It was built in 1961, along the winding roadway of Scenic Highway 7. Highway 7 rolls up gracefully from Russellville to Dover, and then somewhere about Pleasant Grove decides to act up and try to buck cars off its back for the rest of its journey to Harrison. Well, not really, but it is a fine windy and hilly road -- and one of my favorite stretches of roadbed in Arkansas.
The Booger Hollow Trading Post isn't in a hollow. It's actually on a hilltop several miles away. And yes, the community really is named Booger Hollow.
Whatever the reason or the cause, Booger Hollow quickly became representative of the Arkansas stereotype. And as a young 'un in the 1970s, I didn't care.
There was the Hillbilly Chicken Dinner -- a wooden box that you opened to find a piece of corn glued inside (for the chicken, silly!), the Hillbilly Lighter (another wooden box with matches inside), and lots of examples of the Hillbilly Corn Cob Pipe. There were jams and jellies and honey all canned in Arkansas, and postcards with all sorts of hillbilly things on them. The adults checked out the quilts and the figurines and the handwoven white birch baskets, but for us kids it was a time to pick up those neat triangle puzzles you play with at Cracker Barrell today and Sassafras Drop Candy.
And there were the hams, big robust country hams salted and smoked and served up on sandwiches at the Booger Hollow Chuckwagon. They smelled of salt and dripped with your choice of dressing, mayo or mustard or a little barbeque sauce some days.
In later years, the Chuckwagon came up with another delicacy, the Boogerburger, and folks who had stopped to eat at Russellville's Whatta-Burger might try to gorge and sample this one too, or take it on the road.
Years passed, and times changed. At the end of 1991, Bill Clinton decided he wanted to be the next President, and reporters came to Arkansas to find out more about the Man from Hope. And Booger Hollow Trading Post became a sort of testing post for the opinions of the "working class man." Several of the different national networks sent reporters to check out this place, population seven, "counten' one coon dog." And for a while, there was a boom.
In 1991, I was a student at Arkansas Tech University. I would meet my future husband there, and for fun on a lazy Saturday afternoon now and then we'd make the drive up to Harrison and back along Scenic 7. We'd stop in at Dogpatch USA, which by this time was breaking down, the trams closed, the lower amusement park now open to drive through so you could check out the vendors. And we'd stop on the way back at Booger Hollow to catch a cold drink and sometimes a sammich, and some of that good honey with the honeycomb inside.
Years went by. I graduated, moved and moved again, and quit making that trek up Highway 7. By the mid-90s, Branson had started to bloom and bustle, and Dogpatch USA was closed for good. AHTD had been working meticulously on knocking the curves out of US Highway 65, and the more direct route from Little Rock on up became more popular as longer stretches were made four lane and the speed limit was increased. And Scenic Highway 7 started to dry up.
This past August, my husband and I on a whim made the trek up Highway 7 again, just to see what had changed. We knew about the demise of Dogpatch USA. But the closure of the Booger Hollow Trading Post surprised us.
So I started doing research, and promised myself I would go back with a camera later and catch some photos before it disappeared for good.
It turns out, Booger Hollow wasn't a victim of time or change, but of property ownership. Now, there are several different stories I've been told, but I have been able to discern this much. In 2004, owner Charlotte Johnson was approached by a couple of different people aboout buying the property and keeping it open. One of those people was David Standridge. But she didn't sell it to him... she sold it to a couple out of Green Forest (at least, that's what it says at the Pope County Courthouse). David ended up buying land closer in to Dover for his own enterprise.
Now here's where it gets iffy. A couple of people have told me that the purchasers didn't make the payments, and Johnson got the property back. And I've even heard that the land under the Trading Post went back to someone else.
Regardless, the Booger Hollow Trading Post closed... there were a couple of attempts to reopen it but it's now been officially shut down for three years.
I didn't know about the land battle and stuff when I went to visit the property on a very foggy day in October, 2007. All I knew was I wanted to find out more about what happened.
The fog seemed to suck everything up that day -- the sound from the road, the view -- it even appeared to suck the very highway itself from existance about 50 feet ahead of drivers.
I scouted out along the road for the attraction, wondering what I would find. And then, it showed up so quickly I nearly missed the turn.
A carpet of wildflowers has engulfed the step up to the front porch. All the signs are still on the front door, and the mats are still out. With the condensation on the window, you might mistake that "Closed" sign for a mark that someone is coming back.
Well, nothing left inside.
Other than the fading paint, the outhouse is none the worse for wear. Heck, it's an outhouse -- how bad can it get? It still seemed as "functional" as it was in the good years.
I decided to check around back, just to see if I could find something more. I was surprized there wasn't a "For Sale" sign, or mention anywhere of why it was closed. That bothered me.
I turned to walk back, and noticed a door open at the back of the building. My first thought was "I can't go in there," but curiosity got the better of me. At least I would know.
And this was about the time the moaning started to unnerve me. From the moment I walked in, I had heard noises. I knew logically it was nothing more than the creaking of the old boards in the wind of the dank weather... but it felt like people were still there. Somehow, it seemed like echoes of what used to be there, the customers asking the locals about Arkansas, being told cornpone jokes and sold trinkets and jam. And in a way, it was like the building was mourning the end of those days.
Will it be the end? I have no idea.
By the time I made it back around the building and got into my car, my shoes were soaked from the condensation on the grass -- and my camera batteries were low. I looked back one last time and hit the road to head home.
One of the photos I took on my original venture garnered me a second place price in the This Is Arkansas contest the following year at the Arkansas State Fair.
In the spring of 2015, I took my daughter on a trip up Scenic Highway Seven. We stopped briefly by the fence, and I told her stories of Booger Hollow. Honestly, she was more enamoured with Rotary Ann a few miles up - probably because she needed those facilities.
I don't know if the property rights will ever be sorted, or if anyone will ever bring back Booger Hollow. I do know there's a Facebook fan page for those who once visited this place. And I will always revel in the fact that, for about six months after this original piece was written, this article was the number one entry on Google when one put the word "booger" in the search bar. I guess that accounts for something.