Houses in Arkansas

64        Houses in Arkansas evolved over time. When I worked on the Sylamore District of the Ozark National Forest I found traces of the earliest homes of Native Americans in bluff shelters where I could imagine deerskin stretched across poles on the south facing slopes, smoking fires wafting into the surrounding valleys, women and children enjoying the spring sunshine, and the baby wrapped in deer skins tucked into a pedestal surrounded by rocks so it wouldn't fall off. I know of no remains of other types of houses, no rocked in shelters or remains of tepee covered campgrounds.

65        The Wolfe House, from the early 1800s in the town of Norfork, was probably typical of well-established early residents living in log cabins with two separate cabins, one for cooking in meals and the other for sleeping, covered by a single roof and separated by dog trot. In the 1960s, the remains of 50- to 100-year-old houses dotted the landscape. These were probably more typical of homes built around the turn-of-the-century, 1900. They were made of boards and bats, with just enough lumber to keep them from being blown over. I remember one old house a few miles south of Yellville covered by single layer of one inch thick boards with the gaps covered by bats. The inside of the wall was lined with old newspapers to keep the cold winter air from blowing through in the winter. I had a hard time imagining how the early settlers stayed warm with only newspapers and boards for insulation.

66        Our first neighbors, the Cowan family, lived in a house typical of those built during the Great Depression, perhaps. It was a little better well insulated the money had been saved by making it shorter than today's houses. The ceilings were only about 6 feet tall, perhaps a little under 2 m, in my head would bump against the single lightbulb lighting the center of the room. I didn't realize how hot the air next to a ceiling in the house gets until I breathe the stale air hanging next to the ceiling in their house. It was a typical Arkansas farmhouse in that the floors were not level nor were the walls and ceiling. Often built on a foundation of rock piles, and open under the floor, these early houses were built by people who found money hard come by.

67        By the time I arrived in Arkansas in 1963 modern houses for the day were inhabited by people I considered rich. By today's standards, their houses were rather ordinary three-bedroom, two bath ranch affairs built from plans with plumb walls and level floors and at least one electrical outlet in each room. The kitchen might have two as might the living room. Running water was used in town and many people in the countryside still hauled their water from springs or obtain their water from wells powered by electrical pumps.

Our new house in Flippin

68        When Sheila and I returned to Arkansas and moved into an old farmhouse owned by Dr. Abraham we moved into a mixture of this type of construction. From the outside that house looked rather normal but from the inside it was obvious the construction had been done in a piece by piece way much as my father had done in Arkansas and later in North Carolina. The main house probably consisted of two rooms originally with an outhouse outside. If you've never heard of an outhouse think of it is a bathroom three to four foot square with a single door, a place to sit down, over a small hole but in the ground to contain the waste products you deposited there and perhaps movable so it could be located over new hole every year two. An old Halloween joke in Arkansas was to move someone's outhouse back about two or three feet early in the evening in hopes of the residents would not be using a flashlight when they came out to do their business and not notice they were stepping into a hole in front of the freshly moved outhouse.

69        A front porch on the house had been closed in and two bedrooms had been added on one side and the garage on the other. A nice laundry room was on the backside and a wide back porch stretched across the back of the house. The house sat on about 250 acres, a working beef cattle farm contracted out to a local rancher, the owner of Ranger boats. In old dairy barn stood downhill complete with fully functioning but unused corrals and milking stalls. Sheila and I thrived having just left the big city and felt it a privilege to live in a rural home with no immediate neighbors and a few hundred acres (100 ha) to wander over.

70        I had arrived in early spring to stay permanently in Arkansas. This would be the third time and perhaps the last that I would move back to Arkansas permanently. The others would have been in the spring of 1969 in the fall of 1985. For the first few weeks I wasn't quite sure what to do. Soon, my income would run out and I quickly decided to withdraw my retirement money so that we could live until we figured out what to do next. I began to withdraw a certain amount each month with hopes that I would figure something out before the money ran out. I wasn't too worried because our next goal was to find a way to get Sheila's mother moved into her own home and out of the nursing home. I need at least a few weeks to try to figure out what I was going to do next.

Rain and snow

71        Before long we received a beautiful 8 inch snowfall. Sheila and I thoroughly enjoyed playing in the landscape and I have photos of Sheila making snow angels in the backyard. We thought about raising chickens and weren't sure how long we would live there. In late March heavy rains moved in and over a period of two days we received more than 10 inches (25cm) of rain. This filled up the lakes and sent water flowing over Bull Shoals and Norfork dams. Other things were changing but it would take us some time to begin to decide exactly what to do with Sheila's parent’s old family home in Mountain Home.

My first and best Chinese friend

72        In the meantime, I decided to work on improving my use of Chinese. I contacted the University of Arkansas . . . And tomorrow I'll write more about this part of the story.


Back side of our house in Flippin, March 7, 2008

The back yard of our house in Flippin, March 7, 2008

Snow angel

Sheila making a snow angel