RV.Net Open Roads Forum: The Ozarks - in search of the spirit of Sam Walton - TR

RV Blog

  |  

RV Sales

  |  

Campgrounds

  |  

RV Parks

  |  

RV Club

  |  

RV Buyers Guide

  |  

Roadside Assistance

  |  

Extended Service Plan

  |  

RV Travel Assistance

  |  

RV Credit Card

  |  

RV Loans

Open Roads Forum Already a member? Login here.   If not, Register Today!  |  Help

Newest  |  Active  |  Popular  |  RVing FAQ Forum Rules  |  Forum Posting Help and Support  |  Contact  

Search:   Advanced Search

Search only in Truck Campers

Open Roads Forum  >  Truck Campers

 > The Ozarks - in search of the spirit of Sam Walton - TR

Reply to Topic  |  Subscribe  |  Print Topic  |  Post New Topic  | 
Page of 3  
Next
Sponsored By:
67avion

Carbondale, Illinois

Senior Member

Joined: 04/02/2010

View Profile



Good Sam RV Club Member


Posted: 06/22/15 04:53pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Jane and I traveled to the Ozarks recently….in search of the spirit of Sam Walton. Let me explain.

Jane is an anthropologist and I’m a former news photographer. When we travel we are as interested in what is called the “social landscape” as we are in the topography and geography. Our truck camper facilitates our travel where we can go slow and travel anywhere we want on the backroads of America.

We wanted to better understand the extraordinary phenomena of Sam Walton who helped build the largest retail chain store in the world, with over 2,200,000 employees in 2015.He accomplished his life’s work from the little Ozark town of Bentonville, Arkansas. We knew that the 30 mile stretch of road between Bentonville and Fayetteville had several other world class businesses developed since the 2nd World War: Tyson’s Foods which is the worlds largest meat producer and located in Springdale, Arkansas. And J.B. Hunt trucking, one of the largest transportation companies in the world located in Lowell, Arkansas. The University of Arkansas is located at the south end of the stretch.

It is one of the most rapidly growing areas of the United States. However, during the development of Wal-Mart and the other businesses there was neither a freeway nor a major airport. However, many of the original Wal-marts were located in these towns. What happened there? Actually what is happening there? We get in our truck camper and take a look.

[image]

Left to Right: Sam Walton, Don Tyson, and J.B. Hunt

The Ozarks are a highland region of the US, covering the southern half of Missouri and the northern/northwestern part of Arkansas. We set onto the road from the Shawnee Hills of Southern Illinois which is sometimes called the Illinois Ozarks. It’s a beautiful drive this time of year with wildflowers spread as far as the eye can see.

[image]

Jane securing the back door of the Avion C-10 camper

The roads in southern Missouri wind through a largely depopulated landscape. Dotted along the roads are abandoned homes and farms. When we travel with our truck camper we can stop and look around without hurry.

[image]

The region was settled by Amerindians and then by Scotch - Irish who settled into a pattern of subsistence farming with cattle and hogs on the land. It is very similar to Appalachia. There was some mining and timbering as well.

The roads are occasionally rough as I mentioned. I was very concerned since my truck, a 2004 F350, tended to “seek and hunt" when we were underway. I had to steer constantly. If I looked up at something Jane had seen, I risked running off the road. Just before we left town I had Torklift StableLoads installed. My local shop took three hours to make the installation since my springs were not drilled out. I immediately noticed that the sag in the rear was gone. But, the test ahead was the Ozark roads.

[image]

I could not believe the change in my handling. We went around curves and over hills with the smoothest ride I had ever had with the Avion onboard. My truck didn’t “hunt” anymore nor did it bottom out when we crossed a railroad track.

[image]

However, due to my typical inattention to detail I subjected another Torklift product to an extreme road test. I didn’t fasten the Glowsteps properly and they bumped along for miles until we stopped to take a look at the Mo-Ark Coon Club.

[image]

Amazingly, the steps managed to hold together. I thought they would have broken to pieces, but we can still use them without any issues. However, we now are doubly secure in our process for stowing them away. There may be a better method of stowing the steps other than the wire and eyelet that it has now.

[image]

We drove through Mammoth Spring, Arkansas, a bit down on its luck. At least as far as we could tell. It was like many of the towns we passed in the region. An effort to address the tourist trade had been made, but….

[image]

On the edge of town we found a small park where we could back in the Avion and use the park tables for lunch. Jane and I enjoy a sort of mediterranean lunch when we travel with olives, pickled artichokes, preserved meats, cheeses and bottled water. We had our spread on the picnic table unaware that we had caught the attention of some local folk.

