Arkansas was lovely...and warm. I was amazed to see Spanish moss and prickly pear growing in such great profusion. Their growth season is also about a month ahead of ours. I saw daffodils in bloom there, whereas ours were just starting to come up. So much for Arkansas in general. The reason I was even there in the first place was for the CCCA Conference, an annual meeting for people who work at camps. Pretty much everything that has to do with running a camp, from kitchen service to staff discipleship, was covered in the meetings. There was also a meeting about pool maintenance. Zhenya and I sat in on that one. Basically, it went: 'Pools, blah, blah, blah...chemicals, blah, blah, blah....dirt and algea, oh, horror! Blah, blah, blah....more chemicals, blah, blah, blah...'etc. Rather boring, especially as all of the information was printed in the handout. What really bothered me was that the meeting could have been over in 20 minutes, instead of lasting an entire hour. I don't want to sound too negative, though. I learned a lot, and I'm glad that I went. As Zhenya commented, we felt by turns very young and very old. Very young because we were the only two people our age, and very old for the same reason. But I found many of the meetings very interesting and informative, and enjoyed talking with other camp people.
Our accomodations were also very nice. Our group had the whole first floor of a two story log cabin. Above us were more sleeping quarters, as well as a kitchen and sitting room. The whole place was decorated in an Old West theme, and felt very cozy and inviting. A skunk had apparently found it cozy and inviting, too. He had moved out, but his odor remained. 'Eau de Skunk' we joked, and I coined the name 'Home, Stinky Home'.
Our last day there was really fun. Zhenya and I explored a small cave in the bluff behind our cabin. I got a chance to try out my new headlamp, which I had been itching to do ever since I got it. Then, the two of us climbed up the bluff to look down at a beautiful view of the river below.
The cave had beautiful icicles hanging down in front of it...
Our group on the front steps of our cabin
Zhenya on the porch
Arkansas has some very interesting town names. I wished that I had a camera handy as we passed a sign that announced we were in the Flippin Business District. As we were driving through the town of Yellville, in search of a place to eat lunch, we espied an odd-looking group of men. They all wore white, with what appeared to be white turbans on their heads. They sat in straight, orderly rows in front of a roaring fire. My curiousity was stirred, and my imagination immediately kicked into high gear.
"I think they're Sikhs!" I said. "Sikhs wear white, and they have pyromaniacal tendencies. They usually cremate their dead. Those look like Indian-style turbans, too."
"Sikhs in Yellville, Arkansas?" doubted Mrs. Cotita.
"Maybe Yellville has some really permissive laws. Something that makes it easier for them to practice their beliefs here." Zhenya suggested.
"Barbequing their dead companion." commented Mr. Cotita.
Wild conjectures continued to be voiced, even after we had found a restaurant. The Klu-Klux-Klan was suggested by some, but I preferred the idea od Sikhs. Mrs. Cotita still was incredulous of Sikhs in Yellville. The two names did sound rather incongruous, but I was willing to accept Zhenya's theory of permissive laws. By the time we were finished eating, I was nearly dieing of curiousity. The Cotitas were equally intrigued, so we went back for another look. We found our Sikhs doing something in a baseball field. Their fire had died down, and they were moving about with long sticks in their hands.
"Cricket!" cried Zhenya.
Then I saw the horses. "Polo! Indians are really avid polo players." I said.
"Actually, I think those sticks are hoes." Zhenya remarked.
"So they are, and what does that van say?"
"'Yellville Correctional Facility'." read Mrs. Cotita. "They're prisoners."
"Yes, those are mounted police." I regretfully observed. I was disappointed. What I had thought to be followers of the world's 7th largest religion, in the very act of ceremonially cremating their dead companion, had turned out to be nothing but a bunch of convicts burning brush.
The supposed Sikhs