|Senator John L. McClellan signs autographs for a group|
of Waldron school children. Can anyone identify the
boys in this picture?
I was in tenth grade that year, and there was much excitement when it was announced that the entire school would be bused to the dam 12 miles west of town, where we would spend the day viewing the new soon-to-be-filled lake. We would also listen to some speeches, a not-too-exciting prospect to most school kids, but the prevailing sentiment was that a day outside listening to speeches was still preferable to a day inside listening to teachers. So, in what was actually my very first time to ride a school bus (I was a town kid, you know, and in those days, town kids got to school on their own!), we loaded up about mid-morning and headed out in a slight misty rain to Lake Hinkle.
The big draw on that October day was the presence of one of our United States senators from Arkansas, John L. McClellan. Senator McClellan was a part of the incredibly powerful trio of men who represented Arkansas in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In addition to Senator McClellan, the state's "Junior" senator was none other than J. William Fullbright. Both of our senators served as chairmen of powerful Senate committees, and carried considerable weight on a national level. In the House of Representatives, central Arkansas was represented by Wilbur Mills, who, as chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, essentially controlled the purse strings for most federal funding. Representative Mills was often referred to as the second-most powerful man in Washington, after only the President. Unfortunately, one night as Wilbur's limousine cruised around Washington, there was a little problem that resulted in a local stripper named Fannie Foxx jumping from the moving car and ending up in Washington's Tidal Basin. Fannie spilled the beans on her relationship with Wilbur, which soon brought an end to Wilbur's political career and Arkansas' power in Washington. But, I digress.
|Edward P. Cliff (right), introducing the world to Woodsy |
Owl, exactly one month before his (Edward's, not Woodsy's)
visit to Scott County.
And a beautiful spot it was. Jones Creek wound it's way through some of the prettiest scenery you could find anywhere. Although the location was only 12 miles from Waldron, the road to the lake was extremely rough, having been cut through some very difficult mountainous terrain. The rough dirt road was improved about 15 years ago to a nice paved highway, but for most of it's earliest existence, Lake Hinkle was not an easy place to reach.
|A picture of the construction of Lake Hinkle, from Wanda|
Gray's Images of America Scott County Arkansas.
Sadly, I have no recollection of hearing Senator McClellan speak. Mr. Cliff also spoke. For the serious researcher, transcripts of their comments have been preserved in university archives. I, in a slightly erroneous view of what was actually important, was fascinated by the presence of a news crew from KATV, the ABC affiliate in the far-away town of Little Rock. That was actually back in my days of wanting to become a journalist, so I was intent on watching how the news professionals were covering the visit of our Senator. In fact, I had my camera with me, and the only picture that I seem to have of the event is this picture of the Channel 7 news guy filming the speeches. The Senator and the Forest Service Chief are just out of the shot.
I'm sure that the forgotten comments of the dignitaries who spoke that day alluded to these benefits. I, myself, on July 16, 1998 caught 56 fish in the tailwaters of Lake Hinkle, where it empties back into Jones Creek. So what if most of them were just a little bigger than my finger. It's not just people that grow up in Waldron.