Anytime I tell folks I’m from Fordyce, they either say, “Where is that?” or, “Oh, yeah, home of the Redbugs.”
Not sure where or why Fordyce started using the Redbug as a mascot, but it seems to have gained notoriety around the country. Beyond that, I tell people that we were Chiggers in elementary school, Babybugs in Junior High and Redbugs in High School.
The girls’ teams are referred to as Ladybugs, which is, of course, a totally different bug altogether.
A redbug is a chigger, a pesky itty-bitty bug that causes severe itching. So, the name was given because our boys were small but they could cause some severe damage. (I think). If you look into the name scientifically, it’s a different bug. So we’ll just leave it at chigger. “Bugs bite!” as the cheerleaders say on Friday.
The Redbug Reunion is held each April in conjunction with the Cotton Belt Festival.
I believe this year was the 30th anniversary, which really dates me because I remember the first one when Johnny Cash played at Patterson Cafetorium. Yes, cafetorium.
It sent chills down by spine when he said, “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.” Mercy.
This year’s reunion weekend started in the Fordyce Civic Center where athletes were inducted into the Fordyce and Dallas County Sports Hall of Fame.
The next day, our day was spent enjoying the festival itself, which begins with a parade that goes down Fourth Street and then turns down Main Street. One of the highlights of the parade are classes who are celebrating milestone anniversaries by riding on a trailer, often on bales of hay.
My brother’s class was celebrating their 50th anniversary and there were a few others. An assortment of beauty queens and kings, tractors, ATVs, horses and some decorated floats were also in the lineup. We then toured the downtown area and visited the Dallas County Museum.
If you haven’t visited the museum and ever find yourself in Fordyce, stop in. It’s a really nice collection of local memorabilia including a special display case of items related to the arrest of the Rolling Stones in 1975. It also features a section honoring Bear Bryant and the history of the telephone in Dallas County — complete with a knowledgeable docent who gave us several hands-on demonstrations. He even found an old phone book and looked up our phone number. It was 554 in 1959.
In those days you would pick up the phone and speak the 1 to 3-digit number to the operator and she would connect you.
The smell of corn dogs, BBQ, funnel cakes and hamburgers filled the air around the courthouse. Bands played all afternoon into the evening. People seemed to be having a good time and the weather turned out perfect.
Having grown up in Fordyce, I noticed there is quite a bit of wear and tear on the downtown area. Almost none of the businesses are the same and some are closed, including where my dad’s pharmacy was operated.
Fordyce is an area hurt by the closure of the Georgia Pacific plant, that at one time employed hundreds of people. Then you have all the associated businesses that have suffered.
Almost anyone you ask will say they need jobs. That is true of all the towns in Southeast Arkansas that depended on timber. And of course, timber is related to housing. And on and on.
It was nice visit in the same way when you go to a favorite grandma’s house.
Everything felt comfortable, familiar and with a sense of sentimentality that is hard to describe or duplicate. Running into folks you hadn’t seen in 30 or 40 years, seeing favorite teachers who told me “you could have been a better student,” or just driving the old neighborhoods and back roads of your youth.
It’s irreplaceable. It’s unique to me. It’s my hometown.
In my little town
I grew up believing
God keeps his eye on us all
And he used to lean upon me
As I pledged allegiance to the wall
Lord I recall
My little town
It must be summer
The produce stands are popping up again. We have one on the east side (morning side) and one on the west side (coming home side). The one by the Shell station seems to have more products, although right now I don’t think many or any of the
products are locally grown. And they are both fairly pricey. Out-in-the country produce stands are much cheaper.
Can’t wait for tomatoes from Bradley County, peaches from Clark County, watermelons from Cave City and Hope, and assorted veggies grown all over the state, especially black-eyed peas. A plate of peas, some ‘maters, a purple onion and cornbread is hard to beat. Throw in a peach or blackberry cobbler. Mercy.
I’ll see you on the Boulevard. Or at the produce stand.
Neal Moore is a native of Fordyce and was a 1972 graduate. He lives in Maumelle and is a creative and public relations consultant. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter, @kneelmore.