Between The Devil & the Deep Blue Sea

Looking for yet another excuse for not keeping up my blog posts, I think I found a good one. You’re going to like this. I FORGET.

Between writing two books a year, editing and rewriting and trying to come up with new twists for Poe and romantic novels and westerns, and making doctor appointments I just have to say, blogs sometimes get lost somewhere in the middle of all that. It’s not I don’t have anything to say, it is that I have too much to say.

I’ll tell you about the friendly visit I had last week from a black bear. I think she saw my lights on, which I burn a couple of all night now, and just dropped by to say hi. Believe me, my cat did not take to this visitor. She’s got to where she enjoys friends dropping by, but seeing a bear peering in the window over the bed where we both sleep was just more than she could handle. And she came unwound, slammed her paws on the window, growled ferociously and turned into a fur ball. I raised up, saw the top of lady bear’s head and ears as she dropped down to all fours to go on her way and find a place that didn’t have a wild cat in residence, and I lay back down and went to sleep. The next morning I thought I had imagined the visit till my daughter who lives right close said there were lots of signs of bear visits in the yard.

I for one am happy Mrs. Bear found our existence near her home satisfactory. We live in the White Rock Wildlife Management area of the Ozarks so this is not terribly unusual. I much prefer her visit to one from a wandering thief or noisy traffic.




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Beyond The Moon

This is the product of my attempt to add this image to a sidebar. It added a post from several months ago as current, put this image here and more or less messed up my mind for the day. After three hours i still can’t add images or remove images from the sidebar. So if you see strange posts here the next few days it will be me struggling to get this right. I’m on Google now in an attempt to learn how to ride this thing down when I should be writing. So wish me luck and visit me if they come in and carry me away because I’m banging my head on the wall.

new cover

click here to purchase

click here to purchase

By the way you can’t purchase this book by clicking here, but you can go to my Amazon page and that’s easy.

The products of my wild brain are all there. At least Amazon knows how to do it.


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Cabin In the Land of the Indians

Long CabinOver the years I’ve learned that people aren’t as interested in facts and figures of history as they are about the people who lived the life during those days long past. So I’m trying to stick to that in these writings, but in order to tell their stories I have to put you where they lived. Let you see, feel, hear, taste, and smell their world.

The white haired gentleman, and I call him that for it fits so well, met me in a pickup, parked on a dirt road next to a bridge spanning Greasy Creek. The phone call he made to the newspaper informed me that to give directions might just result in my wandering the lovely Ozark wilderness all day. Or perhaps even lost forever. I wouldn’t so much mind that but after hearing some of his story, I wanted to go where he lived, see it for myself and get in touch with the ghosts of his past.

Thus the clandestine meeting. I followed him onto a narrow dirt road where weeds grew up in the center, slapping the undersides of my Thunderbird. I asked much more of this car than it was built for, but when I bought it I had no idea what was awaiting me just around the corner when I went to work for The Washington County Observer. So, here we were in the back woods of Washington County where other reporters had never gone.

We turned, then we turned some more, driving through virgin timber that canopied the roads and fording churning creeks, often the only sound in the wilderness. The last ford being past a barn of weathered boards and coming to a stop at the cabin. Ancient logs formed the house and it sat perhaps no more than fifty feet from the creek on a rise. The scattering of rocks that made up its bank almost touched the steps of his porch. Around to the side the meandering creek had cut a deep bank, perhaps from recent heavy rains that filled it to overflowing.

It was early spring, but the trees had all leafed out on trees so huge and tall they had to be a century or more in age. I opened the car door and stepped out into a silence filled only with bird song and the creek playing over the rocks. As I looked up through sycamore leaves the size of dinner plates, something cold touched my face and tickled the leaves as if whispering to me. Snowflakes floated down doing a butterfly dance through the leaves and tickling my skin.

I could say or do nothing but close my eyes and stand still, taking it all in. The feel, the sound the touch and smell. Air cleansed of auto exhaust and town living. He must have sensed my awe because he waited beside his truck, not closing the door. To do so would have broken the spiritual silence. It’s times like these I have a real desire to worship the beauty of our world.

Gene and Geneva Long have lived here off and on during their entire marriage. A stint in California brought them running home at last to settle in the home built by his grandfather. They would add rooms to the cabin using only aged logs from old structures so it would not lose its personality. I will soon go inside, but first a short history lesson.

