and chamber opera music. This event will take place in a variety of non-traditional venues in the historic spa resort of Hot Springs National Park. Concert times vary.

PETropolitan 2013 Thursday, June 6 // 6PM – 9PM // $40 Per Ticket Fort Smith, AR // 479.632.6382 // Be a steward in resolving our area’s pet overpopulation crisis by attending PETropolitan 2013 at Second Street Live. The proceeds from this event will go to support the Kitties & Kanines Veterinary Clinic, which provides low cost spay / neuter services in Fort Smith and surrounding communities. There will be hors d’oeuvres, live and silent auctions, and entertainment by Larry B.

Thunder on the Mountain Music Festival June 6 – 8 // See Website for Details Ozark, AR // 479.667.2949 // Set to take place on Mulberry Mountain, this three day country music festival featuring 40 artists including Toby Keith, Luke Bryan, Big & Rich and Montgomery Gentry on three stages. This event will include a slew of good ole outdoor activities such as hiking, rafting, and fishing. Come on out for food, fun and a country music celebration on Mulberry Mountain in Ozark.

entertainment | 31

5 6 7 8

Mount Magazine Butterfly Festival June 21 - 22 // $FREE // See Website for Details Paris, AR // 479.963.8502 // Come take part in this annual festival celebrating Mount Magazine’s abundant and diverse butterfly and wildflower population. This family-friendly event will include guided walks and a Bug Bonanza! There’ll be a special concert to close the festival. This event will take place at Mount Magazine State Park in Paris.

The Great War Memorial Balloon Race June 21 - 23 // $FREE ($5 parking fee) // See Website for Details Little Rock, AR // 502.350.5333 // Bring the family to see 20-25 hot air balloons from all over the country take flight over the city and filling the skies at War Memorial Park in Little Rock. This 3-day event will also feature jazz music, vendors and activities for the kids.

True Grit Ride 100 Saturday, June 22 // Starting at 7AM // See Website for Details Fort Smith, AR // // Grab your bikes – and appetites – and join in this non-competitive ride to raise funds for the Community Services Clearinghouse. Proceeds go to programs that benefit the community, such as the Meals for Kids program, which distributes over 2,000 sacks of weekend food each Friday to children in need. This multi-length ride will have chuck wagon aid stations and a finish line cookout. The ride will begin at Ben Geren park in Fort Smith.

Annual Big Bass Bonanza June 28 - 30 // See Website for Details Fort Smith, AR // 501.376.2323 // This 3-day tournament is Arkansas’ largest amateur big bass tournament and spans 300 miles along the Arkansas River. Anglers can choose to fish just one or all three days. The tournament will be divided into five weigh-in pools, including Fort Smith, with hourly weigh-ins. Hourly cash prizes are awarded, and tournament champion will win $50,000. So grab your gear and get ready to reel ‘em in.

32 | entertainment Some are incapable of that of course, but she never gives up. She takes pictures of each resident and pastes the picture onto a magazine photograph of Paris, or a Colorado ski slope, or with a happy family having a picnic. She says, “When I pick up my scissors and glue I am transported to another place.” Stanley, a widowed successful lawyer, pretends to be suffering from dementia by watching wrestling on television, speaking vulgarly to the “prissy” church women, and listening to Herb Alpert on his stereo. He does this to get away from the smothering efforts of his divorced son, but when a new resident, a Jewish woman lawyer from “Massatoosetts” moves in, he finds himself attracted to her and sets out to woo her by showering, shaving, and wearing neatly pressed clothes. He even allows her to see his New Yorkers hidden inside his wrestling magazines.

Life After Life


Rachel left her life in Boston after her husband died. She came to the land of “sugar-filled tea and long, slow syllables and Jesus

by Jill McCorkle Algonquin Press: $2495

every way you can get him” because she has never forgotten

@review Anita Paddock

Whispering Pines Cemetery located next door to the retirement

the torrid affair with the man who lays next to his wife in the home and where she visits daily.

ntil I picked up this novel and held it in my hands, I’d forgotten how nice an Algonquin Press book felt.

Other characters in the book are not residents, but their lives

A tad bit smaller than the average sized book, the

are entwined with those who live there. Abby, a tomboy who

paper is good quality and the book rests easily in the palm

embarrasses her self-involved, beautiful, size four mother,

of your hand. Inside this book is a story told with humor and

seeks refuge with the residents in Pine Haven, as well as the

compassion about the end of a journey we all must take.

residents of the next-door cemetery.

Author Jill McCorkle writes about the residents of Pine Haven

Joanna, a wayward woman with five failed marriages, returns

Retirement Home in Fulton, North Carolina, a small town on

to her hometown in time to make peace with her father

Carolina’s coast. They are in various stages of waning health,

before he dies. She promises to keep the family’s restaurant

and each has lived a long life, but their future, or the life they

the Dog House running, selling only hot dogs with names like

lead after the life they led remains unclear.

“the German shepherd” (served with kraut) or “Old Yellers” or a “Chihuahua.” She becomes a hospice volunteer, and it

Sadie, a retired third grade teacher and long-time widow, has

is through her notebooks on her dying patients that we learn

lived in Fulton all her life.

about their lives.

She knows the town’s history, having taught four generations of

I promise you will laugh and you will cry and you will love this

townspeople. She sees the best in everybody and encourages

novel. And after all, that’s what life is—laughing and crying

her aging friends to let their minds “go back to happy times.”

and loving.

34 | entertainment on his trusty guitar, Trigger. Paul’s brother Billy English adds electric guitar and drums, Kevin Smith on bass, Jim “Moose” Brown at the organ and Willie’s son, Micah, on percussion. On Let’s Face the Music and Dance the birthday boy dims the lights and calls the stars out to blanket the night sky. He lays out a nighttime picnic beneath a weeping willow, and invites the fireflies along for a romantic trip down memory lane with songs he grew up listening to. There is an enchanting chivalry in slow country songs, and part of the magic of this album is that you can two-step with any tune in the lineup. Willie warms up with Irving Berlin’s classic, “Let’s Face the Music and Dance.” His spin on this nostalgic ballad illustrates the feeling of a love that’s tried and true. It’s about traveling the road ahead without knowing the outcome. The only song on the album that really changes pace is “Matchbox”. Unlike the other tracks, nothing about love is ever mentioned. Although slightly mismatched, it’s a relevant diversion halfway through.

