Am I Blue?

00.0.Box.cLinda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – When is the best time to put a jigsaw puzzle together? A rainy day seemed right, when Brother was visiting during Thanksgiving week. I pulled out the State Flags and Capitols box I’d been saving for just such a day and dumped all one thousand pieces onto the card table. Brother raised an eyebrow and shook his head. I let tiny puzzle pieces filter through my fingers, trying to think of a working plan. 00.27.Puzzle Pieces“What strategy should I use?” I asked. “Colors,” was his reply. Now, generally speaking, that is good jigsaw strategy. But when the picture is 50 state flags, well that’s when you discover that most state flags are blue. In fact, only four state flags don’t have at least a touch of blue in them – Alabama, California, Maryland, and New Mexico.

The puzzle pieces sat in a pile for several days, as I half-heartedly tried to sort blue from blue from blue. After brother left, I raked everything back into the box and headed for my sewing basket. Being heavily dependent on Excel spreadsheets to help me organize almost everything in life, I grabbed a spool of thread and the scissors and with a little Scotch tape turned the 02.Puzzle. Stringscard table into Columns and Rows. Then I put Post-Its into each section marking which state fit where. Aha! I dug into those thousand pieces again looking for words. “Mon” went into the Montana section, “sas” into the Arkansas slot; I was on a roll! How many flags have outspread eagle wings? Just two – Iowa and North Dakota. Plop plop. The palm tree went to Hawaii; the horses to Pennsylvania, the bison belonged to Wyoming. The challenge began to be fun, and (with magnifying glass in hand) I began to notice the details within the flags. I didn’t expect to have a learning experience, but that is exactly what happened. In my two-year Journey to 50 states, I didn’t pay much attention to the state flags. But suddenly I realized that flags are the story-telling devices of the state. And I love a good story! » read more


Pioneers and Pilgrimages

30.Figures (2)Linda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – I bought two figures at Hobby Lobby a few months back. One is a dark-skinned woman with plaited hair, her black braids draped over her shoulders atop a fringed shawl; the other a fair-skinned woman with slightly reddish hair, cut shoulder length, the hood of her shawl softly framing her face. Native American? Scotch-Irish? Wearing finely tanned animal skins and finely stitched linen? Both are carrying baskets filled with food – pumpkins, squash, apples, grapes. Both are beautiful, and serene. “The spirit of Thanksgiving,” I thought when I spotted them. “My heritage, and just right for the November dining table.” I added gourds from the grocery; odd-shaped greens and yellows; plus several round ones tinged with orange. Brother was coming for most of Thanksgiving week; coming to this place we’d found together by an accident of fate. Have I told you this before? The Journal? The Search? The Arkansas tragedy?

It’s a story of our country really; our own personal connection to thousands of stories of the great westward migration, stories of pioneers, of courage, and change. Ours centers on a little girl named Martha Jane, who rolled through Clark County, Arkansas in November 1849 at the tender age of four. What an adventure! » read more


October Dazzle

24.Maple TreeLinda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – As if October weren’t already my favorite month, this October dazzled. Early in the month was Garden Club, just the regular monthly meeting, but held at the Speights home where every room was decked for autumn, especially the dining room with a table centerpiece even prettier than the food. I was on the refreshment committee so got to hang out in the sunny kitchen which overlooks a stone patio complete with fountain, all tucked into the edge of the woods, trees just beginning to turn. The program was “Landscape Design,” ART in nature’s purest 17.Evelynform. And then there was a three-day event, the “9th Annual Round About Artist Studio Tour,” where people come from all over the country to visit working artists’ studios, learn a little about technique, and load up the car with treasures for home. Sponsored by the Caddo River Art Guild, this year it featured 21 artists spread over the Caddo River area from Burrow Road to Whispering Ridge, with a large group showing at the Art Center downtown. ART in every form from fiber to fused glass to watercolor to wood carving.

