Arkansas - Fort Smith

"Rock me Momma like a wagon wheel"


If Little Rock was a ‘big city’ in Arkansas, what was a small one like? We booked ourselves into a B&B in Fort Smith and set off to find it.

I thought it was going to be a pioneer town, something like Tombstone, Arizona. But it’s actually just a regular small town in America. A historic downtown and original army fort surrounded by strip malls.

It’s famous for a few things - the John Wayne movie True Grit was filmed there, Elvis had his famous army buzz hair cut there and lots of people were hanged there!

Sew nice
Our B&B had your usual kitsch style you see in folksy Inns, crochet “I love you” sign on the wall, etc. I did love what I found in the blue and green bathroom. A vintage Singer sewing machine with a glass top replacing the machine and used as a table. It had the pedal and everything, great piece of repurposing.

We took a walk around the main street downtown and went snap happy taking photos of all the Christmas carry on (in America Christmas starts as soon as Thanksgiving ends). The houses were done up like the Griswolds from the National Lampoons movie; porches, lawns and roofs engulfed in lights, Santas, reindeers and snowmen.

There’s not a huge amount to see at the actual Fort but the history museum across the road has an operating old fashioned drug store, you can sit among the olde worlde goods and have ice cream from the parlour.

Before we left Arkansas for good, we stopped at a diner and overheard the quintessential small town conversation…

Burly man: “Would it be un-American to ask for the burger without the pickle?”

Waitress: “No, I tell you what’s un-American, asking for a burger with no meat, someone did that

Burly man: “Well, I hope you told that Californian hippie to get the hell back to San Francisco!”

Moments later the same waitress is at our table with a big smile “Hi y’all, where are you folks from? what can I get you today?”

What I should have said... “We’re from San Francisco and we’ll have two veggies burgers, oh and no buns please, we don’t eat carbs.”

What I actually said... “We’re from London and we’ll have two beef burgers with all the trimmings. Heavy on the pickles.”

As it turned out she had a hard time understanding my accent. She was very nice though (evidently from the previous conversation with burly man we can deduce that she is also very young and naive) she seemed mortified that she couldn't understand me and kept apologising.

Our London and Dublin accents were a source of great interest everywhere we went in the south. They seemed delighted by them, when everybody knows it’s the southern accent that’s the enchanting one.

Next stop Oklahoma, where the south meets the west, what would they make of us and our funny accents, it was time to find out...

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