I Had Some Unfinished Business in Little Rock AR

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April 14th 2015
Published: April 24th 2015
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In May 2010, only two months into “The Great Adventure,” I made a one-week stop in Hot Springs AR and made a day trip to Little Rock to see three attractions: the Central High School National Historic Site, the Clinton Presidential Center and the Old Statehouse Museum. The Arkansas State Capitol and the Arkansas State Vietnam War Memorial remained on my “Must-See-In-Every-State-If-At-All-Practical” List. That list had developed after I had been on the road for several months and both those attractions had escaped me in that newbie foray into Arkansas.

I utilize numerous mapping tools from my computer and hope *()&^#%$% the results coincide with Irene’s (my GPS’) analysis of my route; but I have my trusty Rand-McNally at my side – just in case. ‘Twas a very good thing I had followed my (some would say) overkill protocol for my trip from Diamond Jacks Casino & Resort in Shreveport LA to Burns Park in North Little Rock AR on Wednesday, April 8, 2015. My research had indicated that I-49 would take me from I-20 near Shreveport to I-30 near Texarkana in the southwest corner of Arkansas. For some reason, Irene had a route plotted that took me off I-49 and onto U.S. 71.

Not wanting to subject myself to small towns, traffic lights and side road traffic while pulling the Pilgrim, I ignored her command and stayed on I-49. The display on my Garmin showed me 4-wheelin’ across some farmer’s field while Irene kept ordering, “Follow the highlighted route,” at 30 second intervals! After listening to her agitation with me for 3-4 minutes, I sent her for a coffee break. The roadside ditches were laden with grass. Alligators from the big rigs speckled the shoulders. Self to self, “This road is NOT new!”

I have a 2010 Rand-McNally which I use strictly for recording all the routes taken during the entirety of “The Great Adventure.” That atlas shows parts of I-49 under construction. Since I update my Garmin maps regularly, I must assume Garmin’s database is way, way outdated. I regularly find minor errors in the data, but this mistake is a major booboo. Other than my need to practice civil disobedience, the TRIP went without a problem.

Wednesday evening, after I retrieved some lemonade from the refrigerator, I noticed it wasn’t as cold as usual. Thursday morning found the contents of the freezer thawed, so I spent the day cleaning the refrigerator and finding a mobile RV serviceman. Finally, I located a technician who works at a dealership fulltime and does some additional work in his off hours. After hoops and hurdles, a long story made short says he found that a circuit board was a definite problem but believed that the cooling unit had become plugged and that overheating had caused the failure of the circuit board. He started by replacing the circuit board (which had to be done in either scenario) – part and labor $200.

That didn’t fix the problem so he removed the cooling unit (so the core could be exchanged) and returned the next evening to install the rebuilt cooling unit. He was there until nearly midnight – part and labor $725. That sounds expensive; however, a new unit uninstalled is about $1500. That sounds expensive as well, but remember these units operate on electricity when available and automatically switch over to propane in the absence of electricity – like when dry camping (boondocking) and while travelling the good old American byways.

In spite of the serviceman taking first priority (he was at the Pilgrim 4 or 5
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Arkansas Korean War Veterans Memorial - Little Rock AR
times during the week), I still found some time to get in a little sightseeing. I had my two “must sees” noted above and two other attractions on my list for Friday, April 10, 2015; however, I happened upon three others which made for a full, but productive, day. As I arrived at the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History, I spotted what appeared to be some sort of military monument adjacent to the museum. Lo and behold, there stood the Arkansas Korean War Veterans Memorial.

In what was initially described by President Harry S. Truman as a "police action," 1,789,000 Americans served, 103,284 were wounded, 36,940 were killed – 461 from Arkansas. In what has been called "The Forgotten War" or "The Unknown War" because of the lack of public attention it received both during and after the war, 8,176 became missing in action and 7,245 became prisoners of war, 2,847 of whom died while being held captive.

Black granite panels surround bronze statues of a combat soldier, a medic and Korean children. The panels list the names of the Arkansans killed in the war, list the six Arkansan Medal of Honor recipients and contain interesting information about the war (some
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Arkansas Korean War Veterans Memorial - Little Rock AR
of which is outlined above). Interestingly, most of the money for the construction of the Memorial came from the Republic of Korea to honor the veterans that fought and died for their freedom. I am told by the Internet that this is one of the most impressive Korean War Memorials in the United States. That statement, not counting the Korean War Memorial in Washington DC, will generate no argument from me!