It was 1827 before white men were allowed to move into and build homes in this part of our Ozarks. The four counties in the northwest corner plus a portion of Carroll County then belonged to the Cherokee who had obtained it from the Osage. I won’t go back further for the history becomes confusing when the American Indians fought over land and it passed back and forth. For the sake of our story, we’ll begin when his grandfather built this cabin.

His wife told me the date was 1815, but I was sure she must have said 1850 so she repeated it. Told me I could go to the courthouse and verify the date that the family snuck into Indian lands to settle on this piece of property. It has been in the family ever since. A daughter lives on the hill above the old cabin.

Gene was born there and he took me into the bedroom which had a raised floor for the canopy bed. He told me that design was common back then. Geneva has modernized her kitchen in that it has running water, but other than that all work done is in the style that fits the overall design of the house. He showed me the type of nails used in the original construction and said he had some problems acquiring the same for the addition. Geneva brought us lemonade which we drank sitting on the vast front porch.

I almost hated to bid the couple goodbye. A while later we passed into their lives again when a video was shot of my work. The Longs were included in the interviews that were filmed, but unfortunately there wasn’t room for their story in the final film which was entered in the Arkansas Film Festival held in Batesville that year. The producers gave that portion filmed to the Long family.

Gene called me one more time before he passed away. He was riding around in the wilderness on his four-wheeler when he found the remains of an old water mill which would have been used to grind wheat and other grains to produce flour and cornmeal. We followed him to see his find. He waved goodbye to us and drove away. This would be the last time I saw him this kind man who impressed me with his knowledge and keen wit. Geneva lived in the house until her death and her daughter remains on the property. But don’t go looking for this Eden, because you won’t find it. I probably couldn’t get there myself except in my mind where I visit often.

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Younkin Makes History

Younkin with plane

When I was in pigtails I attended school for one cut-short year in Fayetteville, Arkansas. I’m sure it never entered my mind that I would ever return to live in Arkansas. Oh, I was born here, but like so many after the Depression, my parents were keen on getting out and staying out. Sadly, their memories of the beautiful Ozarks are not like mine. I was too young to recall their tragedies. Kids don’t think about how their lives may entwine and form an invisible chain of events that will forever form the future. We don’t look around us and see a small town on the verge of exploding into a prosperous city. We see our room, our yard, the school we go to, the place we hang out. That’s all. What carries us away and brings us back is often a long, crooked road demanding much of us.

Actually, today in the hubbub of our lives, we often forget that we are living history. I so wish that I had kept clips of the historical articles I wrote while with the Washington County Observer. Oh, I can go to the library or the U of A and find them all neatly kept for historians to peruse. My memory must help me recall those days and sometimes I like that better, because history should not be facts and figures, names and dates, so much as it should be what happened, how it happened, and most of all how it makes us feel, how we reacted, how others reacted. For history is people and what they did more than it is anything else.

This story must come from my memory because I want to tell it that way and because I don’t recall some of the exact dates and names. But I do fondly recall the day I first met this icon of aviation.

I sat with his wife looking out the window waiting for her husband to come home. On the yard beyond the window was a flat grass green airstrip where he would soon land his plane, one he had constructed himself. I was there to interview Robert Younkin. A name well known in the flying history of Fayetteville. Already the sprawl of Fayetteville was on the move. She told me they were selling the land and moving on.

But  I don’t want to get ahead of my story. His wife said he would take the plane to the nearby hanger and I should walk on out there. I crossed the field that sloped gently southwest from Highway 71. A scattering of homes lay off to my right and left and behind me. Clearly there was more to come.

By the time I reached the plane, now parked facing me, Robert Younkin had climbed down and waited there for me. He was a smallish man with a thick crop of white hair and a kind smile. We talked, mostly about aviation while he guided me through his workshop in the hanger. There he rebuilt and worked on Pratt and Whitney engines.

His knowledge came from his youth when he flew crop dusters. He began his company in 1957, and though he loved to fly it was evident from our walking tour that most of all he enjoyed working on the engines that carried his planes into the wild blue yonder. We must have talked an hour or more, then he paused beside his plane for me to take the photograph you see here.

