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Autumn in the Ozarks traditional means

• Football -- Blackhawks and Razorbacks;

• Gathering and selling black walnuts;

• Getting the last hay crop in the barn;

• Cutting and stacking firewood; and, last but not least

• Jumping mules -- the annual Pea Ridge Mule Jump!

With the current culture of covid-19 pandemic, face mask wearing, cancelation of large-scale events, the NEBCO Turkey Shot and the Pea Ridge Mule Jump have been canceled. Attendance at football games has been dramatically reduced.

Autumn officially begins Sept. 22 -- next week.

Growing up in northwest Louisiana, I was far more familiar with evergreen pines, live oaks and cypress trees that dotted our gently rolling landscape, with bayous and lakes.

Sometimes on weekends we as a family would drive north into Arkansas to see the fall foliage.

Little did I realize then that five decades later I would call northwest Arkansas home. Here hillsides are replete with brilliant reds, oranges and yellows of the oaks, hickories, walnuts and sassafras trees in the fall.

Autumn in Pea Ridge country just wouldn't be the same without the annual Pea Ridge Mule Jump. And, yet, it has been canceled.

I fondly remember my first mule jump, although it doesn't exactly "count" in the enumeration of the 27th annual event being held Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015.

The first event I attended was in 1985. It was the fall festival and was held on the school grounds on the downtown corner of North Curtis Avenue and Pickens Street. (Then, that was the ONLY school campus.)

As a city girl, I'd not seen mules jump nor coon dogs tree a raccoon. It was engaging to watch the farmers coax (or curse) their mules over the jump. Each man, each mule, had his own style.

Denim overall-clad gents would quietly, unhurriedly walk their mule to the wooden structure built for a jump. Some would quietly whisper in the mule's ear and he'd just leap over the barrier.

The Pea Ridge Mule Jump has become entwined in the color of Pea Ridge.

It, like the story of the pea vine and the Battle of Pea Ridge, help form the fabric of this community so rich with character and caring people. Hopefully, it will be back next year.

•••

Editor's note: Annette Beard is the managing editor of The Times of Northeast Benton County, chosen the best small weekly newspaper in Arkansas for five of the past six years.

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