Let’s Face the Music And Dance Willie Nelson and Family Legacy Recordings, $1299 @review Shannon Hensley


My favorite track is Willie’s take on Django Reinhardt’s European Jazz classic “Vous Et Moi,” which translates to “You and Me.” The stunning instrumental isn’t obstructed by lyrics and has a way of stopping time from beginning to end. Besides, everything sounds romantic en François. However, the icing on this birthday cake may just be Willie’s new take on his old classic “Is The Better Part Over?” Originally released on his 1989 album, A Horse Called Music, this track returns with his signature languid drawl.

appy eightieth birthday to our favorite outlaw, Willie Nelson! Willie returned just weeks before his birthday

Each track transitions beautifully to the next, full of declarations

with Let’s Face the Music And Dance, a compilation of

of love and promises of forever. Let’s Face The Music and Dance

classics from legendary artists Irving Berlin, Carl Perkins, Frank

is worth the listen. If you ask me, turning eighty never looked or

Loesser and Django Reinhart. This album is one of sixty he’s

sounded so good.

recorded during his long career, which began when he was only ten. Another cool fact? Willie’s family is originally from Arkansas, out of Newton County. That’s right, he’s one of us! For those of you who have missed out on Willie’s music over the last forty years, his band, The Family, consists of his sister Bobbie who kills it on piano, drummer Paul English and harmonica player Mickey Raphael, and of course Willie jammin’

I Rate It

36 | people

No Place Like Grandma’s

@story Marla Cantrell @images Mark Mundorff


t is unreasonably cold on this Saturday, the wind whipping

Inside, a line forms at the buffet where the scent of fried

across the highway, the rain falling fast. Up ahead, just off

chicken, ham, chicken and dumplings, and meatloaf fills the air.

Highway 71, is Grandma’s House, a restaurant near Artist’s

Just-out-of-the-oven yeast rolls share space with cornbread.

Point in Winslow, Arkansas. At 1:30 in the afternoon on a day

Mashed potatoes and gravy sit alongside pans of vegetables

like this, it’s unlikely there will be much business in this out of

like green beans and corn and brown beans and broccoli. It’s

the way place, or so I thought. Fifteen cars and trucks fill the

enough to make you swoon.

soggy parking lot.

people | 37 If that’s not enough, there is an entire buffet table devoted to

the house and do all the cooking while they did the farm work.

pie: banana cream, coconut cream, peanut butter cream, apple,

I took Home Economics at Mountainburg High School, and of

chocolate cream, pineapple cream, cherry cream. There are also

course I learned a lot from my mom.

two cobblers: cherry and apple. “I had an aunt, Aunt Drew, who used to have an old-time Customers are talking while they fill their plates. A slender

antique looking café in St. Paul, Arkansas. It always intrigued

blond woman is giving in. “There goes my diet,” she says, and

me as a kid. I think it was my beginning of liking things like

her husband pats her on the shoulder while scooping a hill of

this. My biggest high is seeing my parking lot filled up and

mashed potatoes onto her plate. A man in his sixties says, “I

people running out of space to sit, and we can seat 100. It’s

was supposed to work in the barn after this, but I don’t think I’ll

kind of out of the way and I know people are driving a ways

make it. I think I’ll go home and nap.”

to eat here. We have people come from Tulsa, Clarksville and south, people from Texas who saw a

Watching it all unfold is Elaine Bowlin,

review of Grandma’s House on the

who owns the restaurant with her

internet and came to eat here. Just

husband, Jerry. She sits down for the

this week I had fifty-one people come

first time today, and says, “Excuse this

by bus for breakfast.”

flour all over me, I’ve been back there baking.” As she talks, she keeps one

As she’s talking, a spontaneous chorus

eye on the buffet, greeting customers,

erupts from one of the back dining

often jumping up to get more fried

rooms. A traveling group of gospel

chicken from the kitchen, or bringing

singers, filled to the brim with Elaine’s

out yet another pie.

food, begins to sing a cappella. “I’ve anchored my soul on the haven of rest.

She is exactly like this place: warm and friendly and efficient. The

I’ll sail the wild seas no more,” they sing, in voices so lovely

dining rooms are filled with antiques she’s collected with her

diners stop and listen.

husband. Oak tables are covered with crocheted tablecloths, old family photos hang in prominent places throughout the space.

Elaine smiles. “Isn’t that beautiful,” she says. As they leave, they thank Elaine. One woman, wearing a cross necklace, a cross on

“My mom’s the reason I’m here,” Elaine says. “She opened this

her purse, crosses on her flip flops, plops down on an floral

restaurant as The Blue Bird House Café in 1991 when she was

fainting couch near the cash register, which sits on an antique

sixty-six. I used to cook for her. It was opened until 2001, when

secretary, and says, “I believe that was the best meal of my life.”

she had some health problems. Then the interstate came in and took most of the traffic off this highway. It was closed about

By now, Elaine is beaming. When she finally gets back to the

three years and then she decided to sell it.” Elaine laughs, “So

story of Grandma’s House, she returns to the beginning, in

crazy me, here I am, and I decide to buy it. I changed the name

October, 2005, when the doors first opened. It was smaller then

to Grandma’s House because that’s what I want them to think of

– they’ve added on to accommodate the crowds – and she had

when they come here.”

a few things to learn.

Elaine’s love for cooking started early. As one of six children

“I knew I wanted Jerry and I to be the ones to cook, though we

living on a farm, each had plenty of chores to do. “When I was

do have other help in the kitchen. Jerry doesn’t do rolls and

about ten I started cooking. Somehow I got nominated to stay in

pies. He fries chicken and does other things. I like it done a

38 | people Another customer breaks in to compliment Elaine’s cooking. She beams up at the man. When he moves on she says, “When I see someone smile after taking a bite of a yeast roll, or a piece of my pie, it’s fulfilling. There were six of us kids. Mom used to cook Sunday dinner for us all until she got too old. And then I took over. But my family got scattered, like most families do. Jerry thought I was crazy to open on Sunday, but I wanted to. It’s the closest thing to having that family dinner, so I just love it. It wears me out, but it does feel like having a big family around. And that makes me very, very happy.”

certain way, and people often tell me I’m too particular. I make about 100 rolls at a time; I don’t use a recipe. I just have this

Grandma’s House is located at 21588 South Hwy 71

humongous bowl and whip it up. You have to know the texture.

in Winslow, Arkansas.

