Gas, Grass & Ass: Adventures in Rural America, 1973

Seeking a self-sustaining life outside the city and a new start for her marriage, this twenty-five-year old a woman boldly embarked on proprietorship of a full-service gas station along a highway in rural Arkansas. Her hope to live and work at her own place of business soon encountered not only the end of her marriage but also the entrenched conservatism of the rural South. Joyful in recounting her experiences with an endlessly astonishing parade of human nature, Campbell portrays a unique slice of American life at a pivotal time with the fall of Richard Nixon’s presidency and the end of the Vietnam War. Buoyed by a wellspring of support and companionship, Campbell struggles to hang on to her dream of independence.

5-star review: “Gas, Grass, and Ass,” is not just a catchy title. This is a slice of life story straddling time between being a young married college grad to being a young divorcee running a gas station in very small town Arkansas/America. In that way it’s a slice of history of the time, but more so it is a slice of how much and how little has changed about how we treat each other. Assuming that because she was a single (divorced!) woman running a business on the side of the highway made her fair game for sexual advances and gossip, the “locals” decided her business success or failure, rewards and punishments. I think the writing is exceptional because if you’ve ever walked into one of these little gas stations where old men like to congregate and watch the world from their bench, you will find yourself right back in that space again. Well-worth the read.

Paperback $9.95 Amazon

Self-Publishing: The Basics

Plus

How to Tell Your Story: A Guide for Personal Memoir or Family History

This holiday season, take advantage of family gatherings to save your ancestral history. For the first time in history, you have the opportunity to put your masterpiece ideas into bookstores without a middleman. This revolution in communication comes with a price, however, a steep learning curve about which technology to use and how to use it. That’s where this book comes in handy.

The first part of this book covers the fundamental stages of self-publishing: what software to use and how to use it, step-by-step guidance for working with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, and understanding important elements like genre. You’ll find discussion about getting reviews and marketing as well as useful hints about maintaining those tender creative sensibilities in the face of seemingly overwhelming obstacles.

The second part provides organizational and writing guidelines for the personal memoir as well as family history. How do you transform the bare bones of genealogical research into a compelling narrative? How do you flesh out the story of a transformative period of your life? Take notes when an older relative starts reminiscing. Someday you’ll be glad you did.

Previously, so-called vanity presses charged a stiff fee to take a manuscript and turn it into a book. Now with print-on-demand technology, the self-publishing author doesn’t need to pay a dime to publish a paperback or e-book. That memoir or family history or sure-to-be-a-bestseller novel only needs some basic pointers to go from brainstorm to reality. Start writing!

Paperback, $12.95, Amazon

The Girl from Ipanema

This morning a friend commented on Facebook that he’d received a treasured gift for Christmas, a re-issued vinyl of the original Getz/Gilberto 1964 album that included the ever-stunning “Girl from Ipanema.” I was immediately sent hurtling back to my high school years in a small Oklahoma town (1964-1966) where, after classes, I worked at a music store and performed various tasks out front as well as teaching guitar lessons to various motivated pupils.

One day while I dusted store shelves, the manager set that particular album on the stereo. When that song came up, I couldn’t move. The music and lyrics filled me with wonder and emotion.

Denele Pitts

So it was that in the late spring of 1966 in preparing for the annual senior event where most of the graduating class were expected to perform in some way or another, this song sprang instantly to my mind. I had hummed it, sang it to myself in the mirror, and couldn’t get it out of my head. I was an experienced vocalist, having performed in the select choir as well as Allstate Choir in addition to a trio of me (on guitar) and two other females (tambourine, banjo) who sang folks ballads of the day for civic luncheons and other similar events.

A collaboration quickly developed between me and my high school sweetheart Bill, a performer in his own right on percussion as well as modern dance. I labored hard and long to transcribe the recording into written music for a piano accompaniment as there was no sheet music available, but the transitions in the piece evaded me entirely, and so I determined to sing acapella with only rhythm instruments. Bill planned to ‘hoof it,’ as he said, making it up as he went along. We rehearsed together once.

Our duet, as it were, presented me in a slim pale blue sheath at one corner of the stage singing my husky rendition of Astrud Gilberto’s song at the microphone while, in black tights and leotard, Bill danced his evocative modern style along the shadowy blue footlights. At the brick back wall where we’d pulled back the curtains, three of our musical classmates, also in black, carried the rhythm of the piece with claves, maracas, and guiro while perched at various position on a tall platform ladder.

