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Posts Tagged ‘Arkansas’

Horsey Healing

img_0038Everyone has wounds, unique emotional scrapes and scars. Childhood and growing up, family and friends can sometimes  beat you up and leave sore spots that we try to ignore or cover up.

I have a running joke that I cheerfully keep all my emotional skeletons locked in a closest and that’s where I want them to stay.

If we are lucky in life, we  find salves and ointments, activities, places and people who make us feel better as humans.  There are things that can smooth the rough corners and edges of life.

This year I discovered a place, right down the road, whose sole mission is exactly that.  The Loco Bonita Ranch has some horses, a lot of them: and these animals have magical gifts.  They make people feel better.

Seven years ago John and Sonja McCaleb opened their ranch and their hearts to folks who need them. Kids who have to live in “children’s homes” , stroke victims, students with emotional struggles and adults with unnamed, but very real pain have a place and some horses who understand. It’s one of the craziest most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

Sonja, John and their horses are quiet and kind, patient and encouraging.  I watched as ten year old girls, twenty year old men and middle age ladies suddenly found peace as they  brushed a 2,000 pound horse and talked. Years of physical and emotional pain dissolved as the horses nuzzled on them and tried to nibble the buttons on their shirts.

A lovely woman I know had a stroke a few years ago. She hadn’t been near a horse in forty years and all she wanted to do was ride, one more time.  Sonja and John made that happen and it was beautiful. There were tears and laughter and horse poop and the world was right for an hour. Despite her disability she left empowered, knowing she could still do anything she set her mind to.

High strung, anxious, angry teens slow down as they figure out how to brush a horse.  The look into those big dark eyes and breath in the peace of Loco Bonita. Sometimes as John or Sonja shows them how to take care of a horse they tell their stories….for the first time.

Kids who have been abandoned at home and bullied at school discover they have the ability to brush, saddle, bridle and lead an enormous, beautiful horse. And they can ride that huge animal without threats or abuse but with understanding and strength.

John and Sonja refuse to charge for any of their services.  They just won’t do it.

The eighteen horses at Loco Bonita along with the Llama, goats, pigs and dogs do wondrous good in the world.  The ranch is a place of peace and power, of grace and beauty.

Over the past 7 years Sonja estimated they’ve had at least 5,000 folks come through Loco Bonita and every one has been touched and helped by a horse. Both John and Sonja work full time.  They help people because it is their passion and God’s plan. If you would like to visit or make a donation to help feed a horse (they eat a lot) let me know and we’ll make it happen.

Peace be with you,

Diana

hampoland@gmail.com

A Boy In Love

classMy parents fell in love in third grade, during the Great Depression.

On bright fall afternoon, my father, Granger McDaniel, squatted next to Whittington Creek. Patiently, he jiggled a piece of string. There was a tiny piece of bacon attached. He knew most of the crawdads were gone this time of year but he had a feeling. Finally, Granger watched as a crawdad approached the bacon and snapped his claw onto the meat.

“Gotcha!” he said as he raised the string up and removed the crawdad.  He looked closely at the crawdads face and bulging eyeballs. “I’m keeping you for the baby! He’ll think you’re really funny, I bet.”

He shoved the string, bacon and crawdad into his deep front pocket then without hesitation or thought, started running, into the woods and up West Mountain.

There wasn’t a visible trail but Granger knew exactly where he was going. He expected every rock and log. He knew each fork and tree. He’d run this game trail up and over West Mountain so many times he didn’t really have to think as he ran.

West Mountain was steep, but not terribly tall. Granger reached the summit in less than fifteen minutes.  Grinning,  stopped to take in the view for a moment and get his bearings. Then as quickly as he stopped he bolted down the mountain, sliding and skidding, sometimes sling shotting around thin trees to slow himself down.

Exploding out of the tree line, Granger stopped completely to catch his breath. He whipped off his hat, licked his dirty hand and smoothed his dark shaggy hair.

