It may sound odd to those who haven't experienced the scenic tranquility of Harrison's historic Maplewood Cemetery that its annual fall review of flaming red and gold leaves is among this Ozark community's greatest attractions.
The breathtaking canopy has become a regional backdrop for weddings, graduations and personal photos. As with cemeteries in every community, it also is the final resting place, spread across a hilltop overlooking the city square, for generations here for well over 100 years.
With Memorial Day upon us, Maplewood and all the other cemeteries today will be teeming with families leaving flowers and mementos beside the tombstones, devoted assurances to those no longer visible that they are not forgotten.
Many buried in Maplewood rest in eternal peace beneath bronze markers identifying them as veterans of military service and wars that called them to fight for our nation in foreign countries far from these hills.
This means again on this Memorial Day I'll venture to the hilltop with bouquets to lay along the marker inscribed with the name Rue B. Masterson, Lt. Col. U.S. Army, World War II - Korea, and the gray marble tombstone he shares with my mother, Elaine Hammerschmidt Masterson.
I'll also lay a small rock atop their dual stone as always so they'll know I've stopped by to say hello and thank them for being concerned parents who loved their three children. Then I'll spend some moments in silent reflection on what relatively little dad shared with me about his experiences at medical units in both war zones.
My father was a troop commander at those facilities, which meant he was responsible for the combat soldiers assigned to protect the medical and administrative staffs stationed there.
The stories originating out of such assignments naturally differed from those from the front lines, but were compelling enough to capture the imagination of his three children.
He told of the time his medical facility was being strafed when he ran outside and futilely emptied his .45 toward the streaking plane. His frustration of the moment became apparent in his voice and face each time he relived that story.
In peacetime, one of his assignments during the 1950s was as troop commander at the former Army Navy Hospital in Hot Springs.
I'll then turn my attention to the surrounding tombstones marking the remains of my grandfather, Arthur P. Hammerschmidt, and uncle Robert Hammerschmidt, both of whom served honorably in uniform during wartime, as well as Uncle John Paul Hammerschmidt's World War II service as a highly decorated Army Air Force pilot (three Distinguished Flying Crosses) who flew numerous military supply trips between India and China across the dangerous Himalayan "Hump."
And I'll offer each of them, as well as the others buried across this hallowed ground who were veterans, my sincere gratitude while I remain able to do so in this world.
Kay's biggest peeve
Valued reader Kay Nolen sent this the other day. I feel many probably share her pet peeve: "One of my pet peeves always rears its ugly head this time of year. Graduation, wedding and even baby 'season.'
"While I sadly realize the days of handwritten thank-you notes are long gone, the lack of total responses to anything ordered off a registry peeves me. I would like an acknowledgement that the gift has at least been received since I am depending on a third party for delivery. A text, email, even a phone call would be sufficient.
"One young bride walked right by me at church the same day she received my gift and did not even say so. I found out the gift had been received by speaking to her future mother-in-law. By the way, that particular gift has never been acknowledged."
Two weeks ago I wrote about the unacceptable number of wrongful and suspect convictions we have in America today, citing two cases appearing in a single day's paper.
The most recent count continued last week when a front-page '"In The News" item told of 54-year-old Lamont Hunter, who will get a new trial after serving nearly 11 years for the sexual abuse and death of a 3-year-old boy in Ohio in 2016.
The item said the deputy coroner who initially ruled the boy's death a homicide changed her opinion after reviewing evidence she hadn't originally been given.
I'd say that fits with other questionable convictions in making a rush to judgment that will have cost a man a large portion of his freedom and life if he is found innocent in his retrial.
Hanging by thread
Anyone else feel like I do today, that our once-united nation has been divided by radical and political designs to the point where the threads of rational, civilized society are worn to the point of snapping? If not, you haven't been watching and reading the news.
Now go out into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly like you want them to treat you.
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.