My Arkansas, Then And Now

My Arkansas, Then And Now

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009

…May Your Holiday Season Be A Happy One

Here’s a family Christmas photo of happier times featuring my mother, Audrey; my sister, Janet; my brother, David; me; and father, Artie “Jack”. No date on the photo but I think it must have been in the early 1950s. Anyone remember?

Hope everyone has a safe, warm, very pleasant and happy holiday. I’m going to try and not eat too much but I never reach that goal and that’s a good thing, all things considered.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

On This Day In Family History

…My father and uncle joined the American military

One day following December 7th, 1941 —now infamously known as Pearl Harbor Day—my father Artie ‘Jack’ Cotner and his younger brother Bill (pictured above) did what so many Americans did, they enlisted in the U. S. military to fight in World War II against the Axis powers of Germany, Japan and Italy. Their other brother, my uncle Mitchell, was not eligible for military service because of his employment on the railroad—a necessary element of the war effort. My uncle Bill was a Navy man and found himself stationed in the Aleutians and my father--Army Air Corps--went off to eventually serve two years in the Pacific Theater stationed in Australia, fighting in the Coral Sea Battle and others before spending two more years in Europe, stationed in Great Britain as part of the enormous and deadly D-Day Invasion.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Tis' The Season

…Warning! Proud Grandfather Sharing Granddaughter Story!

This week, my granddaughter, Adelinda, went with her mother and grandmother to visit with Santa Claus. Up on his knees and more than a little bit wary of the jolly white-bearded fellow, she sat quite proper while her picture was taken with him. Santa asked her what she wanted for Christmas and she replied, “I’d like a black doggie stuffed animal.”

“Is that all you want?” he asked.

She replied, “Yes.”

“I think we can do that for you,” He smiled and started to lift her down from his lap but she stopped him.

“Santa?” she asked, “You think you could bring my pet doggie, Mr. Darcy, a present?”

“Sure. What would Mr. Darcy like for Christmas?”

“Well, he’d like a frog,” she said in her most serious voice.

“Yes, I think I can bring Mr. Darcy a ball,” he said, having totally misunderstood Adelinda.

She was stunned but before she could correct him, he set her down from his lap and turned his attention to the next child.

Later that evening at home, Adelinda was sitting on the couch with her mother and Mr. Darcy when she said, “Mr. Darcy, I went to see Santa today and I told him you wanted a frog for Christmas but I think you’re getting a ball instead.” There was a pause, as she hugged Mr. Darcy tightly, “Oh, I’m so sorry, Mr. Darcy, I did the best I could do for you.”

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Jimmie Driftwood
…Arkansas Native

On this Thanksgiving Day as many of us sit down to enjoy the celebrations of the holiday we may also remember November 26, 1936 as the day a young Arkansas folk-singer/songwriter James Corbett Morris—AKA—Jimmy Driftwood was born over in Stone County, Arkansas. Driftwood gained national fame in 1959 when Johnny Horton recorded Driftwood's song "The Battle of New Orleans," but he continued to live in Stone County and promote the music and heritage of the Ozarks. After his marriage to one of his former students, Cleda Johnson, Driftwood continued to teach at area schools as well as write songs and play folk music. In 1947, the couple purchased the 150-acre farm where they would live the rest of their lives.

Among his other accomplishments, Driftwood formed the Rackensack Folklore Society, helped create the Arkansas Folk Festival in Mountain View, and was a leading force in the establishment of the Ozark Folk Center.

I’d love to have a dollar for every time I or any other Cotner played Driftwood’s ‘The Battle of New Orleans”. Ah, sweet memories.

Rackensack Folklore Society.
Arkansas Folk Festival In Mountain View.
Ozark Folk Center.
Encyclopedia of Arkansas.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hunting In Arkansas

…The Old School Way

Back in the day, as they say, hunting in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas was not only a sport, a source of pride and a pleasurable pastime for many people, but a primary source of food. It was all that and more for many of those living in the area and my grandfather, Artie, was no exception. As my brother David reminds me, Artie probably only killed about twenty deer his entire life because during the Great Depression the deer population in Arkansas was almost depleted by people needing food and the herd didn’t begin to flourish again until after World War II.

