Van Buren County
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|Even the remote part of Van Buren County that I moved into was inhabited by white people
Arkansas became a state. They lived here without air
conditioning, central heat, indoor plumbing, social security
benefits or taxes, and still survived. Much has changed since that long ago
day and age. Now mules are raised for pleasure, not for drawing
wagons. Our best food nut tree back then was wiped out in the
same epidemic that destroyed all our tall, spreading American chestnut trees.
Today you can find a camel, and a zebra grazing here.
Clinton is the county seat of Van Buren County. My next door neighbor has been there several times. He says that the town of Clinton is five miles long. Clinton is definitely big enough to get lost in, although a sign says there are only 2,000 and some odd people living here.
I've only seen one stop light in town and it sure is needed with so many tourists whistling Dixie through here that every chicken in town has put up a squawk about having to cross the road at lunch time. Speaking of lunch, the best dining spot in town is Toga Moe Joe's. It's kind of an Italian restaurant. The eye-candy is nothing at all to write home about but you'll be too busy bragging on the food to notice what's on the walls anyway.
Peggy Eoff at the Bar of Ranch & Feed Store on the north end of Clinton is just about the friendliest lady in town. Now, I never was a cowboy, but I've been cowboying since I was 8 years old and I've batched for some of the best ranchers in Arizona and a few in Oklahoma, so I've been living in a whole lot of ranch homes owned by genuine cowboys and real ranchers. The decor you find in this shop is the real thing, just what you would find in real ranch homes. Peggy even has an overabundance of John Wayne pictures up, just like so many real cowboys do. The settings in the other pictures are so authentic in detail they made me homesick. The desks and the tables and the couches and the chairs and the lamps look like exact duplicates to what I've seen on real working ranches.
I was telling my best friend about the store yesterday and he said "Yeah, I stopped in there one day last year and spent $12,000 in less than half an hour. I just stood there pointing, I want this, that, that, that, that, that --" etc.
Then his wife added a few more items and it came out to about $14,000.00-- but Peggy gave them a discount so the check was for $12,000 and some change. The store is on the left as you're leaving Clinton, heading north. If you like cowboy, stop in and enjoy your visit.
Go Betsey, GO!
Sometimes it feels like everybody up here is getting rich.
Natural gas, oil. Gee Whillikers
What is a dear little doe to do?
you don't mind sharing space with a little friend or two
Then the woods of Van Buren County have
some of the most restful home sites in America.
My friend Charlie there is a harmless corn snake.
I first met him about a hundred feet from the house.
Charlie took an instant liking to me and followed me home.
The mice began to disappear and Charlie now sleeps in the dryer.
Snakes make great watchdogs.
The dryer sits right
beside the front door. If Charlie is at
home and that front door opens he sticks his head out to
see if it is me. I haven't seen anyone yet that is fast enough
to get a foot inside before Charlie goes slithering down the
back of their shirt. If there are any mice hiding down there,
Charlie will find them sooner or later. One time when the
tax man wanted in before I got my clothes on I found old
Charlie 2 miles down the road. The sheriff came to get the
tax man's car a few days later. He knocked right gentle.
Let's see how to get you here to Van Buren County.
Out of North Little Rock take I-40 WEST. When you come to Conway turn to the right on Hwy 65 and head north. When you get to Clinton you have found the county seat of Van Buren County. Greers Ferry Lake isn't that far from here. Fairfield Bay is just up the road. Scotland is a bonny piece off in the other direction.
Many of the back roads in this area of Arkansas are just slicked over bedrock, with a touch of dynamite set off here and there to smooth them down. Occasionally some fairly good fossils of plants are found in that bedrock when the dynamite goes off.
Don't depend on a map to warn you in advance that you may need a winch and a tow truck to get back to the highway; The only roads that get a bad reputation here are the ones where the kids can get out to walk and beat the drivers home by a day or two.
On the north end of Clinton, Highway 9 and 16 enter Highway 65 from the east, coming from Shirley or Fairfield Bay. From the north, 65 adds a turn lane for people to go east on 9 and 16. But I have noticed an unnecessary blockage, stoppage, pile up, of vehicles on 9 and 16 that want to go south on 65. The car in front waits patiently or frantically for traffic from both ways to clear out a little bit, then risk their lives scooting all the way over to the west side of the road. This risks their lives and the lives of people tooling south on 65, and there is no need of it.
There is a merge lane built in for the vehicles turning left on 65 and it goes almost all the way across the bridge. Just wait for the northbound traffic to clear, and dart into the left lane, then merge into the right one. It's a piece of cake. You'll also have to dodge the east bound traffic from the north, but most of them even use their turn signals. It's those vehicles heading north with their turn signals on as if they are going to turn east that you have to watch out for.
A big sign directly across highway 65 and facing 9 and 16 traffic reminding drivers about the safety lane would make access much safer. Someone ought to tell President Obama about it. He could probably get the project started before passing through here on his way home.
The Archey is smoky in color and offers fine swimming opportunities in many spots.
There is a
These red tufted seedlings have fruit kind of like a chestnut tree when they are grown. They come three nuts to a pod. The eyeglasses on the left are for sizing. I gathered this much in a matter of minutes from one young tree. The native plant specialist says these are Red Buckeye and people carry one for luck.