If you want the yeast rolls to be light and fluffy, you don’t want to knead it. You just want to stir it until all the dry and wet gets

It’s open Thursday – Saturday from 8:00 a.m until

together and then I let it rise. Same thing with the pie crust. I

2:30 p.m, Sundays from 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

used to work it to death. A lot I learned was trial and error. Breakfast Buffet: $6.95 “The first year we worked Tuesday through Sunday. I didn’t get a break. Now we’re open Thursday through Sunday. I have four

Saturday Lunch: $8.75

grandkids now, and I want to spend time with them. At breakfast, which is also a buffet, we have ham, sausage, fried potatoes,

Sunday Lunch: $9.45

white and chocolate gravy, and biscuits, and pancakes. We do a lot of prep work – I just had someone peel six gallons of

Discounts for kids 10 and under.

potatoes for tomorrow - so Jerry and I can actually go to church.”

Menu items also available.

Church, family, community. It means everything to Elaine. She

Remember to bring cash or checks. Grandma doesn’t

points to one of the old family photos in an ornate frame. “You

take debit/credit cards.

remember Governor Faubus?” she asks. “He was my cousin. In the visitors center at Lake Fort Smith State Park is great-greatgrandpa Uriah Shepherd on the video they show, who sailed on the river to come here and settle at White Rock Mountain. Lake Shepherd Springs is named after my family. Jerry and I – we’ve been married forty-three years – live near there and over the years we’ve been able to buy eighty acres, which includes some of the land my ancestors homesteaded in the 1800s.”

479. 634.2128

40 | people

@story Tonya McCoy @images Courtesy Colin McLain

people | 41


olin McLain steps out onto stage wearing tiny trunks and

“I can be a bit tenacious, and methodical. If I latch on to

nothing else. It’s the 1998 National Gym Association’s

something, I can get into it pretty intensely. And I expect

Southwestern Bodybuilding Championship in Tucson,

setbacks with pretty much anything I’m doing, and that’s just

Arizona, and this is his first body building competition. Brooding

part of the game. You just know that those are going to happen

metal music from the band Type O Negative comes over the

at some point and you just work your way through them. I

speakers and Colin strikes a pose and flexes.

always have an idea in my head that I’m not going to let this thing beat me.”

At the time, Colin, who’s now the Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at UA-Fort Smith, was working on his Master of Fine

And it didn’t beat him. Colin went from dead last at his first

Arts in graduate school at Arizona State University. And the

competition to third place in his second competition in 2000 - The

competition he was in put him way out of his comfort zone.

National Gym Association’s Oklahoma Elite Natural Bodybuilding

“That was really the most difficult one. The first one, you just

Championships. He earned second place at the other three NGA

don’t really know what to expect. Getting up the nerve to stand

competitions he competed in from 2001 to 2004.

in front of an audience in posing trunks is a little bit daunting to say the least. Personally, by nature, I’m not a very extroverted

The NGA is endorsed by big names such as former Mr. Universe

person. I tend to sit in the background and observe. And maybe

and former governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, as

on some level, I thought, well if I could do this, I could get up

well as the actor from the original Incredible Hulk, former Mr.

and do some other things.

Universe Lou Ferrigno.

“It was a learning experience, because I didn’t have a very good

Colin laughs; he never was Mr. Universe. “I guess when people

idea of how to prepare. We looked at the placing afterwards and

think of body building, they think of Arnold Schwarzenegger

I was dead last.”

and a lot of pro body builders. Those guys would be 5’10” – 5’11” and 250 pounds or more. But for the natural competitions

At this point others may have thrown in the towel, but not

there were a lot more skinnier guys. Guys that would still have

Colin. He saw an opportunity. He asked advice from one of the

muscle. But for someone my height, which is 5’10”, 5’11”, my

contestants who placed well, and started to tweak his training

average contest weight was between 170 to 190 pounds.

program. “Obviously it’s a physical activity, but for me there’s a certain amount of intellectualism. There’s a problem that

These competitions were strict, making sure no performance

presents itself and you try to figure out solutions to whatever

enhancers were used. “They’d check all the contestants in and

setbacks that try to keep you from getting from point A to

weigh them. They would also polygraph the contestants. That

point B.”

was their initial way of verifying that you weren’t taking any performance enhancing drugs, and so you’d do that and the

Colin began arriving at the gym every morning at five to begin

winners of each category would submit a urine sample test. So

his training. He worked on cardio every day and rotated evening

I guess that was their way of making sure people were on the

weight lifting for specific parts of his body, dedicating a different

up and up.”

day to each body part: shoulders, back, chest, legs arms. He’d take a day or two to rest between each lifting day, learning that

After Colin’s 2004 event, the NGA decided to stop holding the

this was essential to muscle healing and rebuilding. He also

Oklahoma show. The next closest show was in Kansas. Colin

started drinking a lot of water and eating six small meals a day,

was on a busy professor’s schedule by that time, and he was

which were mostly packed with protein and only a few carbs.

a husband and a father. He didn’t cherish the idea of traveling so far for shows, so decided to stop competing. He kept lifting

42 | people

and even started power lifting until one morning he made the

technique then strength. “A big rookie mistake, with regards

decision to change his athletic regimen completely.

to swimming, is trying to just muscle through the water. It’s a lot more technique driven. If you’ve got your technique down,

He’d put on about thirty pounds of muscle and added three

you can just glide through the water, and you don’t have to be

to four inches to his arms and legs. He could bench press 365

horribly strong to do that.”

pounds and squat press 495. Still, all the heavy lifting had started talking a toll. “I just got up this morning and could barely

Colin’s extremely modest. He’s broken records in his age class

bend over, and I said to my wife, ‘You know, if I’m like this in

the past couple of years. He’s set the Oklahoma state record

my late thirties, if I continue, what am I going to be like when

twice for fastest fifty meter butterfly. He’s set the Oklahoma

I’m sixty?’ So I sort of backed off with the really heavy, intense

state record once for 100 meter freestyle and once for fifty

lifting, and that’s when I got into swimming.”

meter freestyle. In addition, he’s placed in the National top ten for fifty meter freestyle twice.

Which is something he’d done during his high school years in Tulsa. He was quick in the water; he’d only been one second

“I’ve always been an active person, like an active kid. It’s hard to

off the school record for the 100 yard butterfly. Interestingly

explain. There’s just something fun about figuring out various

enough, he remembers seeing his future wife for the first time

physical aspects of your body and getting it to perform in

at a school swim meet. “She was a little over six feet tall. She

certain ways.”

was one of the taller swimmers, probably the tallest swimmer on the other team. For whatever reason that sort of stuck in my

But ask Colin what’s most important in his life, and you’ll find

head. And we wound up meeting each other again in a class in

he has his priorities straight. “For me it’s family. It’s my wife, my

Oklahoma State, because she was also a graphic design major.

kids, my mom. My family and friends. Students I teach, people in

And I just got up the nerve to start talking to her.”

general. It’s kind of weird. Growing up I was kind of introverted and really shy and I didn’t want to interact with too many people

His wife and his two daughters, ages ten and fourteen, support

and I think that’s kind of changed.”

him as he competes in the Arkansas Masters Swim Club, which is under the umbrella of the U.S. Masters Swimming organization.

