CRATER OF DIAMONDS STATE PARK — People come from all around the country to visit the Crater of Diamonds State Park, each with their own individual story as to why they came.
However, not many stories center around the 1971 cult classic “The Legend of Boggy Creek” featuring the infamous Fouke Monster.
In the case of William Lewis (a.k.a. “Mountain Bill”), however, he has held a long standing appointment to visit the state of Arkansas since he saw the movie.
“As a young laddie, 13 years old, I only thought that us folk in the mountains of New York fished and hunted, and when I saw that, I’ll never forget it. I said those folks are just like we are, they do all the stuff we do.”
And, thus, a burning desire to see Arkansas was born. In fact, the love of the movie was passed on to his his children, and the grandchildren, who watch the movie frequently to this day.
“So, I said, one day I’m going to go to the state of Arkansas. I’m even a big Razorback fan,” he said. “It just took 46 years to get here.”
In fact, Lewis celebrated his 60th birthday while hunting a diamond at the Crater during his two week stay at the park.
“I celebrated my birthday standing in the middle of a crater of diamonds. Who’d have though it in a million years that I’d turn 60 years old in Murfreesboro, Arkansas?”
Lewis enjoyed his stay in the area, making several trips into town, especially enjoying the lemon ice cream soda at Hawkins Variety Store.
“It was more than what I anticipated, I knew I would enjoy this, but wow,” said Lewis, who was given the inkling to stay at the Crater by his daughter, who was a previous visitor. “You just have to come here to get the gist of everything, words just don’t suffice. But, we will let folks know to come to Murfreesboro, Arkansas.”
Lewis is a unique character who, earlier this year, walked from his home in upstate New York to Washington D.C. — a trip of about 300 miles — to hand deliver a personalized “Message from the Common Folks” to President Donald J. Trump on inauguration day.
The text of the message can be seen at https://www.facebook.com/mountainbillthevoiceofcommonfolks/posts/396069617392841:0, as well as many other of his travels (“Mountain Bill: the Voice of Common Folks” on Facebook) to Washington and beyond, including Murfreesboro. The premise of the message is Bill’s wish that Trump remember the common man, the average man of America, and to move the country once again toward making itself the best possible nation for it’s citizens.
“We need our jobs back, we need our pride back,” said Lewis. “We’ve sold it years ago to the other countries. The letter is for folks that have no food, no insurance, for whom the pride is gone.”
While Lewis failed to personally deliver the letter on inauguration day, it was later delivered to Trump on his behalf by a group of New York State Assemblymen four months later.
“It’s been a long, long road,” Lewis stated sardonically.
Lewis said that if he ever gets a personal meeting with President Trump at the White House, he will speak highly of Arkansas.
“This is the nicest area — I’ve been in many, many places — and I love Arkansas. The folks are kind, and it all fits into my format of Mountain Bill and the common folks. Arkansas will be right in my back pocket when I got down and see Mr. Trump, because you guys are just like I am. Us common folk — really, really nice folks. After all, it’s not the ‘White House’, it’s ‘Our House.’”
He said that small town USA, much like Murfreesboro, was what he was all about.
“As I walked to Washington, D.C. from New York, I went through many small towns, and they are a lot like this one. I thank you for allowing Mountain Bill to come and stay. Small towns are the bacon and beans of America.”
His press agent, Patricia Daly, who accompanied Lewis on his Arkansas adventure, said that the method of traveling was important to the larger narrative of Lewis’ story.
“This is a reflection of the trip Bill took to Washington in that he passed through small towns, some of which were doing well, some of which weren’t, and neither one of us is independently wealthy, I’m just happy to say I’m not poor, but we are richly blessed. We chose to take a Greyhound Bus on this trip because we wanted to see the common folks, the people President Trump was reaching out to.”
And, she added, it was a great way to travel.
“A lot of people think it is the riff-raff, the lowest of the low [that travel by Greyhound]. We met so many nice people all over the place.”
“I had more fun — I had a blast,” said Lewis. People are who they are, and I call it the ‘country RV’ because when I stepped off the bus at Texarkana, I felt like I was stepping off my recreational vehicle.”
“I know where I want to live,” said Lewis. “I want to live in America. So, on our trip we saw America — this is an awesome country to live in, it really is. God bless America.”
Stating life lessons, Lewis recounts the story of his one littering experience — tossing a pizza box out the window and getting pulled over for it by the New York State Police. As a penalty, the patrolman made him fill bags of garbage from the side of the highway in penance for his transgression.
Since that time, he has become an advocate of cleaning up litter wherever he goes, including while at the Crater and while walking into Murfreesboro. At his home in Mamakating, New York, he now has a stretch of highway that he has adopted to keep clean.
“Anywhere there is people, there is going to be trash — but it’s all America. Someday we’ll come together, we are all in this together, so I deem in an honor that I can come and pick up some litter while in Arkansas and make it all a little cleaner.”
“It’s all part of respect,” said Daly, mentioning the #makeamericangreenagain that she often uses. “People want to be respected by Washington, by their elected leaders, and they also, I think at heart, respect the land and want to do well by it … we are trying to show that if you keep trying — it took Bill 46 years to get here and some financial finagling — but you can do it if you keep trying.”
Part of the larger issue that exemplifies our country’s current plight can be found in current events, according to Daly.
“Our president is experiencing a great wave of negativity, and we are trying to bring back some light to this whole process of a new president and a new horizon … that is getting flushed down the toilet of negativity and people are acting like spoiled brats, because their pick didn’t get elected, and it is such disrespect for the process. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Lewis summed it up simply as “united we stand, divided we fall … can’t we all just get together and give the guy a chance. The common folk are tired of the status quo. I don’t really watch TV, but when I heard Trump’s message, three days later the backpack was ready to travel. He needs to hear someone is behind him, and God bless you.”
Though he failed to find a diamond during his stay locally, Lewis was not dismayed by the experience in any way.
“This is the gem of the gems, being right here. The creme of the creme was to visit Murfreesboro itself. I have found a million bucks in memories, and had a ball. No diamonds, however, the people who work at the Crater of Diamonds are absolute gems. I want to let you all know we have appreciated your hospitality.”
In fact, we may not have heard the last of Lewis.
“I love this state — I have two more years until I retire, and guess where I am moving? Arkansas — absolutely, you betcha. And I will be looking in Murfreesboro. I love the weather — I don’t care how hot it is, I don’t care how much it rains, when we left back home [in New York] it was cold. I’m getting older, I don’t like cold, and I don’t like shoveling snow. Murfreesboro gives me the feeling that I’m home.”
Although he didn’t get to make a trip to Fouke to hunt the monster, he said he looks forward to that, as well as hiking across Pike County from Murfreesboro to Glenwood and in Montgomery County to enjoy the area’s natural beauty should he get a second opportunity.