Caddo Indian Memorial

Entrance to the memorial park.
I had put Norman, Arkansas in the rear view mirror of my pickup and just a short piece down the road I came upon Caddo Indian Memorial Park. It wasn't much really, just an open area with a trail around it; a couple of vague mounds in the middle that apparently were built by the Indians long ago for some purpose nobody is really sure of. You had to kind of squint your eyes and use a bit of imagination to see them. I thought it would be something interesting, but sometimes what sounds interesting isn't. I certainly appreciated the fact that somebody or some organization constructed this memorial to the Indians that lived here until the late 1700's; there just wasn't much to it. There was a sign with a nice Caddo Indian Memorial Poem.

Blessed are all who enter here, for this is hallowed ground.
Look around and hear the heartbeat of a different time.
My ancestors are buried here, amongst nature.
Holy are the beauties of this earth.
Holy are the glories of the skies above.
Feel their essence in the air, exalted in the sunshine and the clouds.
Each leaf, each tree, each insect, beloved parts of the whole of creation
Not to be done without.

Here, I remember Grandmother's long gray braids, once shiny, black as satin.
Her cooking pot full of stew, rich aroma whetting my appetite;
Her daily chanting, comforting as the chirping birds.
I miss her warmth, her knowing eyes.
Grandfather too, who now dwells by her side.
He taught me to hunt game, made my first bow and arrows with his gnarled hands.
He showed me respect for the gifts of the earth.
Fishing with Grandfather on the river not only brought food,
but was one of the real pleasure's of life.

Feel the presence within these grounds you encircle.
Take time to walk a little taller, to feel more alive.
Breath deep of the soil,
You will strive for excellence and be better than you were when first you arrived.
Enjoy my family.
Enjoy my people.
Know that in truth, we are all one.

 I stood there in the heat of an excessively hot August day with sweat dripping down my neck and contemplated the poem. I didn't have to worry about someone else impatiently waiting behind me; I was the only person there. Like a lot of people, I have a certain affinity for Native Americans, imagining a much simpler time, a time when people didn't rape the earth, but lived with what the earth provided; a time when people didn't kill women and children just because they didn't believe the same. Of course, reality was different from our idealized vision. That vision is really just a projection of the way we should live, the way we would like to live if but only we could.

I finally grew too uncomfortable, the sun beating down, the heat suffocating. I made my way back to the air conditioned comfort of my truck and started to pull out of the little gravel parking lot. I glanced over and noticed a road sign just down from the Caddo Indian Memorial sign. I thought, "How appropriate. What better way to show how far we've come." The Indians had lived right here for who knows how long. We come into the picture and here in this remote place, surrounded with hundreds, even thousands of acres of nothing but woods, right next to this memorial place, we put a solid waste station. It upset me at first. I thought of Iron Eyes Cody, the crying Indian in the "Keep America Beautiful" commercial back in the early 1970's.

But then, in spite of my great desire to keep that idealized version of Indian life in my head, I thought, "Indians had to poop too. And they probably had one area where they all went so they wouldn't be nervous about walking around the village and stepping in something."  Maybe that area was right here. Most likely, all we did was put our version of a big outhouse right on top of theirs. Then I turned right onto the road and put this place in my rear view mirror too.

Mountains, Music & Motorcycles - A Day Late?

My good friend Mark and I decided to take a day off from work and attend the Mountains, Music and Motorcycles festival in Mountain View, AR. last Friday. The festival was scheduled for 3 days with the opening on Friday. The web site said the event begins at 8:00 AM. We didn't discover until it was too late that the event starts at 8:00 AM Saturday and Friday was set aside for the riders to tour the many byways and back roads in the area; the music and festivities were not scheduled to start until 8:00 PM! We arrived Friday morning a little after 10:00, not on Harleys, but in BFT (my Big Ford pickup Truck) and I had $60 in my pocket. For once, I wasn't a day late or a dollar short.

This little gathering started six years ago with no budget and totally dependent on volunteers. The first year 350 motorcyclist showed up. Last year an estimated 10,000 motorcycles attended! It is free to the public, features many family-friendly activities and is a major fund raiser for the March of Dimes. For those who know what these are, the event offers a bug run, poker run, bike show, biker games and two free concerts, numerous vendors and a biker church service that was attended by 500 bikers last year in the city park amphitheater.

