Archive | May, 2012

Day 5

31 May

Maybe I can get back on schedule. Today is mainly a drive across the high plains to Denver. We did make one early stop for the Methodist Book Club. We stopped at Valley View Cemetery in Garden City, Kansas and placed a flower on the graves of the Clutter family.

From Garden City we drove over higher and higher (the GPS has an altimeter) and plainer and plainer plains. The roads are great. A two lane highway is as fast as an Interstate. Slower cars and trucks pull over onto wide shoulders and let those of us going faster pass. There is really very little traffic out there. We saw jack rabbits and antelope; the eerie windmills of yesterday are popping up more frequently.

The towns are mostly small and far apart, but they all deserve a look. Hugo, Colorado is a case in point. There was a town banner than had the name, Hugo, and the head of a pirate. I don’t know. On the outskirts off town, suburban Hugo, was a bold sign that proclaimed, “Selling cold beer for thirty years.” The store was Hugo Liquors and the cold beer sign was just in front of a school crossing sign.

Before we entered downtown another sign read, “Point of Interest Ahead.” In downtown Hugo another sign read “Point of Interest” with an arrow pointing to the blank wall of a closed business. I don’t know.

In contrast, Kit Carson, Colorado, has a nice town museum with several rooms full of stuff, some of it advertising Kit Carson (the town) as far back as the late 1800’s. There is a small house with four glassed in rooms with Victorian era furniture. Across the street are all sorts of antique farm machines and an observation tower made from rusted pieces of metal.

Overseeing this memorabilia is Ruby Gibbs, museum volunteer and High Plains rancher. She told us that Kit Carson had lived briefly in the area and had been involved in various Indian negotiations in the early 19th century. Book Club members may recall Carson as a character in Death Comes for the Archbishop. I hope Mrs. Gibbs sees this entry; I told her I would write the museum up.

We made Denver around 1:30. Crowds and traffic bad but not like Atlanta. We checked into the motel and then went to Dinosaur Ridge. We walked up the trail for about a mile and saw dinosaur footprint fossils, the fossilized remains of a mangrove swamp in the side of a mountain, along with numerous other fossil beds in Dakota Sandstone. It was a nice walk with fossils I’ve never seen. We also saw some Western wildflowers and a couple of odd birds. I hope the other members of the Greater Calhoun Marching Society are doing their walks.

We’ll cross the Rockies tomorrow.


Day 4

30 May

We were up early to see the multitudinous wonders of Dodge City and to go by the Visitors Center when it opened. The streets in Dodge have names like Wyatt Earp Boulevard, Gunsmoke Street and Bat Masterson Way. Businesses have similar themes, my favorite being Doc Holliday’s Liquors. The Georgia dentist was known to take a drink now and then. There are also plaques, statues and decorations all celebrating the real and fictional heroes of this town.

Before going to the Boot Hill Museum,the main tourist attraction, we decided to go 30 miles east to Mullinville and see the outsider art of M. T. Liggett. Liggett’s art, often political, is not partisan. He seems to dislike all politicians equally. Hilary Clinton is outfitted with a swastika but so is Rush Limbaugh. Anyway, M. T. Liggett himself appeared on the scene as we looked around, He said we could go into his studio to look and that we could buy anything we took a fancy to. Bad news for impoverished travelers from the South; good news for M. T. Liggett. But, Mr. Liggett said that he had an appointment concerning his painful feet and would be gone for an hour or so. He suggested we go see the giant well one town over and then meet him back at his studio. We thought, “Why not??

One town over was a small place, though larger than Mullinville, called Greensburg. Greensburg’s claim to fame has always been the world’s largest hand-dug well – I missed the dimensions, but Lee, who has acrophobia, became shaky just looking over the edge. The building that houses the wall also encloses a large meteorite and a history of the town. The main part of the history is the tornado that that came through in 2007, demolishing most of the town including the wooden structure that housed the well.

