Flashback Friday #9

 Ozark Folk Center

Just outside the quaint little town of Mountain View, Arkansas, exists a wonderful state park called the Ozark Folk Center.  The mission of this park is to preserve and present to visitors the pioneer heritage of the Ozarks region.  Last year Retta and I spent some time at the Folk Center, where we were able to enjoy a day filled with American folk music and displays of living history.

The park strives to recreate an authentic pioneer village, and many of the living history displays are housed in original log houses scattered about the grounds.

Ozark style log cabin at Ozark Folk Center

The photographs above and below show two of the log cabins that the visitor is able to examine and stroll through.  It is my understanding that these two cabins were disassembled at their original location, and then reconstructed within the park.

Rear view of log cabin at Ozark Folk Center

The best part of the Ozark Folk Center are the living history displays which occur throughout the park.  In an era where we are accustomed to mass production, it is both interesting and educational to witness how many common items were produced in the past.  For example, we all know what is required today in order to sweep the floor.  We go to the local super store, where we fork over $4.88 to buy a broom produced in Malaysia or China.  But in the past, in order to sweep the floor you had to first make the broom yourself.  This process entailed the searching for, and gathering up of all the components that made up a broom.  Straw would have to be found to create the broom head. Proper wood had to be found, cleaned and dried, and only then could you begin the process of weaving the straw onto the broomstick in order to create a functional broom.

Broom assembly at Ozark Folk Center

In the photograph above, the craftsman shows a visitor how the process of making a broom occurs.  One of the things that I enjoyed most about the Ozark Folk Center was the fact that you could mingle with the craftspeople, who were delighted to show you all the nuances of their skill.  By the time this demonstration was over, I felt as if I could produce a half-way decent broom on my own, should the need ever arise.

Cooking demonstration at Ozark Folk Center

This friendly lady was demonstrating how the pioneers would bake various treats.  The kitchen was equipped with many of the utensils, ingredients and appliances that were in use in days gone by.

Print shop at Ozark Folk Center

The print shop pictured above was the means by which books, magazines, and newspapers were produced in the past.  In this day and age, when virtually anybody can become a publisher with a computer and simple printer, it is interesting to think about all of the technology that has evolved over the years.  Today, we can publish anything we want to at the mere push of a button, but in the past it took all of the machinery pictured above to create the most simple reading matter.

Soap production at Ozark Folk Center

Now that we have swept the floor, baked some treats, and printed a newspaper to read, we might want to wash up before enjoying our fresh-baked snack.  Since there was no market available to purchase soap, it was necessary to make your own soap in the past.  The Ozark Folk Center has a soap making demonstration that shows all of the steps involved in producing a bar of soap.  Today, this might be an enjoyable hobby for some, and a full fledged business for others, but most of us would probably prefer to just pick up a bar of soap or two at the local market.

Weaving on loom at Ozark Folk Center

The woman in the picture above uses this loom to demonstrate various weaving techniques and patterns to visitors.  Throughout this room were several looms, each with  weaving projects in various states of completion.

You may have noticed in all of the photographs above that there doesn’t appear to be many people gathered around the crafts persons.  At the time that we visited the Ozark Folk Center, we pretty much had the grounds to our self.  I do not know if this is the way it is at the Folk Center all of the time, but we were there in mid-June of 2005, and the place was not crowded at all.  We had a wonderful time visiting the park, and I especially enjoyed the ability to have one-on-one conversations with the craftspeople throughout the park.

Although I do not have pictures to show about the music, I still must comment about it now.  Mountain View, Arkansas is considered by many to be the American folk music capital of the world.  On any given evening, you are welcome to pull up a lawn chair in the town courthouse square, where you will be treated to musicians performing traditional folk music.  Since there is plenty of space around the square, many individuals and groups may be performing at any given time.  There are places around the square to buy snacks, such as hot dogs and hamburgers, but Retta and I opted for ice cream cones.  Lapping up the ice cream, while sitting in a lawn chair and listening to talented musicians play traditional American folk music is a wonderful way to spend the evening. 

The town hosts the annual Ozark Folk Music Festival, as well as a host of other traditional American music festivities.  The Ozark Folk Center has daily concerts in several venues in the park, so that visitors can listen to traditional folk music the year round.   I highly recommend a visit to Mountain View if you have the opportunity.

Seeing Things In A New Light

A wonderful habitat

Having been born and raised in the suburbs of a major metropolitan area, and living most of my life in neighborhoods where homeowners typically spent at least part of their weekends manicuring their yards, it is understandable that I would bring some city type thinking with me to our rural ranch.  And so it was with my attitude towards dead trees.

In the city, as I noticed on my last trip to the Los Angeles area, it is difficult to find a dead tree.  If the tree is on public property, than city maintenance crews will quickly remove the tree for safety reasons.  If the dead tree is located on commercial property, the property owner will remove the tree for liability reasons, and if the tree is situated on a residential lot, the homeowner will usually remove the tree for safety and/or aesthetic reasons.

