I love to travel. I enjoy seeing different places. Whenever I am coming home from a trip, I am amazed by the beauty that surrounds me right where I live. I have seen many beautiful places, but my little corner of western Arkansas can hold it's own with anyplace. It is particularly beautiful in the fall. The Talimena scenic drive starts right here in Mena, and stretches across the top of the world for 54 miles to Talihina, Oklahoma. It has become well- known as a fall foliage viewing destination as the entire stretch of road comes alive with color in autumn. Beautifully striking reds, yellows and oranges cover the mountains during October and November, as seas of color radiate as far as the eye can see.
As beautiful as the Talimena Drive is, I want to show you the beauty that is right here in town, starting with my backyard.
On my way to work each day, I drive past Cox Lake. For the last week or so I have been noticing how beautiful it is in the early morning light right after sunrise. (It's not that I go to work that early, It's just that with daylight savings time the sun is coming up so late.) After several days of wishing that I had my camera with me, I finally remembered to bring it. I was pleased with the photos. So often when I take pictures of fall colors, they don't seem to be as colorful as I remember. The early morning light really brings out the warm tones and makes lovely photos.
COX LAKE IN THE EARLY MORNING SUN
Probably the best known building in Mena is the restored train depot. Mena residents are very proud of the depot which was completely restored in 1987 from donations and many volunteer hours. As I was leaving First National Bank, I snapped this shot of the depot, with the trees that line the street next to the bank.
THE MENA DEPOT
Beauty can be found anywhere. Here are a couple of shots taken at my place of business. Some people have even called it a junkyard. Beauty can even be found in a "junkyard".
IVY GROWING ON MY WINDSHIELD WAREHOUSE
A COLORFUL TWIG OF IVY
Any road in the area provides beautiful scenes this time of year. I'm not sure who said it, but i love the quote "Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower". It is very true here in Mena right now, every leaf is a flower.
Yesterday we had the first Relay For Life committee meeting of the new season. We started planning for the Relay to be held here in Mena in April 2009. Our committee is small. but is a fantastic group to work with. I want to share the reasons that I am a part of Relay For Life.
I am involved in Relay For Life for a number of reasons. The number one reason is because my wife is passionate about Relay. She has such a passion for Relay For Life that it rubs off on those around her. Her passion stems from her family history. Her mother died of cancer when Gina was just 21 years old. Her father had colon cancer, and all three of her sisters have had breast cancer. She is the only person in her immediate family that is cancer free.
Several years ago, Gina's sister Roberta got involved with Relay For Life in Enumclaw, Washington. For a number of years, Gina would travel to Enumclaw to be a part of Relay For Life there. Two years ago, we learned that Polk County was going to have a Relay. We got involved in the 2007 Relay, and have been involved ever since.
My uncle, Delbert Lawry, died from cancer a couple of years ago. I lost not only an uncle, but a friend and someone who was willing to help anytime. I have come to realize the importance of the work that the American Cancer Society does. It is involved in research, prevention, and helping those who are dealing with cancer.
Just about everyone has been affected by cancer in one way or another. Relay For Life is a fun way to raise money and awareness for the American Cancer Society. There is probably no other cause that a person can support that touches more lives. Relay celebrates those who have battled cancer, it remembers those who have fallen, and it provides a way to fight back. That is why I am proud to be a part of Relay For Life. I hope that you will be a part of Relay For Life too.
The opossum is North America's only marsupial mammal. The female carries and nurses her young in her pouch until they are about 2 to 3 months old; then they are carried on her back another 1 to 2 months whenever they are away from the den. They will eat almost anything including insects, snails, rodents, berries, over-ripe fruit, grasses, leaves, and carrion; occasionally will eat snakes, ground eggs, corn or other vegetables. They are very adaptable; able to live wherever water, food, and shelter exist. They are at home in trees. An opossum uses its prehensile tail to help stabilize position when climbing— it does not, however, hang by its tail.
Here in Arkansas we refer to them as possums. Actually real possums only live in Australia and New Guinea. They have been introduced into New Zealand. That's OK, we still call our homely little creatures possums. We occasional have a possum that decides it wants to live with us.
