Little John by Eddie Trapp, November 13, 2014 # 1358
Last week I was telling about our two day trip through Arkansas and Oklahoma to look at the colorful leaves. A little after dark we arrived in Fort Smith and spent the night. This would be our northern point of the trip and we would begin our winding way home. If you travel through western Arkansas north toward Fort Smith you don’t have many highway choices. It’s basically Highway 71, take it or leave it. Not wanting to retrace our route we had to decide on a curving route either east or west out of Fort Smith. Since there would be more trees to the east that’s the way we headed Friday morning. I just had to see running water in the beautiful Arkansas River so we went north a few miles on Interstate, or loop, 540. Yep, the Arkansas is running fast. Sure would like to be in Memphis floating the Mississippi. Instead of continuing north we exited 540 on Highway 59 and turned back south, crossing the river again at the James Tribble Lock and Dam in the town of Barling. Lots of people fishing in the turbulent tail waters at the dam. Will we ever fish below the dam at Cooper Lake again? Several tow boats in sight as they pushed football field size barges slowly upriver.
It was either go east about a hundred miles or have to travel back south the way we came. Highway 21 east took us to Paris, Arkansas where we would curve south and eventually get back to Mena. On the way we passed through some interesting little towns. In the small town of Bloomer a sign in a church yard stated, “If your Bible is in good shape, you’re not.” Next came Charleston, home of Steve Cox who kicked the field goal that won Super Bowl XXII for the Washington Redskins. It must be a kicking little town since it is also the home of Eddie Carmona, kicker for the Oakland Raiders. Correct me if I’m wrong but I think Charleston is either the home town of Coach Davis Floyd or where he played basketball. I think I remember him saying that.
In 1820 everybody got to talking, saying they needed a town between Little Rock and Fort Smith so they built one, Paris, Arkansas. Paris is the location of the last hanging in Arkansas before they started using the electric chair in Little Rock. Holding the dubious honor of last to be hanged is young Arthur Tillman who was courting Amanda Stevens when she disappeared, only to be found eight days later in a well. A big rock was tied around her neck, a bullet in her head, and a ton of rocks piled on top. Tillman was held in the Logan County jail which is now a museum. Paris is also the home of James Bridges, director of The Paper Chase, China Syndrome, and Urban Cowboy. Paul Gibson of the NFL is also from Paris.
Leaving Paris we turned southeast, entered the Ozark National Forest, and visited the 2200 acre Mount Magazine State Park that offers hiking, horseback riding, and much more. This “mountain” is a flat topped plateau with two peaks; the tallest is Signal Hill at 2753 feet, highest spot in Arkansas. A beautiful sixty room lodge is arranged in a long narrow fashion so each room has an unbelievable view of the Petit Jean Valley far below. There are also thirteen cabins with number four the only one that is dog friendly. The view from the lodge was my favorite of the two day trip. It reminds me of the Talimena Drive and the Queen Wilhelmina Lodge, only better. The unusual name comes from French explorers who heard a deafening roar from a large landslide. They thought it was an ammunition magazine exploding.
Leaving Mount Magazine we drove beside the Petit Jean River through Havana, Bellville, and finally Danville where we turned slightly southwest on our roundabout way home. The name of the Petit Jean River flows with a romantic twist. Petit (Little) Jean, a young French woman, lived in the 18th century and discovered her fiancé was leaving to explore the Louisiana Territory. She cut her hair, disguised herself as a boy, and got work as a cabin boy. During the expedition she became sick in what is now Arkansas and on her death bed let her fiancé know her identity. The Petit Jean River headwaters are near Waldron, Arkansas and 113 miles later it runs into the Arkansas River, passing near Petit Jean State Park, the location of Petit Jean’s grave. On the marker is the name she went by, Little John. Her ghost reportedly roams the hills at times. Search the internet to see beautiful views from both these interesting state parks.
After leaving Magazine Mountain our trip home was basically nonstop as most of it was on roads we travelled the day before. Make a trip with your family to see the changing color leaves sometime in late October and November.
Correction Section: From last week. The 37 inch copperhead was killed by Ronnie Almon, father of Hillary Almon Murray, in the community of McComb Hill between Klondike and Commerce.
A man and his wife were at their twenty fifth class reunion. Most of their classmates were sitting around talking. A few were dancing. One of the men having an exceptional time was really putting on a show. The woman told her husband, “I almost married that guy after we got out of school.” The husband was quiet a few seconds and risked his life with, “Yeah, it looks like he’s still celebrating that you didn’t.”