My Arkansas, Then And Now

My Arkansas, Then And Now

Monday, December 13, 2010

It's Official!

My book “Storytellin’ True & Fictional Short Stories of Arkansas” is now in worldwide distribution and available at or you can order a copy through any book retailer. You can search by the book’s title or author name (Jack R. Cotner) or you may use ISBN 9781456363819. Suggested retail price is $12.95.

Thanks to everyone for your interest and support during the long and interesting road to successful publication.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Winter Holidays Are Here Again

Time sure does fly when you're busy. Seems like no time at all since Halloween came and went, then Thanksgiving did the same. Here we are just a few short weeks until Christmas arrives. Haven't had any time at all to draw, sketch or paint any new holiday greetings so I'll re-post one of my old favorites.

This is from a black and white pen and ink rendering I did in 1989. I later inked it with color and used it as a Christmas card. Five years later, I digitized it, added snowflakes, shrunk the image, printed multiple copies and used them as name-cards on holiday presents. The image eventually made it onto a poster advertising my holiday art displays and is part of The Cotner Collection Poster series. Here’s a version once again as a holiday greeting. Have a safe, warm and joyous Winter Season and a very Merry Christmas.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pre-publication publicist flyer

For the soon-to-be released book,

“Storytellin’: True and Fictional Short Stories of Arkansas”

An interesting and intriguing collection of true Cotner family tales and original, entertaining short stories inspired by a variety of actual people and events in the River Valley and Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas.

The author’s grandfather, a railroad bull for the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Line Railroad in the 1920s was the inspiration for “He A Friend Of Yours?” the uplifting tale of a young boy, a midnight train and the importance and value of friendship.

Many Cotners made their living by working with stone, the author included, and they inspired the chilling “Reba’s Stone” a story about a young dead girl and the gravestone that worked to set in motion the wheels of justice.

In the eerie “Grave Voices” a shady, prominent preacher is taught a lesson about honesty and being careful what you wish for—a story evolved from an actual event in the United Methodist Church in Booneville, Arkansas in 1923.

‘See a penny, pick it up’ is an old and familiar saying but it takes on a completely new meaning in “Pretty Penny”, the story of greed, sacrifice and lost love inspired by a walk the author took with his mother in the early 1950s.

A shiny, new red and white tricycle for Christmas at the early age of four years led to the unusual and completely weird tale of a playful yet destructive robot in “Pookie, Man Of Steel”.

With numerous fishing adventures around Logan County, Arkansas and interaction with the denizens of deep, murky waters to draw from comes “On The Prominent List”, the frightening yet oddly funny tale of a legendary snake called Old Fang of Black Pond and the man who would kill it.

And for something truly frightening, there’s nothing like the excitement of prowling around in a big, two-story ancient barn especially if you’re a twelve year old boy free from school on a hot summer’s day—the heat, the smells, the random encounters with spiders, snakes and who-knows-what. It’s the deadly who-knows-what lurking in the story “JackOBones” one needs to watch for. It’s a creepy, bloody tale of a butcher, his family and retribution.

These and many more stories wait within…take the journey!

Anticipated publication and release date for “Storytellin’: True and Fictional Short Stories of Arkansas” is December 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I’ve completed the cover artwork and inside picture additions for the book of short stories titled “Storytellin’: True and Fictional Stories of Arkansas”. The formatting and editing work on the completed manuscript is currently in full swing. I’m planning on posting the book cover artwork here once the editing work is completed on the manuscript. If all goes well, the book will likely be published just before Christmas.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Día de los Muertos

October 31, 2010 has come and gone marking both my beautiful daughter’s birthday and Halloween. It’s a great time of the year. November 1st and 2nd marks the Mexican Day of the Dead – Día de los Muertos —a colorful, festive and celebrative time. “It is a holiday with a complex history and fusion of old traditions. This view of death started with Meso-American cultures such as the Olmecs more than 3,000 years ago. Meso-Americans believed that during this time of the year, the boundaries that separate the living and the dead weaken and that the deceased could visit the living. Unlike the Spaniards, who viewed death as the end of life, the natives viewed it as the continuation of life, as a blend together cycle. Instead of fearing death, they embraced it. To them, life was a dream and only in death did they become truly awake.”

Here’s a Cotner Collection Art poster I did in 1998 commemorating the holiday.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Summertime is always a wonderful time for me, full of warmth, pleasant memories, enjoyable walks, satisfying gardening and silly, deceptive feelings that life might go on forever.

May the world always have art and flowers and people who enjoy them.

