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Posts Tagged ‘Hot Springs’

Hot Springs Rotarians Learn about Women

Ann Stell on The Back of The Couch

Recently Liz Robbins at the Garland County Historical Society discovered an article written in the Sentinel Record. My mom, Ann Stell McDaniel, spoke to the Rotary Club at the Arlington Hotel. According to the paper 25 men were present including Ray Smith Sr., Congressman Norrell and Rotary President J. King.
For those who don’t know anything about my mother she was a beautiful, unconventional firebrand.
The article was entitled “Rotarians Hear Woman’s Side in Battle of Sexes”

“Mrs. McDaniel, frequently heard on radio and television is the wife of Architect I. Granger McDaniel. She covered her subject with quotations from Genesis down through Shakespeare and Dorothy Parker.
“If we sometimes seem to have an inferiority complex,” she said, “just remember that the creation of woman was done in an awful hurry.
“God took an entire day to create the birds and said that was good. He took another day to create the fishes, and called that good, but man was not satisfied. So God created woman one afternoon while Adam was asleep.”
Her them was that woman’s entire life is wrapped up in pleasing man and she quoted a sheaf of magazine articles such as “Are you Keeping up With your Husband?” To prove it,as well as tracing various fashion trends she had undergone to make herself attractive.
“Man, has seen no need for changing himself,” she said. “Go down on Bath House Row and see him wrapped in a sheet and there is very little difference from the garb of a Roman senator.”
Spiced with rich humor and histrionic ability, her talk was a novelty that rated high in Rotary entertainment.”

The date was Wednesday, September 21… 1955.
She was something.

Romantic Gazpacho

Today, as my husband, Alex, fell asleep on the couch watching Michigan football, I made a batch of Gazpacho. It’s a cold Spanish soup with pureed tomatoes as a base then peppers, onion, celery and cucumbers.

Twenty five years ago, when Alex and I were first dating, he was trying to renovate his five acre redneck ranch. (We still live in the same house) Alex is a chef, not a contractor, so it was slow going. I called him, “Hey, since you bought dinner last night I’m bringing you a surprise lunch.”

He sounded excited that I was coming out to check out his house and bring lunch. He gave me explicit directions and the address.

I stopped at a little café in Hot Springs and bought some Gazpacho and fancy grilled cheese sandwiches. I felt very sophisticated and confident that Alex, the handsome, swarthy chef would be impressed.

Finding the entrance of our driveway has always been nearly impossible. It’s like finding the entrance to Narnia. With my gazpacho and sandwiches on the front seat I drove past the driveway over and over, finally I drove four miles back to a little gas station and asked to use the phone

Frustrated and embarrassed I called Alex in tears. He laughed at me gently and said he would stand at the bottom of the driveway, so I couldn’t miss the turn.

We sat down in the living room and I tried not to show my concern when I looked around the house. It was a wreck. There were so many half finished projects and power tools everywhere.

But I proudly presented my lunch. I poured the Gazpacho into bowls, carefully placed the crotons on top and handed Alex a plastic spoon. then I unwrapped our delicate little grilled cheese sandwiches.

Alex smiled at me, “Wow, thank you. This is great.” He took a bite of soup. “It’s really good. You want a beer?”

We shared a cold can of Bush and ate lunch while he told me all the things he planned for the house. He ate the Gazpacho so fast I barely got any and that made me so happy.

Alex and I have been married for 23 years now. We’ve raised four kids, buried dogs and watched a lot of football. What I didn’t know all those years ago was that Alex absolutely hates tomatoes. He picks them out of everything. When he saw me making Gazpacho today, he gave me a hug and whispered “gross.”

Love, it’ll make you do all kinds of crazy stuff.

A Miracle on Central

Yesterday while listening to Alan Alda discuss his Parkinson’s diagnosis and I remembered a miraculous story from a long long time ago. If you fact check this story I’m sure it’s loaded with inaccuracies but it’s a true story.

My grandfather, Dr. Jack Stell, was a surgeon in Hot Springs, Arkansas. He studied at Ouachita Baptist University and Tulane, then opened his practice here, between 1915 and 1920. As a surgeon at St. Josephs’ , he was loved, even adored by his nurses, who were all nuns at the time, because it was a Catholic hospital.

As a Baptist in the early 1900s my grandfather was not a fan of the Catholic church and he did not approve of the Pope’s power or position. But he loved, respected and needed  his nurse-nuns.

During the early 1940s something started happening. Many of the local surgeons were enlisted during WWII and working to put soldiers back together elsewhere. So, there something of a shortage of surgeons in Hot Springs. Daddy Jack (the grandkids name for him) was extremely busy.  He and his habit clad nurses worked almost constantly.  But, Daddy Jack started noticing that something was wrong.  Tiny tremors in  his fingers then hand hands, began frustrating him. At first, no one noticed. But he knew something was terribly wrong.

