Well, we made it home. Drove about 1200 miles from 4pm Friday through 1am Monday. Much of that on a scenic mountain highway (steep and crookedy) at night. Poor planner, me. Hit some poor bird on the mountain road, but it was over so quickly that there was no telling what kind of little bird it was - it just shocked the crap out of me, hitting the windscreen as it did directly in front of my face. I decided Saturday to come home Sunday, for reasons I won't go into here.
NEVER drive through Hot Springs on a Friday night, even though the neon in that town is spectacular - see the fountain hotel sign at right (there is a diving maiden scooping around the bottom right of the lettering, but her neon doesn't work anymore, alas!). It took about 45 minutes to drive through a one mile stretch of road - a lone traffic signal near the baths was the culprit, turning green and allowing a scant 2 or 3 cars through at a time, then followed by a 4 minute wait. I have more cool neon photos to post tomorrow or later in the week.
We woke up to the view of the grand canyon of the Ozarks, which was spectacular. I took this photo from the doorway of our room. Hummingbirds were buzzing around, and it was thoroughly charming.
My grandpa seems on the mend from the heart attack he had in May, which was about a month after my grandma's death. It was strange to go there and see the place and her house without her in it. On that dark mountain road I'd played cds of the best of Supertramp and ELO, and I remembered making my teenage escape of family gatherings by sitting in the car to listen to rock and roll radio, some of these very songs playing at that time. Bittersweet, the crushing weight of nostalgia. Your heart could break daily if you let it.
Anyway, lovely visit with grandpa and lots of fabulous hunting stories and stories of what a crack shot he was (my pop is, too.) Here is one of them.
When grandpa was a kid, his mom, Granny Smith, told him to bring his gun because she needed him to kill a chicken for dinner that night. He brought his .22 long rifle and as Granny went to the henhouse, she pointed out the black chicken she wanted shot.
He watched the chicken for a bit, and finally it stood stock still in perfect profile to grandpa, so he took aim at the eyeball and fired. The doomed bird jerked slightly and sat back on its haunches, but remained upright, head unmoving. Granny came out of the hen house and said, "you missed it, Jim," and he said "no, I think I hit it somewhere."
They went up for a closer review, and sure enough, the shell had shot clean through the left eye- not even breaking the rim of the eyelid- and out the right eye, splitting the outer rim the eyelid, otherwise leaving the chicken intact. I asked grandpa if he had to finish the bird off manually, and he laugh and said, "oh, I killed it."
He aimed a hair low, but that's okay. ;)
It is rather unnerving to walk into someone's place who've passed on. First, you miss them badly, and kind of wait for them to stick their head in the door, then you feel like a bit of a trespasser.
That chicken tale is the kind of story that makes family history so much fun. As for the music, well, there's something about that--it somehow brings back the essence of forgotten stories or something. Love those oldies, but I can only take a little at a time of '50s thru '70s--it's so loaded! By the '80s, stuff wasn't attaching itself to the music so much anymore so it's easier to listen to.
Gorgeous Ozarks pic!
All th best wishes to your grandpa.
I'm glad you are safely home. What a nostalgic trip you had.
dick - well, one way or another, that bird got et that night, so that's all that matters.
It's the FEELING she should be there - indeed - driving into that part of the country just seemed wrong. Something is off. Yeah, trespassing, that's a good word for it. I feel for my grandpa, too, because he is so incredibly blue.
jess - Yeah, we've got a million of those stories, too. Yeah, music is a powerful imprint on time and place, isn't it? Glad you liked the Ozark pic - it was a bit misty/foggy/hazy that morning, but it was breathtakingly beautiful.
barbara - Thanks, and I'm glad to be home, but I'm glad I went. I think it was a little boost for grandpa, too. Hated to leave him there alone.
Been there, done that many times. The area is very familiar. My buds and I go up there a few times each year to canoe the Buffalo National River. Check it out some spring time. Ponca to Pruitt is the prime run. We avoid the twisty turny road you were on and head strait to Little Rock on I30, then back to the river off I40. You actually save a lot of time and trouble going that way. Plus you get to stop for a gargantuan feed at Browns Country Store, southwest of LR.
Chicken story was right out of my dads collection of old tales. He tells us all the time about his mom sending him out to the coop some time in the late 20s or early 30s to kill a snake. Took his dads shotgun. Shot both barrels at once, blowing a hole in the side of the coop, knocking him on his ass, misseing the snake completely. I have that shotgun now. An artifact I treasure.
The sentiment about the house was also familiar. My grandparents place in Hidenheimer was always a stable home away from home while my sister and I travelled the world with mom and Dad (air force). It was left derelict by the guy my folks sold it to after my grandparents died, then rented out to migrant workers as the small town they lived in became more and more run down over time. The owner finally tore it down a few years ago. I wa hoping for a tornado. That seemingly idilic life we had as kids visiting grandparents is gone for ever, a bittersweet memory, and thats a huge, huge bummer. Thats life though. Sucks a lot of the time, and then you die.
wow, fathairybastard - welcome!
