Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Move to Arkansas


When I was young, "Little House on the Prairie" was in prime time and I would never miss an episode, so when my folks announced at dinner (that's supper for us Ozark Mountain folk) one night that we were moving to Arkansas, well, some of the eleven of us were happy, but some were less than happy. I was one of those that was pretty okay with the idea, since I was young, nearly 13, and thought it would be a grand adventure! We actually thought Arkansas was full of hillbilly's who sat on porches of old broken down homes, with their guns and scratching coon dogs. Ok, yes, you can find a bit of that here, but it's not ALL like that.

It took us five days to travel from California to Arkansas and this is pretty much how it went...

June 27, 1977

My mom started a journal of our move to Arkansas. I have that journal. I love reading her recordings of our experiences. The 27th was a Monday, and we had everything we owned loaded up in a huge trailer that was to be towed by a friend of my Dad's, Dave Walker, who was a Californian, but should've been an Arkie. He was a mountain man if I ever met one.

The people who had bought our house were supposed to move in that day and my parents had let us kids sleep at friends and neighbors houses. I think Dave was supposed to have been ready to leave out by midday or so, but he didn't show until about 4:00 PM. So, we sat on the lawn across the road for hours watching the new occupants of our house move in... that was the only home I'd ever lived in so I didn't much like watching. But, we finally got on the road with a Ford van (pulling a camping trailer), a Volkswagen beetle, and Dave and the big trailer with all our furniture and belongings in it... oh, and two dogs. We settled at Yuma, AZ for the night at around 4:00 AM ... I slept in the front seat of the Volkswagen (I remember that for some reason... probably because it wasn't very comfortable for sleeping!).


June 28, 1977

We left Yuma, AZ and made it as far as Deming, NM. That day was memorable because our dog, Mo, decided he liked Tucson, AZ, and jumped out of the window of the Volkswagen on the interstate and ran for freedom. We never saw him again. He's been affectionately called "Kamikaze Mo" ever since. I believe that is the same day that I was riding along with Dave in the truck and he had to stop at a weigh station. He had a loaded pistol in the cab and before we got out he shoved it in my very large purse I was carrying (I'd never carried a purse before that, but it was a traveling gift from my grandmother). He warned me to not "play with it, or let anyone see me with it." I was Bonnie to his Clyde!

Bonnie Clyde

June 29, 1977

I rode with Dave again that day, because I'm sure I never told my parents about the gun. So, we set off on the road again... Bonnie and Clyde. This was a big day for me because Dave was getting a bit tired from all the driving so he took a little side trip to a bar in El Paso, TX. It didn't take the bartender long to let Dave know he couldn't have this minor in the bar, so I believe he got it "to go". Now, remember that I was just 13 and a lot has changed in my life since then, but I will admit now that I did smoke unfiltered Camel cigarettes and drank a couple of cans of Pearl beer with Dave during my Bonnie & Clyde spree!

My sister, Suzanne, rode with us for a while that day. I think this was the day we got tired of being without modern conveniences and so when we stopped at a little diner, Suz and I went in to the bathroom and sat on the counter top and washed our feet and basically took a modest sponge bath. Pretty tacky, I know.

While we were traveling, Dave started getting sleepy again, and decided to pull off the road to take a NAP. So, he kicked Suz and I out of the truck and slept while we STOOD out on the interstate... with truck drivers honking at my 16 year old sister in short shorts for an hour or so. Suz kept trying to lift me up so I could grab the CB and try to reach my parents, but Dave caught us and locked us out. Needless to say, that was the last time I road with Dave. So long, Clyde.


June 30, 1977

We left Abilene early in the morning and stopped at Lake Weatherford around noon. We all swam and took a break from all the traveling. We left there around 6:30 PM again and drove for several hours. Dad decided to stop for an hour or so for a nap during the wee hours of the morning. After hitting the road again, we lost Dave (again), so my parents decided they would just keep driving on without him assuming he'd catch up at some point.

Arkansas sign

July 1, 1977

We crossed the Arkansas border, I believe, at Fort Smith around 6:30 AM. We stopped at a tourist information center where we fixed breakfast and stayed for about 3 1/2 hours. My brother, Robert, and I went inside the center and a nice southern lady spoke to us asking, "what's you'ens names?" and something like "do y'all want an Arkansas Traveler sticker??" We honestly couldn't understand a word that woman said. We had to ask her to repeat herself several times (and she actually did a bit of sign language) before we could fairly interpret. She might as well have been speaking french, because we couldn't understand her "accent". It was so funny! (Robert and I had a good laugh about it today when we were recalling it!)

Dave finally caught up with us and we made it to the realtor's office in Yellville about 4:30 PM that day and then finally arrived at our land in Pyatt around 6:30 that evening. My Dad pulled into a big empty field and parked... and this is where the adventure begins... our pioneer days ... our very own "Little House in the Ozarks".


Betsy said...

That was truly an adventure!!!! I totally enjoyed reading that. Wow--that is so great that your mom kept a journal so you can really remember all those details!

I don't know if you like to read, but I have a book for you that your story reminded me of. It's called The Glass Castle. It's too long to explain here, but if you get the chance, look it up. I bet you would like it!

Kelly said...

You have had a VERY interesting life!!!! I can't believe you were drinking beer and smoking at 13!!! HA! I'm pretty sure you would have killed Tyler or Kale if they did the same. I just can't imagine being in that big of a family and driving all that way for a new place to live.
That makes me sad about Mo.

His Doorkeeper said...

See how Mama's journaling helps now that you are older and are interested in what you were doing when you were young?

What a wise woman!I can't imagine the possible anxiousness in her heart moving so far away with so many children to care for!

mer@lifeat7000feet said...

Hi there...I clicked over from Kelly's blog. I'm an Arkansas girl, but I live in Colorado now. We're actually heading to Arkansas in a few days, and we'll be traveling all over the state to see family! I'm sorta/kinda dreading the heat and humidity.

Anyway, I wanted to tell you that I loved this post! How fabulous that your mom kept a journal of your travels. I'm passionate about journaling, on my blog and in our family scrapbooks. I hope it will be sometime my children look back on one day with gratitude!