A quiet and shy girl, Betty Southerland was born on the last day of 1914 in the remote Mason Bend of Kings River located between Eureka Springs and Rockhouse. Her education started at the tiny Cedar Grove School located on her father’s farm just a short walk from the log house in which she was born. The school was comprised of Betty and her siblings and the children of a couple other farm families.
Betty’s isolated existence was expanded when the decision was made to consolidate her school with the larger West Concord School District closer to Eureka Springs. A nervous wreck at the thought of the change, Betty now travelled six miles every morning to attend the unfamiliar school. Little did she know that it was at Concord that she would become dear friends with schoolmate Dorothy Wolfinbarger.
The Concord School was located on Rockhouse Road near Keels Creek where the Concord Fire Station now stands. Behind it loomed a bald knob that is now being covered by cedars. My understanding is that the view from the top is borderline spectacular, but that isn’t why Betty and Dorothy would climb the steep trail. No, they climbed that steep mountain because the acoustics were so good. As was the rage at the time, both girls yodeled and they would make the rugged trek to the top to do so. They’d yodel together or take turns and then listen as their voices bounced around and echoed back. They’d shout or sing songs and listen.
Betty was my “Granny,” my mother’s mother, and I used to badger her for stories. Several times she told me about her school closing, but she would then recall Dorothy with as much affection as anyone I ever heard her talk about. When Granny would recount this story, it was with a fondness and wistfulness I rarely saw her display when she recollected the events of her physically hard life. The power of childhood friendships came to mind recently with the news that Dorothy had passed away at the age of 98. (Incidentally, Dorothy was the sister of my paternal grandmother Lola Weems.)