Favorite

The Observer goes to Washington - not Old Washington - Arkansas 

The Observer made a trip to Washington, Ark., a couple of weekends ago, the closest thing to Williamsburg that you'll find in Arkansas. The Confederate capital, now a state park, has restored and imported from nearby several houses from the early 19th century so that now the park is beginning to resemble the town it once was. The state's largest magnolia tree (planted in 1839) is there; it has spread its limbs so far into the road that runs by it that the road's been closed. Trees need preserving too. The horse-drawn buggies that now give the tourists rides can pass by, but not cars. You can park nearby, though, and walk over to stand under this champion.

It's Washington, we're told, not Old Washington. But we'll always call it Old Washington because of our halcyon days there in the 1980s with the amateur archeological crews that dug in back yards of the extant historic homes looking for where the kitchens and wells and privies once stood. The pace of the town mimics the 1800s and delivers instant relaxation. The food at the quaint Tavern is approximately 1,000 times better than you'll find at any other state park eatery. There's a courthouse and a WPA-era gym and a forge and the Bowie knife and the oldest Methodist church in Arkansas. Service starts at 9 a.m. on Sunday. If you get there early, you can ring the bell to summon the faithful.

We got to stay in an 1840s cabin owned by one of those bell-ringing, history-loving Washingtoners. The cabin was hauled to his farm from a place called Blue Bayou near Lockesburg. We ate by candlelight. We drank coffee from old transfer print china. We studied the pasture, with its baaing sheep and bleating goats. Other historic cabins, a barn. Honking geese, some ducks. So Constable. Except for the camel. 

The camel came to the farm a couple of years ago from Missouri. Don't ask us to explain that. There was a giraffe once too, but it expired. The camel, called something that sounded like Saeed, is an amazing creature that makes amazing noises. It did not spit at us. It did look at us funny.

It strikes the people in Washington as funny too. They call the farm — what else? — Camelot. 

There will be another archeological dig there starting this weekend, in the town's now empty mercantile block. You can go down and take a peek and see what the state Archeological Survey, powered by the amateur Archeological Society, is adding to what we know about Washington. It's one of the great things about Arkansas, this reconstructed town. And there's a legal limit to the snow there, we hear. 

A few weeks back, The Observer wrote about designated driving our cuz and a friend out to Jimmy Doyle's Country Club on I-40, an old-line joint that might be the area's purest remaining expression of the country/western honky tonk. We use that phrase with all the love and respect of one who craves The Authentic. As seen in that dispatch, we loved the vibe of the place in general, with its big dance floor, neon, back room full of pool tables, and laid-back clientele, but had especially good things to say about the band. They rocked 1970s outlaw country and bluesy numbers all night, with the lead vocalist — a bearded, 6-foot-5 mountain of a guy in a black suit — pulling off the greatest cover of "Blue Spanish Eyes" (including the falsetto high notes) we've ever heard, while simultaneously managing to be one of the best guitar players we've ever seen live and in person.

Over the weekend, we got a call from one of his friends. The guitarist is named Wendell Craig, and he's part of the Arkansas River Bottom Band, the standing, Saturday night house band for Jimmy Doyle's. Craig has been kicking around Arkansas music for years, the friend told us. Back in the day, he used to be an Elvis impersonator. Though we're pretty sure he's got a few inches of height on The King, we'd still pay good folding cash to see him T.C.B. in the lamb chop sideburns and the spangly jumpsuit.

If you get a chance, get out to the club some Saturday night, pay your $5 cover, buy a pitcher of beer, and catch Wendell and the rest of the band. They take requests (if it's Waylon, Willie, Johnny, Hank or Elvis, they can probably swing it) and they're pretty dang fine.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • I'm sorry

    I'm sorry we stood by while your generation's hope was smothered by $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, just because you were trying to educate yourselves enough to avoid falling for the snake oil and big talk of a fascist.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • Show and tell

    The Observer is an advocate of the A+ method of integrating the arts and using creativity to teach across the curriculum, an approach that the Thea Foundation, with help from the Windgate Charitable Foundation, is offering to schools across the state.
    • Feb 25, 2016
  • Yawp

    The Observer has been in a funk lately for a number of reasons: revulsions and slights, both foreign and domestic. We get that way most years as the winter drags on, once the tinsel and colored lights of Christmas drop into the rearview, soon after we come off the New Year's Day hangover.
    • Mar 24, 2016

Most Shared

  • Conspiracy theorists

    Back in 2000, I interviewed Rev. Jerry Falwell on camera in connection with a documentary film of "The Hunting of the President," which Joe Conason and I wrote.
  • The health of a hospital

    The Medicaid expansion helped Baxter County Regional Medical Center survive and thrive, but a federal repeal bill threatens to imperil it and its patients.
  • Virgil, quick come see

    There goes the Robert E. Lee. But the sentiment that built the monument? It's far from gone.
  • Real reform

    Arkansas voters, once perversely skeptical of complicated ballot issues like constitutional amendments, have become almost comical Pollyannas, ratifying the most shocking laws.
  • That modern mercantile: The bARn

    The bARn Mercantile — "the general store for the not so general," its slogan says — will open in the space formerly occupied by Ten Thousand Villages at 301A President Clinton Ave.

Latest in The Observer

  • Summer resolutions

    The Observer likes making resolutions at New Year's. We don't manage to keep any of them other than the one we always start with — "Stay Above Ground" — but we do like making them.
    • May 25, 2017
  • More bad news

    As we write this, the Little Rock City Board is readying an ordinance to make it exponentially harder for charities to feed poor and homeless people in city parks.
    • May 18, 2017
  • Art imitates life

    If you're not watching "The Handmaid's Tale" on Hulu, you should be, if your heart can stand it.
    • May 11, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Paddling the Fourche Creek Urban Water Trail

Paddling the Fourche Creek Urban Water Trail

Underutilized waterway is a hidden gem in urban Little Rock

Event Calendar

« »

May

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Abuse again at Arkansas juvenile lockup

    A guard was fired after choking a child at the Alexander Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center. It’s the latest in a long history of mistreatment at the facility.

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation