An Unexpected Encounter

April 21, 2018 – Saturday Night

We drove to Ft. Smith, AR for the Symphony’s Bicentennial Celebration Pops concert featuring Ole West Movie and television theme songs.  Everyone attending was encouraged to dress in period clothing.   We had none, so we just showed up in 2018 clothing as many others did…EXCEPT

Rooster Cogburn, Miss Mattie, Judge Parker, his lovely wife and an unknown friend.

ROOSTER

The Ft. Smith Symphony is ninety-four years old.  For a small town (population 88,000+) It is quite talented.  It seems music is still taught in the Arkansas public schools and the orchestras throughout the state are blessed with talented musicians.  

The encore piece was a rollicking rendition of Raw Hide.  An excellent and fun way to end a wonderful evening.

 

True Grit – Life In Arkansas

We are currently living in a new travel trailer in an RV park in Russellville, AR.  We are only partially living out of our minivan.  Not sure what we will do with this travel trailer when the contract runs out on this job, as we presently do not own a truck.  We are in Arkansas because sweet husband has a temporary position (six-plus months) with a large, national utility company.  During his brief tenure on this project/cost position at the Arkansas Nuclear Plant (ANO), our goal is to get to know Arkansas, really be the tourist we have grown to enjoy being and share with you all the cool stuff you NEED to see.

Our first outing (in January) was to Ft. Smith, AR on the state line between Arkansas and Oklahoma.  I didn’t expect a feeling of the historic “Old West” in a state I consider to be part of the “Old South”, but there it is.  Ft. Smith feels and looks like an old west town.  It doesn’t try to be, it just is.  You feel it when you drive in.  The city is celebrating its bicentennial this year.  200 years!  Oh, if those old buildings could talk.  

There is a museum in the old courthouse featuring the famous hanging judge, Isaac C. Parker.  The town’s primary population by U. S. Army and Marshalls and was an outpost for the Indian Territory.  I have so much more on this subject, but time and space won’t allow that rabbit trail.

Yell County is the county right next door to our temporary home in Pope County (Russellville, AR.).  Yell County is also the fictitious home of sweet Mattie Ross (True Grit) who went to Ft. Smith in pursuit of a U. S. Marshall to capture the man who killed her Paw.  The story of Mattie and Rooster Cogburn made our first discovery trip so much more exciting, and this is the rabbit trail I have chosen to take.

In the Coen Brothers 2010 release of the Hollywood remake of the classic film “True Grit” brings the famed story of Old West justice and a rough and tough one-eyed deputy marshal named Rooster Cogburn back to life.  I loved the remake of this movie and I’m not a fan of “Westerns”…but I digress.

The name “Rooster Cogburn” was famous even before John Wayne brought the character to the big screen in the first of the two productions of this film classic “True Grit” (1969).  John Wayne, however, would win his first and only Academy Award for playing this role.  I will note, this role was a departure from his many other “good guy” roles.

Rooster Cogburn originates from the novel True Grit (1968) by Arkansas author Charles Portis. The book, written from the perspective of young Mattie Ross, a 14-year-old girl who hires a deputy U.S. marshal named Rooster Cogburn to hunt down a man named Tom Chaney who had been charged with the murder of her father. The two, joined by a Texas Ranger, set off into the wilderness to find Chaney.

Although he rarely talks about his work, Portis has said that Rooster Cogburn was a composite of men. Growing up in Arkansas and later studying at the University of Arkansas, he heard many stories about the deputy marshals that worked from Fort Smith under “Hanging Judge” Isaac C. Parker to bring law and order to the Indian Territory of Oklahoma, which had been overrun by outlaws during the years following the Civil War.  This is a side of post-civil war I wasn’t aware of.

Appointed U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Arkansas by President Ulysses S. Grant, Parker opposed the death penalty but became known as the “hanging judge” of Fort Smith because he sent more men to their deaths on the gallows than any other Federal judge in U.S. history.  He was quoted as saying, “I did not hang them, the LAW did”.  The law he was required to follow offered no other penalty than death for many of the crimes that adjudicated in his court. His courtroom restored gallows, and the infamous “Hell on the Border” jail is preserved today at Fort Smith National Historic Site.

The story told in the book True Grit is fictional, but solidly based on the exploits of such lawmen as “Heck” Thomas, “Cal” Whitson, Bass Reeves and others. All were noted shooters who battled outlaw gangs along the western frontier (then the border of Arkansas and Oklahoma) to save the decent residents of the Indian Nations from these criminals.

