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Independence alive in the mountains

As I See It

My wife and I recently attended the national fiddling contest in Mountain View, Ark. It was our first trip to Mountain View, but will likely not be the last.

Actually, we happened upon the fiddling contest by accident. We wanted to escape to the mountains for a few days and drink in the beauty as the season changed. We decided on Mountain View because old guys are reputed to gather in the town square every Friday and Saturday night and jam. I am a very novice guitar picker and have always enjoyed jam sessions more than organized concerts.

We were not disappointed! There must be something in the water up there. Everybody we came across seemed to have the musical skill of Merle Travis. I heard more “Travis pickin’” in one weekend than I have heard in the average decade. It was an humbling experience; leaving my guitar at home was the proper choice.

In addition to the fiddling contest and courthouse square jam sessions, we also toured the folk center, located just out of town. Though I confess that I still can’t make a broom, or lye soap or a quilt, I have now seen it done and am somewhat less ignorant than before.

We were overcome with the friendliness of the local people in Mountain View. I suppose they leave the dozens of chairs out all year for the jam sessions. They are not chained to trees and, apparently, they are not stolen. Some appear to be old enough for Davy Crockett to have sat in.

In addition to enjoying the music, I was impressed with the independence of the mountain people. They have lived a self-sustaining life for generations. No sign of dependence mentality here. If they need something, they simply make it. The “nobody is responsible for anything” mentality of the 1960s didn’t make it across the mountains. Lucky them!

America has always been fortunate to have folks with a pioneering attitude. After all, if it wasn’t for them, America would likely never have been settled. The early families who endured the hardships and uncertainty of founding a new nation were propelled by a vision that has always been America’s strong suit.

Above all, they wanted freedom to worship as they saw fit. England had an officially-sanctioned religion and all were expected to comply or suffer the consequences. Opposition to an official, state religion is woven throughout our constitution. This is as it should be. Government has to do with our relationships with each other; religion has to do with one’s relationship with a Creator. The two should not be mixed.

Another principle driving the founding families was freedom from aristocracy. In Europe, people were fit into defined classes and there were different rules for different classes. In America, every citizen is equal to every other citizen. Though discrepancies have plagued the system, in general, each of us has an equal opportunity to pursue life, liberty and happiness. This is as it should be.

Spending time in the Arkansas mountains was like going backward in a time machine. Though I have no desire to forfeit all conveniences of modern life, I do think there are lessons to be learned from occasionally leaving our fast-paced lives for a little slower-paced living. Perhaps we could all benefit from the lessons in self-reliance that a weekend among truly independent people can teach.


The meaning of life is to live in balance and harmony with every other living thing in creation.

– Wilma Mankiller,

chief of the Cherokee Nation

Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is cpajones@mbusiness.com.


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