‘X Arkadelphia’ Category


It’s A Wonderful Life

2016.12. Wonderful LifeLinda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – You can’t have Christmas without Jimmy Stewart. That boyish enthusiasm, that earnest face, and then sweet Clarence in the picture too. Clarence with his old-fashioned underwear, and, alas, no wings. Plus Donna Reed – were actresses really that beautiful back then? It’s A Wonderful Life, directed by Frank Capra, released December 20, 1946, seventy years ago. A love story of the sweetest kind, dancing by the light of the moon. An unexpected tragedy, father dies, a scary depression begins, a war. And then, a Christmas Eve crisis – the bank examiner is there and $8,000 has mysteriously disappeared. Jimmy Stewart, aka George Bailey, considers suicide, worth more dead than he is alive, he believes. A heavenly intervention, Clarence comes, shows George what the world would be like without him – much worse, of course – Zuzu’s petals back in his pocket then, the whole town shows up at the Bailey home, cash in hand to help, Clarence gets his wings, and that’s when we get our tissues out, and cry. Auld Lang Syne is playing in the background music there, it’s almost time for New Year’s resolutions, so you have to think, what would the world be like if I hadn’t been born? Better, or worse?

I watch the movie every Christmas season, it’s a tradition, and a good reminder to review the year just past, and make a course correction, if necessary. This year, I got a writer’s curiosity, who wrote this story, and why? A little research took me on a crooked path. It began with a man named Philip Van Doren Stern (1900-1984), an author, editor and Civil War historian. Philip wrote 40 books, mostly about the Civil War, and he was an editor at Simon & Schuster, and at Alfred A Knopf. As the story goes, Philip woke up one morning in February 1938 with an idea in mind, inspired by Dickens 1843 A Christmas Carol. His idea wound up as a 4,000-word story he named The Greatest Gift. He began writing it in 1939, but didn’t finish until 1943 (writers sometimes get blocked that way). And then, no one would publish it. So what does a writer do under those circumstances? He printed 200 copies himself and sent them out as Christmas cards! That was December 1943 (follow these dates). » read more


Cultivate Your Garden

candide-cultivatingLinda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – Remember high school literature and the French author Voltaire (1694-1778)? He wrote Candide (published 1759), a satire about optimism, his characters adventuring against a worldwide backdrop of horrible disasters and bad fortune. The conclusion measures the “plundering of kings” against the peaceful life of those who simply stay at home and “cultivate their garden.” Here’s a paragraph or two: …news was spread abroad that two viziers of the bench and the mufti had just been strangled at Constantinople, and several of their friends impaled. This catastrophe made a great noise for some hours. Pangloss, Candide, and Martin, as they were returning… met with a good-looking old man, who was taking the air at his door, under an alcove formed of the boughs of orange-trees. Pangloss…asked him orangeswhat was the name of the mufti who was lately strangled. “I cannot tell,” answered the good old man… “I am entirely ignorant of the event you speak of; I presume that in general such as are concerned in public affairs sometimes come to a miserable end…but…I am contented with sending thither the produce of my garden, which I cultivate with my own hands.”

The old man invites them into his house, where his four children proceed to serve them sherbet, candied citrons, pineapples, pistachio nuts, and Mocha coffee, unadulterated, the story goes, “with the bad coffee of …the American islands.” “You must certainly have a vast estate,” said Candide to the Turk; who replied, “I have no more than twenty acres of ground, the whole of which I cultivate myself with the help of my children; and our labor keeps off from us three great evils—idleness, vice, and want.”
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Says Baby Girl

Linda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – Caroline Randall Williams is a poet. Her debut book of poetry, Lucy Negro Redux, came out in 2015. And so did her amazing cookbook/family history masterpiece Soul Food Love, written in collaboration with her mother, Alice Randall. Caroline is a Harvard grad, a teacher, and maybe the prettiest and most engaging person I’ve met in quite a while. The picture above I took after her lecture at Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in Little Rock this month; we’d finally gotten her downstairs to the gift shop so we could buy her book, and chat. “Will you be at the Cornbread Festival tomorrow?” I asked, an annual event in Little Rock’s evolving and historic South Main area, SoMa. “No, I’ll be cooking at the Smithsonian with my cover-soul-food-lovemother. We’re demonstrating one of the recipes in our book at the Food History Festival.” “Name dropper!” I laughed. “The Smithsonian! Which one?” Double answer: the National Museum of American History; the recipe Peanut Chicken Stew. The Museum’s weekend celebration, dubbed “Politics on Your Plate,” was all about the past, present, and future of food and community in America, and Soul Food Love was a perfect fit. Food history, inseparable from family; identified with love, in whatever kinds of ways we live; a record of the way we come to know the world. Let’s talk about the book. » read more


