Hey Bookworms! The flood inducing rains have stopped for a few days and now the searing heat of summer is in full effect. It’s officially swimming season and of course that makes me think of river/lake monsters. Whether you’re planning to do some water aerobics or lounge by a lake, I feel that I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that Arkansas has it’s very own river monster and you should totally go visit him instead. You just have to head on up to the White River near Newport. It’s about 84 miles northeast of Little Rock and in addition to being the birthplace of wonderful human Mary Steenburgen it’s the chosen chilling grounds of Whitey, the White River Monster.
Whitey is ironically a large grey guy that looks kind of like an enormous manatee and he’s not a monster at all. He keeps a low profile because numerous people have tried to kill him in a variety of ways over the years. He remains unbothered though and just swims off instead of crushing them with his mighty tail which begs the question Who’s the real monster here? The adorable giant manatee or the blood thirsty lunatics trying to do him in?
It all started back in 1915 when a plantation owner took a break from oppressing an entire race of people to gaze out at the river. Maybe he was wondering what it would feel like not to be a dick? We’ll never now because he’s the first person to see Whitey and immediately flip their lid. Mr. Oppressor described him as being as wide as a car and at least three cars long. He was so gobsmacked that he ran into town hollering about how they had to kill the beast. He somehow got the town to crowd fund and help construct a giant rope net to capture Whitey but, before long, they ran out of money and everyone lost interest.
Then in 1937 a group local fisherman were baffled as to why they couldn’t seem to catch any trout. Rather than reevaluate their career choices they whined about it to anyone who would listen. Then yet another got damned plantation owner with the truly douchey name Bramlett Bateman went down to the river to investigate. There was Whitey just splish splashing around having a good old time. Bateman displayed a stupefying lack of chill and ran into town screaming about fish on fish violence and how they had to kill the beast. See, Bramlett was convinced that he had to blow up Whitey with TNT because he felt that Whitey was threatening his crops and profits. How though? Did Whitey have a rival farm? Did he put on a straw hat and go around selling his produce at half price just to put Bramlett out of business? It makes no sense. Kind of like this.
I guess you had to have a permit to blow up a river monster with dynamite back then and happily his application was denied on the account of it was insane. The word of Whitey got around and people from all over came to see Whitey. Some brought cameras and some brought machine guns, but they all wanted to capture our squishy fishy friend. Who just has a machine gun lying around and also the time to stake out a river on the off chance they get to use it? A maniac. Over 100 people saw him before he bounced on out of there.
Whitey didn’t show up again until 1971 and he was pleased indeed to find that there were no slave mongers laying in wait. There were hippies, though, and they loved Whitey. They thought he was totally groovy and they fought to protect him. In fact, in 1973 the Arkansas State Legislature signed a bill into law creating the White River Refuge and making it illegal to harm Whitey as long as he was in the refuge.
So come on down to Newport, honor Mrs. Steenburgen and then go see Whitey. Just make sure you leave your TNT and machine guns at home. Smell ya later, Bookworms!