Parker’s court was unique for its day in that it hired deputy marshals of various races and backgrounds. In addition to white lawmen like Thomas and Whitson, there were also Indian and black deputy marshals. Among the latter was Bass Reeves, who shot down fourteen men during his lifetime.

oak-cemetery-fort-smith

The man that many believe was the real Rooster Cogburn, however, was Deputy U.S. Marshal Calvin Whitson, the only one-eyed deputy marshal to serve in Judge Parker’s court.

Born in 1845, Cal Whitson grew up in the Plumerville area of Arkansas. On October 24, 1863, one month shy of his 18th birthday, he went against the grain of many men from Arkansas and enlisted in the Union army.

whitson-175x261

Federal troops then controlled parts of the state and Whitson enlisted in Company B, 3rd Arkansas Cavalry at Lewisburg. He had served about one year when he received a grievous wound to the left side of his face that resulted in the blinding of his left eye. As a result, he was declared disabled by the U.S. Army on October 13, 1864, and discharged two days later. For the rest of his life, he wore his hat pulled down over his left eye to hide the injury.

On January 16, 1890, six convicted outlaws – Harris Austin, John Billy, Jimmon Burris, Sam Goin, Jefferson Jones and Thomas Willis – were all hanged at the same time on the gallows of Fort Smith. Judge Parker convicted all six men of murder.  Judge Parker, initially sentenced nine men to death that day, three of them, however,  were saved by judicial procedures.

According to his military pension records, Cal Whitson died on February 18, 1926, in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

As noted, Portis has said that the character Rooster Cogburn is a composite of real lawmen. It seems undeniable, however, that Cal Whitson provides much of the inspiration for Cogburn.

He was Fort Smith’s only one-eyed Deputy Marshal. He had served in the Civil War and a man named Whitson, possibly a relative, was killed in an incident similar to that described for the murder of the father of Mattie Ross in the book “True Grit.” 

On our way back to our temporary RV home, we stopped in at a couple of the wineries mid-way between Ft. Smith and Russellville just off I-40.  Arkansas has a wine country – who knew?  More to follow.

We will return to Ft. Smith, tonight for the bicentennial symphony, pops concert featuring “Western” film scores and Heritage songs.  Yee-Haw!

STRESS

Repetition is a very good teacher. This is the lesson I must repeat. If it helps you, adopt it.

Stress is a KILLER…literally.  I grew up in “NOT-ENOUGH”.  Why is that seemingly so hard to shake off?  My belief that God will not come through often rises above the truth of what He has already done for me.  I cry with Paul, “Oh wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

Faith is always tested by obstacles in life. We can get tied up in anxious knots when obstacles come. We have been taught (over and over) the more damage you do to the enemy, the more he gets aggravated about it. So what does he do? He tests us with obstacles in the natural realm. He tries to attach sickness to our body, lack to our finances, chaos to our home (and family), and confusion to our mind. But we can overcome these things. You can change the test into a testimony.

obstacle

Ok, I’m in…HOW?

VIOLENT AND RADICAL

I must go back to the foundation of my faith:

1). Repent and forgive

2). Capture fear at the gate by reminding myself, before God: I am not enough and I do not have enough. Instead I must say (something like this), “Lord, I bring this fear to you and ask for Your intervention and redemption in my circumstances.  I cannot trust you fully in myself, regardless of my past successes and blessings, so please replace my fear with confident trust in Your love and power working in my behalf to make, “All things work together for my good”, as You have promised me in Your Word.  Tell me what to do, direct me. Until then, I will not react to this fear by trying to fix it myself.  (I have altered this scripture into a personal prayer) “I choose to trust in You, LORD with all my heart, I Will not lean on my own understanding; in all my ways I will acknowledge You, And You, oh Lord shall direct my paths. I will not be wise in my own eyes; I will Fear (respect and trust) You, LORD” (Proverbs 3:5-7).

3). “Always respond to every impulse to pray. The impulse to pray may come when you are reading or when you are battling with a text. I would make an absolute law of this – always obey such an impulse. Where does it come from? It is the work of the Holy Spirit (Phil 2:12-13). This often leads to some of the most remarkable experiences in the life of the believer. So never resist, never postpone it, never push it aside, never dismiss it. Give yourself to it, yield to it; and you will find not only that you have not been wasting time with respect to the matter with which you are dealing but that actually it has helped you greatly in that respect. Such a call to prayer must never be regarded as a distraction; always respond to it immediately, and thank God if it happens to you frequently.”—Martyn Lloyd-Jones

prayer
4). Praise, Worship and Thanksgiving. (I have altered this scripture into a personal prayer) “I will be anxious for NOTHING, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, I will let my requests be made known to You, my Lord; and Your peace, which surpasses all understanding, will guard my heart and mind through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV) 

Worship

Is there any wonder why I Love the Word of God?