And thanks - actually, I've been meaning to put a canoe or raft trip for the Buffalo and White Rivers in Arkansas on my agenda for a while. Oh, and thanks for the tip on Browns County Store - will definitely check it out. I'll need to figure out the tamest places for a novice canoer, being the river greenhorn that I am, though! Any recommendations for a newbie?
THere's a lot of history in the family firearms, and keeping them around is like a little tiny connection to the events of the past. I'm glad you have that shotgun. It's funny to think of our parents as little kids and to know the stories of them finding the boundaries and limits of life on earth, and how a firearm can kick like a mule.
Ditto on your old grandparents' house story. I know we can't keep them forever as a shrine, but it's hard not to feel that the old place belongs to me in some way, and I to it. About 80 yards away is the old family house from the 1940s which is practically falling down. Grandpa and Grandma moved out of it in the late 70s when they built their current house. I was going to go take some B&W photos of the old place this weekend, but I felt too close to tears to make the walk - I couldn't stand and squarely look at it. How many countless meals I ate there, how many nights I slept under that roof safe and snug under quilts grandma sewed from the remnants of old garments salvaged from every member of the family? It's too much.
I can see why you'd long for the tornado - the magnificent ravages of nature are much more easily accepted than the cruel indifference and carelessness of people. Sloppy bastards!
Your post brought a tear to my eye ... I envy your time with you Grandpa - and he is still able to share these great stories with you!
Well, I just got tired of seeing it steadily decline. Now its gone and the field is plowed over. Out of sight, it exists only as a pristine memory. Really miss the smells; the peach tree out the back door, etc. Yer gonna get me cryin.
The novice canoer probably shouldn't run the stretch I mentioned in the spring time, not that it's that bad but you want to have fun and not be too scared. Maybe one further down streem. Start at Gibert General Store (they have a web site) and do the run from Woolum. There's a cool natural spring that bubbles up in the river mid way through that run. You can even start there, I think. A lot of folks run that in the summer when the upper part of the river is too low to run. It pales in comparison to the scenery in the upper river though. I took a canoeing class at south campus, TCJC back in the late 70s early 80s. They still have classes and trips, I think.
heather b - Thanks hon. I'm glad I had the opportunity to see him, and I feel sorry for any of his grandchildren foolish enough to squander this precious time when they could be talking and laughing with him. I mean to make this drive again as soon as I am practically able.
fathairybastard - Thanks for the info - I'll check out TCJC - didn't know they offered stuff like that, but I need something to shake me up and change routine, etc. I'll print out your recommendations and start making plans immediately. Also, I really want to take a trip rafting Glen Canyon, but I obviously need to work up to that, even though I'll take a pussified gourmet version of the trip! Outdoors? Check. Potty in nature? No problem. Crappy food? No way in hell!
Friends and I rafted the Grand Canyon, half in 03 and the rest last year, through a company called Oars. I reccomend it. Pricy though. I'm still paying the card. Well worth it though. Time of yer life.
They feed you like a royal, and haul your excrement for you as well. Nice. One of those jobs on cable... jobs nobody wants.
Poor chicken! ;)
Hot Springs...whatta town. I was just there three weeks ago. Watched some guy get arrested in the parking lot of the hotel we stayed in. Great fun!
fathairybastard - Wow. You need to post some pics on your blog, if you have them. I'll check it out. I agree that trips like that are worth a bit of expense. It's not friggin' Disneyland, after all. Oh, and I don't mind mucking my own stall or shoveling and burying my own poop. It's the decent food I'd like at the end of a grueling, muscle-jarring day.
nongirlfriend - Just sitting on the road we saw a couple of arrests in the making, stopping yet more traffic. Joy. Hot Springs is not my cup of tea.
I tell ya, with Oars, you are just luggage. They do all the work. If you don't want to do the hikes it's up to you. The grand Canyon was expencive, but it's the Grand Canyon!. There are other tour/float groups that are more reasonable, but you don't spend as much time on the river. Our trip, all togethar, would have been about 17 days on the river if it were done in one year. Some people do that. Another buddy of mine did the whole thing in one trip for a fraction of the cost, but only spent 7 days down there. We were in row boats but he was in a big motor boat. They have a web site oars.com) and do trips all over. Tryin to get my bud and his wife to do Fiji next Year. Maybe somewhere in Canada. The pics are all 3-4 megs, so I don't know if they'll fit on the blog. I'll try.
Your will is my command.
Cool, fhb - but I'll want to do the hikes. From your photographs, it's totally worth the expense. Magnificent. I'll check it out, oars.com - because it sounds like they take the guesswork out of it, and I'm probably not going to be able to take much more than a week or so. Very exciting.
Fiji sounds great. I'd like to see the part of the Canadian Rockies where they filmed "The Edge," which is one of my favorite films.
Part we're lookin at is just north of Idaho. That the movie where there's a plane crash and a Baldwin bro gets eaten by a griz. It is very cool.
Brilliant tale! But how do blind chickens work for hunting compared to those blue-tick coon dogs? ;-)
fath.b. - The scenery really is spectacular up there. I'd like to see it in person one day.
perplexio - Glad you enjoyed it. The thing about hunting with chickens is they don't take a bit well and they're hard to saddle.
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