The people of Greensburg took the time to plan a new town, and they seem to have done well. The town’s electrical needs are provided by seven of those alien windmills, and the town even sells excess power to nearby communities. The well is enclosed in a solid brick structure, and remnants of the old town have been fashioned into public artwork. This is a place about the size of Fairmount. The lady that ran the well-museum was rightfully proud of her hometown.

Lee and I checked the well off our list and headed back to Mullinville. Liggett was there and ready to sell me some art. We briefly commiserated over foot pain and agreed that those without it just did not understand. We bough two of Mr. Liggett’s works and told him that I would pass his name and address along. He is listed in a number of on-line sources and he has a reputation as being difficult to deal with. He is really just a nice guy. His neighbors joke with him about the traffic jams his art causes, and he occasionally cracks a smile.

We put our M. T. Liggett art on top of Cash Bar. The two Liggett works will fill in some blank spaces on our walls.

We headed back to Dodge and went to the Boot Hill Museum. The museum has a lot of period furniture and household items and a few pieces that were in Dodge during the day.

The place is presided over by Brent Harrison who looks like an old western lawman. He convinced us to eat dinner at the Occident Saloon and Banquet Hall and stay for the gunfight and finally the dance hall variety show at the Long Branch.

Dinner was good, with some great corn. The gunfight was about what you might expect with a group of teenagers and twenty-somethings getting to mock fight in front of a crowd. What it lacked in gritty realism, it made up in energy. Don’t go expecting method acting.

Finally, we all adjourned to the Long Branch for a musical variety show. Miss Kitty, the star, was taken with me, but I could not leave Lee even for a shot at show biz.
While the show was going on, a severe storm hit, with wind, hail and lightning. The plains have been having a drought, so wet weather was welcome. Got some pictures of a rainbow to end the evening.

Day 3

29 May

Having spent a good part of the day in Kansas, I begin to wonder why Dorothy was so eager to get back here.

Part of this day was spent in Oklahoma. Oklahoma begins as part of the South and ends as the West. As we left Tulsa behind, we thought we might take a quick tour of Pawnee Bill’s retirement ranch and mansion. In case no bell rings when you hear the name Pawnee Bil, he was the poor man’s Buffalo Bill, though the two of them were partners in a Wild West Show for a time. (Pawnee, who was younger than Buffalo, called the older man “an irresponsible boy.” Their partnership did not last.) Pawnee Bill retired to Pawnee, Oklahoma (natch) and started a ranch which has now become a nice museum, arena, and mansion (large house.) Tours are available. However, if you are not a died-in-the-wool Pawnee Bill fan, you may be able to skip this side trip and save some time.

Next, we traveled farther and farther west through lots and lots of Oklahoma. In its eastern part, Oklahoma has the Ouachita Mountains. Farther along, there are hills and forests, then, almost as you round a curve, Oklahoma becomes the Great Plains. They really are not all that great, but they are plain.

This rather featureless geography continued west until somewhere past Enid, with no signs or warnings, a group of mesas or buttes appeared, “towering” 200 or so feet above the plains. We were in the Glass (Gloss) Mountains, a geographic area more like, I suspect, Utah than Oklahoma.

We stopped at what Oklahoma calls a State Park — no Visitors Center, no trinkets, no post cards, no snacks — just a gate and a semi-paved parking lot with an explanatory sign and a trail leading to the top of one of the buttes. (Is this where Georgia is headed?)

The sign did explain the geology and name of these mountains. They have a hard gypsum layer on top that has prevented erosion and which causes the hills to shine at certain slants of sunlight. An early United States surveying and cartographic group in the area had a member who was English. He supposedly said one morning, as the sun reflected off a nearby butte, “These are “glaws,” meaning “glass,” mountains. One of the secretaries dutifully wrote down “Gloss Mountains” as the name for the group. Ever after, some maps list Gloss Mountains and some list Glass Mountains. The official Oklahoma Road Map lists both. Whichever you prefer, the Gloss (Glass) Mountains make for an interesting few miles.

