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volume 1                                December 1990                            number 10
Our Thanksgiving 
at Hot Springs National Park

We enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with rangers from the park here. Don and Leeann Benton opened their home and included us in the celebration. Also attending were Paul and Deb Pfennenger and personnel director, Bernie with her son who was home from college for the weekend.  Since both Leeann and Paul had to work at the Fordyce that day, I volunteered to help get the turkey in the oven early enough in the day so we could eat at 6 pm when they would be home from work. Deb and I worked easily in Leeann's kitchen especially since Leeann had already cubed the bread for the stuffing and had the giblets cooked for us. After we got the turkey in the oven, we each left for our homes and put Don in charge of basting. Everything was perfect. Best of all was the company. These people are special. Both couples started work here in Hot Springs about the same time and had recently put in applications at various parks that had openings.  Paul came here from Carlsbad Caverns and Leeann and Don came here from Yosemite. It's ironic that Paul and Deb are going to Yosemite and Leeann and Don are going to Carlsbad. 

They had lots of information to share and after dinner, showed a video on Yosemite. Bernie had come here from Yosemite also. There is a lot of moving around in the park system and we suspect that friendships remain long after the move. We hope to keep in touch with these fine folks too. 

by Ron

It's hard to describe the feeling a father has when he walks his daughter down the aisle --- a mixture of happiness and lots of emotions.  And when she squeezes your arm --- WOW. 

Susie and Ross, we love you and wish you God's richest blessings. 

Not only was the wedding perfect, so was the timing. One more day in Michigan, we would have been caught in a severe snow storm. 

It is time to move further south.  The winter season is moving into Hot Springs and it won't be long before the nights will see sub-freezing temperatures. 

Arkansas, a poor state, does a good job with limited road funds. Highway 70 (from Little Rock to Hot Springs) has an ingenious three lane configuration that alternates passing lanes and really moves traffic. Us old highway guys notice things like that. 

Although we enjoyed the wine of Michigan's Leelanau Peninsula, it's hard to beat Arkansas' "Wiederkehr Cellars" wine of Altus, Arkansas. It's the best domestic wine we've had yet. 

Did you know that Arkansas is a large producer and exporter of rice. The land in the eastern part of the state is flat and perfect for growing rice. 

We now have a low mileage tow car. Our 1984 Horizon's odometer just rolled past 100,000 and is already at 1,680. Maybe with Bryan's help we can hit 200,000. Bryan Graham is my super mechanic and also happens to be my son-in-law. 

In a conversation with Leeann Benton (one of the rangers at Hot Springs National Park), I learned that her husband Don, also with the park service, had been a naturalist with the park but after six years of dealing with the general public he simply burned out.  He is now happily working in the maintenance division.  I can see how burn out could happen and I only had two months of it. Sitting at an information desk every day and trying to be helpful to everyone is exhausting and sometimes frustrating. 

Leeann said that working at the Fordyce was more frustrating than many parks because of its unusual situation. Since it is in a downtown situation, many walk in off the street not quite aware of where they are - a national park visitors center.  It was the job of the person on the desk to try to inform everyone of what was available  (three floors of the restored bathhouse, a 17 minute orientation film every half hour, a 45 minute outdoor walking tour back to the springs at 10, 11, 1 and 2, a nine minute video on the second floor on the bathing process etc).  There were signs which few read. 

When we first got to Hot Springs, we enjoyed what the park calls its "best visitors" - those who are retired, relaxed, and for the most part, interested in all things.  As these people came in, we would share all that was there to see and you could see their enthusiasm. They explored it all, took in the tours and came back to say "thanks" for suggesting the tour or whatever. 

Some visitors (not the retired ones) entered the Fordyce thinking that it was an operating bathhouse. They would walk up to the desk and ask the price of a bath and whether a reservation was necessary or they would just ask if they could take a bath.  When told that it was a museum and visitors center, they asked, "Where can I take a bath?"  When we gave them the brochure 
listing all the operating bathhouses and offered them a chance to see the video on what a bath was all about or see what a bath hall looks like, they were seldom interested.  I would even add that everything is free and that it belongs to them - no, they just took the brochure and left - never to return. 

