Small towns like Leslie, Norfork, Calico Rock, Mountain View and Pea Ridge are not unlike Jasper. Their residents take pride in the appearance of their towns and celebrate their histories and heritage while also welcoming visitors with open arms. You'll never know who you might meet.

My wife, Karen, and I recently took a week of vacation from our jobs and did some local sight seeing with some friends and family members. A cousin, Patty, and her husband, Bob, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (my hometown as a youth), came for a visit. I extended the invitation while spending the Memorial Day weekend with them at the Indianapolis 500. They have been to Arkansas many times and had seen the major area sights and attractions more than once. They had also become well-acquainted with Newton County as I would take them with me when I did the Wednesday newspaper delivery route.

So, this time, arrangements were made to spend a couple of days at the White and North Fork rivers area We made reservations at a lodge at Norfork that included for Bob and I a day of trout fishing with a guide.

Arriving in Springfield, Missouri, on Saturday, Oct. 12, Karen and I met the Kennys there at my daughter's Soap Refill Station store on Campbell Avenue downtown. I will note here that Karen and I had tickets to the John Prine concert Saturday night at the Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts. During the show, Prine dedicated his song "Angel From Montgomery" to some friends in the audience who live in Mountain View, Arkansas.

Sunday was spent with my brother, my sister and her family. The day started with an early morning stroll through the swap meet on state Highway 13, followed by brunch at the Kearney Street Cafe and ended with a picnic dinner at my sister's house. The Kennys followed Karen and me back to Harrison that evening.

Monday was to be a rest day for them. A joy ride was planned south of Harrison to Leslie for lunch at the Skylark Cafe, a great place to stop when going to and from Little Rock. After lunch we walked around the village and stopped in at some flea markets. We found a few items, but particularly enjoyed conversations with the owners. Driving back to Harrison we stopped at Tyler Bend on the Buffalo National River looked over the Collins Homestead and went inside the visitor's center. We had to get back to Harrison as I invited our son, Jon, and his wife, Jasi, to the house for a cookout dinner.

Tuesday began with breakfast at Big Daddy's on East Commercial Street then we headed west to Norfork. After checking in to our big, roomy cabin at the Norfork River Resort & Trout Dock, we went to Norfork to see the Jacob Wolf House historic site then on to Calico Rock.

I did not know about Peppersauce Alley, AKA East Calico Rock. The jail there is still standing and is even smaller and more primitive than the historic jail in Jasper. Calico Rock is undergoing the difficult process of restoring several commercial buildings. A local organization is overseeing the projects working with various contractors.

All of Wednesday was spent on the North Fork and White rivers catching rainbow trout. Our guide, Terry Foster, made the day go by quickly. He baiting our hooks, kept count of the day's catch in the livewell and all the while safely piloted the fishing boat over submerged logs and boulders.

Thursday we decided to take the long way back to Harrison by going through Mountain View.

Mountain View is the home of the Ozark Folk Center and much more. A walk around the busy downtown square offers a variety of shops and the Arkansas Craft School. Housed inside a building built in 1923), the school has multiple specialized studios for clay and pottery; woodturning; glass, metal and jewelry-making; weaving and fiber arts and studio arts. A wide variety of courses are offered for children and adults. We were encouraged to look around and the staff cheerfully answered all of our questions.

Later, coming out of a flea market, we met John Prine on the sidewalk. He said he had some down time after the Springfield concert and was visiting the friends he mentioned during the concert.

The week ended with a trip Friday to the Pea Ridge National Military Park and Rogers. The 4,300 acre battlefield honors those who fought and died on these grounds. Pea Ridge was the most pivotal Civil War battle west of the Mississippi River and is one of the most intact Civil War battlefields in the United States. On March 7-8, 1862, over 23,000 soldiers fought here to decide the fate of Missouri and was a turning point of the war in the West. Bob is a student of the Civil War and has visited most of the battlefields of the Eastern campaigns.

Returning to Springfield on Saturday we bid farewell to our visitors. Karen and I look forward to revisiting the towns we discovered I urge you to take the time and do the same sometime.

Jeff Dezort, Newton County Times editor, has worked at the newspaper since 2001. Before that he was a reporter, photographer and assistant editor of the Harrison Daily Times.

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