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Statewide Culture 1

10 Years Telling the Stories of Arkansas | Kimberly Mitchell


When Only in Arkansas launched in 2014, I was just testing my chops as a freelance writer. Combining my love for the state of Arkansas and great stories seemed like the perfect way to explore the state a little more. Ten years down the road, I’m amazed at the stories that have come across the site and all I’ve learned about Arkansas in the process.

I grew up in Oklahoma, and while frequent childhood trips with my parents “back home” to Mena, Arkansas, instilled a love for the Ouachitas, humid summer nights, and breathtaking fall foliage, I never had an Arkansas history class. When I entered college at the University of Arkansas, I started to learn a little more about the state that had always held a special place in my heart. Still, I didn’t know much about other areas outside of Mena or Fayetteville. I didn’t set out to become an expert on Arkansas, but writing so much about the state these last 10 years has taught me a lot of the history I missed and about the amazing people who call Arkansas home.

One of my first and favorite stories to this day is The CCC in Arkansas on the Civilian Conservation Corps program in Arkansas in the 1930s. This story is personally significant to me and my family. My grandfather, Clarence “Foots” Lay, served in the CCC, a time that likely saved the rest of the family through his earnings and, according to him, kept him on the right path through the discipline and hard work he learned while in the CCC. This story resonated with many people across this state and beyond. I still have people reach out to me about their family stories of the CCC when they run across this article on Only In Arkansas.

“Foots” Laywith Laverne Ross Lay (my grandmother) a few years after his time in the CCC.

As my grandfather often said, “I don’t know where I’d be without the CCC.” Even though we said goodbye almost 25 years ago, every time I see a CCC site in the state, I remember him and smile. Over the years, I’ve researched and written a number of stories on Arkansas history—and there is so much there to write about. The Long Road to Prohibition in Arkansas was a fun look back at some wild times in this state, with the added bonus of telling my great-grandfather’s escapades in moonshining in Polk County. Writing French History of Arkansas helped me understand the state’s many French names and connections, including why our capital is named Little Rock.

I’ve had the privilege of interviewing numerous Arkansas small business owners over the last 10 years, and I’ve been impressed by the individual passion each Arkansan has for their business, and how they’re helping the community. Some of my favorite “behind the business” stories include Greedy Goats of NWA, Breathe It In Salt Rooms-Visit A Salt Cave in Arkansas, and A Tale of Two Arkansas Christmas Tree Growers. These unique, family-owned businesses accentuate what Arkansas is all about.

I can’t write about the Natural State and not acknowledge how many times I’ve been able to feature its incredible beauty, its state parks, and the wildlife that make Arkansas special. Some of my favorite stories about Arkansas’s wild places and animals include 10 of Our Favorite Arkansas State Parks, Arkansas Signal Trees, and Wild Razorbacks of Arkansas. Our Arkansas State Parks are the true gems of the state, including Crater of Diamonds State Park, the only state park where you can actually dig for gems. Signal trees are an interesting reminder of our state’s Indigenous history. Feral razorbacks, though a problem in the state, reveal why the razorback became the University of Arkansas’s mascot and a symbol of Arkansas.

Where would a former athlete be without writing about the Arkansas Razorbacks and the many other interesting sports teams and opportunities in Arkansas? I enjoyed spotlighting various sports and athletes in the last 10 years, including an article called Behind Game Day: The Razorback Spirit Squad, which detailed the hard work the University of Arkansas cheerleaders put in before each sporting event. I’ve loved the Olympics as long as I can remember, so writing about Kayle Browning: Arkansas Olympic Trap Shooter was a lot of fun. One of my favorite sports stories, though, is also Arkansas history. The All American Red Heads Women’s Basketball Team is a fascinating look at how long women have been playing basketball in the state and Arkansas’s role in pioneering women’s basketball.

All American Redheads player Glenda Hall

I could write more about the amazing stories I’ve had the chance to tell, like the interview I conducted last fall with NASA Astrophysicist Dr. Jennifer Wiseman. However, it’s probably better to let the stories speak for themselves. I once worried that I would run out of stories for Only In Arkansas. How many could the state of Arkansas have? It turns out there are still plenty of stories to tell. Thanks for reading and letting me continue to tell them.

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Kimberly S. Mitchell loves journeys, real or imagined. She has hiked the Inca Trail, walked into Panama on a rickety wooden bridge and once missed the last train of the night in Paris and walked several miles home (with friends). She believes magic can be found in life and books, loves to watch the stars appear, and still dreams of backpacking the world. Now she writes adventures to send her characters on journeys, too. Pen & Quin: International Agents of Intrigue - The Mystery of the Painted Book is her debut novel. Find out more at KSMitchell.com.

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One response to “10 Years Telling the Stories of Arkansas | Kimberly Mitchell”

  1. Keisha @bigpittstop says:

    Love this!! I love how you dig into details. I learn so many things through your stories. Keep digging!!!

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