Later, as we turned north toward Kansas, a new feature broke the monotony of the plains. At a distance, giant aliens, resembling those creatures in War of the Worlds, appeared. As we got closer, these aliens became clearer. They were windmills, three-bladed, modern, T.-Boone-Pickens, giant windmills; dozens and dozens of them, vaguely sentient and foreboding, all turning at the same stately pace, and we in their midst. I felt as if they were trying to communicate. Well, maybe I am anticipating our visit to Roswell on the trip home.

We finally made it to Dodge City. Marshall Dillon, Chester, Doc Stone, Miss Kitty, Quint, Festus. Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Doc Holliday. It was not exactly what I expected, but in some ways, it was more. I was a big Gunsmoke fan.

Can you identify this flower?

Or this one? (I can’t.)

Day 2

28 May

Technical difficulties interfered with my blogging yesterday. Lee and I could not get the photo function to work. This necessitated calls to our IT department. We finally contacted a young tech named Gardner. After several calls back and forth, the problem was solved. A great IT department is a must in the modern business world.

View From the Pig Trail

Yesterday’s travels also took us through the Boston Mountains of Arkansas. I was unaware that there were Boston Mountains in Arkansas. It seems that two young men did early exploration in northwestern Arkansas – one was an uneducated mountain man, the other a Harvard grad. So, in the same mountainous area we have the O-Zarks and the Bostons. Not sure who named which.

The road we took through the Bostons is known as the Pig Trail, partly because it leads to Fayetteville, home of the University of Arkansas Pigs, and also because tires squeal like pigs as cars navigate the curves.

Welcome to Land of Terra

Who knows what they are?

As we came out of the mountain drive, we discovered an art colony/installation called Land of Terra. I really want to say the Land of Terra is like Rock City without the taste – but that’s not fair. Most of the artists work in glass or pottery and are quite talented. (We bought a face jug with raku glaze.)

Lovely from any angle!

But there is an overarching interest in gnomes and trolls and whimsies, scattered about the grounds. So, one can walk into different areas and find various figures lurking about – there is also a lot of colored glass and flowing water. There’s even a labyrinth and a grotto. It’s certainly worth a stop – the address is somewhere near Durham in northwest Arkansas.

Our next stop was supposed to be a brief tour of the wonders of Fayetteville – but stuff happened. First ,we hoped to see the great razorback statue on the Arkansas campus, maybe with Bobby Petrino nearby. Well, the giant statue was not so gigantic plus we were unable to approach the statue because of blocked roads, lot of tents and numerous guards. We guessed something else was going on because all this to-do seemed a little much for an unprepossessing statue of a pig. Further research points to the annual Wal-Mart Shareholders Meeting – there were a number of big Wal-Mart trucks around. Not joking.

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man

However, not far up the road was the promise of a Popeye statue at the Allen Packing Company in Springdale. Springdale turned out to be a lot like suburban Atlanta — traffic lights and traffic. We finally found the statue, behind a chain-link fence with no place to park except for a gated entrance-way. Lee got the picture, but it wasn’t worth the effort. We gave up on the homemade dinosaur and a second Popeye statue in Siloam Springs.

We pressed on to Tulsa and the wonders of Oral Roberts University. Foiled again. Tulsa is in the midst of major downtown roadwork. By the time we found our way to the hotel, we were not willing to venture back out. Besides, the route to Oral Roberts was one of the roads that was closed.

I hated to miss ORU. I’ve always been amazed at how Oral Roberts could take the demanding theology of the Bible and reduce it to a single, understandable sentence: “Send money to Oral Roberts.” I wanted to see the Prayer Tower where God held Oral hostage until supporters sent in eight million dollars for something or other. Alas, Lee and I had to make do with just being in Tulsa.

