Monday, March 8, 2010

A year of fishing, and what have I caught?

February slipped by like a whisper, and suddenly I realized my blog just turned one. I've been at this a year, and where am I? What do I have to show for it?

This is the Smyrna Church.

For a few months during my first year at Harding, some friends of mine and I attended a Bible study in the home of now-former-county-judge Mike Lincoln. Lincoln lived outside of the bounds of Searcy in a little farmhouse off of Highway 36. The winding Wednesday-night drive always took us past this tiny church building that loomed whitely out of the woods like a specter. I always looked for it out of the corner of my eye. That building haunted me, but I didn't know why.

Many years later I came to find out that the Smyrna Church (as it's called) is the oldest building in White County, clocking in at around 153 years. The abandoned sanctuary had been moldering on the side of Highway 36 for Lord only knows how long. Fortunately, the White County Historical Society weren't about to let it disappear forever.

By 2007 the structure of the church and my interests in bygone downtowns had only started to poke their heads through the layers of blue tarp and fluttering plastic sheets. In the beginning of the next year I made some of my first forays into what remains of downtown Judsonia, the place where the real seeds of time fishing were planted.

In 2009 the plastic was peeled away to reveal the chipped and flaking paint of yesteryear, akin to the decay of the Craftsman and Victorian homes that cluster near the heart of our cities, the old suburbs, the good suburbs. Who attended the Smyrna Church on the edge of civilization? Who awoke to the bell tolling from afar? Who alive can remember fanning the summer fumes away from their stiff-collared shirts?

It's all romantic. I admit it. The lure of the steam locomotive, the chinking of the streetcars, the wailing calliope, the flashing neon movie palaces, the corner stores, the record shops, the Italianate depots, the gingerbread Gothic homes, the soda jerks, the pressed tin ceilings, the living ghost signs. They're all old friends that live together in a heaven of my own invention.

In 2010, the Smyrna Church stands reinvented. It has emerged from its cocoon, existing no longer as a shadow of its former self but as a celebration of a historic past in an enlightened present. But now I'm starting to sound too much like an ad for a college town. Work on the church and the fishing for time continue onwards. Ever onwards.



Alex said...

I've always liked the Smyrna church. I'm glad that lengthy restoration.

If you are interested, there are graves in the woods by the highway that are the resting places of slaves. They aren't much to look at--really just dents in the ground now--but a neat part of history and an eerie visit at night.

Rook said...

Fascinating! I had no idea.

Will Walker said...

Hello! I am Will with the White County Historical Society in Searcy. I was wondering if we could use a couple of your photos for our website. I am updating the website and am in need of beautiful photos to add. Your pictures are beautiful! I wanted to ask for permission. Please let me know whatever the answer. Thank you! Sorry about commenting, I couldn't find an email address.

Jonesy said...

Will - I'd be honored. Shoot me an email at and we can discuss further.