The welcome mat is out at the Parker-Hickman farmstead along the Buffalo National River.
Standing on the front porch at the log home of this pioneer farm, one can almost hear a shout of "Come on in," sounding from the living room long ago. While other historic homes don't allow entry, a small sign on the porch of this log house encourages people to step through the front door and explore.
Same with most sheds, barns and the outhouse. The creaky outhouse door is unlocked, but a sign inside says "not open for business." Hint hint.
A couple of barns don't permit visitors inside, but it's fine to marvel at the weathered cedar logs notched by hand so they fit together.
The farmstead is one-half mile west of Erbie campground on the Buffalo near Jasper in Newton County. From Jasper, follow Arkansas 7 north for about three miles. Turn left at the sign for Erbie campground and river access. Follow the gravel road seven miles to the Parker-Hickman farmstead.
An interpretive sign at the front gate tells some of its history.
"In the late 1830s, Alvin Parker and his brother, Greenberry, arrived here from Tennessee and built a home using the nearby red cedar trees. Joining the hand-hewed logs with dovetail notches, the Parkers built one of the finest log houses in the Ozarks.
"Over the years, later owners built additions on to the original log house. The last owners, the J.D. Hickman family, occupied this farm from 1912 to 1978 and constructed most of the outbuildings visible here today."
There's plenty of nature to go along with the history. A small creek flows between the farm house and a couple of barns. There's a larger stream that flows with scenic beauty near the front gate. People drive across this stream and steer into the parking area.
It's an easy walk to the Buffalo River, or visitors can enjoy it at Erbie campground. There are plenty of riverside picnic tables for a tasty lunch outdoors.
A small cadre of hikers, including Gene Williams of the War Eagle area, took a road trip to the farmstead in mid-March. Williams strolled across the old wood planks of the home's front porch, opened a screen door and stepped into the living room. The cinema of the mind conjures visions of a family hunkered around the fireplace on a cold winter night.
Additions to the log home are obvious. They're made of planks, not cedar logs. Log barns built by hand, sweat and simple tools amazed the visiting hikers.
"You really see the history of this area, the wood, how the buildings are set on rocks to level them," Williams said. "You can reflect and wonder how these people lived, how they stayed warm and all.
"And the outhouse. Think of below zero and running 50 feet to an outhouse."
Backpackers traveling the Buffalo River Trail get a glimpse of the farmstead. The long-distance hiking trail passes near the front gate.
If the Parker-Hickman place raises your farmstead fever, the Villines family farmstead at Ponca is worth a visit. It's located near the south end of the low-water bridge over the Buffalo River at Ponca.
Park in the lot on the north end of the bridge, walk across the bridge and follow a trail about 100 yards to the Villines farmstead.
Beautiful Buffalo River
The Buffalo River was designated in 1972 as the first National River in the United States. The Buffalo is 153 miles long. The lower 135 miles flow within the boundaries of an area managed by the National Park Service, where the stream is designated the Buffalo National River.
Source: National Park Service