He was standing on the edge of a manicured lawn. A beautiful white colonial house with dark green shutters and trim loomed in front of him. After dusting off his pants with his hat, he suddenly sprinted to the back door and knocked twice.

He saw Louella, in her white uniform peek out the window at him before she opened the door.

“Hi Miss Louella, can Ann play today?”

“No, Dr. Stell said she needs to practice her piano.” She handed him a small plate with two cookies and a glass of milk. “Eat up and leave the plate on the table.”

“Can I take one of the cookies to my baby brother?”

“It’s your cookie, do what you want.” She watched him for a moment then said. “Tie your shoe before you leave so you don’t trip running down the mountain.”

“Yes ma’am,” he said as he shoved an entire cookie in his mouth then slugged down the little glass of milk.

Louella closed the door as Granger dropped the extra cookie into his deep front pocket with the crawdad. He squatted down and tied the lace on his ragged shoe, pulled his cap down tight on his head and started running.

Before my dad died, when he was fifty one, he told us to pour his ashes on West Mountain, because he’d always be running to his girl.

It’s always been said, my mom and dad fell in love in third grade. It wasn’t always easy.

The Problem With The Confederate Flag

flagThere’s no doubt this will disappoint and infuriate some of my readers, but I feel I would be a coward if I didn’t tell you how I feel about the Confederate flag controversy and why.

First, I’m very much a child of the South, the past five or six generations on one side have been in Arkansas, before that Georgia, Virginia and a boat that sailed from England.  On the other side of the family I’ve got four generations from Arkansas, before that Tennesee then Texas where you can still visit the town of Granger, Texas. I’ve been told it was named by my great great great great grandfather Granger Gertrudio McDaniel.   One of my great great grandfathers and several great great uncles fought in the Civil war…for the South.I say all this so you understand there’s not a single yankee in the wood pile.

Still, I’m so relieved the Confederate flags are  being removed from our state capitol buildings. They don’t belong there because that flag does not represent or honor ALL of the people who live in our beautiful state.

I don’t think the Confederate flag should be banned or burned or hidden but it doesn’t belong on our Capitol or in our schools.

Yes, it is our heritage and it’s your right to fly it at home or wear on a tee-shirt. But my heritage is my history….the past. My present, my right now, my at this moment is different.

Right now I have a lot of very dear friends who I love and they are black.  I love them more than I love that flag. I don’t like thinking what my great great great grandfather was doing 175 years ago and what their great great great grandfather’s might have been doing 175 years ago. It makes me sad and embarrassed. And this country belongs to them just as much as it belongs to me.

If the Confederate flag, that brings so many so much pride causes my dear friends one moment of pain or discomfort….well, their love means more to me than pride. I am not ashamed of my relatives, they were brave, strong, Christian people. they thought they were doing the right thing. But they were wrong.

I still like the General Lee, Lynard Skynard and I know every word to Dixie.

Bottom line, my black friends are more important than that flag. They bring me more joy, they help me, make me better and represent my heart more than the confederate flag. I chose those I love.

And the Confederate flag does not define my past and I have other things to be proud of now. If I want to leave a lasting legacy it won’t be the Confederate flag, it will be my children. Sandor, Alexis, Mary and Jack.  They are my battle flag now, through them I will find a way to make the world a better place and I will carry them forever along with the flag of the United States of America.

(If anyone knows a  literacy agent or publisher  help me out.)

Stop Bashing My State!

ArkansasOutlineRecently my oldest daughter, Mary, went on a trip “Up North” and ran into an Arkansas Basher.  This woman hated everything about my wonderful state, and proceeded to tell Mary all about it.  She actually implied her son was too good to even marry anyone from the state of Arkansas.

First, grown ups are supposed to have better manners than that.

But the real issue is more important. ARKANSAS IS FREAKING AWESOME….but most people don’t realize it.