On average I think Artie owned at any one time twenty-five to thirty Walker hounds all sporting leather collars with ID tags with their names and Artie’s address on them. These dogs were primarily deer dogs, used to flush and run white-tailed deer along the mountains to the waiting danger of hunters stationed at given posts called deer stands. In those days, before running dogs to hunt deer became illegal, the dogs would jump their prey and chase them for miles and it wasn’t unusual for my grandfather’s dogs to be found hundreds of miles from home, sometimes all the way into neighboring Oklahoma.

This past weekend marked the opening day of modern firearms deer hunting season in Arkansas (separate seasons are set aside for bows and black powder hunting). It is estimated that around 500,000 hunters will make their way into the woodlands and mountains of Arkansas on this opening weekend. Dangerous is an understatement, for man or beast, and anyone with good sense will stay home. But this season’s hunting start made me recall an incident (one of many) related to my grandfather and deer hunting that’s both humorous as well as telling about my grandfather and what he thought of the government’s restrictions on hunters.

One autumn season, my grandfather’s dogs were caught running deer on National Park lands by game wardens and my grandfather was called into court to face the charges. The judge asked if he knew it was illegal to run dogs on National Park lands and my grandfather replied that, yes, he did know it was illegal but that the dogs had been set loose to hunt on private property and merely followed the deer for miles onto the government land. The judge said there were plenty of posted signs marking the National Park lands as ‘No Hunting Allowed’ and my grandfather just laughed and said, ‘Well, judge, when you can teach my dogs to read, they’ll know better than to hunt there.” Case dismissed.

Here’s a picture of my grandfather at one of the many hunting dog trials held in Logan County around Blue Mountain Lake area, circa mid to late 1940s, maybe very early 1950 (no date on photo to know for sure). He’s one of the event’s judges and the one on the far left holding the dog’s tail. Can anyone identify the others in this picture?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The 'Dee-Feator"

The “Dee-feator” pictured here crossed the Normandy coast 17 minutes ahead of the invasion fleet on June 6, 1944. Technical Sergeant (TSgt) Artie 'Jack' Cotner, who served as Radio-Gunner on this aircraft, was on that flight, and later that day joined another aircrew to once again fly into France. He is the only known enlisted man to have crossed the Channel twice on D-Day.

TSgt Cotner enlisted in the Army Air Corp one day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, serving in both the Pacific and European campaigns. He was a gunner on the B-17 Flying Fortress with the 19th Bomb Group and fought with honor in the Coral Sea battle, over New Guinea, and at Guadalcanal. After surviving those harrowing battles in the Pacific, TSgt Cotner joined the 397th Bomb Group and flew more than 66 missions over Europe with the B-26 Marauder Bomber unit.

The “Dee-feator” was named for Dee McCloud, wife of pilot Colonel McCloud.

Veterans Day 2009

Here’s a picture of my father, Artie ‘Jack’ Cotner, U.S. Army Air Corps, taken in London, England just days before the D-Day Allied Invasion of Continental Europe. He and his flight crew led by Colonel McCloud in their B-26 Marauder, named “Dee-Feater” (in honor of Colonel McCloud’s wife, Dee). The crew logged more than 66 missions over the European Theater. On D-Day, the crew was seventeen minutes out ahead of the actually invasion force bombing key coastal targets along the French coast. The Dee-Feater, with its prominent white ‘invasion striped’ wings, is one of the planes often seen in the World War II film footage of the D-Day Invasion.

