Posts Tagged ‘Arkansas’

“Stop waiting for the perfect day, or the perfect moment … Take this day, this moment and lead it to perfection. – Steve Maraboli

Red-headed woodpecker. — Wikimedia photo

A Page From my May 2005 Journal 

            I was sitting on a bluff above the Oauchita River in Camden, Arkansas, listening to bird song. Low clouds still carried the pink glow of the rising sun, and I watched as the airy cotton-like puffs transformed, first to golden and then to the blue tinge of the morning sky. It was cool and a gentle breeze ruffled tree leaves. All around me were clumps of wisteria, a vigorous tree-climbing vine with drooping lilac-hued blossoms that scented the morning air. Here and there, small dogwood trees with their dainty white flowers added to the enchantment of the landscape. .

Morning sky beside the Oauchita River in Arkansas. — Photo by Pat Bean

I was sitting where once stood a Confederate fort, aptly named Lookout because it provided the perfect spot to keep an eye on the river below.  It was also this very same bluff that had been visited in 1541 by the Spanish explorer, Hernando De Soto. I thought about all this as I surveyed the landscape from my blanketed, cocooned perch in a lawn chair. All troubles, politics and wars of the world were put on hold….

Then I heard a tap-tap-tap coming from a grove of trees. I had seen northern flickers and downy woodpeckers in the area and assumed it was one of them. Instead, I got a nice surprise. I found myself looking at a red-headed woodpecker. Because there is no gender field mark in this species, as there are in many birds, it could have been either a male or female.

The bird was in a typical woodpecker stance, with its strong opposing talons gripping the tree trunk while it leaned back on its stiff tail. It’s head and throat were a brilliant shade of red, in stark contrast to the bluish-black and white feathers that covered the rest of its body.

I watched until the woodpecker flew off across the river, after turning an ordinary morning into an extraordinary one, a perfect start for the day. From their hiding places, a host of other birds chattered, whistled, twittered and sang in agreement.

Bean Pat: The planning fallacy https://tierneycreates.com/2018/05/15/the-planning-fallacy/?wref=pil This made me laugh because it’s so true of my own planning in whatever endeavor.

Blog pick of the day.

Pat Bean: is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com


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Seen on a back road in Arkansas. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Seen on a back road in Arkansas. — Photo by Pat Bean

            “Life is one big road with lots of signs. So when you’re riding through the ruts, don’t complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don’t bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality.. Wake Up and Live!” Bob Marley

Politics Spoken Here

I saw the above sign during a trip through Arkansas. It brought back to mind how me and my kids talked politics around the dinner table.

What is interesting today is that politically, I swear, my kids have all changed sides. Conservatives became liberals and liberals became conservatives.

They sort of did the same thing musically … rockers became cowboys and classicals became bluegrassers. Who would have known?

As for me and political discussions these days, I run from them. I get way too heated and began to have terrible hot flashes.

Bean’s Pat: http://tinyurl.com/lba96jk Flowers and butterflies. Wow!

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 “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” Lao Tzu

Best Cheeseburger of My Life

One of the park’s trails let to this vista overlooking a sea of green. It was called the Lover’s Leap viewpoint, the first of three so named vistas I would encounter during this journey. — Photo by Pat Bean

My canine traveling companion, Maggie, and I had barely started our journey, like it was the second day out, when we stopped for four days at Queen Wilhelmina State Park. Located on a ridge high in Arkansas’ Ouachita Mountains, the park was named after Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands in hopes that she would visit.

The four days I stayed here still float pleasantly through my head. In addition to the beautiful scenery, I had the best cheeseburger of my life as I sat in the park’s high vista lodge, looking out a huge picture window at dark clouds moving in.

Crimson hollyhocks brightened another of the park’s trails. — Photo by Pat Bean

There’s something in me that loves a storm. I was glad, however, that I made it back to the coziness of my RV, with my last bite of cheeseburger wrapped in a napkin for Maggie, before the downpour began.

Queen Wilhelmina didn’t know what she had missed.

Book Report. Today’s one of my twice monthly trips from Lake Walcott into town to stock up on supplies and do laundry. But knowing that I had committed to making a book report of my travel book progress kept me on track. “Travels With Maggie” grew by 1,750 words this morning, bringing its rewritten total to 25,261. Thanks y’all for being here for me.

Bean’s Pat: Gypsy Mama http://tinyurl.com/bwbb8og Ordinary days. I think they’re great, too. The wondering wanderer’s blog pick of the day.