20.October.Henrietta.MaidThen, last week, three events in a row, dot, dot, dot: “Dressing Henrietta” at the Clark County History Museum featured two enterprising and historically savvy DAR ladies who “dressed” a mannequin (Henrietta) in a humorous but educational presentation about clothing in the 1700s. Next was the opening reception for “Quilting Treasure: A Batik World,” at the Art Center downtown, with 42 incredible quilts from the Clark County Quilter’s Guild displayed wall to wall to wall, remaining on exhibit through November 21. The topper was “125 Years of Hats,” over at Proctor Hall on the Henderson 24.Janice.TopHatUniversity campus, a charming and informative display of millinery history. Research was done by the Fashion Merchandising students; the hats are part of the collection of 600+ that have been donated to the University, from cloche to veiled and fur to flowered. All three events illustrated the progression of need (clothing and quilts and hats for warmth) to creativity (it can be beautiful and is fun to do). ART with needle and thread. My brain is filled with new insights and historical perspective. “But how do those events fit with capital cities, and the development of our country?” you might ask. I’ll tell you. » read more


An Invite From CRAG

24 P Linda Sliding 4Linda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas — I was invited to speak at the September 24 meeting of the Caddo River Art Guild (CRAG), an avid group whose mission is promoting art and artists in south central Arkansas,  My mission of course is capital cities, so I talked about “art in the capital cities,” that is, the community’s support of the arts. How Art Thrives was my topic, leading with the question: What does it take to have a thriving arts community?

It takes four things, I proposed, to nods of agreement from around the room:

• Money
• Artists
• Volunteers
• Attitude

I selected five uniquely different cities to illustrate:
Santa Fe, New Mexico, Population 67, 947 (about 6 Arkadelphias) because it supports and focuses on the artist more than any other capital city.

Montpelier, Vermont, Population 7,855 (about 3/4 of 1 Arkadelphia!) because it’s the smallest capital city and has the 2nd most artists per capita and the biggest group of volunteers.

And Helena, Montana, Population 28,190 (about 3 Arkadelphias), Lincoln, Nebraska, Population 258,379 (about 24 Arkadelphias), and Indianapolis, Indiana, Population 820,444 (about 77 Arkadelphias) to show it’s not the size of the city that matters, it’s the attitude of its residents. » read more


The Tortoise And The Bug

Linda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – A blurb in the weekly newsletter from the Chamber caught my attention: Develop an Online Boost for Your Business. When I read the words Google and Search Engine Optimization, I knew this was for me. Right downtown too. It was sponsored by the Small Business and Technology Development Center, a part of Henderson State University School of Business, and operates under the Arkansas SBTDC, – go to their site for other events and locations all over the state. My friend Rita Earles joined me there; she is a visual artist who does magnificent portraits and exquisite miniatures, and I write about our 50 amazing capital cities,, but we both wanted to beef up the functionality of our sites and learn what we can do to increase traffic and present ourselves in the most beneficial light.

Chelsea Goza, the Training Coordinator for HSU’s ASBTDC, hosted the well-attended august.chelsea gozaworkshop, beginning with a “thinking” exercise that needed two volunteers. You know me. Of course I volunteered. No doubt the oldest one there, I found myself pitted against what surely was the youngest person sitting at the table and YIKES, we had to assemble the pieces of a puzzle in three minutes flat. Rita stood behind me and cheered me on, but it was a tortoise against a hare. The nimble-fingered young person accustomed to texting zipped her puzzle together well before the buzzer sounded. I still had two pieces missing when the program began, but hey, what does a tortoise do? Right. I never quit. I finished the puzzle, confident that I’d carefully considered each piece and thought about its value to the whole. Which is what I do as I write about each capital city. But I digress. Chelsea’s part on the program focused on getting more attention locally; next was a segment about growing our business with Google (the reigning god of the internet), and finally that SEO bit, or, “how to get picked first.” (Does that remind you of grammar school?) I eagerly went straight home to follow through on Lessons Learned, and what happened next was the scariest thing I’ve experienced since I tried to rollerskate down Killer Hill. » read more


Song of the South

11.Sam Arriving AtlantaLinda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas –July was Sam Time. Sam is my youngest grandchild, born and growing up in the Pacific Northwest. He went to Juneau with me on the Journey back in 2012 (read all about it in Juneau) where we went whale-watching and dog-sledding and he got to know a capital city up and down. He flew into Little Rock last summer and spent three weeks with me in Arkansas, where we made a quick-trip into Oklahoma and Texas. But I figured it was time this boy had a bona fide real-time southern experience and learned about his roots. After all, he was teetering on the cusp of teenhood, and you know how fast that goes. I planned a full-fledged Journey through the south, worthy of a Fodor review.