After a year or so he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s . But Hot Springs and the hospital still desperately needed his surgical talents.

When I was a little girl, in the 60’s, my mother, and ancient withered nuns, would tell me stories about my grandfather. Old nuns in  dark  heavy habits , would  take me into their offices, give me ice cream or pudding from the hospital kitchen and tell me stories.  The one repeated to me so many times was simple and beautiful.

Daddy Jack told his nurses about the diagnosis. Together, they decided before each operation, they would all kneel, on the cold tile floor in the operating room, and they would pray, as one, for his hands to be steady and true. The Baptist doctor and Catholic nuns joined hands and asked for a miracle.

God listened. For almost two years Dr. Jack Stell and his nuns prayed and continued with the life saving surgeries.

Once Hot Springs was repopulated with a few more surgeons, Dr. Jack Stell retired to his home on Prospect avenue.

As a little girl, I would eat my pudding, listening to the old nuns as they wiped their eyes with handkerchiefs they miraculously produced from their sleeves.

Today, I understand the power of their faith, love and conviction. Back then, I only knew I had to sit and listen to their stories in order to get any goodies.

 

When a Couple Crosses the Line and Turns…..OLD!!

Saturday morning, I have to drive 14 year old Sandor to his job at 10:30 am.  He’s a busboy and a crazy popular pizza restaurant.  But today is different, I’ve convinced my husband, Alex, the sometimes curmudgeon, to drive with me and stop by the wonderful Hot Springs Farmers Market afterwards.

The top is down, I have a convertible, the morning is beautiful and our son, Sandor is in the back seat.

Alex looks over at me. ” I can’t believe you made me wear this sweatshirt.”

“Come on, it’s soft and nice and new, what’s the problem?”

“I like my old red sweatshirt. I don’t care what people think.”

“”You look really nice, though,” I pleaded.

“Sandor, she’s being mean to me.”

I rolled my eyes, looked at him and smiled, “What? I’m making you go to the Farmer’s Market on a beautiful Saturday morning. That’s so awful?  I’m sounding like a Jewish Grandmother, right?”

“What ever, the Elite Eight, NCAA,  first game starts in three hours.”

I playfully smacked him. “What ever, I’ll have you home two hours before tip off. Just enjoy the morning.”

And then were were silent for a moment.  I looked in the rear view mirror and locked eyes with Sandor. He smiled at me. “What? What are you grinning about?” I asked him.

He just shook his head, “You guys are adorable.”

We got Sandor to his job on time.  I stopped the car and looked at Alex, “Adorable. He called us adorable. You know what that means?”

Alex pulled a cigarette out, waiting to get out of the car so he could smoke it. “Hell yeah, he’s calling us old.”

“Exactly!” I said.

“It’s ok, we still got it,” Alex said to me, trying to dismiss the fact Sandor called us “adorable.”

Alex and I now comfortably fall into old people grumbling, bickering, bitching.

I looked at him. “We still got it?”

“Hell yeah,” he replied ruefully, like a dude from The Outsiders.

“Well ok then. Let’s tear up the Farmer’s Market.”

*Apparently I will never ever, ever get back on Google Adsense, cause nine years ago I messed up.  That means I’ll probably never make money from this blog.  So….you comments and support mean everything…otherwise why would I write.  Let me know what you think. Please.

 

 

 

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.

Our First Date….A Hot Springs History Lesson

alex and me (2)Alex and I met in 1991 or 92.  I’d just started The Springs Magazine and he was a hot shot young chef in Hot Springs. I turned him down a couple of times cause he was a player then finally relented.

Back then Alex was a stud, lean (he’d been a swimmer at Michigan State) long curly black hair and lots of black chest hair. He was swarthy and smooth.

I relented and said yes to date.  I remember I was wearing a short black gauzy dress, it was mid-summer and so hot.  We went to Brewskies on Ouachita Avenue first. Mike Stanley was playing with Danny Smith and I realized Hot Springs had amazing blues.

Then we drove in separate cars to the restaurant cause I was being cautious.We met at The Majestic, an old restaurant, not really cool, but he was a chef and seemed to know what he was doing. We sat in the first booth, closest to the door, under the thick floral curtains.

majesticI thought it was incredibly cool when Alex left me and walked right into the kitchen to talk to his friend Butch, who was running things that night.

He ordered some kind of smoked trout dip as an appetizer. I don’t remember the rest of the meal. but our waitress knew Alex and was obviously flirting. He was really handsome.

After dinner we walked out and he stood in front of me looking so hot. I thought he was going to kiss me. Instead he reached into his jacket pocket and handed me something wrapped in a napkin.

It was a quartz crystal, three points and incredibly clear.

He said, “I collect them. I found that one in Mt. Ida.”