Today there is no sign left that an airfield ever existed in that spot except on a street sign that reads Robert Younkin Dr. Well, at least you know a bit of the rest. Washington Regional Hospital takes up most of the land now.

To conclude this history we must move to Moose Jaw Alaska and the Saskatchewan 2005 Airshow where Robert’s nephew Bobby Younkin, along with Jimmy Franklin were killed in an air crash. Tragedy caught up with the family again in May, 2011 when Bobby’s daughter Amanda Franklin, was killed during a wing walking exhibition.

Younkin Air is now located outside West Fork, but as far as I can learn, Robert has passed away. Google doesn’t always have all the answers, believe it or not. And the name is so common as to cause confusion anyway. Each time I drive toward the hospital from Highway 71 I recall the day I stood on that hillside and talked with a man who is enshrined in the early history of Fayetteville and aviation.

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Beyond the Moon

beyond the moon cover new

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Batter Up: Women Play Major League Baseball

Mildred Earp pitcher

Today I’m going to tell you a story you may not believe about a 21 year old woman (called gal for the rest of the article because let’s pretend it’s 1943 as it was) from West Fork, Arkansas who became a major league baseball player. Now it takes a lot of steps for this to happen.

Remember, it’s 1943 and there’s a danger there won’t be any more baseball because of the shortage of men players. A man with a lot of pull by the name of Wrigley put the league in motion for women. You know, Wrigley Chewing Gum, Wrigley Field in Chicago? He founded the All American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) turned out tons of promotion and by summer of that year it was wildly popular, especially in the mid-west.

Now comes my tale. I received a call from a man in West Fork asking me if I would like the story of his aunt, who was a pitcher for the Grand Rapid Chicks. After tryouts in Springfield she was immediately snapped up. She’d played baseball all through high school and was on a small local team. Now she was a major league star.

When I arrived at his house he dragged out a suitcase, you remember what those are? Not backpacks or duffel bags. It was filled with memorabilia his aunt had kept including hardballs signed by some big league men players. Oh, it seems that though the threat of losing men’s baseball had been rumored, it never happened, but the gals kept right on playing for ten years.

Her name? Mildred Earp (pronounced Arp) The first year she became a stand-out hurler for the Grand Rapids Chicks, going 20-8 with a 0.68 ERA, to set a new league record.

Mildred, by then nicknamed Mid, continued as an outstanding pitcher against teams with names such as Fort Wayne Daisies, South Bend Blue Sox, Racine Bells and Rockford Peaches — movie-goers will recognize this team as the one featured in the film A League of Her Own. Mid made the All Star team twice during her short career. During her career, she commanded such feats as retiring the first 21 batters, winning game four on a shutout and performing with a 4-hitter in game 7 to win the finale 1-0.

And there on the floor at my feet lay clips of all the articles written about her during that time, plus everything she’d kept that was dear to her about her time spent playing women’s major league baseball.

This was serious baseball. According to the 1940s -1950s Women Baseball Archives, teams played a 112 game series and then the winners played in a world series.

year book Earp

In the league, women were paid weekly from $40 to $80 and as high as $125 per/week in later years. Millie’s first contract read that she would receive $50 per week, plus $50 for each week she showed up for spring training. That was pretty good money in those days, and it was even better money for a woman to earn.

Over the ten years of the league’s existence, women’s rules evolved to match regulation baseball. Balls shrank from softball to baseball size, the pitcher’s mound and base paths were lengthened, and pitchers started throwing overhand. The Chicks played the game with enthusiasm and local fans in Grand Rapids responded accordingly. Once, a crowd of 10,000 turned out for a championship game. Always a strong team, the Grand Rapids women’s team won league championships in 1947 and 1953 and made the playoffs every year of their existence.

Tim Wiles, Director of Research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum Cooperstown, New York had this to say about these gals:

“Millie and the other ladies of the AAGPBL not only lived a fascinating chapter in baseball history, but they are great ambassadors for the game today, tirelessly signing autographs and doing all they can for the next generation of baseball fans.”

Eighty-eight of the women who took part in this program are recognized in the Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame. That tiny pitcher from Arkansas, Mildred Earp is one of them.