You can believe this or not if you don't want to but I stopped off at the court house my first week here on some kind of voting day and this car drove up behind me. Unsuspecting a thing I paused near the open window and asked directions to the phone company office. A girl was driving. She flashed the most beautiful smile I've seen on this earth; I mean bar none and nothing else anywhere close. She then leaped from the car to show me the way. Now, I don't have any idea what she looked like because after I'd walked off fifty feet or more away from her I was still half blind from receiving that smile.
Someone here has imported a camel from the arid desert. I am keeping a close eye on the critter. If this guy develops gills to accommodate all the extra moisture we have in the air here then we will know that Clarence Darrow was right, and there is a little bit of truth in the warp-sided theory of evolution. So far the only thing I have observed this camel growing is more contented. He may evolve into a cow tomorrow.
Another farmer down the road has been keeping a zebra for breeding purposes. One offspring I saw was -- hmm. What DO you call a half horse and half zebra?
Deer, elk and turkey are the best seasons to visit the Van Buren area. Never mind if you are not into hunting; you will be fascinated by the people showing up who are.
Have you ever noticed that you never see a deer running AT something. Only when a deer is running away from something does it lurch into that next upward gear of locomotion that lets it leap tall fences in a single bound while dashing uphill.
Armadillo and possum are plentiful enough here to keep a whole army of sharpshooters shooting sharp. A bear or two has sauntered by with some crazy petition demanding that the lids be left off all garbage cans. They looked like absolute beasts when I refused to sign it. Coyotes audition every night for the world's championship title of "the most pitiful crooner on earth."
Taters and onions, fried over an open campfire, can start the stories rolling off the tongue until the moon comes up at midnight. "Are you sure you don't want no more?" almost sounds like good English when both eyes begin to close and the head nods forward with a grin of pure satisfaction lingering on long after the covers wrap you up tight.
|A little tic on the bad news side of the ledger
is that you can't look out the
window without a
back-biting tick taking another lick.
Down at Toad Suck this year the word is that toads have gone on strike. I haven't seen any toads crossing the picket line up here either but the Bull Frog Amphibian Brigade is tuning up for battle. Bullfrog tadpoles are even hatching out in the creeks that won't rise.
When I started to put in my first garden the ground was harder than the rocks so I dug out my trusty old crow bar and drove it into the ground and hammered it over to one side repeatedly. It took an hour to make a hole big enough to plant one of my little seedlings in.
Real early this morning there was a major disturbance in the atmosphere. A bolt of lightning sizzled up from the ground outside and leaped into the sky to embrace a chunk of lightning streaking down from the clouds. What a crack of doom exploded! The whole house shook. Had I unplugged the computer? I have been warned by Steve at the phone company that I need to unplug the phone if I'm still alive after lightning strikes. I was too scared to go near the thing.
By the time I determined that YES, I had unplugged the computer, lightning was flashing, thunder crashing, rain lashing, and I was chortling with glee because it had woke me up. Oh Gee, I knew that I should record how wonderful I feel. Of course, I cannot use the big computer because of the danger – but I have the little laptop computer. So I came in here and, despite it being so dark, it is indeed wonderful to be alive to witness this thrashing that Mother Nature is giving us. So, I sit me down — and promptly discover that without light I can’t make tales or heads appear on my screen.
That is frustrating and I find myself wishing the storm would abate just enough so that I could record how wonderful I feel during this thrashing. By this time I am ready to curse the same Mother Nature I had risen from my warm bed to record my joy of meeting. By the time I get me safely set down again Mother Nature has gone off in a huff and denied me the privilege of recording first hand how glad I was to sit here unafraid, enjoying the display of raw power that can sizzle my big computer in one shuddering second while frying everything connected to the phone line.
Henry Thoreau never had these problems. His little pencil was safe in his little shack beside the pond that never had a ripple. In a scribble it never failed him. He could munch on a morsel of unleavened bread and count the pennies per year that he was saving. Of course, a penny would buy a whole pound of tobacco back then, not that Henry was ever dumb enough to indulge in such a waste.
Dreams are what Drive the Nation.
My dream is to be down in the meadow on the 4-wheeler when a big bear charges out of the woods. He is big enough to think he owns this place and it is essential he be taught a lesson immediately.
In my dream I aim the 4-wheeler right for him and thumb the throttle wide open. Because bears are famous for their feeble eye sight I am almost nose to nose with Bruin the Brute before he turns tail and runs.
A good bear can outrun a great race horse for the first fifty yards but this one is just about to get his hind end hacked off and he is squealing for mercy as the nose of my 4-wheeler nips at his hind heels. We are flying so fast that my long hair is flung back by the torrents of wind being scooped up by the fearless charge.
Just bearly in time, he dives into the woods and hides behind a tree to defecate. Then I turn myself around and I am shocked to see the best camera man in Hollywood has caught this moment of blazing glory, religiously filming it all as he raced to keep up with my wild charge. A gopher girl stands beside him with an empty can to put the film in.
With eyes gleaming she glances my way and says: "My hero."
Humbled absolutely mute by all the unwanted attention, I skirt my way around the camera and head for home to await the adventures of another day.
There's nothing like a dream.
There is a ridge at the top of High Council Bluff little wider than needed
for two pickups to pass. Then the other side drops off just as sheer as
the side you see here. There are caves in this area, but most of them
are so small I just call them cavities.
White light and yellow flowers
last spring, summer and fall.
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