Postcard From Ozark Folk Center, Arkansas

After a good night’s rest at the Mountain View Best Western, we decided to skip the skimpy free “breakfast” in the lobby and dine at a nice little coffee shop down the road a bit. If we’re going to spend some of our money, we prefer to let a local, individual-owned establishment earn our hard-earned. We arrived at the Coffee Bean at 9:03. The sign on the door said it opens at 8:00. It lied. We left at 9:05 with the lights in the store and the power to the coffee pots all off. A half a block away, McDonald's earned our hard earned. Coffee and a Sausage, Egg and Biscuit. Yummy.

Entrance area where you can buy tickets,
snacks, odds and ends.
After a quick little drive to the Folk Center and leaving our car in the free parking lot, we walked into the General Store to purchase tickets - $26 for the 3 of us. After browsing a couple of stores, including a music store which had mandolins, guitars, dulcimers, and other instruments and making small talk with several ladies in period costumes, we jumped on one of the small buses and rode to the top of the hill to the crafts village.

We picked up a brochure in the gift shop and found that the Ozark Folk Center State Park opened in 1973 with the purpose of preserving and promoting “the Ozark way of life.” The park is located on a wooded hill about 1 mile from the courthouse square of Mountain View, Arkansas and contains 24 buildings and outdoor areas housing craft stores and showcasing demonstrations and live mountain music from the 1820 – 1920 time period. The stores offer classes in crafts like pottery, knife-making, gunsmithing, jewelry making, weaving, woodcarving, broom tying, photography, crocheting, rug-making, quilting, cooking, painting, doll-making, corn shucking and more.

Whoa Mule! An excellent, funny little 
Ozark folk band.
When we exited the gift shop, we heard live music so I followed my ears and my girls followed me until we found Whoa Mule!, a 3-man ensemble putting on a show to an audience of about 10 people. We sat down about 6 feet from them and listened as they played a selection of old folk music. I was totally enjoying it, but my girls were anxious to go shopping and seeing crafts so I bid them adios and kept my butt on the flattened log it was parked on. Their loss. With such a small audience sitting so close, the performers, all of whom were on the more experienced side of life, started interacting with us, telling stories, jokes, asking people questions and making funny comments which would somehow remind one of them of a song which they would then proceed to play. They were good musicians and really put on a great show.

The blacksmith turning an iron bar into a
hay bale hook.
When they took a break, I wandered over to the knife shop and talked to the proprietor (nice guy named Tom) for a while. From there to the blacksmith who was making a straight iron bar into a hay bale hook. I was the only visitor and he was talkative. He told me a lot about blacksmithing and the tensile strength of an iron rod and how many foot-pounds of pressure and how many strikes it took to pound flat the iron rod and how hot the fire was and how hot the rod would get – all of which I forgot within a few minutes of walking away, but it was interesting while he was talking and I enjoyed the fact that he so obviously enjoyed what he was doing.

From there I mostly just ambled around, watching a lady blowing a glass bead and then a marble; watched a lady making a quilt, learned a bit about early printing press work and moseyed around the herb garden. The most interesting store I wondered into was the broom making shop.  There were all kinds of hand-made brooms in a bunch of different colors. Most were functional, but a few were made just for show. Later in the day after reuniting with my girls, we bought one of the small “show” brooms and it is now hanging from a kitchen wall at home.

After making the rounds, I returned to catch another performance by Whoa Mule!. Different songs, different stories, different jokes so once again I really enjoyed it. After meeting up with Youngest-daughter and Mamma-woman, they informed me they were headed to the doll shop and then the sewing store so, being the sensitive totally secure in my manhood guy that I am, I said adios once again, found a place to get a coke, and sat under a shade tree by a pond with koi fish in it. In Japan, koi are considered symbols of good fortune or luck and are also associated with perseverance in adversity and strength of purpose. In Buddhism, koi represent courage. For a while I busied myself with rooting around in the flowers and bushes finding little bugs and a couple of caterpillars and fed them to the fish. I figured if I fed them, maybe some of that good fortune would come my way. They seemed about as grateful as a big goldfish can be I guess, but when I left I didn't really feel any luckier or more courageous.

I spotted a bumblebee on a flower close by so I unlimbered ye old camera and started trying to catch him in flight. Then I saw 2 bumblebees; then 3 and 4 and all of a sudden there were a BUNCH of bumblebees flying around these flowers. They didn’t seem to mind me taking pictures and never flew very close to me, but they didn’t exactly cooperate either.  I finally got tired of that pursuit and had a couple of pictures I was ok with so I walked on down the path to some more flowers and found a couple of really pretty butterflies. I took a couple of pictures then sat down on a rock and just watched them for a while. Whenever I see a butterfly, I think of “flutterby” and think that’s what they should have been named.

I finally spotted the Mamma-woman walking down a path without the girl child. She had gone to find a restroom. We walked around for a bit, but Youngest daughter didn't re-join us in what felt like the right amount of time. She didn't answer her phone when I called. I tried not to worry; she's a really good kid who almost always does the right thing. She knows about stranger danger and she's almost 13, old enough and big enough to put up enough of a fight or scream or something that good people would notice and hopefully come to her aid if an evil-doer grabbed her. We were in a fairly enclosed area with a number of people and park employees around so the rational part of me said don't be overly concerned just yet, but me the daddy was very concerned, radar on high alert, fight or flight was definitely in kill mode if some low-life has my baby. Mamma-woman and I split up to cover more ground. Within a couple of minutes, my heart beating like John Henry hammering a railroad spike, adrenaline pumping, confusion, anger, soul-crushing dread flooding every atom of my body, I headed back to the front of the park to the gift shop to alert the rangers that we have a child missing. I wanted everything locked down for 50 miles around; I wanted every Ranger here now scouring the park, I wanted helicopters, I wanted police, Highway Patrol, the FBI, SEAL Team 6, all of them here, now!
Pretty flutterby
What I got was Mamma-woman walking out of the building I was headed for telling me she had found her. The alarm bells in my head went mercifully silent; my fists unclenched; the adrenaline slowly calmed down, relief flooded in. The helicopters could go back to reporting on traffic, the police could go back to writing tickets and the SEALs could go back to killing those that need killing. Turned out when Youngest-daughter came out of the bathroom, she ran into a sweet older lady in period costume with a group of children and a few parents in tow who were headed to the auditorium to listen to stories and play a few old-timey games and the lady asked her if she wanted to come along. She tried to call us, but her phone battery was dead. She told herself we would come find her and it wouldn't be hard because the building was on the way out of the park.

When I saw her, she was perfectly safe, smiling and having a good time. I smiled at her and blew her a kiss. I took pictures. But once the activity was over, I made sure she came to realize the error of her choice. She doesn't know it, but if that's the worst choice she makes before making it out of her teenage years, I'll be one grateful and relieved Daddy.