From: The White River Current - October 18, 2012
I was waffling back and forth between working on my Christmas song and my new novel, “Calico Mo,” when a familiar melody came into my head. It has been the Official State Song of the state of Arkansas for over twenty-five years. It was the background music for the sign-off for public station AETN for a long time and may still be, although I think they are on the air for twenty four hours a day now. I used to stay up late to hear this great song and watch the beautiful Arkansas views that were displayed on the screen. The CW group that I played with for several years, The Drug Store Cowboys, had this song in their repertoire. We used this number as the closing on most of our gigs and it always brought a standing ovation. I don’t think I have ever told you about this group of musical pharmacists. Well, maybe later. Anyway, the name of the song is “Arkansas, You Run Deep in Me.” It was composed by fellow Arkansas songwriter, Wayland Holyfield. The first verse goes “October morning in the Ozark Mountains, Hills ablazing like that sun in the sky. I fell in love there and the fire’s still burning A flame that will never die.” The chorus goes “Oh, I may wander, but when I do I will never be far from you. You’re in my blood and I know you’ll always be. Arkansas, you run deep in me.” It just occurred to me that I seem to be slipping into a pattern of using song lyrics in these bi-weekly visits. This isn’t planned, just happens. I sit down at the computer, start typing and send you whatever comes out. Explaining, not apologizing. Anyway, I was struck by the composer talking about wandering. You already know I was born and raised here. Went off to college, came back home to raise a family and build a business. A little over ten years we sold our home and moved to Ozark, Missouri. We have always joked that we were there on a “mission trip” but that is close to an accurate description. Ozark is a great community. We enjoyed our stay there and miss the good friendships that were made, especially with our Sunday school classmates. Three couples have visited us in Calico Rock. Bill and Jan were special. They liked gospel and bluegrass music and we attended several concerts together. They also liked to eat (another perfect fit with us) and we were always ready to go. Bill dabbled in real estate, buying and selling farms, until one day he called with the news that he had found “Shangri-La.” This was a small farm several miles from Ozark. We never got to see it, but from their description I guess it was beautiful. A few years ago, Bill saw this ad about a gospel group that they really liked was appearing in a Texas town. A long drive from Ozark, but they decided to go. Bill became ill a short time after they arrived in Texas and they decided to drive back home to see his regular doctor. He was immediately placed in the intensive care at the hospital and died three days later. The cause of death was some type of tick fever. Apparently, he had picked up to tick at the farm before they started to Texas. Bill was a big man. He was tall and I’m sure he weighed well over three hundred pounds but I never thought of him as being “fat.” Great sense of humor and I put him in the group of “characters I have known.” I still miss Bill a great deal. Anyway, about three years ago, Anita and I decided that our “mission” to Missouri was over and we began making plans to move back home. Amazingly, we were able to get our old post office box and telephone number after an absence of almost eight years, just like they had been saved for us. The last verse of the State Song goes “And there’s a river rambling through the fields and valleys. Smooth and steady as she makes her way south. A lot like the people whose name she carries. She goes strong and she goes proud.” Of course, Wayland is referring to the Arkansas River, but, for me, it is the White River, a lot like the people - rambling, smooth, steady. Oh, I may wander, but when I do I will never be far from you. You’re in my blood and I know you’ll always be. Calico Rock, you run deep in me. You can Google the title and hear Wayland sing the entire song on YouTube, even the AETN version. Under the influence of nostalgia here in my corner of the Queen City of the Ozarks, this is Reed saying Bye for now.