Quoting the inscription on one of the panels, “FROM TRIUMPH TO TRIBUTE - Approximately 4 million Koreans died throughout the Korean peninsula. At one point during the war there were approximately 100,000 orphans wandering in South Korea. The economic and social damages of the war on the Korean people were incalculable. The people of the Republic of Korea survived near total destruction of their country. In less than 50 years, their Republic has become the 10th strongest economy in the world, a strong ally, and a major trading partner with the United States. Our veterans did not fight or die in vain - their legacy is freedom for the Republic of Korea.” Enough said!

I finally arrived at the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History after that
The Sunglasses And The Corncob Pipe – MacArthur FixturesThe Sunglasses And The Corncob Pipe – MacArthur FixturesThe Sunglasses And The Corncob Pipe – MacArthur Fixtures

MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History – Little Rock AR
brief, but very worthwhile, digression. Three personalities are examined in depth – Gen. Douglas MacArthur (who was born in Little Rock), President Harry S. Truman (MacArthur’s nemesis) and Gen. Wesley K. Clark (who was raised in Little Rock from the age of three). Of course, what would a Southern military museum be without a close examination of the Civil War? I found the coverage of the Camden Expedition and David Dodd (also raised in Little Rock) interesting. Dodd was convicted of espionage and was hanged on January 8, 1864 when only 17 years old.

One of the most interesting exhibits is "Through the Camera's Eye: The Allison Collection of WWII Photographs." While working as a sports writer for the Houston Press, James Allison noticed that photos not used in the paper were merely discarded. He requested permission to collect the images and amassed over 4,600 photographs which he later donated to an Arkansas museum that was housed in the current location of this museum. Very interesting. As military museums go, this one is atypical and military minded folks should see it. Others, probably not as much.

My next stop was the Historic Arkansas Museum also in Little Rock. I was not able to Google an “Arkansas State History Museum” per se. The only other option I found is the Arkansas State University Museum in State University AR. Assuming the state history museum is located in the state capital, I suppose this institution is it. If so, it is unlike the other state history museums I have seen. There is not a chronological sequence from prehistoric time to the present day. The exhibits here have a narrow focus but follow no discernable pattern. The first exhibit I encountered has numerous beautiful quilts on display. The next exhibit displays Native pottery followed by the art of Arkansan Josephine Graham (1915-1999). The knife gallery tells of Jim Bowie (who was born in Kentucky and died at the Alamo) and closely examines the art of bladesmithing or knife-making. A sizable collection of very interesting “Arkansas toothpicks” is on display.

Upstairs, “We Walk in Two Worlds” examines the internal conflict of the Native American peoples. First examined is their contact with Anglos and the evolution of those relationships; then, the impact of Western diseases on the Native communities; and, finally, their forced relocation. "The land we now live on belonged to our forefathers. If we leave
Some Of The Knives Are ExquisiteSome Of The Knives Are ExquisiteSome Of The Knives Are Exquisite

Historic Arkansas Museum - Little Rock AR
it, where shall we go? All of my nation, friends and relatives are there buried. ... To leave my natal soil, and go among red men who are aliens to our race, is throwing us like outcasts upon the world." Heckston, Chief of the Quapaw, 1824

Outside, some forefather had the vision to save a working class neighborhood for posterity. Four costumed docents (one in period which is really cool) accompanied me to various sites around the community. Two are quite unique. One is a tavern – the only one I can remember having seen – and another is a printing shop. A plaque recognizes the lives of the residents of Blocks 31, 32, and 33 of the original City of Little Rock. Research has documented that at least 139 people brought life to the community. The outside attraction is worth the trip, but inside is a matter of personal preference and depends on the theme of the temporary exhibits.

My next stop was the Arkansas State Capitol – yup, in Little Rock. The structure is nice but not lavish. Our tour guide (there were only three visitors) was nice but, sadly, uninformed. During the tour, something kept nagging me. I knew the plans for another capitol building had been abandoned when a fraudulent scam had been uncovered and that those original plans had been used to build another capitol. I couldn’t think of the state where the fraud was discovered but was almost positive the state where the plans were used was Arkansas. When I asked the tour guide, she hadn’t a clue. That night, I found the abandoned plans for the graft-plagued MONTANA capitol had been used to build the ARKANSAS capitol!

