An Arkansas summer is made for exploration. An Arkansas summer is made for boys. There are tangy homegrown tomatoes to be picked, to be eaten straight from the hand; the Arkansas Traveler being my favorite variety. There are lightning bugs to imagine as fairies, to catch and keep in grandmother’s mason jars. There is popsicle relief to summer heat, the melting strawberry legs which run rivers down a shirtless chest.
These are the glories that might interrupt the more digital life of the modern boy if we train our children in the way they should go. Chief among these glories is one: the Steel Creek swimming hole at the Buffalo River.
The turn down Highway 103 is nothing short of a walk through the professor’s wardrobe into the magic of Narnia. By Independence Day, the farmers have bailed their hay, have left well-manicured fields under the watch of the Ozark mountains, the most gentle giants of our country. The boys look out the window, say, “isn’t it beautiful daddy?”
We wind through the valleys and climb up a ridge, fall down into the heart of the Buffalo National River. There, the bluffs rise tall from the water, and trees reach from the tops of those bluffs.
Isaac says, “inconceivable,” an homage to the movie The Princess Bride.
“What?” I ask.
He laughs, says, “those look like the Cliffs of Insanity!”
We choose a campsite near a path that leads down to the river, unpack a picnic lunch, and eat in double-gulps. There is a swimming hole to explore, and this is the prize of an Arkansas’ summer.
Down the Path (Instruction to Sons)
Down the path, brothers together walk through time, past a digital today and into a yesteryear of RC Cola, of Moon Pies and Jolt'n Joe.
“Hold Titus’ hands, son; the path is muddy, mossy; be careful; don't slip.”
Into the hole, under the keep of Buffalo bluffs, down to the depths, where feet cannot touch, there is a pearl for boys with imagination and breath enough to find it.