Because so few people every visit Arkansas, most folks don’t realize how beautiful she is. We’ve got gorgeous wild rivers, sweeping grass lands, swamps and beautiful mountains. If  landscape could be schizophrenic we would be the poster child, and that’s a good thing, we are diverse, extremely divers so we have lots of different natural recourses. We have the oldest National Park and some of the purist waters…and razorbacks!

Lots of brilliant and talented people were born in Arkansas. I’m not just talking about President Clinton and Johnny Cash, how about Sonny Liston, Al Green, Neo, Alan Ladd (movie star) Chet Lauck (Lum and Abner) Fay Jones, Glen Campbell, Billy Bob Thornton, Mike Huckabee, John Gresham and Louis Jordan. And don’t forget the guys from Black Oak Arkansas, my favorite, Jimmy Driftwood and Lefty Frizzle.  and I’m not event gonna start listing athletes!

You want brilliant business men, how about Don Tyson, William Dillard and Sam Walton. I’ll stop with that mighty threesome but I could go on. Military geniuses? We got em.  Douglas MacArthur and Wesley Clark, but there are dozens more.

So, we have a tiny state with extraordinary people and lands. What’s not to love? Some of us are trashy some are classy, the same is true in every state.

It’s true sometimes I make fun of other states. I do a little bashing myself. “Thank god for Mississippi”. But the truth is some of the most wonderful people I know come from that state, and some of the greatest talents in America.  I’m now speaking of William Faulkner and Leigh Lorraine Bondurant. So I should follow my own advice and shut up.

Every state  is important and special and part of this great country. When you bash one state it’s like critizizing part of yourself.  Don’t trash talk your own foot, it’s an important part of your body and you need it to walk forward.

 

 

Child Attacked By A Blood Thirsty Goose

gooseWhen my dad, Irvin Granger McDaniel was growing up the great depression was eating America’s lunch.   Jobs were impossible to find, especially for my Grandfather, who was an architect in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  Who builds stuff when the unemployment rate hits horrendous 25 percent? Nobody.

But my dad was a resource full kid in worn out dungarees and managed to find several job though he was only eight. Like lots of little boys at the time he sold magazines and delivered newspapers on his bike. The magazines were ten cents each and he delivered them door to door on his bike.

There was a great big fat lady, Mrs Hunter, who lived  on Whittington Avenue,  just three or four block from his house. She was a problem and very tough to collect from.  In fact, she owed my dad more than a dollar.  He was in trouble with his boss and his mom because that dollar was dinner for the family of six.

Mrs. Hunter also had a great big white goose that lived in her front yard and served as a watch-dog.  Dad hated that goose.Every time he tried to deliver his magazines or collect his ten cents it would attack him, running with it’s huge wings out stretched, honking and biting and hissing. The goose, when truly enraged was bigger than Dad’s bike and scared him so much he got mad and teared up every time he passed the house.

When Mrs. Hunter’s magazine tab hit $1.20, my grandmother looked my dad in the eye and with a baby girl on her hip said something like, “young man, don’t you come home without that dollar twenty, you understand me?”

“Yes ma’am”

“Irvin, we’re not gonna eat tonight if you don’t collect that money. You hear me?”

“Yes ma’am,”

Slowly and full of dread, he peddled off to  deliver all his papers and magazines. Then with absolute fear, he forced himself to turn his bike towards Mrs. Hunters house.  His saddle bags were empty, there was nothing left for him to do but collect his money.  He could hear the goose honking before he could actually see the little house. Irvin dropped his bike outside the front yard gate, picked up a long stick, took a deep breath then hopped the short fence and ran as fast as his short legs could manage. The goose was right behind him flapping mightily and biting his pants legs.

Once Irvin  made it to the front porch he knocked as hard as he could but kept his back pressed to the door so he could wack the pissed off goose every time it approached.

Mrs. Hunter opened the front door but not the screen.

“Yes Irvin?”

“Mrs. Hunter, I need that dollar twenty you owe for magazines.” He could smell liver and onions cooking.

“Irvin McDaniel, you know I don’t have a dollar twenty. You’ll just have to come back some other time.”

