Motorcycling in the Ozarks

By Nick Wilson, Photography by Nick Wilson

While invalids do not ride motorcycles, it is needless to say that all were eager for a big draught of “Black Sulphur” from the spring. One drink of that water calls for another, and it is passing strange what quantities of it the human system can absorb, with no discomfort. So, there ensued a kind of drinking bout between certain ones in the party, with the result that although a ravenous appetite gripped them, a lapse of some little time was necessary before they could partake of food. Finally a stampede was made for “Aunt Fanny’s,” where hot coffee and an abundance of substantial food awaited this devastatingly hungry crowd of riders. They were at the end of a 200-mile ride. It is now about 7 P.M., and with the inner man satisfied, all were ready for the next adventure. It was soon settled that the biggest fun for the evening would be to ride five miles out to the foot of Sugar Loaf Mountain, and, with their blankets strapped to their backs, scale its precipitous sides and sleep where the resinous odors of the piney woods permeate the air. Some two or three decided on riding to the highest possible point up the mountain side, for this club boasts several expert hill climbers. This was rather a hazardous ride, picking their way up between trees and rocks. But they made a splendid showing at that, and while this would be an ideal place for a hillclimb, it is needless to say that none would ever “go over the top.”

Up to this point we have neglected to mention the fact that Mr. B.W. Barfield, the Harley-Davidson dealer in Memphis, had the temerity to accompany this bunch of intrepid motorcyclists on this trip, and even entertained the idea of leading the way to the top of Sugar Loaf. But being a man of considerable avoirdupois he was prevailed upon not to attempt it. At all events, all will agree that he also possesses considerable breadth when it comes to sporting events. However, we must add that Mrs. Barfield was there to see that he did not attempt “Lovers’ Leap.”

It seems that without much having been said about it, some of this crowd smuggled in a big supply of fireworks, and after a campfire was lighted a night of terrorism reigned -giant firecrackers, torpedoes and skyrockets were set off promiscuously. The few who attempted to sleep were forced to take shelter behind boulders and under overhanging rocks, for the campfire was finally blown into the air and upon any blankets that happened to be near. Mahlon Wheatley was the only casualty, therefore is due special mention. Like the man who, playing cards, threw his cards in the fire and laid his cigar stump on the table, Mahlon lit his firecracker, dropped it on the ground and jumped off the mountain. Fortunately he landed on a ledge about 20 feet down, the only damage being a broken rib and some sore spots.

Sunday morning the return was made to headquarters at Heber Springs, all ravenously hungry, of course, and it is doubtful if “Aunt Fanny’s” profits rose to big figures on serving that breakfast.

With a whole day before them, their next objective was Indian Rock Cave, about twenty miles west of Heber Springs, and further into the mountains-nearer to the scenes and peoples made familiar to all by Harold Bell Wright in “The Shepherd of the Hills.” After riding some little time they arrived at a point where the roads forked, and, seeing a little cabin nestled among the pines, a stop was made to ask directions. An old man and a boy emerged from the doorway and approached with amazement in their eyes at sight of this aggregation of motorcycles and riders. The riders, in their turn, must have borne an expression of bewilderment at sight of this specter of “Ole Matt” and “Pete,” and typical of that old character, in few words, but courteously, he directed that we follow the road to the left, “’till you come to a narr’ place in th’ road gin th’ bluvvs.” That described it exactly and in fact it seemed to all that this must be the end of the ways. But the cave was reached, and a wonderful creation of Nature it is. At first glance one was reminded of the inscription envisioned by the immortal Dante above the entrance to Hell: “All hope abandon, ye who enter here.” The entrance is an immense archway of solid granite, almost as perfectly formed as if it had been carved with chisel and mallet, the interior being rounded out in a gigantic dome. This cave was used by the Indians as a general camping ground, evidently through the ages, and bears indisputable evidence of this in the many crude carvings of birds, animals and flowers on the walls and ceilings. In the extreme back of this cave bubbles forth a spring of water, cold and clear as a crystal. Truly Nature could hardly have contrived a place better suited for protection from the weather andthe convenience of the Indians in their mode of life.

By Nick Wilson
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