Later in the tour, as she was talking about former governors, I asked if she knew Bill Clinton and Mike Huckabee both were born in Hope AR. Again, she didn’t know. As I recall, they were born in the same hospital and went to the same grade school. I guess that resolves any question about political perspectives being determined by the drinking water! She did confirm my verbalized belief that Clinton had never been a legislator. The Arkansas State Capitol is nice and is worth the time. In my opinion, every state capitol is a must-see; however, if I were to, some day in the future, recommend five capitols to see, I doubt
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Arkansas Fallen Firefighter Memorial - Little Rock AR
Arkansas would make the list.

Outside, as is the case with many capitols, the grounds foster many monuments and memorials. I knew of one, learned of a second, happened upon a third and missed (later learned of) a fourth. I had learned of the Arkansas Fallen Firefighter Memorial. The very helpful Capitol police officer told me its location. Surrounding a central “fountain” sculpture are plaques noting the fallen firefighter’s name, department affiliation and date of death.

The central sculpture portrays four firefighters – one turn of the century “leather lung,” one contemporary structural firefighter, one wildlands firefighter and a firefighter performing emergency medical duties. I reluctantly described the memorial as a fountain only because water is drizzling from “old leather lung’s” playpipe. I think all would find the memorial worth a brief stop.

On the way to my “must see” memorial, I happened upon the Arkansas Medal of Honor Memorial Monument. Plaques identifying the two dozen or so Medal of Honor recipients encircle a central sculpture that is, I suppose, a bald eagle about to swoop down and deliver a couple of cups of Medal of Honor kick ass on the bad guys. The memorial is nice,
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Arkansas State Vietnam War Memorial - Little Rock AR
and it was on the way to my actual outdoor “must see” destination.

The Arkansas State Vietnam War Memorial was my second “must see” at the Arkansas Statehouse. The capitol tour guide told us that Arkansas is one of two states with a balanced budget by law. Biscuits stop the hunger pangs. Gravy is mighty tasty. Sausage is mouth-watering! The year this memorial was built must have been a biscuit year! Granted, I’ve only seen ten state Vietnam memorials, but this is one of the two least remarkable memorials I have seen. There is a sculpture of a combatant in the center of the monument that has a “now what” blank stare on his face. Come on folks, expressiveness doesn’t cost any extra! The memorial is worth a visit to pay tribute to the fallen, but…

I subsequently learned of “Testament,” the Little Rock Nine sculpture and would have sought it out had I known. Wouldda, shouldda, couldda! I guess I have now learned to Google the state capitol grounds as (I already knew) most are surrounded by a sculpture/memorial garden of some sort. After I departed the Capitol grounds, I stopped by the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum but, when I
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Jacksonville Guitar Museum - Jacksonville AR
learned the museum was housed inside a retired submarine, I passed.

I’m not sure just where on the Internet I found the Jacksonville Guitar Museum in Jacksonville AR, but whatever entity has it listed sure is making a stretch (I believe it was arkansas.com, because that’s the only place I can find it as I write this blog.). I found the facility without any problem on Saturday, April 11, 2015, but the sign says the building is home to the Jacksonville Guitar Center. What the hell – I’d already made the drive. The clerk directed me to an area of the store where the owner keeps his personal collection and told me I was welcome to have a look. I did!

Most of the guitars, mandolins and ukuleles appear to be toys, and for some there is no question – a BeeGees guitar, a Beetles guitar, etc. Most of the guitars have an image of the Lone Ranger, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, et. al. emblazoned on the face of the instrument. There are a dozen or so very unique-looking guitars and some early amplification equipment; however, one walks away dumbfounded because NOTHING has any documentation. If you come to Jacksonville
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Plantation Agriculture Museum - Scott AR
for some other reason, what the hell – you’ve already made the drive!

My next stop was in Scott AR at the Plantation Agriculture Museum. The museum opens with vintage plowing, planting and cultivating equipment and a small (now electrified) cotton gin. The State Park docent (my experience says state-run facilities rank very good to excellent as a rule) provided a short cotton lesson and fired up the gin for a “pictures speak louder than words” demo. Very interesting. Information is provided about the boll weevil, about cotton ripening (the crop doesn’t all ripen at the same time necessitating picking a field from two to four times during a season) and about ginning, classing and baling.

