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Statewide Culture 0

Arkansas Stories Mirror Life Stages | Julie Kohl


Living in a small house in rural Arkansas, married to a southern boy named Richie who drives a Ford pickup truck while I work as a freelance writer so I can stay home and spend more time with our child, never came up when I planned out my life in a game of MASH at age twelve. So imagine my shock when that’s how it turned out! Life has a funny way of throwing curveballs and landing exactly where you need to be at the right moment.

In the late 1990s, my faith in God brought me to Arkansas, where I pursued an undergraduate degree in fine art at Harding University, fully intending to return to Vermont after graduation. My life took an unexpected turn during my final semester, however, after a chance interaction with a boy I had met years earlier led to a whirlwind romance, culminating in an engagement ring, a wedding and a permanent relocation to Arkansas, all within six months.

It took some time to come to terms with Arkansas’s summer heat, saying “y’all” instead of “you guys” and learning that Coke was a generic term for any soda flavor. I learned to garden and raise chickens, selling eggs and herbs at the local farmers market. I wrote a blog, connected with Arkansas Women Bloggers from across the state and taught art in two Arkansas public schools for 14 years until I left to become a stay-at-home, work-from-home mom.

This year marks my ten-year anniversary with Only in Arkansas. Nearly 350 articles later, I have learned so much about Arkansas and fallen completely in love with a state I had never once imagined myself living in permanently. I’ve become passionate about sharing the beauty and fun that can be found in Arkansas, and I hope some of you have benefited from the stories I have told. Here is a look back at some of my favorite articles from the last ten years.


Romancing The Swans at Magness Lake

Visiting Magness Lake (and also the Hiram Road Ponds) has continued to be a family tradition at least twice every winter. The birds are still just as breathtaking and magnificent as they were years ago. If you haven’t had the opportunity to see them yet, I highly recommend that you make plans next winter.


The Legend of Snipe Hunting

Coming to Arkansas from Vermont was challenging at times. Especially before social media, the differences between different parts of the country were sometimes striking. Being accepted as a Yankee in Arkansas was a hurdle that often came with a lot of laughs and figuring out local traditions such as snipe hunting was par for the course.


Historic Dyess Colony Boyhood Home of Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash and his music is known all over the world. Arkansas State University has done a beautiful job of preserving both his boyhood home and the Dyess Colony, keeping this unique part of history alive for future generations. In researching this story I learned that my almost 92-year-old father-in-law also lived in Dyess and was friends with young Johnny. Visiting the Dyess Colony wasn’t just about Johnny Cash, it was about learning the history of my own extended family.


The Last Herk out of Vietnam

I’d driven past the C-130 planes outside the Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville for years before it even dawned on me that the planes on display could be more than just a display. When I started asking some questions I learned that the historic Herk Tail #56-0518 came with an incredibly heroic story of rescue and human endurance.

I was honored during the summer of 2023 when my article was translated into French and Dutch and reprinted in its entirety in Dakota News, the quarterly magazine of the Belgium Air Force.


Paws in Prison

After losing our two English Mastiffs in a short period of time, we realized that we were dog people and really missed having a canine companion around. We discovered the Paws in Prison program, where shelter dogs go through intensive training led by inmates in several of Arkansas’s prisons. The program teaches inmates valuable skills and makes shelter dogs more desirable to possible owners, thus saving many dogs from euthanasia. In 2018, we adopted Archie who is featured in the article and sits beside me as I write. He’s probably one of the best dogs we have ever owned.


Historic Trains of Arkansas, A Series – Cabooses
Historic Trains of Arkansas, A Series – Locomotives and Railcars
Historic Trains of Arkansas, A Series – Depots
Ruland Junction Train Museum
Big Boy Train
Arkansas Railroad Museum in Pine Bluff
Mammoth Spring – Where Nature Meets History

Motherhood changes things. My son, George, turned 2 in late 2018, which meant 2019 was a very different year for our family. Outings were now all about George and enriching his growing brain and interests. Instead of focusing on stories that were interesting only to me, I began to see Arkansas through the eyes of George, a little boy with a big love for trains.

Bruno the Bear

Photo courtesy of Delena Epperson.


Bruno the Bear’s Summer Tour

The summer of 2020 needed a feel-good story, and Bruno the Bear brought the people of the Midwest a lot of joy. Bruno, an American black bear, left his home in Wisconsin that June and made an unprecedented journey through six states, having already covered nearly 900 miles by the time he reached my neighborhood in late August. Although his story had a tragic ending in Louisiana, Bruno made us smile and had experts baffled for the entirety of his journey.


The Ultimate Guide to Arkansas Adventure

Years of writing about Arkansas destinations have led to a lot of adventures. And to think we have only touched the tip of the iceberg! In 2021, I wrote the Ultimate Guide to Arkansas Adventure so families had quick access to a lot of great ideas in a single place. When we find ourselves with a free Saturday and we’re up for an adventure, we like to reference this list and revisit some of our favorite places.


Planning Your Camping Trip in Arkansas
12 Fun Camping Activities in Arkansas

Camping kept us sane during COVID-19 and has become a treasured activity for my family. We gave up our annual beach trip in favor of 4-5 summer camping trips each year and have cherished every minute of it. Arkansas is a hot spot for outdoor enthusiasts and boasts a looooooong camping season that essentially lasts all year.


Cave City’s Crystal River Cave

After closing for nearly 20 years, the Crystal River Cave in Cave City reopened for limited public tours in 2023 and my family was among one of the first groups to experience this local treasure. The cave may not be one of the most beautiful or magnificent caves in Arkansas but it has an incredible backstory filled with interesting local lore. Along with the story of the historic motor court located above ground, the property is a unique piece of Arkansas and American history.


10 Ways to Survive an Arkansas Snowstorm

The year is still young, so I am excited to see where my writing takes me next. My snowstorm piece is one of my favorites so far because it allows my personality to show through. It’s fun, yet practical and definitely a bit tongue-in-cheek.

The last ten years have flown by, but what a blessing they have been! When I began writing for Only in Arkansas in 2014, I never imagined it would allow me to stay home and raise a family. I look forward to the next ten years and continuing to tell stories about the people and places of Arkansas.

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Julie Kohl works from home as a writer and teaches art part-time at a local private school. A former Yankee who was "converted" to the south by her husband, Julie has grasped on to rural life in a sleepy, blink-your-eyes-and-you'll-miss-it town in central Arkansas where they raise chickens, farm hay and bake bread. Julie loves adventure and sharing it with her husband and son. They frequent the trails, campgrounds and parks of Arkansas, always on the hunt for new adventures and new stories to share. Learn more on her blog Seek Adventures Media.

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