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How Bear Hunters, Hillbillies, and Good Ol’ Boys Defined a State

Brooks Blevins

Publication Year: 2009

Arkansas/Arkansaw is the first book to explain how Arkansas’s image began and how the popular culture stereotypes have been perpetuated and altered through succeeding generations. Brooks Blevins argues that the image has not always been a bad one. He discusses travel accounts, literature, radio programs, movies, and television shows that give a very positive image of the Natural State. From territorial accounts of the Creole inhabitants of the Mississippi River Valley to national derision of the state’s triple-wide governor’s mansion to Li’l Abner, the Beverly Hillbillies, and Slingblade, Blevins leads readers on an entertaining and insightful tour through more than two centuries of the idea of Arkansas. One discovers along the way how one state becomes simultaneously a punch line and a source of admiration for progressives and social critics alike.

Published by: University of Arkansas Press

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pp. ix-x

This is not a book about the state of Arkansas so much as it is about the idea of Arkansas. That is not to say that it is in some sense not Arkansas history. As most any native or resident of Arkansas knows, our state’s image has long been critical to its history and development. The stereotypes and image problems of Arkansas have for many...

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pp. 3-10

There’s an old joke that most any Arkansas native has heard and that many have told in a variety of forms. One version goes something like this: An Arkansas family was on the way to California in the heart of the depression when their truck (and here we all envision something akin to the Joads’ jalopy or the Clampettmobile) began to overheat. Pulling up to a filling station, the Arkansas father...

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1. Creating the Bear State

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pp. 11-36

“In manners, morals, customs, dress, contempt of labour and hospitality, the state of society is not essentially different from that which exists among the savages. Schools, religion, and learning are alike unknown.”1 No ringing endorsement for life on the Arkansas and Ozark frontier. Instead, what we find in the account of Henry...

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Why Arkansas?

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pp. 37-42

The basic assumption that informs this little survey is that Arkansas has been, fairly or unfairly, peculiarly singled out among the fifty states for derision and caricaturing, that the very phrase “Arkansaw image” conjures up widely shared visions in a way that “South Dakota image” or “Ohio image” or “Florida image” or even “Tennessee image” does not...

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2. Aboard the Arkansaw Train

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pp. 43-64

The names Opie Read and Thomas W. Jackson are rarely recognized in the twenty-first century, a shocking circumstance considering the amount of fretting these two gentlemen once caused in Arkansas. Both natives of middle Tennessee and from humble backgrounds, the comparisons would stop there if not for their most significant connection...

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This Hillbilly State of Mine

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pp. 65-70

Take a minute and think about the images that the word “Arkansaw” evokes. Admittedly, unless for some reason you started reading this book here in the middle, you’ve been bombarded with caricatures, personalities, and stereotypes from the first one hundred years of the Arkansaw image that are probably jostling for position...

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3. Heyday of the Hillbilly

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pp. 71-118

Fame and adulation are fleeting things. Only a tiny minority of those who achieve celebrity reach a level of transcendence that assures their notoriety among the coming generations. Robin Burn, alas, wasn’t among that minority. He was famous all right...

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Getting DefensiveCharles

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pp. 119-136

Charles H. Brough loved Arkansas. He truly did. And he told anyone who would listen. He trotted out tables of statistics to laud Arkansas’s farmers. He quoted from her poets and historians. He trumpeted the beauty of her hills and streams. He scanned the pages of Who’s Who for the names of successful businessmen and military...

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4. All Roads Lead to Bubba

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pp. 137-184

George Fisher caricatured dozens of prominent figures during his long career as a political cartoonist, and I would bet that almost none of his subjects offered the cartoonish possibilities of Orval Eugene Faubus. What a face! That beak of a nose that seemed to originate mid-forehead and flowed ski-slope style on and on, too great a distance...

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pp. 185-196

Bernie Babcock, Charles H. Brough, and Ham Moses must have been turning in their graves in the summer of 2000. Late-night comedians and politi - cal pundits must have been counting their lucky stars. The news coming out of Little Rock sounded like some sort of postmodern, ironic prank, as if Donald Harington had suddenly...


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pp. 197-220


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pp. 221-230


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pp. 231-242

E-ISBN-13: 9781610750424
E-ISBN-10: 161075042X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781557289520
Print-ISBN-10: 1557289522

Page Count: 250
Illustrations: 40 illustrations
Publication Year: 2009