Arkansas’s Northwest Corner

The region encompassing NE Oklahoma, SE Kansas, SW Missouri, and NW Arkansas is known to locals as The Four-State Area. Except that the North-South boundary slipped almost 40 miles like a rift in the tectonic plate, it would be another Four Corners like NV, CO, AZ, and NM.

Northwest Arkansas has been a wonderful surprise. I was expecting it to be the space that filled half the map between Joplin, MO, and New Orleans (NOLA). On my map the space is pale green, and the only text is, “here be varmints and chiggers.” I had no plans to do any canoeing, but were I to, I’d be alert for banjo strumming.

Turns out the sister of one of my best friends lives along the route, in Bella Vista, AR. Here I got my first taste of the warm and generous hospitality that has since proved to be the rule in this corner of AR. I parked in sis’s driveway and was taken to dinner at their local yacht club, which is as classy as any in the Bay Area, although half the yachts I saw would fit in your driveway and the other would fit in your trunk when deflated. The following day sis provided a gourmet breakfast and, later, sis’s boy friend barbequed smoked ribs for a great dinner. During the ‘tween hours, there were the visits to the tourist spots and neighborhood drives. If there were any dives, I did not get to see them. Bella Vista is a pleasant, church-going, community of upscale retirees who watch Fox News.

I had one long-scheduled coffee date in Fayetteville, AR. The town is home of the University of Arkansas (UARK) and the Razorbacks, whose mascot red hog image is emblazoned on everything, whether in motion or still. I was given a driveway to park in, dinner, a tour, breakfast, a sack of the organic muffins baked that morning to take with, and some anecdotes about Lynn Fried, a regular at the Squaw Valley Writers’ Conference.

During the weeks I was making my final gliding approach to NW AR, people mentioned Eureka Springs, a town I’d never heard of. So, although the prelude to winter was nipping at me like a teething puppy, I turned east along latitude 36. The view from the road up and down the lumpy shoulders of Ozark forests was the stuff of postcards.

While foraging for a hitching post for the Jolly Swag, I passed the local Occupy Protest–five people waving placards at the intersection of Route 62 and Wall Street. I’ve been following the Occupy Protest in the news for two months, troubled that the media has covered only the billy clubs and pepper spray and little of the substance of the protest or the protesters. Although I was certain that ER’s handful would not be representative of the national uprising, I thought it would be an opportunity to meet some people on their turf and terms.

This group was not there for only the standard marchers’ testosterone release, and they were happy to talk with a prospective recruit. I identified myself as someone passing through the area and was immediately offered a bunk and supper. I declined but came away with some phone numbers and email addies. Later that evening I had an email invite to be shown around ES. Hospitality like that would be cause for red-alert suspicions in any city in this country. But I sensed that this was just the natural inclination of folks who’d shed their urban armor.

More in the next post, but here is a teaser.

9 Responses to Arkansas’s Northwest Corner

  1. Sgt. Brandi says:

    Way to go Al!!
    Hope you are doing GREAT today!! Think about you often. Goin’ to chat with Billie today, will give here the sit-rep on your travels. Take Care Buddy!!!

    Sgt. B…..OUT!

  2. Colleen Rae says:

    That statue always reminds me of Benny Bufano’s large structures along the coast of Northern CA. I believe he has one at Sea Ranch Lodge and another up near Mendicino.
    Thanks for the great run-down on NW AR. You hit it right on. The people ARE very friendly and hospitable.

  3. karen wittgraf says:

    Only five people at Occupy? I was at the one in NYC and then, Minneapolis. Amazing people and extremely orgainized. They are us!
    I love the description of winter nipping at you like a teething puppy- only Al could come up with that one. I’m waiting for more!

  4. Hi Al,
    My eyes and ears always perk up when I see or hear mention of Arkansas. I’ve never been to the place but a story based in Union County has been rolling around in my head for years. My late husband was from Arkansas. The details of his family history are the stuff of a writer’s dreams. Mystery, the British aristocracy, land grab, miscegenation, racial “passing”, oil strike, murder. By the way, will you be visiting Smackover?


  5. Dave L says:

    We are of like minds ordinarily, and now underscored with your inspiring view of the ”corner.” Combining the influx of urbanites and resources supporting Walmart, Hunts Trucking, and Tyson, with the native common sense and cordiality makes a fine kettle of good living – Crystal Bridges and cow pastures, side by side. I suppose a native might harbor a different view – carpetbaggers – but in my experience, it doesn’t show.

    And there’s the natural enviornment: clean air and oak moss – trees as far as you one see unless on a golf course. Limestone beds carry Ozark water through forests of dogwood and maple. Bass jump in lakes at low buzzing insects as Great Blues look on and hawks circle. An armidillo crosses the road where every once in a while a car passes by. And except for an occasional daytime jet, and the chorus of crickets at night it’s quiet.

  6. Dave L says:

    And I could use an editor …

  7. Pat Bean says:

    Hi there! I really enjoy your blog. I wanted to let you know that I nominated you for the Liebster Blog Award.

    You can read all about it on my website:

  8. You should check out Mena, AR where there’s a covert airport used for many years
    as a drop-off destination for CIA planes bringing cocaine and other drugs from Central
    America in exchange for cash and weapons for the Contra “rebels” who were
    to overthrow the gov’t. of Nicaragua. Ollie North’s (among others) dirty business. The
    Clintons of course knew about it and, as good soldiers, were promoted all the way
    to the White House…BB

  9. Colleen Rae says:

    Wow to Bruce B. That is grist for a terrific novel – Write it, man.

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