About Me

My photo
I am a mother, a teacher, and a nature lover. I grew up on a mountain we called Owls' Knob in the Ozarks of Arkansas. The first seven years of my life were spent living in a log cabin, far from a store or streetlight, without electricity or running water and after twenty years of travel, I returned to the abondoned homestead. Now I live on a hill by a small lake and work at a public garden. These are stories about nature written from a women deeply influenced by place.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Trip to Jasper

I went to Jasper, the county seat, the largest town in a 60 miles radius from Owl's Knob. I drove there along highway 16, through the tiny town of Nail and Deer. As I approached the hill that descends to my destination, I came up on a car with Texas plates. Tourist come from all over to see this stretch of highway dotted with the colors of fall. A person from the Rockies would likely argue that the Ozarks are hills and not mountains at all. But I disagree; the rugged country is an ancient mountain range, that has been rounded off by about 400 million years of erosion, reducing them to hills in the eyes of some, but not mine. Along the highway leading to Jasper, the earth drops off. One can stand on the edge of the cliff and see into the valley and over the mountains beyond. This time of year the view is particularly beautiful. For me, it is a view I've seen so many times that I am blind to its beauty. I found myself riding the Texans' tail, wondering why they were inching along at 35 miles an hour. Then I glanced to my right at the view and, for a moment, I saw it with their eyes, eyes that had been staring at the vast desert for years. I relaxed, backed off, and enjoyed the ride leisurely.
The highway curves into switchbacks as it drops into the valley. With less than 500 people in it, Jasper is no metropolis. There are no fast food chains, stoplights, or billboards along its dozen or so streets. I drove past the library and the market where a little old woman sells local produce and delicious jam for reasonable prices. I slowed down to admire her pumpkins.
After the market there is what looks like a yard sale, but it is a store front of sorts. The man who runs it leaves his priced items, a box of envelopes, and some pens out for people to shop and pay. The customer chooses an item and pays for it by putting money in an envelope then dropping the envelope in a slot on the locked shed nearby. Once I stopped in while the owner was pricing new merchandise. I asked him if it worked, didn't people steal? He said, no; occasionally people gave him a little less than what was on the price tag, but people wouldn't steal in public view in a town where everyone either knows who you are or that you're not from around here. Only in Jasper.
In the center of town there is an old courthouse. The highway curves sharply around one side of the square that the courthouse stands on. Along the square there is a great pizza parlor, an authentic Ozark restaurant, a lovely antique shop, a few other stores, and then you are heading out of town again. At the edge of town there is a gas station, dollar store, farm store, and Bob's--the grocery store. The highway continues onward toward Dogpatch, a hillybilly amusement park that was shut down years ago.
But I had a purpose in Jasper, I was there to vote; so I stopped along the square and went into the courthouse. The people there were as friendly as ever. I love doing my business in Jasper. In most cities the revenue office, assessors office, and health department is a nightmare of long lines and grumpy people. But in a small town these offices are empty and the people behind the desks greet you with a smile because they are glad someone came to visit them. Such pleasant experiences should not be so rare.
After voting, I drove back along the senic highway. Again I came upon a slow car. I didn't pass. I took the chance to enjoy the veiw. Yet, I did not stop. I did not take a picture. So often we hurry about our lives, wherever they take place, and don't notice such beauty. We need to adopt the eyes of a tourist or a child more often.

No comments:

Post a Comment