A salute to all Veterans this day for their service and sacrifice.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

World Series Memories

The Baseball World Series in the United States is underway. This year’s event is between the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Yankees. I was pleased and surprised to see Yankee great, Yogi Berra, on the field for the opening ceremonies. Like thousands of other boys I collected baseball cards. Back in the late 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s, I could buy a pack of bubble gum with five baseball cards in them for something like a nickel. It was like Christmas every time, opening the opaque sealed wrappers to get to the gum and the cards, never knowing which players you might get. I can still smell the gum from those packs and still have several hundred of the cards collected from them. Here’s one of my many baseball cards.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My favorite Holiday

October 31st, Halloween, my wonderful daughter's birthday. No wonder, then, this is my favorite time of year. Fall leaves, pumpkins, cooler weather, summer's heat gone for the year and a promise of Winter just around the corner. Hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable festival no matter how you celebrate this time of year.

Monday, July 27, 2009

"The Garden"

…Oil tinted Ink Sketch

Many—if not most— of the Cotners in my lineage are good gardeners, some were outright farmers. I’m currently growing a container garden of herbs, tomatoes, various squash, peppers, radishes and okra and they are doing excellent. There’s nothing like eating fresh, home-grown items directly from your own garden. No wonder then that many of my art subjects are of the vegetable and flower variety.

I completed this little sketch called “The Garden” in 1989. It began as a simple pencil sketch, a mindless little doodle one afternoon, on a sheet of computer paper. I transferred it to a heavier grade paper, mounted it on hardboard, and used my Rapidograph pens to ink it. I then gave it two coats of Liquin to seal it. After the sealant thoroughly dried, I used thinned, transparent oils to color it. This technique allows for a permanent, wonderful and rich contrast between the inked subject and the oil color.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Fourth Of July

…Was My Dad’s Favorite Holiday

In the late 1940s and beyond, we lived in the Hodges’ Addition of my hometown of Booneville, Arkansas. From there, looking south, are the Ouachita Mountains. Perched on the northern edge of those mountains was the State Sanatorium where every year that I can recall as a child (weather and financing permitted), the annual fireworks display would be visible for miles around. Every 4th of July since those days, memories of that era come back to me. Family would sit out on the front lawn in the white Adirondack chairs my dad built for my mom, waiting for dark and the arrival of the bright, colorful pyrotechnic displays and listening to the stories of those gathered around. I remember homemade, hand-cranked ice cream, honey in a big mason jar with the honey comb still in it, ice cold watermelon, egg salad sandwiches, firecrackers and sparklers and chasing lightening bugs. All these memories and more, come back to me every year as the country celebrates Independence Day.

Hope everyone makes some of their own wonderful memories this year. Have a safe, fun Fourth of July!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Ancient Flute Discovered

…In Germany. It Is 35,000 Years Old

It is being called the world’s oldest musical instrument.

It is “made from a vulture's wing bone, measuring 20cm long with five finger holes and two "V"-shaped notches on one end of the instrument…”

This takes tracking your ancestry to an all new level. Of course, there’s no way to know if anyone’s modern specific family group was involved. Without human DNA, there’s no way to know. As I’ve mentioned earlier, there was a civilization in Europe that pre-dates the Romans. These societies had music, culture, trade, commerce, religion, exploration, family units, government and more. All the things associated with humans today.

Anyway, I found this article interesting and the ancient flute intriguing.

To read more, visit the BBC here:

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What's In A Name?

...Examination of Suffix, Prefix and Historical Meanings

Origins of ‘Gort/Gert’
The ‘prefix’ or beginning spelling of the family name, Gortner/Gertner, from which Cotner is evidently derived.