“No ma’am. I have to have that money. My momma said I can’t come home till you pay up. You have to pay me Mrs. Hunter.”

“Irvin McDaniel you better not be sassing me or I’ll let your father know in a heart beat.  You can’t tell adults what we will and won’t do. Your father should do something about that mouth of yours young man.”

He was still swatting the goose as he spoke, “Yes ma’am I just have to get the money today or we won’t have dinner. You have to pay me Mrs. Hunter.” As he spoke the goose lunged but he managed to kick it in the neck.

Mrs. Hunter never answered, she just slammed the door closed. Then the goose came in for the third attack. It had Irvin’s pants leg in it’s flashing orange bill. Suddenly rage swept through his seventy pound body, and Irvin McDaniel grabbed that goose by it’s long silky neck then twisted with both hands. …hard. The goose was silent, it’s wings stopped beating the air and without thinking Dad dragged the massive dead bird back to his bike, shoved it into his empty saddle bags and peddled. One of the foul’s great wings flopped outside the bag and dragged on the ground a little.

But Dad didn’t care. He’d taken care of the dinner plans for the family.

 

 

 

 

 

Say The Word….Arkansas…Damn It!!!

mapBowling ball sized hail is falling outside.  The hairs on my arm stand up because a tornado is six miles up the road. Devastation is on my door step so I turn on the TV. The handsome national weather man is standing in front of a map of our beautiful country.  Instantly, I notice the angry red blob covering the south east corner of America.

He smiles and says, “Now this is a dangerous part of the country right now. Death storms are swirling across Texas, West of Oklahoma all the way to Tennessee, and this area above Louisiana is really gonna get wiped off the map.” His hand hangs over the Natural State, over Arkansas….but he never ever says the word. ARKANSAS.

Why don’t weather men ever say the name of our state? It’s bizarre and kind of hurts my feelings.  Arkansas is part of the club, we pay taxes, we have Wal-Marts, we vote and have guns and we know the secret hand-shake. But weather men ignore us constantly.

We are more than “the area under Missouri”  or “this expanse from Dallas to Memphis”.  That’s Arkansas you moron. Why can’t you just say the name of the state?

We were granted statehood back in 1836, so it’s not like we’re the new kid in class. You should be able to remember our name.

It’s true, we have an obesity problem, and a poverty problem, an education problem and a football problem but we are a great state.  Lot’s of awesome people came from Arkansas, including Al Green, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Sonny Liston and Bill Clinton.

So when the zombie apocalypse begins and Little Rock and Hot Springs are taken over, when the country is flooded and a thirty foot wall of water rolls over Malvern and Bismarck, when a freak lightening storm sets the entire freaking state on fire and we are nothing but a scalded, smoldering wasteland….say our name! It’s ARKANSAS!!

Silly Little Fool…A Bubba Story

boy  I am a big believer in the power of family stories. I think they help us all remember who we really are and where we came from. You can lose everything from guitars to dogs but nobody can take your history.

Fortunately I’ve been blessed with a very “oral” family. We yammer on and on. For generations we’ve been telling stories. (When I married Alex there was a cosmic hiccup in the universe because he was the first quiet member of our family in 200 years)

So, here’s one of my favorites from my grandmother Bubba.

Bubba, who’s real name was Ruth Ross, was born in Kingsland, Arkansas in 1895. She was the middle child of three and her brothers were named,(I swear I’m not making these up) Egbert and Delbert. When this story took place Delbert was around 12, Ruth was 8 and Egbert was probably 6.

Kingsland isn’t far from the town of Fordyce, Arkansas and one day, when Ruth was eight her father decided she was old enough to ride the train, with her younger brother, alone, to Kingsland, where Delbert would meet them at the station.

Her father, who was a small man with a gigantic mustache, gave her a dollar for the tickets and put them on the train with their suitcases, because they were supposed to spend the week with their Aunt.

