Paul's new house in the deep Arkansas woods is nearly ready to move into after two years in process. His front porch floor is built of salvaged two-inch thick maple bowling alley lanes. He's done almost all the work himself, but has hired workers to mud the drywall this week so he can move in later this month.
Paul loans us his old red 1977 Dodge Ram pickup truck every day to drive into the Mountain Home municipal tennis courts. We pull up to the empty tennis court parking lot in the thundering Ram and jump out in our tennis whites for two hours of free tennis. Mrs Phred wins 6-1, 6-1 each day. The tennis grandmothers ask us if we live here or are just passing though. We disappoint them.
In the evening we take Paul's ancient pontoon boat, The "Ratty Bastard" out on the huge Norfork lake for dinner and wine. He has outfitted the boat with cheap plastic chairs and tacky Tiki torches all around that he lights after nightfall. I swim in the dark with my old black fins in the middle of the lake. No alligators or sharks for a change, but Paul warns me about Volkswagen-sized man-eating catfish. The water feels about 78 degrees F. There are whole towns under the lake which was created when the TVA dammed the river for hydroelectricity.
We drink two bottles of Paul's excellent home-made Bardolinlo on the lake and Paul goes into an angry 'Bush-the-Deserter' rant. We both laugh and discuss how the world would have been much different with a MacArthur/Patton ticket in '52. Paul is concerned that Bush is packing the Supreme Court with ex-corporate attorneys. He tells me to wake up and smell the money. He says it's not about abortion and Roe vs Wade. He tells me we are seeing the masses being distracted by phoney issues like gay marriage while the powers cook up the next massive wealth transfer scheme.
Mountain Home has the World's largest sales volume Wal-Mart. The product variety and prices are amazing. We buy some turkey-and-chicken-thigh mozzarella-garlic smoked sausage to try for breakfast. They also have an eight-pack of Chinese 90-decibel door and window alarms for $5. These are installed by pealing off a paper backing and simply sticking them on a smooth surface.
Property values here in Mountain Home are 'sky-rocketing' and the population is expected to double from the current 20,000 in the next two years as boomers from California and Florida retire to the area. Property that went for $200 an acre five years ago is up to $5,000 an acre... in Tampa ¼ acre building lots are $250,000 or more, so this still sounds pretty cheap.