There we were waking up in our pool shed in Fayetteville, Arkansas with an entire Sunday ahead of us, except the local weather predicted horrible thunderstorms so it was not a time to explore very far. It would be a local surrounding area kind of day.
We managed to beat the breakfast rush again at our chosen place of eating. The poor ladies next to us were less than thrilled about the service they received and left in a huff, but we were quite pleased. I had the richest breakfast tacos ever filled with eggs and a massive amount of chorizo, luckily there was a salad next to them. The coffee was great and because we were exhausted from our two prior days of exploration it felt much needed.
After breakfast we wandered directly into a confederate cemetery. Because we went here before the battlefield memorial park, we didn't know that this was the location of the nearly 1000 individuals wearing confederate grey that perished in the Battle of Prairie Grove.
Instead we wandered the very well manicured and symmetrical graveyard where the gravestones had no names on them with curiosity. Why were all the gravestones blank? Especially when the cemetery was built completely with private funding? Point of note – Union soldiers were buried in the National Cemetery, paid for and maintained by the United States Government, Confederate soldiers were thrown into a mass grave – it was only through some fundraising that a local group of women were able to create this cemetery to honor the fallen who were on the wrong side of our brother against brother civil war. Although they received burial thanks to private individuals they remained unnamed and unidentified (we would learn later in the day).
Interestingly enough, there was a cemetery right next to the private Confederate cemetery. Part of it, as you can see in the photo above with Natasha walking towards it is on the National Register of Historic places as it houses the grave of the fellow/attorney who wrote the Arkansas state constitution. The rest of it is in disrepair, to say the least, and there were some very interesting grave stones there, and well, I'm pretty sure, ghosts.
Its so rare you find an 50% curated cemetery that our curiosity forced us to go beyond the historical marker and into the realm of possible poltergeists, possessions and other regrettable energetic hanger ons to take a closer look. I only took a few photos out of respect and really tried to avoid getting too close to the places that felt really off – we made it out mostly unscathed. Our shoes took the brunt of the situation, being completely soaked by the waterlogged grass. The section of the cemetery remained a mystery as to its condition (both current state, and the half-complete job of "updating" or "improving" or "fixing" or whatever you do to a dilapidated cemetery). Why it got this way, we'll never know without some serious research.
So continuing our civil war history session we next found ourselves at the civil war memorial park that is on the exact location of the Battle of Prairie Grove. One of the many exceptionally bloody battles of the civil war, this one taking place in an apple orchard and the surrounding swamp and farmland. The apple orchard still stands behind this house (this house that was built after the battle to replace the house that was burned during it).
As a park it is really well done and curated. The signage is clear, there are interprative signs with quotes from soldiers who were in the battle telling stories of horrible death destruction and the loss of brothers and limbs. It really puts you there, as much as a serene park can place you into a horrible battle where thousands died. We both agreed this battlefield felt more sad and filled with negative residue than the allegedly haunted hotel in Eureka Springs we visited the day before. There was no way to deny the feeling of tragedy and violent death in the soil.
Also on site were houses and structures relocated from other nearby-ish civil war historically significant locations to the park. Two houses that we passed we actually picked up and moved so they could join their brethren here in the memorial park with appropriate signage and educational opportunity. It was quite impressive. I'd also like to note that nothing on-site glorified war or one side over the other in the civil war. Some of my experience in the south has been that the Confederate cause can be romanticized, as can the Union's – when at the end of the day the civil war was the most bloody war in North American history and completely based on economics. There was nothing romantic about either side's position – abolition of slavery was a fortunate side effect. This park portrayed the war as history and tragic because so many died in this place in the span of a few hours.
Wandering through the realm of the dead can really build an appetite, so before we headed to the art museum we decided to take in a little bit of lunch and a whole other kind of culture at The Catfish Hole.
The Catfish Hole is a special place. The Catfish Hole is a giant building with a giant parking lot to match its double-wide interior. It is a place where your catfish basket comes with unlimited "fixin's" that include real life southern hush puppies (that resemble donut holes tremendously), pickled tomato relish, dill pickles, and really really creamy coleslaw.
Here is a better look at the cream of the slaw and the first round of hush puppies. This photo is from before we knew that they would just keep putting more on our plate if we ate them all. I have to describe the hush puppies though – they were soft, fluffy yet still held a cornbread heaviness to them. They were in fact kind of magical. I realized that up until this point in my life anything I had eaten that was called a hush puppy was a fraud.
Just look at them, how they hold both fluffy and solid simultaneously. Amazing.
Then the main course arrived. It was also amazing because everything was exactly the same color. The fish, the fries, and the okra. Everything was tan. The deep fried okra was quite good and we did our best to eat that fiber portion of the meal as we realized we could have split the 3 piece fish basket because we were filled with pickles and hush puppies.
The windows of The Catfish Hole were all stain glass windows depicting different type of catfish. It made the place, despite its booth and table simplicity into a kind of church of catfish. We clearly successfully engaged in the sacrament.
Full of catfish we headed for Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. The only art museum dedicated completely to artists from the United States and filled with pieces from the private collection of Walmart family member (the connection to Walmart is not mentioned at the museum but you can put two-and-two together after a visit to the Walmart Museum.
Crystal Bridges is a very young art museum by art museum standards and very popular, as it is the only thing of its kind in many miles, it is an actual architectural marvel and I believe there is something that attracts people to it. There is also a very creepy spider sculptor in its foyer.
Also in its foyer/cafe area there was the largest gold locket heart thing just hanging there in the middle of this bridge like area with a magnificent view of a very muddy pond.
We both got a shot of espresso then decided to dive right into the art – starting with the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit.
Then we wandered the rest of the collection and took in the slightly surreal grounds through the windows.
Here we are in a state of art fatigue with really bad overhead lighting.
What does one do when they are art fatigued? Go to the Walmart museum in downtown Bentonville, Arkansas. Apparently, every Walmart vendor needs to have an office in this tiny town – which by the looks of it, may be true. As there is really nothing going on here. Granted, we were there on a Sunday, but still.
There was really nothing going on in town. The Walmart museum was the most interesting thing – and well, maybe the ice cream in the original Walton's soda fountain.
A recreation of Sam Walton's office.
I watched Tasha eat a sunday because even in the heart of Walmart country I couldn't make myself spend money at a Walmart institution. I'm also not eating anything dairy so it was a double pass. She had a great time however, and regretted it almost immediately.
Meanwhile, in the museum the saga of the story of Walmart's beginnings waged as did the story of this particular small town, and the wealth to build such a thing as the Crystal Bridges American Art Museum.
Finishing our day of living large we decided to eat sushi inland and go to a movie. It was good day, and there was only one more ahead of us before my return to Seattle.