Ozark Folk Center - Day 6
June 2005

The photo above shows our last view of our little home for the week. The units were duplexes with two double beds in each. They were very nice, like quality motel rooms. Prices are reasonable and group prices are even better.

We were always greeted with a smile! This young woman was just finishing the night shift.

Breakfast with Tina
After a hearty breakfast of sausage, bacon, bisquits and gravy, scrambled eggs, and coffee, we were just sitting around wonderin’ what was next when in come an old guy dressed in his best Sunday-go-to-meetin’ clothes with a fiddle under his arm. He must have thought we looked a little concerned because he assured us he wasn’t taking his fiddle to church. He said he was goin’ to a funeral and the family had asked him to play a tune at the grave side. He was the kinda' feller what reminded me of Andy Griffith and Forrest Gump (not Andy Gump mind you, but Forrest Gump). He said his name was Gus Pike and that when he was little he dreamed of playing the violin, but when he mentioned it to his mama and daddy, his mama just had a fit. She said the devil was in that box, and she wasn’t goin’ to have no fiddle in her house!

Well, he said he went off and pouted for a while, but his dad came over and said, “Son, you just be patient and I'll see that you get a fiddle. There ain’t no devil in that box!”

'Gus Pike'
Dancing a Jig!
Well, he went on to tell how his dad made him a fiddle out of an old seegar box and a table leg off 'un his mama’s old table out in the smokehouse and about other interesting things he got into over the years. And he played us some nice tunes before he had to head on to the funeral.

Well, sir, Old Gus hadn’t no more than finished a-talking and puttin’ that little seegar-box fiddle down, when Sally, she slipped up there and she commenced to play it! Now I’m not stretching the truth much to say that she made that thing sound like one of them Stradivarius fiddles I’ve heerd tell of. Well, maybe I’m stretching it some - some of ya’ll probably heerd one of them fancy fiddles and I wouldn’t want ya’ll to think that I was a lyin,’ but on the other hand most of ye didn’t hear that pretty sound she made either, so you wouldn‘t know.

Sally Fiddles
Old Gus was some impressed! (Because it wasn’t even tuned like a regler fiddle he said!) He said, “Play us another tune and we’ll dance!” And so she did! And so he did! He grabbed a lady by the hand and they danced a little jig right there!

The Ozark Folk Center was established at the height of the folk music revival of the '60s. It coincided with the “back to the earth” movement following the fading of the flower-power generation. Those who chose the mountain area around Mountain View for their return to the earth, found fertile soil for their effort. They put their hearts and souls into learning the skills and crafts necessary for independent living on the land. They also knew that the old folks of the area were an important source of survival skills and thus they learned from the older generation of hill folk even as those hill folk shared their craft at the Ozark Folk Center.

Those who came “back to the earth” were from off; they weren’t raised in the area and their families weren’t from there either, but they were given a country welcome after they had proved their sincerity. They did their research, did oral histories, learned the country skills and crafts and when the younger generation of hill country people went off to seek their fortunes, it left the folks from off to pick up the old country ways and pass them on. Many of them now work at the Folk Center for the joy of sharing the great way of life they the found in the hills. A little extra financial support helps them to continue learning and sharing. I think it may be time for another series of oral histories.

Not all of the younger generation went away and many of those who stayed and those who left but returned now have some extra time on their hands. They, too, are at the Folk Center sharing their crafts, skills, and research. The young woman at the spinning wheel, the day I visited the shop, had learned to spin from an old woman who demonstrated spinning back in the early days of the Folk Center when I first visited it. The older woman must have been in her seventies or eighties even then. The man who told us the fiddling stories and guided our raft down the White River was a teacher in the Arkansas schools moving on to be principal and finally superintendent of the Mountain View school district. He is one of the native sons who picked up the old time skills and stories and is sharing then at the Folk Center now.

Tina Marie
Tina Marie tends the herb garden and the flower beds on the grounds. She is from off but moved here several years ago and has learned to live an independent life on the land. These pictures are evidence of her skill and that of her fellow workers. Pictures of the herb garden and other flower beds are on the previous page. She is one-third of the Herbin’ League and I think the closest thing I’ve heard to their singing is the group of ladies swimming in the creek and singing to those country guys in “Brother, Where Art Thou?” If you've seen the movie or have heard the sound track, you know that they sang like angels!
Marilyn, Sandy, and Tina
Tina talks to Marilyn and Sandy about flower gardening

Flowers from Tina's Garden.
Another Flower
Lynn was at the Folk Center for the autoharp class. She is a third of the autoharp trio, The Saggy Bottom Girls!

Flower Garden
The flower beds in the area leading from the administration building to the craft areas.

Cigar Box Fiddle
Gus Pike's Cigar Box Fiddle and the Dancing Puppet Lying Limply.
Danny Thomas, the retired school superintendent who plays Gus Pike, builds musical instruments
such as dulcimers, violins, etc.

Dancing Puppet
Ann makes the
little dancing puppet dance.
Dean and Sally receive their certificates and complimentary mugs from Marion.

White River
Ann and I drove east from Mountain View to check a cemetery in Bay Village for graves of some of her ancestors. We remembered the story of the first sheriff of Independence County and how he had made a fortune rendering bear grease in the canebrakes along the White River. So much bear grease was rendered in the boiling pans or troughs along the river that the place became know as Oil Trough.
This is a view up river.

White River
The cane brakes are gone.
Cows now enjoy the shade of the trees on the east bank where the bears used to roam.

Old Store
The old Oil Trough mercantile store is now an antique store.

Day 1 - Refreshments and Get Acquainted. Announcements and Introductions. Jimmy Driftwood Barn music show.
Day 2 - Folk Center history and Ozark Lifestyles. Blanchard Caverns and Springs Tour. "Charles Kelly, Sheriff of Indenpendence County"
Day 3 - Float trip down the White River from Boswell Shoals to Jack's Boat Dock. Evening program - Native American Influence with Carl King
Day 4 - "Long Walk Home" Jimmie Edwards relives an Arkansas Confederate Soldier's time in the Civil War. 1890s Parlor Party with the Brysons. Visit to the craft center. Ozark Folk Center country music program.
Day 5 - Tomahawk throw and history with Scott Reidy. Craft center visit. Signs and Superstitions with Deb Redden. Learning country games and dances with Mary Gillihan. The Herbin' League. More country music.
Day 6 - "This Ain't No Devil's Box" with Danny Thomas as "Gus Pike." Graduation. Then we visited Oil Trough, Arkansas, on the bank of the White River.
The Ozark Folk Center - Find more infromation about the folk center here.
Elderhostel - Find more infromation about Elderhostel here.

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Posted 6/19/05