My Arkansas, Then And Now

My Arkansas, Then And Now

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.