Sunday, April 8, 2012

Arkansas, Fayetteville & Bentonville

Tue, April 3rd - Sat, April 7th

We are camped at Beaver Lake, a reservoir on the White River system in northwest Arkansas with 487 miles of shoreline. We drove into Bentonville to check out Sam Walton's empire. He and his wife started out leasing a Ben Franklin store in Newport after he returned from WWII. After four years they had made their little store the top store in Arkansas, but their landlord would not renew their lease, because he wanted to give the store to his son. So they moved to Bentonville and opened this little five and dime that was only half this size when they started, but they soon bought out the barber shop next door and doubled it's size. It is now a museum that has also taken over the store to the left. Across the street is the town square with Sam's trademark pickup. They have the last pickup he owned in the museum. Asked why he drove an old pickup, he said "I just don't believe a big, showy lifestyle is appropriate. What am I supposed to haul my dogs around in, a Rolls Royce?" When his favorite hunting dog died, he put his name on the Walmart brand dog food to honor him and it is now the world's leading pet food. By 1960 he owned nine Ben Franklins. In 1969 he opened a Walmart in Newport, where he was forced out by the landlord in 1949.

For Walmart's 25th anniversary Coca Cola made a special run of memorial bottles and a Pink Jubilee Barbie Doll was produced.

In 2009 they paid $1 billion in bonuses for full and part-time hourly workers and an additional $780 million in profit sharing and 401 contributions. They were #1 on the Fortune 500 list for the 5th time since 2002. By 2010 they had 8,747 stores (3,796 Walmarts plus 608 Sam's Clubs in U.S. and 4,343 international stores) and employed 2.1 million associates with annual sales of $405 billion. In 2011 they acquired stores throughout Africa. In 1970 the stock went public with 300,000 shares at $16.50. In two years it had quadrupled. It split 2 for 1 seven times. If you had bought 100 shares for $1,650.00 in 1970, 40 years later in 2010 it would have been worth about $10 million.

In 2010 they were named Donor of the Year by F.A. magazine. They are one of the top corporate donors for Feeding America, the nation's leading hunger and relief charity that supplies food to more then 37 million Americans each year. They lend their logistics network and expertise to distribute aid quickly in disasters, working with the Red Cross and Salvation Army. After hurricanes Katrina and Rita they gave $18 million and 2,450 truckloads of supplies. They gave $14.5 million to help build the National WWII Memorial in D.C. They got the Corporate Patriotism Award from the American Veteran magazine for their support of military members and their families. By 2010 they had given $80 million in scholarships. They have committed $2 billion to end hunger in the U.S. "Fighting Hunger Together" by 2015. I know they give lots of donations locally, because they matched funds for our MS fundraisers when I was riding with the bike club in Brookings. They have a goal to eliminate 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from the global supply chain by 2015. They are currently testing two hybrid trucks and two alternatively fueled trucks. In 2008 they committed to reduce global plastic shopping bag waste by an average of 33% per store by 2013. I made the pledge to quit using plastic shopping bags a couple years ago. Now if I could just remember to bring my shopping bags from the car into the store, I could start being part of the solution.

In Fayetteville we took a tour of Bill and Hillary's first home together, and the only one they ever owned besides the one they live in now in New York. Bill was teaching law at the University of Arkansas. Hilary commented what a cute house it was when she came down to visit. So the next time she came to visit, he told her that he had bought it and she would have to marry him, because he couldn't live in it alone. It was the 4th time he had proposed and it did the trick. They were married in the living room. She was just going to wear something from her closet, but when her mother arrived, she said "No way!" and they went down to Dillard's (their corporate offices are here) and bought her wedding dress off the rack.

