The Searcy County Blog

Our guest contributors offer you a personal glimpse into the events, attractions and daily life of Searcy County.

(Please note that all links will open in a new window.)

Why Live Here? By Dirk Merle

May 9, 2019

"Why live there?" 


I hear that from time to time. My go-to answer is "It gets in your blood." 


It's hard to answer this one way. Without question, living in rural places can be difficult. I won't discount that, but it also has so many great upsides. 


We live where 50+ miles of the Buffalo River flows and elk roam. We have deer, bear and all kinds of critters. We have rivers, creeks & streams too numerous to count. Mountains, pastures, hollers, and valleys. This is a place you can still find wild, still find an adventure. 


Characters live here. I say that because all too often our lives are contrived. Real folks make this place their home! kayaking, cycling, hiking (the Ozark Highlands Trail is here), rock climbing, horesback riding, fishing, all are in abundance. We still visit with our neighbors, care for one another. You can always find someone with a guitar, fiddle, banjo, mandolin. We have great places to explore, great food spots. Yes, these activities exist in other places, but there is something special about Searcy County.


"It gets in your blood."


(Dirk Merle is a Searcy County resident, cyclist, and advocate for rural Life. He is also a Trail Builder for Affordable Trail Solutions. https://www.facebook.com/Affordable-Trail-Solutions-717382101949793/)

Rebecca Rusch

Rebecca Rusch Rides Through Searcy County, by Darryl Treat

May 19, 2019

Searcy County welcomed a major endurance sports star recently when

seven-time world champion cycler Rebecca Rusch became the first person to

ever ride the Arkansas High Country Race route that transits Searcy County

and Northcentral Arkansas!


The route covers approximately 1,034 miles with 79,034 feet of climbing, predominately in the Ouachita's and Ozarks in some of the most jaw-dropping beautiful, rugged, remote, and lightly populated areas of Arkansas! Day seven of Rebecca's epic adventure saw her leave Ponca heading east where she joined the Richland Creek Road and peddled up to Witts Springs to a wonderful Searcy County reception! The sign proudly proclaimed that "Searcy County Has A Crush On Rusch!" Even the local fire department greeted her! 


After a long descent down Lick Fork Road she arrived in Snowball to find another greeting party highlighted by a little girl with her own handmade greeting sign! Rebecca couldn't resist and stopped to chat a while. It was quickly apparent that this international cycling star has a warm, friendly personality! 


Her great cycling fame allows her to bring attention to our fabulous cycling roads, which stand to help us locally with physical fitness and employment! The more people who come to enjoy the great gravel roads, the more money is left behind to help our local economy.


Leaving Snowball, she headed to the Tyler Bend area of the Buffalo National

River and on to Marshall for a much earned evening meal at a local Mexican

restaurant before she retired for the night in the oldest dwelling in Searcy

County, a rental cabin circa 1850 near the Marshall Courthouse Square. She

had earned her rest! Rebecca covered 110 miles in about 12 hours and climbed

12,751 feet. Wow!


Day eight had Rebecca up early and taking backroads into Leslie before

peddling on to Fifty-Six, Mountain View, and points south. She completed the

adventure on day nine arriving back where she began her journey at the

Clinton Presidential Park Bridge in Little Rock. Being the first to complete

this entire route, she has laid down a fastest known time for the

competitors that will be racing this course beginning on 8 June. Searcy

County's own endurance sports star David Horton is entered in the race!


Rebecca adhered to the same self-supported ultra-biking event rules that the

racers will abide by.  Here in Searcy County we are thrilled that the annual race uses some of the course of our own Ozark Grinder Trail.  Our Ozarks Grinder Trail has more than 150 miles of gravel, pavement, and trail with a main route from Tyler Bend to Fairfield Bay and side spurs and loops! It's predominately gravel and has close to 10,000 feet of elevation gain!


Coming soon is a cross-state route the XARK, that uses much of the same

route in Searcy County that Rebecca used. The XARK is a bikepacking trail

that traverses North Arkansas from Siloam Springs to Memphis with the

diversity of cycling across the Ozarks and the Mississippi River Delta of

east Arkansas, part of the cradle of American music! A great way to soak up

the culture of the region as you peddle across beautiful farm, river, &

forest landscapes, some with hefty mountain climbs!


Witts Springs has a head start on much of the area with an established

annual cycling event, The Pedestal Rock & Lick Fork Ride. This year is the

5th annual. It happens every October, a beautiful time to visit the Ozarks!

