Archive for Local

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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Insomniac Hillbilly says Respect Your Elders

A dozen years ago my parents bought some acreage in Newton County, Arkansas just north of Ben Hur (Yes, that’s a town. Last place in Arkansas to get electricity in 1976) on Highway 16 east.

The land itself is situated just about four miles north of Moore (which is really just a church and a cemetery). Their land stretches across both sides of Richland creek near Jack Jones Hollow and Hideout Hollow.

They own fifty-six acres with two cabins. One sits on a bluff overlooking the river. The other is across the creek on a low ridge overlooking a classic bottom-land hay field.

They’ve built a little “swimming hole” access to the creek on this side of the property and there are trails surrounding it. In fact, the famous Ozark Highlands Trails follows the back line of the property and crosses onto it when it hits road access at Richland Creek.

I start thinking about “the cabin” this time of year. We’re heading up there for the Fourth of July weekend. The way my parents ended up with the land is a long story, but I’m grateful they got it.

That much land up there is hard to come by these days, especially a plot entirely surrounded by national forest and a wilderness area.

A couple days ago I was out drinking at Pizza D with friends and the subject of the “Lord God Bird” Documentary came up, again, because that’s what people talk about when they are drinking — what movies they’ve seen lately.

As regular readers know, I recently reviewed the film.

One guy at the table, I’ll call him J, took the long view: as a species, we’ll be really lucky if we can get a couple million years in. We’ve adapted in the past and we’ll adapt in the future. Isn’t it better, now, to get what we can out of the environment?

J brought up the defunct effort 1970’s era effort by the Corps of Engineers to drain much of the Cache River basin. If the “supposed bird” (as he put it), was going to hold up economic progress, then wasn’t that a problem?

Another friend, who I’ll call C, who also happens to have his own 40 acres just a few miles to the east of our family land near Bear Creek, said over his beer that he agreed in the long run.

But, at the same time, he said, “As long as no one messes with the Ozarks in the mean time. I don’t care what happens after I’m dead, so long as the Ozarks stay exactly like they are until then.”

I pointed out the obvious problem: he was speaking out of two sides of his mouth. C was a little chagrined but kept his point, which is that he agrees we can’t really stop progress but he just doesn’t want it on his 40 acres.

Since I’m terrible at social graces — I never notice when men are concerned more for bravado than actually winning the argument — and since I’m not one to back down from these things, I started to preach my gospel of “respecting our conservation elders. ”

It goes something like this:

Look here, if it weren’t for people just like us who fought to keep the Ozarks they way they are, they wouldn’t exist now. Same goes for the Big Woods.

If it weren’t for various odd coalitions of grassroots groups — wilderness enthusiasts, hunters, tree-huggers, paddlers, climbers, hikers, and locals — neither place would exist in its current form. If you want to keep it the way it is, you gotta fight for it.

Cause the Corps of Engineers is pretty much one huge environmental disaster machine going back to way before the 1927 Arkansas and Mississippi River floods.

If we let them get their protractors anywhere near anyplace we love, there’s no other choice. Even our recent history shows us they are going to screw it up.

It’s not just here in the south that the Corps has managed to erase a place, or irrevocably alter a landscape forever and not necessarily to our benefit. Lake Mead is a very good example of the problem out West.

That’s the group, I said to J, who started the whole discussion, that you’d be putting in charge of “progress.”

J changed the subject to something about Mardi Gras.

C shrugged and said, “If I found that damn woodpecker on my land shoot it.” He flashed an evil grin at me.

At that moment, I decided that I needed to do more drinking when I go out drinking. My over sized glass of Coca-cola looked pretty lame.

Maybe alcohol would have smoothed away my natural tendency to throw out a rhetorical smack-down out when I get the least chance. But no, I opted to take my poison in the form of corn syrup and caffeine.

And so, being the true nerdette than I am, I ended up going all “persuasive rhetoric teacher” on their asses.

My shame over my social awkwardness vanishes when I think about those 56 acres in Newton County, though. There’s nothing more beautiful than the fog rising above the hay field and through the multi-colored leaves on a frigid October morning.

Image of the Ozarks in Fall

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It’s official

I’m actually being paid to freelance. It ain’t much, but it’s a start.  Looks like I’ll be doing semi-regular stories for the Arkansas Times.

I’m, like, totally excited.

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