Select Traveler

SEP-OCT 2013

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B R I N G YO U R B R AV AD O N O R T H W E S T T O AR K A N S A S S BY MAC LACY am Walton and Laura Ziegler lived almost a century apart; they also lived worlds apart. Walton, who died in 1992, founded and built Wal-Mart into the world's largest retail company. Walton was an Eagle Scout, a World War II veteran and a family man, and his progeny have gone on to do many things, including building America's next great art museum just a few miles from Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. Zeigler ran a social club on the Western frontier in the early 1900s in nearby Fort Smith. Her family, so to speak, were her girls, who entertained roughnecks and cowboys for years on the far edge of westward expansion and the outer edge of social respectability. Is it a stretch to compare the two? Perhaps. But something tells me they might have admired each others' business acumen had they ever chanced to meet. Northwest Arkansas can attribute much of its appeal to people like them. Entrepreneurs, outlaws, artists and presidents have thrived there. For better or worse, big lives have been lived in northwest Arkansas, all of them nurtured by the same fresh air and independent spirit. MIND R A M E OF GETTING TO KNOW MISS LAURA Miss Laura, as Ziegler was known in Fort Smith, is now capably portrayed by Carolyn Joyce, tour and travel sales manager for the Fort Smith Convention and Visitors Bureau. Joyce is no small personality herself. During a writers trip there earlier this year, I got to enjoy her interpretation of Miss Laura in the restored house where the madam ran her business. Joyce's organization was instrumental in saving the house and placed its ofces there to ensure its continued use. Joyce dresses in period clothing to portray Miss Laura, and her repartee with visiting groups is as humorous as you might imagine. "We still entertain our guests here," she said, "but we have our limits. Te charge for one of Miss Laura's girls was $3, and the girls got $1 of that. Tree dollars a week was a good income at that time, so these girls did well." Like many similar establishments, Miss Laura's had a large parlor downstairs for socializing Opposite page: Crystal Bridges is an achievement in architecture and landscape design. B A N K T R A V E L M A N A G E M E N T. C O M 27

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