The Animal Fair

Rooster Linda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – I went to the animal fair. The birds and the beasts were there. Also the hand-sewn quilts and home-canned preserves and commercial funnel cakes and merry go rounds brought in for the week and traveling hawkers enticing you to try it all. Nothing more exciting than a county fair in September! Yet despite the allure of fried goods and haunted houses and the attraction of the more peaceful Arts and Crafts Building my favorite thing is and always has been the animal barns. I mean, sheer happiness! You can’t walk past those bunny cages without twitching your own cute nose, bunny like. And what looks happier than a pig stretched out belly up, totally content to be fat. Then there are dscn3736the smiling young folks, with heifers they have raised from Day 1, and brought to show. Dedicated young folks; I’m talking about the FFA. From their website I learned there are 629,327 student members of the Future Farmers of America aged 12-21 in 7,757 local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. Wow! And interestingly, while 73% live in rural and farm areas, 27% live in urban and suburban areas. The focus is “leadership, personal growth and career success training through agricultural education.” More information from the FFA website: » read more


No Quitting Allowed

Linda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – A lady by the name of Doris Haddock (1910-2010) walked all the way across America in her 90th year. Doris, aka “Granny D” began her walk in Pasadena, California on January 2, 1999, and stood on the steps of the National Capitol on February 29, 2000. She kept a diary, just as I wrote Posts during my Journey Across America. Her book “Walking Across America in My 90th Year,” written with the assistance of Dennis Burke and a foreword by Bill Moyers, was published by Villard Books, a division of Random House, in 2001. This retired shoe-factory worker from New Hampshire and great-grandmother of twelve walked for a cause: national campaign finance reform. Along the way she gave speeches, collected signatures on petitions, and listened to the world around her. She followed her heart. I am pleased that I was able to hear Granny D speak about her trek, and her beliefs, during the book tour that brought her to Seattle; I met her and have an autographed copy of her book. Go Granny D we all said to this petite lady in the huge hat, standing before us that night. Granny D was a feisty thing, an ordinary citizen who chose to become an outspoken activist. Wikpedia has a page about her, if you care to read more; according to it, she was arrested in the National Capitol in April 2000 for reading aloud from The Declaration of Independence! She entered a plea of “guilty” and made a statement to the court that “I was reading from the Declaration of Independence to make the point that we must declare our independence from the corrupting bonds of big money in our election campaigns.” She was sentenced to time served, and a $10 fee. Granny D ran for a US Senate seat at the age of 94, and continued lobbying for campaign finance reform all the way to her 100th year, with praises from President Jimmy Carter and Senator John McCain.

Another “author at 91” that I was fortunate enough to know personally was Virginia Wing Power (1906-1997); her book was “Ginny’s Chairs” (BookTree Press, 1998). This amazing woman was born in historic Bulloch Hall in Roswell, Georgia; the house is now on the National Historic Register, a pre-Civil War home and also the birthplace of Mittie Bulloch, mother of Teddy Roosevelt. Theodore Roosevelt Sr and Mittie were married in the elegant dining room in 1853; Ginny stood in the same spot for her wedding to George Power in 1928. Bulloch Hall is open to the public today as a museum; “Ginny’s Chairs” is still for sale in the bookstore there; it offers a ringside seat to the changing times of the twentieth century. » read more


E Pluribus Unum

2016-07-sketch-of-great-sealLinda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – Got a US Passport? Look at the front of it. Got a one-dollar bill? Look at the back of it. Fish a dime out of your change bowl and look on the backside of that too. Look for this Latin phrase: E Pluribus Unum. Sometimes you’ll find the words embedded in the banner of the Great Seal, sometimes, due to available space I suppose, just printed straight across or curved around the edges. Do you know the meaning of these words? And how this phrase came to be an everyday, ordinary part of the American scene? First, let’s translate: E Pluribus Unum, in English form, means “out of many, one.” When Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson and John Adams got together back in 1776 to create an official seal for a brand-new country, they settled on the obvious basics for the design: different people from different places, now together. Their initial sketch had a shield in the middle, composed of many smaller shields; look closely to see six symbols – a rose (England), thistle (Scotland), harp (Ireland), fleur-de-lis (France), lion (Holland), and eagle (Germany), which they described as “the countries from which these states have been peopled.” Now look around the edges of the shield to see the initials of the “thirteen independent states of America.”

2016-08-sealThey submitted their idea to Congress on August 20, 1776, but it was not approved; in true group-think fashion it took several more committees before a final design was approved in
1782, one with the now-familiar American eagle in the center; the eagle carries a banner in its beak bearing that original phrase, E Pluribus Unum. You’ll notice a lot of thirteens on the seal – 13 stars, 13 stripes, 13 arrows in the eagle’s talon. And did you catch – there are 13 letters in E Pluribus Unum! I doubt Ben and Thom and John were thinking about that when they suggested the phrase; it seems to have been a recurring theme from the time of classic writers and organized systems of government. » read more


And What Is So Rare

06 lowellLinda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – “And what is so rare as a day in June?” I ask on this last day of the month. That’s the leading line of a poem by James Russell Lowell (1819-1891), here’s the full verse:

And what is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days; Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune, And over it softly her warm ear lays; Whether we look, or whether we listen, We hear life murmur, or see it glisten.”