During the month of October, few families came to visit the park but just around Thanksgiving (especially the Friday after), the majority of the visitors were families.  I could not believe the attitude of many of them.  Parents allowed their children to go unattended throughout the building.  As I walked the floors, I observed parents encouraging their children to climb into the 
bathtubs, sit on the tables, climb on the fountains and so on. "This is a museum!!!," I would say, "Please be respectful of the furnishings here." And they didn't apologize; they walked on touching everything in sight. Many of the families entering the building, carried food or drinks even though it was clearly posted that such things were not allowed. When we would ask them to finish their drinks outside, they seemed annoyed.  We even had a few try to come in with dogs - both large and small. 

It never ceased to amaze me that so many tourists seem to value what my sister calls "junk fun" over free educational fun.  There is "junk fun" in town.  The Duck is an amphibious vehicle which drives seven miles south on the main road (there is nothing historic to see on the way) then enters Lake Hamilton and rides around for a little while before returning to the base.  I suppose the attraction there is riding on both land and water in the same vehicle.  The driver does some talking during the ride, but with the noise and his "southern mush" accent, one cannot understand half of what he says.  We took the ride and a lot of what we did hear was inaccurate information.  Also in town is an alligator farm, IQ zoo (small animals trained through behavior modification to ring bells, play a piano and such), and so on.  A lot of the families entering the bathhouse only wanted information on these types of things and didn't even have time for our 17 minute movie because they "had" to get here or there before closing time. 

Ron began to classify people in the bookstore too. The more mature visitors took their time and really enjoyed browsing and buying books. The Japanese visitors bought lots and lots, those from the middle east stood and read everything and bought little and young American children were allowed to play with the Passport stamp and made a mess while parents were oblivious to what was going on. 

The last week made me realize how Don could have burned out dealing with the public - the rudeness - lack of concern for things of value and the arrogance of some was shocking.  Perhaps there were just too many visitors that week (Thanksgiving), but I am told that that is what it is like in the summer months. What I will try to remember and focus on are the many wonderful visitors to the Fordyce who made a special effort to ask me to thank the Department of the Interior and the Park Service for making all this wonderful history available and they thanked me for informing them of all that they should see. I will also remember all who came back to the desk to ask more questions because their interest was sparked. 

I know that everyone is not interested in history but if I happened to be in the Hydrotherapy room when people came through, and they paused a moment at the "electric bath" which was used by the Fordyce for a while, I would mention that "Yes, there was a time in history when it was thought that sending volts of electricity into a tub of water (while a person was in that same water) was beneficial and in fact healing."  It never failed that as I was explaining, some who had already walked past ignoring the tub and the plaque, would stop, return, listen and suddenly become interested even to the point of asking questions. Yes, there were lots of good experiences but if I had do do it day in and day out all year....I don't think I'd last long. 


We have decided that we will head slowly to the Texas Rio Grande Area.  Hopefully we will be able to get into Meadowcreek RV park in Mission by the 20th of December. We would like to spend a month there at least.  We want to play bridge with Bob and Marge and we desperately need to get back into an exercise program. Walking, tennis, golf and bike riding are fantastic there. We have both gained weight while working and not exercising and feel bad both mentally and physically. 

While we are not working again, we hope to crank out some more chapters in the book (it has suffered badly too) and we will await word on some of the six applications we sent out. YES, we decided to try some more volunteering. It helps us save some money and it gives a chance to really learn about an area. 

We applied for winter (Feb/March) positions at Death Valley and Joshua Tree Monument in southern California and at Organ Pipe Cactus in southern Arizona. We applied  for positions at Yosemite, Sequoia - Kings Canyon, in California and the Grand Canyon in Arizona for the months of April, May and June.  We have heard from Organ Pipe Cactus so far. They have their volunteers for the winter. They said they normally get their volunteers a full six months ahead of time.  We didn't realize that such advance thinking was necessary since we got into Hot Springs so easily and we expect that Death Valley and Joshua Tree will also report that they are all set for this winter. 

We do have our fingers crossed that we can work at Yosemite. First of all that is the ultimate National Park. Paul Pfennenger, one of the rangers from Hot Springs, just got transferred to Yosemite and he promised that he would pull our application as soon as he gets there and see what he can do.  Since we applied far enough ahead for this one, we hope for success on that 

Two months of volunteering sandwiched in between several months of playing will be just perfect. The best of both worlds.  We did save a lot of money by sitting still and not paying campground fees so that is another benefit. 

This 'N That
by Barb
As I write this, we are in Michigan.  It is rainy and oh so grey.  It looks like winter even though it is un-seasonably warn.  We just arrived this afternoon - after two full days driving.  It sure is different to travel such a long distance in our little Horizon as opposed to the comfort of our motorhome.  We especially missed our traveling house when we had to run through the pouring rain to get to the rest area bathrooms. 

