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Gallows and a Bordello

December 3, 2012

Arkansas – Thursday, November 29

My donation-of-the-day today came about in a very unexpected way…a walk through town, which led to a historic fort and gallows, which led to a historic bordello, which led to my tour guide, which led to my donation! It’s fun when pieces fall into place like it’s meant to be! Tula and I started the morning off by walking through downtown Fayetteville as long as we were there. And as luck would have it, Fort Smith National Historic Site was actually right at the edge of town, and there were some nice trails through the old fort area and exhibits, and also down by the Arkansas River. One of the restored sites to see at the fort was a gallows. It was kind if creepy, especially because it was built to hang up to 6 people at a time. And I learned later that hangings were such a popular spectator event that tickets were issued to the people who were allowed to watch, and everyone else had to stand back. There was also a Civil War era national cemetery right by the grounds of the fort, and Tula and I walked through that too. It was very beautiful, and made me think of Arlington Cemetary. There were many graves of unknown soldiers and unknown confederate soldiers. I briefly considered going and getting some flowers to put at some of the grave markers for the unknown soldiers as my donation for today, but there were a lot if regulations as to how and where to place flowers and plants, and it didn’t seem practical in the end. A fun thought while it lasted. I also went to the visitor center for the fort and watched the video and went through the museum, and ended up buying a year-long pass for the national parks. I should have done this a while ago – some parks are free, and the admission fee for others isn’t much, but it begins to add up. And they’re good places to walk and absorb some history! Between the walk in town, and around the fort and trails, and through the national cemetary, Tula and I covered 5 1/2 miles.

One of the directional signs on the trails pointed the way to “Miss Laura’s” place, which turns out to be the only bordello on the National Register of Historic Places. It also serves as the visitor center for Fort Smith. I went in and apparently Miss Laura ran a very high class establishment, and the tour was really interesting. My tour guide asked where I was from, and where I was headed, and I briefly explained what I was doing. It turns out he is on the board of directors for the Community Services Clearinghouse in Fort Smith, and they pass out hundreds of backpacks with food in them every Friday for kids who might not get enough to eat on weekends. It sounded like a wonderful program, and I wanted to help, so he told me how to get there and who to ask for. The people at the clearinghouse were very friendly, and supportive of what I’m doing, and she took me all around the warehouse, and told me about all the programs they’re involved with. They have a lot of volunteers to help get everything where it needs to go. Besides the backpack program for kids, they also help low-income cancer patients, gather toys for underprivileged kids, and run a food pantry. The number of people they help in a 4 county area is amazing. My donation to them was a check – they can stretch the dollars farther than I can with their resources. Again, meeting people with such big hearts doing endless work to help soooo many others is so nice to see – I’m glad to have a teeny, tiny part in it all.

Then I headed for Hot Springs – I was going to be going through the Ouachita Mountains, and since it was going to be a couple hour drive, I didn’t want to wait until too late. The drive east was pretty, and I got I to Hot Springs just as it was getting dark. I found the historic part of town which was all decorated, and lots of people were out and about. The main street was long, and pedestrian friendly, and it was a fun place to finish up the walking for the day. I had decided to camp tonight even though it might be a bit chilly, and once I’d found a bite to eat, we made our way to one of the Hot Springs campgrounds and got set up. It got down to about 40, but I stayed cozy in the van with quilt and sleeping bag and pillows, and Tula has several layers of blankets too!

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