Archive for Arkansas

WE’ve Moved!

I’ve shifted most everything over to Blogger, culling a few posts along the way (mostly stuff that had no views or that I felt needed to go).

You can now read me at:  http://hillbillymfa.blogspot.com/

Thanks Y’all!

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AR Plates Stir Controversy

The news just came out and you’ll likely see it on local news stations tonight, but I thought I’d throw this up for those of you doing research on Arkansas culture and life. A recent set of Arkansas License plates with the letter combination of “NGR” have been deemed offensive, for the obvious reasons. That particular letter combination will no longer be used.

I don’t know if I would have noticed this at first. Not out of insensitivity but out of just pure-D myopia. I’m often distracted and don’t pay attention. I don’t even know my own license plate number. A lot of bloggers are hissy-fitting over the tired old “we’re too politically correct” and “the lady who noticed it is just suffering from white guilt” arguments. Personally, I think she did the right thing. I mean, there’s a reason why states skip certain letter combinations. If “FUK” isn’t acceptable then I see no difference here. There are just some unfortunate combinations and it doesn’t hurt anyone to avoid them. If you were young and single and female and got “HOE” as your letter combinations, I bet you’d ask for another one. I would.

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Arkansas Last in College Grads

We are officially behind West Virginia as the state with the least percentage of the population holding college degrees. Down to 18.2 from 19.7 percent. I don’t know factors are included here, other than what the AP said by calling it “number of adults completing college.” They give the numbers in such a way to read like raw population percentages, as opposed to number of people who start and finish college. I would think those are two different numbers, but I didn’t take stats in college!

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Up Northwest

I drove up to Fayetteville on Monday morning to spend a couple of days with my best friend Lesha, owner of Little Mountain Bindery. I haven’t been up to the north part of the state at all during the first half of this year, but during the last month I’ve been up there three times.

First, we went to Newton county to my family cabin over the fourth of July weekend. The next weekend, Hubby and I drove up to Branson to see Terry Fator in the RFDTV theater. This week I went up to the home of the Razor Pigs to sit in Lesha’s quiet little studio and house, hang out with my “nieces” Miranda and Naomi, and talk about books and life.

I can’t express how much I miss her most of the time. When we both left Little Rock in 1999 to go to MFA programs 2,000 miles apart, I didn’t know what to do with myself without her.

Who would I call when I was angry at a significant other? Who would know exactly what I mean when I say, “You know, I’m really sick of domestic fiction. These days, if you’re going to write a neurotic suburban meditation on dysfunction, you ought to just go ahead and write a memoir. It will sell better”?

She’s read almost every book I love with irrational passion, including the world history Salt. So when I complain about “domestic fiction,” she knows exactly what I’m talking about from her own literary ramblings.

No one in my current set of local friends really shares this level of book geekdom. I have wonderful writer friends all over the country who are but an e-mail away, but it isn’t quite the same as explaining the plot of my slow-moving novel to Lesha over a glass of wine in her kitchen.

I realized on this trip that I’d missed a lot of things in her life — the girls are growing up so wonderful and smart. I also noticed that, somehow, Lesha became an amazing artist during the past few years. I watched her work on book restoration at her bindery most of yesterday afternoon.

She was competent and confident; her hands were so steady. I’ve admired the blank books she’s made for me in the past, and the work on display in her studio (including beautiful paper boxes), but I’d never really spent time watching her restore someone’s beloved text to a new life.

When I arrived at the bindery Monday afternoon, she was carefully painting a leather treatment onto the new covers of ten or so Dickens novels, published around 1900. They belonged to a woman who got them from her father, who treasured them. Lesha and her team matched the marbling on the original covers, restored the bindings, and restamped the spines with gold lettering.

Yesterday, she worked on a bible that needed a new cover. It was obviously routine work for her, but she handled it with a care I rarely see in my own working life. I looked around at the other projects lined up on her work tables. A huge 24 X 12 inch scrapbook lay on the opposite table, where it too, was awaiting a new cover and binding. It was filled with stories about local literacy projects — obviously the accomplishments of someone’s life’s work.

I envied her ability to bring meaning into the everyday during those few hours –that quiet confident magic of reincarnating someone’s treasure. I was struck with how important her work really is. Without people who know how to sew bindings by hand, we will eventually lose the original artifacts of literature. Those Dickens novels will last another hundred years now.

She and I often dream together about ways we could, somehow, manage to live in the same town. But I’d rather have her off up northwest if she’s going to spend her time at the bindery.

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There Ain’t Nothing Wrong With Me

So say the doctors. Maybe something to do with bile salts not binding together well enough, or something. Got me a prescription I haven’t filled yet cause I was too busy running around buying a new cell phone and new laundry baskets and a book I have to review for my freelance gig at the end of the month.  The upshot to two major surgical tests in two weeks is that I’ve managed to lose 10lbs.  Want to lose weight?  Have some doctor check your colon.  All that fasting will do a number on all that extra weight.  The side benefit? I think my stomach has shrunk cause I can’t eat a whole meal even if I wanted to right now.

The most exciting thing going on here lately is that my dog ate my cell phone.  I don’t know how he does it or why small electronic things taste good to him, but for whatever reason the doxie loves to eat him some electronic dinners after we go to bed.  He’s eaten three remote controls. Oh, and shoes. I’ve lost so many shoes over the last year I’ve lost count. No amount of whooping his tiny dog butt matters. He’s gonna chew no matter what.