A few notes into the song, the packed house became dead silent. They all knew the history of the relationship between me and Bill, a passionate on-again, off-again torment that had been no secret among our 300-odd classmates. We’d been voted “Most Talented” in our graduating class, and that acknowledgement seemed to require that we surpass anything we’d previously accomplished.

And it felt like we did. My naturally low-pitched voice perfectly suited the song, and Bill’s lithely muscled body moved in exact response to the lyrics. We had changed the lyrics to make the song about the ‘boy’ from Ipanema…

Tall and tan and young and handsome
The boy from Ipanema goes walking
And when he passes, each one he passes
Goes “A-a-a-h”
When he walks he’s like a samba
That swings so cool and sways so gentle
That when he passes, each one he passes
Goes “A-a-a-h”
Oh, but I watch him so sadly
How can I tell him I love him
Yes, I would give my heart gladly
But each day as he walks to the sea
He looks straight ahead, not at me
Tall and tan and young and handsome
The boy from Ipanema goes walking
And when he passes, I smile, but he
Doesn’t see. He just doesn’t see
No, he just doesn’t see…

As Bill moved across the stage, strutting and sauntering to fit the lyrics, I whispered my love song as if nothing existed but the two of us. I hit the notes perfectly as his movements gave visual fulfilment of the lyrics. It was, for both of us, a moment of unrestrained joy.

At the last fading breath of my voice, as Bill’s body slowly became immobile in the footlights, a long extended moment of silence filled that auditorium. I thought briefly that somehow we had failed in the execution of our performance, that my voice or his dance had been unworthy of the audience. Then, as if waking from a dream, the applause came thundering down, whistles and shouts and calls that exceeded any response to any of the countless times either of us had given ourselves to a song or dance. We had two curtain calls after which I simply refused to go back out for another.

Bill in “A Chorus Line,” third from front

All these years later, that experience lives on in my memory. I suspect it lives on in Bill’s as well, but within a few years of graduation, he landed in New York where he pursued his talents on Broadway with the fortuitous experience of working with Bob Fosse and performing in The Most Happy FellaA Chorus LineCabaretRags, Dancin’, and Sweet Charity. to name a few. I, on the other hand, left my stage presence behind and ended up a back-to-the-land wife and mother of three in a thirty-year career as a piano tuner/technician, somehow feeling better suited to working behind the scenes.

For me, the song remains a highly emotional experience and a high point in my high school years. Singing in that style suited me whereas all the voice lessons and choral performances had pushed a more operatic style, which I did not enjoy. I’m still proud of myself for stepping outside the expected boundaries of my music education and daring to break new ground. I suspect Bill feels the same in breaking away from tap and ballet. Although we’ve had infrequent contact over the years, we’ve never discussed that event, as if somehow any remembrance would tarnish the glow we both felt.

And that’s perhaps best, since there is nothing either of us could say that would make the memory any more perfect. Just as the song as preserved forever on that slip of black vinyl would not be made any more perfect. It was a moment in time.

Stan Getz, left, and Astrud Gilberto https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVdaFQhS86E&t=126s

The Old Student Union

You come in the south door, clamoring down the curve of steps that lead to the basement. Brushing past the expanse of tidy mailboxes on your right, you quickly jog down a couple more steps where you might turn left into the bookshop, mayhap to toss down a dime in payment for a blue book required for an exam in your next class, or just to roam the few aisles appreciating the scent of ink, reams of white paper, or a raft of sketching pencils. But truly, the quest is not here, but across the small lobby where large doors open into the room full of crowded tables, wonderful aromas of coffee and hamburgers, and the roar of chatter from a hundred voices. For me, this place more than any other embodies the reality of life on campus.

There, to the right, behind tall counters laden with coffee and iced tea urns, stand the women in white aprons and hairnets. They watch each student who approaches. At least two of them tend the grill, a massive flattop of well-worn steel burned black by the incessant demand for another hamburger, another fried egg. An endless task of scraping the surface clean with a large flat spatula occupies any spare moment. You watch as one of those women turns her attention to you, and you place your order, mouth already watering.

