Category Archives: Southern Culture

Study Suggests Southern Depression

Home | A Traveling Arkansan | Study Suggests Southern Depression

Sitton suggests getting off your arse and seeing Southern beauty to break those blues. You could go someplace like Abrams Falls. (photo by Glynn Wilson)
Sitton suggests getting off your arse and seeing Southern beauty to break those blues. You could go someplace like Abrams Falls. (photo by Glynn Wilson)
The annual Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index ranks eight Southern states among the bottom 10, with West Virginians taking 50th for the fourth year in a row.

West Virginians were the least likely to be thriving, as was the case in 2011. Also, West Virginians had the worst emotional health in the nation and were more likely to report being diagnosed with depression than residents of any other state.

Residents in West Virginia also had the lowest score on the Physical Health Index, which includes having the highest percentage of obese residents in the nation.

I suggest getting off your arse and seeing Southern beauty to break those blues. You could go someplace like Abrams Falls if you’re in Tennessee. Or you could find someplace closer to home.

As I finish my time in Southeast Arkansas, I plan to knock out my bucket list. Check back to see you can find beauty all over our country, but especially in the South. If you’re sad or unhealthy, folks, you just ain’t trying.

Higher Lottery Sales: Good for Education or Signs of Desperation?

Home | Education | Higher Lottery Sales: Good for Education or Signs of Desperation?
here's hoping
here’s hoping by Robert S. Donovan, on Flickr

Lottery sales keep breaking records this summer: Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina and Tennessee.

Some states essentially made the lottery into an education lifeline, but not all of the money goes to education as shown in this South Carolina example. Missouri budgeted for an increase that did not occur. Ohio educators claim education does not receive the money it deserves. With that much money, is it any wonder crime occurs?

What do you think?

Feel free to comment.

Defenders of Honor Stand Guard for Fallen Pine Bluff Soldier

Home | Arkansawyer | Defenders of Honor Stand Guard for Fallen Pine Bluff Soldier
Photos courtesy of Aaron Etue
Flip Out Photography, (870) 370-0826

MONTICELLO, Ark. — As promised, a flashback to last weekend when a group of Arkansans mobilized in Pine Bluff, Ark.,  to defend the honor of a U.S. soldier whose funeral was targeted by the Westboro Baptist Church. Thanks to Aaron Etue of Flip Out Photography, we can show you the scene.

First a little background in case you didn’t read the first post. Vilonia High School math teacher John Allison, a former Marine and friend, organized folks through a facebook public event to fight the hate of WBC with love toward the family.

Within 36 hours, 126 people pledged to attend and stand up for the honor of fallen Arkansas soldier, Army Sgt. Michael J. Strachota. Allison estimated more than 200 people (including the Patriot Guard riders) showed in support of Sgt. Strachota and his family.

“It was an awesome sight,” Allison said in a facebook email exchange. “That many people, most of whom didn’t know the Strachotas at all, standing in the hot sun to honor him and his family. Several elderly people stood on the flag line until they almost collapsed, but each time another person quickly came to their aid and another took their place in line.”

Rumors placed WBC protestors at the White Hall Huddle House — a call to boycott the business received lukewarm response on the facebook page — but Allison only knew of three who protested at 6th and Main, down the street from the memorial service. The heat also forced some people to stay home though they’d pledged to come. Allison said the crowd thinned once the mass began.

Etue shot these photographs for posterity, but luckily he is willing to share here. Click on the photo to see the full-sized image.

Group Plans to Shield Soldier’s Service

Home | Arkansawyer | Group Plans to Shield Soldier’s Service

An Arkansas high school teacher’s facebook page to “Preserve the Honor of Fallen Pine Bluff Soldier” plans to buffer funeral participants from a Westboro Baptist Church protest Saturday afternoon at Pine Bluff’s St. Joseph Catholic Church.

John Allison, a 44-year-old former Marine who teaches math at Vilonia High School, started the page Friday afternoon; by midnight, 62 of the more than 1,800 invitees confirmed they would attend with an additional 31 maybes. (UPDATE: Those attending topped 100 by 10:30 CST this morning.)

The stated goal of attendees is to keep the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., from disrupting the memorial service for fallen Arkansas soldier, Sgt. Michael J. Strachota of the U.S. Army. Strachota died June 24 in Afghanistan, a week and a half prior to a scheduled home leave on July 5.

“Please join us to peaceably make certain these disrespectful hatemongers are far enough removed they cannot disrupt the service or upset the family and friends,” Allison writes. “Help us prevent this so-called church from dishonoring this man’s honorable service and sacrifice.”

A press release indicates WBC will preach “in respectful, lawful proximity” that God kills American soldiers as punishment for sin. The flier uses incendiary language about military personnel, including the phrase, “Thank God for IEDs.”

In stark contrast, Allison provided five ground rules for those providing a “shield”:

“1. This will be a peaceful undertaking. We are certainly not here to cause a scene that will cause more of a disturbance than WBC. Our goal is not to shout, scream, or strike those gathered with WBC.
“2. Do not bring weapons of any kind: no guns, knives, mace, pepper spray, or anything else you might be tempted to use as a weapon.
“3. Our goal is to get enough people together to shield those attending the memorial service from the WBC protesters.
“4. Flags, crosses, crucifixes, other symbols of patriotism and religion are welcome. If you wish to make signs, they should have only positive messages honoring the courage and sacrifice, nothing derogatory or demeaning toward any person or group. Remember, we are there to help honor Sgt. Strachota, not to protest or make a political statement.
“5. We have now learned the Patriot Guard will be at the service also. They do this all the time at military funerals across the country so we will fall in with them and follow their lead.”

