Friday, February 11, 2011

A Place Called Spring Hollow by Radine Trees Nehring

For more than 20 years, Radine Trees Nehring's magazine features, essays, newspaper articles, and radio broadcasts have shared colorful stories about people, places, events, and the natural world near her Arkansas home.

In 2002, Radine's first mystery novel, A VALLEY TO DIE FOR, was published, and in 2003 became a Macavity Award nominee.  Since then she has continued to enthrall her original fans and attract new ones with her signature blend of down-home Ozarks sightseeing and amateur sleuthing by lovable active retirees Henry King and Carrie McCrite King.

This blog post is taken from an essay in my non-fiction book DEAR EARTH: A Love Letter from Spring Hollow.  It tells a bit about why John and I live in the Ozarks, and has nothing at all to do with my mystery writing--other than the enormous fact all my "To Die For" mysteries are set in the Ozarks that I love.  (The book is available a multitude of places, including for Kindle.)


A Place Called Spring Hollow
by Radine Trees Nehring

        It didn't happen because we were planning an escape. We didn't know we needed one.

        I did believe what Grandpa told me. He said it was important to love the land. He lived that love. He owned a farm.

        Most people in the city would have said Grandpa was poor, at least if you were counting money. I noticed, though, that his chickens had a bigger yard to run in than his city grandchildren did. On Grandpa's farm there were pastures, woods, and a creek. Playing at the farm on weekends, I began to think like Grandpa: "The land is wealth."

        When I was five, my father dug up part of our backyard and planted a vegetable garden. I followed behind him in the freshly turned dirt and helped push bean seeds out of sight. A few days later I saw the bent stems of bean sprouts backing up out of the ground, pulling casings and embryo leaves behind them. Even in the city the earth was full of miracles.

        I think the real reason it happened, though, is because John and I are dreamers. We have known that for a long time.

        When we were first married, many people were talking about going back to the land. John and I read books about homesteading. The idea of living in the country sounded romantic, but homesteading made us think of cutting firewood with an ax and milking goats. Neither of us wanted to milk goats, and we were trained for city jobs. How could we live in the country?

        I compromised. We dug up a square in the backyard and I planted tomatoes. My few tomato plants, protected and fed by chemicals in bottles, eventually expanded to two hundred square feet of organic garden with all kinds of vegetables growing in manure and compost.

        One summer when vacation time came, John and I drove east. We were looking forward to L.L. Bean and all the lobster we could eat. We found a log cabin on the coast of Maine, and sat on its porch dressed in jeans and T-shirts, looking out at acres of forest and a patch of wild blueberries. As we sat there we began talking about owning a log cabin and living in it, and about what kind of jobs we might find. Two weeks later we drove two thousand miles so we could put on our oxford-cloth shirts and go back to work in the city.

        And we kept doing that. Every summer during vacation we found a remote spot, and before we had been there a week we were pretending we belonged. We always talked about buying land, and building a cabin, and moving. We talked about jobs we might find. Then we went back to Tulsa, our city in the center of the United States, and to the same jobs we had returned to the year before, and the year before that, and ....

        When I think about it now, the three weeks each summer when we were pretending are clearer and more real to me than any of the other forty-nine weeks of the year ever were.

        One April we went on a weekend camping trip in the Ozarks highlands, one hundred twenty-five miles from our home city.

        We came to the campground after dark on Friday. In the morning we woke up in a grove of dogwood trees in full bloom. We sat together in the open back door of our van looking out at acres of dogwood blossoms, and we began talking about buying land, and about building a cabin, and about what kind of jobs we might find. When we went back to work on Monday we were still only one hundred twenty-five miles from the dogwood grove.

        Four weeks later, an Ozarks real estate agent showed us the tree-covered hillside that tilted down into a hollow holding a spring and a tiny creek. The hollow was filled with dogwood trees.

        The following Saturday we were signing papers at the bank. On the first of June our place had a name. We called it Spring Hollow.

        Now it was time to stop dreaming. We still had city jobs and a home and garden in the city. Spring Hollow was our future. The land was ours; it could wait. We could now tend to business in the city without dreaming.

        Until Friday.

        On Fridays, most city dwellers finish planning weekend activities. There is housecleaning, and maybe yard work. In a city full of working people, the most pleasurable diversions take place on weekends, and city newspapers have long lists of things to see and do.

        On the Saturday after we bought Spring Hollow, John and I didn't discuss weekend plans. We got out the picnic basket and made lunch. Before nine A.M. we were in our old van, heading for the Ozarks highlands.

Radine Trees Nehring
JOURNEY TO DIE FOR--print, Kindle, Nook, ebook
Silver Falchion winner, 2010 


Anonymous said...