OPIE AWESOME JUNIOR MOVES IN
This little guy decided that the house that we have for Moses our cat would be a great place to live. He stayed with us for several days, and we had a very difficult time persuading him to leave. Maybe I shouldn't have named him. I called him Opie Awesome Junior. Junior, because he was a young possum. He would stay just a few feet from the back door. He wasn't afraid of us, and I would have to turn the cat house upside down to get him out. I would then have to hit him with a broom to get him to leave the back porch. He was so ugly that he was cute, but our cat was afraid to come on the back porch, so Opie had to go.
OPIE AWESOME JUNIOR EATING THE CAT'S FOOD
We still have possums that come around the house, but no one has tried to take up residence here since Opie Awesome Junior. Maybe it is because our granddog Sally, a yellow lab, caught one on our back porch. I guess the word is out in Possumland not to come up on my back porch. It's too bad, sometimes I miss Opie.
Autumn in Western Arkansas is absolutely beautiful. I sort of look forward to it every year. I love the beautiful fall colors, but I really dislike cold weather.
Gina and I and our friend Deanna took a trip to Eureka Springs this weekend. I love Eureka Springs and we try to visit there a couple of times a year, but this time of year, the journey is as interesting as the destination. On the way up to Eureka Springs, we traveled on Hwy 23. The most beautiful part of Hwy 23 is called the Pig Trail. The Pig Trail is a very popular drive in the fall, especially with motorcyclists.
THE MINI IS A LOT OF FUN ON THE PIG TRAIL
When we arrived in Eureka Springs, we had quite a time finding a place to stay. There were very few vacancies. You couldn't tell that the economy is bad, it seemed like everybody was there. Our favorite place to eat in Eureka is the Mud Street Cafe. While we were eating breakfast there, we talked with the host and he told us that they had set a record for the most customers ever the day before.
BEAUTIFUL DOWNTOWN EUREKA SPRINGS
COLORFUL TREES IN BASIN SPRING PARK
We had a very relaxing time while we were there. We didn't really do anything. Well we did eat and do a bit of shopping, but mostly we drove or walked around this charming quaint little town. There is a lot to do in Eureka Springs, but we were just in the mood to chill out. The beauty of the fall colors was really the focus of the trip.
CYCLE PARKED ON A COLORFUL EUREKA STREET
On the way home we decided to travel a different route. It had been over ten years since we had traveled Hwy 71 between Fayetteville and Alma. Interstate 540 travels the same route and was opened in 1998. We had not traveled Hwy 71 over the Boston Mountains since the interstate opened. U.S. 71 snakes its way through the Boston Mountains beginning in Alma at the edge of the Arkansas River Valley and extending 42 miles across the Ozark Mountains to Fayetteville. The Ozark Mountains are made up of three eroded plateau surfaces with the Boston Mountain range being the highest. There is an amazing vista at Artist Point.
VIEW FROM ARTIST POINT
ANOTHER VIEW SHOWING LAKE SHEPHERD SPRINGS
A short distance from Artist Point is Lake Fort Smith State Park. We drove down to the lake to check it out. We had never been there before. The state park had closed in 2002, and had just reopened in May of this year. It was really nice, with a big new visitors center that is really kid friendly. We would love to bring our grandkids here someday.
CHECKING OUT LAKE FORT SMITH STATE PARK
Along with the wonderful scenic beauty that we saw, the weekend was filled with great food and great friends. Also notable was filling up the Mini with 2.17 gas. Two months ago, right before Hurricane Ike, gas was 3.99 in Mena. I hope to have time to take some pictures around town this week. The fall colors are very nice right here in Mena, but that's a blog for another day.
We made a quick trip to Eureka Springs this weekend. This morning I got up before sunrise, and drove to find a vantage point to watch the sun come up. Just a couple of miles from our motel I found a turnout where I could view the sunrise. There were no clouds in the sky. I shot this picture just before the sun popped over the trees.
Today is Rebekah's first birthday. I won't get to spend her birthday with her. Gina and I are going to Eureka Springs today, and Rebekah is at a Pathfinder Camporee in southern Louisiana. We have already celebrated her first birthday with a great birthday party that she shared with her big sister Autumn, and her cousin Katherine. You can check it out here.
It really doesn't seem like a year since she was born. We were eagerly awaiting her arrival. I think Cynda was really eager. Because Autumn had been such a long and difficult delivery, the doctor didn't want Rebekah to get too big before delivery. The date was set to induce labor on October 25. After work on the 24th Gina and I traveled to Baton Rouge. We arrived about 2 o'clock in the morning.
