A November 2004 trip
to Arkansas by turf2
Quote: Outsiders may imagine central Arkansas as a deep forest teeming with God, guns, grizzlies, and hillbillies. While there is an ounce of truth in every stereotype, Arkansas has a lot more to offer, including lakes, wilderness, authentic down-home cookin', and a southern hospitality that will never disappoint.
Restaurant | "T & M Barbeque"
A few miles east of downtown Perryville on Highway 10 and just up the road from Heifer International Ranch, T&M is housed in a non-descript white building that might look like a long-defunct establishment. Usually the marque outside reads "T&M BBQ," but don't be surprised if some or all of the letters are missing. There are likely to be several cop cars outside, but this ain't no Dunkin Donuts.
Entering T&M feels like you're stepping into someone's home. The restauant is a tiny room with eight booths, one of which is usually occupied by one of the proprietors. This old woman props her feet up on the opposite bench while she watches TV and chain-smokes. The decor includes patriotic Uncle-Sam-wants-you posters mounted next to old cowboys and Indian paintings, and the air-conditioner is adorned with bull's horns. Locals filter in and out with youngsters in tow, and the cops lounge in a back booth sipping tea for hours.
The menu is on the wall, and a great meal costs less than $7. Order anything BBQ--the sandwich is great, and my favorite is Potato Surprise. Vegetarian options are limited, but there's always the old grilled cheese standby. Since Perryville is in a dry county, there's no alcohol available. Ask for the classic Southern sweet tea.
Those accustomed to fine dining, extreme cleanliness, and plentiful options may be taken aback, but give T&M a shot. It's not just a meal, but a window into rural America.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 11, 2005
A tourist walking into Mama Lou's might turn a couple heads, but once you ease in amongst the near-requisite jeans and plaid and rub the searing cigarette smoke from your eyes, it's hard not to feel at home. Proprietors and regulars alike insist that it's the oldest bar in Morrilton, and while the selection doesn't offer much (Bud or Miller, with tomato juice or without), the conversation does. I heard stories about WWII from Slim Jim, and instructions on building a wooden porch swing from another local. Tony described the smell of his father's cigars and reminisced about dropping out of school in third grade to help support the family by delivering milk. Mama Lou, who is over seventy years old, will serve you a beer in a frosty mason jar for a $1.50.
The traditional forms of bar room entertainment are available. Choose from a wide variety of classic country songs on the jukebox, but don't be disappointed if the machine decides to play something else. You could also play pool, and if your team is on TV, Mama Lou will probably change the channel for you. If a certain seven-year-old regular is in attendance, however, it's the Cartoon Network all night, end of story. Kids enjoy Mama Lou's bar as well, free to chase each other around the room in their socks or take over the pool table to make up their own games. Tony just may set his beer aside to join the kids.
The best night to visit Mama Lou's is the third Saturday of every month. A local band plays and the pool table wears a tablecloth and turns into a buffet station. Come in and sample real homemade Southern food like black-eyed peas, cornbread, and fried okra, enjoy the music, and meet the locals. Mama Lou treats her friends right. Whether a birthday, a return from military duty, or an anniversary, any night could hold a similar party. Food, beer, and conversation are the staples in this down-home bar.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on February 12, 2005
Background: Heifer International is a non-profit organization headquartered in Little Rock with over 400 projects in more than 50 countries. It is dedicated to fighting world hunger and poverty by using livestock and sustainable agriculture to help people help themselves. Participants receive animals to improve family health and income and make the gift last by passing on offspring to other families in the community.
The ranch: The 1,200 acre ranch was purchased in the 1970s and used as a distribution center to raise and ship livestock. Recently, however, Heifer has begun purchasing animals near project sites, which makes for healthier animals and stimulates local economies. The ranch has been converted into a dynamic educational facility.
Activities: The ranch is home to a wide variety of livestock, including llamas, camels, and water buffalo, and the more pedestrian cattle, goats, sheep, and pigs. A Global Village offers a glimpse into what life is like in different regions of the world, while Cottage Industries demonstrates how families can use value-added products like cheese and candles to increase income. Short tours are available for drop-in visitors (a small donation is requested), or call ahead (501/889-5124).
Schools, churches, and other community groups can schedule half-day field trips that include a chance to milk goats and make bricks. Groups may also opt to learn about sustainable agriculture in EARTH class, work on team-building on the ropes course, spend a day in someone else's shoes learning about world resource distribution by staying overnight in the global village, or spend 2 or 3 nights in the brand-new Global Village Two.
The ranch is staffed largely by volunteers who range in age from 18 to 80 and live on site in volunteer housing. A variety of volunteer opportunities are available for anyone over 18 years old, and as someone who volunteered at the ranch for 8 months, I highly recommend it.
Little Rock, Arkansas