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  Hickory Plains in Prairie County is described by residents as a "community united."
Written by: Tracy L. Crain
Arkansas Democrat Gazette
Sunday, April 16, 2000

Tucked quietly away between Cabot and Carlisle, along Arkansas 38, an unpretentious little community known as Hickory Plains rests peacefully.

The town, with only one intersection, has a somewhat rustic, natural beauty.

There are no hotel chains, clothing stores or vintage shops. Hidden treasures are the acres upon acres of farmland and the heritage residents planted here.

Jessie Smith, 85, a native and one of the oldest residents of Hickory Plains, describes it as "a community united."

"Everybody here responds if something happens," she said. "And, since most people here are related, we are all very close. Many people can trace their roots back to when the town was settled in 1865, before the Civil War."

"There are about 200 people who live out here," said Thayne Wrigley, 85, another long-time resident of Hickory Plains.

"Only about 20 of them live in town, though. Some people live outside of the area, but they are a part of the community, too. People like the Smiths, they can tell you anything about this town," Wrigley added.

Wrigley, who moved to Hickory Plains with his wife, Charlotte, in 1946, was a local farmer at one time, like so many of the other residents here.

Today, he operates one of the two grocery stores located beside the post office at the intersection of Arkansas 38 and Arkansas 13.

When asked about the particulars of the town, Wrigley said, "I guess tourists should know there are not any streets here. All we have is the 38-13 intersection, and it takes you everywhere."

The 38-13 intersection is also where the heart of the townís commerce section is located.
Alongside the two grocery stores, and a vintage post office that is only open half days, there are four churches: one is Methodist, another Nazarene, and two are Baptist.

"People here are very open," Smith said. "You get what you see. I suppose what most people donít know is that this town wasnít always called Hickory Plains. It used to be called Plains, named for the big hickory tree that everybody used as a marker and somehow the name evolved into Hickory Plains."

Smith was one of the first teachers to teach in the two-room school that was once available to local children.

"I loved teaching here. When I started back in 1936, I had never taught a group of students. I was very thankful for the opportunity. Also, my children ended up going to the same school I taught at in 1952," she said.

"I remember a time when the school had at least 150 pupils in attendance. Times changed and economic conditions were bad and the school district consolidated with Des Arc School District. Thatís where all the kids go now," she said.

"I used to get paid about $50 a month for my teaching, and I would use the money for summer school. Although I loved teaching with all my heart, I can remember thinking to myself that there must be more to life than this. For that reason, I ended up joining the navy during World War II."

In the Navy, Smith said she worked in the dispersing office at Memphis. By the age of 28, she met and married the man of her dreams, Johnnie. It wasnít long before Smith and her husband decided to move back to Hickory Plains to try life in the rural South again.

"When we moved back, the town had a big cotton gin, a sawmill and a lot of farms. Some people are still farming. The big thing to farm these days is minnows and catfish," she said. "We have people here who send minnows all over the state."

She continued, "I know the population here has really dwindled. Most of the people are getting older and a lot of them are commuting to jobs in the city. There are a few new houses and trailers."

There is now running water, utilities, and surfaced roads, she said. "What we donít have anymore is a sawmill, and I doubt we will ever have a mayor. There are some folks who are moving from the cities to live here, and I think thatís good."

Wrigley agreed with Smith, saying, "I think this town is a nice place to live, too. We have some rice, soybean, and milo farmers out here. We also have some people who work at the Remmington Plant. I like living here because of the people."

The Smiths, who live less than a mile from Wrigleyís store, have a small, white wooden sign hanging outside their residence that reads, "Our home is open to God, sunshine, and friends."

Itís a sign that befits their personality and hospitality. And, in the little community where most of the neighbors know each other, itís befitting of the culture.

In Hickory Plains, where kinship and roots run deep as the miles of farmland, the folks are quite content.


(Hickory Plains 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.)