Beautiful photos, Radine. I can see why you are so happy there, even with dial-up computer service. Sorry, I couldn't resist. (: When you moved to Arkansas did you expect to find such rich material for your "To Die For" novels?
Pat Browning

The Stiletto Gang said...

Loved hearing how you got to where you are now, Radine. I feel the same way about where we ended up. Of course we have lots more people around us--thanks to having relatives living with us or beside us. Looking forward to seeing you and John at Mayhem in the Midlands.

Kaye, how's retirement.


Vicki Lane said...

Sounds a bit like our decision, back in '73, to leave Tampa and buy a farm in the mountains of western NC. We never had any regrets and it doesn't sound as if you all did.

Rev. Dr. Anthony Burton said...

As you know, Lara and I live out in the country in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We moved here from Nashua, NH, where my wife and I both worked in Massachusetts in and around Boston. New England is a beautiful place, but it was important for us to have three things: a place in the country, proximity to my aging parents, and proximity to our daughters. We make these choices because of the things that are important to us, even if they don't make sense to others.

I have lived and worked in the city, and in the suburbs as well as in the country. I much prefer the country. Thanks so much for sharing your pictures with us.

Mason Canyon said...

Wonderful photos and sounds like a wonderful place to live.

Thoughts in Progress

Coco Ihle said...

Now I'm not sure why I moved to Florida for my retirement, especially since I'm not a beach person. I love the mountains and four seasons, the smell of wood smoke from chimneys and the sounds of babbling brooks. I think I envy you Radine, Kaye and Vicki Lane.

Radine Trees Nehring said...

Y'know, it's amazing how many tell me one of two things after they read DEAR EARTH: "This sounds so much like our experience" or "We (want to, wish we could) do this some day." At first I was surprised, but I no longer am. It's a terrific kinship.

Pat, I sure did know about the Ozarks inspiring my writing, but initially hadn't a clue I'd ever write mystery novels. I loved being a feature and essay writer. Then what I enjoy reading most crept up on me, and... Wow, do I have a wonderful source for mystery story locations.

Patty said...

Beautiful, both the words and the pictures. I live on 9 acres but it is flat as a pancake and only two miles from the airport and five from downtown. Of course, Rapid City, SD isn't a "big" town by most folks measuring even if it is the 2nd largest city in the state! Still, in 1/2 an hour I can be at Mt. Rushmore and another 1/2 hour to Custer State Park. A three hour drive will get me to Devil's Tower in Wyoming and there are hundreds of other quiet places to sit and reflect in the beautiful Black Hills.

Radine Trees Nehring said...

Thanks Patty. I'm glad for everyone who loves SOME place and either lives there or holds it in memory.

By the way, my husband, John Nehring, gets credit for the photos.

Radine Trees Nehring said...

OOOPS, forgot to say that you will receive a free hard cover copy of DEAR EARTH if you order one of my (discounted) mysteries from Otherwise, $17.95 retail at bookstores, or on Amazon. Also available for Kindle.

Alice Duncan said...

Gorgeous place! But that snow...

Radine Trees Nehring said...

Well, yeah, all that snow. It's been a rough two weeks. We had 24" added to the foot already on the ground. This is a new thing for us. Growing up in Oklahoma, and even living in the higher elevation Ozarks, we've never seen anything like it. Maybe if the polar ice stops melting and evaporating moisture into the air, things will get back to "normal." (Whatever that is.) However, the snow will add water to our depleted water table!

Anonymous said...

How beautiful and interesting!

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Radine - Thank you for being here. Spring Hollow is every bit as beautiful as I had imagined!

Hi, Everyone! thanks so much for stopping by! (Marilyn - Retirement is grand! Thank you for asking).
Coco - maybe we can work out a "house swap" for a week sometime! Patty - we're gonna come visit you one of these days. Donald and I are both really wanting to see that part of the country.

jenny milchman said...

Your pictures made me tear up, Radine. I think it's because my husband and I (and now our kids, who say, Someday, when we move to wide open spaces [Thank you, the Dixie Chicks]) have been looking for our Spring Hollow for about as long as you guys did. Living elsewhere over the summer, looking out at trees, and water, and sky, and knowing that's where we're meant to be. Congratulations on finding it. On living the dream in your Hollow. Your grandfather is (was?) a wise fellow.

Radine Trees Nehring said...

Yes, Jenny, it was worth the wait. But John and I realize the time is coming when we need to find a place that needs less attention and outside work. Never mind, I will always have the book that came from our experiences and my heart. I do hope whoever lives at Spring Hollow next will love it as much as we do!