Jan/Feb 2020 • Vol. XLII No. 1 NonfictionJanuary 2, 2020 |

The Healing Stone of Mountain Creek

The path to Richard Howard’s house is more tunnel than road. Shag-bark hickory and black oak walls curve to leaf ceilings, shielding red-dirt traffic lanes below. The forest is thick, I can feel it — its energy, its moisture, and fall smells — it all hits me as I ride past orange signs: “No Trespassing” and “Keep Out,” they holler. I think about what waits ahead and wonder what will I say? And also, what the hell am I doing here? This land, deep in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, has been in Richard’s family since the 1700s. It borders two million acres of national forest — an expanse that seems to ignore the passage of time. The hills, trees, and scattered residents here form the town of Mountain Creek, named for a spring-fed crease that falls from Spy Rock and drains to the Mulberry River. Riding over the rocks and bumps is a clanky affair. I have a large wicker basket strapped to the back of my bicycle. It’s filled with baking tools and ingredie

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