When I first saw the Old Mill, I have to admit, I didn’t remember the derelict shape or the rustic colour or the lush backdrop. I didn’t have even the vaguest sense of familiarity. But I could hear whispers from locals and a few, well-informed tourists that this secret garden was in Gone With the Wind. The movie? I thought. Really? It couldn’t be.
So at night, when it was too dark to go outside, I sat back in the hotel bed and rewatched the film. All of it. The Old Mill in Arkansas was only in the intro for all of six seconds (yes, I counted. But I assure you, this was purely in the name of – ahem – research). I couldn’t understand why. Don’t get me wrong, I like Rhett Butler and Vivien Leigh as much as the next person, but the mill deserved more screen time. In fact, it deserves to be the backdrop of a feature-length fairy tale. I’m calling Disney right now. Hmmm…what should I pitch? Snow White? No, we’ve been there and done that. Sleeping Beauty? Goodness, Disney’s even made a live-action version.
I know…Rumplestiltskin. And that is what we are doing today – strolling casually through the oversized doll’s house that is the Old Mill at T.R. Pugh Memorial Park, pretending to live in a happy-ending version of Grimm’s classic fairy tale.
Just look at this place! Look at the trees and flowers flirting, waltzing in the open landscape, their daily gossips drowned by the wind. Can you imagine what they’ve seen? And that has to be where the Princess turns straw into gold (or tries too).
Water is steadily sliding – its gentle flow masking the light whir of a churning wheel. Suddenly, the golden spools of straw are gone, picked up by the King, and she is left with dark interiors and an abysmal emptiness (oh Rumplestiltskin, where are you?). Where art thou?
Can you imagine, years later, when Rumplestiltskin must have swaggered out from the trees, victory dancing in that little pocket, right over there, because he doesn’t think the Queen will guess his name (Can you blame him though? This park just begs early celebrations).
Then he must have trotted up to this quaint beauty.
And how can that building not make you smile? The bright exteriors are washed in an orange sunlit glow. It is perfect. Let’s just take a moment to see how lucky the miller’s daughter and Rumplestiltskin are. I mean, this is scenic.
We’re so elated that we have to skip and ever-so-gracefully (yeah, right) plod along broken branches. The Old Mill might be tucked in a winding neighborhood, but it looks like an offshoot of a King’s palace. This park sets the standards for all neighborhood parks and raises it up to the height of the Empire State building. We could frolic here all morning. We race up along the moistened steps of an arch that appears to be etched into natural sun-dried natural branches. But the branches aren’t branches at all. The entanglement is the artistic recreation of an artist from Mexico City – Dionicio Rodriguez. And the best part? His medium of choice was cement. Yes, the “natural” bridge is cement.
The mill looks like it belongs in the 1800s, but it was built in the 1930s. Every aspect of its facade and landscape is fiction intertwined with pockets of wholesome reality (re-creations set amongst thickets of trees and flowers). But isn’t that how all fairy tales are constructed?
Eventually, we’re going to have to take a break. Let’s sit over there! Headphones in. Romantic Song on. Yes, this is the fairytale life.