Our neighbors from Texas packed up and left the campground early this morning, bound not for another RV park but for a real-estate closing in Mountain View. It was just 25 days ago that they arrived here for a week-long stay, and now they’re officially Ozarkansans.
They’ve become friends. Over the last few weeks we’ve spent many hours talking ’round evening campfires, and it’s been fun to watch them drawn to this special place, just as Deb and I were.
As we bid them farewell we promised to keep in touch — they’re good people, and once we’re settled on The Mountain their home will be about 55 miles from ours. (In The Ozarks, that translates to 90 minutes.)
Now it’d be reasonable to think we’re a little envious. I mean, we’ve been at this for nine months and these folks made it happen in less than four weeks. Not one bit — we have our dream, and we’re building it on The Mountain.
Soon we’ll be sittin’ on our front porch and wonderin’ how it all happened so fast.
Here at the campground today we engaged in conversation with new arrivals across the road from our site. A husband-and-wife couple in their 60s, hailing from southern Indiana, they’re here for the first time to explore the region via motorcycle.
After just one day, much of it in the locale we’ll soon call home, they’re enthralled by the natural beauty and tickled by the warmth of the people. Imagine that.
We received a couple of packages today, both related to firearms. The mailman brought an easy-to-install “comb-raising kit” for Deb’s deer rifle, which will give her a better cheek weld and put her sighting eye in line with the scope.
FedEx delivered something I’ve been trying to find for months — shotshells in .38 Special. It’s something of a specialty round and says “pest control” right on the box. We mean to make a habit of carrying it on The Mountain to dispatch timber rattlers and copperheads treading too close to the homesite (or posing an immediate threat).
Our intent isn’t to hunt venomous snakes or kill every one we see. They’ll continue to live on The Mountain right along with us. We’ll simply defend the space we’re making our home.
I know I’ve written about the history of this part of the country several times, specifically Marion County and the area around The Mountain. In a post entitled “Holes,” for example, I talked about the Indian tribes that once lived on this land, the Trail of Tears, Confederate guerilla forces, lead mining and more. After all that, I learned that I’ve been ignoring the obvious.
This morning Deb stumbled onto the fact that the epicenter of POTUS #42’s “Whitewater scandal” was nearby Flippin. The property once known as “Whitewater Estates” is located eight miles due east of The Mountain. There’s even a connection between a major Whitewater investor and the subdivision that includes The Mountain.
I started doing some digging and read a number of articles on Whitewater’s local angle. (The politics of the story are well-known and, to me, boring as hell.) The most entertaining piece I found was “Journey to Whitewater,” which appeared in The Washington Post in 1994. Here are some excerpts:
“The road to Whitewater is perilous, and that’s not a journalistic metaphor so much as a vivid automotive reality. There is much curving, winding, dipping. The sign that says ‘Very Crooked and Steep’ must be taken seriously.”
“But there’s just nothing here, [Hasty] Williams says. ‘What it involves,’ he says, ‘is picking fly shit out of black pepper.'”
“Reporters investigating the [Whitewater] story have been shocked and appalled by the insiderness of Arkansas politics, the way the government officials and the officially governed seem to trade places overnight, the way the records disappear and numbers don’t add up quite right. The conclusion has been that the culture of Arkansas is different from — and, implicitly, inferior to — the culture of more grown-up places like Washington and New York and Los Angeles.
“But people here have to get by somehow. Rules must bend to accommodate reality. Chances are, no one has ever been born rich in this neck of the woods. There are no Kennedys or Rockefellers in Marion County. It goes without saying that you have to scrape and cajole and finagle to make any kind of money.”
“‘This is a way of life,’ says Maureen Fancher, a tourism promoter for the Ozarks based in Flippin. ‘That is the only way you get a road. You have to know somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody. That doesn’t even bother us.’
“A journey around Flippin shows it to be a friendly place with few pretensions. The other morning the patrons at the Razorback Restaurant were talking loudly and assertively about the weather, their trucks, the stupidity of gun control, the outrageousness of taxation, and fishing. Also, automobile transmissions. One gets the strong impression in Flippin that people know not only the make and model of their neighbor’s truck but also how many miles are on it.”
I enjoyed the article even though is was written from the perspective of East Coast elites, aimed at readers who’ve never driven an unpaved road or ventured beyond their manicured ‘burbs into The Real America.
Actually, maybe that’s why I liked it so much — because I come closer to understanding this culture than the WaPo audience apparently did.
So there’s another nugget of Marion County history we hadn’t known about ’til today. I seriously doubt the knowledge will prompt a field trip — seeing the place up-close doesn’t interest me in the slightest. But if we float the White someday, as we drift downstream past Crooked Creek I’ll probably cast an eye up at the bluffs and know what I’m looking at.
One year ago today the Ernie-Mercy rig rolled from Great Falls to Billings and never touched an Interstate highway. The payoff unfolded through the windshield — mile after mile of indelible memories. Here’s a gallery of images Deb captured that day.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.