In Arkansas, Everything is Big

Everything is big in Arkansas.

From the piles of dirt I sweep off my kitchen floor at the end of the day, to the smiles of my neighbors that wave as I pass their houses on my way home from work every day, everything is big. It’s a big, warm, welcoming state that I’ve called home since 2004. And, Arkansas’ beauty is biggest of all.

Perhaps it’s because small children find solace and comfort in their immediate environment that causes some to forget to notice the amazingly beautiful as an adult. It’s nothing unusual to see the hawks flying, hear the peepers and the birds and watch everything become a lush green in March. It doesn’t matter that skin is tanned and healthy, that ticks and chiggers dig in, or that the flowers sold in shops don’t even compare to the wild flowers covering the landscape in beauty. Perhaps the infinite beauty of this state is what is in the hearts of the genuinely caring and giving folks that were blessed to be born here in Arkansas.

I’ve seen it time and time again. A few years ago, a tornado ripped through Carlisle, tearing a path directly through the center of town, leaving behind destruction of a kind I had never seen before (photo). The town’s mayor and city council, the volunteer firemen and the town’s police, every citizen of the town never stopped until they knew everyone was safe, and never slept until everyone was fed and electricity was restored.

Adding to the Flight Path: First Arkansas News

Back in March, I had a rather interesting adventure that I spoke about only briefly here. I do believe it launched a widened awareness of all things big and beautiful here in Arkansas. That adventure landed me on a US Air Force drop zone and gave me the unusual opportunity to experience first-hand the training our airmen go through in order to deliver mission critical supplies to our combat ground troops.

Just the other day, another adventure launched, this time in the form of an invitation to be a regular contributor to a new online publication called First Arkansas News, headed by the incomparable Ethan Nobles. It is exciting to be involved with this new source of Arkansas news and it has already grown in leaps and bounds since its inception a mere week ago.

The first article I submitted to First Arkansas News is the story of my drop zone adventure called "Overhead, a Critical Mission in Progress." Needless to say, the more I learn about our military, the more I appreciate the incredible dedication and valor of our armed forces. My words and photos only scratch the surface of what they do for us and our country.

So, take a look at First Arkansas News. Leave a comment or two. Most of all, be sure to bookmark it and come back often. I'll join you there.


Odin, My Dream Horse

The walls were going to drop and the gates would be sealed. I had to escape. I had to.

The landscape was dead and pocked with the glaring reality of the world as we know it coming to a horrible end: debris, shattered windows, empty streets, a cold wind. Take all the apocalyptic movies you've seen, put them together, and there you have it.

Except, I had to get to the other side before the walls dropped and the gates sealed. Odin carried me, and bore his task with gallantry and pride. It was just me and Odin, Odin and I, running for our lives.

And, we made it to that other side.

What a wonderful dream. Why my brain produced a sorry B-movie synopsis, I'll never know, but its point drove home anyway. You see, in the dream, Odin and I were so in sync that we were that proverbial "One." A light touch on his side or his neck would turn him, if it was necessary at all. And, most the time it wasn't. He would just go where I looked.

That was the message of the dream. Once awake, I thought about it and chastised my mind for dreaming such a fantasy. I mean, realistically, thinking that a horse, a huge, 1,600 pound animal with a mind of its own, would   be so Hollywood heroic is a recipe for disaster. Realistically, I know that coming off this horse would mean a major splat with broken bones and a dented skull. Realistically, if I just fell off of his almost 6 foot height it would probably net about the same amount of injury.

Man, it sucks getting old... and realistic. The more I thought about it, the more it sucked.


Almost too Late

mudmoundThe Dilemma: Mow - before it’s too late.

Why is that such a big deal? 1.) Anxiety. 2.) Two mowers, neither works. 3.) Anxiety. 4.) Lots of deep hoof prints and horse “piles,” if you know what I mean, and 5.) Anxious to beat the band.

You could add “single old lady” to the list, but that’s taking the pity party a bit farther than I like. We’ll just leave that tidbit out, ok?

Did I mention anxiety?

(Before I forget, the Associated Press approved the word “website.” Next up for consideration is “email” instead of “e-mail.” It’s about time! Anyway, back to the dilemma at hand…)

It doesn’t take long before it’s too late; not here in Arkansas. The growing season starts the second half of March and goes all the way into November. And, when things start growing, they don’t fart around. Give something, usually a weed, a week and you’ve got a three-foot-tall problem that’s about to be too much for a typical lawn mower to hack down.

The first weed to take off is this thing with yellow flowers that look like buttercups. I don’t know what they are, don’t care, but when let go, they end up as 5 foot tall bushes with wood stalks. Right along with those incessant buttercup wannabes is these very strange mud cone things (pictured). They are cool, amazing looking things, totally bizarre, and they pop up all over the place over night. What could possibly erect these things?


The Dress


She hated dresses. When her mother put her in a dress, that meant restrictions galore; and she hated the barrette in her hair pulled so tight and fastened so strongly that she felt each and every root screaming to pull free from her scalp. It itched unbearably.

But, don’t touch your hair; leave it alone! She complied. The raised eyebrow meant a hand would be raised next, and that meant more pain. That certainty turned into a deeply embedded fear. That hand that caused so much pain, whether pulling her hair into the barrette or slapping her face, was nothing to invite and everything to avoid.

A dress at home meant something was up. There was some unknowable, unfathomable reason for the unbearable decorum. Wearing a dress meant knees had to be held together like a vice. Hands had to be held together in the lap. The dress had to be pulled over the top of the knees, don’t forget. For some reason, it was all important, and the little girl was reduced to nothing more than that ever-loving dress. Not much else could be considered under that pervasive dress.


A Different Sort of End

aprilsunsetAh, such a beautiful end to a gorgeous weekend. The peace, the quiet, the tranquility of home rejuvenated and restored my soul after a long and exhausting week. This semblance of sanity means a lesser sense of chaos in my ruminations.

All week, it seemed more and more people became victims of employers’ attempts to cut costs. I met more than a few that were laid off or fired just so that someone new, someone accepting a lot less in pay, could take their place.

At the same time, I read somewhere that public assistance rolls are not growing, despite the very obvious growing need of some sort of income coming in for millions of people. Add that to the fact that there are no unemployment extensions or stimulus checks and you have ever more people suddenly cut off. What are people doing? Well, some single mothers are moving in with men in hopes that their children will be cared for. In many instances, that means walking into an abusive, ugly situation.

While all this is going on in the background, mostly out of sight, others wonder how and why some can keep going like everything is just fine. My answer to that one is simple: The only other choice is to be negative, angry and defeated, all of which make a bad situation that much worse.

Others contemplate new ways to fight upward on the path to economic recovery. One latches onto the promise of an online presence through social networking. Another hopes the truck load of motorcycle parts he just bought will be enough to put together an end product to sell. Still another hopes to sell a house for enough to pay off the mortgage.


Still Motion


I watched this young man work with his horse for close to an hour, and heard more coming from him than I have the words to express.

Opening the gate to let him into the arena, his eyes met mine, looking down at me from the back of his horse. His mouth didn’t move, but his eyes smiled in thanks. Young eyes, but wise somehow; a wisdom beyond what can only be 17 years of life.

Quiet, ever quiet, an inner stillness that his horse echoed. Yet, the pair was always in motion. Each movement was effortless, flowing and wild with potential.

In a relaxed lope, the horse’s ears back to listen, the loop swinging overhead melted into the launch with a flick of a wrist. The horse’s rump drops, planting his feet underneath while his rider steps off and down the length of rope.