Arkansan Anomalies

Five things that are a little different about this new place I live:

1. For some reason, most roads are paved--even country roads. One of the houses we went to look at had about two miles of gravel leading up to it, and our realtor was almost apologizing for it. Ha! If only she knew that gravel is the norm where we are from, except on highways. (Jason's parents live about six miles off the pavement, coming from the south side!) Despite the fact that they are paved, or perhaps because of it, the roads are all in horrible condition, unless it is a major highway. The route we take to the shop is a combination of a couple of narrow, paved lanes, twisting and turning around ponds and houses and I-don't-know-what. They have potholes so big eaten into the sides of them that half the time you are driving on the wrong side, unless you want your vehicle to get swallowed alive, and then you are running the risk of a head-on collision with whomever might be coming around the corner or over the hill. The lanes are all thickly treed along the edges, making it impossible to see if anyone is coming. (This is, supposedly, "mountain" territory after all.) Most of the time, the trees are so thick that you don't know you are on mountains at all. These are nothing like the Rockies, but if you do get a clear view of a horizion occasionally, you kind of go, "Oh, yeah! We're in the mountains!" However, the trees, bushes, and brush everywhere, all the time, is a big change for this Alberta prairie girl.

2. Most of the roads, even highways, do not have shoulders. Shoulders are something that rich states do, I guess. Extra ashphalt is wasted money. And, since the underbrush grows densely right up to the road on most back roads, if you ever meet someone with a wide load, you move over as far as you can and start thinking skinny thoughts on behalf of your vehicle. And also, pray.

3. I found out recently that Arkansas was named after the Akansea (aka Quapaw) Native American tribe that used to live here. "Used to" being the operative words. The American Government, at some not-so-distant point in history, forced them off their 32 million acres of land to a small reserve in Oklahoma. So, now the name of the state and some other place names are some of the few reminders that this was once their home stomping grounds.

4. There are quite a few French place names around here (which usually get totally mangled, pronunciation-wise, by the local populace.) This, I just found out, was in part because Arkansas was first claimed by a French explorer named la Salle (aka Robert Cavelier) coming down from Montreal along the Mississippi. He established a fort, which some of his comrades eventually kept going. Also, French rangers had quite a corner on the hunting and trapping market during the 1700s. However, the French have little claim here, now. I have as yet to meet anyone who speaks French, except Kyoshi Doug Fay, the head of our dojo. Although born in Vermont, he was from French-Canadian stock. So he's not local, either.

5. When you have an accent like mine in a place like this, strangers will engage you in conversation for as long as possible just to hear you talk. Funny--that's what I do to British and French people!

What's striking you as different in your world these days?