I hope this note finds you well.
Each morning I end my daily run with a three lap walk around the parking lot of the YMCA in Hot Springs. On the front side of the parking lot is an underground spring that has defied the best efforts of the people who do the paving. There is a small amount of water that seeps up through the asphalt and creates several shallow pools of water on the pavement.
Like a little kid I make it a point to walk through the water on each lap and watch as I leave a wet footprint for several steps after emerging from the water. With each lap I make an effort not to walk on the footprint from before. When I finish it gives the appearance of several people walking through this little stream of water.
The other day as I was looking at the footprints I began to think about my childhood exploring the woods on the farm in East Arkansas. I can remember wondering as a child if I was the first person to ever set foot on that particular piece of ground. I would find ways of negotiating myself into out-of-the-way spots in the muddy bottomlands and make a footprint. As a small child I thought I must have been the first; there was no sign of foot paths, wagon tracks or old houses.
My father loved to spend Sunday afternoons walking in the freshly plowed sand hills with a cane looking for arrow heads and spear points. Once, he held one up and said to me: “Do you realize this may be 300 years old?” I was taken aback. I had no real concept of how long 300 years was but it seemed like an awful long time and clearly there might have been someone before me to set foot in this place. I remember thinking there must have been some other little Indian kid here long ago who had the same thoughts I have. There is now good evidence that there were little Indians kids in these river bottoms thousands of years ago.
As I age and am putting my own life in perspective in a long line of humans who have peopled this place we call Arkansas, I have begun to muse over the footprints I have left on this place: first in the Delta woods, then the little town of Augusta, then Jonesboro, Little Rock, Smackover, Benton and Hot Springs. I have watched in retrospect as I filled a variety of footprint roles in life such as being a student, a lover and husband, a friend, the parent to small children, a physician to a group of people, a writer who chronicles our history or a grandfather.
It is interesting to watch those who come behind making many of the same mistakes I made, enjoying success and failure, making their own footprints.
The footprints we leave like that of the Native Americans of several thousand years ago are not always obvious but they are there and they will live on in those who follow.
Have a nice journey.