By: Lin Stone
The Your Vacation World Travel Store
Offers You Special Bargains to Help You Enjoy Every Minute of Your Trip.
YES! Dealers Are Wanted.
As we leave the marsh behind, the Toltec Mounds State Park shows up on our right on Arkansas Highway 386. The interactive exhibits inside the visitor's center are fascinating. I brought one Native American Medicine Man here and the management rolled out the red carpet for him. Even small groups of earnest scholars are treated almost as well.
The land is notably flat after this. You begin seeing manmade ponds. On the left you'll soon see Keo Fish Farms, the world's largest producer of triploid bass and triploid grass carp. Unlike the cattle egret, even though the United States went to great expense and hardship to import the carp into this country they soon lost their Royal Heritage and became hunted outlaws with a bounty on their heads.
The label “Triploid” means the fish have an extra chromosome and are therefore sterile. Each and every triploid bass or carp fish is examined and certified by a Federal Government inspector before going out to be released. The bass are raised for sportfishing, and the grass carp keep our streams and lakes clear of trashy vegetation. While countless carp have been caught with worms for bait a more interesting scene unfolds if you dump a garbage bag of fresh cut grass on a calm lake's surface. Carp come rolling into view in what can only be a frenzy of ecstasy.
An Early Bird
Prairie Museum Photo by Lin Stone
The town of Keo Arkansas has a nice little Cotton Plantation museum here. It is just a little bit dark inside, kind of like slave quarters. As a document of the suffering that slaves went through, it speaks volumes. I received enough education the first time I went and haven't been back inside since then except to show it to a friend or group. Outside, the steam tractors are in mint shape.
Just around the corner is the South's largest antique shop, Morris Antiques. The shop has a web site at http://www.morrisantiques.com/ and while the pictures on line are great, they are a far cry from the beauty and diversity of actual antiques you will see now that you're here. Morris has antiques dating from the 1750's to the 1940's. Eight large buildings cover 60,000 square feet. The staff is terrific. They let me watch professional restoration being done and that was more fascinating for me than the antiques.
There are two other fair-sized antique shops here in town. The one that serves home made pies is much more fun to visit if you have the family along. The other one must import old air for periodic release inside. I felt like I really had stepped back forty five years in time. Between Morris, the home made pies and the “old air” shop I left Keo with a wallet that had been skinned out flat and a badly dented credit card.
Fish farmers fall away after we leave Keo. The highway becomes the extreme southern boundary mark for aquaculture in Arkansas. Especially south of the highway farmers in here prefer to raise cotton. Until the recent chemical revolution good cotton land was defined as "able to raise more than a bale to the acre." During the past 30 years Arkansas farmers have added soy beans to their list of cash crops. Soy beans makes this better deer country because beans feed deer better than cotton. Both cotton and beans also supports rabbits, especially cotton tails. On many occasions in here I have spread the family table with up to 30 rabbits from one afternoon of hunting.
This area of Arkansas is also still great fur-bearing animal country and at one time England was the warehouse hub for hunters and trappers. England is the next town up the road on our tour. Along the highway there are only small Ponds set aside for ducks and geese and personal fishing. As long as all you want to do is look, and especially if you are looking through binoculars, the farmers in here will just smile and wave when you stop on their land for ducks and geese. Doves are thick in here by Arkansas standards. All the farm equipment in here is basically new.
Comparing the Black Duck and the Mallard
Courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The town of England Arkansas has little to offer the tourist. The first gas station on your right is back to being a Texaco, I think. The food in there is decent and the ice cream is delicious. England's population is made up almost entirely of farm hands and welfare recipients. Especially across the tracks on your right, most of the houses are falling down, or falling apart. To your left prosperity is only a little more apparent. The wealthy families have mostly fled outside of city limits. At the town's major stop light the highway makes a sharp left and proceeds on out of town. There is another stop light at the edge of town where a road leads off to Ferda and thence to Tucker State Prison. We keep going straight, towards Coy. Almost immediately we are greeted with signs of opulence.
Raptors become more visible as we proceed, though I've never personally seen an eagle in here. Road kill is heavier too. From this point on ducks and geese are present more often, but in small flocks. For ten miles farms to your left are increasingly leaning towards aquaculture again. From that point on it is almost all aquaculture, rice and beans. Farms to your right cling to cotton with beans as a backup. As we approach Coy rice fields begin to appear, but mostly it is still cotton. Anywhere you see rice fields or ponds in this area you will see ducks and geese in due season.
To see the town of Coy you'll turn off this road and go less than half a mile. The cotton gin there supports the community. On your right is an old, old family store. It is NOT a museum, but some of the merchandise visible on the shelves and walls was old when Hoover got elected. It is worth the stop just to see if it is open. The drug store in Coy is credited with saving thousands of lives and at one time it was a well known fact that it was stocked better than any drug store in Little Rock.