Oooookay.

Then I waited, smiling, thinking he would lean in and kiss me.

But he didn’t. Instead he walked around and opened the door of my Toyota. I climbed in, waited, then drove away thinking. ‘Either he doesn’t dig me or he’s a total weirdo.”

Twenty something years latter we’re sitting here watching The Big Bang Theory waiting to pick up child number four from Taekwondo. We’re good.

So next time you drive past the burned out remains of the Majestic Hotel remember some great romances were born there with reasonable women and handsome weirdos.

 

Almost A Love Story

valMy mom, Ann Stell McDaniel, hated this story, but in honor of Valentine’s Day I’m going to tell it.

My parents met and “fell in love” in third grade at Jones School, in Hot Springs, Arkansas. From day one until my dad died it was a beautiful war zone, a romantic, tumultuous roller coaster ride. Even the first year, when they were just eight years old was brutal.

My mom’s family had money.  She was an only child and her father was a surgeon at St. Joseph’s. In the early thirties they had just moved into a big, beautiful two story home on Prospect Avenue.

For my father’s family money was tight. His family lived on Whittington Avenue, on the other side of West Mountain.  Because there were lots of mouths to feed, Dad always had several jobs to help the family. In February of 1931 he was working as a stock boy at a drug store down town.  Because he was only eight he couldn’t handle the cash register but he cleaned up and made deliveries.

That year there was an enormous box of candy in the front window for Valentine’s Day.  Dad swore it was almost as big as he was. He couldn’t stop staring at the silky read heart shaped box and he knew he had to get that candy for his one true love…Ann Stell.

For two weeks he worked extra hours, even skipping school twice, to save up enough money to buy my mom the giant box of candy. On Valentine’s Day he had just enough money to buy his true love the chocolate she deserved. Proudly, he marched up Prospect Avenue carrying the heart shaped box in both hands.  He climbed the steps to her front door and rang the door ball.

After a moment her maid, Miss Willie answered the door and called for Ann to come down stairs.

Grinning, dad tried to hand my mom the box of chocolates but she shook her head and said, “I’m sorry, my mother doesn’t let me eat cheap candy.”

When she went inside dad trudged back down the steps, then sat down on the curb in front of her house and ate chocolate until he threw up.

Mom really  hated that story. So, in her defense, I will tell you she was very very spoiled and sometimes used her good fortune to take care of Dad.   Every Christmas, when they were little, she would ask for things like Erector Sets,  Army toys and sets of paint, knowing she would get everything on her list. Obviously she was asking for stuff my dad wanted. It’s true, she broke his heart over and over but then she did her best to put it back together.

Big Willie The Catfish, Louella and Liz

catfishThe true story about the day my cousins and I caught Big Willie and I got my butt beat.

We grew up in Hot Springs, Arkansas and my family had a lovely 1960s condo on Lake Hamilton.

At seven, Liz was our beautiful, blond brutal dictator, I was the goofy looking six year old and Mikey was a scrawny tough ass five year old who would bow up on a bus or throw down with a bear. He was too stupid or stubborn to realize he only weighed fifty pounds. Mike thought he was Tarzan and Cold Stone Steve Austin rolled up in a taco with hot sauce.  At five he was a hard core bad ass.

We  were young but together we were formidable and frightening, full of really bad ideas and virtually unsupervised for weeks at a time. At my house the only adult who ever attempted to keep an eye on us was Louella, our friend and maid for more than thirty years.

There was a lady who lived at the end of our boardwalk named Mrs. Williams. Every day at four she would lovingly feed all her “pet” fish in Lake Hamilton. She tossed out hand fulls of corn and bread then watched as schools of fish appeared. There was one massive, elephant sized catfish who showed up every afternoon, named Big Willie.  He was nearly as long as a baseball bat and as fat as a foot ball. This guy was beautiful. And Mrs. Williams loved him.

Liz, Mike and I were not allowed to fish anywhere near her end of the boardwalk but one day…Mrs Williams went on vacation.

Brown and barefooted, wearing nothing but groovy swimsuits, we hauled our fishing gear to the end of the boardwalk ten minutes after Mrs. Williams backed out of her parking spot.

Mikey bounced up and down on his skinny little legs as we watched the fish circling under the dark water.  We threw in a hand full of corn and the fish went crazy. Lake Hamilton boiled with fishy action.

Liz packed a piece of hot dog and a bread ball onto a hook and dropped  the line in. Mikey and I  were lying on our bellies, staring at the fish. Then it happened. The line went taunt and Liz sarted saying, “Holy crap, holy crap.”  Reeling hard, Liz leaned back and Mike and I jumped to our feet.  Instantly,we realized she had hooked Big Willie on the first try.  It was unbelievable  She cranked on the reel and we saw the massive gray fish rise to the surface then pull back on the line. The reel screamed. We were no match with out K-Mart Rod and Reel. Big Willie pulled line like a yo-yo. Liz screamed at Mike, “get the net, Michael Clark get the damn net!”

