Exhibit A: An Hour in Arkansas

We’re camped at Lake Chicot State Park, in the southeast corner of Arkansas, right off the Mississippi River. I posted last about kayaking here among the Cypress trees, which was phenomenal. The campground itself is very quiet right now during off season, with only one RV in our loop, and that RV pulls out and a different one pulls in every few days. So, basically, we have the place to ourselves. Except, not.

Yesterday I went on an hour-long walk through our camping loop and around the park, stretching out my exercise as much as possible. Here’s what happened.

1:10 pm = Very High Maintenance Guys

Within five minutes of walking, I’m up by the closed pool, and a white maintenance truck drives toward me. I slow down to see which way they’re going to turn at the intersection. They slow down. The driver’s window opens. We both stop right there in the road, and the driver and I stare at each other. Awkward silence for a minute. Finally, I start the dialogue.

“I thought you were going to tell me something.”

“No, we’re just trying to turn in here to work on the pool!”

All three of us break out into smiles, and then huge hilarity ensues, like we’ve just had the most amazing conversation of a lifetime. Pot smoke is pouring out of the truck window. We are just so funny. I smile as I walk on.

1:20 = Park Interpreter Doesn’t Know Skunks from Bears

I stop at the park office to ask about the owl walk that evening. The interpreter who will lead the walk comes out of the back, and he’s about 18 and very shy. Because the one nature trail is closed, he says, “Basically, we’re going to walk around the campground, listening to owls.” Okay.

I ask him about skunk deterrence (see below on why), and he offers up:

“Maybe skunks are like bears and you have to get all big and noisy to scare them off.”

Dude, the reason the skunk chases me is because my dog is barking at it. Making noise does not deter it. Also, he had no idea there were skunks in the campground, and, apparently, that skunks are the main prey of barred owls, which are the only ones we hear at night here.

I’m not going on that owl hike with him.

1:40 = “Repent Now” Kids

As I walk on, I hear shouting. Wow, other people are actually here! Turns out to be a bunch of kids playing volleyball and on the playground. Then, I notice that the vans parked near them all have strongly worded stickers on them warning the person driving behind to “REPENT for your sins before it’s too late.” Yikes. Better walk quickly.

A couple of very small children come toward me riding very small electric skateboards. The tiny girl starts in to her friend:

“Get out of the road!”


“Just, get out of the road!”

“But, why?”

“Because THAT LADY is coming!”

Apparently, the rule is to get out of the road no matter what is coming, even someone wearing an old grey tee shirt that says URBAN BOXING on it over knee-high workout pants and hiking boots. I thanked them, they stared at me like I was an alien, and I walked on.

1:50 = Oh, Leland.

They’re not even in my proverbial rear view mirror when here comes Leland, trotting at his own damned pace up the road toward me.

Leland visits our campsite at least once a day, to drink from Banjo’s water bucket, to sniff around, and to see if he can get away with peeing on the corner of the screen tent. If we see him at that, we yell, which has not enamored him to Banjo one bit.

Leland is the park dog, according to the not-high (as far as I could tell) other maintenance staff. He lives up the road at one of the lake houses, but he makes his rounds of the campground several times a day,m. As Tracy says, he takes rejection well: we fuss at him and do our level best not to be friendly (which is hard), and he just looks at us quizzically and then moves on.

1:55 = More Critters Than We Can Shake a Stick at, Literally

Finally, I’m approaching the campsite, but damnit if there’s that skunk in the road, coming right toward me. This is the same skunk that lives in the culvert by the campsite, and at dawn when Banjo and I walk, it comes out to scare us away, tail high and loping a bee line at Banjo.

Banjo, of course, pulls toward it, and I pull her away, and I feel like I’m leading a little frantic parade at dawn down the campground road, me in the lead, pulling Banjo behind me, with the skunk closing in.

What I don’t understand is how that skunk can start out chasing us on one side of the loop and then show up totally on the other side, faster than we can. Finally, Tracy solves the mystery: at night while he’s walking, he sees two skunks. He also sees: opossums, armadillos, a grey fox, and plenty of deer. Plus, sometimes, Leland.

2:05: The Circle Closes

As I step up to the trailer, the high maintenance guys drive by, and we wave to each other like mad because, you know, we’re totally best friends.

What Else We’ve Been Up To

Before this post gets too long, I’ll tell you briefly about our drive down from Memphis, on the Blues Highway. We learned a ton on this drive thanks to my new app, Autio.

It’s a location-based story-telling app, created in part by Kevin Costner, so lots of famous voices are telling the stories. As you drive, it overrides your music with a 2-minute story about whatever noteworthy place you’re passing near. I actually bought the danged thing (and I never spend money on apps), and it payed for itself on that one drive, in my opinion. For example, we knew the legendary Crossroads was somewhere near, but Autio identified the town that claims that fame as Rosedale, Tennessee, right as we drove through it. Cool.

My Third Birthday on the Road

I’m good at enjoying birthdays: I think getting older is something to celebrate, in general. Some birthdays are triggers for grief for me, though, and this one was, for sure. My sister’s daughter, Katherine, had her birthday in early November, and she would have turned 34 this year, amazingly. (She had a genetic disorder that kept her in the hospital most of her 25 years.) Boy do I feel shockingly sad about her suffering, especially on my birthday when I’m the one here and she’s not.

However, Tracy to the rescue with a birthday cake made from Halloween candy (since we’re the only ones in the campground so no tricker or treaters) and with a q-tip as a candle. And he sang to me. That made my day. Plus all the incredibly warm calls and texts and Facebook posts from friends. Thank you!

That night we played my favorite board game, Firefly, and via texts I harassed Marcus and Shana into watching the show. So, the day was a win.

This campground has been a win. Just also, a lot wild.

3 thoughts to “Exhibit A: An Hour in Arkansas”

    1. Thanks so much Renee! Like everything, this lifestyle is a big mix: work, quiet, and excitement of the unusual kind. 🙂