April, 2019 – Lake Village, Arkansas

Our trip north into Arkansas was short as we traveled to Lake Chicot State Park just north of the state line.  This is a nice state park on the banks of Lake Chicot which is the largest oxbow lake in North America, formed by the Mississippi River thousands of years ago.  It is also part of the Trail of Tears as this was the location the Choctaw Indians were made to cross the Mississippi to begin the long trek to Oklahoma.  We were one of the few visitors to the park the entire week, so we had a very large area with nobody else within shouting distance.  I was able to back the RV into the paved site with no problem and we got set up for the week.

We had no plans for the week, so Kal got on the internet and found there were two WWII Japanese American Internment Camps nearby, which was a surprise to both of us as we had thought these were all on the west coast.  Come to find out these two camps were the only internment camps east of Colorado and each housed about 8000 Japanese Americans.  Only about a third of this population were Issei, native born Japanese and most of them were over 50 years old.  The other two-thirds were Nisei, American born citizens of the US and most were under 20 years old.  Over 120,000 Japanese Americans were forced from their homes and businesses following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and moved to internment camps, two of which were in Arkansas.  The main reasons for choosing this location was train access and government ownership of the land due to foreclosing on small family farms during the Depression.  The museum for both of these camps is located in the old train station in McGeehee, Arkansas since it is in between the two camps and along US 65.  Although the museum is small they have done an excellent job of creating some unique exhibits about the life in the two camps and is well worth the visit.  Living conditions in the camp were cramped with a single family housed in small rooms within a wooden barracks and tar paper roofs.  Meals, showers, and recreational facilities were communal which was the most difficult aspect of their lives.  Besides the fences and guard towers surrounding the camp, the people were able to self govern, cook, and maintain gardens.  Ironically, the living conditions within the camp were better then the economically depressed living conditions of the people outside the camp.  They at least had running water, fresh food, hospital, and schools within the camp.  While we already were familiar with the injustice of these internment camps, it was an eye-opening glimpse into the lives of the people affected.

After spending about an hour and a half in the museum we proceeded to find the Rohwer Internment Camp.  Without directions it took us a while to find as we thought it would be just outside of McGeehee.  After we finally consulted our Road Atlas and found the town of Rohwer, we quickly located the site of the Internment Camp.  Of course, the site itself is once again agricultural fields, however, they have preserved the small cemetery and you can see the smokestack of the hospital waste disposal in the distance.  There were a few deaths of the older internees, however, the main feature of the cemetery are the monuments constructed after the war.  One in particular that commemorates the contributions of Japanese American units in the European theater is in the form of a stylized tank that is striking.  There are also a series of interpretive signs looking out into the field that give information about the living conditions.  These were especially interesting since they also include a number of audio recordings of the memories of a young boy that spent nearly a year in the camp.  They were the memories of George Takai who we have known for years as Sulu on the original Star Trek series.  I am glad we found the location of the camp and could pay our respects.

The rest of the week we spent in the campground, partly there were no other state parks or historical sites within an hour, partly due to some wet weather, and mostly to work on Kal’s father income taxes.   We found out from the IRS that we were not allowed access to his income records unless Kal could prove she had a right to them as the Executor of the estate.  Since we did not want to spend the money on probating his will, this was not formalized so we were stuck with the records we could find.  Since we felt nearly certain that we had found all of them based on his bank records, we decided to proceed with filling out the federal and state tax forms since 2012.  While this did not really take all that long we managed to spend four days doing it.

The only other activity during the week was to travel into Lake Village to the local Mexican restaurant, La Tarraza.  We got there at the start of the Auburn basketball game against Virginia in the Final Four, which was the whole reason in going.  When we got there we were just about the only patrons in the restaurant, so we got to know the bartender fairly well.  We set at the bar with a TV tuned to the game right in front of us and enjoyed a nice meal while watching the game.  The game itself was GREAT and close throughout.  Virginia prided itself in its defense and slow offense which led to low scoring games and this was no different.  Unfortunately we did not hit our 3-point shots consistently enough to force Virginia out of their style, but we also kept them from running away with the game either.  It was a close game throughout with neither team building any more than about a 10 point advantage.  When we got down 10 points late in the second half, we figured the game was over.  However, Auburn came back and not only tied the score but had a two possession advantage with a minute to go!  Virginia got it down to 1 point and Auburn’s Harper missed one of his free throws giving us only a 2 point advantage.  I point this out since Harper never misses free throws at the end of a game.  There was now less than 20 seconds and we had a 2 point lead.  The referees had not called fouls all game, so Auburn had three fouls to give.  Therefore, we guarded them very close bringing the ball up and fouled them three times.  Virginia was down to a desperation 3 pointer that they missed at the buzzer, however, the refs called a ridiculous foul on the shot.   Understand they had not called much more obvious fouls all game and generally refs do not call fouls on the final shot of a game unless it is obvious.  In addition, it turns out they missed an obvious double dribble call while Virginia was trying to get the ball up the court previously. It was obvious on replay, however, neither of us caught it during the game.  In any case, Virginia made all 3 of their free throws and Auburn lost the game by 1 point.  I certainly do not blame Virginia as they played a great, fair game.  As far as I am concerned Auburn beat another number 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and proved to everyone they are one of the best teams in the nation.  Think about it, they beat Kansas, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Virginia!!  I am very proud of our team and look forward to next year.

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