 

 

The Best Kept Secret on the U. S. Gulf Coast (paft 2)

When I move to an area, it has become my quest to know a little about the area’s history.  I used to go to local historical society meetings, visit the library, etc. as free time was available.  Now, with the internet, research is so much easier.  I still, however, get out for meetings and visits with longtime locals for the real scoop.  We moved to The Coast in May, 2017.  We have learned much and find that much is yet to be learned.  It is a great place to visit and live.  The Best Kept Secret on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

mississippi gulf coast map large

Growing up in Mississippi I did travel to The Coast from time to time and was aware that each town had its own flavor.  Gulfport is no exception.  If you live on The Coast, Gulfport is where you shop, it is where you find your doctor and it is where you find the largest hospital.  It is the Gateway to The Coast.

Downtown Gulfport is going through the revitalization many small town, downtowns all over the U.S. are going through, with great success.  A drive through the residential areas just adjacent to the old downtown, on the Beach Highway, is a most pleasant experience.  Gulfport is rebuilding beautifully even after the record strength of two major hurricanes just in my lifetime.  Life will find a way…the resilience of Mississippi people is almost unmatched.

One GIANT shining spot in downtown Gulfport was discovered early on by my Sweet Husband: 

13th Street Jazz Bistro.  https://www.jazzbistrogulfport.com

Bistro2

Bistro

Mississippi is famous for her music, all types and her many musical stars.  Jazz Bistro Manager, Renata LeFleau Flot has put her years of musical experience and connections in to booking the very best in Jazz (and sometimes Blues) entertainment.  This is a must visit spot on your next trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  And if you live on the coast, you must become one of her many regulars.

NOW FOR THE STATISTICAL AND HISTORICAL STUFF:  Gulfport is the second largest city (square miles, not population) in Mississippi after the state capital, Jackson. It is the larger of the two principal cities of Gulfport-Biloxi metro area.  It is co-county seat with Biloxi of Harrison County, Mississippi.

This area was occupied by indigenous cultures for thousands of years, culminating in the historic Choctaw encountered by European explorers. Along the Gulf Coast, French colonists founded nearby Biloxi, Mississippi, and Mobile, Alabama before the area was acquired by the United States in 1803.

An early settlement near this location, known as Mississippi City, appeared on a map of Mississippi from 1855. Mississippi City was the county seat of Harrison County from 1841 to 1902, but is now a suburb in east Gulfport.

Gulfport was incorporated on July 28, 1898. Gulfport was founded by William H. Hardy (a Yankee after the war) who was president of the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad (G&SIRR) that connected inland lumber mills to the coast. He was joined by Joseph T. Jones, who later took over the G&SIRR, dredged the harbor in Gulfport, and opened the shipping channel to the sea. In 1902, the harbor was completed and the Port of Gulfport became a working seaport. It now accounts for millions of dollars in annual sales and tax revenue for the state of Mississippi.

The Mississippi Gulf Coast is surrounded by barrier islands.  The largest natural port is off the south side of Ship Island, directly out from Gulfport.  There is a smaller natural port further west, down the beach in Pass Christian.  We will cover this port in my next post.  Mississippi was once a large lumber producer for our nation.  It still is in a much smaller way today.  Lumber was taken by rail to Ship Island and then loaded on ships for transport to the northern states for the building boom after the Civil War.

On August 17, 1969 Gulfport and the Mississippi Gulf Coast were hit by Hurricane Camille. Measured by central pressure, Camille was the second-strongest hurricane to make U.S. land fall in recorded history. An unnamed storm was believed to be stronger in 1935.  Camille directly killed 143 people in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

On August 29, 2005, Gulfport was hit by the strong eastern side of Hurricane Katrina. Although Katrina’s damage was far more widespread, because of her size, it was not the fiercest hurricane to hit Gulfport. Katrina, a category 3 storm was dwarfed in strength by hurricane Camille, a category 5 storm, which hit Gulfport and neighboring communities in 1969 with 190 mph sustained winds compared to Katrina’s 130 mph sustained winds.

 

The Best Kept Secret on the U.S. Gulf Coast

mississippi gulf coast map large

Most have heard of New Orleans or the sugar sand and emerald waters of the Alabama and Florida panhandle beaches, but I’m willing to bet you are not aware of the natural beauty, diverse ecosystems, and the serene atmosphere of the best kept secret on the U.S. Gulf Coast – Mississippi.  Yes, Mississippi!  You may have actually heard of our mini-Vegas called Biloxi or the monster hurricanes to have walked or stormed across our land in your lifetime – or perhaps not.  We are so much more.  Let me paint you a word picture in four parts.