For a dollar and a quarter, manna from heaven in the form of a grilled cheese sandwich can be yours. You stand there and watch as she turns to her work, wielding a big floppy brush to spread melted butter onto two slices of bread before slapping it onto that grill. The bread quickly turns golden brown before being flipped over—more butter, more searing heat. Then cheese. Glorious marvelous wonderful cheese is added, and the two slices of bread marry it into a sanctified One.

Suffering a quick angled slice of razor-sharp knife to form two triangles, your bundle of deliciousness sails down the line under the supervision of successive women in white, passing the lighted refrigerated case where a person might choose a slice of cream pie, or a peeled egg, or perhaps a salad. But your eyes follow the rich ooze of cheese that rims the bread crust and threatens to inch onto the heavy white china plate. Along the way, a few slices of dill pickle are added along with a glass of iced tea. Finally the plate makes its way to the lady at the cash register and lands on a tray. You tender your cash and then you were standing there, peering through the roiling clouds of cigarette smoke in search of a place to sit.

Squinting toward the bright light pouring in through big windows and glass-paneled doors leading to the porch, you peruse the tables for someone you might know, or—futilely—for an unoccupied table. If fortune fails to smile, you wander through a door to the left of the cashier into the larger dining area where an empty table is more easily found. Or you might, weather permitting, ease out onto the big porch in search of that gang of friends who usually occupy one of the tables. Most desired is the first room with the grill where the bodies, the flattop and the mingled aromas of food generate more warmth than the building’s heat can supply.

Whatever the case, finally dragging out a chair and with the books, notebooks, and other encumbrances unloaded onto an adjacent chair, you lift the sandwich in trembling hand. With a last swallow of eager saliva, your teeth sink into the crisp-tender concoction that will nourish the rest of your afternoon. The bite of just-enough sharpness in the cheese contrasts with the buttery crunch of the toasted bread still hot from the stalwart grill, and the sandwich begins to disappear. The tang of dill clears the palate for the other half of the sandwich, and then, alas, it is gone.

There’s time yet to sip the iced tea. With a brief glance around, you might leave your table to visit the cigarette machine where a quarter dropped into the slot and a quick jerk of the knob yields a fresh pack of your preferred brand. You stroll back to the table, slam the pack a few times against your palm, then unwrap the shiny cellophane to retrieve one of the perfectly-shaped cylinders. Then, with the smoke filling your lungs briefly before you exhale, there is time to look around, assess the day, ponder the meaning of life. A great lassitude supplants your otherwise fraught existential despair, courtesy of butter, cheese, and the endorphins they bestow.

Yes, an exam in French is coming in a half hour, and you’re not ready. You probably didn’t perform as well as you wished on the algebra exam earlier this morning. But these too shall pass, what’s done is done, and so forth. As you tap ash into the tiny flat metal ashtray and consider the nature of life, the comfort of cheese lingers.

Maple Street side leading into porch area

As do many other memories. I left after my sophomore year to live near Vandenberg Air Force Base in California with my new husband. Two and a half years later when he was transferred to Clark Air Base in the Philippines, I returned to Fayetteville to finish my degree. There were mornings when I’d drive to campus in early morning fog to park in a graveled lot across Maple Street and venture up these steps into the Union for a cup of coffee before my early class. Those too were nostalgic moments thinking of the earlier years, of fellow students and dorm mates, of professors and classes, of ever changing current events.

The student union of those days is gone, sacrificed into other uses for a larger more elaborate facility than what Memorial Hall could ever provide. Built in the early 1970s, the new union seems to us older alumni as somewhat cold and vast compared to the old environs of Memorial Hall. Yes, it was crowded and unquestionably not best suited to more modern needs, but it was our place in our time. In service as a student union only thirty years from its construction in 1940, the facility nevertheless filled a critical role in campus life.

As described in the 1941 yearbook: “The basement floor is made up of the confectionery with a black and chromium soda fountain and cafeteria facilities, and the amusement rooms. Walking down the hall from the confectionery one can go into two rooms equipped with ping-pong tables, and one with large, lively snooker tables. Up the stairs to the main floor, and there one sees the front entrance, from which leads the ballroom and the lounge room. With a lofty ceiling support four huge glass and metal chandeliers and tall arched windows draped with yards and yards of flowing expensive cloth, the ballroom is truly a ‘dream.’ Over the especially designed band shell is a mural depicting all phases of student life at the University, and all around the floor are chairs for chaperones and those who care to sit the dance out. Overlooking the ballroom is a balcony for those who care to watch rather than dance. The chandeliers are all connected with one master switch which changes the lights in the room from red, blue, green, and orange back to natural lighting in a gradual fading process.