Back on our road and on down the road. The land is progressively becoming more marshy, wetter, perfect landscape for ducks. You'll be seeing more and more trees, even little pieces of forest off against the northern horizon. Great gray herons can fly up at any time. You'll see them perched against stumps and gravel bars. You'll see them down in ditches, and in due season you will be seeing more and more ducks, hundreds of ducks. Any farm road or paved road on your left hand side will reveal MORE ducks and geese are starting to show up too. This is becoming rice and grain country. A handful of farmers are millionaires in this area, others doing quite well if they can handle their money at all.
After Allport you'll see virtual swamp on both sides of the road. This is bog. Turtles are thick as ticks on a dog's hind leg. Some of the turtles will weigh as much as a hundred pounds and they ARE dangerous. I've seen gars five feet long come out of these waters. I've seen catfish weighing from 20 to 50 pounds. I've seen deer lined up and daring you to forget deer season is still two weeks away. If you're a sportsman ready to retire in paradise this twenty mile square is perfect for its variety. Plains, swamps, bogs, forest, open fields, ponds, and wooded meadows, all in this little square. You can have pecan trees, apple trees, peach, pear, plum and persimmon. There's even a good school, at Humnoke. Best of all, the people here are among the friendliest of Arkansas.
We aren't going to follow it but Highway 13 turns left at Humnoke and goes all the way across our triangle of waterfowl. This is rice country and catfish ponds. You're going to see mostly ducks, but some geese too in multitudes of thousands through this section if you care to cruise slowly through on Highway 13 to Carlisle. If you do get out of your vehicle to gaze in awe, watch for snakes. Snake Island is on your right and it earned its name the hard way.
Humnoke has two modern service station on the right and one old country store on the left. The store has been in the same family for the past sixty years to my knowledge. You won't see a garage in Humnoke any more but if you are having car trouble, stop and ask for help because these shade tree mechanics were born with a wrench in both hands. It looks like the Carter brothers have moved on, hopefully following their gospel singing fortune. If my memory serves me right there were 16 boys in that one family. and every one of them that I met was a good friend to have. Other families in this area are only slightly smaller.
Oh, it's on through Humnoke we push, with eyes wide open and not wanting to miss a thing. There could be ducks or geese on either side of the road from here on. Herons are thick. Raptors seem to have every pole in sight claimed. If we could just teach those raptors to hunt blackbirds how much happier this section of the world would be. Deer get fat and sassy through here. Beaver are such a nuisance you don't want to ask about them. The boggy wetlands are being left behind and huge rice fields spread out on either side. I forget the right name but Isbell's duck pluckers is on your left. Boy have they ever got tales to tell. If this is summer time and nobody is ahead of you, stop and set a spell.
Our Highway runs into Arkansas Highway 11 and we're going to turn right. The rice granaries of Stuttgart have been showing on our right for several miles and we are now less than three miles from town. Stuttgart, DUCK CAPITAL OF THE WORLD. One of the first buildings you see on your right has a HUGE mallard duck out front and a HUGE store behind it to supply anyone who loves ducks with anything they need. Signs for duck guides are showing up on your left. Farm land rides right up to the city limits on both sides. A modern hospital shows up on your right. Somehow I've never seen the Stuttgart airport but I know there is a good one here because duck hunters fly in all the time. And food, Food, FOOD, -- block, against block, Stuttgart is the most wonderful place to eat in Arkansas. My own favorite dining spot will be seen as we are leaving town -- heading north on Highway 79, on the right, after the last stop light this way. The name of it is THE COUNTRY CHEF. But you can find just about any flavor of food you want in Stuttgart.
The Grand Prairie Museum is here too and I don't want you to miss it. Plan to spend the night in Stuttgart so you can spend at least three hours just to see the museum. This is the absolute best farm implement museum in Arkansas. The museum has also purchased land to the north of the present structure on which to build a 10,000 square foot addition, once sufficient funds have been raised. Some museums are dry and musty. This one is bright, sparkling, cheerful, a delight in every way possible. The staff here is quiet and full of knowledge. If one of them can't answer your question, they know who can. Every member I met was as friendly as the mayor of Stuttgart and "who cares if you can't vote?"
Click Here for Page 4
See ALL of Arkansas.... city links * city names * Mena * Hot Springs * Arkansas Humor * The Cossatot River Center * Flatside Wilderness * Charlton Water Resort * West of Oden * A Country Tour in Saline County * El Dorado * Eureka Springs * Geese to Hunt * Helena and West Helena * Cold Water Canoeing * Dining Out * Dude Ranch * Business in Arkansas * schools * The Old Mill * Arabians * Beebe Flea Market * Beebe Flea Market2 * Luckiest Diamond Finder in the World * Bathhouses of Hot Springs * The Fordyce Bathhouse of Hot Springs * The Lamar Bathhouse of Hot Springs * The Born Again Gangster in Hot Springs * The Maurice Bathhouse * The Growth of Grandeur in Hot Springs * Romancing The Stone, Hot Springs * Raising Elk in Arkansas * The Rich Mountain Racer Man of many links * The Irish Cowboy * The Bootlegger * Waldron * Murfreesboro * Stuttgart * The Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie * Quartz Crystals * The Arkansas Waterfowl Tour * Can your web site earn an award on Arkansas Super Vacation Site? * Click HERE for some great books about Arkansas *