Bud Rector and J.L. Martin Chickalah, Arkansas, 2012
The Seed and the Story is a bi-weekly column exploring folklife, sustainability, oral history, human rights,and community in Yell County, Arkansas. The column is published in the Post Dispatch and is syndicated in the Courier. Please remember to support your local paper and independent media!
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Before I get into this week’s column, I want to thank all those who called or wrote in response to the previous column about the history of Chickalah. It’s such an honor to hear from readers with memories and stories to share, and I’m thankful to all of you who took the time to tell me about the places you call home. I learned from Carolyn Garner that back in the 1940s people would gather to watch outdoor movies on the back wall of Neil Cowger’s Chickalah store. And I had several people tell me about the rural baseball league from the area, including the days when the Dean brothers lived on Chickalah Mountain. So this week’s column is a continuation of the recent Chickalah research and will highlight just few stories I learned from a man many of you know and love: Bud Rector.
My father and I recently had the opportunity to visit with Bud in his home on Harkey’s Valley road in Chickalah where we were greeted by his friendly dog who got up from her cozy front porch chair to come say hello. Bud Rector was born in 1914 and has lived in the Harkey’s Valley area all of his life. He’s hauled logs in the timber woods, raised chickens and cows, worked for the WPA, driven the rural bus route for Dardanelle Schools for decades, and traveled throughout the area singing in a gospel quartet. He’s also an excellent storyteller and a joy to be around. I can’t begin to do justice to all his stories in this short column, so I’ll just highlight a few.
For decades the Chickalah area was home to a thriving timber economy, and Bud recalled many of the early logging operations and sawmills that dotted the mountains. He and my father swapped memories of those days when, as Bud recalled, “everybody was going around with the chopping ax and cross cut saw.” While my father recalled skidding logs, Bud and his brother Buford found work hauling the lumber to town. He mentioned his short stint with the WPA where men were given shovels to help dig out the bluff and told of the well known store in Sulpher Springs operated by a man with, quite possibly, one of the best names I’ve ever come across: Bonaparte Rutledge. Come to find out, my own grandparents were married in front of Mr. Rutledge store.
Thanks your suggestions, I was sure to ask him about the rural baseball leagues that were so popular in the area during the 1930s and 1940s. He recalled teams from Spring Creek, Chickalah Mountain, Chicklalah Village, Slo Fork, Pisgah, Casa, Sulpher Springs, Ard, and Harkey’s Valley, the team for which he played. While he never had the chance to play with Dizzy, he did play with Paul and their younger brother, often known as “Poodle.” The teams played at places like the old Gatley ball field near Sulphar Springs and in numerous cow pastures all around the county. Readers might recall the team’s manager Pete McMullan and some of well-known players like Burt Tucker, Roger Harkey, Grover Martin, John Martin, and Ame Bates.
In the near future I’ll have some of the audio of Bud up online so you can listen to Bud telling these and other stories in his own words. Do you remember the ball teams, the logging woods, or Bonepart’s store? I’d love to hear from you! A very special thank you to Mr. Bud Rector for allowing me to visit and share some of his stories here.