Day Three: God, Sonic, and Golden Ozarks

Tulsa has a lot of churches. I've heard people talk about the Bible Belt, how there is a church on every corner. But they're wrong. There is church on every corner, and one or two next door to each of those. There can't possibly be enough people to attend all these churches. One small Arkansas town -- Imboden -- has 537 people. It also has four large churches. Perhaps these guys hedge their bets and hit two or three churches each Sunday, just in case any of them ends up being unable to deliver salvation as promised?

Clever. Note the horseshoe hanging on the cross.
The heartland also has a lot of Sonic Drive-Ins. It seems that whenever I've seen Sonics out west patronage is pretty slack. Show me a Sonic Drive-In west of the Great Plains and I'll show you a Sonic Drive-By. I always wondered why Sonic isn't going out of business. But, of course, I hadn't thought it through well enough -- Sonic is America's drive-in, so naturally it does well in real America, not close to the coasts. Any heartland town with a population of over a thousand has a Sonic, and good Americans are parked in their stalls, listening to Journey and slamming Dr. Pepper.

Not Sonic, but classy nonetheless. 
Somewhere in the Ozarks of northern Arkansas the small, winding highway spans a lazy river. It's late afternoon. It's sweltering. Sunlight is slanting at that golden angle where it makes magic memories of everything it touches. I need to stretch my legs, so I pull onto a dirt lane that slants toward the shady river shore, and when I step from my car I hear tinkling laughter rolling across the surface of the warm, shallow water.

It's a big family, grandma and grandma, ma and pa, and a few kids. They're all in faded swimsuits, even the old folks. Nobody's on shore reading a book. Nobody's scolding the kids for swallowing the muddy water. As I watch, grandma loses her balance and goes down gracelessly. Grandpa laughs. The children help her up, then push walls of water into her face with their palms. Grandma turns her head from the spray, her hands up like a shield, squealing through an open-mouthed smile. I think I learn as much in twenty seconds beside a shallow, shady river in Arkansas than I did in a whole semester of law school.

The Sneed family cemetery. Family cemeteries are all over the Ozarks. I want one.

I really struggle to ignore really red things. The only fire-fighting equipment small enough to fit in this station is a Super Soaker.
Providing for a family means nine-to-five, five days a week. Somehow, nine-to-five becomes eight-to-five, but eight-to-five doesn't earn enough for a three-car garage and golf clubs and facials. So eight-to-five evolves into eight-to-six, and eight-to-six isn't that far from eight-to-eight, and important people notice the eight-to-eight rainmakers. Then, just a few hours on Saturday to prep for Monday, right? Plus, we'd be able to afford a couple nicer cars and leather furniture and day care if we just had two incomes. Why doesn't anyone notice that they're only putting 20 waking hours per week into actually living in their spacious home?

I'm sure Ozark River Family puts in time on the farm or the coal mines. More important, though, they remembered to live for at least a few minutes in the golden afternoon sun. I hope I have enough sense to stop and roll in the water once in a while.