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A short visit to White Oak Lake was included in activities on the first day of my “Travels With Maggie.” — Photo by Pat Bean

 “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – J R R Tolkien

The Gurdon Lights

On the first day of my six-month, 7,000-mile, 23-state plus Canada journey, which is what the travel book I’m hoping to complete rewriting by the end of August is about, I passed through Gurdon, Arkansas.

The small town’s claim to fame is the Gurdon Light, which supposedly haunts the railroad tracks a few miles out of town. The mysterious light, which many have claimed to have seen, was featured on the TV show “Unsolved Mysteries” in 1994, and is described in the “Encyclopedia of Arkansas.”

As was a hike with Maggie on a nature trail at Poison Springs State Park. Sorry, I didn’t manage to snag a photo of the Gurdon Lights. — Photo by Pat Bean

Some believers claim the light is the lantern of a railroad worker who stumbled in front of a train and was killed. Others believe it is the lantern of William McClain, a railroad worker who was murdered in 1931 at about the same time the floating light was first seen. Skeptics look for a more natural phenomenon, such as quartz crystal in the area exuding electricity.

All I saw when I crossed the railroad track as it passed through Gurdon were rock pigeons perched on overhead utility wires. I suspected the small town’s pigeon population was larger than its human one. I wondered if these city dwelling birds had ever seen the lights, and asked my canine traveling companion, Maggie, what she thought.

She didn’t answer. She was asleep – and snoring.

Book Report: This is a tidbit from the first day of my travels. The book, in its third and final rewrite, is now 23, 511 words on its way to completion.

Bean’s Pat: Write to Done http://tinyurl.com/d73y49c 50 quotes to inspire writers. The wondering wanderer’s blog pick of the day.

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Thomas Young together with Snow, his gyrfalcon/peregrine hybrid bird. Both were 37 years old in 2006 when I took this photo.

 “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” – Mahatma Gandhi

One Man’s Love of Animals

Togetherness: Sheena may be a cougar but she acts as if she's right where she belongs. -- Photo by Pat Bean

During my 2006 wanderings, I came across Queen Wilhelmina State Park near Mena. Arkansas. One of its attractions at that time was a small zoo and wildlife sanctuary operated by Thomas Young, a wildlife rehabilitator.

The zoo animals included a bear, a timber wolf cub, orphaned fawns, bobcats, wild turkeys, hawks, owls, raccoons – and a cougar named Sheena. Almost all of them had been injured at some point in time.

The side of a small unpainted wooden building on the property told the real story of this place. Large white lettering boldly announced that 12 bears, 5,000 hawks, 2,000 owls, 22 bald eagles, 18 golden eagles and thousands of small mammals had been released back into the wild by Young. The $4 entry fee to the zoo helped cover his expenses.

It was while I was questioning Paul, a volunteer and apprentice falconer working with Young, that I saw Tom for the first time.

Paul pointed him out to me as the long-haired man who had just appeared with a turkey neck in his hand to feed a wild turkey vulture that had just landed in the park.

As I watched the scene from about 30 feet away, the volunteer told me the vulture was a bird Tom had rehabilitated. Later Tom told me it was actually the parent of the rescued bird. He said it was the first time this particularly vulture had fed from his hand.

I was more amazed that he could tell the difference between two vultures than that a large, society-designated-ugly, wild bird had fed from his hand. .

“For some reason it’s come to trust me,” Tom said of his vulture friend. “A while back it brought its young here for me to babysit while it flew off on some business for about three hours.”

The volunteer had already told me this story in more detail but I was still fascinated with Tom’s less wordy rerun along with a sparse sketch of his life.

This man was a doer not a talker.

Tom said the park’s lofty location in the Ouachita Mountains made it ideal for releasing rehabilitated birds back to the wild. I was privileged to see one such release the next day, an awesome red-shouldered hawk that Tom released from the overlook just beyond the park’s lodge.

The bird simply fall off the edge of the mountain and glided away, one of the most beautiful sights any birder could ever hope to see.

Bean’s Pat: A Traveler’s Tale http://tinyurl.com/brbfpsh Take an armchair tour of a Papua, New Guinea, village.