The Arkansas Naturals Triple A Baseball Team based in Fayetteville, once asked Millie if she would throw an opening pitch for the team, but sadly, she was physically unable to honor the request. She will always be remembered for the outstanding part she played in the brief glory of women’s baseball.

I held one of those baseballs with reverence and awe. Holding history in one’s hands has always affected me in such a way. I was allowed to lug that suitcase home to sit among the mementos and experience the past of this baseball hero and write my story. To listen to the crowds’ roar and experience Mid’s excitement as she rose from a small-town gal to an all-star baseball pitcher. I only wish I could have met her.





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The Carving Cowboy


Ivan Denton leaving Mt. Gayler for CaliforniaA tall mustached cowboy rode into my life a lot of years ago when I was involved with The Ozark Native Craft Shop south of Winslow. His name? Ivan Denton, a well-known sculptor of wood. But he is known for so much more than that talent.

In those days craft shows were the place to be on long hot summer weekends in the Ozarks. I worked part-time in this shop and so became a part of their semi-annual shows. Being surrounded by so many artists, it followed that I would try my hand at something, so I spent a lot of time in the midst of these wonderful crafts people discovering a hidden talent – well, semi-talent: drawing.

At that time Ivan Denton displayed his carvings in the shop and at the craft shows and we began to have long talks. As time went by we became more involved in his love of writing when I began what would become the long road to writing with a weekly column for three newspapers in the area. I interviewed crafts people, visited their workshops and wrote their stories. It didn’t take long to realize that Denton was more than a carver of cute little images. He was a true sculptor and people came from all over the world, not just from our small Ozark settlements, to admire and purchase his creations.

If I were to attempt a story about this talented, wonderful personality it would take a book. He was an historian who told marvelous stories, an adventurer who claimed to have discovered a mine of turquoise in our mountains, a musician who appeared on stages including the local Little O’ Oprey in West Fork. He and his wife Rose became friends who sat in our living room and told stories and entertained me and my husband more than once.

Ivan and his wife Rose lived on a ranch down around Schaberg, truly the wilderness. For years he had a wood carving shop near his home where he welcomed carvers. Sometimes I drove down there to find men sitting around on stumps, rocks and in chairs, knives busy making chips from hunks of wood that they would turn into faces, horses, or other images. And there sat Ivan in the center teaching and entertaining everyone with his guitar and marvelous voice.

Probably his accomplishment that stands out among all those talents is his ride from Arkansas to California on his beloved horse Lad. They left on a rainy morning, he and that horse, from Artist Point north of Mountainburg to follow the Cherokee Trail to Woodford Station near Lake Tahoe in California. His wife kept in touch from her truck packed with supplies, but far away on a busy Interstate. The day he left I was there to take pictures and wish him farewell.

Coincidentally I wrote a western novel that told the history of the Cherokee Trail prior to his ride. He often teased me on stage about the romances I wrote, but bragged when he learned I had dedicated one to him.

Ivan’s ride was followed in the Washington County Observer in the letters he wrote to the paper. After he returned he took the time out of his busy life to write a book about that ride and included in it the history of cattle drives and old brands of the west. I have a copy that I treasure. In it he wrote simply “For Velda, a good friend and fellow writer. Ivan Denton.” It’s title is Old Brands and Lost Trails – Arkansas and the Great Cattle Drives.

Ivan’s true character can be found in this final acknowledgement in his book regarding those who helped him along his infamous ride: After I saddled up and before I mounted my pony I would shake hands, look them in the eye, and say, “I will never forget your kindness.” And I never will.

I too will never forget the times I spent with this very special man who not only taught me much about the west, he taught me about being humble and thankful for all those I’ve met along my trail.

Ivan has gone on now to join so many other of my friends and acquaintances. I often picture him and Dusty exchanging stories for they could outdo each other with their knowledge of the old west and Arkansas’ characters and tales from the past.

Copies of the Observer are on file at the University of Arkansas and the Winslow Library has most of them which I donated.

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A Bond Never Broken


Marvin Ruby HollingsworthWhen I first started interviewing people for my historical articles in the Observer, I was driving a Ford Thunderbird. The one year they decided to grow that particular model from the original sports car to one as large as a sedan. One of my first drives into the depths of the wilderness occurred in the spring. It was rainy season and creeks were rising.

