Another one of the sights on I35 to San Antonio from Dallas is the dome hut farm. I’m sure it’s called something else, but that’s how I always thought of it. A whole little dome hut neighborhood, and the flagship dome structure made to look like a giant caterpillar. I’m sure it all makes sense, but I kind of like the whys remaining a mystery. And I kind of want a dome hut house now and then, logistical issues with furniture aside.
I rode in a Winnebago once during either our middle school church choir tour or mission trip. Ever since then, I’ve been fascinated by RVs. If I can ever make a living working freelance, that might just be what I do—buy a small RV or trailer and purchase a smartphone with a hotspot (I’m kind of a phone Luddite, always have been, probably always will be) and travel with my house behind me. The life of a nomad has been calling me more and more often lately. I know it’s a hard one, and I recognize I romanticize it even as I imagine what it would be like.
I call it my walkabout. To just put on a pair of walking shoes and go. Maybe a bike, maybe a bike trailer thing. I have incurable wanderlust, but I’m also an incurable homebody. Just put that up on the shelf of all the other contradictions that leave me in a state of perpetual frustration.
For another bit of amusement, there’s a place outside Fayetteville, Arkansas, with a big sign for a car body shop right next to a cemetery. That one can fuel my dad and me for hours.
When I smell strong woodsmoke, I know I’m in Arkansas, even when I’m not. Burning wood, sometimes the smell of burning rubber. I also associate the smell of skunk with our road trips up to northwest Arkansas, passing through the vents, and it’s why I like the smell of it—as long as the buggers keep a healthy distance.
We always stopped at a Braum’s for ice cream, and before we left Arkansas, we always ate at Tiny Tim’s Pizza. My grandparents’ church is what I think of when people point to megachurches and say we should tax the churches. In Texas, it feels like we have a church on every other corner, and many of them would be considered megachurches. But rural churches would officially die if churches were taxed—small and old and already strapped.
My grandfather was a Methodist minister, with the biggest, most resonant baritone you can imagine, and he boomed through that church while he could. I swear, it sometimes seems like half of my family and the ones we adopted as family make up that little church. I didn’t like going because I don’t like getting up weekend mornings, and I hate wearing church clothes. But in a rural town, churches are the social heart.
Sometimes I think I just like churches for the windows. My parents keep stained glass in the house, including a window from Grandpa’s first church. Through the choir tours and other visits, I’ve been in a lot of churches—big, small, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic. The window always capture me when my eyes don’t know where to rest. I can stare at them for hours, finding the details.
Arkansas was where I learned to fish, learned how to feed chickens, learned to fear ticks, learned to love cats with claws and German shepherds. We explored there farther than we could in the suburbs, even though our neighborhood has a helluva creek bed. Arkansas was a cabin in the woods on a gravel path and ATVs, a giant magnolia tree and dogwood, Cheerios and banana with honey or peanut butter on toast, an out-of-tune piano and an organ in the loft, persimmons and blackberries picked fresh, buckeyes and Easter eggs, a real pine tree for Christmas, the waterfall poster leading down to the clawfoot tub. Arkansas was the mill and the car cemetery, and the pond where I skipped rocks. A sheltered little suburban bookworm, and Arkansas was where I got my shoes dirty. We rode the ATVs to feed the cows. I nearly got a concussion when the bull came at the hay too fast, but most of the time, the cows were too skittish to let us close.
They didn’t have air conditioner until I was in my teens, and no Internet until after I graduated high school, no wifi, and no cell service without driving around the mountain. I read book after book out on their front porch when it was too hot to be inside or with the rain hitting the tin roof. The Shining was my favorite for the farm, although I don’t know why. Maybe it was the way the book smelled that seemed to fit.
On July 4th, they put on an amateur fireworks show. No one ever got hurt, and the displays became grander as the years went by. Sometimes the evenings were even cool. Methodists know how to put on a potluck, and we’d be full on our lawn chairs, goading the guys on while they set up in the dark.
Arkansas was where I would go to see the sky as it is, where I finally saw the cloudy Milky Way. I’d stay out there until the mosquitoes ate me raw, just to see all the stars that we can’t see against the streetlights.