I met Sam’s plane in Atlanta. His “unaccompanied minor” status required a direct flight, and we were headed for Gatlinburg anyhow, so that made sense. Did you know that Hartsfield International in Atlanta is the busiest airport in the world? 95 million passengers annually, coming into 7 terminals, exiting through 201 gates. Sam emerged through Alaska’s Gate D3 (at the far end of nowhere), a little taller than last year and wearing a Seattle Seahawks shirt. “Welcome to Atlanta, home of the Braves!” I grinned. And so began Sam’s Song of the South, Scott1stSteps66subtitled “Where Your Dad Grew Up.” I’d filled a notebook with pictures of family members he’d meet, and details about each stop we’d make. “First stop tomorrow is South Carolina,” I explained in our Atlanta motel room that night, “Ware Shoals, where we were living when your Dad was born.” I had a picture of his Dad taking his first steps, in our kitchen there on Dairy Street. My plan was to drive by and show him the house. You won’t believe how that turned out. » read more


It’s Not Even Past

30 50 foot board bLinda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – A fifty-foot board? Have you ever heard of such a thing? Old timbers from old trees, from back in the days before pines were harvested from quick-grow pine plantations. Trees grew tall and unmolested, till it was time to build a barn, or a house. The fibers were dense, impervious to the ravages of time. That is why Tim Kaufman’s barn may be one of the sturdiest structures in all of Clark County today. I’m standing at the end of those fifty-foot lengths of board in absolute awe, listening to murmurs from my picnic-mates, who are walking inside the barn, and climbing up into the loft, equally awed. Charlotte Jeffers wangled the invitation for the Clark County Historical Association to come out to Tim’s property on Old Military Road for a summer-evening picnic and a lesson in historic preservation. We’re at the Rosedale Plantation Barn, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. It’s a “historic barn” all right, coming from a plantation that was established in 1860.

30 Barn and PeopleThe preservation part is this: Tim Kaufman, a dentist by profession in Arkadelphia, was interested in barns. He and his wife bought some acreage on Old Military Road a few years back, set up housekeeping in a trailer, and began looking around for old log structures that nobody seemed to care about any more. The Rosedale barn, located elsewhere in the state, was about to be demolished. Tim bought it, carefully disassembled it, tagging each board with a tiny metal marker in a sophisticated numbering system; and moved it to a sweet little hill at the edge of the woods on his land. Leggos, take note. Each board originally was notched and fitted together with the precision of a Roman building an aqueduct; it was meant to last. Tim and his crew painstakingly reassembled the barn exactly as it was before and I’ve no doubt it will stand another 150 years. The barn is 35 by 50 feet, believed to be the largest log barn in the state, a hand-hewn nailless beauty, a marvel preserved. What Tim did was a testament to visionary thinking. But that’s not all Tim-with-a-vision has done. » read more


April Makes May

02 Little Hummer HummingLinda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – “I’m glad you were born in April,” Mother used to say. “That way I wasn’t pregnant in the hot summertime.” I’m glad too, April is such a promising month. Showers and flowers and Easter parades and (when I was a little girl) dotted-swiss pinafores. This year I was gifted with birthday cupcakes on April 4, and new bird feeders, and the return of the hummingbirds, apparently none the worse for that long flight back from wherever they wintered. The good news for April is – I met my March 31 deadline and managed to get 51 new Pages set up on this website. The bad news is – it cost me my right arm. Seriously, all those computer hours shut down my arm muscles. I knew I was in a hurt, but the disaster element sunk in when I was unable to lift my arm high enough to put away a glass on the second shelf of the cupboard.