I had a friend who kept 366 journals. He built enough shelves all around the room to accommodate 366 notebooks labeled only with the month and day, not the year. February 29 didn’t have nearly as many pages as the other 365, he explained as he’d lift a notebook and tell you exactly what he was doing, or thinking, on a precise day, as far back as fifteen years! I admired his tenacity, but the revelation was how our feelings, and perceptions, change over time. even when the planets are aligned the same. Because we have new experiences? Because we get older, slower, wiser? I decided to go back to the first year of the Journey and revisit my “Junes,” checking for rarity. » read more


Fiddlin’ Through the Ozarks

31 OFC Sign BlueMay 31, 2016 Linda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – The plan was to drive home from Jefferson City today through Mountain Home and Mountain View, Arkansas; after all, any place with “mountain” in its name has to have charm, right? The flaw in my plan was that I didn’t allow time enough to stay. The roads wind and twist in such a way as to force a leisure pace, on top of that, every turtle that had spring fever was ambling its way across the road. How many times did I swerve? It was already late when I got to the Ozark Folk Center General Store, where I met two of the sweetest (and costumed) ladies ever. We talked, and we talked. Before I knew it, I was headed up the steep hill towards the gift shop, where (they had 31 OFC Gift Shoptalked me into this) I would find my own Squirrel Circus, handmade by a genuine Ozark craftsperson. Sure enough, the elaborate whirl-a-gig device was for sale in the Homespun Gift Shop, and sure enough, I bought one. It was clever, I thought, a truly ingenious invention. Now here I am, back home, with a Crafts Village Map in hand, an Ozark Folk Center State Park Calendar of Events, a Visitors Guide to the Stone County area for 2016, and, one new-wood smelling Squirrel Circus. What to do? » read more


Déjà vu All Over Again

29 JC Capitol up the hillMay 29, 2016 Linda Burton posting from Jefferson City, Missouri – “What are your plans for Memorial Day?” people start asking early in the month of May. April showers have come and gone and here in this heat the May flowers hit their high mark in April. By Memorial Day school is out and everyone is ready for summer’s change of pace. I don’t have one of those big barge boats for floating around DeGray Lake. My yard isn’t landscaped the way I want it yet, 25 flagsnor my screen porch built, for lazy hammock naps or evening cookouts and a crowd. “I had a great Memorial Day in 2013,” I told friend Janice. “I was in Jefferson City on the Journey then. Concerts all afternoon, morning ceremonies at the National Cemetery, barbecue at the end of the day; it was great! And Jefferson City is a true All-American town, with hanging flower baskets and benches, and that gorgeous capitol, and the Missouri River, so cozy and so historical.” I went on, extolling the virtues of such a charming place, and such friendly people, when the idea struck. I’m not THAT far from Jefferson City; Missouri is just the next state north, well heck, I can do that again! And so I did.

First I emailed Bill Stine, who performed with the Monticello Singers on Memorial Day 2013. He assured me the group was performing at 3 PM in the Capitol, just as before, and warmly invited me to please come again. Not long after I received an email from Paul Hinman, Conductor of the Jefferson City Community Symphonic Band; he’d heard I might be coming and invited me to their concert at First Christian Church at 1 PM. Online I found information about the special ceremony at the Jefferson City National Cemetery at 10:30 AM. It all fit; déjà vu was taking shape, everything lining up, smooth as silk. » read more


This Land Is My Land

Little White House w Red Brick House Next Door NLinda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – Napoleon once claimed this land, and sold it to Thomas Jefferson, but guess what, it’s mine now. I’m talking about my little half-acre of the world here in Arkadelphia; take note, I’m a homeowner now. There is a document dated March 31, 2016 recorded in the Clark County courthouse that affirms title to a particular piece of land in my name; ah, land, the bottom-line definition of commitment. For land is our most basic resource; from land comes security. Explorers have roved the world for land, wars have been fought over it, treaties governing its use have been signed, and sometimes, ignored. Surveyors sectioned newly-claimed land into measurable pieces, and realtors make a pretty good living to this day as people trade those pieces, back and forth.

01 My Front DoorAs for me, I just wanted to hunker down in peace and quiet, to paint-up fix-up as I please; even the vagabond in me needs a place to call home. But who, I wanted to know, lived here before me? Our Clark County Historical Museum has fragments of Caddo Indian pottery on display from earlier times; the path to the Ouachita River bluff has interpretive markers that tell of Caddoan life here a long, long time ago. Before, well, you know, before they had to leave. » read more