I don’t remember ever seeing mules addressed as thoroughly – what is a mule?, care of the mules (particularly their hooves) and the tack (its name, purpose and care). Domestic issues around the plantation are not forgotten and an extensive lesson on clothes washing and the making of lye soap is provided. The Civil War is addressed but from a perspective of Arkansans being as divided as was the entire country. Steamboats and the shipping of the harvested cotton round out the inside exhibits.

Outside, one finds some steam powered tractors and a nicely preserved historical commercial cotton gin. A comprehensive lesson is provided about the Munger System – the vacuuming system that is used to draw the cotton from the wagon into the gin. The “cotton warehouse” contains period farm equipment – a cotton seed delinting machine, a grain cleaner, a pea huller, a fanning mill and a seed grader.

All artifacts, inside and outside, are well documented and nicely displayed. I’ve now seen a half dozen or so cotton-themed museums but saw equipment and was exposed to subjects here that I have not seen elsewhere. If you haven’t seen a cotton museum, the Plantation Agriculture Museum is a must see. If you have seen others, I’ll bet you still can learn something here.

Hungry yet? One of the docents at the Historic Arkansas Museum had asked if I planned to go to the Plantation Agriculture Museum. When I responded affirmatively, she told me I should get a Hub Cap Burger at Cotham's Mercantile while I’m in Scott. The Cotham's Mercantile building was built in 1912 and served as a general mercantile store for area farmers. It also served as a military commissary and lockup for local hooligans awaiting the arrival of a circuit-riding judge. In 1984, a small eating area was opened to serve lunch to area farmers. Shortly thereafter, it was discovered by prominent folks, most notably Bill Clinton, and the restaurant became the place to eat and greet for both the up-and-coming and the already-made-it Arkansans from all walks of life.

As I was walking to the door, I was (once again) humming Toby Keith’s “I Love this Bar.” Even though it’s not a bar, it’s the kind of place that recharges my batteries. Ma and Pa all the way. The center section of the mercantile enterprise has yielded to the restaurant enterprise, but the outer perimeter still sports reminders of its genesis. Ready for a Hub Cap Burger? I am. This 7-8 inch diameter burger is a whopping 17 ounces (I asked the waitress) of zesty (I had the jalapeno version), artery clogging delight! I ate the burger (and was quite stuffed) but had to forego a few of the fries. Excellent atmosphere and food.

Sunday, April 12, 2015 found me heading to the River Rail Streetcar that services the downtowns of Little Rock and
All Aboard!All Aboard!All Aboard!

River Rail Streetcar - Little Rock AR
North Little Rock. The operator did offer a narrative but, due to the noisy nature of a trolley and my poor hearing, I couldn’t understand any more than ten percent of the words she expressed. For those who stay at a downtown hotel or pay for all day parking, the trolley is a great way to get to the attractions (mostly restaurants, clubs and shopping opportunities) across the river and back again. Honestly, the limited trolley service area didn’t connect me to most of the destinations on my agenda, but it was something that looked like fun so, why not?

I went three for three on my one day trip to Little Rock in 2010 – (reminder) the Central High School National Historic Site, the Clinton Presidential Center and the Old Statehouse Museum. Those planning a trip to Little Rock might want to consult that blog for some insight into those three attractions. On this trip, I had a pleasant mix of very good with not so much. That led to no deluxe touring day but, likewise, held no horrendous days either. There are many attractions in Little Rock and the surrounding area that didn’t make my list which
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Arkansas Korean War Veterans Memorial - Little Rock AR
leads me to believe there is something in central Arkansas that will satisfy almost anybody’s “traveler cravings.”

Additional photos below
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War Posters Make A Nice DisplayWar Posters Make A Nice Display
War Posters Make A Nice Display

MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History – Little Rock AR
Another MacArthur Signature PieceAnother MacArthur Signature Piece
Another MacArthur Signature Piece

MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History – Little Rock AR
All The Artifacts Are Nicely DisplayedAll The Artifacts Are Nicely Displayed
All The Artifacts Are Nicely Displayed

MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History – Little Rock AR
Allison’s Collection Of World War II Photographs Is Very InterestingAllison’s Collection Of World War II Photographs Is Very Interesting
Allison’s Collection Of World War II Photographs Is Very Interesting

MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History – Little Rock AR

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