“Equipped with heavy leather chairs and divans, the pastel-colored lounge room can compare very well with the lobby of an expensive hotel. Scattered throughout the room are lamps with indirect lighting, and down at the end is a large fireplace topped by a huge square mirror. Here students come to read, talk, or just listen to the radio.” 1941

“The fountain room of the Student Union, where at some time or other, everyone sees everyone, is a happy confusion of coffee lines, bridge games, table-hoppers, and glaring renditions from the juke-box. From 9-11, 2 until 5, it’s the place to see and be seen, grab a late breakfast or a hurried lunch, or just sit and talk.” 1951

Bookstore 1950s:

Open hallway where advocates of one issue or another could interact with students. In my time, it was to sign the petition to save the Buffalo River and then to stop the war in Vietnam.

Note: If you’d like to wander through the Razorback yearbook from your time on campus, here’s the link

Easy Gift Shopping!

Books are gifts that last forever, endlessly entertaining for the recipient you have in mind. For the old codger in your family, give him (or her) a rush back to their prime with any of these four affordable treasures!

Gas, Grass & Ass

Seeking a self-sustaining life outside the city and a new start for her marriage, this twenty-five-year old woman boldly embarked on proprietorship of a full-service gas station along a busy highway in rural Arkansas. Her hope to live and work at her own place of business soon encountered not only the end of her marriage but also the entrenched conservatism of the rural South. Joyful in recounting her experiences in an endlessly astonishing parade of human nature, Campbell’s stories portray a unique slice of American life at a pivotal time with the fall of Richard Nixon’s presidency and the end of the Vietnam War. Buoyed by a wellspring of support and companionship, Campbell struggles to hang on to her dream of independence. Get your copy now!

5 star review: “I enjoyed this true story about a determined young woman in the early 70’s owning and operating a small gas station on her own. Interesting “characters” who frequent the station and the dynamics of small town life. Takes you back in time !”

Aquarian Revolution

They were the hippies, the drop-outs, the radicals. They came from New York, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and bought cheap Arkansas land where they could build lives with meaning. Often the topic of heated rhetoric and armchair analysis, those who went ‘back to the land’ rarely speak in their own voice. Now documented in these personal interviews, their stories reveal the guts, glory, and grief of the 1960s social revolution. Buy it today!

“Denele Campbell’s informative ‘Aquarian Revolution: Back to the Land’ fills a much-needed niche in the history of the Counter-Culture movement. Unlike in more crowded Europe, America’s rural expanse offered an escape, a new beginning in the 1960s, from a social cancer spreading through the dominant culture. The dream of finding land to till and an alternative life style had been an American dream since its founding. America’s cities, mired in racism, sexism, poverty, and riots, seemed doomed. The ‘baby boomers’ sought escape by going to the land, many for the first time. Denele Campbell has carefully chronicled the personal stories of thirty-two pioneers who opted to create their utopian vision in the Ozarks. As such, their quest is at times fascinating, amusing, and often painful. Yet, it is a good read for those who lived through this era as well as today’s young.” —-T. Zane Reeves, Regents’ Professor Emeritus, University of New Mexico and author of Shoes along the Danube.

Ray: One Man’s Life

“I’ve had my jaw broke three times, my nose broke five times to the point that the VA had to do the operation they do to boxers. My hand’s been broke and on fire once, enough that the skin was gone clear back to my wrist. I’ve fell off buildings, ladders, and mountains. Somehow I survived all that craziness.”

How Ray Mooney survived the incredible journey of his life is indeed a question for the ages. Polio, combat assault jumps from helicopters in Vietnam, and three children by three different wives didn’t kill him. Neither did the flagrant murder of his father by his father’s latest wife. But the traumas changed him, as they would change any man.