Mountain View town square honors those from
the town who have given their life in
defense of our country.
I've blogged about Mountain View previously so if you hadn't figured it out before now, this picturesque little town is one of my favorite places in Arkansas. Situated in a valley in the mountains next to the Ozark National Forest, it's Ozark heritage is heavily evident in the little businesses surrounding the town square and the friendly, open nature of the people who live there. With the numerous festivals held here throughout the year, the many antique and "hand-crafted goods" shops, and with it being the "Folk Music Capital of the World," it's easy to find one reason or another to visit just about any weekend you can get away.

The drive to Mountain View from my home is an hour of beauty driving down 2-lane curvy blacktop roads. You need to be careful you don't drift into the wrong lane while looking at the scenery or hit a deer or possum or racoon, all of whom seem to have a frequent urgent need to go from one section of woods to another by crossing the road. I think they gather around at night and brag about how many times they safely crossed and talk about their friends who tried one time too many. If you watch closely, you'll see buzzards sitting patiently in the trees.

Little country house of worship
Along the way, we passed an old, rural white clapboard church with a bell tower. For me, there's something about country churches like this. There was a time in my youth that it was I who toiled in the fields of the family farm deep in the sandy lands of east Texas and it was I who attended a little country church with "salt of the earth" people; people who often as not never made it past the 8th grade, but possessed dignity and honesty and virtues that are sadly missing today. I had to stop. It reminded me of a poem by Thomas Gray.

Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learned to stray;
Along the cool sequestered vale of life,
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

The rare White Breasted Ozark Mutt dog!
After stopping and talking to the watchful "guard dog" next to the church, we made our way on in to town; a town that should have been bustling with the activity and sounds of hundreds, if not thousands, of motorcycles. It was strangely quiet. At the town square, instead of motorcycles and riders everywhere, we saw maybe 2 dozen. There were a number of folks walking around, but we were able to find an open parking spot right there on the square. We decided we were just a bit early so we would pass the time by walking around in the shops, seeing if they had something we couldn't live without.

Mark looking for something he can't 
live without.
When we had both grown weary of browsing, we agreed that if you can't find what you are looking for in these shops, then you don't need it. We found everything from bottled sarsaparilla to a 1,000 piece Woodstock festival jigsaw puzzle to a small, galvanized wash tub which Mark had been hunting high and low and on the internet for with no luck until now. In some cases, one person's junk is another person's treasure and this was certainly true in a few of the stores. In other cases, one person's junk is just junk.

This picture frame came with instructions.
I was wearing my USS Kitty Hawk cap because I've found it helps me meet other people, mostly guys who were also in the U.S. Navy. We start talking and find out if we ever served together or in the same area or occasionally have an acquaintance we both know. This time I ran into GySgt Bryce F. Lockwood, a retired Marine who served on several navy ships and is the only marine survivor from the attack on the USS Liberty by Israelis in June, 1967. Even today, almost 45 years later, it is still a hush-hush incident that is rife with intrigue, secrets, and cover ups. GySgt Lockwood was awarded a Silver Star for saving the lives of several other crewman even though he was severely wounded when a torpedo struck the ship and exploded just 8 feet from where he was. He went on to serve for several more years until his injuries caught up with him and he was forced to take a medical retirement. It was an honor to meet and talk to this American hero.

Arlene and Marlene celebrating their 
"50th" birthday.
After a while, we stopped for lunch in the local Mexican food cafĂ© and the fare was actually pretty acceptable - had better, but had worse a number of times. There were 4 older ladies sitting in the corner, having a grand good time and 2 of them were wearing bright colored hats and boa's around their necks. When their food came, they held hands and prayed. When we left, I couldn't help but stop by their table to find out what they were celebrating. Turns out the 2 dressed up ladies were Arlene and Merlene, twin sisters celebrating their, ah hum, "50th" birthday with their 2 best friends of so many years that, "we can't even count that high." There wasn't an alcoholic drink on the table, but there sure were a lot of laughs between those 4 ladies!

