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— During the latter half of the 1980s, I was pastor of a church in Berryville, Ark. In 1989, we had been there four years, and our state church leaders were asking me to take a church in Jonesboro.

As I was telling some of our Berryville friends about the upcoming move, one asked, "Just where is Jonesboro?"

I described Jonesboro as being like Fayetteville, but on the east side of the state rather than the west. My friend's response was, "Oh, I know about where that would be, but you can't get there from here, can you?" To that, I acknowledged, "No, not very easily you can't!"

The roads across north Arkansas were not so good then. Interestingly, when we arrived in Jonesboro, I attended a Lions Club meeting, and a group of men were talking of how Jonesboro and Fayetteville have much in common and Jonesboro should do more business with Fayetteville. But, they said, "You just can't get there from here!"

That was 1989. Since then, Arkansas Highway 412 has been considerably improved.

But even today, some people still prefer to go south to Conway, over to Beebe, then northeast on U.S. Highway 67 to reach the Jonesboro area.

I am reminded of the roads around Pea Ridge in the yearsbefore 1950. Nearly all our roads then, to Rogers, to Bentonville, or to Elkhorn Tavern, were gravel roads. Until the late 1940s, paved roads was still a dreamy idea, not part of the real world we lived in. I'm thinking especially about our road to Rogers. Not only was it all gravel, the road took a different route at many points. Until 1950, at Pea Ridge, what now is Curtis Avenue existed only in the old downtown area. It ended at the Church of Christ. So from Collier Drug south to Harris Street there was no highway back then.

To leave downtown Pea Ridge and go to Rogers, one drove south from the stoplight to the Church of Christ, turned right on Patton Street, continued west to today's Carr Street, then south on Carr to Arkansas Highway 72. One then drove a short distance west on State Hwy. 72, and turned south down what is now Ryan Road. Today's Ryan Road comes to a T and ends at Sugar Creek Road, but, before 1950, the road continued on south, crossing Little Sugar Creek on the old bridge, and angled a little southeast to come to its first intersection with today's highway at the base of the hill south of Little Sugar Creek. A part of the old road can be seen from there as a curving white drive leading off to the north northwest.

Today's highway goes up the hill, curving to the south as one ascends to the upper plateau and on to the Tuck's Chapel Road area. That was not so in the old days. The old road followed the bottom of the narrow valley and its stream bed until it made a very steep ascent up the hill, passing today's Waggoner farmstead, to arrive at the Tuck's Chapel intersection at the top of the hill. That part of the old, old road is now called Old Pea Ridge Lane.

My dad enjoys telling a story about a trip on that road, back about 1934. The family car we think was a Model T.

Granddad Scott Nichols was driving, and the family had set out for Elm Springs to visit Grandpa and Grandma Holcomb. The older Holcomb's, my Grandmother Ellen's parents, lived on a farm between Springdale and Elm Springs.

These trips were especially meaningful for my grandma, since her parents were becoming very elderly. Grandma had even influenced my granddad to move the familyback to northwest Arkansas from Blue Jacket, Okla., so she could be closer to the old folks. In those days, long car trips were an ordeal. Even the trip from Pea Ridge to Springdale was a "big" trip.

It was a winter day, one of those days when shaded areas of road might have ice patches. In my mind's ear I can almost hear the little Model T as it chuckle, chuckle, chuckled along, bouncing over the solid granite rocks that protruded at points along the deep valley road. As they were nearing the steep hill, and Grandpa was trying to get up speed to mount the hill, the Model T hit an ice patch and spun out of control. Luckily, the car didn't leave the road; there was no crash, and no one was hurt, but the car had turned full around in the road. Those who knew my Granddad Scott Nichols remember that he was a quiet man, not given to exclamations. As Dad describes it, Grandpa sat still a second or two, then said, "Well, I didn't really intend to turn around right here. But since we're headed back home, maybe we just better go there!" Grandpa, in his wry way, could see that some days you just can't get there from here!

Contact Jerry Nichols by email at joe369@centurytel.net, or call 621-1621.

Community, Pages 5 on 08/26/2009

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