14X18, Oil on Panel
Sometime around the summer of 1989 or 1990, I was selected for a gifted and talented program called Project LAND. This was part of a group of summer programs for high school students that went on all over the state. I had previously attended one near my hometown called Project CAVES in which students were able to study and explore and caverns. Project LAND was a bit further from home. It was based in the Delta town of De Valls Bluff. I don't think I had ever really been in the Delta before this. This program consisted of 4 weeks of traveling the state of Arkansas and camping most every night. It sounded a lot more fun that it really was. We had to wake up early every morning and break camp and load up in vans and travel to the next destination and learning opportunities. We were supposed to keep a journal of what we saw and experienced and the instructors did not allow us to sleep in the vans since we were supposed to be writing in our journals. In many ways, that experience laid the groundwork for this very project of painting something from every county. I don't know if we traveled through every county during those 4 weeks but we must have come close. I do know that as I did research for places to visit for this effort, I relied a lot on my experiences from Project LAND.
At the end of the 4 weeks, I was ready to get home. My dad came down from the hills to pick me up but before we left the Delta, we stopped in at a little white cinder block building just outside of town. Inside, I had my first true experience of barbecue. It was a simple pulled pork sandwich with dry slaw and I will never forget it. It's still to this day how I eat a pulled pork sandwich. For many years, I thought the place was in Hazen which is just a few miles outside of De Valls Bluff but when I went over that way a few months ago, I discovered that white cinder block building was actually in De Valls Bluff proper and not very much outside of town as I remembered it being. I also remembered it being almost in an open field with no trees behind it. I don't know if that memory is accurate and all the trees are the product of 25 years of growth or if my memory is faulty. But I do know without a doubt the Craig's BBQ left an impression on me, as did Project LAND.