Last summer, my wife and I blew through the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas on way to visit a friend in Texas. East coast bias as it is, I prematurely labeled the area as somewhat primitive as a result of its woodsy nothingness I observed along the way. In returning this summer to Eureka Springs, a place I had only briefly seen before, I realized then my previous failure to identify the true essence of Ozark country.
Although Eureka Springs contains less than 3,000 full time residents, it plays bigger as a tourist destination. People come to relax here from the stresses of urban life to experience a time warp taste of small town hospitality. No rush today, you can sit quietly by a natural spring or window shop for antiques at your leisure. You might even find the urge to hop on a local streetcar to absorb the slower pace of life surrounding you.
It seemed odd to this city hardened dweller that everyone appears so trustingly amiable. Along a steep, hill, I spotted a 1962 classic Pontiac. The owner appeared willing to give me a grand tour of the vehicle. A proprietor of a local bead store provided hometown advice to my wife for making free bead designs. A morning breakfast at our motel became a trusting exchange of conversation about family matters and life crises.
What I most learned from my brief experience of the Ozarks is that a nostalgia for my past memories of close knit friends and family remains strong. There was once a time in my life when I played after school until dusk with neighborhood friends, listened attentively to mom and dad at nightly family gatherings around the dinner table and told silly jokes to fellow YMCA members near the campfire.
Paying homage to the quirky friendliness of the Ozark region, the following joke seems appropriate. “An Arkansas farmer brought his hog to the Barber Shop one day. The barber humbly asked the man what services were required. In response, he tersely stated; “Gimme me a haircut, but I need my Razorback.”