The maiden name of my mom is Mabel Elizabeth Honeycutt. She was physically born into this world on October 22, 1926 in a log cabin near Mountain Home, Arkansas, which is around 140 miles north of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Aside from the fact of her being born at home in a log cabin, there is another thing that I find rather interesting about the place of my mom’s birth. For what may remain of the log cabin now lies at the bottom of Norfork Lake, which was formed by the damming of the North Fork River in 1941.
Sadly, I do not know much about her lineage. For she could not tell me all that much about it to begin with, and all of our efforts to find relatives and others who might be able to fill in the blanks proved unsuccessful.
Oh yes, we went looking on several occasions, and I have many fond memories of those trips—even though we never caught a whiff of her family’s trail. For it was as if they had vanished without a trace, but roaming all over that rugged area was still quite an adventure to me.
On one trip, I can remember observing a very large black snake in quite a predicament while curled around a cedar fencepost next to the road. For it had swallowed a large rat up to the point where the rat was still caught in a very large rat trap, and the black snake could not open its jaws wide enough to swallow the trap, too.
On another trip, we visited the ghost town of Rush, Arkansas and stood outside of the only building left standing. The building used to be the general store, and my mom talked about being given candy by the owner when she was a little girl.
On yet another trip, we went across the White River on the very same ferry at Calico Rock, Arkansas that my mom did on trips with her family over forty years before, but it still troubles me that there appeared to be nary a trace of her family to be found.
On the other hand, perhaps it was all for the best. For she was born a Honeycutt, and her father was a full-blooded Cherokee.
Oh no, it is not because of him being a Cherokee that it might have been for the best that we never uncovered a clue of where they may have gone. In fact, I considered being a quarter Cherokee as being something really special, and I delighted in hearing all about what my mom could remember being told when she was a little girl.
Most of these things came from her great-grandmother on her father’s side, and one involved her great-grandmother being forcibly removed, along with the rest of her family, from their home in northeastern Georgia when she was a little girl. She was then marched to Oklahoma on what came to be known as the Trail of Tears, and she was the only one of her immediate family to survive the trip.
After her folks died, a relative took her in, but she did not stay very long on the reservation in Oklahoma. For her new family, along with some others, decided that they would much rather fend for themselves in an area they had passed through along the way.
That area was in the vicinity of the Buffalo River in north-central Arkansas, and since it had more than its share of rough terrain (to say the least), the wayward Cherokees were left in relative peace. For there was still plenty of much easier land to settle elsewhere, and that is the way it stayed until the War Against Northern Aggression broke out.
It is not known whether they volunteered or were conscripted, but my mom had several relatives who served on the Confederate side of the American Civil War. One of them supposedly helped to hide a cache of gold bars in a cave that had an opening under a 20-foot overhang near the top of a 100-foot bluff on the Buffalo River, not too far from where my mom was born. In true Confederate gold legend fashion, a huge hornet’s nest hung from the top of that opening, and the more accessible one was filled in.
Oh yes, I would certainly like for the story to be true, and since my mom’s six uncles spent years looking for the gold, one would think that there must be something to it. They did not have much to go on, however. For the rest of the story is that their relative was led blindfolded to where the wagonload of gold bars were, and was led blindfolded back to his cabin after all of the gold was carried into the cave.
On the other hand, I have my doubts. For those men knew every inch of that area, and they would have surely found at least the opening to the cave above the Buffalo River if there was one to be found. Nonetheless, I am not opposed to entertaining thoughts to the contrary on occasion.
Contrary would be a nice way to describe the Honeycutt boys, who were comprised of my mom’s six uncles and her father. For they had several ways of generating an income, and most of them were of a dubious legality—at best.
No, living was not at all easy in that area during those days. In fact, the Great Depression of the 1930s had virtually no impact on most there because of it already being so bad.
