When people hear me sing “Arkansas”, I often get asked what I have against Arkansas. I stick by my story that the state wasn’t really the inspiration for the song. Although I draw on references to lots of things in the state, it is really a thickly veiled metaphor for something else. It’s something that I’ve not shared with anyone.
That said, I have had a streak of bad luck in Arkansas. Years ago when my mother-in-law moved to Texas, we had more reason to travel through Arkansas. Our first trip through the state set a precedent for all other trips to follow. That trip started on the evening of a Friday the 13th. My brother-in-law Russ and his then wife were travelling by car with Andrea and me. We had no kids at the time. On the southwest side of Little Rock, we pulled over for gas just after midnight. The gas station was on an access road that ran adjacent to the interstate. As we were pulling out of the gas station, we were rear ended by a drunk driver coming off of the interstate. Everyone was fine but the car was totaled. The guy that hit us stopped long enough to make sure we were ok before he sped off. We did get his license plate number but I don’t know that they ever caught him.
The gas station closed before the cops could get there. As the attendants pulled away, they stopped and asked if there was anything they could do to help us. I said, “Yes, you can buy back this tank of gas!”
At some point before the cops got there, a “helpful” civilian stopped to tell us what all we should do. When the cops got there, he annoyed them. The cops had a bit of an attitude with us until they realized that the helpful guy wasn’t with us. The cops called a wrecker for us. We were stranded in Little Rock and needed to decide how to proceed. It was late enough that we chose to at least spend the night there. The cops couldn’t take us anywhere because they needed to go downtown to work the race riots going on (at least that’s what they told us). The wrecker was going toward the airport and could drop us off at a hotel on his way to the yard where they were taking our car. We piled into the cab of the wrecker and rode to the Holiday Inn in the airport area. This hotel had a nightclub in it. The action at the club was wrapping up for the night and the party was spilling into the parking lot. We pulled up to the front door in the wrecker. The driver let our car down and pried open the trunk with a crowbar. We got everything out including luggage, pillows, coolers filled with drinks and grocery sacks filled with snacks and extra drinks. The bag of soft drinks broke and we ended up chasing diet Cokes down the slanted driveway of the hotel. When we were checking into the hotel, they asked for our license plate number. We pointed to the car hanging off of the back of the wrecker and the guy at the desk said nevermind. We didn’t make it to Texas that trip.
The next trip involved flying out of Little Rock. Andrea has epilepsy and had 2 seizures the night before we left home. I had gotten no sleep and was extremely tired the night we spent in Little Rock the night before we flew from there. I was in the bed exhausted. Andrea suddenly says “I don’t feel so good.” I’m afraid this will be a repeat of the night before. I asked if she is alright. She says “Yes, I’ve got some spaghetti and power tools.” I say “Spaghetti and power tools?” and she says “Yes”. It turned out to be just more crazy post-seizure talk instead of another round of convulsions.
Most of the other problem trips were after we had kids. In 2005, we were driving to Texas again during spring break. As we were passing through Little Rock, my dad called to tell us that my mom had passed away. We turned stopped for a break, then turned around to come back home. We had told our kids about the other bad luck stories related to our travels through Little Rock. Before our next trip to Texas the following year, our kids were convinced that if we traveled through Little Rock, their grandfather would die. Due to the timing of the next trip, it was just going to work out that we had to spend the night in Little Rock. The stay would have been uneventful if the swimming pool at the hotel didn’t have too much chlorine in it. We all ended up sick from the pool.
The trip the next year was supposed to be a quick trip during spring break. We were going to redeem season passes for an amusement park in San Antonio. Our plan was to spend one night on the road in Dallas. We had reservations at a hotel there. We were slightly east of Little Rock when we realized that the vouchers for the amusement park were in a desk at home. The whole reason for the trip was to redeem the vouchers. No one had a key to get into our house except us. We had no choice but to turn around. We canceled the reservations in Dallas and booked a room for the night in Little Rock.
I’m sure there are other things that have happened to us in Arkansas but this is a good summary of the big happenings. While these events may have influenced my song in some ways, they are not the reason for the song.
Do you have any interesting Arkansas stories?
Singer, Songwriter, Entertainer, Storyteller