‘Little Rock’ Category


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


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


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


Warm in Little Rock

Linda Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas White Christmas opened last night at the Arkansas Rep Mainstage. Remember all the songs from that show? Happy Holidays, White Christmas, and those happy tunes in between, like Sisters, and Count Your Blessings; and the grand finale, I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm. Pure Irving Berlin, The snow is snowing, the wind is blowing, but I can weather the storm!…. I’ve got my love to keep me warm. The packed house loved every minute; the Haynes sisters Betty and Judy (played by Jennifer Sheehan and Sarah Agar) were vocal perfection and looked stunning; the Bob and Phil duo (played by Shane Donovan and Case Dillard) charmed us from the start as they shook hands with everyone in the front row (where I had the good fortune of sitting) during the opening number. It’s a kid-friendly show; the two little girls to my left were entranced, never taking their eyes off the dancing feet that were just about eye level from our seats. They were particularly interested in Susan (played by Maddie Lentz, a 6th grader at Horace Mann Arts and Sciences Middle School), who portrayed the General’s granddaughter hankering to be in show business. Exiting the theater after the champagne reception, still humming White Christmas and thinking snowflakes, I had to unzip my sweater. It was 72 degrees and humid! And it stayed that way today, even during the after-dark Lighting of the Capitol and the holiday fireworks. » read more


It’s Pretty

Linda Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – I think you’ll agree with me when you visit the Arkansas State Capitol. It’s pretty. You start thinking that when you’re half a block away and can see the shiny bronze doors across the front; they are positively gleaming. The building is brilliantly clean and white; the grounds are neatly groomed; like I said, it’s pretty. Some capitols go for simplicity; some for magnificence. Many put their attention towards works of art; others are designed to reflect the cultural heritage of the state. The Arkansas capitol is pleasing to look at and makes you want to hang around and keep looking. Like I said, it’s pretty. And folks inside are friendly. The security guards greeted me warmly, directing me across the great hallway to the Visitors Desk, right past the decorations that were half in the box but rapidly being placed on the tree by a very patient person with a long-stemmed hook. “I think the tree is 32 feet,” he answered to my question, as I looked up and up through the next balcony into the soaring rotunda. I spotted touches of red on every floor above; I couldn’t wait to see it all. So April took me on a tour. » read more


Give a Cow

Linda Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – “It was my favorite job,” my father said of being a dairy farmer. He pursued that career path for only three of his ninety-three years, but the memory of that kinship with cows stayed in his mind as he sat behind a desk doing accountant things for most of his life. Those three years on a dairy farm imprinted me as well; I was a pig-tailed second grader when I began Life on the Farm; my father’s right-hand helper, or so he said. Today is his birthday (Craig Sherer Burton, 1918-2011); thinking about him seemed to stir up memories of cows, and the deliciousness of an absolutely fresh dipper of milk. It put the notion in my head to visit Heifer International, which I’d planned to do anyway; it’s an organization I’ve contributed to for years, and I knew that International Headquarters are here in Little Rock, just past the Clinton Center. It’s a beautiful setting at the edge of the Arkansas River, the building is a LEED Certified Green building; airy, light, and pleasant. I was greeted by colorful characters on storyposts and a live volunteer who gave me an overview of what I’d see – the timeline for the work of Heifer International; a map showing projects going on around the world; and the Cornerstones of the organization – spelled out in 12 descriptive blocks as “PASSING GIFTS.” The mission of Heifer International is to end hunger. And it started with a simple idea from an Indiana farmer: Don’t give a cup of milk to someone in need. Give a cow. » read more


The Quapaw Quarter

Linda Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – “You could call me a mutt!” said Janey. “I’m part Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Sioux, Irish, Scottish, German, and Canadian. Which means there is some French in there. But I’ve always lived in Little Rock,” she finished up, in answer to my question as to whether she was native to the area. That was yesterday, as I enjoyed my Saturday night supper in the River Market area; Janey was my exuberant, chatty server. We continued our discussion of family history and Little Rock history as I considered dessert. And that discussion inspired me to drive around the city today, browsing my way through the historic areas. Did you know that Little Rock has more than 200 homes and buildings on the National Register of Historic Places? I learned that more than fifteen separate Historic Districts make up something called the Quapaw Quarter, so named in 1961 in honor of the Quapaw Indians who once lived in the area. About the Quapaw Indians first – did you know the state of Arkansas is named for them? » read more


Mother’s Day

Linda Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – The Arkansas River was brilliant blue today, just like the after-Thanksgiving skies. This may be dubbed Black Friday by storekeepers, but I’m calling it Mother’s Day. Because today is my mother’s birthday – Winnie Ivous Sizemore Burton (1914-2003) – and because I visited the William J Clinton Presidential Center today and caught a special exhibit about two mothers named Dorothy Howell Rodham (1919-2011) and Virginia Clinton Kelley (1923-1994). The Center is an imposing glass and steel structure on the banks of the Arkansas River; open, airy, light, and crammed with exhibits showing everything from an exact replica of the Oval Office to Billy Clinton’s high school diploma. Christmas decorations were up; I caught my reflection in a giant golden ornament on one of the red-ribboned trees. The top floor shows Life in the White House; Floor 2 offers an orientation film and a timeline of Clinton’s 8-year presidency; videos and interactive stations involve the viewer in moments of history. The temporary exhibit honoring the mothers was on the ground floor; tender memories lovingly displayed with an intro by granddaughter Chelsea Clinton. » read more