Told in his own words, Ray’s life story rushes from one shocking experience to the next and brings him to the last days as he faces end stage lung disease. Turkey killer, outlaw, entrepreneur, and disabled vet, this boy from the horse farms and tobacco fields of Kentucky relates his adventures with wry wit and breathtaking honesty. Buy Ray’s story

South County: Bunyard Road and the Personal Adventures of Denny Luke

1972. A Yankee learns the Ozarks way and lives to tell his tales. Now almost a native, Denny fondly reminisces about the people and places of his adopted home.

Denny Luke is an adventurer. During his years as a Navy man, he built hot rods with money he made with shipboard loansharking. He returned to his native Ohio where he soon tired of the mechanic’s life. Computers had just started to break the surface in 1966, the perfect attraction to a young man with a sharp mind and plenty of ambition.

Hot cars and Enduro racing occupied Denny’s next few years as he helped usher in the computer age in Minneapolis. But another adventure awaited when in 1970 he fell in with a bunch of hippies. By 1972, he had found his way to the Ozarks.

An avid photographer and storyteller, Denny shares the adventures of his life as he recalls the outrageous backwoods tales and colorful characters who populate the southern fringe of Washington County in Northwest Arkansas.

Buy South County!

Shop Denele Campbell’s author page for all her books. You don’t have to be a geezer to find something you can’t live without! Amazon.com

Take Note While You Can!

Make good use of that chaotic holiday family gathering! Record family history told by Aunt Tilley and Grandmother Joan while they’re still around or forever regret the history you’ve lost. Interview Granddad Hiram, racy jokes and all. These stories never go out of style! And your grandchildren will thank you.


Wait no longer! Take some time today to write down something, even a few words. Fifteen minutes. An hour. What you write doesn’t have to be a 400-page novel—it can be a list of things you remember about your grandmother. Put her full name at the top of the sheet of paper and then the date and place she was born, if you know it. Who did she marry and when, where? What places did they live? What were the names and birth dates of their children? Did she keep a garden? Crochet? Play tennis every week? Every detail you record will color in the lines of a story prized by your descendants.

Whatever direction your road leads, never doubt that your efforts will be greatly appreciated not only by other family members now but also by those who come after you. Knowing the names, activities, whereabouts, and personalities of our forefathers and foremothers offers each of us a comforting sense of place, a mirror to reflect our greater selves, and reassurance that life for your kind goes on no matter what. Personal and family histories are a critical tool for your descendants to more fully understand what has led to who they are.

Or maybe you’ve been thinking about telling your personal story, those life-changing moments you’ll never forget. This easy-to-follow guide walks you through the steps of making it real: gathering and organizing information, changing a bare-bones family tree or personal memoir into a fascinating narrative, and putting it into print – at no cost!

This book covers the fundamental stages of writing family history or an autobiography with pointers on fleshing out details into compelling narratives, how to organize your materials, and building a story.

The book also provides clear guidelines on how to self-publish: what software to use and how to use it, step-by-step guidance for working with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, and understanding important elements like genre. You’ll find discussion about getting reviews and marketing as well as useful hints about maintaining those tender creative sensibilities in the face of seemingly overwhelming obstacles.

Don’t miss your holiday opportunities to gather your family history and turn it into a record to be prized by generations to come. Grab your copy today at Amazon.com

More Adventures of Denny Luke: City-Boy Plowing and other blasphemies

Following the success of his first book, South County: Bunyard Road and the Personal Adventures of Denny Luke, Denny Luke found himself remembering even more moments in his life that seemed worthy of recording.  Brief moments, some of them. Others spurred by a photograph here and there.

Always accommodating to his friends and family, Denny divulges various secrets and outrages that occurred at various points in his eighty years – so far.

Take what you will from his stories, he gives it all in good humor and humility. 

Here’s a taste:

Runaway

Age 12 or 13, I knew everything! Parents disagreed of course, so I plotted to run away. Living in Beloit, Wisconsin, where should I go? Having the entire world to choose from, decided on California, endless beaches, hot rods and beautiful weather and I could get there on my thumb.

Headed west, must change my name, I thought, to disguise myself, picked ‘Conrad Davis.’ Sounded right in case I hit Hollywood.

Somewhere in Iowa a fella picked me up in Chevy station wagon. Stated he’d just installed an anti-sway bar and watch this! He flew around curves, in the days before seat belts, had me white knuckling for my life.

Next, picked up by a guy attending an all-night meeting. He liked me, said I could sleep in the back of his car. Lit out at first light, back on the road.

