Sick as a dog

Ever since I got home from the big fourth weekend (and prior) I’ve been suffering with my regular stomach ailments. It’s bad enough at this point that I’ve finally decided it’s time to see a specialist.  I’m going in for tests on Thursday, which I have to prep for all day tomorrow. This means I don’t get to eat anything tomorrow. Just clear liquids. Weee!

So you probably won’t see much of me here for the next few days. I’m too bad off to sit at this computer for very long, much less long enough to write a full post.  I’ll be back as soon as my stomach has been tamed by modern medicine.

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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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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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Back from AP Reading

Well, I’m home and settled in from my 10 days working for Education Testing Services at the Advanced Placement reading in Louisville, KY. I read AP English Literature and Composition exams.

I’d never done this summer gig before and I wasn’t totally sure what to expect. However, I must say that ETS did a good job from an reader’s perspective. They put us up in a very nice hotel, fed us well, and offered plenty to do after work hours. The work itself was mind-numbing (as a whole, we read over a million essays in 7 days), but I felt like I was being paid fairly for it.

I met some great folks while I was there, too. The only complaint I can offer is that the pre-reading materials were confusing and didn’t explain the exact dates of the work well, so I ended up showing up a whole day early and had to find a place to stay for that night. Other than that, the experience was definitely a good one. I would suggest any English Composition instructor at the college level should look into picking up this gig during the summer months.

I hear that they will switch the reading over to Cincinnati next year. I don’t know much about Cincinnati but I was pleasantly surprised to find that Louisville is a pretty cool town. I had no idea it was such a happening place.

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Mrs. Hillbilly goes to the Hills to Work

I’m off to Louisville for ten days to grade your snot-nosed over-achieving high schoolers’ AP exams in English Literature.  I’m sure it will be riveting and amazing.  I’ll post an expose of working for Educational Testing Service when I return (and try to finish up those movie reviews I never finished!).

In the meantime, I wish you all a happy early June!

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