(1)  Pascagoula:  https://www.cityofpascagoula.com/            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascagoula,_Mississippi

I have not spent much time in Pascagoula (the name means, “Bread eater”).  It is located on one of the best hunting/fishing locations in our nation, with thousands of unspoiled acres. 

(2)  Traveling west on U.S. Highway 90, the next important stop is the quaint, walking town of Ocean Springs.  Home of the Anderson family of artist; Walter I. Anderson and the famous Shearwater Pottery Works.  The Walter Anderson museum is a must see.  The town has unique shops and restaurants galore.  The first weekend of November is the Anderson Art Festival with easily 100,000 visitors annually.

http://www.peterandersonfestival.com/

ocean springs

Continuing on our westward trek, one must cross the Biloxi Bay and enter Casino Row in Biloxi, MS.  The greatest concentration of casinos on the Mississippi with a few dotting towns further west in Gulf Port and Bay St. Louis.

There are a few deep water channels from which ships can enter the coast, the deepest is at the port of Gulf Port.  The coast is sheltered by islands between our coast line and the deep, warm waters of the gulf.  Most of these islands can be seen from the shore.  Mississippi doesn’t have the emerald waters of the deep waters of the Alabama and Florida Panhandle coast because we have the mighty Mississippi River flowing closely into our gulf waters and because our area of the gulf is shallow.

Even without the emerald waters, you won’t find a more beautiful or quiet respite along the U. S. Gulf Coast.  U. S. Highway 90 covers the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast.  Driving west past Gulfport, these is not the traffic or the tourist stops or dozens of traffic lights.  On the left side is sugar white sand beaches dotted with palm trees and sea oats.  On the right are centuries-old Live Oak trees and wonderful historic homes for miles.  You will still find many empty lots and foundation slabs left from hurricane Katrina.

To Be Continued. . .

In Praise of Mississippi Women

I spent a delightful, autumn day at a small-town Ms’sippi vintage art festival.  After being away from my Ms’sippi for over 3 years it was a treat to walk among these delightful women again.

There are two kinds of women in Ms’sippi:  Young and Perfect.  In Ms’sippi one becomes a woman at the delicate age of 21; from there they gradually move to Perfect.  There are no “old” women in Ms’sippi.  These women were out in force this past Saturday; a sight to behold.  I have traveled quite extensively over the past 12 years and I have met many wonderful women, but believe me I can spot an Ms’sippi Woman a mile off.  Let me paint a word picture of these exceptional women.

Even on Saturday, they will have spent a good hour or more getting ready to go out for the day…longer if they are taking the children.  They have their hair pulled up in a casual “up-do”, which took as long to arrange as her Sunday to Friday “Do”.  They have on the most trendy, casual outfits with boots or sandals (depending on the season).  The jewelry is perfectly balanced.  Five or six bracelets on one arm, watch on the other, earrings – but not to gaudy – a substantial ring on each hand (only one per hand) and the perfect fragrance, not to mention makeup that gives the appearance of no makeup.  Her bag is large enough to carry all the essentials her little family could require and she slings it over her shoulder with the greatest of ease; even if she has a baby on the opposite hip.

These women are not purely house-wives, often they work outside the perfectly orchestrated, domestic heaven with a fulltime professional position.  Some are teachers, doctors, nurses, bankers or CEOs.  The last professional position I had was supporting the Perfect Ms’sippi Woman who happened to also be the CEO of a multimillion dollar medical software company; the second largest in the nation.  Yes, in Ms’sippi.

I was once out running errands in my normal Saturday attire (jeans, cotton shirt, sneakers and a ball cap) when I ran into her at a gift ship.  Yep, you guessed it, she was shopping in stilettos and all that goes with it.  Just Perfect.

But I digress.  If the children are along then each of them have on the perfect seasonal smocked outfit and the girls have a matching bow in their properly curled hair.

The walk:  These women glide with just enough sway to make it an effortlessly choreographed pace.   Naturally, the children (magazine flawless) follow suit.

These women are not race specific.  You can find any race in the category of my Ms’sippi Women.  It is not race genetic, it is simply Ms’sippi.  The confidence and beauty that comes from knowing who you are and where you come from.  These women ooze strength, grace and confidence.  Steel Magnolia, move over.

These selfsame women decorate their completely lived in, historically accurate homes for each seasonal event with the ease of a butterfly flitting from rose to rose.  Southern Living has nothing on these women.  They entertain with the same grace and ease.  I stand in awe. 