Next evening was pondering what to do for the night…

Read all of it and much more in this slim but rich treasure trove of ‘Dennyspeak’! Available at Amazon

Ardent Spirits in Washington County: An examination of laws governing intoxicating drink

Pioneers who settled Washington County and other areas of the state in the early 1800s would have been shocked and highly annoyed with laws passed before the end of the century which regulated and ultimately prohibited the production and use of alcoholic drink. Personal freedoms taken for granted by men who forged the frontier slowly eroded as reform elements in society attempted to change the nation’s drinking habits. Instead of men guiding their own ‘manifest destiny,’ those who considered themselves “God’s defenders” presumed to know what was best for every man. Along with such moral regulations, however, came an onerous cost to the young nation as commonly accepted behavior became criminalized. Inevitably, the rule of morality would be replaced by the rule of outlaws.

…Washington County’s county seat Fayetteville hosted a well-established temperance movement by 1841, at which time the local chapter was humiliated by the discovery that its vice president had fled to Texas after embezzling over $20,000 through his job at the bank. Stirred to greater vigilance by this event, the society publicly excoriated a member who confessed to drinking wine. In another “outing,” the society issued a summons against such noteworthy local citizens as Joseph J. Wood, John J. Stirman, and H. J. Sanderson for “the violation of their pledge to said Society.” According to an account of the Fayetteville Temperance Society 1841-1844, published in the Arkansas Historical Quarterly, “Sanderson arose and publicly confessed that he frequently drank Ardent spirits and sometimes to excess.”  The Society approved a motion to report him as a person unworthy of membership.

Reflecting the increasing regulation and growing public hysteria about alcohol use under the incitement of temperance activists, the issuance of licenses in Washington County dropped off dramatically by the mid-1850s. In 1855, the Arkansas legislature passed a law allowing local townships to vote whether to allow alcohol sales within their boundaries. Fayetteville’s newspaper the South-West Independent carried frequent comment on this state of affairs, the tenor of which insinuates the editor’s low regard for such efforts, such as this February 10, 1855, piece:

“Bear it in mind, that the law now in force, in regard to retailing ardent spirits, requires the individual wishing to set up a dram shop to present to the county court a petition signed by a majority of the voters of the township in which the grocery is to be located, before he can obtain license to retail drams!

“Some of these petitions are already before the people, and it will soon be tested whether a majority of voters of Washington county are in favor of retail liquor shops or not. We believe, however, that there is, at present, only one licensed grocery in the county, and it may be that the hundred dollar tax will prevent the test from being applied to all but Prairie township; if so, the present law will affect only the people in and about Fayetteville. Practically, the passage of this law can affect Washington county but little. Still, for its moral effect, the public mind ought to be wide awake upon the subject, and act from principle.

“How would it do to hold public meetings and have a little free discussion upon the subject? We make the suggestion and hope to see it acted upon; in this way both sides of the question may be freely and fairly presented to the public. We want the test to be a fair one.”

A local establishment selling alcohol had its own ideas about the call for stricter regulation, as noted in this advertisement published in the Fayetteville newspaper.

Don’t miss these fascinating stories of early Fayetteville available in Glimpses of Fayetteville’s Past. Available at Amazon.com

From 1835 to the present day, the City of Fayetteville in Washington County, Arkansas, has enjoyed a vibrant and colorful history. Its reputation as a regional center for arts, culture, and education began early in its history. Frequently named one of the nation’s Top 10 cities, Fayetteville hosts the University of Arkansas and its famous Razorback athletic teams.

The five articles contained in “Glimpses of Fayetteville’s Past” focus on under-reported aspects of that history. Published initially by the county’s historical society, these intensively-researched works have been revised and expanded with illustrations, photographs, and maps.

“The History of Fayette Junction and Washington County’s Timber Boom” now include not only an in-depth review of its first major industry but also three appendices which examine wagon production in Fayetteville, the name and tradition of Sligo, and the Fulbright mill.

“Quicktown” delves into the story behind this quirky short-lived suburb in south Fayetteville.

“546 West Center” tracks the development of a landmark Fayetteville property from its earliest use as a site for an ice factory in the 1880s.

“The Rise and Fall of Alcohol Prohibition” documents the use, production, and regulation of alcoholic drink in Washington County from before statehood through the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, and features indictment and other crime data.