According to the Patriot Guard Riders’ website, the motorcycle enthusiasts “standing for those who stood for us” will also be in attendance. The group warns participants to hydrate; the Weather Channel predicts it will be 95-96 degrees by the 1 p.m. start, though the 46 percent humidity will make it feel like 104.

(EDITOR’s NOTE: Allison and the reporter attended Northeast High School in the late ’80s.)

TV Land Honors Griffith This Weekend

Home | Media | TV Land Honors Griffith This Weekend

Regional Differences Drive Church v. Beer Tweets

Home | Beer | Regional Differences Drive Church v. Beer Tweets
Courtesy of
Courtesy of

OLNEY, Md. — Not to be missed during this time of our national heat stroke, provides a regional breakdown of differences indicated by tweets concerning “church” or “beer.”

Betcha couldn’t guess which terms pops up more often in the South, could ya? Should we be surprised that it so closely corresponds to those areas where alcohol is still BANNED although Prohibition was repealed in 1933?

courtesy of

Will the South come into the 21st century in my lifetime? Doubtful.

Save the BEER!

Home | Beer | Save the BEER!

Truly a disaster waiting to happen …

Racing Against the Thermometer

‘Opie’ Remembers ‘Ang’

Home | News | ‘Opie’ Remembers ‘Ang’

Editor’s Note: See also:

Ron Howard: What I Learned from Andy Griffith in the Los Angeles Times

Ron Howard says co-star Andy Griffith was a leader, a mentor and coach in the New York Daily News

The South Mourns 20th Century Icon

Home | A Traveling Arkansan | The South Mourns 20th Century Icon

OLNEY, Md. – The South — and the world — mourns today following news of Andy Griffith’s demise.

The 86-year-old came into our homes more than half a century on this newfangled contraption called TV. He made us laugh, a LOT, and brought the down-home goodness of Mayberry into the American conscious.

Sure, Andy Griffith played roles other than Andy Taylor, but no other role suited him so.


I started watching “The Andy Griffith Show” when my mom married my dad, Leroy Sitton, in 1977. Dad worked for the Arkansas State Police. I’m – still – a redhead. And Ronny Howard actually knew to spell his name with a “y.” It all rolled from there. In hindsight, I’m only surprised that it took until the 8th grade for Patrick Grogan to nickname me “Opie.”

Although I didn’t live in Mayberry, I learned a lot from watching Sheriff Taylor and the gang.

Watching Aunt Bee arrive to help with Opie in “The New Housekeeper” showed me acceptance may be hard, but love can overcome anything.

Watching the citizens of Mayberry’s hostility to a fella who knew everything about them in “Stranger in Town” showed me folks have NO IDEA about the long reach of media, which is particularly relevant in these days of facebook and twitter.

Watching Barney Fife take over as sheriff in “Andy Saves Barney’s Morale” showed me absolute power can corrupt absolutely.

I could go on, but I’m sure you have your favorite episodes.

Surprisingly, television allowed Griffith to portray a single dad in an era where single parents were frowned upon. By the time I came around, single dad-hood wasn’t a big deal as we received daily doses of “Family Affair.”


Otis puts himself back into his kennel.
The show made such an impact on me, we named our dog Otis after Mayberry’s town drunk. At first glance, this might seem to be a slight. But what else could we name the dog after he continually put himself in his kennel whenever he messed up?


Sunday would have been dad’s 74th birthday. In a way, I find it fitting that Andy Griffith died the week that marks dad’s birthday, my folk’s anniversary and the nation’s Independence Day.

The only way it would be more fitting would have been for “Ang” to pass on July 4th. But then again, he never was one to hog the spotlight.

We’ll miss you, sir.


Editor’s Note: A previous version left out the word “on” when discussing the reader’s favorite episodes and also contained an AP style error. All apologies.

Moderation Provides the Key

Home | Elections 2012 | Moderation Provides the Key

MONTICELLO — Two black cats laze on the hardwoods while the gray perches in the high chair.

Cats — big and small — seldom waste steps, in essence an efficiently ruthless killing machine. If not on the prowl, they move in moderation.

Life is generally good in moderation. Excess breeds addiction.


According to historian Donald Holley, Monticello helped lead the anti-liquor movement within the state in the late 1800s, as the local Women’s Christian Temperance Union shut down the town’s saloons in 1888.  The Monticello chapter of the Ku Klux Klan provided “extra-legal assistance” in Prohibition enforcement during the 1920s.

In short, Monticello faces a truly historic challenge this fall as it considers whether to go “wet.”

I know this mindset, i.e. I grew up Missionary Baptist. We didn’t drink; we didn’t dance.

But I needed money to go to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. I didn’t come from a lot of money; I worked two or three jobs at a time going to school. I waited tables, barbacked and bartended my way through, earning a bachelor’s and master’s without owing anyone a dime in student loans.

Mama Macy grieved me for “slingin’ that whisky.” It paid the bills.

Does alcohol negatively affect people? To say it doesn’t would be disingenuous. But it is also disingenuous to pretend keeping sales outside the city limits will “save” the inhabitants of Drew County. Years ago when I first came through Monticello, you would drive by a “Jesus Saves … Let Him” sign just prior to getting to the liquor store.

Drink responsibly! Use wooden wine glasses in hot tubs!

I would encourage the good citizens of Monticello to let him save, but otherwise help the city gain sales tax revenue from bringing alcohol-serving businesses into town. Morality should not be legislated; it’s easy to make laws to target folks, but then don’t be surprised when you end up targeted.

The vast majority of adults who drink do so in moderation, which is great not only for alcohol but also for proselytizing.


Ani DiFranco plays “Which Side Are You On?” in the background.


One last drop: It’s time for a “sin” tax on soft drinks in Arkansas. For those so concerned about what I’m drinking, two can play at that game.


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