They were married in this room, and the room behind was campaign headquarters. They only lived here a year and a half, until they moved to Little Rock when Bill became Attorney General. The guy who built the house in 1930 made big money in oil and bought the Fayetteville Daily Leader and moved here. The second guy to own it was the son of Swanson Foods founder, and he and his brother created TV dinners and pot pies. He also married Roberta Fulbright (sister to influential Senator J. William Fulbright, Clinton's mentor) while he lived here. After them the head of the U of A Animal & Science Department lived here. His research was well-known for changing livestock management and revolutionizing breeding methods. He sold the home in 1975 to what he referred to as "...a couple of hippie law students". Hippies maybe, but they were both law professors by that time with 8 and 9 years of college behind them. So the house has an interesting history, none of which they knew until the museum folks started researching it. In the backyard they have started a First Ladies Garden with the favorite flowers of a number of the First Ladies and a little tidbit of information about each of the ladies. Hillary is the first of the wives to ever be part of a president's cabinet, Secretary of State.

This is Elkhorn Tavern at the Pea Ridge Battlefield (east of Fayetteville). The Rebs were cold, hungry and weary from a difficult three day march and arrived hours behind schedule which compromised the plan of attack. The roar of the big guns could be heard for fifty miles.

This is a view of the battlefield where they met again the next morning. With 10,000 union troops lined up and cannons wheel to wheel across the fields, it must have been quite a sight. After a two hour artillery barrage the Confederate line was crippled and running low on ammunition and they were forced to withdraw.

They had defeated 16,000 Rebs and saved Missouri for the Union March 8, 1862. It was one of the crucial battles to the outcome of the Civil War. Confederate veterans put up a monument here just 25 years after the battle titled "A United Soldiery" honoring both "the untarnished Blue" and "the unsullied Gray" and held the first reunion to include vets from both sides.

World Peace Prayer Fountain Sculpture at the downtown square in Fayetteville. It says "May peace prevail on Earth" on it, in over 100 languages. The sculpture weighs 8,000 pounds and took over 8,000 hours to make. It spins with hand pressure by pushing to the right in the direction of the earth's spin.

This is Razorback Stadium and Frank Boyles Field on the University of Arkansas campus. On the campus they have Senior Walk which was started by the Class of 1906. It has every graduate's name engraved in the sidewalk, now over 120,000 names on nearly five miles of sidewalks throughout the campus. They were all etched by hand until 1986, when the maintainance people invented a machine to do it. In 2002 the university received a $300 million challenge gift from the Walton family, the largest endowment in history given to U.S. public higher education and the 5th largest ever to any American university, public or private. Their Campaign for the 21st Century 1998-2005 had a $500 million goal which they met and raised to $900 million, and reached and raised to $1 billion, and also exceeded that.

Back in Bentonville, we went to see the Crystal Bridges Art Museum, on the recommendation of some local folks. We had never heard of it and it is a world class museum, built with Walton family donations, of course.

It is built down in a wooded ravine on the north edge of town. You go down eight flights of stairs from the parking lot to get to the entrance. It is entirely free, including parking, guided tours and audio tour headsets.

There are three and a half miles of concrete trails surrounding the museum complex, with outdoor sculptures along the way. There are also lots of nature trails leading off into the woods from the main trails and the concrete trails connect to the city biking and hiking trails. With the Dogwood trees and lots of other flowers in bloom, the trails were really beautiful!

The museum is a series of connected pavilions over two creek-fed ponds. The dining room overlooks the pond in the center of the complex and the other pond on the outside of the complex, and the creek runs along part of the hiking trails.

This is one of the sculptures along the trail and a little girl about 3 or 4 years old, had stopped to milk the pig. Cute!

This sculpture is called "Tour de Tree". Can you see the bike? There was also a sculpture on the trail that looked somewhat like a small Stone Henge. It was to commemorate hardships endured by American Indians on the Trail of Tears, when they were forced to migrate from their lands to Oklahoma, over a 700 mile march for some of them. Many thousands died of disease, malnutrition and exposure. The Trail of Tears went thru Fayetteville, the Pea Ridge Battlefield and Little Rock, so we have seen lots of pictures and plaques about it. A very sad and regrettable event in our nation's history.

This is an overview of the museum. Everything in the museum seemed to be American related. Scenes of pioneers, American Indians, famous political figures and battles, or done by American artists. We spent a full day here, really a great art museum. John did catch a mistake they had made and let them know. Their was a portrait of Indians doing some kind of dance, that was labeled Ft. Pierre, North Dakota. Of course, for a lot of folks, Dakota is just some place way up north.

Sunday we head further north to Kansas City and Independence.


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