When I received the invitation to sign Delta Days at Words and Afterwords in Hardy, I had to look up the little town on a map. I found Hardy just below the Missouri – Arkansas state line in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. Even though it is almost 500 miles from Auburn, I jumped at the opportunity to visit an area that would be completely new to me.
I talked to Vicki Rice, the bookstore manager, and made arrangements to sign my book on Saturday, August 27th. I arrived in Hardy late on Friday afternoon and checked into the Chateau Suite at the Riverview Compound which is an interesting collection of four suites built in an old farm perched on a hillside overlooking the Spring River which bisects Hardy. The Chateau Suite occupied the upper level of an old stone building and had a balcony with a great river view.
The suite consisted of two bedrooms, two baths and a combo kitchen and living room. The décor could best be described as early attic with a cutesy country flair. Not offensive, but a little distracting. After I checked in, I took a ride around Hardy just to get the feel of the town and discovered that there would be a limited number of dining choices available. As such, I stopped at the local grocery store and stocked up on breakfast and snack food.
I was not overly concerned by the dearth of eateries in Hardy since I had been invited to have lunch on Saturday with Greg, the Words and Afterwords owner, at the small café attached to the bookstore. I decided to try an interesting looking place called the Down Home Country Kitchen. There was a large shed like building in front with tables and benches that could seat close to a hundred people and there was one elderly man sitting at one of them. I parked close by and was walking through the shed to get to the front door when he greeted me with a big grin and commented on my rather sloppy parking job.
This proved to be John Homod, who with his wife Barbara, were the owners of the Down Home. He and I chatted for awhile and when I asked him about the shed with all of the tables he explained that on some weekends they would have live country music and serve a special outdoor menu. He walked me into the café and led me to a window seat. There were a dozen or so other diners and everyone seemed to know everyone else.
I decided to try the fried catfish which came with hand cut french fries and a delicious cole slaw. John and Barbara held a general conversation that soon included everybody in the joint, including me. By the time I had finished my meal, I felt like family. The food was good and the company was even better, all in all a very pleasant experience.
The next morning I took my coffee and sat on the little balcony overlooking the river and enjoyed the cool mountain morning after a summer of stifling southern heat and humidity. I took a walk around the small main street of Hardy and looked into the usual little shops that can be found in any tourist town from Gatlinburg to Fairhope. I joined Greg for lunch at Afterwords and enjoyed a bowl of chili and a salad.
The book signing lasted from one to four that afternoon and I enjoyed the people and the bookstore atmosphere. I discovered that Greg would be serving BBQ ribs that evening and there would be a live band on hand. I made reservations for dinner and returned to my suite for a late afternoon nap. As most of you know, I am a BBQ snob. I lived in Memphis for thirty years and am firmly convinced that any other BBQ will be lacking in comparison to Memphis BBQ. I was particularly skeptical that a small town bookstore owner could turn out a good BBQ rib.
To my great surprise the ribs were very well done and the live music was a real treat. The band did not amp it up to the usual level and they played a mix of oldies, plus several original songs written by the lead singer, a young woman who could easily make it in Nashville. It was a pleasant ending to a very nice day. On Sunday morning, I sat on the balcony for a while and finally headed back to Auburn via Memphis. I enjoyed my visit to Hardy and northern Arkansas and I might just come back some time in the future.