Both the children were dressed up of course. Ruth was wearing a puffy yellow dress with a white sash and six year old Egbert had on his suit, suspenders and a cap. My grandmother was 98 the last time she told this story. Nearly blind, she would close her eyes and rub my hand as she envisioned her baby brother. She would lose herself in the memory and I stayed silent.

The conductor, dressed in black, came around and took the dollar from the children. The train started rolling and they waited patiently for him to return with their change. The train began chugging along, faster and faster, and still he didn’t come back with their change.

After fifteen minutes or so, the train began to slow down  to stop at the Kingsland station and still, the conductor hadn’t returned with their change.

Passengers got on and off the train and finally, the conductor appeared with their eighty cents. But the train was already pulling out from the Fordyce station.

So Ruth, grabbed Egbert’s little hand and they both jumped from the slow moving train.

Together they rolled and tumbled down the embankment, their suitcases popped open and all their clothes flew out. A shocked crowed gathered around then oldest brother Delbert appeared. He’s been waiting for them and was obviously annoyed. He pulled Egbert,who was crying, to his feet and as he brushed the dirt and grass off his suit said, “You silly little fool, that’s what you get for following a woman”.

Bubba, Cars and Love in Fordyce, Arkansas

Car1902-1My grandmother,Ruth Ross Stell (aka  Bubba), was born in New Edinburg, Arkansas in 1895.  New Edinburg is right outside of Fordyce in the ‘Big Woods” of Dallas County.(For those of you who live outside of Arkansas I know that tells you absolutely nothing.) If you live in East Texas, you know what the middle of no where is, so this story is for you guys.

She was almost 101 when she died. During her life time Bubba saw the invention of everything from airplanes and electric can openers to televisions and dishwasher . When Bubba was a girl and dating my grandfather he played foot ball for Ouachita Baptist University wearing a leather football helmet.

But one of my favorite ‘Bubba stores” is from 1902 or 1903. Bubba was just seven or eight years old.  One afternoon she and her father took their wagon to Fordyce. There was a great deal of commotion in the center of town.  Everyone lined up along the streets and waited.  Bubba said, “off in the distance I could see a cloud of dust rolling towards us. It was like a little tornado.” And suddenly a car appeared with spoked wheels and no top. The driver was wearing goggles and a duster, the crowed shouted and cheered, in awe of the rolling buggy. The driver smiled and waved at the folks.  And then it was gone.

Bubba didn’t see another car for two or three years, because who drove to Fordyce, Arkansas in 1902?

After watching the automobile pass, Bubba and her father climbed back into their wagon and headed home.

Lots of things have changed, computers, electric shock collars for dog, neon signs and Swiffers are all a big part of our lives.But some things remain the same, somethings have endured the test of time. I just watched Kate and Prince William carry their new baby boy out of the hospital in London. The expressions of parents with a new born baby hasn’t changed. The wonder in a child’s eye when you plug the Christmas tree in for the first time hasn’t changed. The nervous feeling a boy feels when he’s asking a pretty girl out, hasn’t changed. And the desperate, “no holds barred” love I have for my children is just like that of parents for thousands of years. Somethings never change. And these are the important things in life.

Louella and The Hot Springs Debutante Ball …It’s Historic

arlingtonI was, without a doubt, the world’s worst debutante in Hot Springs Arkansas history.  Thinking about it makes me grimace a little now.

I was invited to be a debutante because my mother was one and my family constantly hosted parties for girls.  But the timing was terrible and my mom, Ann Stell McDaniel, always wanted to make a point. Her grandstanding and gift for theatrics was the only good thing to come out of my debutante season.

I didn’t want to be a debutante but my mom said I had to do it, for my grandmothers.  I was in college in upstate New York at the time. So mom told me to go shopping alone in Ottawa, Canada. I didn’t know what the hell kind of white gown to buy. I ended up getting a silky mermaid/Grecian toga gown rather than a great big poofy antebellum wedding dress.

The other girls looked virginal, I looked like a lounge singer.