When we moved onto our property five years ago, the land had pretty much been neglected for several years, so there was much remedial landscaping and field work to be done.  One of the first things I noticed were some dead trees of one species or another scattered throughout the area.  My suburban instincts immediately took hold, and I vowed that I would soon muster up the tractor and a log chain to pull down these offending eyesores.

As fate would have it, there were so many more pressing chores to do that I never had the opportunity to remove any of the dead trees that were scattered around our land.  Never the less, I vowed that I would get around to this task before too much time had passed.  One thing led to another, and before I knew it, another season had passed without my vow being fulfilled.

Today the dead trees still stand.  Is the fact that they still exist a testament to my procrastinating nature?  Fortunately not.  Since we moved out to the country, I have tried to educate myself about the things I see around me.  And one of the things that I have learned is just how important dead trees are to the environment around us.

A standing dead tree, know as a snag, is a thriving habitat for an entire mini-ecosystem.  First of all,  a snag is nature’s version of the fast-food restaurant.  The dead wood itself becomes a meal for ants, termites, and wood-boring beetles.  These insects, as well as their larvae, in turn become a meal for various species of birds.  Raccoons will also visit the snag for a delicious meal made up of insect larvae.

Besides serving as a feeding station, a snag provides cover for a vast array of creatures.  The loose bark of a snag provides cover for bats to roost, as well as a cozy spot for caterpillars to pupate.  Also taking cover under the loose bark are tree frogs, salamanders, and various types of beetles.  Tree holes also provide a place of refuge for a large number of critters, including woodpeckers, owls, bluebirds, nuthatches, chickadees, wrens, titmice, squirrels, raccoons and opossums, to name just a few.  It has been estimated that up to one-third of all forest birds and mammals depend on dead trees for either nesting or shelter.  The great popularity of providing man-made housing for birds stems from the fact that many species have lost a good portion of the snags that they depend on for their survival.  Thus the need for bluebird houses, bat houses, purple martin houses, etc.

One of the prime uses of a snag is for perching.  Predatory birds, such as owls, hawks, eagles and osprey use the unobstructed view afforded by the leafless snag to observe the surrounding area, searching for prey.

According to the Pennsylvania State Wildlife Management Agency, in their article Why Dead Trees Are Important To Wildlife, dead trees in many cases have become a more valuable resource than living trees, due to the declining number of standing dead trees.  Many states are beginning to require that dead and dying trees be retained in harvest areas, which marks a shift from previous forestry practices.

The Pacific Northwest Research Station, in the article contained in their journal “Science Findings” entitled Dead And Dying Trees: Essential For Life In The Forest, indicates that the latest research into forest ecosystems reveals that the extent to which dead trees are essential to forest species has been severely under-estimated in the past, and that there is a much broader variety of species that depend on dead trees than previously thought.

In conclusion, as I have come to understand the critical role of dead trees and snags on my property, I have become grateful for the circumstances that arose preventing me from taking the rash action of downing these wonderful trees.  Instead of thinking of snags like the one shown in the photograph above as “dead trees”, I now view them in their proper light – a vital habitat for the survival of the many wildlife species that inhabit the area.

You Can’t Escape the Long Arm of the Law

If you have followed this blog for any time now, you may know that we have suffered a rash of wildfires over the past half-year in our county.  We have had four fires that have burned on our property since Thanksgiving Day 2005, and all have occurred under the worst possible conditions for firefighting – very windy days combined with drought conditions (our drought has eased this spring, thank goodness).  If you would like to refresh your memory, you can read previous posts here, and here.

When I read our local weekly newspaper today, I came across the following article:

Arson Investigation Results In Arrest

Following a joint investigation between investigator Jim Thomas of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and investigators with the Arkansas State Forestry Commission, a Harrison man was arrested for arson.

Marion County Sheriff Carl McBee said, “Nicholas Ray Taylor, age 21, of Harrison was arrested on June 13 on an outstanding felony warrant charging him with unlawful burning, which is an unclassified felony.”

McBee said that the investigation occurred after several fires were reported in the Zinc area of Marion County from January through March of this year.  With information provided by concerned citizens in the Zinc and Lead Hill areas, investigators developed enough information to arrest Taylor.

During the interview, Taylor admitted that he intentionally set four fires in the Zinc area.  Taylor was a new member of the Zinc Volunteer Fire Department.

Taylor was booked into the Marion County Jail and released after posting a $2,500 bond.  He is scheduled to appear in the Marion County Circuit Court on June 28 to answer the charge filed against him.

“I would like to thank all of the members of all of the fire departments who worked long, hot hours fighting these fires and for their assistance during this investigation,” McBee said.

Source: Mountaineer Echo – June 25, 2006 – by Jane H. Estes – Front page

I would also like to thank these firefighters once again for all of their hard work and dedication to their communities.  Without volunteer firefighters, there would be no one to turn to in these kind of situations.  It is too bad that there was one “bad apple” in the barrel, along side of all the other wonderful men and women who give so unselfishly of themselves.  Hopefully, these frightening events are now going to be a thing of the past.  There is enough to worry about in this world without these kinds of nutcases running around loose.