Recently in Awkwardness

This semester I’m taking Forensic Anthropology, which has been pretty dull so far since it’s been all law & stuff, but now we’re past that and it’s starting to pick up. It is definitely not true that dead men tell no tales. Bones tell SO MUCH about how a person lived. Not just age & that sort of thing, but what they did for a living, how strong they were, what kind of diseases or nutritional problems they had. I’ve heard archaeologists talk about figuring out that someone was a pipe-smoker because of wear marks in their teeth.  Illnesses like syphilis & tuberculosis leave all kinds of deformities on skulls and vertebrae, and if you want to be scared into taking a trip to the dentist have a look at historic mandibles that have big holes in them from tooth infections that have eaten away the bone.

I discovered that Southern India is home to a crazy whip sword that looks like the stuff of nightmares, as if regular swords weren’t dangerous enough.

Hurricane Matthew is blowing things around in the Caribbean right now, it probably won’t hit Tampa but I’m watching it.

I got my first check ever from Shutterstock!  They have a $500 threshold for paper checks, so THAT was a good day.  Took me almost exactly three years.

If you’re like me & completely obsessed with Stranger Things but have no outlet for it, FoundFlix on Youtube has a playlist of videos detailing his theories of the show, which are pretty interesting.  I built a Pinterest board of ST fan art, which is numerous and amazing for a show that’s only been around for a couple of months.  I’ve seen most of it three times over now, but I seriously wish I could go back & watch it blind again, it’s that amazing.

Destination: Northwestern Arkansas


Arkansas has been a place of cultural clashes for at least the last 200 years. Westward expansion, the Trail of Tears, the Civil War, civil rights – it’s intense. With that much history it’s no surprise that the state is packed to the brim with memorials and battlefields.  If you think of Arkansas as a square divided by a diagonal line the northwestern half is rugged and mountainous, with winding roads and fields of cows in the valleys, while the southeastern half is flat and wet, containing many small towns surrounded by cropland. I don’t know if Arkansas just has better parks than other states or what but all the ones I went to were stunning, and by some miracle free of charge, so it doesn’t cost a thing to get out and experience the incredible beauty on display here. They don’t call it The Natural State for nothing, and I was super happy to be out in the woods again after so many months of dirt & rocks in Arizona.

A Journey

On the very western edge of Arkansas, right on the border with Oklahoma, is the town of Fort Smith, once the very last outpost before you left the United States and entered the frontier. The infamous Trail of Tears passed this way heading out to Indian Territory. The fort itself once imprisoned the ruffians that made the West wild. Major clashes of the Civil War were fought nearby as the Confederates tried to make some headway on the border state of Missouri. It’s almost overwhelming trying to take it all in.

Fort Smith National Historic Site consists of a large park on the Arkansas River as well three buildings from the second incarnation of the fort: the gallows, the commissary, and the courthouse.  The courthouse holds a very nice museum covering the long and varied history of the fort, the frontier, and the Trail of Tears.  In those days this was the end of civilization, with Indian Territory just a few steps away.



Heading north on Scenic Byway US-71, I stopped at Devil’s Den State Park, a great place for hiking or swimming.  Caves, boulders, cliffs, and waterfalls dot the forest.  I never did figure out which one was the Devil’s den and which was the Devil’s ice box, or why people insist on giving these Satanic place names.



devils den

Just outside the small town of Fayetteville, where I wandered into a farmer’s market in the town square and spotted a local chef buying his produce for the day, is Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park.  There’s not a lot left of the original landscape, but there is a nice museum and a walking path with buildings from that era.  The interesting thing about Prairie Grove is the driving tour through town.  Pick up a flyer or buy a CD at the visitor’s center for the information pertaining to each stop, and try not to ogle people’s front lawns too much.  They’ll start to think you’re weird.



Stop at the Daisy Air Rifle Museum ($2) in Rogers for a quirky history lesson and more Red Ryder than you can handle.  I had no idea the history of air rifles was such a long one, but they’ve got guns dating back a few hundred years.  Some of the memorabilia is way hyper-masculine but I guess that’s their demographic.  Confusingly incongruous with being called Daisy though.



Just a few miles shy of the Missouri border is Pea Ridge National Military Park, where the land has been maintained much as it was during the decisive Civil War battle that was fought here.  The only remaining building is the Elkhorn Lodge, and even it is a rebuild from shortly after the end of the war.  The driving tour supplemented with foot trails takes you through the battlefield, onto the ridge above it where soldiers hid from their enemies, and to a couple of memorials placed later by veterans from both sides of the conflict.  As much interest as I have in historic battlefields, I struggle to really understand them.  Some group from some place with a certain number fought with some other numbered group from a different place.  Eventually one group left.  Yay.




