Monday, February 11, 2008

Ozarks: City Bluffs and Natural Bridge

Yesterday, which was Sunday for me here in Arkansas, we went to a couple of places that I'd never visited before.

Daddio of Exploring Izard County guided us to both spots. Incidentally, I discovered that Daddio, despite being a local hillbilly like me, grew up with a rich variety of experiences of the sort that I only began to encounter as an adult. The son of a military man, he lived in Japan for two or three years as a kid and also for a couple of years on the island of Crete, which he explored almost daily as a young teenager. I think that I've got that right. At any rate, his boyhood experiences exceeded mine by a degree that would have to be expressed in light years. My own were rather heavy years in comparison...

Daddio also lived in England for two or three years, but as an adult serving in the air force, where -- of all places -- he learned to enjoy kim chee. That is less unexpected when one learns that he was working with a couple of military men who had served in Korea, where one of them had married a local woman and where both of them had learned to love kim chee. They loved it so much that they made their own!

Daddio had previously mentioned that he likes kim chee, so we brought some for him and gave it to him yesterday despite the alarming way in which the airtight, foil packaging had ballooned into something resembling a pillow. We felt that we were delivering a food bomb. Daddio will have to report back on whether he succeeded in detonating it without harm.

The tour, at any rate, went without harm to life or limb. We drove first to a spot not far from Calico Rock called City Bluffs. To reach it, we crossed the river as we were leaving Calico Rock and drove up toward Sugarloaf Knob but turned right before reaching the road that goes up to the Sugarloaf firetower. A couple of miles out a gravel road, we pulled over and walked about a hundred feet to find ourselves gazing down a 300-foot bluff onto the White River. I kept my children far back from the edge, and we ate a brief lunch there as we enjoyed the broad expanse before us that spread out along that stretch of the river.

During our brief lunch (and later over dinner), we talked about the tornados that hit the Ozarks, and I discovered that some people in this area did die. The storm swept through the miniscule town of Zion and blew it away, killing a couple of people there, one of whom was impaled on an iron fencepost, surely a dreadful way to die (and he didn't perish immediately, it seems, as I later learned from a sister-in-law who works in the hospital). The news that Zion had blown away in the F4 tornado especially affected me, for my maternal grandmother was born and grew up there. I'll perhaps report again on the tornado's wrath as I learn more...

For now, though, let's continue with our excursion. After a brief time atop City Bluffs, we followed Daddio back to a place above Calico Rock that had me worrying about my borrowed car, which scraped bottom a couple of times as we bumped across a scrubby field full of sinkholes on our way to the Natural Bridge on Calico Creek. The car survived the close scrapes and missed the sinkholes, and we found the bridge, which spans a deep, steep hollow. According to Daddio, the oldtimers used to pack dirt onto the top of the bridge to smooth the surface and allow their wagons to cross over on the only way across the creek for miles and miles. The underside arch of the bridge must stand at about 20 feet up, and it rather impressed me. I surmised that it was what remained of an ancient cave system that had largely collapsed long ago. The bluffs along this narrow hollow showed pockets where water trickled out, and the creek itself disappeared into the ground with a hollow, gurgling sound downstream from the natural bridge.

One of Daddio's fellow explorers, Rick, showed us a tree that a black bear had scratched. I asked him how he knows it was a bear rather than a cougar, and I learned something. A cougar likes to climb up into a large tree and settle onto a big limb where it can scratch its claws while stretched out. Rick also reported that he had seen a black panther in the Ozarks, and he maintained that these cats do live in our hills despite the skepticism of experts. I figure that people see what they see, so if Rick says that he saw one, I'll take his word for it. I wonder if it's a variant on the cougar, however, rather than being some other cat. I know that the black panthers of Asia are simply black leopards, whose spots can be dimly perceived if one looks carefully. Perhaps the black panthers of the Ozarks are similar in being very dark cougars. But I'll leave this to the experts...

I ought to mention that my kids were really enjoying their time in the wild, though En-Uk was a bit leery of entering the mouth of one cave that we located on Calico Creek. I managed to encourage him sufficiently that he finally entered, following the other kids. He borrowed a flashlight and peered further back, but the hollow space appeared to taper down to a dead end.