I received a call from one of the daughters of a couple who were soon to celebrate their 73rd wedding anniversary. The Holllingsworths lived in a cabin outside Delaney surrounded by the Ozark National Forest. They had always lived there.

With directions lying on the seat beside me I drove out highway 16 to Delaney, turned onto the gravel road as instructed, you know, the one where the white horse is in the pasture, and began a journey I will never forget.

The road narrowed, twisted and turned until it was two ruts with weeds growing up in the middle. I braked at the first of several creeks, looked at the other side to make sure I could climb out once I went in, and drove down into the shallow, but rushing waters. Back then many things were different than they now are. Another of those things was if a car’s brakes got a soaking set they no longer functioned.

About the time I forded several more of these watery crossings and steered around a curve that literally hung on the rim of a bluff I wished for the dozenth or more time that I’d bought a Jeep before I took this job. No one warned me. Oh, I’d lived in the Ozarks of Arkansas for quite a while and knew some roads were iffy, but this one was a real challenge, especially in a low-slung Thunderbird.

But what utter beauty surrounded me. Sometimes I caught my breath at the sheer magnificence. The air was sweet and filled with silence broken only by the songs of birds and my car making its way deeper and deeper into the wilderness. And, on yes, the movement of crystal clear water over and around rocks.

And then I began the final climb, and perched right in the edge of a thick forest, at the very end of the road, was a log cabin. And on the porch sat a man. Once he caught sight of me he raised a hand in welcome. A fence surrounded the yard. I parked and opened the car door.

“Get out and come on up.” He waved some more as if I might not see him.

I stepped out, went through a gate that screeched shut behind me. Sounds were exaggerated in the silence. The peaceful feeling that came over me that day would be one I experienced often during my years of traveling for miles into another strange land to meet someone who had something special to tell me. Something worth my time and whatever struggles it took to arrive at my destination.

Marvin told me the thing he worried about most was that something might change his way of living before he would no longer have to worry about how he lived. He said that they had already passed some ridiculous laws like making it against the law to kill rattlesnakes. “What hillbilly won’t kill a rattlesnake every chance he gets,” he added. I was with him on that.

His grandparents came into Arkansas when virgin timber covered the hills. He told me that the woods were full of tents and cabins then when people came to make a living in the timber. That would’ve been the 1800s. He was born just under the hill where he lived with his wife Ruby who was 16 when they married. The only time he had left the place was in 1919 when he was drafted and went to Springdale. In those days Springdale had one main street and wooden sidewalks. He waited all day Sunday for the bus and never saw one single car. Before he could be inducted, as he put it, “the Kaiser gave it up,” and he was sent home.

He never drove or owned a car. And the first one he saw was when someone brought a Model T up the road. The couple had 12 children and at that time when I interviewed him they had 131 living descendants. His son Burt and daughter-in-law Jo Ann lived there with him and Ruby, who was deaf and almost blind. She sat silently with us during the interview, and when she felt me stirring to get ready to leave she put a hand on my arm and said, “Oh, stay more. Stay more.” It was a vivid moment while I considered how lonely she must have been for adult company over the years. I couldn’t imagine it.

Sitting there on that porch, looking out over the mountains I had a taste of what it was like to live in the pure wilderness a hundred years earlier. We can only imagine that kind of life, probably don’t desire it, yet there was a certain pure serenity in the surroundings.

Jo Ann told me they were going to keep the older couple around a few more years and would have the biggest party ever when they celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary. I was to visit the couple two more times. Once during that very celebration and one last journey when I visited their final resting place. They were buried together on the hill overlooking the house in which they had spent their entire lives.


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Miss Phydella

Phydalla - CopyDuring my 20 years with newspapers I met some fabulous people who influenced and touched my life in ways I had never imagined could happen. Their strength and passion for living often changed the way I looked at things. In writing these posts, a memoir of sorts, I want to tell their stories to keep them alive. So many of the wonders we experience slip away as the years pass. Call it history if you must, I prefer to refer to these tales as keeping the beauty of life’s memories living.

Phydella Hogan’s recent birthday a while back reminded me of the day I met this fascinating lady. At the time she was 74 and had just published her book of poetry, Matchsticks. I still have the book which she signed for me. The poems are a collection of expressive emotions that reveal the innermost thoughts of this saucy poet.

