This is a picture of my dad (bottom row, center) and his B-26 Marauder crew and plane, The Deefeater, taken in England just prior to the Allied invasion of Normandy, France on June 6th, 1944. He and his crew were ten minutes out ahead of the invasion fleet bombing Nazi coastal positions and his plane-with the distinctive white invasion stripes-can be seen in war film footage of the invasion. Salute to them all! I wrote about them and this day in my book, “Storytellin’: True & Fictional Short Stories of Arkansas.”
It’s that time of year for special gift-giving around my neck of the woods (so to speak) and as it is in many other places. And what better gift than a book or two?
Here are two books for your perusal. I hope you’ll consider them for this holiday season or for any gift-giving occasion.
“Storytellin: True And Fictional Short Stories Of Arkansas”. A collection of mixed-genre stories set in Arkansas from the early 1900s to the 1950s. Each of the fictional stories is preceded by a Cotner family story or event that inspired the fictional tales. Set against the rugged backdrop of the Ouachita Mountains these stories bring ageless tales of hope, fear, laughter, retribution, and kindness.
“Mystery Of The Death Hearth”. A Celtic tale of murder, power, and intrigue. In a far-flung outpost of the Roman Empire, the Great Cross—made of Celtic gold and amber now claimed by the Roman church—goes missing along with a fortune in coins and precious gems. Murder soon follows, igniting tensions when church leaders maneuvering for political gain are implicated in the violent plot. When news reaches the Grand Prefect in Rome, Enforcers are sent to identify the thieves and recover the missing treasure. The trail leads to the Brendan Valley where it falls to deputy magistrate Weylyn de Gort to work with those whose ways are alien to his Elder Faith beliefs. Along the way, he must find an elusive young Celt girl and her missing grandfather, unravel the mystery of an Elder’s vision, and avoid death at the hands of an assassin as he faces the greatest challenge of his life.
Mystery Of The Death Hearth Prologue
June 21st in the Roman calendar
“This sacred site has been here longer than we can remember,” Elder Blaine the Slender told the small group of children clustered around him. They were surrounded by festival vendors in tents bearing colorful flags, all part of the crowd gathered there to celebrate the Solstice holiday. “Heed these stories well, so you may pass them to those who will come after you.”
He saw them nod, some smiling, many somber, all attentive.
“Learn your crafts well, listen to your elders, honor the gods, and respect the land. Enjoy the life you have been granted and help others do the same. No other goals should be attempted lest you fall into the evil snare of greed and dishonesty.”
A small voice whispered, “He means the Romans, right?”
“Not just Romans, young one. Celts, too, face dark temptations. The two worst enemies we all face are liars and thieves,” the Elder continued. “Take nothing that isn’t yours. Honor the code of doing what you will so long as you harm no one or their possessions. Have compassion for those less fortunate, help those in need. Follow the path of our Celtic Elder Faith, stay true to its teachings. You will be wise to–”
Blaine’s words were interrupted by heavy beating of drums and cheers from celebrants within the inner circle of the standing stones. Before Blaine could continue, a child spoke up.
“What about murderers, Elder? Aren’t they an enemy, too?”
Elder Blaine nodded. “Truly spoken young one. Murderers are the worst kind of thief. They steal your life.”
Eureka Springs, Arkansas is one of my favorite places to visit. It is quirky, beautiful, full of unique artists, craftspeople, writers, entertainment venues, and natural scenery. It is a town built seemingly overnight in July 1879 following the discovery of what was then and is believed to be now curative powers in the waters of the many natural springs in the area.
In “A Fame Not Easily Forgotten”, researchers, historians, and authors June Westphal and Catharine Osterhage spent four years culling newspaper articles, historical records, written accounts, and rare photographs to compile a reasonable and accurate description of what many call the “City That Water Built.”
In mid-December 2015, just prior to my departure on a thirty-day winter holiday, I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with June Westphal at her book signing at the Eureka Springs Historical Museum. I was impressed by her extensive knowledge of the town, its inhabitants, and the entire region.