The net was taller than Mike, but he snatched it up then stared into the water, waiting for his chance to scoop up Big Willie. Liz made an executive decision, we couldn’t wait any longer. She shoved five year old Mikey into the lake and started screaming at him.  “Scoop him up,  Mike. Catch him.”

I helped her hold the rod as the fish tried to get away from Mike, his net and kicking legs.  There was fishing line, splashing, screaming and then suddenly Mike yelled, “He’s in!”

Tiny Mike tried to hold the net up as he treaded water but the fish weighed too much.  Liz dropped the pole and stretched out on the boardwalk to grab the net.  She pulled the net and the gigantic fish onto the hot wooden planks while I helped 50 pound Mike out of the water.

Liz had Big Willie, flopping furiously in the net. His catfish mouth gaped open, he looked so angry and slimy.  His whiskers were at least three inches long and we had no idea what to do with the monster.  The hook poked though his cheek and the bread ball was still on the hook in his mouth. His eyes rolled in our direction and we all stepped back.

Liz pushed Mike. “Get the hook out.”

“Hell no. He’ll get me .”

“You get the hook out,” I said to Liz.  She looked at me as thought I was made of cat poop and stupid. Then she picked up the net, we had to help her. And we walked toward my condo as Big Willie flopped.

Finally, we got Willie back to the condo.  Liz looked at me. “We can put him in the bathtub right? He’ll be ok.”

I nodded stupidly.

Then we smuggled Big Willie into the condo, we made it upstairs to the bathroom.  I filled the bathtub with cold water and Mike leaned against the door so Louella couldnt’ push it open  Finally, it was full. Mikey held the net as Liz and I raised the fishing pole Big Willie was still attached to.

We got him out of the net into the gleaming white tub. And for a little while, we all held the pole and watched him swim slowly around the tub. The hook was poking out of his face and he was tethered to our pole but he didnt seem to mind

Ginally Mike stepped into the bathtub and started laughing as the big fish swam past his leg.  Liz and I got in too and we giggled like maniacs as Big Willie swam between and past our legs.  Liz had the reel, then let line out, we picked up our feet so the line wouldn’t get tangled. We laughed so hard Mike started peeing in the tub.  The we laughed even harder…until Louella walked in.

It was terrible. She screamed until my Mom arrived. We had to take Willie to the lake, cut the line and let him go. Then I got a spanking and I’m pretty sure I could hear Liz and Mike laughing in the next room.

It was a great day

PS

Recently my cousin had surgery and the tough ass woman is back! I love you cuz and Bubba too.

The Strange Truth About Burly Webb

grizzlyWeird things have always happened in my life, crazy coincidences that defy explanation.  But one of the all time greats is a Hot Springs story.

Thirteen or fourteen years ago I wrote a novel, Invisible Branches.  It’s the story of a pregnant bookie in Hot Springs who decides to break away from her horrific boss.  He’s a pretty nasty dude who owns a bunch of strip joints and runs numbers.

I based this dangerous villain on a local man named Burly Webb. Burly owned or ran a lot of local late night clubs in the 80s and 90s.   Because so many folks were, ripped off, cheated, robbed and  savagely beaten in his parking lots, Burly had a pretty terrible reputation.

But for some strange reason, Burly and I became friends. He helped me out a couple of times and never asked anything in return. People under estimated him, and thought he was just a stupid violent guy. It’s true, he was uneducated but he was anything but stupid. He was however a very dangerous and violent man. Even my own brother, who was a professional smuggler, didn’t like the fact that I was friends with Burly Webb.

In the novel, the character Hurley, only had one leg.  He lost his foot and half a leg when he stepped in a bear trap in the woods. It was a pretty gruesome scene.

Before the book came out, I told Burly I’d written a story and he was the bad guy.  He thought that was just great and bought ten or twenty copies to keep at the bar. I doubt he ever read Invisible Branches but he loved knowing he’d been immortalized. People told him how horrible and monstrous his character was in the book and that just made him laugh.

Then something freaky happened. Six months after the book was published Burly was out in the woods cutting down a tree.  The chain saw slipped and he cut off his own leg, exactly where his character lost his.

The real Burly recovered, he got around on crutches after that. he still thought it was funny as Hell that he’d done virtually the same thing in the book. He never got mad at me but our friendship wasn’t quite the same.  I think made him a little nervous. and who can blame him?

Burly died a few years ago.  The character Hurley died too in a pretty nasty way.  I think about this strange coincidence sometimes and it reminds me how much power the written word holds. Humans are the only animals on the planet who have the ability to write things down, so when we do, we need to be careful and get it right.