In Arkansas: Whittling Away

On the square in Marshall, seat of Searcy County, Ark., men sit around in front of Buck Mays' store whittling down sticks of cedar. They do not whittle an object—a slingshot, say, or a whistle—so much as they just whittle away the stick. They make long, precise strokes, and the shavings curl before the blade like something delicate being wound. When the stick is reduced to an aromatic pile on the sidewalk, they go and get another.

Conversation turns on births, deaths, sicknesses, and the disease and the stubbornness in cattle. Nearly everybody in...

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