Friday, we made our way across the eastern side of Arkansas on a day that could have been painted for the occasion. After all the humidity and overcast skies of the last few days, a drive on U.S. 62/63 and a few state routes through towns with music in their names was a tonic for the annoying heat and occasional rain in the previous two days.
There is much green country out here. Jonesboro, the home of Arkansas State University is the usual urban mess trying to find a city center, but beyond that it opens into rolling hills, two and four lane roads with little traffic and about as rural as it gets. The County Seat of Marion County is Yellville, named, it is said for the first Congressman from Arkansas and then Governor, Archibald Yell. The story is that he offered the town fathers $50.00 to name it after him. They did, and he failed to make the payment. It doesn’t seem politics has changed much.
Yellville is famous for the Turkey Trot Festival that has been going on longer than any of us have been alive. It has been parodied on television and “exposed” in 1989 by the National Enquirer but survives today where every year they name a Miss Turkey Trot as well as a Miss Drumstickz—you can guess that one. They used to drop live turkeys to see how far they could fall without dying until they got too much publicity---it fails my imagination that one can be found guilty of cruelty to a turkey since they lack a brain—but the rest of its rural charms survive.
Traveling down U.S.62 is to move through the isolation and beauty of the Ozark’s small towns—most fewer than 500, some fewer than 200 that dot the landscape. Through the day we moved through Bull Shoals, Flippin (does anyone remember “Whitewater”—it’s still there), Ash Flats, Pocahontas, Marked Tree, Gooberville, Rush, Eureka Springs, Fifty-Six, and more. We travel as far as Paragould to a wonderful state park called Crowleys Ridge. It was our last stop before Memphis. Built by the CCC in the Depression, it has been updated but not modernized. It is a wonderfully green, quiet, nearly empty place this week before Easter. Here, seemingly in the middle of no place in particular, you find a dance pavilion dating from the 1930’s, two lakes, trails to hike and wildlife to watch. The trees are near full here now while the dogwoods flower still. It is a wonderful place to be on an April day and for a pleasant drive where lunch can be enjoyed by the side of the road and time seems irrelevant to the journey.