He looks back on the time when he found the nerve to compete and smiles. Sometimes getting out of your comfort zone can

Colin is forty-five now. When he’s training for a meet he’ll swim

change your life. Sometimes it can set you on a path you never

between 2,000 and 4,000 yards a day for five to six days a

believed you’d be taking.

week. He still lifts weights but says swimming is more about

44 | people

The Harpist Who Played For Presidents

@story Marcus Coker @images Marcus Coker and Courtesy Lawrence Odom

people | 45


awrence Odom is in his late seventies and has spent

movie would pop up. I know you’ve seen those pop-up books.

most of his life sitting behind a musical instrument, often

Well, when it got to “Waltz of the Flowers” by Tchaikovsky, the

dressed in a three-piece suit and bow tie. Lawrence, who

big harp credenza, I thought, This is what I want to do.”

grew up in Heavener, Oklahoma, began playing piano as a child. At that time, he never dreamed that he’d perform worldwide,

So after college, Lawrence moved to Germany to study harp

including at the White House. “My parents were against my

with Heinz Günter, a harpist with the Hessian State Theater. “The

being a professional musician because it was so difficult to

harp is like the piano in that each hand does something different

make a living. Someone from a little town couldn’t have a big

and you read bass and treble clef, but there’s no similarity in

career,” says Lawrence. “This wasn’t supposed to happen.”

technique, so it was very much a challenge.” After studying in Germany for four years, Lawrence moved to Washington, D.C.,

But it did.

and was coached by Jeanne Chalifoux, a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music.

The fourth of six children, Lawrence grew up in a musical family. His dad played piano, and

Then something incredible happened –

Lawrence’s siblings took lessons. Lawrence

Lawrence was hired as the White House

says, “None of them liked it very much, so

harp soloist. It was his first official job as a

when I came along, I think my parents thought

musician. “I was in my mid-twenties. If you’re

they wouldn’t waste more money. But I was

going to play at the White House, that means

the one who cried and screamed until they

you are presidential support and have to

let me have lessons. And I never wanted to do

have top secret security clearance. So you

anything else. My punishment was not being

have to be either in the Marine Band or the

allowed to practice.”

Air Force Band / Symphony Orchestra. Each has only one harp slot.”

During World War II, when Lawrence was six, he went to boarding school. “The first thing

So Lawrence joined the Air Force for the

we learned was to make a bed, then how

purpose of being in the Air Force Band and

to tie a bow tie,” says Lawrence, who also

playing at the White House. When he started,

learned Latin and piano during his six years

President John F. Kennedy was in office. The

away from home.

job meant that Lawrence was on call every day. “If they haven’t called by 5:00 in the afternoon, you’re

When the war ended, Lawrence came back to Heavener

free. But if they call at 4:59, you’re dressed, you’ve got music

and finished high school. After graduating, he enrolled in

by the door, and you’re ready to play.” Lawrence would meet

the University of Oklahoma as a piano major. It was there

an official car that took him to the White House, where he kept

that Lawrence was introduced to the other instruments that

several harps and usually played in the oval-shaped Diplomatic

fascinated him, like the harp and organ, though that was not

Reception Room on the first floor. “That’s where people come

nearly enough for Lawrence. “I always wanted to be a harpist,

for dinner or entertainment.”

but couldn’t find a teacher.” Lawrence played during the administrations of five Presidents Still, he refused to give up. “In 1940, the film Fantasia came

– Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter. He met them all

out, and my grandmother bought me the entire score on RCA

and says, “Mr. Kennedy was very personable. He’d often say,

Records. When you opened the album, a whole scene from the

‘Thanks for playing. If you don’t have to go home, come up and

46 | people have a drink.’ When he was assassinated, it was a dreadful shock.

“There’s always someone in the wings waiting to take your job.

There was a very short period of mourning, but the Johnsons

It didn’t feel like pressure, but it required a lot of discipline to

were installed right away. The government went on, and social

practice. You never go to rehearsal unprepared – ever.”

functions, which my job was a part of, went on as well.” By 1983, Lawrence’s father had died, and Lawrence was taking For nearly twenty years, Lawrence entertained presidents and

care of his mother. “She didn’t like Washington, and I was gone

emperors, kings and queens, diplomats and ambassadors. “If it

all the time. She wanted me to have a nine-to-five job.” So

was a French ambassador, I’d play an all-French program,” says

Lawrence moved back to Oklahoma and enrolled in pharmacy

Lawrence, who chose his own programs. “It wasn’t intimidating

school. After graduating in 1987, he worked for a year in Texas

because they’re not musical. It’s not like playing in front of your

then moved to Fort Smith, where he worked as a pharmacist

peers. But the year Horowitz, who is one of the most famous

until 2001. But Lawrence never lost his connection to music.

pianists of the twentieth century, made his comeback and

For a while, he played harp for the Fort Smith Symphony. To

played at the White House, now that was intimidating because

this day, he continues to compose for the Air Force Band.

they had all these people and singers from the Metropolitan

“That’s been going on since the late 1950s,” says Lawrence.

Opera there. And they would come and stand behind me while

“Arranging is fun for me. It’s daunting, knowing that you’re

I played.”

writing every note that everybody plays. But it’s wonderful when you get to hear it.”

When Lawrence was at the White House, he played one of four concert grand harps. Concert grand harps are six feet tall, weigh

For the last three years, Lawrence has worked as the organist at

about eighty pounds, and have forty-seven silk strings covered

Immaculate Conception Church in Fort Smith, where he can be

in silver or copper. They cost between $50,000 and $75,000.

seen still wearing his trademark three-piece suit and bow tie.

The harpist plays with the first four fingers on each hand; the

“It’s a whole new field, but it’s a magnificent instrument. I don’t

little finger is never used. The sharps and flats are controlled

even own a harp anymore. If you don’t practice at least five

by seven foot pedals, each of which has three positions – flat,

days a week, you lose your callouses and can’t play anything.

natural, and sharp.

Plus, they are expensive to own and insure if you’re not playing regularly. I miss it, but it’s given me time to do other things.”

