After leaving the friendly, well-heeled, art patrons of Bentonville, we drove east through the glorious Ozarks. The Ozarks aren’t mountains by California standards, more like large hills, and spread out over 47,000 square miles, mostly in Arkansas and Oklahoma. Spring is a great time in the Ozarks. The red bud trees are blooming in the understory, and the white oaks and sycamores are starting to get tiny leaves. On our hikes, we saw a lot of wildflowers and evidence that lots more are on the way in the coming weeks.
Our destination was Mountain View, but we stopped on the way for a night in Harrison. Except for being a small town in Arkansas, Harrison is nothing like Bentonville. Its economy is floundering. Many of the businesses in the town square are closed, and the rest are mainly corporate franchises on the highway. Not a walking town, no art, no flowers. Harrison is mainly known for its racist history and is the headquarters of a large unit of the Ku Klux Klan. We maybe saw a little evidence of that, but got out of town before I could plan any mischief. https://www.pbs.org/independentlens/banished/harrison.html
Mountain View, on the other hand, is a treasure. Nestled among rolling hills full of rivers, forests and modest family farms, Mountain View considers itself the home of American folk music, and has a thriving arts and crafts community.
We visited several galleries where artisans were eager to tell us about their work, including a married couple, originally from California, who have developed some inventive ceramics techniques. The town also has a large folk arts center that doubles as a park where you can spend the day with your kids, (although everything but the picnic tables is closed now).
The town hosts a music festival in April, which kicks off six months of nightly performances in the “Pickin’ Park” in front of the court house. We were a little early for both, but were able to attend a performance of local players at Jimmy Driftwood Barn. Some were obviously professional. Others were not so polished, including one young man who probably didn’t hit a single right note. The audience didn’t seem to make any distinctions between the talents of their neighbors, enjoying all of it with equal enthusiasm — except for the shepherd on the floor next to us who slept through the whole thing.
The region is also known for its handmade dulcimers. In the past 60 years, the Dulcimer Shop in Mountain View has made almost 80,000 instruments, which are shipped all over the world. Dulcimers have been featured on not-Ozark music by many pop artists, including Joni Mitchell, the Rolling Stones and Harry Styles. We got a demonstration of playing techniques on one of the dulcimers at the Dulcimer Shop.
I originally decided to travel through Arkansas to avoid Texas. I didn’t expect to find so many cool things in Arkansas and I know I’ve only scratched the surface. And that makes me think I should visit Texas.