This stellar annual cycling event offers two disciplines: Road (Pedestal

Rock 10, 20, 40, 50, 62) or Gravel (Lick Fork 15, 30, 50ish, and 62.) Both

rides start and end at the same location. All riders receive a t-shirt,

ride bag full of goodies, and are served an amazing potluck lunch made by

locals, a rider favorite! Tent camping on-site with access to the rider

village showers, bathrooms, indoor shelter, pool tables, etc. Donation

spaghetti dinner the night before and a free continental breakfast the

morning of the ride. 9AM start! All proceeds go to Witts Springs Community

Voices, a recognized non-profit.


Rebecca gave us a big boost in notoriety! The cycling community will now

know that bikepacking and gravel grinding doesn't get much better than the

Arkansas Ozarks and Heart of the Ozarks Cycling!


To see more images and read more about her ride, click here

Rebecca Rusch

A Visit to Dogwood Hills Guest Farm, by Jill Rohrbach

May 24, 2019

(Reprinted from a feature appearing on Arkansas.com)


It was a cool, brisk morning when I walked into the barn at Dogwood Hills Guest Farm for my first attempt at milking a cow. Apparently, the trick is to squeeze with the thumb and forefinger, followed by the other fingers instead of one big squeeze with the whole hand all at once. There’s a bit of a gentle up and down motion to it as well.


Aiming was a bit tricky as the milk sometimes came out more sideways than straight. Immediately, the two farm cats crowded around the milk pail and stool, ready for my misses.


In the next barn stall over, goats bleated, butted and jumped on wood structures. Outside, cows grazed rocky fields and chickens pecked at the earth. Dogs took naps and posed as lazy guards.


The breeze carried robust yet pleasant waves of dirt and manure, grass, and livestock.

“The animals are here because the guests enjoy them,” Ruth Pepler told me as we wandered the farm, which is owned by she and her husband. “Everything we’ve built has been in response to what guests wanted.”


Dogwood Hills is a working homestead farm offering a unique hands-on farm experience for all ages. It’s located in Harriet near the middle section of the Buffalo National River.


Originally, the Peplers only offered the rental of their guest house. Those guests began asking to help out on the farm and interact with the livestock. So, the Peplers built some new facilities, including a barn and certified teaching kitchen, and incorporated farm life into the guest experience.


Now, visitors can work on the farm and enjoy fabulous farm to table dinners. The Peplers have fully embraced agritourism and strive to educate as well as entertain.


To read of the entire visit, and see more images, click here

Rebecca Rusch

Throwback Thursday Finale Coming Up, by Chris Gibbany

May 24, 2019

Ever wish you could take your vintage car or hot rod to a Drive-In movie theater, be surrounded by other cool classics AND get to watch a car movie? You can! "Throwback Thursdays" is one of Arkansas’s most unique events held at the Kenda Drive-In in Marshall. This is the fourth year that my husband Gabe and I have been hosting this event. Car movies are shown April through August and the event is always held on the last Thursday of the month. For this year’s series of movies we opened with “Starsky & Hutch”, starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, in May we saw Matthew Broderick in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, watched the first movie that started the franchise “The Fast & the Furious” with Vin Diesel and Paul Walker in June, moved to Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd in “Back to the Future” for July and for the finale in August, we will see Seann William Scott and Johnny Knoxville in “The Dukes of Hazzard”.


Anyone driving a pre-1980 vehicle or riding a pre-1980 motorcycle can park inside the drive-in. Admittance to the movie is free and goody bags are always given out to the first 50 car owners who drive through the gate in April and then bags are only given to “first-timers” who have not attended one of the movie nights of the season. This year, Mecum Auctions has stepped up and donated Mecum branded drawstring backpacks that work great as goody bags. Goody bags usually contain hats, sunglasses, stickers, magnets, keychains and other misc. car items. Punch cards are given to the car owners the first time they come through the gate and owners will want to make sure to get their card punched as the more movie nights they attend, the greater chance they have at winning the prizes at the finale in August.


I work all winter garnering donations for goody bag items and for prizes to give away. The last three years my husband and I have walked the grounds and given prizes to car owners who could best benefit from them. This year we are saving all of the prizes until the finale in August. For the first two years, Gold Eagle, makers of Sta-bil, 104+ and 303 automotive products, donated over $3000 worth of products to the grand prize winners who attended the most movie nights. Last year, both Gold Eagle and Star brite donated the grand prizes. As car owners turn in their punch cards, we put them into the appropriate containers based upon how many movie nights they have attended. Right before the movie starts, we draw the winners. For the last three years, winners received wash buckets filled with full-sized products plus they also got a vast assortment of sponges, towels, microfiber cloths, and pads to use with those products.