“One of the four White House harps was a clunker for outdoor use. Two were for touring.” When Lawrence flew on Air Force One,

At an age when most have retired, Lawrence continues to work

he was required to carry a briefcase and wear a suit, overcoat,

doing what he loves. “Music is still the most wonderful thing

and gloves. “There were always people taking pictures, so we

ever. For me, it’s not something you choose to do – it’s something

had to look our best.”

you have to do.” And whereas Lawrence looks back at his days in the White House and says, “It shouldn’t have happened,” the

In addition to his work at the White House, Lawrence played

wonderful thing is that it did. Like music, life often takes us to

for the Air Force Band and did a lot of composing, often

the most surprising and fantastic places.

playing chamber music at the National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian. “It still seems fantastic. Between the Air Force and the White House, I averaged 273 performances a year for twenty years.” Lawrence left the White House in 1977 and spent the next six years as the principal harpist at the Kennedy Center Opera House.

48 | taste

The Day Cornbread Salad Fixed Every Little Thing @recipe and images Stacey Little

taste | 49


t seemed like a typical Tuesday morning. I nicked myself

instead, be distinguished by the things that we do. I find that

shaving, but it wasn’t a big deal. It happens all the time. I

it’s easy to be a victim, what’s not easy is pulling yourself up

dripped toothpaste onto my clean shirt. I calmly changed.

by your bootstraps and moving on with your life. Walt Disney

Backing out of the driveway, I realized that I had forgotten to

was terminated from an early job with a newspaper because he

pull the trashcan to the street. I stopped, got out, and pulled

“lacked imagination.” Today he is remembered across the globe

it to the curb only to realize that the can was covered in ants

as one of the most imaginative, ingenious, and inventive men

and that now, I too, was covered with ants. Amid the hysterical

of all time. He’s not remembered for what happened to him,

laughs of my four-year-old I danced what I’m sure could have

but what he did as a result. He channeled the negative in his

been an award-winning Irish jig trying to get them off. I got

life and allowed it to influence his future work. And talk about

cut off in traffic having to slam on brakes. Someone took my

irony? Years later his Walt Disney Company went on to buy the

parking place. You get where I’m going here. The day just kept

parent company of that same newspaper, effectively giving him

deteriorating. But let’s face it, we all have bad days. Every

ownership of the paper that once fired him.

single one of us has been cut off in traffic at some point. We’ve probably all dripped toothpaste onto the clean shirt we just put

All this to say, just because your day isn’t going the way you

on. We’ve all probably driven off with the cup of coffee on the

want it to go doesn’t mean that you should continue to allow

roof of the car – okay, maybe that’s just me. Regardless, you get

it to head down the wrong path. You control your mood,

my point.

your attitude, and your actions. Negative things will happen. I guarantee it. It’s your choice whether you allow it to control you

We all have days that are less than perfect. In fact, if you think

or work just as hard for it not to.

about it, perfect days are actually pretty few and far between. As I go about my day-to-day business of life, I get so frustrated

This Cornbread Salad recipe came at the tail end of one of

when I see folks get so bent out of shape over things like spots

“those” days where everything that could go wrong did. I had

on a shirt or rush hour traffic. Sure they are frustrating, but we

baked a beautiful skillet of cornbread only for it to stick to the

can’t allow those little things that affect us each day to define

pan and fall apart as I tried to get it out. Searching for a way

an entire twenty-four hours. Starting the day by declaring the

to use the less-than-pretty cornbread, I remembered this easy

day ruined at 7:45 because of some guy in traffic is really only

recipe. It’s perfect for using that kind of cornbread or even

hurting yourself. That guy couldn’t care less about your anger

some that you have leftover. Sometimes it’s just nice to have

with him. He’s going to go about his day not giving anymore

something easy and something that makes use of life’s little

thought to how he cut you off. When you allow his actions to

mistakes. This is that kind of recipe. Y’all enjoy!

define your whole day, you’re giving him power over you that he doesn’t even know he has. And when you give him that power, you take power away from yourself. The truth is this same principle can carry over into our entire lives. We’ve all faced challenges along life’s path and we’ve all faced hardship. It’s been my observation that what separates successful people from everyone one else is how they allow those negative things to shape their lives. And that “shaping” is the key. We must allow those things to shape our lives and have influence on them but not define them. We should never be defined by the things that happen to us. We should,

50 | taste

1 2 3 4

5 6 7 8



1 (1-ounce) packet buttermilk ranch salad dressing mix

In a small bowl, combine the ranch dressing

1 cup mayonnaise

mix, mayonnaise, and buttermilk. Mix well and refrigerate while you assemble the salad. Layer

1/2 cup buttermilk

the salad starting with the chopped cornbread in

3 cups coarsely chopped cornbread

the bottom of a large trifle or punch bowl. Top the

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

cornbread layer with the rinsed pinto beans. Next,

1 (16-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained

1 small green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped

the ranch dressing mixture on top. Cover and

1 small sweet onion, finely chopped

refrigerate for several hours to allow the flavors

2 ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped

2 cups finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Stacey Little

add the drained corn, then the green bell pepper, sweet onion, tomatoes, and cheddar cheese. Pour

to develop.

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

52 | taste

@image Jeromy Price @recipe Jeff Price, Bar Manager, MovieLounge

1/2 oz. lime juice 2 oz. vodka 4 – 6 oz. ginger beer Squeeze lime into glass (steel mug is preferred). Fill with crushed or shaved ice, then add vodka and cold ginger beer. To see an extensive lineup of other great drinks and dining options, visit

Sponsored by

7601 Rogers Ave, Fort Smith 479.226.3595 |

Enjoy this and other premium cocktails at MovieLounge. Please drink responsibly.

54 | travel

Travel Back in Time Alley Spring Mill and Schoolhouse

@story Dave Malone @images Larry Durham

travel | 55

Scenic Drive

a three-story structure and one of the few roller mills remaining

Alley Spring, an Ozark gem nestled deep in the knobs of

produced more grain than the traditional grist mill using

southern Missouri, is a delight this time of year. It’s a five to six hour trip from Fort Smith but yields a cornucopia of varied, eyepopping terrain across the Ozark Plateau.

in the country. Roller mills with their cylindrical rollers often grinding stones. With gorgeous native rock as its foundation, the “Old Red Mill” speaks to the past, to hard work, to farming days, and to a close-knit community.

Robert Frost, the famous New England poet, spoke well to suggest a path less travelled. Once you abandon Missouri Highway 60 and venture north on Highway 17, you’ll encounter yellow fists of forsythia, brilliant-white pear blossoms, and red azalea bushes sprinkled between old farmhouses. The narrow two-laner snakes down to the gravel bars of the Jack’s Fork River, then up into the hills toward the small town of Summersville.