[image]

Jason and Jim had been occupied under a shade tree across the road repairing their car’s fuel line. They were nice enough guys who were curious what we were up to. Mainly, they wanted to know about our Avion Camper. Then their attention turned to our food - ways that were unfamiliar to them. After a while they sauntered back across the road where a bevy of small children played around the disabled vehicle.

But, they played into a popular stereotype of the Ozarks hillbilly, down to the coveralls with only one strap fastened. Al Capp created the cartoon Lil Abner that used the innocent and naive hillbillies to satire excesses in American life. Though it was set in Dogpatch, Kentucky, Lil Abner seems to have migrated to the Ozarks with a huge defunct theme park titled, “Dogpatch USA” in Arkansas.

[image]

But, one has to admit it’s a bit difficult to imagine these guys and their kin as the backbone of world class enterprises like Wal-Mart, Tyson and JB Hunt. But, as we learned, it was the values, skills, hard work and insight of Ozarkians who built these firms.

Because we are part of the Truck Camping community we had written to our friend who goes by the handle, JumboJet, and told him we were passing through the area. Jim Bennett graciously invited us to spend the night on a pad next to his house. He and his wife Carol took us out to the “Catfish Hole” where we had some of the best catfish and hushpuppies in our lives. Like Wal-Mart it was very large and very crowded restaurant. And like Wal-Mart it delivered fast and with great value.

[image]

Mr and Mrs JumboJet at the Catfish Hole clutching hushpuppies

After we finished our meal, Jim took us on a tour of the area including his home town of Tontitown. Its now a part of Fayetteville, I believe. Jim is a long time employee of Tyson’s Foods where he works in technology and Carol, a former school employee, now spends her time with grandchildren.

Even before we met Jim and Carol we had heard of the story of Tontitown.

In the 1890s a Mississippi Delta cotton planter named LeRoy Percy enticed a large number of Italians from the town of Ancona in the region called the Marche to immigrate to his plantations.The Marche in Italy is on high ground on the Adriatic. Percy sought to replace the black field labor that he viewed as too difficult. His Delta plantations, alongside the Mississippi River, were Sunnyside and Lakeport. They were located in one of the most pestilential and malaria wracked parts of the deep south. The Italians were soon deeply indebted to the company store, sick from diseases and barred from buying their own land. Their priest, Father Bandini, led them in 1898 in a march to the Ozarks. They founded Tontitown and named it after an Italian explorer, Henri deTonti.

[image]

The Italian migrants immediately began planting grape vines and resuming their life on the land as in Italy…except it was their land.

Jim showed us some of the vineyards that are still being cultivated.

[image]

Now, as a result of the vineyards a world class company came into the area in the 1920s. Welch’s Grape Juice. They bought the grapes from the Italian farmers. But some of the inhabitants were hired into what became a multinational company. Over the years that small spark entered into the economic bloodstream of the northwest Arkansas. Today the vineyards have been reduced as other opportunities have arisen for the children of the immigrants.

[image]

St. Joseph’s is still standing, though a new church and school have been built next to it. This summer the Church will celebrate the 117th Tontitown Grape Festival with a “grape stomp”, marathons, and Italian spaghetti dinners.

We learned a great deal about Tyson’s Foods from Jim and saw the new schools and public buildings supported by the wealthy families of the Tysons, Hunts and Waltons. It became quite clear talking to Jim and Carol that one of the keys to the growth of these industries were small town values that included honest hard work, religious devotion and inspired opportunity.

I know that Wal-Mart took advantage of building an empire practically under the radar of American business. They opened stores in regions where the large chains didn’t think there was business. Tyson’s worked with local poultry producers to build up their business. Hunts trucking actually was one of the first to understand intermodal trucking where a container was loaded from ship to train and then delivered to its destination by truck.

Still, its remains amazing how this little stretch of ground produced all of those businesses. Jim told me that over 50 people PER DAY were settling into the area. Since he has lived there it has grown exponentially.

We camped the next night at a small lake outside of Fayetteville. In the morning, after coffee on a fishing dock listening to the birds, we wandered into Fayetteville for breakfast. We stopped at the local farmers cafe where farm to table foods are served.

[image]

Folks what you see here are organic free range chicken eggs served on biscuits with locally made Canadian bacon and covered with Hollandaise sauce. On the side is organic grits with local cheese. That’s quite a twist on the traditional foods of the region.