Here’s an excerpt from the Preface of A Fame Not Easily Forgotten: An Autobiography of Eureka Springs:
Eureka Springs, Arkansas is a remarkable place—and utterly improbable. Why would anyone in the late 1800s, traveling on horseback or in wagons, traverse dirt paths through the steep Ozark Mountains to what must have seemed like the end of the earth? Why would they settle and build elaborate structures on sharp, rocky inclines?
The answer is, water. Pure, abundant spring water reported to have extraordinary curative properties—hope of healing was that powerful and that compelling. So, come they did. Build, they did. And while the water may not have reached expectations, the beauty and magic of the place captured the hearts of so many, they stayed, or kept returning. They still do…
The extensive research is well documented, includes many old pictures of the early days of expansion and growth of the town, and makes for interesting, informative, and entertaining reading. I would recommend this book for anyone interested in the area and its history. You can order your own signed copy of this book from the Eureka Springs Historical Museum.
The leaves cross over our graveyards
When the cold wind blows and raves
They whirl and scatter on the frozen ground
Then settle on the sunken graves
They put me to mind of the children of the earth
The mournful condition of us all
We are fresh and green in the spring of the year
And are blown in the grave in the fall.
–Florence Elizabeth Rutherford, 1873-1889
Rutherford Cemetery, Independence County, Arkansas
Abby Burnett’s Gone to the Grave: Burial Customs of the Arkansas Ozarks, 1850-1950 is an interesting, intriguing read exploring the traditions surrounding death, local customs and rituals concerning bereavement, and the burial practices in the Arkansas Ozarks. It is excellent in its research, narrative, and visual presentation. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in such subject matter.
I had the pleasure to meet author Abby Burnett, a former freelance newspaper reporter, at the Books In Bloom event in Eureka Springs, Arkansas May 2015 and again this past week during her presentation at the Fayetteville, Arkansas Public Library. Her speaking and presentation abilities are every bit as impressive as her knowledge and expertise on Arkansas burial history and customs.
“This painstakingly researched and thoroughly engaging book is as much an anthropological and sociological study as it is a historical and folklorist account of death, dying, and burial in the Arkansas Ozarks…there is virtually no source of information that Burnett hasn’t explored—epitaphs, business ledgers, funeral home records, obituaries, WPA questionnaires, health department regulations, oral history interviews, ministers’ journals, censuses, mortality schedules, doctors’ notes, undertakers’ record books, historical photographs, museum collections, and newspaper accounts…”
–Allyn Lord, Director, Shiloh Museum of Ozark History, Springdale, Arkansas
I hear a voice you cannot hear
Which says I must not stay,
I see a hand you cannot see
Which beckons me away.
–S. N. Lyle, 1875-1932
Lowes Creek Cemetery, Franklin County, Arkansas
The Eureka Springs Historical Museum will host its 7th annual “Voices from Eureka’s Silent City” cemetery walking tours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, October 15th, 16th, and 17th. Then again on Friday and Saturday, October 30th and 31st. The living history tours feature live actors in period costumes portraying early citizens of Eureka Springs.
This year, actors and guides will be presenting compelling stories of some of Eureka’s former leaders in service and philanthropy who now reside in the Silent City, the Eureka Springs City Cemetery: A WWI Army Colonel, a socialite, a prominent lawyer/mayor, a descendant of a Native American Chief, and an early proponent of baseball, among others.
I will be attending this event. It should be a fun, interesting experience.
For more information and pictures from previous walks take a jaunt over to Eureka Springs Historical Museum!
Here’s a re-blog of fellow Arkansas writer, Susan A. Holmes, on ‘Folklore In Fiction’ with an excerpt from her book Deadly Ties. She will be speaking at the Fayetteville, Arkansas Public Library, October 11th from 2 – 4 p.m. Event will include her presentation, questions and answers, meet and greet, and books sales and signings. Don’t miss this opportunity to visit with the author. More information on the presentation can be found here.