In the early 1800s the Ozarks region was home to several Native American tribes including the Osage who signed their first treaty with the American government in 1808, leading to their removal to Oklahoma. European homesteaders eventually claimed the area, and the first mill was built in 1868, but didn’t remain.

The lonely blacktop winds through breathtaking

Rich History



County into the heart of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Just six miles north of the burg of Eminence, you drop down into a valley where a fresh spring flows. For centuries, Osage and Delaware Indians likely enjoyed this natural respite so close to the Jack’s Fork River, a major tributary to the Current River.

In 1894, former grocer George Washington McCaskill constructed the mill that stands today, but the community was named after John Alley, a prominent local citizen who established a post office. Eight years later, John Knotts grabbed up the eighty acres, and a nice general store and blacksmith shop thrived in the valley. In 1903, more than forty students attended Story’s Creek Schoolhouse, named after the stream that flows into

The Beauty of the Spring and Mill More than 80-million gallons of cool water bubble up from the spring daily and create a pool with a sublime, gorgeous turquoise color. Tucked beneath a majestic stone cliff, this spring is the seventh largest in the Show-Me State. Small caves surround the spring while shortleaf pine and white oak decorate the ridge. Swallows nest in the bluff, and an interesting mix of flora and fauna give color and fragrance to the area in the warmer months. Wild columbine, ferns, and wild hydrangea decorate the banks beneath locust and sycamores. Fish, such as the southern redbelly dace, Ozark sculpin, and grass pickerel swim the waters. Below the mill pond, the historic mill stands in all its red glory –

the Jack’s Fork River. The mill provided the staple of bread, and the store carried supplies. Baseball and dances offered entertainment to the locals. Alley (as the area is commonly referred) was a gathering place for the rural community, and the red mill served as its beating heart. Having grain flour for baking was vital for the early settlers. Originally designed to grind up wheat flour by using a turbine and steel rollers, adaptations were made to accommodate corn, the main local crop. Families would haul grain to the miller to be ground, and often “mill around” until its completion. The mill shut down in 1918 likely due to deforestation and railroad abandonment. A Kansas City entrepreneur, Conrad Hug,

56 | travel

Programs and Hours You can visit Alley at any time as the park is never closed. Both the mill and schoolhouse are open 9 to 5 daily through Labor Day. Free talks are given at 10 and 2.

Overnight Stays and Camping You can camp year round, and all the amenities of running water and electricity are now available for the spring and bought up the entire town and hoped to create a flourishing resort in this idyllic setting. He chose the name Crystal Spring Town Site, but Hug’s endeavor eventually failed. Since 1925, Alley has served as a park.

summer seasons. Not far from the mill, along the banks of the Jack’s Fork, more than 150 campsites are available to campers, canoers, and outdoor enthusiasts. For floaters, it’s a great ride on the Jacks’ Fork—mostly a Class I easy ride.

Visiting the Mill and Park

Many campsites are spacious and shady. Choices exist from

Owned and maintained by the National Park Service, the park

primitive to posh, from free up to $14. Reservations can be

area surrounding the mill is well kept.

made and are suggested for those wishing to use electricity. Otherwise, camp sites are first come, first serve.

Once you’ve arrived, you can park in a paved lot, and from there it’s a short walk down an easily-navigated path to the

For those who believe camping equals a hotel stay, then only a

mill. You can also choose to cross the small wooden bridge and

ten-minute drive into Eminence provides those accommodations.

hike the quarter-mile winding path around the spring leading

Once a thriving frontier and timber town, Eminence has settled

to the mill. For those more adventurous, you can venture on

into its own as a quaint burg with restaurants and antique shops.

the steep, one-and-a-half mile Alley Overlook Trail, which leads above the spring.

Alley is a historic destination that speaks to the past but gives joy in the present moment. The “Old Red Mill” and the spring

In addition to touring the one-room schoolhouse, visitors can

are breathtaking – making it a favorite target of both amateur

investigate the mill and listen to a park ranger discuss the

and professional photographers, and some claim the most

history and culture of the area. Repairs are being made on the

photographed spot in the Missouri Ozarks. Take the journey and

mill’s working machinery, so it is not operational at this time.

find out why.

There is no charge for your tour, but donations are welcome. The gift shop and information center are housed on the first floor. The second floor holds a mini-museum with tools, artifacts,

Visit the National Park Service website for more

photos, and exhibits speaking to daily Ozark life at that time.

information (, but a phone call to the Ozark Scenic Riverways’ headquarters

Picnicking, camping, and swimming are available at the nearby

(573.323.4236) is recommended when planning

Jack’s Fork River, not more than a few skipping stone tosses

your visit.

away from the mill.

58 | travel

float arkansas @story Zoie Clift and Jill Rohrbach, Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism @images Chuck Haralson


chool’s out, the weather’s great, and it’s time to get outdoors. What better way than getting out on the water?

Here are three of our favorite places to canoe, kayak and go rafting – all in the great state we call home.

travel | 59

Access points are numerous, and the shuttle routes are almost always along paved roads. Traditional put-in and take-out points include: the bridge immediately west of Norman; the lowwater bridge west of Caddo Gap; the old low-water bridge on Arkansas 182 north of Amity; and the Arkansas 84 bridge northeast of Amity.

The slow float: Caddo River The Caddo River is named for the Caddo

The river is known for its fine smallmouth

kayak. Because nearly every acre along

Indian tribes that, at one time, lived

and spotted bass fishing. Stream-running

the Caddo River is privately owned,

along its banks. It begins in southwestern

walleye are also found in the Caddo.

floaters need to be particularly careful not to aggravate local landowners.

Montgomery County, and flows near or through the communities of Black

Hot springs feeding the river between

Springs, Norman, Caddo Gap, Glenwood,

Caddo Gap and Glenwood are an

As with most Arkansas streams, the

and Amity before entering the backwaters

attraction seldom seen on rivers. Floaters

Caddo River is seasonal, running best

of DeGray Lake, home to Arkansas’s only

often travel next to forested hillsides and

from March through June. As always, be

resort state park. Most of the river is fairly

past rocky outcrops. In several places

sure to check water levels before making

calm with some Class I and II rapids.

the stream flows under a canopy of

plans for a trip.

overhanging hardwoods. Above the lake, the Caddo is rated an excellent family float stream. Outfitters,

Probably the most popular float on the

cabins and other lodging are readily

river is the journey from Caddo Gap to

available. Below DeGray, the Caddo

Glenwood. The float from Glenwood to

continues some four miles before joining

Amity is a slower version of the upper

the lower Ouachita River just north of

sections. Pools are longer and the

Arkadelphia. Most of the communities

rapids lose some of their intensity. It is

along the Caddo River include gas

perfectly suited for those wishing to gain

stations and grocery stores.

encouraging experience in a canoe or

60 | travel

The traditional top-end put-in is at Ponca. We suggest you visit arkansas. com/outdoors/buffalo40 before heading out.