We just heard that Doc Watson died – a sad day for music lovers.

Day 1

27 May

So, we took to the road today and our grand adventure has begun. Our plan was to drive to Conway, Arkansas, north of Little Rock; a day of about 550 miles. That’s what we did.

Bob & Ben

We made four stops so we could be tourists. First we took a shortcut (so we called it) at Murfreesboro to avoid Nashville. This small detour took us to Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee, where some friends have a bookstore, Yeoman’s in the Fork. Since we left home at 6:30 and since we gained an hour by going into the Central Time Zone, we went through Leiper’s Fork at 7:30. Don’t know why, but the bookstore was not open. Sunday morning. Holiday weekend. What were they thinking? Anyway, we noticed that Ben Franklin was sitting on a bench in the bookstore yard. We stopped, talked with Ben for a few minutes and went on. He’s still youthful for a man of some 300 odd years.

Engine # 382

Our second stop was in Jackson, Tennessee, home of Sam Phillips – you know, Sam Phillips!! – do I need to make this a trivia question? Jackson was also the home of John Luther Jones, “Cayce” to his friends. Jones grew up in Cayce, Kentucky, and that’s how the nickname originated, but over the years it became “Casey.”
I’ve always had an interest in Casey Jones. A few years ago Lee and I went to the museum devoted to him in Vaughn, Mississippi, where the wreck occurred. Unfortunately the devotion knew bounds and that museum had closed. We knew the one in Jackson was open and that it offered many opportunities to spend money. We expected just to stop and take a photo. Plans change. The museum proved to be rather nice with many railroad relics and some first-hand information on Casey. We watched the film, toured the Jones home and read interviews with Casey’s fireman, Sim Webb – “Jump Sim, jump or we’ll all be dead.”
There is an entire villages around the small museum, so a family can drop some serious money on food, souvenirs, and other, less essential items. However, I was pursuing a personal interest. A very nice woman, museum historian, Norma Taylor, introduced herself and autographed her short book on Casey. She has interesting information on the engineer, but I’m more intrigued by the origin of the song. (Here’s a link, in case you would like read about to my interest in Casey Jones: Look in the left column.

Billy Tripp’s Mindfield

I thought the next and third stop would be the highlight of the day, but it lacked something. In Brownsville, Tennessee there is a folk art environment called Billy Tripp’s Mindfield. This place looks like a major construction site. You have to look at the details to see that there is a single driving intellect behind this construction of large beams and towers. Unfortunately, Billy Tripp was not around to offer any thoughts on the grand effect he is seeking. A woman that I spoke with said, “It looks like a lot of junk to me.” I think she was a little unfair. Much skill and hard, skilled labor has gone into this construction. The artist says his parents are buried on the site and that he plans to be buried there also. I suspect that he knows what he is doing; the plan is just not obvious to the rest of us.

Fourth, we stopped in Brinkley, Arkansas hoping to see an Ivory-Billed Woodpecker for Jastram. Unfortunately, Brinkley is bereft of Ivory-Bills. Gone is the economic boomlet that occurred when Cornell University claimed that the elusive woodpecker had been found in the swamps around Brinkley. We found references to Purple Martins and Mallards and Cardinals and Chickens. We saw a starling. We discovered an unhealthy local interest in cats – the high school mascot is a tiger. A couple of disreputable cats were painted on the wall of a bar with a “No Firearms Allowed Sign” on the door. One restaurant advertised chicken salad; could that have been a misprint for woodpecker salad? We thought that there was no remembrance in Brinkley of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker – Then there it was, on a local hairdressing establishment – Woodpecker Haircuts $25. (Guess who’s getting a gift certificate for Christmas? Think Corps of Engineers. Think Junior Birdman.)

Woodpecker Haircut

Lee at Toad Suck Square

Finally, we came to Conway – famous for giving Conway Twitty his first name and somewhat less well-known for its Toad Suck Daze. We missed the Toad Suck celebration but evidence of it was still around.
One story is that workers on the river would become dry docked at Conway and would drink so much they would swell up like toads. Not likely – but amusing.

