Good Sam RV Travel Guide & Campground Directory
Ozarks of Arkansas
Enjoying the food, music, and culture of Yesteryear
It was in the early 1990s that I came across a magazine article telling about a little town called Mountain View, nestled in the hills of Stone County, Ark. It related how life there was as if in a time capsule, not influenced by computers or traffic.
I clipped the article and filed it away. Not too long ago when I happened across the article, my interest was rekindled and we took that trip back to a mountain culture that is still pure and traditional.
Land of Simple Pleasures
Here in the Ozarks of Arkansas, the land is a natural preserve – its beauty being isolated. Rugged limestone bluffs dropping into valleys mingle along with a tangle of hardwood forests and misty mountains. In other areas it is flat, with mostly river-bottom terrain. Clean, fresh air and clear streams are enjoyed by a people who have lived by their own labor, craft and art. Their pleasures are simple and homespun.
The legends and music were handed down from grandparents to grandchildren, with the home also serving as the school. On cold winter nights, after the work was done, songs were sung around the fireplace; during warmer weather, the folks gathered to sit on their front porch. It is this sort of landscape and tradition that helped to freeze Stone County in time.
In the 1940s, government workers made their way over bumpy roads to check on the people living in Stone County.
They considered these folks poor when they learned that wages were $400 a year. But most everyone in Stone County had huge gardens and hams in the smokehouse. They had their hard work, strong family ties, religious faith and music inherited from their ancestors, who had crossed the ocean in the 19th century. They crafted everything they needed or used, including their instruments. They were proud of themselves and life was good.
In the 1950s, a Stone County schoolteacher by the name of James Corbett Morris loved to compose and sing his own songs, so he decided to write songs that would help his students remember history.
Living near Mountain View, Morris happened to catch the interest of folks from Nashville, Tenn. Soon, a big music publisher came to hear this fellow sing. Jimmy signed a contract with RCA and before long his songs, like “The Battle of New Orleans” and “Tennessee Stud,” were at the top of the music charts. He became known as Jimmy Driftwood and was a regular on the Grand Ole Opry from 1959 until 1963.
In the early 1960s, country folk were beginning to think about the local crafts they had been making all their lives and wondered if other people would be interested in them.
They decided to hold a fair and sell their wares. Jimmy was asked to invite some of his famous music friends to come and play at the fair, but Jimmy said, “People can hear them anytime; you want the local people.” Still doubtful of anyone coming to hear the local folks, the event planners finally agreed ... and 20,000 people came.
Ozark Folk Center
An idea was born, and with the help of Jimmy Driftwood and others in the area, plans were made for a folk center where others could come and learn about crafts and music.
Locals sold the idea of an Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View as a good way to preserve a disappearing part of national heritage. Congress gave them a $2.1 million grant with loans to complete the package. In 1973, the Ozark Folk Center, on 80 acres, opened as an Arkansas State park. The center blends in with the 900-acre park surrounding it. Laid- back and easy-speaking, folks here project the manner of their ancestors to help you step back in time.
The grounds of the Ozark Folk Center house a crafts village, where demonstrations and daytime music programs are offered. We learned how candles, lye soap, brooms, knives, nails, furniture, baskets and buckets were made.
At the Country Kitchen, we tasted hoecakes cooked on the wood-burning stove. Folks used to take the simple cornmeal mix along with them when working in the fields and build a fire at lunchtime, cooking on their hoes.
We stopped by the Old School House to check out the rules and regulations of that time. Strolling through the herb garden, we noticed plants with the names of alkanet, bergamot, mugwort and pennyroyal. Each had a use in the family home. Weaving, spinning and quilt-making were also a part of daily living.
Music and More
Gus, at the Music and More Shop, played a tune on a homemade cigar-box fiddle, and we learned how musical instruments had been made from whatever was handy.
Down the way a bit, we met Audrey at the Old Time Print Shop – a lovely, outgoing woman with a singing voice to match. An array of antique printing equipment filled the room. Audrey printed us a free ticket. When we asked for what, she replied, “Absolutely nothing.”
At the Ozark Folk Center Theater, traditional acoustic instruments of the Ozarks, such as banjo, guitar, fiddle, mandolin, autoharp, mountain dulcimer, picking bow and spoons, are used. (No electrical cords are found zigzagging across this stage floor.)
Add to that jig dancing, clogging, square-dancing, ballads and gospel songs learned in the homes of family and friends, and you have an evening of wonderful entertainment.
Camping is available next door at the Ozark RV Park, where more friendly folks wait to greet you. There are other campgrounds nearby, and most offer a pickin’ shed where you can join others with a musical talent to share. Check your 2012 Woodall’s North American Campground Directory for a complete listing of campgrounds in the area.
Two more facilities at the center are the Ozark Cultural Resource Center, which is open year-round and houses thousands of resources for the study of the history and folklore here. If you get hungry, try the Skillet Restaurant, offering a menu of traditional foods.
We’ll not forget Mountain View, where life has changed little from the early settlement days. Folks sit and enjoy music on the square, played by local musicians. This is where you will hear the voices of people enjoying a little bit of yesteryear.
For Information Visit:
Mountain View Chamber of Commerce
The Ozark Folk Center