Wednesday, March 20

Director's Cut: Buffalo, Barbecue, and Heifers in Little Rock

Last week was spring break here at the University of Mississippi. It was also spring break for the Oxford School District, which means my son Jess, soon to be 12, was footloose, too. His friends went to Disney World. And the Bahamas. The Florida Gulf Coast. And New York City. I took Jess to Little Rock.

We ate well on the way. First, an early lunch of hacked pork on white bread at Jones BBQ Diner in Marianna, AR. Then, a late lunch of fried buffalo-fish ribs at Lassis Inn, a juke house on the edge of downtown Little Rock.

Jess Edge at Jones Bar-B-Q Diner in Marianna, Arkansas. Photo by his proud papa.

Before the weekend was over, we took a trolley ride over the Arkansas River. We toured the Clinton Presidential Center. And the civil rights museum, set alongside Central High School, scene of the 1957 integration crisis.

Our first stop, at the headquarters of Heifer International, may have been the most resonant. Set alongside the Clinton Center, the Heifer headquarters is an exemplar of green architecture and building processes. Heifer Village, around back, is a hands-on learning center, focused on teaching children high concept principles of sustainable architecture and simple techniques like water transport.

Until Jess and I made the trek, we didn’t know that Heifer did much more than donate animals, like heifers and goats, to impoverished families. (Not to understate that impact, which is mighty.) Now Jess knows they work in 40-plus countries and do lots more.

After touring the Heifer Village exhibits, I think I saw his eyes glimmer with future prospects. Jess has long been interested in helping others who are less fortunate than he. (He’s also been long interested in video games, but never mind that.) Now, Jess knows about a dynamic nonprofit that does good work and just happens to be 3 hours down the road. He’s been asking follow-up questions all week. That boy’s gonna be alright.