Sunday, October 19, 2008

Ernest Hemingway---in Arkansas??!!

I did the mandatory reading of Ernest Hemingway in high school and college, and though it was a few years ago, I am almost certain there was no mention of the famous author being in Arkansas during his writing career. So you can imagine how my curiosity was aroused when I started reading in Arkansas Tourist Publications about Hemingway's "Arkansas connections." I guess I have a soft spot in my heart for anything associated with the Hemingway name, because that is where I went for a special meal on my wedding day---Hemingway's Restaurant at the Bass Pro Shop in Springfield, Missouri. (Doesn't everyone visit the original Bass Pro shop on their wedding day?) In travels after that time, we visited some of Hemingway's old haunts (including his famous estate in the Florida Keys patrolled by hoards of cats that might be described as "toe-challenged") as well as one of the fishing boats he used in the Keys. So since I had visited these sites in other states known for their Hemingway connection, I determined it was my duty as a native Arkansan to visit the Hemingway connection that was in Arkansas. To prepare me for the experience, I studied biographies of Ernest Hemingway, so much so, that by the time I cruised into the the town of Piggott in northeast Arkansas, I felt like "me and Ernie" were old friends! Driving through the Mississippi Delta farmland on my way to Piggott, however, the scene was more like a John Grisham novel than an Ernest Hemingway tome. The fields of cotton stretched for miles on end, broken up by occasional patches of kudzu that carpet the ditchlines. Overhead, a crop duster airplane made his dives at the rows of white fluff (aka cotton plants) that were his targets. The sleepy town of Piggott welcomed me with dignified (translate "small") signs pointing to the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center. I learned that the reason I had not heard about Hemingway's Arkansas connections when I was in school, is because the site has only been open to the public the last few years. Through the efforts of preservationists associated with Arkansas State University in nearby Jonesboro, the once-private residence has been turned into a museum, and the facility also hosts seminars/workshops for would-be writers. You can learn more at their website On the day I visited, I was given a guided tour of the barn-studio, plus family home, associated with Ernest Hemingway and his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer. I visited the gift shop there and purchased a ceramic coffee mug with an image of Ernest Hemingway as it was used on a U.S. postage stamp. It is hard to describe, but ever since I visited this literary historic landmark (and learned that Hemingway often didn't feel like writing---hunting and fishing were his true loves---yet he MADE himself sit down regularly and pen a few lines), I have been more motivated to write about my travels and life experiences. I grab my Ernest Hemingway mug, and the words just "tumble out"! (Is that why some cups are called "tumblers"?) I know the world has no shortage of things to read, but there is something to be said for "putting legs" on your thoughts and memories, by recording them in writing. So I now spell the cliche used to encourage someone---Right on!!---as ---Write on!!!
Posted by Picasa