Winter is the perfect time to explore the natural stone shelters where native Arkansans once lived
The Observer decided during the middle of another busy week to get the heck out of Dodge. What better way to escape from the trappings of modern society than to head down to the southern part of the state and meet up with some old friends at the deer camp? We were looking for some peace and quiet and we knew just where to find it. You drive out past bustling Bradley (Lafayette County) until it gets remote, and then keep going another 15 miles. The camp is out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by snaky dirt roads, pine thickets and creek beds. Out there, there are no car horns, street lights or sirens, just crickets, coyotes and rustling leaves.
Hunting's not really our thing. Nothing against hunters, but we get all the deer steak we can fry from our hunter friends and, besides, you have to get up way too early.
We do like to shoot the bull, though. We like sitting around the fire with old friends, eating what's pretty close to gourmet food, whether it's mountain oysters, fried fish, steaks or barbecue.
But one of the best parts about the deer camp has always been the breakfast. After sleeping in, The Observer woke up to the sound of incoming four-wheelers carrying hunters back from the woods beyond the camp. We stumbled to our feet, grabbed a big cup of black coffee and walked over to the cook shack.
Inside, you could hear stories (complete with sound effects) from every single not-so-successful hunter, ticking off all the reasons why they failed to bring back the big buck — they spooked off an eight-point upon walking up to the stand, someone else's shot scared them all away, etc. We were more concerned about the eggs.
Feeling a little bit like someone who was getting a reward for not having done very much, we piled our plate high with biscuits, sausage, bacon and eggs. This is what we had come for — not for the hunting, but for the gravy. Now, we've had this particular meal before. For a good Southerner it's easy to have it three times a week, but there's something about being in the woods that makes everything taste better. We're not sure if it's the crisp, cool air, the smoky smell of the smoldering fire, or the feeling that you're “roughing it.” But we do know one thing for sure. We'll probably head out to the deer camp more often.
The Observer spends a lot to time talking to the dead. We talked to our grandmother Bessie this weekend after we picked up her copy of “Aunt Jane of Kentucky.” Turns out it's quite witty in an old-fashioned, 1907 kind of way, and the women in it are smarter than the men, and so we told her so. She was old-fashioned and witty herself, reading to us in her teeny house just off the old highway in Jacksonville.
We've been talking to our mother about Obama. She'd be getting a huge kick out of this presidency, the potential of it. We also apologized (again) for sneering at her failings, since last week at the store counter we slid our credit card not through the track but on top of the card reader.
But we like our conversations with the living as well. Like with Ms. Otis, who sells colorful naïve paintings — of people picking cotton, chickens, women in big hats — at the River Market. She asked The Observer the other day, “Dónde va?”
We struggled to answer, but our Spanish isn't so hot. So Ms. Otis taught us some. It was fun, a short cross-cultural leap there in the River Market, chatting with an African-American artist whose Spanish dictionary lay among her country wash-day scenes, and lattes and gyros just a few steps away. Dónde va? In a good direction. We must tell our mother about it.