I’ve lived in Arkansas for about 34 of my 49 years–but not consecutively. I’ve traveled so many backroads and by-ways of the state that I’m surprised when I run across a small town that I haven’t heard of (but I have yet to find a town that my native Arkansan father doesn’t know about).
Before I get out of here this time and head to NYC, I thought I’d share some tips for those of you lucky enough to visit The Natural State.
Never, ever, ever, ever speed through a small town in Arkansas. Not only will you get a ticket, your name just might make the local weekly newspaper.
Best Fruit Ever
If you’re here in July and August, eat all the Arkansas tomatoes, peaches and watermelon you can get your hands on. There is nothing better.
It’s Not a Typo
If you see a drive-up in any town called The Daisy Queen, you are almost certain to find an excellent cheeseburger and soft -serve ice cream. This is not a chain. Just a name that small-town Arkansas business owners use to avoid copyright issues with Dairy Queen.
Girl’s Best Friend
You might find a diamond! Murphreesboro, Arkansas has the only diamond mine in the country–and you can dig for them yourself. And if diamonds seem to rich for your blood, you can head to Mt. Ida, which is the Quartz Crystal Capital of the world.
If when you hear the line, “we know who you are, Ray Don,” you can finish the entire monologue, you’ll want your pic taken in front of the Designing Women house. The Villa Marre in Little Rock is the house featured in the opening of the show (which was created and produced by Arkansans).
Y’all or All Y’all
Y’all (and that is the only correct spelling) is by nature a collective plural (being a contraction of you all). All y’all is often used when wanting to include a larger group of people like, “All y’all are invited.” You will hear this a lot in Arkansas. Even Siri recognizes it.
Other phrases you might want to be familiar with:
If you’re preparing to do something, your “fixin’ to” do it.
If you think, but are not sure, about your ability to do something or go somewhere, the proper response is, “I might could.”
And if you want to inquire about the well-being of someone’s family, you ask, “How’s your mama and ’em?”
Woo Pig Sooie!
THE team in Arkansas is the Razorbacks. Whether or not you you attended the University of Arkansas, Arkansas residents are required to be Hog Fans and to be able to call the Hogs at a moment’s notice–anywhere…not just at a game.
There is this weird and wonderful mountain town full of Victorian homes where hippies, bikers, artists, fundamentalist Christians and LGBTQ folks all coexist. It’s called Eureka Springs.
We’re Not Just the Clintons and the Duggars
Johnny Cash, John Grisham, Maya Angelou, Billy Bob Thornton, Mary Steenburgen, Levon Helm, Rev. Al Green, Helen Gurley Brown and Sister Rosetta Tharpe all started out in Arkansas. Hattie Caraway wasn’t born here, but she was living here when she was the first woman ever elected o the US Senate. Daisy Bates is my favorite homegrown hero. Her house (now a historical landmark) was the safe haven for the Little Rock Nine during the integration of Central High and was the headquarters for the integration movement.
Arkansas is for Foodies
Arkansas has really great food. You want to get pie in Keo at Charlotte’s Eats and Sweets, experience barbeque at Craigs in Devalls Bluff, eat tamales at Doe’s Eat Place, try a smoked turkey salad sandwich at Burges (in Lewisville or Little Rock) and have fried catfish with hushpuppies just about anywhere. This is just a small sampling of the great food to be had in the Natural State.
Of course, this is by no means an extensive list of Arkansas facts and fun things, but maybe it’ll get y’all to thinking that you might could plan a visit soon.
Rev. Anne Russ is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), currently based in New York City. Doubting Believer is an online, inclusive and progressive Christian community. Follow us on Facebook and get emails to keep up with all that is happening.