Homecoming Collage at an Arkansas reunion by Neva Barnes McMurry

My siblings, our descendants, “coat-tail” kin, and many others who had “scattered like quail,” as Mama often said, enjoyed our Barnes Family Reunion in Northwest Arkansas back in the early ’70s. They came from Georgia, Oregon, California and nearby Hog Eye, Arkansas, between Prairie Grove and West Fork, where we grew up.

Our daughter Colleen suggested making a collage to fit the occasion. She gathered a large piece of cardboard, assorted magazines, newspapers and miscellaneous items. Armed with scissors, glue, knowledge of the expected participants and her creative streak, she selected slogans, titles, parts of sentences, headlines, suitable numbers, cartoons, even a poem – appropriate, since she, I, and my father “dabbled” in poetry. She started with “What’s good about family reunions?” Everything else was clipped, arranged, and glued to complete the whole.

As family members arrived, Colleen encouraged each one to autograph anything that appealed to them.

Our little mother, Faye Barnes, pounced on “We’re smaller, but we carry just as much weight.” With today’s connotation of weight, we might do better with my daughter Wilda’s rejoinder, “I’m not short, I’m concentrated.”

Brother Jack, from nearby Hog Eye, has a farm and tractor so he autographed a cartoon of a family in a car loaded with luggage asking a man on a tractor, “Is this the road to ‘Purple mountain majesties above a fruited plain’?”

My brother Walt chose “Tomorrow is too late,” and added, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” His wife Idl signed “Jokes I like” for many were shared.

My sister, Evelyn Powers, preferred, “Someone’s singing off-key.” Her husband Bill often dragged out his guitar at times like this to encourage sing-a-longs.

My sister-in-law Ruby signed “Meet a sharp new redhead from Oregon.” She added ” … but just look at her now.” Her husband, brother Robert, agreed with “Only Oregon gives you nine ways to go . . .”

My daughter Letha’s autograph asked, “You may have traveled far and wide, but how high have you been?” In spite of the suggestiveness of that choice, her record high was probably the local mountain farm where she and her husband Lee Sharp maintained a ham radio tower, which they used for boosting emergency radio transmission signals on the ham radio network.

“With a juicy deal like that, you can’t go wrong,” was selected by nephew Ricky. His sister Donna chose, “Due to a lack of interest, tomorrow has been cancelled.”

Nephew Harry liked, “The week was a grind, with phone calls and late nights and skipping lunches, but now the job is done and . . . . ” Anyone who doesn’t think advertising works? Even I, a non-drinker, can fill in that sentence.

My name is nowhere to be seen – faded? Or was I too busy? But I would likely have picked the one about fossils because we had our own fossil bed on the hillside where we grew up. Touring old stomping-grounds has always been a part of family get-togethers. Treks to our old home place were always a good day for the grandchildren. That would be part of the collage’s “World of our Childhood in the Ozarks.”

Other names faded in spite of my clear shellac coating. I’d like to be able to read who signed “50 Years Old — Going On One Hundred” I’d like to remind him, now that he’s 75 — you’re halfway there!

About the author
Neva Barnes McMurry was born near West Fork, Washington County, Arkansas. She has written and published local history to preserve information about people in her community and their way of life. A recently published book, Around and About Webber Mountain, is about her community and family during World War II era. She lives in Prairie Grove, Arkansas, surrounded by her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.