I whined my way into the doctor’s office who promptly sent me across the street to the hospital and the therapy unit. A cheerful but unrelenting Kevin pulled and tugged my shoulder, slapped on a hot pack, and coerced me into a promise to do every exercise on the instruction sheet at least three times a day and to come back three times a week till I could move again. So, I did. And now, I can. But I didn’t write a lick for a month. I guess “behind” is my middle name. On top of that, I had some unwelcome visitors. » read more


An Invite From DAR

1 DAR Presentation ArkadelphiaLinda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – I was invited by Charlotte Jeffers, Regent of the Arkadelphia Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution, to speak at their April 14 meeting. “Do you want me to talk about the history of the capital cities, or my travel experiences?” I asked. “What will everyone be most interested in?” “We are interested in everything,” was the reply, so I decided to focus on our likeminded objectives, which sent me to the DAR national website.

I learned that DAR was founded October 11, 1890 and incorporated in 1896 by an Act of Congress. Objectives are listed as Historical, Educational, and Patriotic, so I honed in on the “educational” factor, since that is a primary objective of Capital Cities USA. For DAR, “to promote…institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge, thus developing an enlightened public opinion.” For Capital Cities USA, “to build community, character and citizenship through humanities education.” From Objectives to Methodology explains the Journey Across America: Item 1 – to assess civic, community and historic resources in the 50 capital cities of the United States and their capitol buildings by gathering data through on-site visits to each capitol and capital city. In a nutshell!

I began my talk with bottom-line statistics – departed February 28, 2012 and concluded December 18, 2013 for a total of 659 days. Traveled 31,710 miles and spent time in 50 state capitols and the national capitol in DC. Shared neighborhoods with 12,947,450 people as I lived two weeks in each capital city. (With my two cats, no less.) I shared a map showing the 75 overnight stops I made before settling down in Arkadelphia, and then moved into story telling.

“What learning opportunities did I find in the capitols?” I focused on five that were exceptional:
• Austin, Texas – Most Extensive Visitor Services
• Boise, Idaho – Most Inspiring Kids Tour
• Atlanta, Georgia – Tie With Springfield, Illinois as Most Welcoming
• Springfield, Illinois – Tie with Atlanta, Georgia as Most Welcoming
• Montpelier, Vermont – Most Intimate & Inviting, Best Volunteer Program, Most Meticulous Restoration

» read more


Two In The Bush

08 cardinals feedingLinda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – You need a good pair of binoculars. No, first you need plenty of feeders, some big black sunflower seed, and some tiny thistle seed. Add a backyard and a little snowfall now and then and you’ve got yourself a serious detraction from writing. I’m madly pushing myself to meet that deadline I set back in January – to have PAGES on the website for every capital city by March 31. But my computer faces directly on the best bird-watching site this side of an African watering pond full of pink flamingos. I’ve got cardinals – nine brilliant males and their less brilliant but somewhat more charming spouses; and I’ve got finches. Goldfinches I was familiar with, but I’d never seen a purple finch before. I thumbed through my Birds of Arkansas book (Stan Tekiela, 2011) to identify the red birds in the yard that didn’t have a crest like the cardinals. Yes, purple finches have a red head and stick around Arkansas all winter long. According to my bird book, they travel in flocks of 50 and “have a rich loud song.” Why are they called purple finches if they are red? Ah, the Latin species name purpureus means “crimson” or some other reddish color.

Mark Twain Library MantelDeadlines. And things that get in the way of them. Mark Twain, so the story goes, couldn’t seem to get finished with a certain character named Tom Sawyer. He spent his days strolling the streets of Hartford chatting with neighbors, and his evenings gathering the children in front of the fireplace in the library for “story on the spot” time, lifting items from the mantelpiece and one-by-one incorporating them into a tall tale. It’s said that if he missed an item, the children would squeal in delight and make him go back. Every night a different tale. Now that’s creative, and certainly fun, but it didn’t make for a commercial book. So Mrs Clemens, being a practical woman, banished him to their cottage in the woods until he finished what we know today as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Not being blessed with such a task-master, I goofed off with birds. » read more