38 Years Later – Forest Still Primeval
As noted in Return To Mountain View Ozark Folk Festival, in 2011, Neil & Irene (aka Lord Of Leisure and Hippie With Tiara) dared to return to Mountain View, Arkansas, site of the adventure known to readers as The Great Ozark Folk Festival Flood of 1973, a tale told in three parts: told in three parts: Introduction, Bluegrass, The Courthouse, The Campgrounds, & Hungry Hungry Hippies, and The Flood.
Editor’s Note: During the recent Mountain View trip, Lord of Leisure was in visitor rather than photographer mode. The photos from this excursion are casual snapshots, not the product of long, arduous, and intense efforts such as those typically found in category labeled Neil Ellis Photos. I prevailed upon my friend to allow these shots to be posted.
Today’s focus is on the woods where our intrepid group1 camped during the 1973 sojourn:
The tone for our stay within the municipality of Mountain View was set when Lord of Leisure (pictured in situ on the reader’s right), upon driving into the designated camping area, was guided across a dry creek bed into the imaginatively defined “city park” by a deputy policeman, whose rank was indicated by the battered badge pinned to his wifebeater tank top and whose authority was confirmed by the several pounds of Colt revolver holstered on his hip.
To appreciate these scenes, viewers should also be informed about a specific event that took place in those woods. From Bluegrass, The Courthouse, The Campgrounds, & Hungry Hungry Hippies:
That prizewinning episode [involving food] came to pass the in the midst of the sunshine-filled afternoon of our second day in Mountain View. From our campsite, we heard what can only be described as wailing. Convinced that someone was in acute distress (the smart money was on “bad drug trip”), we hiked toward the apparent source of the moans, a portion of the woods that was a reasonable facsimile of the forest primeval and the likely home of spooks, goblins, witches, werewolves, and similar supernatural entities. Our search did not turn up anyone shrieking (or anything in the ghost/ogre category), and the noise had ceased by the time we entered the woods.
We did, however, find an object that was immediately enshrined in my mind as a prime symbol of human depravity, a position it has maintained unto this day.
In our search for the source of the wailing, we unexpectedly stumbled onto a stone amphitheater carved into a hillside in the woods, causing one member of our party to speculate on the likelihood that the sounds we had heard were occasioned by a human sacrifice completed during a pagan ceremony held on the stage of this secluded venue. Exploring the grounds, we found the thing.
At our feet lay a sandwich composed of two pieces of white bread – encasing a generous helping of what we determined by consensus to be Chef Boyardee canned spaghetti. It was not a pretty sight. But the nuance responsible for the object’s transcendence from the disgusting to the horrible was the single bite taken from the sandwich before it was discarded.
Perhaps, gentle reader, the impact of this emblematic sandwich cannot be conveyed by the written word. Perhaps, as the cliché has it, “you had to be there.” I can testify that when we came upon that scene we all immediately realized that one of the central existentialist questions of our time is
To what levels of despair and desperation must a human
being sink to not only construct a sandwich from white
bread and Chef Boyardee canned spaghetti but to
actually take a bite of that sandwich before rejecting it?
I have no proof that the wailing we heard was connected to that sandwich, but …
The amphitheater [above] was built as a federal “Green Thumb” project, a program designed to provide work for unemployed farm workers, in the late 60’s so it was fairly new when we first visited, but I don’t remember it looking new at all. In this photo taken today [late April 2011], one can see that it has been neglected and is in need of repair.
We found no evidence of a memorial marking the sacred ground where the spaghetti sandwich was discovered
Above are steps leading down to the amphitheater looking in the opposite direction as the previous picture. When we visited [late April 2011], this pretty, quiet place was populated by many blooming dogwoods and very few people.
From The Flood:
… we discovered that the low water crossing over the dry creek bed had been replaced by a roiling gush of water with no bridge of any kind visible.
As we approached the water we watched one car drive onto the low-water bridge, now buried under a rushing stream. The vehicle began moving with the current and seemed doomed to be swept downstream when, at the last moment, the driver managed to escape the waters, gaining enough traction to climb the bank on the opposite side.
In testimony to the narrow margin separating that successful crossing from the catastrophe it could have been, no one else, among the multitude stranded in that campground, many of whom had demonstrated in the preceding two days a distinct lack of judgment, impaired reality testing, and no evidence of an instinct for self-preservation, made an attempt to ford the stream.
I took this picture from the bottom of the amphitheater, shooting back toward the woods where I think we camped in 1973. My memory is that we walked through the woods searching for the source of wailing we hear that sounded like someone may have been on a bad trip. The trail in the background may have been the way we made our approach. This stone bridge is far more picturesque than the submerged, aptly-named low-water bridge we had to cross to return from Mountain View in 1973, but goes over the same creek that flooded that year.
- Left to right: Flame, Hippie With Tiara, PolySciGuy, and DrHGuy in camp – Mountain View, Arkansas. Not shown: Lord of Leisure (photographer) and the then eventually-to-become-first-Mrs-DrHGuy, aka the still-later-to-become-ex-Mrs-DrHGuy (MIA)