Above: Logan spins a yarn while Chub reacts
Here’s a bite from a story included in the first book I had published. It was in April, 1994 and I carried the manuscript with me to an OWL meeting where W. C. Jameson asked to read it. He was in the process of opening a publishing company and he wanted stories set in the Ozarks. He read it that same day and approached me asking to publish it, pretty much as it was. To say I was elated is putting it mildly. After writing for nearly ten years, attending conferences, learning my craft with writers like Dusty Richards, Suzann Ledbetter, Lisa Wingate, Delores Cannon, and Cait London to name just a few, I was finally preparing myself for submissions to publishers.
I’d like to share with you a portion of this story about Logan and Chub France, whose family had owned property in the Arkansas Ozarks since the late 1820s, had survived imminent domain when Lake Ft. Smith was built and went on to settle on 500 acres in the Mountainburg Valley. This is only one of the stories which appear in that book published so long ago. Wandering In the Shadows of Time, some claim is my best work. Though I’m proud of it, I’d hate to make that claim, for we should improve over the years.
This book will be published again by Oghma Creative Media. Doing so today and including all the photos from the first edition, will be much easier, what with computers, scanners, etc. In those early days we had a much harder go of it. Each photo had to be taken to be copied and specially prepared, which meant many visits to a business equipped to do just that. Submitting meant mailing hard copy of the manuscript, the numbered copies of photos plus the spot for the placing of each one numbered in the manuscript.
Here’s an excerpt. If you’d like to see the video filmed as a result of the publication of this book, it’s online. It was presented at the Arkansas Film Festival in Batesville. I think you’ll enjoy traveling with me into the Ozarks to meet some of the wonderful settlers I had the privilege to interview.
Here’s a taste of Logan France’s folk stories:
Logan enjoys telling tales. His eyes fill with amusement even before the first words fall from his lips. He has an audience, and likes nothing better.
“I had four brothers and come Saturday night they’d all ride to Chester and get drunk. I’d take out for Bidville and listen to gospel music, or go to a spelling or ciphering match. I was a poor reader but no one could spell against me. At the Kinney and Winfrey match, they brought in outsiders just to whip me and Carl Hutchens. He and me, we could spell every word in the Blue Back Speller, and so we always won.
“There was a schoolhouse down south at Winslow on a rise there just across from Tip-Top, or what they called the Boston Mountain Lodge. The school was named ‘Who’d A Thought It.’ Yeah, that’s right. John L. Collins, John Ridenour, and old man Harrison was on the school board, and that school was going on when ours was out. Dad went to see if me and Carl could go to school there. They said yeah. There was seven or eight about my age, and they’d heard about my spelling, so the very first thing, they decided to have a spelling match. They had this teacher about thirty years old who weighed near 250 pounds. We had to spell gymnasium and gigantic and all the hard words they could find. That teacher, he couldn’t hardly pronounce most of them, but me and Carl, we could spell ‘em. That was the last time they did that with us.”
What was it like to give up the land? To start over again?
“Leaving the old land where you was raised, where your great-grandparents on both sides had lived, naturally it put a bitter taste in your mouth. But they was nothing you could do about it. Chub, now, she just worried it to death. But women ain’t supposed to know as much as a man. If they had a-been, He’d a-made ‘em first. They get excited, you know. I’ve done learned that if something is impossible, there’s no need in worrying it.
“She seen me and she chased me ‘til I finally give in to marry her. But I told her one thing she’d never make me do was live in town. That’s one place we weren’t ever goin’, was to town.”
And they never did. They lived out their colorful lives on that Mountainburg Farm. I can still see Chub standing in her front yard waving a white towel at the train as it passed. They were delightful people and it was an honor to have known them.