“175 Years of Groceries” follows the transition from country store to supermarkets to big box stores and includes newspaper advertisements showing price changes over those decades.

Ooh, the 70s!

As chronicled in the massive history of Fayetteville’s music scene, the 1970s overflowed with great music that echoed down the length of Dickson Street. The Charles Tuberville Band was among them.


Back: Singleton, Smith, Billy Osteen
Front: Ellis, Tuberville, Womack
Photo courtesy Joe Phelps

Charles Tuberville Band

Charles Tuberville became hooked on the guitar after watching an older cousin plug his “machine” into an amp and began playing a song by The Ventures. Then when The Beatles took rock n’ roll by storm, that changed everything. Charles got his first guitar, an electric Harmony Bobcat, for Christmas in the 7th grade. “‘At the time, I was playing trumpet in the school band. The day I got my electric guitar, that trumpet never again came out of the case,’’ he recalled in an interview for Blues News.[1]

His Fayetteville band formed in the early 1970s and played popular clubs like Notchy’s and The Library. In 1976 when the Brass Monkey took over the former Gaslight space in the basement of the Mountain Inn Annex, the Charles Tuberville Band served as the house band. Members of this powerhouse group were Charles Tuberville and Billy Osteen (Cal Jackson still in Memphis) on guitar; Albert Singleton then later Cherry Brooks, vocals; Lance Womack, drums; Jimmy Smith, keyboards; Jim Sweeney (Tulsa), Joe Ellis, bass. Members of this band later appeared in other groups. Charles Tuberville moved to Tulsa in 1979 and went on to ply his guitar craft in multiple formats, performing on an album with Tulsa musician Jimmy Markham including Get Ya’ Head Right (2018) and producing his own album, Somethin’ in the Water in 2019.

Don’t miss these great stories of creativity, ambition, and craziness that permeates the 550+ pages of GOOD TIMES: A History of Nightspots and Live Music in Fayetteville, Arkansas — available at Amazon.com and the local Washington County Historical Society offices.


[1] Bill Martin, “Charles Tuberville,” Blues News, Sept/Oct 2019, p. 3

What Is Real?

Existence is a slippery construct, it seems to me. I tend to embrace the rational, the concrete, which makes it difficult for me to drift off into theorizing about other dimensions or other possible spheres of existence aside from our three-dimensional sensory world. But all that is countered by my own very bizarre personal experiences.

So far, I have refrained from talking about this because, well, people tend to look at you oddly when you bring up stuff like this. But hey, I’m not getting any younger and I want to put these experiences on the record. For what it’s worth.

In the mid-1970s, I was living in a rural area in a small cabin while my new husband and I tried to get a house built. The cabin sat on a ridge of pasture land surrounded by oak-hickory forest. To the north, the land fell away sharply into steep wooded hillsides. To the south, the pasture land dropped slowly for about a quarter mile before it too veered down forested hillsides. Ozark land verging into the Boston Mountains.

From the window of the cabin, looking west, the view spread across maybe forty acres of pasture and pond with woods all around. Midway in that field, I saw them one day, a man and woman standing side by side in the grass, facing me from about fifty yards away. Far enough that I couldn’t see facial detail, close enough that I could observe their clothing and posture.

They appeared in the corner of my eye. When I turned to stare, they vanished.

The man wore a brown suit and a brown hat, a vest and white shirt, the style dating to the mid-19th century. The woman’s dress was long and slightly full, what I assume would have been a modest garb with petticoat for someone who needed to walk across rough land. She too wore a hat, a straw hat held by a tie under her chin.

I saw them a few more times after I learned not to look directly. Each time they stood together, the man in his brown suit of clothes, not fancy, and the woman in a gray cotton dress with long sleeves and long skirt, the bodice fitted in the style of the times. I wondered at their presence, whether they had died there while their spirits remained, whether they had lived in that spot and attached themselves emotionally so that wherever they went afterwards, their energy remained there.

I’m a writer so I can think up stuff like that, their story, why I saw them. So I really can’t say whether those ideas explaining their presence were from them or from me.

A few years later, after moving into the new house, I had another sighting. Not the same place, but across the road and onto a wooded hill. From my office window, I can still point out the exact spot, a small clearing at the highest elevation of this entire ridge. At some previous time, a massive old tree had fallen and left the spot open to sunlight. I’ve walked out there over the years since, careful to take such jaunts in winter when the ticks aren’t out. There are large flat rocks like paving stones alongside the fallen tree, creating a defined space about twenty feet square.