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 My Favorite Places: White Oak Lake

You can travel far to see beautiful landscapes, or you can stay close to home. White Oak Lake, shown above, was only 20 miles from my daughter's home in Camden, Arkansas. What's in your backyard? -- Photo by Pat Bean

“We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little.” – Anne LaMott

NaNoWriMo Update … 14,307 words

Still have 700 more words to write today to meet my goal. But I’m currently stuck, mostly because my mind just doesn’t seem to be in to it today. I have to go to physical therapy for my neck in a short while, and so I thought I would go ahead and post my blog and hope I can come up with some ideas while the therapist is twisting my body around.

My book has taken a few odd turns I wasn’t planning on. I guess that’s what happens when you don’t work from an outline. Is this good or bad. Who knows?

The fun part of today’s writing, at least what I’ve done so far, is writing about endangered Ridley sea turtles which nest on the Texas Gulf Coast. It just so happens that one laid a nest of eggs in my mythical town of Sandy Shoes.

OK. I’m going to post this little bit of NaNoWriMo nonsense – it truly feels like that because my fingers are tongue-tied – so I can go back and try to write 700 more words before the day is over. Is there anyone else out there struggling like me today.

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Male ruby-throated hummingbird on guard duty. -- Photo by Joe Schneid

“Two birds disputed about a kernel, when a third swooped down and carried it off.” Proverb from the Congo.

Travels With Maggie

I usually start my morning with the first hint of gray coloring over the ebony of the night. It’s as if my body stirs with the announcement that the golden globe creeping up from the eastern horizon might bring with it a spectacular sunrise.

This morning in Camden, however, the sun was hiding behind an overcast sky. Instead Mother Nature graced me with a different gift. As I lay abed, thinking about which of the things on my to-do list I would tackle first, a hummingbird landed on the nectar feeder I had put out yesterday, carefully placing it so I could easily see any winged visitors from my RV window.

While all the bird presented to me in the dim morning light was its dark profile, I knew it was probably one of the two ruby-throated hummingbirds that I had watched play king of the nectar feeder the day before. Identifying hummingbird species in Arkansas is a snap for anyone – if it’s anything other than a ruby-throated, it’s a rare bird sighting.

Female ruby-throated hummingbird. -- Photo by Joe Schneid

As I had watched the two scrappers find the nectar feeder within minutes of my hanging it up, the pair had been a blur of whirring wings performing a territorial dance. As soon as one would land on the red lip of the feeder, the other would come zinging down at it.

This morning, my lone, dawn visitor sat still as a bittern stretching its long neck in the weeds to camouflage itself. About every 30 seconds or so, the hummer would dip its thin bill down into the feeder to sip up nectar. It was warming up its fragile body from the cool night – raising its resting 250-per-minute heart rate back up to its daytime rhythm of about 1,200 heart beats a minute.

Such numbers fascinate me, as does the fact that this tiny dynamo weighs less than half an ounce , beats its wings over 50 times a second and can hover and fly in any direction, including upside down.

Meanwhile, I wondered where the second hummer from yesterday was this morning, perhaps at the duplicate feeder hanging from my daughter’s patio roof on the other side of her property. I suspect ed that once they had refueled, they might resume their territorial game.

I can’t wait for the show to begin. But in the meantime I have a to-do list to tackle.

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One of two dogwood trees visible out my RV, shown in background, during my and Maggie's visit to my daughter's home in Camden, Arkansas. -- Photo by Pat Bean

“If you’ve never been thrilled to the very edges of your soul by a flower in spring bloom, maybe your soul has never been in in bloom.” — Terri Guillemets

 Travels With Maggie

When it’s bluebonnet time in Texas, the wisteria and dogwood are blooming in Arkansas.

The purple chandeliers of wisteria, a woody vine that likes to curl itself around a tree to rise into the air, begin dotting the roadside forest as soon as I crossed the border between the two states in Texarkana.

Then every few miles as I drove deeper into the state, a patch of white dogwood blossoms, usually sheltered by some larger tree, would add its delicate voice to the landscape.

These purple and white flowers helped ease the pain of leaving the magnificence of Texas bluebonnets waving good-bye from my RV’s rear-view mirror.

I arrived at my youngest daughter’s home here in Camden, Arkansas, a few days ago during a late cold spell and overcast days. The sun finally came out yesterday – and so did my camera.

Wild wisteria adds a touch of magical color to Arkansas' landscape. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Wisteria grows wild in the forested land that partially surrounds my daughter’s five-acre rural home, and two dogwood trees grow on her side of the fence.

Both Texas and Arkansas claim the sassy northern mockingbird as their state bird. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I thought I would share their beauty with you. For good measure, I’ve included a picture of a northern mockingbird that hangs around my RV. It’s a familiar sight in both Texas and Arkansas, with both states claiming it as their state bird.