This poster is one of many included in my work in progress Poster Print Book from The Cotner Collection. The painting from which this poster is designed is titled “Summer Flowers”. I completed it in the Summer of 1995.

The original is a 16” by 18” watercolor, ink, mixed media on paper, now in private collection.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Nothing like the excitement of prowling around in a big, two-story ancient barn especially if you’re a twelve year old boy free from school on a hot summer’s day—the heat, the smells, the random encounters with spiders, snakes and who-knows-what.

My grandfather Artie had such a barn. Tin roof, faded red paint, big front double doors on the lower floor and a hayloft door front and venting door back on the upper floor. Long before retirement, Artie worked on the railroad in those days for the Rock Island Line but also ran a working farm with over 200 acres. He had the barn built during the Depression for $820 worth of cotton bales from his cotton fields…

One summer, my brother David, our cousin Kenny and I got creative and made life-sized dummies or scarecrows, properly dressed in bandanas, shirts, gloves and hats, faces painted to look as real as possible and even some of our grandfather’s glasses. We named our creations, Clyde, Claude and Clifton and placed them strategically around the barn. It looked like there were three people inside to the casual observer…

Grandfather discovered our scarecrow handiwork peeking out of the various grain and stall niches one evening just as last of the daylight was disappearing for the night and had a roaring good laugh…

“Boys, just for a minute there, I thought ol’ JackOBones had found me and my barn, “He squinted a little and grinned, “You did notice that big old full Moon up there tonight, didn’t you? Not safe to play in old dark barns in Arkansas under a full moon. No telling what you’ll find, or what might find you.”

“JackOBones?” we asked. Sounded creepy, spooky, wonderful even. We’d never heard of the guy but the whole scary full moon and a dark barn thing was cool...

Selected Excerpts of “JackOBones” from the Cotner family book of short stories both true and fictional. Copyright 2009 – 2010 Jack R. Cotner All Rights Reserved

Monday, July 12, 2010

Grandma's Prayer

I'm working on two books, both about my early adventures in the Cotner family of Logan County, Arkansas and Cotner family folklore. Here's a small excerpt from one of them.

"...Boys being boys, I’m sure my brother David and I drove our parents and grandparents to distraction most times with our shenanigans and adventures. The both of us used to get into all kinds of mischief and engage in many activities that probably put early gray hairs on our elders.

In the coldest of cold weather, sometimes with snow falling, wearing nothing more than faded blue jeans, thin socks and tennis shoes that had long since seen better days we’d be out playing football for hours. Or, we would go playing around the creek that flowed through the woods and pasture lands below the house—we had no gloves, no mittens to our names but we’d be breaking ice, wading the creek and throwing snow at each other in frigid, freezing temperatures until sunset. It was all great fun. It never seemed to bother us but it sure bothered our grandmother.

We’d straggle back home, numb, cold and wet to the bone.

“You boys are gonna’ die of pneumonia,” Grandma would say, shaking her head in despair.

Looking back on it now, I think that might have been wishful thinking..."

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happy Fourth of July 2010

I remember one fun-filled festive firecracker celebration of the Fourth of July back in the early 1960s at my Uncle Bill’s house in Booneville. Fireworks and sparklers all around. Everyone was having fun until my cousin Kenny stuck a burning sparkler up his sister Mary Evelyn’s nose. There’s a memory.

Happy celebrations everyone and remember this holiday safety tip: keep all fireworks outside the body and have a fun and safe Fourth.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring Snow In Fayetteville, Arkansas

Woke up this morning to twenty-eight degrees and seven inches of snow and as of this writing it is still falling. Can’t even see any daffodils; they are completely covered. Weather forecasters are predicting an additional inch or so to fall during the day. Time to bundle up with a cup of hot something and a good book.

UPDATE: Three o'clock in the afternoon and the snow has finally stopped falling but not before leaving a total of twelve inches on the ground.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Daffodils Are Up

Just a week away from Spring (this year the Vernal Equinox occurs March 20, 2010) and the bright yellow daffodils are up and smiling, reminding us that warmer weather is on the way. Of course, for every year of my life, for as long as I can remember in this neck of the woods, the bright flowers that traditionally symbolize friendship and sometimes referred to as jonquils in the South, get a dose of some type of cold on them before Spring arrives. Be it ice, snow, frost or freezing rain, it seems to always happen. Yesterday, it briefly happened again as the clouds moved in and dropped a little, very little snow on the daffodils.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Happy Birthday, Johnny Cash

I grew up listening to Johnny Cash and still play his music to this day. One of the very first records I remember ever seeing was a big 78 rpm vinyl record of Johnny’s rendition of “Rock Island Line.”