I had not discovered that spot until the day of the sighting. I was staring into the distance from what then was a child’s bedroom, taking a time out from marriage, motherhood, and the demands of my profession. Two individuals appeared, again at the edge of my peripheral vision so I could only see them indirectly. These were Natives, two men dressed in deerskins and carrying the weapons of their culture. They were looking east while I observed them to my south.

Rendering of Osage First People by George Catlin. The Osage claimed this area for hunting grounds, moved off involuntarily when the U. S. government forced the Cherokee to relocate. Soon after, the Cherokee were also forced west into Indian Territory (Oklahoma). I think what I saw were Osage.

They were waiting for someone, or so the thought struck me. I saw a Native woman there once, alone, her long deerskin dress finely made as she, too, waited for someone. I saw them a few more times over the coming years, but as my life picked up speed and my time for staring out windows diminished to nearly nothing, I saw no more people hovering at the brink of this dimension.

And that’s what I’ve come to believe has occurred. Perhaps elevation has something to do with this portal, because the elevation is about the same for both spots. I reached that conclusion after a third and more disturbing incident that occurred twenty years later.

A friend had come to stay with me while she searched for a place to live. She had lived in Europe for several years, and on her journey back to the States had stayed for a time in London with an old friend. He was ailing and subsequently died. She told me about her mysterious experience with his ghost visiting her after his death.

After returning to the States, she lived at my house maybe two or three months before finding a rental she liked. After she moved out, a month or so later, I was sitting in the living room watching television like I did every night when I suddenly became aware of another presence in the house. The hair went up on my neck.

At first I tried to convince myself it was my imagination, because that’s what we all do at moments like that, right? Then I reasoned that if someone had come in at the back end of the house through that seldom-used door, I would have heard it. It didn’t open without a creak. I heard no creak.

But after several minutes of very eerie energy wafting through the house, I forced myself to go back there. I slowly walked the thirty feet down the hallway to that back door, gooseflesh on my arms. I even stopped to pick up a large bamboo rod to use on an intruder. I flipped on lights, calling out ‘Who’s there?’

When I got to the room with the door, it was empty. So was the rest of that part of the house, including closets and under the beds. Yes, I checked. And the door was locked. But Something was there, an energy that was so strong and so haunting that I could feel it all around me.

I realized it was the ghost of my friend’s friend. I thought it must have followed her, since she was the person who had seen him through his last days. I remembered her remarks that she had visited with the ghost more than once.

Well, thanks a lot! I didn’t need that ghost and I didn’t appreciate her leaving it here with me.

It was hostile, maybe because she had left it behind. I didn’t trust it. Didn’t want it. But, I reasoned, it was likely just lost.

So I addressed it. I stood there in the rooms she had stayed in and told it this wasn’t where it needed to be. I tried to change my energy from fear and resistance to a more loving and sympathetic frame. I said it would rest better if it joined the other spirits in the places they lived. I told it to go to the light.

I thought it had listened, because the presence seemed to leave. Later, though, when I went back there after a few days, my eye caught on a work of art one of my kids had done in grade school. Taking pride of place near the end of the hallway, it was well done rendering of a clown with a tear drop on its cheek that had always made it a sad image.

Well, now the image was not sad. It was demonic.

The ghost had taken up residence.

Disturbed by what was either a supernatural presence existing within my house or, alternatively, the fact that I was losing my mind, I ended up asking my daughter to take the art to her dad. Where it remains. I have not been bothered by that ghost again.

There have been other transient ellipses of space and time at that end of the house, which isn’t space inhabited unless one of my adult children come to stay. One or the other of them has experienced unexplained sounds or an energy presence, enough that I’m fairly convinced—at least on that matter – that I’m not losing my mind.

But it occurs to me, in retrospect, that this was at the same elevation and in almost a straight line along this ridge with the other two occurrences. And in contemplating this, I have concluded that there might be a wrinkle in time here, a portal of sorts that cracks along this ridge and allows transitory visitations by one or another realm of existence.

I’m wondering if I’ll come back to visit, too.

One day they appeared, walking across my land. Then they were gone.