Life is good.

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“He who can take no great interest in what is small will take false interest in what is great.” — John Ruskin

I snapped this picture of a mural painted by a local artist while waiting at a stop light.

Travels With Maggie

 I sat behind the wheel of my car for 430 miles yesterday, yet time seemed to fly by and I was never bored. Like Alice, there was a whole new world out there for me to see, and contemplate.

Stephens, the small town just down the road from Camden, Arkansas, where the day’s journey began, still had their downtown Christmas tree lights up. I suspect it was because the lights took away the town’s drabness and not because some city worker was lazy.

I was welcomed to Emerson, a bit farther down the road, with a huge sign noting that the town is home of the Purple Hull Pea Festival and the World Championship Tiller Race. In case you’re interested this year’s event will be held June 24-25.

With Arkansas in the rear-view mirror, a Haynesville billboard let me know this town was the Butterfly Capital of Louisiana. While stopped at a red light, I snapped a picture out my RV window of a mural painted on the side of a gift shop. It was one of several murals I saw while passing through the town.

My wheels rumbled gruffly on quaint red brick roads through downtown areas of both Minden, Louisiana, and Nacogdoges, Texas. Even on a long drive, I prefer traveling the smaller highways that take you through the middle of towns along the route. Freeways put me to sleep while backroads keep my brain occupied and alert.

It's not every day that one gets to see a bison mom nursing her calf through their windshield, so I'm glad that I also enjoy the less dramatic glimpses of the world around us. The photo was taken in Custer State Park, South Dakota. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I wanted to stop and explore more, but I also wanted to get to my destination before dark. My rush to get there reminded me of Disney’s version of Lewis Carroll White Rabbit muttering: “I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date! No time to say goodbye, hello! I’m late! I’m late! I’m late!”

My only stop, except for gas, was at a Texas roadside park where my dog, Maggie, and I took a too short walk to stretch our legs.

Given Houston’s traffic, which I was going to drive through on Highway 59 during the commuter hour, I figured I’d just make it to my son’s home in Lake Jackson by dark. But amazingly – I say this as one who’s spent three hours getting through Houston more than once – it didn’t take long at all.

I reached Lake Jackson in plenty of time to share dinner with my son and his family.

I don’t recommend long-distance driving, preferring instead much shorter drives with plenty of time to get out of my RV and explore. But, as Garth Brooks says, “Happiness isn’t getting what you want, it is wanting what you’ve got.”

And what I had yesterday was one fantastic day on the road.

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I can drool over maps for hours in anticipation of an upcoming journey. This is the route I chose for today's drive. I always right up a cheat sheet for my dashboard that includes right and left-turn directions.

 “… On the road again/ Going places that I’ve never been/ Seein’ thing that I may never see again/ And I can’t wait to get on the road again.” — Willie Nelson

 Travels With Maggie

 Willie Nelson and I share this love of being “on the road again.” And today I get to indulge myself. I’ve been up since before dawn, drinking coffee and reviewing the route I will take from my daughter’s home in Camden, Arkansas, to a son’s home in Lake Jackson, Texas.

 My dog, Maggie, is as eager as I am. She started getting excited as soon as I began packing things snugly away in the RV.

The journey is 427 miles long and I’ll be making it in one run, which means most of my sight-seeing will take place from behind the wheel. If it were spring, and I was truly on the road again and not just hiding out the winter catching up with family, it would probably take me two weeks to go this far.

To speed the time along, I’ll probably be listening to my audible copy of Ken Follett’s “Fall of Giants” along the way. But certainly not during the sections of road that will be new to me.

Mike Nomilini captured this picture of the bridge in Coushatta that crosses the Red River at sunset. While I'll be crossing the river today, it's going to be well before noon so my view will be much different.

 I added 15 miles to the shortest route  so I would pass through a few places I’ve never been before. Coushatta, Louisiana, for one. The Red River passes through this rural town. And I’ll be crossing over it on a 900-ton bridge that was  built in 1989 — not crossing it on horseback as John Wayne did in the 1948 film, “Red River.” 

 It was many years ago when I saw the film, but I still remember it.

There’s something in me that also loves river crossings. While the Red River might not compare to the thrill I had crossing the Yukon on a ferry in 1999, I’m still looking forward to it.

 Did I tell you, “I just can’t wait to get on the road again.”

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