Whenever we come off The Mountain and pull into Yellville, crossing the Route 14 bridge over Crooked Creek we see the town’s first and most conspicuous landmark — an enormous American flag flying from a local bank. Some days, like the last two, it waves proudly in The Ozarks wind, a sight inspiring to any Patriot with a pulse.
First Service Bank has been around for 60 years. It has nine branches in central Arkansas, from Flippin in the north to Little Rock. At every location it flies a flag just like this one, measuring 30 feet by 60 feet, from a 100-foot pole.
It isn’t perfunctory — it’s intentional. The massive flags acknowledge customers’ patriotism and reflect corporate values.
“We are proud of our flag and the freedom it stands for,” proclaims the bank’s website. “We display the American flag as an icon at each of our locations to symbolize our patriotism and to show respect for our active military and veterans who fight to protect our lives, our families, our home, and our freedom. Freedom isn’t free. They are willing to pay the ultimate price.”
This is where Deb and I have chosen to live. ‘Merica.
Our visit to the annual Turkey Trot, as I wrote yesterday, again validated our choice. The festival celebrates what’s important to these people and no one else — it’s not meant to attract or convert (local churches’ booths notwithstanding), only to present the character of this community to itself.
In the best sense, it’s self-serving.
Yellville, population 1,204, is by no means a “polished” place. Many of its older structures are run-down, crumbling, vacant, though we’ve seen efforts at restoration underway. (Some of the buildings are, for a variety of reasons, on the National Register of Historic Places.) The old “downtown,” such as it is, is compact and classic. Nothing is more than a five-minute saunter away.
Away from the square there’s a Dollar General (natch), a Shell station, a Sonic, a Subway, a Harps and four (count ’em) bank branches. Last year the defunct Fred’s Super Dollar was transformed into a nondescript Amazon “distribution outpost.”
That’s the extent of chain-type commerce in the ‘ville. Everything else in town is mom-and-pop. That’s the way folks like it and that’s how they want it to stay.
So when a place like Yellville throws a party it is, as you can imagine, a pretty unpretentious affair.
No one shows off for the out-of-towners. Small-town America doesn’t feel the need to pose as anything but what it is, and Country folk aren’t inclined to put on airs.
Take it or — bless your heart — leave it.
Other than the city park on the other side of the creek, there are no taxpayer-funded lots. Visitors park where they can, at businesses and along the few narrow streets. Residents who’d rather not have their driveways blocked take measures to mark them.
Nobody seemed too upset about the influx. It’s two days a year, after all.
I’m the first to admit that this environment isn’t for everyone. I realize that some people need the hustle and crave the bustle, the shine and the shimmer, the endless retail opportunities. They’re committed to their tony bedroom suburb upstaging the one next door and proud of their weed-free lawns.
Deb and I prefer something a whole lot more honest than all that. We like to keep it real. And we’ve found that right damned here, down Home.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.