And now, the re-blog:
I’m an “up close and personal” kind of researcher. So when I’m working on my regional series, that means I’m often out in the hills, meeting people and listening to the stories that have been handed down, one generation to the next, keeping the old legends alive. The story of the Yokum Dollar is one of those legends that I heard on multiple occasions, with each storyteller claiming some connection with the families involved. I stayed true to the heart of the tale when writing the legend into my own book, while fictionalizing elements as needed to suit the plot. Here’s the excerpt from Deadly Ties:
….Maggie wandered among the exhibits, watching craftsmen make brooms and baskets, tapping her foot to the dulcimer music, and listening to the storytellers who had drawn a sizable crowd in the shade of tall oaks. She stopped to listen to a woman dressed in a style Maggie imagined was common among frontier women long ago. Sturdy boots peeked out from beneath the hem of her skirt, and the simple cotton blouse she wore looked homespun. Her steel gray hair was tucked beneath a bonnet.
“This here story has been handed down through my family ever since 1826,” the woman told the audience. “That’s about the time the first Yokum—that’d be Jamie Lee Yokum—settled along the big river herabouts. My family farmed the land down-river from the Yokum place, which is how I come to know this tale.”
“This land belonged to the Chickasaw tribe, and they were good neighbors, always sharing what they had. They were good traders, too, and pretty near famous for their beautiful silver jewelry. They always had plenty of silver but nobody knew—’cept the Indians, of course—where it all came from. Some said it was from a silver mine, and some claimed it was Spanish silver, but nobody knew for sure.
“When the government decided they wanted the Indians’ land, the Yokums traded some of their wagons and supplies in exchange for information about the source of that silver. As the story goes, the Indians shared their secret with Jamie Lee. They told him where he might find some of that silver, and he told his brothers. Times being what they was, and money being about as hard to come by as an honest politician, the Yokums decided to use that silver and make their own coin. They minted their own dollars with that there silver. For years, people all over the Ozarks used the Yokum dollars as legal tender.”
The storyteller looked across the crowd. “Well, you can probably guess what happened next. The federal government didn’t take too kindly to somebody else making money. They didn’t like the competition, my granddaddy said.” There were chuckles and murmurs of agreement from some in the crowd.
“The federal agents confiscated all the Yokum dollars they could get their hands on. What they really wanted was the source of that silver, but Jamie Lee wouldn’t tell ‘em where to find it. After a while, the agents gave up and went back to Washington.”
The storyteller paused for a sip of lemonade. “It wasn’t long after that when Jamie Lee Yokum passed away. His two brothers died soon after, crossing the Rockies on their way out to California. Those men were the only ones who knew the Indians’ secret and they took that secret to their graves, but they did leave some clues in letters they’d written to their cousins. Over the years, a lot of people have searched high and low for that silver, but nobody’s ever found it. But who knows? Maybe you’ll be the one to learn the truth about the Indian Silver Legend.”
Deadly Ties © 2013
To this day, people continue to search for the famed silver, with many a treasure hunter convinced a mine or cave does indeed exist somewhere in the hills. Some believe the answer lies near or under Beaver Lake in Arkansas while others argue the location is Table Rock Lake in Missouri. And so the legend lives on…
Jim Warnock and his dog, Hiker, trek the mountain trails of Arkansas exploring hills, hollows, and ghost towns such as Rush, Arkansas. Read about all his adventures and enjoy beautiful photos at ozarkmountainhiker.com. While you’re there be sure to read about how Jim and Hiker came to be trail buddies. Inspiring story.
Small communities like Rush are scattered throughout the Ozarks, Ouachita Mountains, and all across the state. Many of the sites Jim and Hiker explore are reminiscent of the locales featured in my short story collection. My thanks to Jim for sharing his post!
HIKING RUSH, AN ARKANSAS GHOST TOWN
I was pleased to find the old town of Rush to be a great day hike location! I was afraid the trail would be too short and tame, but it’s just right.