Born February 26, 1932 into an Arkansas sharecropper family, the songs he churned out over his 40 year career have meaning and tell stories; some sad, tragic, historic and some even completely humorous. He was an icon from Arkansas and I don’t believe there will ever be another like him in the music industry. He was a unique, one of a kind performer. I saw him live in concert once with the Carter Family and the Statler Brothers. It was a great performance.

Happy Birthday, Johnny.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cherry Nut Bread

...beat the winter blues with good food

I’m staying inside longer these days because of the cold weather and when I’m in, I like to eat. I especially enjoy good sweet bread with my hot tea or coffee in the winter. I baked a cherry nut bread last night and it’s delicious. I am enjoying it with a hot cup of tea as I write this. Here’s the recipe if you’d care to try it.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
¼ cup of cooking oil
¾ cup of chopped pecans or walnuts if you prefer
1 cup of dried cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease the bottom and ½ inch up the sides of an 8x4x2-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

In a medium bowl combine the egg, milk and oil. Stir slightly to blend. Add this mixture to the dry ingredient bowl mixture in the large bowl. Stir until moistened then fold in the nuts and cherries. Stir until mixed. Pour into the greased loaf pan.

Bake for 50 – 55 minutes (depending on your oven).

Cool in the pan for 10 minutes then remove from pan and place on wire rack or other appropriate surface until completely cool.

Slice and enjoy.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Looking Forward To Spring

All the cold weather this Winter with its frigid temperatures, snow, sleet, ice and bone-chilling wind has me looking forward more than ever to the warmer season of Spring and gardening season. My sister Janet is already wistfully looking through her Burpee seed catalogue from W. Atlee Burpee & Company.

She reminded me that she spent much of last year driving through the countryside where she lives, gathering seeds and saving seeds from the native plants. I’m hoping her work pays off and she gets some good seedling starts for her efforts. Saving seeds—whether from your own garden or from native plants—is a time-honored tradition.

The International Seed Saving Institute has some great information and resources concerning seed-saving. If you are interested in such an activity, or interested in purchasing heirloom seeds, you might want to check them out.

If you like tomatoes and want to save the seed from your own garden, you may enjoy the information at on how to save your tomato seeds for next year’s planting.

Burpee Seed Catalogue:

International Seed Saving Institute:


Saturday, February 6, 2010

On This Date In Arkansas History

…Willie Kavanaugh Hocker died

Who was Willie Hocker? She was the designer of the Arkansas state flag, one of only two women in the United States credited with state flag designs. Willie Hocker was born on July 21, 1862 in Kentucky, the youngest child of William K. and Virginia Brown Hocker, who moved their family to Arkansas in 1870, settling in Dudley Lake Township near Wabbaseka, Arkansas.

Hocker’s design was “a rectangular field of red, on which is placed a large white diamond, bordered by a wide band of blue—national colors. Across the diamond is the word ‘Arkansas’”—placed there by request of the committee—“and the blue stars, one above, two below the word. On the blue band are placed twenty-five white stars.” The diamond signifies that Arkansas is the only state where diamonds are mined. The twenty-five white stars represent Arkansas’s place as the twenty-fifth state admitted to the Union. The three blue stars represent the three nations, France, Spain, and the United States, whose flags had flown over the state. The Arkansas General Assembly adopted this design as the official state flag in February 1913. The flag remained unchanged until 1923, when the legislature added a fourth star to the diamond to represent the Confederacy. At first, there were two stars above the name and two below, but legislation in 1924 positioned a Confederate star above the state’s name and the original three below it.

Hocker received honors and acclaim for the rest of her life for her design of the Arkansas state flag. In 1929, she represented Arkansas at the National Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs’ Pageant of Famous Women of the United States.

Willie Hocker died at her home in Wabbaseka on February 6th, 1944.

Reference: Encyclopedia of Arkansas

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Winter Cold

This year’s season for cold weather hasn’t disappointed. Two arctic blasts have hit the area, one over the holidays and the most recent partially captured in the picture above (taken in the Ouachita Mountains around the area where I grew up). Once again, I was ready with my generator, plenty of gas and oil, multiple gallons of fresh water, candles, matches—all the usual items needed for getting through an extended and rough cold snap. The latest storm system gave me single digit wind chills and thermometer readings in the teens—and almost 7 inches of snow on a ¼ inch sheet of ice. Thankfully, I had power the entire time—unlike last year’s Ice Storm. If the Ice Storm link is broken, go to my February 2009 post, same subject.