Traversing a Hollow Called Butler

Opportunity had me at Roaring River State Park in Missouri today and having time and inclination, I decided to take the long way home. I particularly like Roaring River State Park except when the crowds are in residence as they are today on this holiday weekend.

Driving out of the state park and into the Mark Twain National Forest, my thoughts were forward on Butler Hollow – though my mind did go sideways a time or two and I recalled once driving through the Mark Twain National Forest on unpaved roads when I was supposed to be working and coming to a complete stop so as not to hit a doe and fawn. I’ve had many opportunities to hit both does and fawns before and since, but that particular incident imprinted on my brain for some reason. Funny how that happens.

Driving, my mind jumped to that common thought I have, “I wish I had a map with me.” I passed the turnoff to Sugar Camp and had the vague remembrance that there was a farm road that connected Sugar Camp to Butler Hollow. I didn’t turn around and go back because experience dictates that my vague remembrances are generally unreliable. In this case, however, my vague memory was correct. Consulting the Missouri Atlas and Gazetteer upon arriving home, I see that Farm Road 2280 does appear to connect to Butler Hollow. Not one to dwell on past mistakes…well, that isn’t true at all, so never mind.

Edging Seligman best I could, I dropped off the highway down into lower ground and began following creeks and streams toward White River – where all water goes in this country. I think of all this water draining directly southeast from Seligman to the town of Beaver – but I’m wrong, the water and the hollow through which it flows actually goes east and then loops north around a mountain before beginning the southeastern progression.

Thinking as I drive down Butler Hollow that it must be an old road, I stop looking for points of interest that I associate with the drive. I wanted to find where I broke down one night in my Chevy pickup so many years ago and was attacked by a whip-poor-will. Those birds are tougher than they look. I wanted to see the stone house Mary Pat Boian lived in for many years. I wanted to see where the road crossed the invisible state line from Missouri into the Western District of Carroll County. The scenery slid by and deep in thought I drove faster than I normally do, dust billowing behind the car, some coming in the open window into my face after meeting a big pickup with an Arkansas Razorback front license plate pulling a long horse trailer. The radio was on but I stopped noticing what was playing though my ears perked up at the two U2 songs that have the lyrics about Sunday Bloody Sunday and Vertigo in them. Not that I’m a U2 fan, except in the general sense that I extend goodwill to the Irish. But this led to the unsolvable riddle: why in the world was Billy Gibbons left off the Rolling Stone Magazine list of best guitarists of all time?

But chiefly I think of Butler Hollow, ignoring it as I drive. And so intense random thoughts came unbidden and bounced through my skull, one being that fear is an unpredictable emotion. I didn’t feel any today, but I did think about the fear of others. I’ve talked to somebody from whom I sensed fear of Butler Hollow. I know people that fear Seligman… And I know people who fear Eureka Springs because of the dark spirits they sense on Spring Street. I’m not saying I agree or disagree or believe it or not – I’m just an observer of such things. Depending on my moods, I have opinions on many subjects, but the normal me prefers to hold few opinions and just observe.

Perhaps it is having intense, sometimes self-contradictory thoughts that actually leads to the selfish reasons why I write. I make no decisions about the thoughts so they stay until dealt with. The easiest thing for me to do is to remove them from my brain by writing them down.

Once certain I was in Carroll County again, I had the wish that I could drive all the way home on unpaved back roads. This is difficult to do anymore as Carroll County has been on a strange multi-year paving spree that would make a Long Islander proud. I can’t help but consider something that Mr. Emkey once said: “Pavement is the root of all evil.” Such general statements, though, are generally wrong. This leads to some thoughts about a theory of Jack McCall’s that society began to disintegrate with the introduction of the automobile. Riding a horse down a narrow country lane, you would politely greet and speak to those you met on the road or who were sitting on their front porches. Driving at warp speed enclosed in metal boxes, drivers are free to curse others, blare music to irritate others, or just shut out the world, civility dead on the road. And this leads to the theory of another older fellow I know that Eureka Springs died (in his opinion) long ago. The three nails in the coffin were Beaver Lake, the Great Passion Play, and Holiday Island. Life has not been the same since.

And so I continue to drive, shooting through Beaver Town, triggering a few associations… A great-great uncle that ran the ferry back and forth across White River… The travel buses that had to stop at one end of the suspension bridge and unload the passengers and have them walk across the bridge for safety reasons… My father camping out on White River as a boy and the river coming up during the night… How close Blue Spring and Busch are, which triggers even more associations, the Huffman and Groblebe families, McKinley Weems, and then Mary Pat again, wider and wider circles growing on the surface of the water, bumping each other, fish coming to the top to feed, that bluegill my brother caught at that pond in Northern Virginia that we kept in the freezer for many years… Eventually I make it home and sit here typing to get it all out of my head so I can move forward…

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