I was never much of a math person (sorry Mrs. Meadows, Mr. Mason, Mr. Howard, Bob Irby), yet I do respect the truth of the straight line. Yes, I know the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. But straight lines can be boring. And sometimes the shortest distance doesn’t interest me. Most times, I prefer the more entertaining journey offered by the curved line.
I’m easily entertained.
Point A to Point B nearly always takes me longer than GPS estimates, because GPS has no reasoning skills. We have a sort of love-hate relationship, GPS and me. He can’t see detours into the woods marked by faded hand-lettered signs. He doesn’t notice cows posing roadside waiting to have their picture taken. He can’t feel the tug of history represented by a graveyard or roadside historical marker.
Yes, GPS is a man who never stops for lookout points or wildflowers growing in clumps at abandoned homesites.
His is an obtuse world of right angles painted pitch black or bright white. Right, left, yes, no. Loops exist as u-turns. Mistakes. And even as long as we’ve been together, GPS still doesn’t recognize my craving for the side trip.
Recently I took one such side trip to Dogbranch School (Carroll County, Arkansas). I’d been tempted to veer onto this gravel road before. I pass it each time I drive to Eureka Springs or Mountain Home.
Finally I did it. And what a treat for me. (GPS stayed in the car. Pouting.)
I couldn’t go inside the one room school, a padlock saw to that. But I explored the grounds, read the old gravestone epitaphs, and studied the trees.
I left without knowing much of anything about Dogbranch, so once I made it home, more side trips were necessary. Trips into the World Wide Web. One side trip always leads to another.
Visiting Dogbranch School led to researching the historic building. And the cemetery.
And then Private Thomas Burton Bell whose tombstone intrigued me.
Which led to research about the 3rd Arkansas Infantry Regiment.
And so forth.
I consider all this part of writerly research because I never know which gravel road will lead to inspiration. This is also one of my many excuses for being a slow writer. (Book Two might be finished if I sat in my chair and kept focused.)
And speaking of side trips, let’s talk gravel roads. Not all gravel is created equally. A “real” gravel road always lures me. And by real I mean the authentic brown/clay colored type that becomes dusty when dry and muddy and slippery when wet. Like the gravel roads of my childhood. Today, so many gravel roads are made from gray slag leftover from the steel industry. It’s rough on tires and just isn’t the same.
Know what I mean?
The gravel below is real.
Even with all these side trips (virtual and otherwise), I still don’t know much about Dogbranch School other than the building was added to the historic register in 1992 because of its age (1898), unusual construction material (rough-hewn fieldstone rather than wood) and style (Minimal Romanesque Revival). The building was constructed by the Bailey Brothers who reportedly had a slew of dogs. I’ve read conflicting information that the Bailey Brothers may also have built the historic Stamps Store in Osage which is also on my side trip list.
(If it ever stops storming, maybe I’ll go there.)
I suspect there is much more to know about Dogbranch School and Cemetery, but this may require a side trip to the Fayetteville Library. Or maybe one of my readers has information to share? Regardless, it’s worth a stop off Highway 412.
Grace Grits and Gardening
Farm. Food. Garden. Life.
Rodney Atkins, Take A Back Road