You see, Mrs. Hillbilly isn’t much of a housekeeper. I’m too busy being creative for that.  I don’t pick up after myself well.  I mean, I do it — but it comes in bursts.  I clean the house from top to bottom before I start a big project, or at the end of the semester, that kind of thing.  And when I go to bed at night, I’m well known to leave whatever I’m working on just sitting out on the coffee table. Where the evil Mr. Dacotah can get ahold of it.  The cell phone was the final straw. Those things are expensive.  Ridiculously so.

I’m going to have to change my ways. So I bought a nice little tasteful box to put the shoes in ( cause I’m down to three pair, so I can fit them in it) and I put it right by the door.  Then, I realized that my laundry baskets caused a stain on my hardwood floor. I don’t know how or why but there’s a big permanent black spot on the floor where the laundry basket was.  This is the second time that’s happened. Time to toss them too.

Thank goodness we have a Container Store in the neighborhood now.  It solves all those “where will I put my shoes to thwart the tiny dog” problems.  Cause you know, I can’t put them in the closet where they belong. Because THAT is full of sweatshirts and other things.  Home organization is not my forte.

There’s been almost no Hillbilly news to report lately and nothing exciting in the land of Hillbilly art or blogs or anything else.  So I may slow down here until the Fall, when hunting season starts, and there’s sure to be plenty to gab about.  Hope ya’ll aren’t melting out there, now that the humidity has finally kicked in!

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Goin’ to the Cabin

Despite the lack of cell phone service, Internet service, and air-conditioning we are heading to the cabin for the fourth. We leave in the mornin’, sometime.

I’m going to try to remember to take the camera along, but the purpose of this trip is to let my dogs run free, read, and sleep.  The husband plans on reading a lot and getting caught up on all that sleep he’s missed out on since he moved in with me and my pain-in-the-arse dogs two years ago :).  It won’t happen, of course, but at least he’ll get a couple more hours than normal, maybe.

Course that means he’s going to have to sleep on the screened in porch because the place is an oven without air conditioning.  We should just buy a window unit for the place as our contribution, but not this year.

There’s probably going to be some swimmin’ in the swimmin’ hole involved, too.  And maybe some watching of someone else’s fireworks show down near Falling Water.   There will be turkey dogs for me and the good old fashioned pork kind for the hubby.

Can’t wait. Haven’t been to the cabin since October, and it was full-up with people then for our annual Halloween party.  Looking forward to having it all to ourselves and letting the Donkey (Opal, our basset) and mini-donkey (Dacotah, our mini-doxie) have free run of the land.

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Anonymous Photographs

A few years ago, through a weird coincidence, I ended up owning all the personal photographs of my hometown’s most recent “crazy lady.” Maybe these women aren’t as visible as they were when I was a child, but it used to be common for small towns to have at least one woman who lived alone and acted however she felt, regardless of the social norm.

When I was growing up, that woman was M.T., for a lot of reasons. For one, she wore a full-length fake fur coat and a knee-length strand of pearls everywhere she went long after she was the age that could pull that off. And she wore it year round. For the rest of the story, you’ll have to wait for me to get brave enough to blog about or write about in an essay.

Lucille Morris 1935

I bought M.T.’s personal photos at an auction of her materials after she died. Eventually I’m going to get my hands on her manuscripts, too, but that’s another story.

I’ve owned these photographs for a very long time. I bought them in my hometown,  but I lugged them along from Arkansas to Colorado and back again, then all over the state until I finally settled in Little Rock. Recently, I pulled them out of storage and started looking through them.

I was looking, at first, for pictures of M.T.; I want to write an essay about her based on photographs from different stages of her life. But those rare pictures of her are mixed in dozens of photographs from different time periods of people I don’t know.

Most of them aren’t marked. Some of them are probably M.T.’s family. Some of them belong to the family she lived with for many years at the end of her life, whose name I think was Eudy. Possibly Otto Eudy. That’s all I can seem to gather from the materials I have at hand.

I started looking at some of the photographs in this box and realized I have a real treasure here. I may not know any of these people, but their snapshots, especially those from the 1920’s and 1930’s, are amazing. For example, the picture above is one of the few photographs I have that has a name on it: Lucille Morris, 1935.

Anonymous Couple circa 1920-1930

The scan doesn’t show it well, but the black in the ink of this photograph has a beautiful shiny luster to it that makes Ms. Morris seem even more striking than she already does.

The thing that really surprises me about many of those photographs is that they show so much detail, even in black and white. I feel like I can see every line in Ms. Morris’s face here.

This second photograph of an anonymous couple which I’m placing, based on their clothes, circa 1920’s or 1930’s, also shows some great detail. Both of the faces are obscured or faded here, but the clothing is sharp and crisp. The detail on the clothing makes the photo seem very iconic to me — as if this is a photo of the quintessential “flapper” and her man.

The next photo that struck me was this shot of an infant in his or her crib, shown to the right here. There’s something almost artful about the way the child is placed right at a sharp divide between shadow and light, but still the baby is very clearly lit in the picture. The child’s face is crisp and clear here, and its expression is clearly contented. The detail in the bassinet creates an interesting movement between the child’s smooth forehead and that blast of sunlight in the back ground.

Finally, I have a much smaller snapshot of two girls outside what I think is maybe a school or some kind of public function. It’s a snapshot that has an almost posed air about it. As if the photographer was trying to get the two girlsAnonymous two young girls circa 1920\'s to “act casual. ”

I like the detail of the clothing here too. I’m amazed at how ornate some of physical materials are in many of these photos. The gather of the skirts in this picture, alone, is pretty amazing. Look at the careful gathers of fabric in the baby’s bassinet; or at the creases in the “lover boy’s” pants in the second photo. It’s a part of the past that I personally rarely get to see.

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