The lands from which our Cotner family’s ancestors likely sprang are in and around a region of what is now Germany and Switzerland near the Rhineland Pfaltz area but may have roots further back in both time and culture. As in all of Europe, this area has a long, interesting and turbulent past. Pre-Roman Empire invasion, pre-Circa 55 B.C., this area and most of Europe, the British Isles and onward to the Black Sea were inhabited by a civilization of people loosely known as Celts, pronounced “Khelt”, not “selt”. Today, we tend to think of something ‘Celtic’ as being of Ireland or some other part of the British Isles but in an historical sense, that is not entirely correct. As editor Miranda J. Green documents in her excellent book, The Celtic World, the archeological record available to us now, proves the Celtic societies of that time had a vast trade network stretching out from the Isles, across Europe to the Black Sea, the Mediterranean and beyond. This interaction also likely spawned exchange of not just goods and services but of cultural, social and religious ideas as well. This was the origin of true Western Civilization.

Research to this point reveals the Celtic name “Gort” has at least two separate meanings depending on whether you are looking at the British Isles Celts (primarily Ireland) or the Continental Celts. In Ireland’s Celtic language, Gort most often seems to refer to ‘a tilled field’ and is generally considered a better class of field, i.e., an arable one where good grains were grown. Turns out, Gort is a rather prolific name prefix in Ireland and is likely to have been in common usage among Celts of both the British Isles and on the Continent, pre-Roman invasion, where the term Gort means ‘Ivy’. The prefix ‘Gert’ is a reference to the common Teutonic male name, Gert, meaning ‘warrior’.

Origins of ‘ner’
The ‘suffix’ or ending spelling of our family name, Gortner/Cotner

The suffix ‘ner’ appears in other language groups in different parts of the world, but my focus is on the Celtic areas from which our ancestors were known to have come, specifically once-Celtic lands of Europe, now known as Germany, Switzerland and their surrounding areas.

Grammar of the Germanic language, like all ever-evolving languages, is replete with irregularities in forming nouns from names of countries, groups of peoples and occupations. The so-called ‘foreign’ names are often or have often been changed, as Gallier-an inhabitant of Gaul (Gallien); Spanier-an inhabitant of Spain (Spanien); Italiener-an inhabitant of Italy (Italian). In some foreign names the endings a’ner, ‘I’ner are added to the stem in imitation of Latin endings such as inus and ensis. An example of this is: Amerika’ner, American.

With the information at hand then, it seems a likely and fun hypothesis to consider the meaning of the Gortner/Gertner family name. It is possible to propose a not-too-far-fetched and somewhat intelligent thought that the original Gortners may likely have been an agricultural group within their culture and as they moved into what is now Germany from other parts of the Celtic world, the family unit may have gone from being known as Gort, to having the 'ner' added to their name to indicate that they came from a land or area somehow ‘foreign’ to those already occupying the regions in and near the Rhineland Pfaltz. If the Swiss prefix ‘Gert’ is inserted into this family equation, it could mean a family (by name at least) of warriors who settled into the Germanic region from what is now Switzerland . This is conjecture on my part, but is never-the-less an entertaining exercise based on currently known data.

More on this as new information becomes available.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ice Storm 2009

…artistically beautiful, realistically devastating

It started on January 26th as an ice storm then turned—by the end of the 27th—into a region-wide disaster with up to an inch of ice clinging to trees. A week or more of freezing cold without power, cable or phone service was not a pleasant experience for most. Fortunately, I have a 3500 watt generator, plenty of gas and oil, a wood-burning stove with lots of great firewood, flashlights, batteries, candles, matches and 40 gallons of fresh water in safe containers and lots of food. I was ready, most were not. Here it is February 10, 2009 and still thousands in the region without power. Surviving the week with no power was easy for me compared to the more than a week of cleaning up the damage following the initial week of the storm. My chainsaw and I have been working overtime clearing storm debris. Sadly, almost no tree in Fayetteville or the surrounding area was spared damage from the ice. Trees and tree branches littered the roads and highways alongside hundreds of downed cable and power lines. I’m told the power companies that service the area had 9700 splintered, snapped, downed power poles which had to be replaced. The worse in the approximately 70 year history of the Arkansas power companies. What a challenge it has been. I can only imagine how hard it would have been for my ancestors to have to live through one of these.