This part of Arkansas is incredible and it’s definitely a place I’d like to explore further in the future.  It’s just too pretty.  I can’t stand it.

This Week in Awkwardness

I was passed on the highway by a pickup truck with a load of cow skulls.

I went through a Border Patrol Checkpoint coming back up from Tombstone.  They just waved me through, I guess I didn’t look like I’d be harboring illegals.  One of the officers was staring off into the desert with a serious pair of binoculars, which looked like about the most boring job on the planet.  I’m not totally convinced he was actually facing the border.

We got our first little bits of snow up on the mountains here in Sedona, I’m hoping for more but I guess they really didn’t get any last year so who knows.

Book Finished:

The Shining, by Stephen King

I’ve tried to read King before, but just could never get into it until this one.  I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that was genuinely creepy, unless you count Goosebumps and that was so long ago I don’t remember if they were scary or not.  Anyway I’d already seen the movie (Shelley Duvall runs like a puppet), the TV miniseries, and the episode of Friends where Joey spoils the ending for Rachel so I already had some idea of what was going on but I still enjoyed it.

Favorite Quote:

“He had always disliked the snowmobiles.  They shivered the cathedral silence of winter into a million rattling fragments.  They startled the wildlife.  They sent out huge and pollutive clouds of blue and billowing oilsmoke behind them – cough, cough, gag, gag, let me breathe.  They were perhaps the final grotesque toy of the unwinding fossil fuel age, given to ten-year-olds for Christmas.”

Crossed Off the Travel Map:

Added to the Travel Map:

International Cryptozoology Museum, Portland, Maine – because how awesome does that sound?

This Week in Awkwardness

I spent a good chunk of the week retooling my Flickr & Facebook pages to fit better with the blog, although I’m still trying to shake out how they all go together so it might be kind of weird for a while.

Other than that I’ve been pretty boring so please enjoy this stuffed squirrel I found last winter in a resale shop in Florida, and try not to let him haunt your nightmares:


Added to the Travel Map

The Monkey’s Paw, Toronto, Canada – awesome used book store.

Tombstone, Arizona – lots of Wild West lore.

The Ghan, The Great Southern Railway, Adelaide – Darwin, Australia.

This Week in Awkwardness

Achievement Unlocked:

I found a scorpion sucker at the grocery store.  Just chilling there with the other impulse candy at the register.  Scorpion.  It’s even listed as an ingredient on the back.  I guess you’re supposed to eat the scorpion when you’re done with the sucker?  I don’t know.  Sounds gross anyway. scorpion

Book Finished:

Dr. Mütter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine, by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

If you ever want to feel very, very fortunate that you don’t live in a squalid, mid-19th century city with squalid, mid-19th century medical care, this book will do it.  I was hoping it would focus a little bit more on the individual patients whom Mütter treated, as he was known for taking the toughest, most interesting cases, but it was fascinating to find out how he directly revolutionized medicine in ways that we would consider common sense today.  The Mütter Museum in Philadelphia now houses the huge collection of medical “marvels” he amassed in his lifetime, and is most definitely on the Travel Map.

Favorite Quote: “Woman, as usual, finally had her way,” a male member would later slyly write about the election [of the first woman to the Pennsylvania Medical Society].  “And yet the earth did not rock, the sea did not overflow its banks, the stars did not fall.”

Places Added to the Travel Map:

Kanab Creek Wilderness, Kaibab, Arizona – deep gorges.

Lost Dutchman State Park, Apache Junction, Arizona – entry point to Superstition Wilderness.

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, Payson, Arizona – beautiful creek with a stone arch over it.

Superstition Wilderness, Tonto, Arizona – hiking, legends, etc.

Sycamore Canyon Wilderness, Williams, Arizona

Tanah Lot, Bali, Indonesia – island temple.

Old Letchworth Village, Pomona, New York – abandoned mental hospital.

Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix Zoo, Phoenix, Arizona

Zabaikalsky National Park, Russia – on the shores of Lake Baikal.

Pando, Fishlake National Forest, Utah – grove of aspen trees that is actually all one big organism, probably the oldest & most massive in the world.

Sunflower, Arizona – 4WD trail to abandoned mine.

Arizona Museum of Natural History, Mesa, Arizona