The next morning Cynda and Dave got up early to go to the hospital. Gina and I stayed with Autumn. Dave was going to call us when it was time to go to the hospital. We had just gotten up when Dave called and said Rebekah is here. We couldn't believe it. How could she already be here.
REBEKAH JUST A FEW HOURS OLD
When Cynda was settled in the delivery room, her doctor broke her water, then walked to the other end of the hospital to her office. She turned on her computer so that she could monitor Cynda. She looked at the monitor and thought, Cynda is either throwing up or having monster contractions. She immediately left her office and started running through the hospital hallways on her way back to the delivery room. Meanwhile David had been having a hard time getting the nurses to believe that the baby was coming. He stepped out of the room and yelled for a nurse. Because Cynda had only been in the room for a few minutes, the nurses didn't take him seriously. Rebekah was born 30 minutes after the doctor broke Cynda's water. Rebekah was known around the hospital as Speedy Baby.
CYNDA ADMIRES HER NEW BABY
Autumn was intrigued with her new sister. She wanted to hold her all the time. I would take her walking around the hospital so she didn't have to stay in the hospital room. Whenever we would return to the room, Autumn would say, "I holdy I holdy". If she couldn't hold Rebekah she would cry. She really loves her sister.
AUTUMN GIVES REBEKAH A KISS
Whenever I would take Autumn for a walk, we would pass a poster in the hall just down from the room. It said "Quiet" and showed a little girl in a nurses outfit putting a finger to her lips and going shhh. Every time we would pass the poster, Autumn would have to stop and put her finger to her lips and say shhh.
AUTUMN AND THE POSTER
October 25 one year ago was a really great day. Rebekah was healthy. Cynda had an quick delivery, even if it was a bit hectic there for a few minutes. Speedy Baby was famous throughout the hospital. If she never has her 15 minutes of fame again, she had it the day she was born.
This time of the year reminds me that there is beauty in everything. One of the highlights of the year here in the Ouachita Mountains in Western Arkansas is the changing of the colors. Think about that for a minute, we look forward every year to the trees changing color when we know it means they will be losing their leaves and becoming dormant. I am not a winter person. I am not fond of cold weather. I like to think that the fall colors are a gift from God to cheer me up, because I know what will be coming soon.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
This picture was taken on a big family picnic in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. We were visiting family in Colorado, and decided to get everyone together for a picnic. The day was dreary and rainy and cold and just generally nasty. We made the best of it and had a wonderful time visiting and eating in the rain. I was very disappointed in the weather, because I had been planning to take some wonderful beautiful photos of the magnificent scenery that seems to be everywhere in Rocky Mountain National Park. I went ahead and took a few pictures anyway. I just love the way this one turned out, and I think it is beautiful. That beauty comes from the muted colors and misty rainy look. Everything is beautiful in it's own way.
BOAT SHED IN SAN PEDRO BELIZE
This picture was taken on the beachfront in San Pedro Belize. As you can tell the building is not in the best shape. It is weathered and the paint is peeling. As i was walking on the beach just after sunrise, I noticed how vibrant the early morning light made this old shed look. Even an old shed with the paint peeling can be beautiful in the right light.
If you have followed my blog very much, you know that one of the most important things in my life is my granddaughters. This week I made a photo montage of them, and set it to the song Everything Is Beautiful by Ray Stevens. Everything is beautiful, especially my granddaughters. You can see the photo montage below. Click on the arrow to start the video
Today I received this Certification of Appreciation from Flat Tony's alter ego, Tony McGurk. If you want to keep up with Flat Tony's travels you can go here. If you would like to see Flat Tony's visit to Arkansas you can go here.
FLAT TONY AND I IN HOT SPRINGS, ARKANSAS
If you would like to take part in Flat Tony's World Tour 2008 by Hosting Flat Tony at your home, please email Tony at firstname.lastname@example.org with your Name (blogging username will do if you wish to be less conspicuous), Email Address, Blog URL & your Home Town & Country. He will then email a full sized Flat Tony to you. I recommend it. It is a lot of fun
The letter this week is "N" Here are some pictures that I have taken at "N"ight.
DADDY WATCHING THE BONFIRE
On a cold winter evening Daddy was watching the last remnants of a bonfire. I took the picture with only the light of the fire. The shutter speed was so slow that it is a bit blurry, but it is still one of my favorite photos.