This year we decided to mix it up a bit to keep it fresh. New for this season, we added a “Trunk Sale”. Everyone who is driving a pre-1980 vehicle can bring in and sell whatever fits in their trunk or truck. This is NOT limited to just car parts or automobile memorabilia.


The second change for this year is that we are saving all of the donated prizes until the finale in August. Owners will have a chance to see what they can choose from beforehand so that once the drawing begins, they can easily PICK what they want as their prize. We have everything from tools valued at more than $150, T-shirts, jackets, sunglasses, hats, car care products, to gift cards valued at $25, $50 and $100 to give away this year. We have over 100 prizes so if you show up, chances are good that you will walk away with something!


In 2018 we watched “Snake & Mongoose”, based upon drag racing legends Don Prudhomme and Tom McEwen, “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” with Will Ferrell, moved on to see Tom Cruise in “Days of Thunder” and ended with the hilarious “Tommy Boy” starring Chris Farley and David Spade. We were scheduled to show “Corvette Summer” with Mark Hamill in May but threats of serious weather canceled it.


In 2017 we watched Burt Reynolds in “The Cannonball Run”, moved on to see the original “Gone in 60 Seconds”, saw Peter Fonda in “Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry”, watched another Burt Reynolds movie “Hooper” and ended with the classic “Bullitt” starring Steve McQueen.


In 2016 we opened with the cult classic "Two-Lane Blacktop", moved on to 1971’s "Vanishing Point", watched Quentin Tarantino's "Death Proof", and in June saw a movie titled "Clutch". For our grand finale in July, we showed "Smokey and the Bandit" and it was AWESOME! As a bonus, we had a guy at the drive-In who had WON a classic Trans-Am, in black, nonetheless AND his friend, Chris Graddy, a Corporal with the Arkansas State Police, Troop I who brought in a vintage police car!!! Before the movie started, we had our very own Smokey and the Bandit pursuit chase at the Drive-In. I can tell you that there wasn't a person on the grounds that night that wasn't smiling.


We had everything from rat rods, farm trucks, daily driven classics, and an original condition GTX Hemi car to a truck that ran on wood pellets. Every month we saw new and interesting cars and met some great people. I met a super cool guy, local Searcy County favorite Bill McEntire who for two years gave me a Ziploc bag of rattlesnake earrings that he had made, to give out each month to the ladies in attendance. He lives very close to the drive-In and each month he catches a ride home so that he can bring out all four of his classics to show support. It is amazing and so rare to find someone who is not only willing to help but who goes above and beyond just because he knows it makes people happy.


Companies who have donated to this year’s event include Eckler’s, Mother’s, Summit Racing, JEGS, Edelbrock, RockAuto, Hemmings Motors, Coker Tire, LMC Truck, Wizards, National Parts Depot, O’Reilly Auto Parts, 870 Auto, Scat Enterprises, and Kevin Griffith, Snap-on tools dealer. Several of my sponsors who have stepped up to help sponsor this event include Spectro Oils, Evapo-Rust, Star brite, and Epoch Eyewear as well as Bree Bonchay from World Narcissistic Abuse Awareness Day (WNAAD). I have partnered with WNAAD to help raise awareness of narcissistic abuse and to help survivors who have escaped their abusers. The more people who are aware of narcissistic abuse, the more they can spot the warning signs and save themselves or those they love from the serious and debilitating effects of being in a relationship with a pathological individual. Come find me at the event and I will have bracelets, pamphlets, and cards to give out.

Rod Authority and Chevy Hardcore published an article in 2017-  Cruise Night And A Drive-In Movie: Not A Thing Of The Past


It would be hard to imagine a drive-in movie without good music and cool classic cars. This event is made possible by Kenda and Todd Dearing, owners of the Kenda Drive-In, giving up one night a month to make it possible for vintage car owners to get together for such a unique experience. They purchase the movie so that the entire event can remain free.


This is NOT marketed as a car show but is intended to be a gathering of like-minded individuals. The atmosphere is relaxed and laid back as Todd plays classic rock on the speakers before the movie. The concession stand opens early and has amazing food at amazing prices, plus chocolate rolls! There are also limited edition “Throwback Thursdays” T-shirts for sale that help support the Kenda. This event has attained “Bucket List” status for many and each year more car people will continue to hear about these types of grassroots events. 


Next will be our 5th anniversary for the event and we already have some huge plans in the works. The Kenda Drive-In is one of the most special places in the entire state of Arkansas and is one of only three drive-ins left in the state of Arkansas; the only one open year-round. If you do not have a pre-1980 vehicle, you can still walk in and watch the movie, free of charge.