You rule here?

I have been working on the book the NWA Democrat-Gazette is printing on the history of high school football in Arkansas. Everyone is going to want it. And, you can pre-order it now by calling our circulation office. You will save $10.

I have helped track down pictures from all over the state over the last six weeks. Sometimes, I had to drive to pick them up.

I needed to go from Norfork (where I now live) to near Cass a few Sundays back to pick up some items from Steve Outlaw, the older brother of John Outlaw. Steve said he had photos of John at his cabin on the Mulberry river between Cass and Oark. There isn’t a great way to make that drive. Well, it’s gorgeous if you take the most direct route. There are no 4-lane highways and there are gorgeous vistas. Just go slow and enjoy the scenery and I did for almost four hours.

So off I went in my Silverado pickup truck. I have a rod vault on the roof of my camper shell that holds three fly rods. They are rigged up and ready for action. It’s pretty cool to always be ready to fish if you get some time. These are three long tubes.

Remember that and that they look a little like the rocket launchers that hang from a helicopter gun ship. My truck looks bad ass, but isn’t really. I’m a fly fisher. Kind of lame.

I drove on a 100-degree afternoon from Norfork, to Harrison, then took 43 down to 21 and just before Ozone, turned west on a forest service road that is just about one lane wide and dirt. Not a bad road. But it’s narrow and curvy, but pretty flat. There were six miles of it before you hit the black top at Oark that’s 215.

I came across a one-land bridge over the Little Mulberry and parked in the road blocking my path were about 10 or 15 bikers, all of them standing beside parked Harley Davidsons. There was no place for me to go. I didn’t realize it but they were thinking there was no where for them to go, either. They were parked side by side in twos. I had come six miles on a dirt road and couldn’t back up. I thought, “They’ve got me.” But, they were thinking I had them. Who knew?

You are in the middle of no where. There is no cell service. I was worried. They could take anything I had, if I had anything. I thought my Orvis ball cap was a dead give away that I’m not capable of harm.

But they were in a panic. I just didn’t know. They were fearful of driving their bikes on that dirt road and didn’t know how far it was to 21. They were on a big circle route on 23, then 215 and then 21 back north through the Ponca/Boxley valley to 412.

None of them had on shirts. They had mostly leather pants and a few had vests. There was lots of long pony tail hair and long beards.

They signaled for me to get out for a talk. Oh, boy, here I go.

The leader walked to me and said, “Hey, we are lost, dude! What you got in the tubes? You rule here, right?”

I said 5 weights. That’s what my fly rods in the silver tubes are.

He said, “Oh, wow, you could wipe out all of us. And, you can take out a herd of deer, right?”

Well, I said, “I don’t know about that.”

OK, on to more important stuff, “How far is it to 21?” I said 6 miles and the road is OK. Would I let them by? Sure.

I guess I did rule in that valley. I pulled out my Delorme book with the county by county topo maps. I don’t go anywhere without them, whether that be Arkansas or Colorado.

The maps rule, not me. I showed them what was in front of them on the Delorme maps and all of the bikers were excited. They were no longer worried about dirt road or lack of cell signal that knocked out their GPS tracking.

One by one, they shook my hand, in their own style and pulled me close for a pat on the back. I gave them the same hug back. They were kind of sweaty and nasty. But it was the best hugs I’ve had in awhile.

Boom, off they went on either side of my truck in a big roar, with a fist in the air as they passed me. I was still standing beside my bad ass white Silverado. And, I was on to Oark and Steve’s place. And, I didn’t have to fire any of my missiles.

My heart beat slowed down. What was I to worry. I rule this valley!

There is nothing like being alone in the middle of nowhere in the Ozarks. It’s fun, but it’s different at the same time.

If you have a better story than this, I want to hear it.


I lived in Pine Bluff 32 years and can’t beat that…

We all rule in our own little way. It may be a tiny area. It may be big. But we all can rule in some way. I had no idea that I ruled an entire valley. All these years, I thought Gage ruled there.

Like I’ve said many times these stories/insights are worth the price of admission.

Great story Clay.

I have ridden my bike to Cass several times, but not past the pavement
(The non-motorized type)
Lovely ride

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When you get to Oark, pull into the burger place. It’s a good turnaround spot and the food is excellent.

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I have driven that road often as I use to hunt Hignite Mt. I had a dirt bike at the time and we rode all over the place. We often met some very interesting characters. I never had rockets on my bike but was often armed (it was deer season). Never had anybody tell me that I ruled anything, but then Clay is sort of a special case.

I have been asked often while in the Routt National Forrest if someone could camp someplace or if I minded if they hunted there. What could I say. It is public land. I have told people that I had a right to be there, and that I made a payment on it every April 15 as well as every other quarter. Got one of those payments due next week by the way.

If I remember right, Jim had a .45 strapped on his hip for no other reason that it felt good to be packing when you are off in the middle of nowhere. I just unloaded my fly rods from the tubes for the trip to Oxford. Won’t need them there.

But as I found out, no one really knows if my tubes are loaded or not.

Clay, have you gathered any information on John Bunch Jr. from Elkins in your research for the book? My wife is his sister and has lots of information on his run for the single game national rushing record and the “Dirty Dozen” from Elkins.

Great story Clay! There are places in Arkansas where you do feel like you have to pump in sunlight. That area is one of them. About a year ago, I was fortunate enough to buy a little cabin and some acres near Erbie in Newton County. Some of our friends get a little nervous passing by our neighbors places. It doesn’t bother me though. I think it’s great security. People figure out real quick if you “ain’t from round here.”

We have John Bunch info and photos. We are good.

If you are talking about the Oark General Store, it has great food and great pies! I’ve been there several times and I love it. It is also the oldest continually operating restaurant in the state. Last fall JWright, AZHawg, the SCfan, and I went leaf looking. The leaves weren’t that pretty that day, but the food was great and the company was fantastic! BTW, we ran into JAP66, his wife, and others who were there too.

Yup. General Store in Oark. It rocks.

Man this thread makes me miss home. I do get to come home the week leading to the Miss. State game. I’ll drive to Bull Shoals to see my aunt, and then to Fayetteville and Springdale…and probably Fort Smith…to work with their HS choirs. (Not a bad-ass thing to say to say the least).
Hopefully my sprained knee I’m limping around on will be ok enough to play some golf.
My buddy has a lake house on lake Maumelle that seems like its middle of nowhere compared to my life in Charleston, SC. Can’t wait to wake up to the mist on that lake. Always a treat.

Lots of neat places in the hills of Arkansas. From the Ouachita, the Boston and Ozark mountains, it’s all pretty special. That doesn’t even account for the delta areas with great fishing, or the White River trout streams. You can do cool stuff and never leave the Natural State.

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