Naturally, I mostly enjoyed watching them.  The art festival was this past November in the little town of Laurel, Mississippi.  Nothing could be more entertaining or nostalgic than enjoying a Ms’sippi autumn day on a downtown street bench.  This time of year (football season) the weather is crisp, warmed by the sun and cooled by an aromatic Ms’sippi breeze.

The event (festival) was different from your typical Christmas craft fair.  There was the proverbial festival food and music, but the other vendors sold mostly estate sale items and crafts made from vintage items.  It was such a treat watching these women move effortlessly through the booths and crowd collecting just the right items and gifts.  I was so preoccupied, I ended up only purchasing one item.  Naturally, I wasn’t the only one watching.  Many of these vendors were from 12+ hours to up to a two day drive away.  They were awestruck.  The kind of thing that makes your heart smile.

I failed to mention that I spent the day with my daughter (an Alabama women), my daughter-in-love (a Louisiana women) and my dear friend, Brenda (a certified Ms’sippi Perfect Women).  Somehow I missed out on that full Ms’sippi Women DNA.  It may be because my Dad was from Alabama.  But I can surely recognize and appreciate them because I grew up in their shadow.

I double-dog dare you, go to Ole Miss, on a football weekend, stroll through the chandelier bedecked tailgate tents with upholstered easy chairs and catered meals and tell me you cannot pick out a Ms’sippi Woman as described herein. 

There are songs written about “California Girls” and Billy Joel’s, “Uptown Girl,” but that is because they haven’t visited my Ms’sippi and met a real woman.

MOAB

When I saw the news report last night and saw that they called the bomb, “MOAB”,  I didn’t think of it as an acronym. I thought of the ancient nation of Moab and God’s great promise.  I found it most interesting that the bomb was called MOAB.

Israel and our great nation share the blessing of our creator God, who promised to bless those who bless His people. Moab an Israel are related, they share a great-grandfather in Terah, the father of Abraham (Gen 11:27), and Deut 2:9-12 gives Moab a similar history to Israel, displacing an indigenous race of giants in order to claim territory given to them by Yahweh (God).

In the Hebrew Bible, the relationship between Israel and Moab is an enigma. On one hand, Moab is the enemy. Moabite history begins with an ethnic joke that goes back to Lot’s incestuous relations with his daughters, implying that the similarity in Hebrew between Mo’abi (“Moabite”) and me’abi (“from my father”) was no coincidence (Gen 19:37). But Abraham counted Lot like a son and gave him preference and protection (Lot’s descendants founded Moab).

When Israel began taking back the Promised Land after they were released from slavery in Egypt and their 40 years in the wilderness, they fought every inhabitant of the land promised to Abraham (and Israel) except Moab. They were not even allowed to walk through it.

The Moabite king Balak hires Balaam to curse the Israelites but is foiled by a talking donkey (Num 22-24), and a later Moabite monarch, Eglon, oppresses Israel until he is assassinated by the clever Ehud from the tribe of Benjamin (Judg 3:12-30). The victorious King David was not allowed to destroy Moab. 

Other traditions present a more favorable view of Moabite-Israelite relations. The genealogy of David is traced to Ruth (and on to our Lord Jesus), that most worthy of Moabites (Ruth 4:17-18; and see Matt 1:5-6). Prior to murdering Moabite captives, David sent his father and mother to take refuge with the king of Moab while on the run from Saul (1Sam 22:3-4).

There are many in this nation and the world who curse the leaders The USA and Israel, but I have found a scripture that speaks straight from of God’s own mouth about these who stand against Him and His people: Isa. 44:23-29

Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, And He who formed you from the womb: “I am the Lord, who makes all things, Who stretches out the heavens all alone, Who spreads broad the earth by Myself; Who frustrates the signs of the babblers, And drives diviners mad; (witches). Who turns wise men backward, And makes their knowledge foolishness; Who confirms the word of His servant, And performs the counsel of His messengers; Who says to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be inhabited,’ To the cities of Judah, ‘You shall be built,’ And I will raise up her waste places; Who says to the deep, ‘Be dry! And I will dry up your  rivers’; Who says of Cyrus,* ‘He is My shepherd, And he shall perform all My pleasure, Saying to Jerusalem, “You shall be built,” And to the temple, “Your foundation shall be laid.”’.

There is nothing new under the sun. I am not afraid by this, but I am watchful. God is always involved. He sees the end from the beginning.

Thoughts?

*President Trump has been called the “Cyrus” of our day.