Buffalo National River The Buffalo National River in northern

water conditions are right.

suited for casual canoeing. Other access points within this part of the river include

Arkansas provides a beautiful space for floating. Tall limestone bluffs in

One of the most popular sections with

Gilbert, Maumee North, Maumee South,

earthy hues of gray, tan and brown are

floaters is between Ponca and the Ark.

and the Ark. 14 crossing.

defining features. Rushing whitewater is

7 crossing. This twenty-five-mile stretch

interspersed among sections of calmer

contains Class I and II rapids, the highest

The seven and a half mile float from

water as the river wends its way 135

waterfall in mid-America at Hemmed-in-

Buffalo Point to Rush is short, safe, and

miles through the lush green valley.

Hollow, and towering cliffs including the

scenic. For those who want to get away

500-foot-tall Big Bluff, and an assortment

from it all, the remaining twenty-three-

of swimming holes.

mile trip passes through better than

Sections of the river can be floated year

39,000 acres of wilderness, ending at

round. The upper Buffalo is best floated

Buffalo City on the White River.

March through May, when its rapids are

From Ark. 7 to Ark. 123, about ten river

the most enjoyable. The middle section

miles, there’s a great float for families that

is great for canoeing through the early

features Class I rapids, gravel bars and

The best way to find information about

summer months, while the lower Buffalo is

numerous bluffs. Another major section of

water levels is to call an outfitter

a lazier float for when the upper portions

the river begins at Carver and concludes

in the section you want to float. All

are drier. With the right gear, winter is a

about thirty-two miles downstream at U.S.

concessioners are listed on the NPS

nice time to get out on the water.

65. While other sections feature higher

website, where

bluffs and more challenging rapids, this

you can also click on “River Levels.” This

Among serious paddlers, the headwaters

portion of the river is one of its quietest

takes you to a map that shows current

area, known as the “Hailstone” trip, from

and most peaceful trips.

floating conditions along the length of the river, as well as additional information

Dixon Road to Ark. 21, is legendary. The next six-mile stretch offers a fast-moving

The twenty-seven-mile trip from U.S.

series of Class II rapids, but only when

65 to Buffalo Point is a long, lazy float

on access points, campsites and trails.

travel | 61

The Cossatot can be reached via two state highways (278 and 246), Weyerhaeuser roads (particularly #52000 which leads to Ed Banks Bridge and #52600 which goes to the Sandbar low-water bridge above Cossatot Falls), and Forest Service Road 31.

Cossatot River The Cossatot is Arkansas’s premier

1992. Preserved within the park are the

Ouachita Mountain twistflower, found

whitewater experience for kayakers and

Cossatot Falls, where the river snakes

only in a few counties in the Ouachita

canoeists. You can access the river from

over and between upturned Ouachitas

Mountains, and a number of other

the north on Arkansas 246 between

strata to create challenging stretches of

sensitive plant species, thrive within the

Vandervoort and Athens, or from the south

whitewater. The area’s rocks are polished

park’s five natural plant communities.

by US 278 between Wickes and Umpire.

smooth by the river and are among the state’s most scenic geological creations.

Though renowned for its whitewater, be aware that the Cossatot is not consistently

The Cossatot River State Park-Natural Area in Wickes extends for twelve miles

Two species of fish, the Ouachita

at floatable levels. Floatable river levels

along one of the most rugged river

Mountain shiner and the leopard darter,

are usually limited to late fall, winter

corridors in the central U.S. Class III

have been found nowhere on earth except

and spring. For river stage information

and Class IV rapids attract experienced

in streams of the Ouachita Mountains.

(in feet) from the Highway 246 access,

floaters during the season.

The darter has been found in only three

call 870.387.3141. Due to flow levels

of those. Like many minnow-like species,

dependent upon rainfall, no floater

The river, the word “Cossatot” is an

they are susceptible to changes in their

services are provided on the river. Also

Indian word meaning “skull-crusher”

habitat and both require the kind of

remember that the Cossatot is only for

(ouch!), and was designated a National

clean, moving water found in the upper

very experienced floaters as sporting

Wild and Scenic River by Congress in

stretch of the river. Waterfall’s sedge and

rapids rate up to Class V in difficulty.

There you have it, three of Arkansas’ wonders for you to explore. And when you do, take your camera along. We’d love to see your photos. Just send them to

62 | back story

After Arizona @fiction Marla Cantrell


he station wagon smelled of canvas tents and creek

Not long after, my father woke me. His face was pale as the

water, and my mother’s perfume, which was Avon, the

moon, his glasses reflecting light, so that I couldn’t see his eyes.

scent like carnations and cinnamon mixed together. “Get up Little Bit,” he said.

I was in the very back, dressed in cotton pajamas, pink, already fighting sleep. My little sister’s head was on my lap, her hair a

“Why?” I asked. “What’s wrong?”

wild thing all its own, gold curls broken free, covering her face and tumbling onto the sleeping bag beneath us. My brother,

“Not a thing in the world,” my father said. “I want you to see

though he was eleven, was asleep and sucking his thumb,


something my mother tried to ignore and my father saw as a personal defeat.

I shrugged off my sister and climbed across my brother. My father lifted me, saving my bare feet, though at nine I was much

My father worked the graveyard shift for years, and functioned

too old to carry.

best in the wee hours of morning. We left our house at two, when the city was dead and the roads vacant. My mother tumbled

“This is the Painted Dessert,” he said, standing there beside the

into her seat next to my father, her dark hair pulled into a high

lonely highway. “No place like it in the world. These buttes and

pony tail. She was studying the map, a flashlight hovering over

badlands turn colors you wouldn’t believe: purple and pink, red

the red and blue lines that would take us far away.

and orange. It’s like cutting into a layer cake, a mile high, each layer a different color. I didn’t want to leave without letting you

“Goodbye and good riddance, Phoenix, Arizona,” she said as

see it. Might be a Disneyland here by the time we get back. Might

we pulled out of the drive, our yellow stucco house receding

be a shopping center or a slew of apartments owned by the

beneath a long row of fading street lights. “I never loved ye,”

government. We’re not very good to this old earth, now are we?”

she added, and laughed, a high nervous laugh, I thought.

back story | 63 I shook my head. I had no idea how we treated the earth.

like Arizona.”