After our 'spelunking' adventure through the collapsed cavern, we drove back out from the field of sinkholes and made our way to an eatery called Roscoe's, where I enjoyed a catfish dinner and some quality time with 'Justin Kapok', who joined our adventure party there. En-Uk 'borrowed' some of my catfish but quickly rejected it as being too much like chicken. It tasted nothing like chicken, of course, but it had been battered and deepfried, so I could understand his disappointment. Kapok offered him some of his salmon. En-Uk, by now skeptical, asked, "What's salmon?" Assured that it wasn't another fancy name for mere chicken, he tried some and liked it.

Our meal was too short, unfortunately, for we had promised to drop by the farm of Woodrow and Pauline -- my paternal uncle and aunt -- but they didn't answer the phone call that we made before leaving, and we couldn't find the dirt road to their place under the dark cover of night, so we gave up and drove on to Salem. I was sorry to miss them, for I wanted to talk more with my cousin Bill. I'll have to call and find out what happened.

Breakfast is now calling on this Monday morning, so I'll now sign off...

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At 12:14 AM, Blogger Al-Ozarka said...

Jeffery, I hpoe we didn't keep you from seeing your brother before he left.

The day was wonderful. Sun-Ai(sp?), made a real impression on MY wife, Joy. As did your whole family on my family.

I DO hope we get to do this again...somewhere...somehow!

I sent you an couple e-mails, if you haven't checked.

At 1:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff, the thing about "panthers?"

In much of the old diaries, journals and other writings, the word cougar has never appeared before my eyes. The cats were always called panthers.

Mom has told me that when she was young a black panther sat on a limb across from the house they lived in near Norfork. So I'd have to agree with Rick based on her description.

The first time I recall hearing one of the big cats being called a cougar was when I was about 14. A "cougar" sighting was reported on Ed Wolf's farm just east of Salem. Our friend John Ed Welch, (whose grandfather was Ed) along with a few others went to see the tracks. Dad had given me some plaster of paris which I used to make casts. It so happened that the sighting occurred on an ancient Indian burial mound from which area many arrowheads have been found. From the air one can see a rather serpentine form and see that the mound is artificial. On the ground it looks like it's just a rise.

I will mention my one personal sighting of a large cat. Not the bobcat, which I have seen quite a number. I was travelling on a road very near Leslie and rounding a curve I saw what I described to some fellows in Leslie as a "mountain lion." They said, "there are no mountain lions around here, it was a panther." It was tawny. That was in 2006.

When I was quite young and visiting my Aunt Rhudean, who lived miles off a gravel road (all of our cars passed last evening) I occasionally heard what sounded remarkably like some woman in dire peril. The scream was always described as the howl of a panther.

I very rarely made a nightly visit to the privy at Aunt Rhudeans.

Cougar, mountain lion, panther: I don't really know what the scientific name for the cats is. I know they are quite large and don't appear to be an animal that one would want as a pet.


At 5:28 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Daddio, I got the emails. JK, I enjoyed seeing you along with Daddio and family.

I know these comments deserve more comment, but being pressed for time...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff, I have recently found this blog site. I am very intrigued by it. I have began to read through all the posts. Thank you for your insight on these topics, issues, and life in general. It was so nice to see you. Hopefully it will not be so many years until we meet again.

At 10:20 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

CG . . . are you my niece?

Anyway, I'm glad that you're not yet bored with my blog, but trust me, I eventually bore everybody.

It was good to see you again, and it'll probably be only another decade before I return.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:12 PM, Blogger Al-Ozarka said...

How's the weather up there, Jeffery?


At 1:22 PM, Blogger Al-Ozarka said...

"...but trust me, I eventually bore everybody."


You mistake intimidation for boredom.

Personally, I marvel at your posts at times. I haven't the patience to put as much thought as you do into things that interest me, Jeff. I like to see your mind at work on this blog.

If I don't venture over here at's because I'm not venturing far away from my own blogs period.

I don't know exactly what enabled you to find EIC that day. But I'm glad you did.

At 6:10 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Daddio, as for the weather up here, I've seen fire and I've seen rain. No lonely times, however. But sleet, snow, and ice, I've seen -- not much, but enough to stop our Sylamore trip on Monday.

You remarked:

"I don't know exactly what enabled you to find EIC that day. But I'm glad you did."

As I recall, I was looking for an outhouse...

You noticed that I was 'stealing' a photo from your blog but found it humorous enough that you forgave me. At least, that's what I inferred.

I'm also glad that I found EIC.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Very enjoyable.

Tim from Iowa

At 8:28 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Tim from Iowa, glad that you enjoyed it. Iowa isn't so far from the Ozarks. Take a trip sometime and have Daddio al-Ozarka show you around.

Jeffery Hodges

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