As we checked into the Open Road Motor Lodge at 7 p.m. on Day Six, Polly asked about antique shops; would any open early enough that we could shop and get on the road before 2 p.m.
“Oh, yes,” said the clerk of the Open Road, “There’s the Enchanted Forrest, right downtown. It’s run by Mr. Forrest, he owns this place, too. There’s ladies lined up at the door even now, he’s got new Beanie Babies going on sale at 8 in the morning.” Then he added, “You’ll really like Piggott, you sure you don’t want to stay another night?” Mr. Forrest’s right-hand man had it right on the money.
Piggott is the definitive Route 62 community with some 2,660 citizens, two locally-owned drug stores, a town square and a mural of Piggott’s greatest hits.
They made a movie here, “A Face in the Crowd.” Ernest Hemingway, wed to a Piggott belle, framed the early chapters of “A Farewell to Arms” in a studio proudly displayed.
Truthfully, though, Hemingway hated it here. He couldn’t wait to get out of town.
Bearing new Beanies and old Depression plates, we sipped a final drugstore soda and prepared a farewell to Piggott’s arms.
Then a lens popped out of Polly’s glasses. On a Saturday morning we were pie-eyed in Piggott, a 50-mile detour from any city big enough to assure assistance.
There was a small brick optical office on North Third Street, with one car in its lot. Doug tapped on the locked door and a young woman answered. “I know you’re closed… ” Doug began, but she interrupted: “Of course we can help you,” she said. It took about 10 minutes to restore Polly’s fourth eye and she refused any payment, adding her “Godspeed” to all the others from Piggott.
What a wonderful place. Who asked Hemingway, anyway?
Next stop, Pocohontas, about 50 miles up the road. After Doug shopped for doughnuts and postcards, Polly for clothing and gifts, they met empty-handed and drove on a while before Polly finally said: “That was a very unfriendly town. I felt as if everyone was looking down at me.”
“Me, too,” said Doug. “I got yelled at for wanting doughnuts after noon.”
“They don’t need our money,” said Polly.
Route 62 winds through the southern Ozarks and on this Saturday, craft shows ruled. It was bumper to bumper through Hardy, population 510 with 75 speciality shops. Bluegrass music drifted from every shed. Late lunch at Salem’s South Fork Cafe brought us to Route 62’s mid-point, we calculated.
“Why on earth are you going to El Paso?” the waitress wondered, and then it was on through distinctively Arkansan places — Gassville, Flippin, Yeliville. At Green Forest, we hit the brakes for Polly’s Orchard restaurant, even with promising Eureka Springs and Berryville ahead.
Polly’s Orchard was a wise choice with its apple dumpling and folksy charm. Saturday nights turn Eureka Springs into a five- mile parking lot, a “No Vacancy” gauntlet, and it was really dark by the time we grasped at Gateway’s battered Battlefield Motel, a veritable Stalag 62.
“Eighty-four dollars plus tax, one bed, smoking’s OK,” announced Colonel Clerk. We’d rather sleep in the car. Fuses were short as we approached Bentonville, birthplace of Wal-Mart.
We randomed a Comfort Inn from a motel cluster. “One room left,” said the bright young Comfort Clerk. “Fifty-five dollars, no smoking. Mr. and Mrs. Smith, eh?” She smiled. Soon, so did we; the last room in Bentonville was the size of a small county and it had a jacuzzi.