Frost said it, “…and I took the road less traveled by, and that made all the difference..”. So it was that while driving to Little Rock to pick up some new, old, tandem kayaks, I ended up searching for gas. The new, old, Suburban, has a new, new, engine and the gas gauge shows a comforting level of gas for a long time – until it doesn’t. When the gauge falls below 1/4 tank, it literally falls, like off a cliff.
I had been driving West to I-40 with Memphis about 45 minutes behind me when I glanced down and saw the fuel gauge on the bottom of “Empty” – not close, not on “Reserve” but the BIG E. I checked Google for gas stations near me and the closest was 30 miles behind me, the truck stops on the Pacific side of West Memphis, AR. Not really having a choice, I got off at the next exit, drove south 3 miles to Route AR-70 where Maps showed some small towns – and this was the road I found…
Not just an isolated mile or two, but miles of this tree-line avenue – swamps and flooded rice fields (?) on both sides and no stores of any kind until I passed through Biscoe and got to DeValls Bluff. I had passed some scattered homes along the way and was fairly amazed at the, ah, collective passions of the residents, both literally and figuratively. One house had at least 20 or more defunct toilets sitting in neat rows next the side of the home. It also had two cars “up on blocks” and two Jon boats. Two houses down (about a mile from the first, more cars on blocks than I could count were seen both inside and outside the sheet metal fence – and two Jon boats – one up on blocks. I can confidently say that I didn’t see a single home without a flat-bottomed, square prowed Jon boat- a few with outboards and most with “go-devils” – big motors sitting on boats that look to small for them, and with 6′ long drive shafts projecting out the back to the propeller – handy if you’re running through the cypress in 5″ of water.
Fortunately DeValls Bluff, Pop. 619, had a Breaktime Store – a sort of downsized, decidedly countrifed QT or WaWa. Three gas pumps, with Hi-Test at $2.49/gallon!!! and Y’all pay inside. In fact, other than the brightly lit Beer joint downtown, Breaktime was the only store open that didn’t specialize in fishing gear, beer, and duck hunting supplies – with duck season obviously in full swing.
Downtown DeValls Bluff, Arkansas, …the whole of it!
“The Grasshopper” Beer and Social Center.
What DeValls may lack in shopping diversity, it more than made up for it in …Jon boats. There were more Jon boats to be seen than tow vehicles – Jon boats behind small urban people movers, of course behind pick-up trucks and SUVs of every description – and quite a few sitting around on unattached trailers and “up on blocks”. (How much repair can a jon boat need – unless driven by the less skilled with a fire breathing Go Devil on stern).
Jon Boat duck hunters lined up waiting for their turn at the boat ramp.
DeValls Bluff is also home to the Prairie County Museum and the
The Minnow Farm.
What the photo doesn’t show is that this is a BIG operations – dozens of ponds seen along the road, big metal buildings with minnow breeding (?) and rearing containers and several minnow hauling tanker trucks parked in neat rows under canopies.
Having filled ALL the way up on $2.49/gallon, 93 Octane fire breathing fuel, I set off West again and was soon back on I-40 and 40 minutes later in Little Rock. I picked up my new, old, kayaks the next morning and turned East, back towards home. I’m a jon boat kind of guy myself, I have two of them at the moment, though none up on blocks and I’m going to come back to DeValls Bluff and for a couple of days, increase the population to 620- explore the Prairie Co. Museum and see if I can get a tour of the Minnow farm.
You never know what you’re going to learn on the road less traveled.