Therefore, it could be argued that they were just doing whatever it took to survive, and some might even go so far as to applaud their ingenuity. For one of their means of generating some income involved being one of the first to conduct float trips down the Buffalo River, which certainly sounds quite enterprising.
It was, however, to the extent that they took this enterprise that all with some scruples should take exception. For their clients were almost all quite wealthy, and they usually brought a lot of very expensive hunting and fishing equipment with them, which was carried down the river in canoes. Invariably, those canoes would flip over in rough water, and all of their contents would be dumped into the river. Most of those contents would be then carried downstream in the strong current, get caught in the nets that the brothers had set up beforehand, and finally sold to anyone who did not insist on asking too many questions.
No, not everyone in the area during those days condemned such practices. For the law of the jungle was most certainly practiced to perfection, and anyone willing to pay good money for a float trip was considered fair game by most.
One who did not cotton to playing by such rules was supposedly a Marion County Sheriff or Deputy Sheriff, and what is said to have happened to him may have something to do with why nary a trace of my mom’s father’s family can be found now. For he was gunned down by one of my mom’s uncles, and his family would have been honor-bound to avenge his untimely death if they had any love at all for the old ways—especially since no arrests were ever made for his murder.
Since no name for the alleged murder victim was provided, there may not be any way of confirming the story. Nonetheless, it certainly appears to be in character for the Honeycutt boys.
Yes, they were definitely a rough bunch, and the worst of the lot seems to be my mom’s father. For he was supposedly some sort of a gangster—like Clyde Barrow (of Bonnie and Clyde fame), Pretty Boy Floyd and Machine Gun Kelly.
No, there is apparently not any evidence of my mom’s mother being involved in any previous illegal activities, but the supposed details of her death leads one to wonder. For it is said that she smuggled battery acid into my mom’s father’s jail cell in Searcy, Arkansas during a visit in 1933 or ‘34, and that is where they both died of apparent suicides after drinking the acid.
Yes, I know of much better ways to commit suicide. So, I have my doubts about what really happened, but there is no doubting that it was still a tragedy of monumental proportions to my mom—regardless of the circumstances involved. For she found herself an orphan at the tender age of seven during the Great Depression in an area where only the strong were meant to survive (naturally-speaking, of course).
Needless to say, my mom did survive, but it was touch and go for a while. For there were apparently no relatives on her mother’s side around, and she was bounced from one relative to another on her father’s side.
Her summers were mostly spent picking cotton on a great-uncle’s place near Stuttgart, Arkansas, which is around 100 miles to the south of the Buffalo River region. I’m not sure if it qualified as a plantation, but it was evidently a fairly large operation. For it had space for sharecroppers, and my mom received room and board, along with 50 cents a week, for picking 100 pounds a day.
Her winters were spent back up north, and she managed to complete the sixth grade in Yellville, Arkansas before taking care of her cousins took precedent over her getting more of an education. Nothing was ever said about her having to take care of any other things.
Sometime after she turned 14, my mom heard voices calling her name from just over the horizon, and she went to live with an unrelated couple, who owned a cafe in either Lepanto or Marked Tree, Arkansas (around 45 miles northwest of Memphis, Tennessee). She learned a lot about a lot of things from them, and she really appreciated all that they did for her.
Nonetheless, my mom had her share of teenage moments. Some of those moments involved borrowing (without permission) the nice couple’s car so that she and some friends could dance the night away in Memphis (Beale Street?).
After staying in northeastern Arkansas for a while, my mom heard the voices calling her name again, and she eventually found herself on the opposite side of the state (over 250 miles away) in Texarkana, Arkansas. She wound up moving in with a lady, whom she came to think of as being her mother.
It was there, while working as a carhop in 1951, that she met a fun-loving pipeliner, who introduced himself as being, “Buddy.” A few days later, she left with him to start a new job in Ohio.
This was after being married by the justice of the peace as soon as her last shift was over, of course. For my mom was most definitely not that kind of a girl!