I had heard of a small community a few miles outside of Mountain View by the name of Bothersome. It didn't appear on any maps, but with a description of the location I found on the internet, off we went. I didn't really have a choice of going there or not - with a name like Bothersome, it was beyond my control. With my truck's GPS and a Roads of Arkansas map book, it wasn't too hard to find the little road where we turned off the main 2-lane road. It started out as old blacktop, but quickly degraded into gravel and then dirt. We pressed on. And then, smack dab in the middle of absolutely nowhere, the "road" became a 2-track mud pit running into standing water. I don't know how deep that water was, but I'm pretty sure I saw a decent sized catfish swimming around in it. It was the end of our quest. I had to back up about 50 yards to a turn-around spot and go back the way we came. It bothers me that I can't say I've been to Bothersome.

Elaine and unidentified customer at Kinfolk BBQ.
Returning to Mountain View, we found a much larger contingent of motorcycles had arrived. The vendors were getting set up and things were starting to happen. It was also hot, with the temp in the upper 90's and very humid so after a bit more walking around, I purchased a "Mountain, Music &; Motorcycles 2011" event t-shirt; we stopped in at the Kinfolk BBQ shack, purchased an iced coke and sat in the air conditioned eating area chomping crunchy ice for a while. After eye-balling some of the motorcycles and a tour of the vendors to see what they had for sale, we made our way back to BFT and found a note under the windshield. "Please move your vehicle by 4:00 PM to make way for the dancing area." Well, it was almost 4:30, we felt like we had seen all of the stuff that was to be seen so far, and we didn't feel like waiting around until 8:00 PM in the heat to watch the band so we decided it was time to head home.

From beautiful factory bikes to homemade 

We didn't get to see what we thought we would, we didn't get to visit the site of Bothersome, but we did see some cool motorcycles, a bunch of cool old junk in the shops, and we got to miss a day of work. That's a good day in my book!

This bike was heavily chromed and in
 the sun, wow!
I was very careful not to tip over the first one!

Postcard From Historic Washington, Arkansas

The famous 1874 Washington Courthouse is now
the visitor center.
Established on George Washington's birthday in 1824, Washington, Arkansas is today a quiet, peaceful, tree-shaded town, a state park, and probably America's premier historic village. More than 30 restored historic structures, including examples of Southern Greek Revival and Federal architecture, Gothic Revival, Italianate, and those of hand-hewn timber framing or brace-frame cottage construction, stand as a tribute to life in Washington from 1824 to 1900. You can tour the public buildings and homes; see wonderful collections of antiques, guns and knives; visit with the guides in period attire; ride the surrey around town and step back to a more genteel  period in history. There was a time, however, when Washington was a bustling, thriving city and for almost 3 years during the Civil War, the state capitol of Arkansas.

Black's forge where the 1st Bowie knife was
made for Jim Bowie.

Located in Hempstead County, Washington was established as the first county seat. It was located on the famous Southwest Trail (the earliest road across the state) and, due to its closeness to the then Mexican border, was a stopover for pioneers traveling west to Texas. Davy Crockett, Sam Houston and Jim Bowie stopped in Washington on their way to die in defense of the Alamo. Legend say's Houston planned parts of the revolt strategy in a tavern in Washington during 1834. James Black, a talented blacksmith in the town, was commissioned by Jim Bowie to create the original Bowie Knife in 1831. It was this knife he became famous for and died wielding at the Alamo.

Planted in 1839, this magnolia tree has seen
a lot of history.
The town was also the rendezvous point for volunteers to be mustered in to fight in the Mexican War in 1846.  By 1860, the booming town could boast of 17 lawyers, 16 doctors, 15 carpenters, 15 merchants, nine blacksmiths, nine teachers, six printers, 3 hotel owners, 3 carriage makers, and 1 fortune teller. But the town experienced its period of greatest importance during the Civil War. The state capitol in Little Rock fell to the Union Army in September 1863. Governor Harris Flanagin moved the state government to Washington and established offices in the Hempstead County Courthouse. Hempstead County provided its fair share of troops for the Confederacy and the town became a refugee center. In April, 1864, the battle of Prairie D'Ane was fought about 20 miles to the east of the town and the wounded were cared for in Washington.