My father had died the year before, so my brother, Granger, was supposed be be my escort.  Unfortunately, Granger was wanted for questioning by the FBI at the time. They wanted to visit with him about a boat load of something that left the Island of Belize. So, Granger was a little tense at the time and
Here’s the great part of the story, though.  When we gave the debutante committee a list of those we wanted invited to the Ball we included Louella Thomas (who had raised me) and Iolla Jacobs. Both women had been part of our family for more than thirty years. Mom and I wanted them there. The committee did not. We were asked us to reconsider. Apparently African Americans had never been invited to The Ball. mom was kind of annoyed.  Still Grang and I made it through the dance lessons and cotillion. He kept a bottle in the car and made me drive him around all week.

Ann Stell was in her element, a justified, righteous war. With seething eloquence she told them Louella and Iolla would be sitting right  next to her at The Ball.  And  when I presented her with a red rose she wanted me to give one to Louella too. They didn’t’ like that at all but had to relent. They knew my mother was brilliant and noisy.

Louella and I went shopping for her white dress together.  Mom wanted it to match her own.  I remember being in awe of the contrast between Louella’s beautiful ebony skin and the creamy fabric. We laughed and giggled and she called me “Her Miss Pooh”. At the time she seemed ancient but I realize now she was probably only sixty five or seventy  years old.

The night of the ball Louella and Iolla sat next to my mom in the Arlington Ball Room. Granger looked beautiful and I took his arm. He walked me across the room and I presented my mother and Louella each with a red rose. Louella was crying, mom was smiling.

After the Ball there was  a party. I caught up with Iolla and Louella as they were leaving. Two beautiful black ladies in an ocean of white and red.

“Hey, you can’t leave yet.  You have to stay and dance.” I said innocently, sincerely and stupidly.

Louella just  smiled and hugged me.  “Find your brother to walk us to the car,Baby Girl, I think we’ve done enough for one night.”

 

 

The Power Of A Brutal Song

  Sometimes my kids do something so unexpected and extraordinary,  my understanding of the world changes just a little.

Jack has been a musician for years. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad (there was a song called “We Need More Hot Asian Chicks) and sometimes it’s ugly. The first time I went to one of his shows six or eight years a go he came out on stage in a tuxedo and by the end of the first song he’d stripped down to his boxers.

Now my son, who never stopped playing and writing music, is in Nashville.  He has joined forces with some astonishingly good musicians..they are Natural Outlaws.

Six months ago he called me with some lyrics he couldn’t get out of his head. As I drove he read some of them to me. “I just want to make you proud. I hope you hear me I’m singing awful loud. This old moonshine’s got no decency…”

Listening to him, I was kind of lost. I couldn’t figure out where he was going with the song.  All his  other  songs and lyrics had typically revolved around guns, whiskey and women. Pork chops and gravy music, that’s witty and evil and dangerous and makes you want to do double shots and dance with construction workers. Not a good thing for a middle aged mom, but fun. 

Over the next few months he mentioned this particular song in passing. The band was working on it in the studio. Their seemingly possessed drummer Matt, who went to Berkley, and looks and plays like a red-headed Viking,  sounded amazing.  Dan, who has played classical piano since he was five has be “ruint”. He now had some nasty and trashy honky tonk shit working in it the song.

A couple of months ago Jack sent me the rough cut of Make You Proud.  It gave me goose bumps, something that had never happened when I listened to his songs. I was stunned by the beauty and complexity of the entire arrangement.

Ryan is the bands guitarist and his music is generally very physical. It’s “boy rock and roll” verging on country brutality.  And Clark’s bass work changes your heart rhythm. Most Natural Outlaw songs  will land you in prison but this one was different.

This song made me stop and think and feel.I had to listen to it three or four times to understand all the soaring layers. What the hell was going on with those boys?

And the Natural Outlaws have finally given me permission to share it.

It’s the first song on their new webpage. http://www.naturaloutlawmusic.com/

I don’t know what will happen with the Natural Outlaws or this song. But this song does it. This song makes me proud.