Besides the book I also have memories of our talks. She was bright, full of energy and inquisitive. The previous May she had graduated with honors from the University of Arkansas and was pursuing a Master’s Degree. I guess what impressed me so much was her intense desire to learn all she could of the intricacies of life, of what made people tick. And most of all the happiness with which she greeted that life.

Many people are content to rest on their laurels at her age. I don’t think age meant much to her. What did was the exciting experiences waiting for her just around the corner.

A native Arkansan, she was born near Cave Springs and raised in Washington County. The beginning of her education took place at Zion, a rural one-room school from which she graduated the eighth grade.

She owned a small store in Fayetteville for years and was lovingly known as Miss Phydella by all who knew her. Her writing included two books of poetry and many columns for several weekly newspapers. The last time I spoke with her she was working on a series of children’s stories.

There my memories of knowing Miss Phydella end, but several years later I was fortunate to meet her son J. B. at the Washington County Historical Society. There is much of his mother in him. Today we share the same publisher and once in a while talk about the late Miss Phydella whose accomplishments continue to influence his life as well.

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The Fantastic Automobile

old car Ozarks

When I was young, and don’t be surprised that I can remember so very long ago, my uncle showed up one day with a Model A coupe that had a mother-in-law seat. Oh, how I yearned to ride back there. In case you never saw one, where the trunk should be it had a pull out that revealed a seat. No roof over it, just out in the open. All my uncles tended to spoil me since I was the very first niece any of them had. The eldest on both sides of my parents’ family. So I rode in that seat, long hair flying, every chance I got.

Anyway, I think of that ride so often when I’m driving and staring at the fancy cars of today. For various reasons that seat would be outlawed on our highways. Now we are seeing cars that almost drive themselves, and that is just around the corner. I hope I live to ride in one.

Makes me think back even farther into the past. Being a historian of sorts, I settled on this subject thinking of how far we’ve come in transportation. In 1876 the White River Valley Historical Quarterly published a petition titled The Wilderness Road. It asked the Honorable County court of Green County to open a road recently closed by James Driden. It had been hand written originally and many of the words were misspelled. I have the typed copy.

It seems Mr. Driden claimed that the road damaged him on the account of teamsters burning his “railes”. The petition asked “Is this alone reason enough for you to shut us out from your town where all of our wheat and produce from this county and all North Arkansas travels?”

It seems that road was traveled by from one to seventy-five wagons a day in the cotton and produce season. The petition went on to list many reasons to reopen the road. The plea ended, and I quote, “…for the sake of humanity we ask your Honor to give this road and give it immediately.”

Their reasons for asking this favor of his Honor is because there were but few fordings on the James River “that we can hold the bottoms.” I’m not sure what that means except perhaps their wagon wheels would stay on the bottom crossing the river.

What I wondered was why a private citizen would be allowed to close a road in the first place. Anyway, it made me think of those early roads in Arkansas and how difficult travel was. I’ve read that many new arrivals had to chop down trees in front of their wagon as they traveled into the Ozarks. The Boston Mountains are named that for a reason. Boston was slang for a hard way to go. Obviously Mr. Driden’s road somehow bypassed the river crossing or had a fording that would allow wagon masters to hold the bottoms. The petition was signed by 178 residents. I have no idea if their plea was honored.

My Dad was sixteen when he accompanied his Dad to Arkansas. My Granddad was a powder monkey and they were building the new highway 71 north from Mountainburg to Winslow, and of course beyond. But a powder monkey was needed to place the dynamite that blasted boulders and even bluffs from the right-away over the mountains. At 16 my Dad also worked on the building of the highway. It turned out that eventually he met my mother, was smitten, and never went back to Texas.

Here in Winslow the highway that goes west out of town climbed steeply straight up. When Model As were in use they had to back up that highway. Anyone care to guess why? The gasoline wouldn’t feed the engine going forward. In those days women were beginning to drive and none of them were strong enough to back all the way up the mountain, so a woman mayor of Winslow, Maud Duncan, saw that a new highway was built that curled up instead of climbing straight up.

I for one am glad I live now instead of back then. There were so many barriers to climb over just to get through a day.

Below is the transportation of most residents in Arkansas in the 1800s

horsedrawn dray


















































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