Unfortunately for the residents, the coming of the railroad era and the establishment of the new town of Hope along the rail line which had bypassed Washington started the town on a path of decline. In 1875, a fire destroyed much of the business district. It was rebuilt, but another fire in 1883 destroyed most of the remaining old businesses in town. Hope was becoming the new shipping and trading center for Hempstead County and Washington residents began to move away. By 1900, only 374 persons were living in town. Repeated attempts to move the county seat to Hope finally succeeded in 1939 further hastening Washington's decline.

Archeological dig - notice the cannon balls
they found?
The town became a state park in 1973 and many of the old structures have been restored by the Pioneer Washington Restoration Foundation. For the last 20 years, archeological fieldwork has been conducted in the town and over 200,000 artifacts have been recovered and preserved. There are still 138 permanent residents who call Washington home.

Located on Highway 278 just nine miles from Hope (from I-30, take exit 30), the park is open year round from 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day.

Well preserved Washington pioneer cemetery.

The Story of Ink

The unincorporated community of Ink, Arkansas, located on Highway 88 east of Mena, received its name in 1887. The U. S. Post Office, trying to cut down on duplicated town names, required towns to submit at least three alternate names on the submission form. Instructions on the ballot sheet distributed to the community asking for a town name said, “Write in ink” so that’s what a lot of folks did. When the first choice of “Mellon” was rejected because a different town already had that name, the 2nd most popular choice, “Ink” was awarded. Nobody knows what the 3rd alternate name was.

Closed Ink convenience store
Even more of a sleepy little town today than it was over 100 years ago, the Ink post office closed its doors in 1967. With only 1 business open (a cement delivery service), and a few widely scattered homes, it is very close to being a full-blown ghost town. It does, however, have a large, very well maintained cemetery which serves the area. The cemetery is home to almost more living things than the community - 2 roadrunners.

Ink community center

One of the roadrunners living in the cemetery.
Abandoned Ink home - the norm

I Doggies, Folks!

"Hello, Jot 'Em Down Store. This is Lum and Abner." For nearly 25 years, that was the most welcome greeting on radio. Chester "Chet" Lauck (Lum Eddards) and Norris "Tuffy" Goff (Abner Peabody) were the creators, actors, writers, sound effects men, directors and the soul of the Lum and Abner program. They received more fan mail than any other program at the time - 1 1/2 million letters per week! You've been exposed to their influence on popular culture whether you know it or not. When you hear Jed Clampett say, "Eee doggies," you're hearing an echo of Abner Peabody. When you watch reruns of Green Acres, Petticoat Junction, the Andy Griffith Show or Hee Haw, you're seeing characters based on Lum and Abner characters.

Wax Lum 'N Abner figures in the Museum
Their careers began as young, amateur performers in Mena, AR where they grew up together and performed at school and civic functions. In early 1931, while doing a skit for radio station KTHS in Hot Springs, Arkansas, they tried out their old country storekeepers routine. The names "Lum Eddards" and "Abner Peabody" were just spur of the moment additions and the format was conversational, but the guys were so talented, they were invited back. After a short while, they were offered a 13 week contract with NBC and soon thereafter, their show obtained Quaker Oats as a sponsor and they headed to Chicago for "temporary" show business careers.

Inside the store - the Pine Ridge Post Office
Pine Ridge, Arkansas is about the same size now as it was in the early 1900's when it was called Waters. Located here was a post office, sawmill, general store, grist mill, blacksmith shop, and the other services needed by a farm community. The general store of any small town was its activity hub, especially on Saturdays when everyone from the surrounding farms came to town to trade goods, stories, and get caught up on the latest news. Chet and Tuffy based their program on this interaction they had experienced in Waters, modeling the dialect, phraseology and customs after the citizens of the remote community who "lived lives as their forefathers lived theirs, unaffected and unspoiled by modern progress; who are content to eke out an existence and live their lives undaunted by the depression's hardships."  Many of the fictional characters in the fictional town of Pine Ridge were based on actual residents of Waters and the surrounding area, but only the many voices of Chet and Tuffy were heard on the radio. Chet was Lum, Grandpappy Spears, and Cedric Wehunt. Tuffy was Abner, Squire Skimp, Mousey Grey, Dick Huddleston, and most of the other characters they developed over the years. They kept in touch with the folks in Waters, especially Mrs. Homer Graham (known as Ethel in the program)  who worked in one of the general stores and took notes while customers shopped for shoes, cheese, harness, and other necessities. She would then send these to Lauck and Goff and they used the news, sayings, and phrases in their act.