We get to see Oral Roberts U. tomorrow.


25 May

When I get this trip to LA going on Sunday, one thing I will miss will be the walks with Wichita and Jastram. We have tried out some names for our group – The Greater Calhoun Marching Society, The Trammell Street Sashayers, The Tour de Calhoun, but no name has stuck. From Jeopardy we learned that the Nobel Peace Prize has three naked men with their hands on each other’s shoulders. We considered emulating that prize, but decided that Calhoun might not be quite ready for such: “Grab the women and children! Close the blinds! Here they come again!” So much for our efforts to promote world peace. If anyone has a name suggestion, please send it in as a comment.

Besides walking, the three of us also take an interest in the natural world. Jastram is the most versatile expert, being knowledgeable about trees (He’s a Registered Forester, with the certificate to prove it), birds and bird songs. His knowledge of bird songs is amazing. Wichita and I have learned the call of the cardinal (“Pretty, Pretty, Pretty”). The titmouse, or titmus, if you want to sound more refined, (“Peter, Peter, Peter” or “Here, Here, Here”) and the Carolina Wren (“Chirpity, Chirpity, Chirpity, Chirp.”) Of course, now and then we hear some unusual call and turn quizzically to Jastram. He strokes his chin and says, “Oh, that’s a Gray-Crested Tub Thumper.” Who are we to question?

My specialty is wildflowers. I look for flowers I know and point them out. I try to ignore those I don’t know. If pressed, I fall back on my Dad’s all-purpose answer, based on the color of the flower, – “That’s yellowtop.” “That one is whitetop.” “Oh, there’s some pinktop.” This identification system served my Dad well for years.

Wichita has been working diligently to become our butterfly expert. He can spot Monarches and Viceroys, Sulphurs and West Virginia Potatoes. Now and then he’ll slip a new one in, “There goes a Polka-Dotted Bounding Fritillary.” Jastram and I stand amazed.

All three of us have learned to spot Indian Marker Trees. These trees with near right angle bends in them, seem to have been made forty or fifty years ago by some Native American wit to point the viewer in whatever direction the tree is pointing. Our goal is to see a Polka-Dotted Bounding Fritillary lighting on a pinktop bloom as a Gray-Crested Tub Thumper sings a song about Cherokee treasure while sitting in an Indian Marker Tree.

Finally, Wichita, Jastram and I try to discuss matters with gravitas. One day we considered the appropriate action to take if a bear came after us. On another occasion, we tried to pinpoint the exact summit of Fort Mountain. We have discussed the bewildering, and bewildered, array of Republican candidates for President and the singular lunacy that seems to affect all of them. We have argued about the correct direction to walk and whether we can achieve Zen while walking. (Wichita can; I can’t; Jastram – Hunh?) We have discussed where, if we were cremated, we would want our ashes placed. I sort of settled on wherever would make the most work for my survivors. We learned that Wichita once ate an elephant ear (the plant) on a bet. He has not repeated that feat. We have also considered the unusual ability of a high school acquaintance of Jastram’s to arc his urine stream completely over a Volkswagon Beetle. This stuff is important. I hate to miss it for the next three weeks or so.


23 May

             Lee, Proctor and I went to see my cousin Frances today.  While she is frail of body, she is still strong of mind.  As Proctor said, “She was right pert today.”  Frances was 36 when I was born, and I have been going to see her all of my life. 

            She lives in a house that was built in 1848. Her grandfather, my great grandfather was in the Army of Northern Virginia in the Civil War.  He named Frances’s dad, my Uncle Bob, Robert Lee Linn.   Frances still remembers listening to her grandfather tell war stories.

            Today we talked about the trip, caught up on other family members and reminisced about earlier times.  I promised to send Frances postcards from the road.