One of the reasons I love road trips to places I've never been is because you never know what you will run across. Imagine if you will, cruising down SH-22, a little 2-lane back road in very rural Arkansas when you round a bend and instead of cows grazing in the fields or the rows and rows of crops you've gotten used to viewing, you see this?
I imagine your reaction would be pretty much the same as mine - "What the heck is that?" So of course I had to take the next right turn and drive up to determine just what I had stumbled across. Much to my amazement, I had found an abbey; an abbey with monks and a young men's academy. I've only been in Arkansas for a relatively short period of time ("relative" being the operative word as I've been here almost 7 years, but Arkansans still consider me to be an outsider since my grandparents aren't buried here) and there's a lot about Arkansas I don't know, but monks in Arkansas? Who woulda thunk it?
The monks of Subiaco Abbey are Benedictines and the abbey has been located a few miles down the road from Paris, Arkansas since the 1870's. Over the years, the town of Subiaco has grown up around it. Where did the name "Subiaco" come from? Subiaco, Italy of course, where Saint Benedict lived as a hermit and where he threw himself into a thorny rose bush to dispel his sinful thoughts of the flesh.
The Subiaco Academy began as a school for young men about 1890 and has evolved into the present day college-prep boarding school for young men from the 7th - 12th grades. They have a pretty good tennis team; football, not so much.
The abbey is supported through donations, fund raisers, through various charities and the Catholic church. They also sell "Abbey Brittle" (tins of peanut brittle) and "Monk Sauce" (red or green chili sauce). Unfortunately, I was there on a Saturday and the on-site shop is not open on weekends. I would have bought several of each just for the cool labels!
It was an interesting place for sure. Everything was immaculately clean, the grass mowed, no dead limbs on the ground from the many wonderful shade-giving trees, very peaceful and everyone was very friendly and helpful. The monk-life is not for me, that's for sure, but you know, I can see the appeal.