Jane and I decided to visit Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art that was founded in Bentonville, Arkansas, by Alice Walton. She is the youngest child of Sam Walton and a primary heir to the fortune. As we drove from Fayetteville to Bentonville, we passed through areas that appeared to be a center of Hispanic entrepreneurs as well as Asians. The whole world is getting in on the energy of this region. Everywhere you look there is construction going on.

[image]
Fayetteville apartments under consgtruction

We drove up to the entrance of the museum where the low slung building has what appears to be a stainless steel “tree" overhead.

[image]

On entering the museum a large room appears with enormous laminated timber in a "rib" configuration. However, the light keeps the whole building bright and airy. Attached to the timbers is a Jeff Koons sculpture “Hanging Heart”. It weighs several tons but appears to be as light as a helium filled balloon.

It was interesting when I recalled that Sam Walton said whatever you hung near the front door would really sell…..

[image]

The museum’s curatorial effort is to trace American art history. You start at the beginning and you finish at the present. I know, having worked in New York and elsewhere, that the people-who-count in the art world are not impressed by this emphasis on America and American art. So, I am even more grateful to the Walton family for sticking with their values.

[image]

Jane liked the large scale painting of Rosie the Riveter with her foot placed decisively on Hitler’s Mein Kampf. It’s by Norman Rockwell, a fellow that the people-who-know have dismissed as a mere illustrator. He worked for publications like the Saturday Evening Post. I pointed out to Jane that Rosie was transformed from Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel’s “Isaiah" .

Overall, the visit to Crystal Bridges was very enjoyable. The museum and grounds are comfortable and easy to navigate. The emphasis on the American experience was welcome.

[image]

We toured the Wal-Mart Museum after a root beer float in the soda parlor. The original Walton's 5 and dime was located on the town square where a Confederate soldier bears silent vigil. The museum is modest with most of the displays being written explanations about the history of Wal-Mart in general and Sam Walton in particular. His original office is located in the museum exactly the way he left it.

[image]

There was his old battered Ford pickup that he drove into the fields with his dogs to hunt quail. Walton said one of the reasons he was glad that he had located in Bentonville is that there are four states nearby with different quail hunting seasons.

You get the powerful impression of an immensely talented and motivated guy who was down to earth. His values, as I’ve mentioned before, are instilled in the region. However, he put them on steroids.

We traveled towards Eureka Springs and stopped at the ThorneCrown Chapel.

[image]

It’s a beautiful, three story, light filled non-denominational chapel designed by a Frank Lloyd Wright protege, E.Fay Jones. When we walked in there was an unassuming gentleman sitting in the back of the chapel writing notes. I struck up a conversation. He turned out to be the son of the founder of the chapel, Jim Reed, a retired schoolteacher. I learned that the elder Reed wasn’t a churchgoer but had a mission to build a chapel. Reed talked Fay Jones, a professor at the University of Arkansas, into designing the chapel…ran out of money….found a backer that he didn’t know….got it built….then only 30 people showed up for the opening…and he thought it was a disaster.

Today it is one of the most visited sites in the region.

We visited the town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. It has been a destination for health seekers who sought a cure to their maladies in the springs. Today it is a popular location for tourists and bikers. We found it a good place to have a few craft beers.

[image]

As we traveled we looked forward to camping at the many dams in the region. We prefer the Corps of Engineers sites since they are near water and usually well managed.

We also remembered the infamous Arkansas Congressman Wilbur D. Mills. It’s been a while, but Mills was one of the most powerful legislators in the United States. He was the longest serving chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, the key money committee in the Congress. One of Wilbur Mill’s pet projects was building lakes and dams in the back country. We have camped a number of times at the Wilbur D. Mills Lock and Dam on the Arkansas River.

[image]
Dawn on the Wilbur Mills reservoir November 2013

One fine day Mills hooked up with the “Argentine Firecracker”, Fannie Fox. She was a stripper in DC, and Mills fell head over heels for her.

He was stopped by Capitol Police for driving erratically late one evening. Fannie bolted from the car and jumped into the Tidal Basin with the Capitol Police in hot pursuit. Wilbur was roughed up with his glasses broken and some cuts on his face after an apparent fight with Fannie. But, he was grinning from ear to ear. Fannie and Wilbur made up whereupon Wilbur started having drunken press conferences from her dressing room. It was a scandal that eventually led to Wilbur D. Mills resignation. One of the most improbable falls from power in Washington history.

