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There's mighty big doings afoot on the wooded acres that once were home to the Dogpatch USA theme park along Scenic Arkansas 7 south of Harrison.

The still-unnamed buyer of the hilly property has been busy moving small mountains of dirt and stone in what appears to be a massive reshaping of the landscape.

Many dilapidated cabins and buildings that once comprised the fictional city made famous by cartoonist Al Capp's hillbilly characters still stand. But something tells me those vestiges from a bygone era soon will be leveled to make room for what's to come.

From what passing motorists can discern behind the fenced property, it's apparent the new owner has a passion for conservation, and the environment. I don't expect amusement rides or carnival treats.

I have strong suspicions as to who is behind it all. You might, too. But I'm remaining silent until it's officially announced and I'm proven wrong.

Regardless, it's apparent there are vast resources at work here, the results of which can only financially and aesthetically benefit Newton and Boone counties, their communities and our entire state.

Grandmothers in freedom

In catching up with the two grandmothers freed from Arkansas prisons in recent months after spending a combined total of 57 years behind bars, I can report both are adjusting just fine.

Belynda Goff, who served almost 23 years of a life sentence behind bars after a woefully inadequate trial in 1996 before being released by Circuit Judge Scott Jackson in 2019 for time served, continues to enjoy life in freedom with her family as evidenced by photographs on social media and her children.

"She is doing great!" said her daughter Bridgette Jones. "She's been gardening her little head off. We've got tomatoes and peppers, and the flowers are looking splendid!"

Now 58, Belynda has also taken up botanical photography. "Other than that, she travels, literally the east coast to the west coast and back, to spend time with my brother and his family," Jones told me. "I joke with him and say that we've got joint custody. We're all good and ever so grateful. A year later and we're still pinching ourselves!"

Meanwhile, Miss Willie Mae Harris, who at 72 was granted clemency by Gov. Asa Hutchinson after 34 years of a life sentence, has settled into life with her family and also remains grateful for the simple things of life, like freedom, a keyboard, and a private bedroom in her daughter Silvia's home near Dallas.

There's also her treasured, hand-knitted white scarf sent as a gift by an inmate in her former home, the Hawkins Women's Unit.

A sign hanging in the Black blind lady's bedroom, presented to her by inmates when she was freed, reads: "May the Lord Bless and Keep You, Miss Willie! We Love You."

Mess of masks

Anyone else noticed all the discarded paper masks littering streets, gutters and even some yards around your town?

You can't miss them in Harrison as long as your eyes are open.

No fewer than eight were scattered over a two-mile stroll through my hometown one morning. It's no stretch in my mind to assign those who tossed their masks (the males anyway) to the same category of men who leave their spills and candy wrappers for others to pick up or leave toilet seats up.

The fact these litterers would even wear a mask stuns me, considering the purpose behind one is to keep others from becoming infected with covid-19.

So today, I can't believe I'm even having to ask my fellow Arkansans to please stop discarding used masks in public. Please just stuff them in your pocket or purse until you can find a waste can, for gosh sakes.

Readers on society

I received a note the other day from an incredulous reader named Catherine in Fayetteville. I'll not use her full name since she didn't say her message was meant for publication.

I believe her feelings are shared by many baby boomers and others today who wonder about the lawlessness unfolding in our home of the free and land of the brave through mindless emotion and self-interest.

Here's the essence of Catherine's message: "This is just a short note to thank you for your column. My husband and I are in our 70s and the world as we knew it no longer exists. This has happened so fast that it is hard to comprehend. Your writings are a breath of fresh air after hearing and reading everything else (although we no longer listen or read much anymore). We are tired of being told that, if we don't believe 'their' way, we are racist, stupid and every other bad thing you can think of.

"Also, I do wear a mask when going out, but I'm tired of people trying to control others. If they don't have a mask on, stay away from them."

Yes, Catherine, this turmoil and violence on our urban streets has arisen quickly, leading me to believe much of the so-called demonstrating has been organized and calculated as we approach the 2020 election, having waited for a trigger event such as the George Floyd murder in Minneapolis.

Like you, I believe most freedom-loving Americans bristle at being lectured to, or controlled by, other equally flawed human beings in ways that run contrary to their constitutional rights and freedom, even though the idea of wearing a mask in public is clearly rooted in the best interest of everyone's safety.

The undeniable fact is this matter of Democrat-controlled governments allowing widespread mayhem and violence (as opposed to peaceful protesting) continues in metropolitan areas such as New York, Seattle and Chicago.

Obviously the tactics of these largely youthful rioters include trying to intimidate--and thereby silence--any American who dares to believe differently than the mob.

Another reader named Greg wrote a related message focused on the spiritual aspect of such hateful behaviors, saying: "The mass insanity tells me the Devil and his demons have unleashed an attack on this world like nothing we have seen before. Deception is his weapon of destruction. Sadly, we aren't going to wake up one day, all of this will be over and the insane have crawled away."

It's beyond sad that we find ourselves at this stage in America today. And who knows where it will lead for our children and theirs, since mob mentality has no interest in listening to reason or the logical concerned views of others. They clearly have a different agenda in this election year.

Mao's revolution

Thought you also might find this tidbit worthwhile. In August 1966, Mao Zedong, the Chinese Communist revolutionary launched the so-called Cultural Revolution, also known as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

According to "He shut down the nation's schools, calling for a massive youth mobilization to take current party leaders to task for their embrace of bourgeois values and lack of revolutionary spirit. In the months that followed, the movement escalated quickly as the students formed paramilitary groups called the Red Guards and attacked and harassed members of China's elderly and intellectual population. A personality cult quickly sprang up around Mao, similar to that which existed for Joseph Stalin, with different factions of the movement claiming the true interpretation of Maoist thought. The population was urged to rid itself of the 'Four Olds': Old customs, old culture, old habits, and old ideas."

If you're interested in knowing more about how China wound up with the tactics Mao used to lead his nation into full-blown communism by using youthful radical groups, you can find out by simply Googling China's Cultural Revolution. Then, as thinking adults in 2020, draw your own conclusions.

Sizing up steak

There's no tangible difference between commercially grown, foraging beef cattle and the often more-expensive versions touted as being raised in "naturally grown" programs that avoid antibiotics and growth hormones.

That's the finding from researchers at the University of Arkansas' Division of Agriculture who tested the quality characteristics of ribeye rolls from both methods.

Something to bear in mind as you fire up the grill.

Now go out into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly how you'd like then to treat you.

Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at [email protected]

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