I could have spent the entire day exploring and ended up pushing the limits of remaining daylight. A van full of college kids offered me a ride while I was walking along the creek after my hike. It was nice of them to offer, but I said “no thanks” since the Jeep wasn’t far away. College kids who hike and camp tend to be pretty good folks.
Rush was a mining community that began in the 1880s and thrived in the 1920s when zinc was in high demand during World War I. Rush declined along with the demand for zinc and was finally abandoned in the late 1960s. According to Neil Compton, “by 1969 Rush was bereft of inhabitants except for Gus Setzer and Fred Dirst, an old miner who conducted tours into the mines for wandering visitors…”
Rush eventually came under the ownership of an industrialist who planned to make a tourist trap of the place, but he sold it to the National Park Service. I hate to think of what this place might have been if a developer had gotten hold of it.
Today, interpretive signs are placed along a short trail that loops through the center of Rush. A longer trail follows the mining level up above downtown. If you have several hours to spend, you can hike the 1.7 mile long mine route to the National Park boundary as an out-and-back.
A prominent structure is the blacksmith shop, an essential business for a mining community. This is the “new” shop built in the 1920s during the height of the commercial activity in Rush. Ore was transported down Ore Wagon Road to the White River and loaded onto barges. When trucks became dependable enough to transport zinc and replaced wagons, the blacksmith shut down his business and went back to farming.
This ore smelter is the oldest structure in Rush, built in 1886 by the claim-holders of the Morning Star Mine. They hoped the smelter would reveal silver in the ore. No silver was to be found.
This cart was next to the trail. I was impressed with its heavy construction and how it had stood up to the elements.
This large machine was next to the trail at the Clabber Creek end on Ore Wagon Road. I’m not sure what it was used for, but I was impressed with the large wheels and chain sprockets.
You’ll pass many mine entrances as you hike the trail. The grills keep visitors out of dangerous mines, but allow bats to come and go freely.
Finding “Boiling Springs” was a treat. The water was clear and cold. A grist mill was once located close by in Rush Creek.
What follows are several historic structures along the road in Rush. Many of these houses were built around 1890. I hope you enjoy this little glimpse into the historic town of Rush. If you’ve been there before, maybe my pictures will bring back good memories. If you’ve not visited, I hope I’ve inspired you to grab your hiking shoes and explore it for yourself soon. It’s a special place!
I was running low on light at the end of the day, but had to stop and photograph these daffodils that caught my eye. The inhabitants who planted these bulbs many years ago would be surprised to learn that their landscaping would be appreciated by a weary hiker on an early spring evening in 2015.
Thanks to Jim and Hiker for sharing their adventures with us. And speaking of Hiker, here’s one of my favorites photos of the dog who loves the trail!
In a new work in progress (WIP), a character of some many years—feisty and notorious for speaking his mind—becomes disenchanted, disappointed, and bitter.
He is asked to write a eulogy on the passing of a longtime friend. The friend was an active, loved church member, associate, and—unbeknownst to the small community where they retired to escape their less-than-virtuous lives—an arch criminal.
The result is a shocking, less-than-glowing list of evil deeds to be revealed at the funeral. He is urged to rewrite the scathing expose. He refuses, believing honesty more important than conventional good manners.
The following poem recorded in his personal diary captures his new belief.
Do not speak ill of the dead!
That having said, I shall
flap my lips, wag candid tongue,
hoist the verbiage black and read,
speak truth about the dead.
Outline all the right and wrong,
unblemished reputation splattered.
Far better now to say instead,
it’s only truth that matters, go ahead.
If it’s not lies, speak unpleasantness,
Thus having said, I shall
speak ill of the dead.
Haunted Ozarks by Janice Tremeear is a well-researched, finely written work full of interesting stories of haunted places, paranormal events, and actual history in and around the Ozark Mountains. Numerous references of mountain superstitions appear throughout adding to the ambiance of haunted folklore. The author makes the narrative of ghostly supernatural activity interesting without all the over-the-top hyperbole often found in books with similar subject matter. It was both entertaining and historically informative. An enjoyable read I would recommend to anyone interested in the paranormal and/or history of the Ozarks.