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” my father said, his finger pointing across the

I watch as my father empties a silverware drawer into a garbage

black night. I nodded, though all I saw was the outline of a giant

bag. The forks and knives will rip right through, but I don’t tell

cactus, a small animal scurrying under a sliver of moon, the cold

him this.

wind catching a tumbleweed that twitched across the space in front of us.

“She was homesick,” I say, and my father nods.

But we stood nonetheless, me in my father’s arms, and we paid

“I don’t think we should’ve ever come back” he says. “I think she

tribute to the Painted Dessert in all its darkened glory.

might still be alive if we’d stayed.”

I am thinking of that night on this night. My father is packing up

“How do you figure?” I asked.

his house, the one we built with our own hands more than twenty years ago. Our sojourn into Arizona had been for work – there was

“She wasn’t as tough here. Spent every day with your grandma,

nothing in Arkansas for my father to do – and he had worked, at a

acting like she was still a kid. When it was just her and me, she

plant that churned out airplanes he was afraid to fly in.

was a fighter. She turned soft here. And then your grandma died and your mom had the nervous breakdown, and a year later.

But home called out to my mother. She stopped caring about

Bam. Cancer.”

a steady paycheck. She started talking always about her own widowed mother, who lived alone on an expanse of land filled

I’d not heard this theory before. Cancer was something no one

with pear orchards, and whippoorwills calling, and deep wells.

could outrun, as far as I could tell. But he was right about my mom and grandmother. They were forged together. So much so

I remember pulling up to my Grandmother’s house, a little

that I often had to go get Mom from my grandmother’s house

patriotic number. White house, red shutters, blue roof. I

at suppertime, bring her in to her own kitchen and coax her

remember her hands folded across her middle and how my

into cooking. After I turned twelve, I took over the meals. My

mother leaped from the station wagon and ran to her, an only

sister cleaned. My brother learned to do laundry. I’d wake up

child again, a girl again, and my grandmother opened her arms

late at night and there he’d be, folding towels on the kitchen

and took my mother in.

table, separating the red and purple, the orange and pink. Smoothing the terrycloth with his fine hands, making sure the

I learned to go barefoot, to wade the creeks and ride horses

edges lined up.

and work in fields bursting with strawberries, or tomatoes, or green peppers.

My brother is in the army now, stationed in Germany. My sister married at sixteen and moved to Colorado and then Washington

All I remembered of Arizona was the sun on the stucco house,

and now lives in Alaska, where snow falls like rain.

the yellow bus that took me to school, the turquoise I found in my yard, blue stones on brown earth.

And I am here. With my father. Wrapped in his grief. It’s been eighteen months since my mother’s death. I was too young to

“Your mother hated Arizona,” my father says, shaking me from

lose a mother, though you could argue I lost her when our station

my remembering. “She called it the devil’s dungeon. I liked it.

wagon crossed the border into Arkansas and my grandmother

Hunted elk, caught trout as big as my arm, killed sidewinders

called out to her, You’re finally home, you’re finally home.

in the dessert. I liked it fine, but your mother, no, she did not

64 | back story When my father decided to sell the homestead, I called my

“Selling was the right thing to do,” he says, a salesman working

brother and sister, hoping they’d object. “Good for him,” was

his pitch. “Too much land. Too much work.”

all they said. “You want anything from here?” I asked. But they wanted nothing. Not one thing.

He taps the steering wheel with his cap and lets out a stream of air. “Take a good long look, Little Bit,” he finally says. “Might

My mother’s quilts are folded and sitting by the front door. The

be the last time you see this place looking like it does tonight.

star quilt I will take. It is black and white, a tad stark for a quilt,

Scrappy pines, red clay so wet it works like quicksand in the

but so beautiful it makes me cry. I used to watch her quilting, she

rainy season, the ridge up there where you got lost our first

and my grandmother, their fingers diligent on the cloth, the tiny

week here. No telling what they new owners will do to it.”

stitches exactly right. They talked as they worked, old stories about relatives long gone, the small victories of gardening, the

I step out of the pickup. I walk in front of the truck, my arms

slow burn of past wrongs.

crossed against the wind. A dog calls out, and then an owl. The air smells of honeysuckle. Farther away a siren sounds. The one

Tomorrow, the Realtor will take my father’s keys and hand him

deputy who patrols this stretch of road is hard at it tonight.

more money than I’ve ever seen. I will go back to my apartment in town. My father’s already turned in his notice at the furniture

Already I am thinking of other ways to get to work. I don’t want

factory. He’s been looking through the paper for used RVs. “I want

to drive by here again. My father has gotten out and is standing

to live a little, while I still got a little living to live,” he tells me.

beside me, the two of us grimfaced and solemn.

“I’ll finish up in the morning,” my father says, and waves one

The Painted Desert is more than a thousand miles away, its colors

weary hand, “to get the last of this.” He is standing in the

like a tie-dyed birthday cake. I think of my father choosing only

hallway, the overhead light shining above him like a halo. The

me to show it to on that night so long ago, and how we stared at

radio is on and the DJ is playing Willie Nelson’s “Always On My

the great wonder, seeing only shadows. I have never gone back

Mind,” his voice as mournful as I feel.

to see it, though suddenly I know that I will.

“Sure,” I say. “Tomorrow.”

My father begins to hum “Beautiful Dreamer,” the song he always sang to my mother. The sound rolls across the land, touching the

We head out, climb in my father’s old Chevy pickup. I get out

scrub pines and the old cherry tree, slipping past the shotgun

at the gate, kick it free of its lock, then jump on it like I used to

house we built with our own hands, saying goodbye to the well

as a kid, feet on the bottom rail, hands on the top. The wind is

house and the tin house where my grandmother lived.

kicking up and it billows beneath my long skirt as I ride the gate open one last time.

It would be too much to witness this in the light of day. I understand that. And so I stand here, protected by the darkness,

We make it to the edge of our fifty-six acres. My father circles the

shrouded by the dim moon. When the song ends, we get back

truck around so that it is facing this bounty of land. He flips the

in the truck and drive toward town. I unfold the star quilt

headlights off, shuts down the radio. I look out the windshield

and lay it across my lap. I hear the sound of my mother and

at my land, my life, all of it changing.

grandmother, their laughter rising together, their voices woven tight as moonflowers across a cedar trellis, the twang of their

My father takes off his cap, runs his meaty fingers through his gray hair.

words music to me, now and always. Always and forever.

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

@Urban Magazine June 2013 Issue  

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