By the mid-1930's, the radio program was well known across the nation and the listeners kept demanding to know where the town of Pine Ridge was located. Finally, the town of Waters officially changed it's name to Pine Ridge in an elaborate ceremony on the steps of the state capital in Little Rock in 1936 on the 5th anniversary of the program. Pictures hanging in the Lum and Abner Museum show the governor greeting Lum, Abner, and the real-life counterparts of Grandpappy Spears, Cedric Wehunt, Dick Huddleston, and several others.

The original pot bellied stove in the
Jot 'Em Down Store.
The stores that were such an integral part of the program are still in business today and are on the National Register of Historic Places. The original Huddleston store, built in 1909, is now the Lum and Abner Museum and holds the souvenir and gift shop. The A.A. McKinzie Store, built across the street in 1904, has become the Jot 'Em Down Store which gained fame in the program. It has been moved next door to the museum and in addition to selling a few souvenirs, hand-made knick-knacks and snacks, contains the old post office, many pieces of the Lum and Abner program and the original pot bellied stove where the residents would gather around during those cold winter Saturdays so long ago, swapping tales, getting caught up on the news, and laughing at the stories Chet and Tuffy were telling about them.

Many of the original items sold in the store are
in the museum.
In the early 1950's, after almost 25 years of 13 week contracts, 7 movies and thousands of radio shows, Lum and Abner retired. Norris Goff, surrounded by his loving family, died in California in June, 1978.  Chester Lauck and his family moved back to Arkansas after he retired and later aided in the development of the Lum and Abner Museum. He passed away in February, 1980.

Located at the corner of Old Waters Highway and Hole In Ground Road (Highway 88 in Montgemery County, Arkansas - a county that is so rural it doesn't have any traffic lights), Pine Ridge is still a very small, very rural town little changed from the days of the show. 911 service was finally introduced in 2000 and it was just a couple of years ago that anything other than party telephone lines became available. As you pass the community along the 2-lane blacktop highway, the 2 old general stores, an outhouse, and a couple of homes are visible, but the community stretches beyond what you can see. The gravel roads link many farm houses where log buildings can still be found. Two church buildings and a cemetery are out of sight a quarter mile down the "old highway" road, the road to the right of the outhouse.

William Quantrill - Still Hiding In Arkansas?

Within Augusta Memorial Park Cemetery, en enigma lies under a large marker bearing the name L.J. Crocker. Many believe the moniker is an alias and that the grave is actually the final resting place of William Clarke Quantrill, the infamous Confederate renegade.

Quantrill burned his name into American Civil War history during the border clashes between the states of Missouri and Kansas. On August 21, 1861, he led a group of 450 men into Lawrence, Kansas, where they executed 183 men and boys and then burned the town. Most historians think Quantrill was wounded and captured in 1865 and that he died in prison in Louisville, Kentucky.
A band of Yankee cavalry caught up with Quantrill on a farm, located 5 miles south of Taylorsville, Kentucky on May 10, 1865. Quantrill and about 21 of his men were camped inside the barn when the Yanks launched a surprise attack. He and his men fought desperately from the windows and doorways of the farm house until their ammunition was exhausted. Quantrill was shot while trying to escape. One bullet struck him in the hand and another hit his left shoulder blade, angled down and lodged against his spine. He was instantly paralyzed from the waist down. When questioned, Quantrill gave his name as Captain Clarke of the 4th MO Confederate Calvary and asked to be allowed to stay on the farm and die. His wish was granted and the northern  men rode off in pursuit of Quantrill. Mr. Wakefield, the owner of the farm, sent for a doctor who announced that Quantrill’s wound was fatal.