LATE NIGHT KARAOKE AT RELAY FOR LIFE
At the Polk County Relay For Life, there was Karaoke and Open Mic until the early morning hours. (Relay For Life is an all night event because cancer never sleeps.) I like the way this singer was silhouetted, and shot the picture from behind with natural light.
LAMP AT A TEXAS RANGERS BASEBALL GAME
The lampposts at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington are big baseballs. I just had to take a picture of one as we were leaving the ballpark.
CHRISTMAS LIGHTS AT GARVIN WOODLAND GARDENS
Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs Arkansas is a beautiful 200 acre botanical garden. It is pretty year round, but during the Christmas holiday season the gardens are decorated with more lights than you could ever imagine. I'm looking forward to visiting again this Christmas season.
I am sometimes amazed at how friendships start. How did you become friends with your friends? I am sure that we all have many unusual stories.
I want you to meet my friend Jeffery. Gina and I first got to know Jeffrey when in February 2004, we went to San Pedro, Belize in Central America with 15 members of our church to start building the New Horizon SDA Chapel. While we were there we made lots of friends. We were only in San Pedro for five days, but during that time we made special friends with Jeffrey and his parents.
JEFFERY HELPS HIS DAD SING IN CHURCH
Gina and Jeffrey formed a special bond almost immediately. She held him through church. She played with him on the beach. Jeffrey's Mom and Dad helped with the construction of the chapel, so we spent time together. Whenever Jeffrey was where Gina was, he wanted to be with her.
GINA AND JEFFREY HANG OUT TOGETHER
JEFFREY PLAYS WITH GINA'S SUNGLASSES
On the project I worked closely with Jeffrey's dad, Adam. After we returned home to Arkansas, we kept in touch by phone. When we were able to return to Belize in the spring of 2005 we looked forward to seeing our friends.
JEFFREY WITH HIS MOM
We had the good fortune of being able to rent an apartment for the ten days we were there. With an apartment we were able to have visitors. While we visiting with Jeffrey and his family they learned that I would have my birthday while I was there. My birthday and Jeffrey's are a couple of days apart. Jeffrey's mom, Felicia wanted us to celebrate our birthdays together. We had about thirty people at our apartment and had a wonderful birthday party.
OUR BIRTHDAY CAKE
When we returned home we continued to keep in touch, and looked forward to the time we would be able to return to Belize and see them again. Jeffrey would talk to us on the phone, and we would try to understand him without much success. When we called to tell him that we would be returning to San Pedro, he was very excited.
JEFFREY, ADAM AND FELICIA
Gina is still one of Jeffrey's favorite people. He wants her to stay at his house when we are in Belize. Gina asked him where she would sleep. He said that she could sleep in his bed and he would sleep on the floor.
GINA AND HER FRIEND JEFFREY
Once again in 2006 Jeffrey and I celebrated our birthdays together. We had our birthday party at Rigoberto and Shirley's house. We took Jeffrey and Felicia with us on a snorkeling trip. Jeffrey liked the boat ride, but he was afraid of the water.
It was the spring of this year before we were able to return to Belize. Jeffrey had really grown in the last two years. Even though it had been two years since he had seen us, he was still excited for us to be there. He always wanted us to come to his house.
JEFFREY IN MARCH 2008
Just this weekend Adam and Felicia called us on the phone. They wanted to tell us that this Monday, Jeffrey would be starting school at New Horizon SDA School. It is hard to believe that the baby we met on our first trip to Belize is starting school, and is still a good friend. Tennessee Williams said, "life is partly what we make it, and partly what it is made by the friends we choose".
Click on the photo above to purchase my latest book, In the Fog, for $5.99. The Kindle version is only $2.99.
I was born in 1956 in Madison, Tennessee, while my parents were attending Madison College. I grew up along the Front Range in Colorado, attending schools in Longmont, Brighton, Boulder and Loveland, Colorado. Two years after graduating from Campion Academy, I married my sweetheart, Regina. We lived in Loveland, Colorado for six years before moving to Mena in western Arkansas.
I love the people of Mena and the friendly easy going way of life here. I have owned and operated my own business since moving to Mena. I enjoy the natural beauty of western Arkansas and being out of doors.
My newspaper column in The Mena Star, An Arkie’s Faith, premiered on January 7, 2016. In March 2017, I published my first book, titled The Little Things - Devotionals from a small town, using articles from the column. I published the second book in the Devotionals from a small town series, titled In the Fog, in December 2017.