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  El Paso in White County is home to popular community center
Written by: Tracy L. Crain
Arkansas Democrat Gazette
February 11, 2001

Describing the drive to the community of El Paso is easy. "Richly rural" seems to summarize it well.

There's plenty of signs advertising local businesses alongside the miles of pasture and plenty of country mansions lining U.S. 64 from Beebe to Arkansas 5, where El Paso can be located by taking a sharp right.

Shawn Taylor, a native of El Paso, is sitting at a stop sign on what looks like a relatively new four-wheeler. He's friendly, attentive and seems eager to go for a ride.

When asked what there is do in his hometown, he states with somewhat of a tenor voice, "There's not much of anything. A lot of people ride their four-wheelers around here. That's about it."

His grandfather, Verlon Oakley, has lived here longer than most.

"Back when I was a kid, there were only four houses here. And now, there are houses everywhere a person can look No one bothers you in this area," he said. "The people here are really different. It used to be that most everyone knew everybody. Things have changed, and I don't know everybody anymore."

What he does know, however, is that the town was founded in the 1800s. The name, he said, originated from a passageway that is located between two hills. The area was known as El Paso, and that is how the name El Paso was derived. That passageway is still visible from Arkansas 5, but travelers can no longer drive through it.

"Derwin Anderson cal tell you a lot about this town," Oakley said. "He's another person that has lived here for a while."

When asked about the number of people that reside in El Paso, Oakley has an amusing response. "There are as many people that have moved in," he said.

It's obviously an interesting question to most of the residents because no one seems exactly sure about the answer.

When talking with Mrs. James Anderson, she's also a little perplexed. "I don't really know."

Her response seems to make sense when a person considers that not even the sign that welcomes travelers to El Paso reflects a number. A rough estimate would be that somewhere near 50 to 100 people are here.

One of the characteristics that make this town somewhat famous in this area is its court square. It's an area located across from the beauty shop in town…where the county seat courthouse was originally going to be located.

"They ended up moving it closer to the middle of the county," Oakley said. "Most people know about us because of that."

Activities in El Paso include baseball and an occasional carnival. They also like to cook a lot of fish.

"We play a lot of baseball in this area," Oakley said. "We also have a lot of family reunions. Anybody that wants to have one can use the community center we have in town. It's a really big building."

As for commerce, El Paso is home to a few businesses such as a trading post, the infamous beauty shop, a McDonald's and a post office.

"At one time, there used to be nine stores that were located here," she said. "We don't have any now. About the closest thing we have to one is the Trading Post located at the edge of town."

The Trading Post, which has a sign that reads, "Elvis is in the building," is a rather unique little tourist center where travelers can purchase just about anything needed and probably a few things not so needed.

There are plenty of horses out here, too. Several can be seen at the ranch located about a block up from the Trading Post. It is a part of the town's heritage.

"I rode a horse a many a mile over this area," Oakley said. "There aren't that many people that have them anymore. Everybody is about to go out of the farming and cattle-raising business."

An event unique to this town is the annual Halloween Carnival and fish fry. Held each year in the heart of the community, it's described as a time when community members come together and get reacquainted.

According to Taylor, "There is no violence here. That's what makes it such a great place to live." That and, perhaps, all the decorative flamingo birds that can be seen in many of the residents' front yards.

Without question, there does seem to be a very distinct, but charming culture in El Paso. "Home on the range," is a common axiom, but one that seems to best befit this friendly, but rural community.

(El Paso is an excerpt from Road Trips; a weekly feature of small towns in Arkansas written by Tracy Crain and published by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.)