After learning the supposedly true identity of the man who was injured at the Wakefield farm, the Yankees returned with a wagon on Friday, May 12. They loaded Quantrill and took him to Louisville, arriving there on the 13th of May and a few days later, there he died.

According to one legend though, what really happened was that Quantrill, who was so badly injured that he lay quietly in his bed, pleaded with the authorities to let his wife visit him. Finally they agreed. Then one of the most bizarre escapes in all of America history took place.

When Mrs. Quantrill arrived in the hospital room, Quantrill's companion in the next bed had just died. They stripped the dead man and dressed the body in Quantrill's uniform and placed it in Quantrill's bed. Then Quantrill himself put on his wife's clothes. She in turn put on the dead man's clothes, was gagged and tied, and lay down in the dead man's bed. Quantrill, whose bruised spine had healed enough that he could move again, dressed as a woman and walked away a free man. Mrs. Quantrill was discovered bound and gagged, gasping she had found her husband dead in his bed and had been attacked by the other man n the room who made her exchange clothes with him and then tied her up.

The authorities believed her story and as a result of this dramatic escape plot no further search was ever conducted for Quantrill. Instead the Louisville hospital records reflect William Clarke Quantrill died of his wounds and that an unknown member of his gang managed to escape. Quantrill and his wife stayed in Kentucky for the next two years while Quantrill was fully recovering his health.

In 1867, a wealthy stranger calling himself Captain L.J. Crocker arrived in Gregory, a small town near Augusta, Arkansas. He bought a large farm with cash pulled from his saddlebags. It is said he had a military bearing and it was obvious he was an expert horseman. For several years, he and his wife worked their farm and kept mostly to themselves, but eventually Crocker made many friends, helped establish the local bank, and joined the local Freemason lodge. When the Crockers arrived, they had a young daughter named Laura Lee with them, but unfortunately, Laura died shortly before her 4th birthday. She was buried in Augusta Memorial Park cemetery.

Rumors circulated about Crocker’s true identity. Men familiar with Quantrill noted the stranger’s striking resemblance to the guerilla leader. Quantrill was known to have lost a finger in the fight on the farm when he was captured and Crocker always wore a glove in public. Crocker’s wife, Gabriella, was a relative of Cole Younger. Younger and Frank and Jessie James were former members of Quantrill’s Raiders and visited the Crocker home on several occasions.

Then one day when Captain Crocker was chatting with friends in the livery stable at Augusta, a newcomer by the name of Hutchison approached him and said, "You, Captain Crocker, are the man I knew as Quantrill. I was in the Federal Army and was captured by your men. It was you who finally let me escape." Captain Crocker looked at the man and smiled slowly. "You are mistaken, Sir. My name is L. J. Crocker, and furthermore I think that Quantrill would have shot any Yankee soldier that he captured."  Over the years, a number of former soldiers identified Captain Crocker as Quantrill, but he always denied it.

Could Captain Crocker really be the infamous William Clarke Quantrill, the feared guerrilla fighter, the leader of a large group of desperadoes who tried to aid the Confederacy by burning, pillaging, and murdering during raids in Missouri, Kansas, and even Kentucky? Could this stately gentlemen who had made so many friends in Gregory and Augusta, and who was adored by children when he visited in their homes, could he possibly be that same Quantrill who had been described in the newspapers as "The bloodiest man in the annals of American history, the father of American outlaws, a killer who had butchered women and children"?

Eventually, in 1910, after obtaining a secrecy oath from his fellow Masons, Crocker confirmed suspicions. He was, he said, William Clarke Quantrill and he asked that his true identity be kept secret until after his death.
Captain Crocker, or Quantrill, take your pick, lived on his farm near Gregory for 50 years, from 1867 until his death in 1917. He is buried in Augusta Memorial Park next to his daughter Laura Lee. No one seems to know for sure what happened to Mrs. Crocker after her husband's death, but it is assumed she rejoined her relatives in Missouri.
Augusta is a small, peaceful town 75 miles northeast of Little Rock. To visit the cemetery, turn south off US64 East onto Fifth Street at the armory and go about 1 block. The cemetery will be on your left.