We had company at Hot Springs. Good friend Brenda and her cousin Judy arrived one Friday afternoon and stayed through the weekend. They were on their way to Texas and we were glad that they came our way.  We enjoyed showing them around and encouraged them to take a bath (no offense girls).  They appreciated the nice warm sunshine and spectacular fall colors.  Thanks for coming. 

Did you catch the mistakes in last months newsletter?  I made the same mistake twice and my proofreader (Ron) didn't catch it either. I was describing one of the jobs I had at the bathhouse. Instead of saying that I was a roving interpreter, I said I was a roving interrupter. All the rangers at the park who read it roared with laughter. They thought I wrote it that way on purpose because that's what they feel we do.  You probably didn't even notice, did you? Do you suppose that someday computers will be able to check the meaning as well as the spelling of words? 

Remember the couple we wrote about last month? Judy and Wayne Richards had us over for dinner one night and besides fulltiming, Judy and I talked a little about Tupperware. She seemed interested in becoming a dealer so I told her about it and looked up the number in the phone book for her.  The next time we got together, she was already a dealer and on her way to great successes. I would have loved to have been her manager. She is one in a million. 

For a while I was worried about Robert.  He called to say the Coast Guard was sending him to a remote island off the coast of Alaska.  Only 23 people would be on the island and he would be there for one full year. That sounded so lonesome. Just today I got a new message. He is going to San Francisco instead.  Gosh that was great news!!! 

I love bridge so much that I coaxed Ron to play duplicate at the bridge club in Hot Springs. These people were real nice. They were not the hard core bridge players that many duplicate clubs are. They made a special effort to make us feel welcome and we even went back for more. We scored poorly but had fun anyway.  I think bridge is a lot like golf.  One must spend their 
whole life trying to get it right. 

It is a small world.  One day while I was at the desk of the Fordyce talking with a gentleman.  I asked where he was from and he explained that he lived on an Air Force base in England.  I told him how I loved England and why we had been there and one thing led to another. He runs the bowling alley on the base that Jim is stationed at.  He took Jim's name and promised to say "HI" to him for us. 

Another day, I was doing a tour to the springs and I kept looking at this lady.  She sure looked familiar.  While I was waiting for the group to re-assemble at the next spot, I asked her where she was from and as she answered, I recognized her.  Nancy was camped next to us at Brimley State Park in the fall of 1989.  Originally from Michigan she and her husband full timed a lot until his death.  She was on her own in a nice new van when we met.  It was great to see a friend unexpectedly.  It was a neat mini reunion as I had to do another tour right away and she was leaving town. 

Yesterday morning when I got up, I heard that all records were broken.  It was 68 degrees in the morning here. Don't forget this is the end of  November in Michigan. Things got back to normal shortly.  By noon it was 38 degrees with a strong north west wind blowing the wind chill down to near zero.  They always said that if you don't like the weather -just wait a minute.  My body doesn't know how to react to such biting winds and even snow flurries. 

I didn't know whether to mention this or not but you know that earthquake that was predicted on the New Madrid fault for December 3?  Well since it is only November 29th as I write this, no one knows if it is a good prediction or not. Understandably, it is not the topic of conversation in Michigan that it is in Arkansas. Our trip up here took us right over the fault line most of the way and we discussed how to go home since we would be traveling on December 2 and 3. I suggested that we go by way of Iowa or something like that but Ron convinced me that there will be no earthquake. We are driving home on the fault line because it is easy traveling.  No big cities - great roads and so on.  I noticed on the Detroit news last night that lots of reporters are gathering in New Madrid, Missouri. As we drive through, maybe we will be on national TV - that is if the town is still there.  Very Interesting! 

Now it is December 3rd.  We are back in Hot Springs.  We drove the fault line and in fact even stopped for breakfast in New Madrid, Missouri early this morning.  At 8 am in the morning, it was alive with TV, radio and newspaper people.  I never saw so many news trucks in one place in all my life.  The hole in the wall we ate in, was crowded.  A DJ was doing his show live and two girls from some paper were interviewing two local gentlemen.  We ate at the counter and took it all in. After we were on our way, Ron said that I should have called WJR and JP Mc Carthy (my favorite morning DJ) and given a first hand report.  DARN, I wish he had thought of that while we were in town.  I could have been a real reporter for a minute and you in Michigan would have been real surprised to hear my voice, right?  So no earthquake yet and we won't be here for the new date (Dec 31). 


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