lone rider was making his way through the Ozark Mountain country, heading for
Little Rock. While admiring the
amazing scenery that surrounded him the stranger didn’t notice that it was
growing dark. Suddenly he realized
that he was lost in the wilderness of trees and hills with darkness only making
the situation worse.
clear in the night sky came a familiar sound – a tune being played on a
fiddle. The rider headed toward the
sound, and it lead him to a cabin. On
the porch was a man playing the sweet tune that lead the stranger out of the
woods. The man on the porch was the
first Ozark mountaineer the rider had ever seen, and he was curious that the man
was playing the beginning of a jig over and over again.
Ozark man was cautious of the stranger at first as the pair shot questions and
answers back and forth. Neither was
satisfied with the little information that was the result.
Then the stranger asked the settler why he kept repeating the same broken
tune. When he discovered the man
was trying to remember the tune, he offered to help because he played the fiddle
also. The stranger played the jig
from beginning to end.
the last note died down, the settler called to his wife and children to prepare
food and lodging for his new friend. The
lone rider was now a welcome guest in the Arkansas home.
So, not only does this story tell about Arkansas’s first tourist, it also details the first reference interview to take place in Arkansas. We have a direct connection to those who settled and visited Arkansas in the pioneer days. They were strangers seeking and exchanging information to enrich their every day lives, just as Arkansans are today...
once upon a time in Arkansas
An old man sat in his little cabin door,
And fiddled at a tune that he liked to hear,
A jolly old tune that he played by ear.
It was raining
hard but the fiddler didn't care
A traveler was
riding by that day,
So the stranger
said: "Now the way it seems to me,
replied: "That's all quite true,
But the old man
kept on a-playing at his reel,
The play "The Arkansas Traveler" was a favorite attraction in Salem, Ohio, in the 1850's. It tells of a traveler's experience with an Arkansas squatter whom he finds sitting in his cabin playing away at a tune which he has heard for the first time on a trip to New Orleans. The entire play revolves around this tune and the squatter's effort to remember the ending of it. (DT)
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