[image]
Wilbur Mills and Fannie fox in Boston

Our visit to northwest Arkansas ended with our camping next to Beaver Dam, one of the sites that Mills had helped develop. I must say, I don’t begrudge Mills his romp with the Argentine Firecracker, Fannie Fox. Not when I awaken in the morning and have my coffee while watching the rising sun across the lake.

[image]

I think we came closer to appreciating the amazing history of the Waltons, Tysons and Hunts. But, an understanding still eludes me. How in the world have they done what they did from where they did it? Jane joked and said there's probably something in the water. Maybe there is.

* This post was last edited 06/22/15 09:00pm by an administrator/moderator *   View edit history

TexasShadow

Spring Branch, TX USA

Senior Member

Joined: 10/12/2003

View Profile



Good Sam RV Club Member


Posted: 06/22/15 05:20pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

thanks for the interesting tour, illustrated with some good photos.


TexasShadow
Holiday Rambler Endeavor LE/ 3126B Cat
Sometimes BMW K75 on Rear Carrier
Jeep Grand Cherokee or 2016 Ford XLT 4x4 super cab with 8 ft bed
M&G aux brake system
854 Watts of Solar Power



Always remember you're unique, just like everyone else.


cewillis

Tucson, az, usa

Senior Member

Joined: 01/24/2005

View Profile



Good Sam RV Club Member


Posted: 06/22/15 05:26pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Very interesting -- especially having grown up not too far north of there.


Cal


Tiger4x4RV

Inland Empire, Southern California

Senior Member

Joined: 03/14/2007

View Profile



Posted: 06/22/15 05:57pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks for a great TR - beautiful photos and informative text. I especially enjoyed the historical aspect.


2006 Tiger CX 4x4, 8.1 L gas V-8, Allison 6-speed


exhaustipated

Topeka, Kansas

Senior Member

Joined: 08/07/2013

View Profile



Good Sam RV Club Member

Offline
Posted: 06/22/15 06:32pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks for the wonderful and interesting trip report. I'm glad that you and Jane were able to meet up with Jim and Carol Bennett in Tontitown as they are a very nice couple. Thanks for the amazing photos you took along with the history of the region.


2009 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD 4WD LT1 Ext Cab Z71 Long Bed Vortec 6.0L V8 SFI gas.
2012 Travel Lite 960RX
Torklift frame mounted tie downs with FastGun turnbuckles and a Lock and Load maximum security cargo tray.
Timbren SES
Curt front mount hitch receiver


realter

NW

Senior Member

Joined: 01/27/2005

View Profile



Posted: 06/22/15 07:05pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

My mom grad from Univ Missouri same year as Sam Walton. I always told her she married the wrong classmate. Interesting post about 3 rural men who built successful companies, and shows the hard work ethics of their first employees who came from that region. Very interesting post and pictures. Thanks.

Camper_Jeff_&_Kelli

Seattle

Senior Member

Joined: 04/04/2008

View Profile


Offline
Posted: 06/23/15 12:35am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Interesting stuff. Thanks.


Camper Jeff and Kelli's Blog!
CITAP1 Jeff's YouTube Channel
A CLOSED MOUTH GATHERS NO FEET!


joerg68

St. Ingbert, Germany

Senior Member

Joined: 02/27/2009

View Profile


Offline
Posted: 06/23/15 02:05am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks so much for the great trip report and the history lessons :-)

Now we have another place to go for the bucket list...

Thanks again,
Joerg & Janina


2014 Ford F350 XLT 6.2 SCLB + 2017 Northstar Arrow


Oldtymeflyr

Arapahoe Hills, CO

Senior Member

Joined: 04/18/2004

View Profile



Posted: 06/23/15 06:14am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks. You presented the area well.

sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

Senior Member

Joined: 10/10/2010

View Profile


Offline
Posted: 06/23/15 06:37am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks for a fascinating report.

Cheers,

Steve.


'07 Ford Ranger XLT Supercab diesel + '91 Shadow Cruiser - Sky Cruiser 1
'98 Jeep TJ 4.0
'15 Ford Fiesta ST
'09 Fiat Panda 1.2


Reply to Topic  |  Subscribe  |  Print Topic  |  Post New Topic  | 
Page of 3  
Next

Open Roads Forum  >  Truck Campers

 > The Ozarks - in search of the spirit of Sam Walton - TR
Search:   Advanced Search

Search only in Truck Campers


New posts No new posts
Closed, new posts Closed, no new posts
Moved, new posts Moved, no new posts

Adjust text size:




© 2020 CWI, Inc. © 2020 Good Sam Enterprises, LLC. All Rights Reserved.