The exploits of Harold and Margaret Hedges are given in some detail in Neil Compton’s The Battle for the Buffalo River, which is available from the Ozark Society website. But here are a few memories we have of them.
They purchased 700 acres in what is now the upper Buffalo River wilderness and built their dream home in 1968. When the national river was established in 1972, they sold their land to the National Park with no regrets since they had obtained a 25- year occupancy lease. But at least some of their neighbors were upset, and after several incidents of harassment their home was burned (arson) in 1990 while they were traveling to Mexico. They moved about 25 miles north to Harrison, AR, where Harold died at the age of 91 in 2008 and Margaret died at the age of 93 in 2010.
Here is a story we received about the Hedges by Myra Lawrence and her husband, Cliff from Monroe, LA.
“In July of 1976 we were canoeing on the Buffalo River. Our canoe overturned and though we were not harmed, Cliff lost a pair of blue jeans with money & credit card in the pockets, all held together in a silver money clip our daughter and I had just given him for Father’s Day.
“The following October 10th, we received a letter from a Mr. Harold Hedges, stating that he and a group of 22 Ozark Society members were canoeing on the Buffalo that week. It seems that their outing was in celebration of the birthday of one member, and the day’s fun involved a scavenger hunt to find items from the river as gifts. Cliff’s lost jeans were spotted snagged on a root wad along the bank.
“Mr. Hedges explained that the jeans were beyond salvage and water and sand had badly deteriorated the items of value, but they were salvageable. He suggested that if Cliff would identify his property sufficiently – the name of the credit card, approximate amount of money in the pocket, color of pants – he would be glad to mail them back to us. And he said, ‘I trust you have had the credit card cancelled by now.’
He also wrote, ‘I’m sorry about your apparent upset on the Buffalo and hope it didn’t dampen your enthusiasm for floating the river.’ (It did not!)
“My husband ALWAYS knows exactly how much money he has in his pocket at any given time! So, he was able to identify the items, and Mr. Hedges mailed all but the soggy jeans to us. The dollar bills were ragged around the edges. I had one bill double-matted & framed, along with Mr. Hedges’ letter. It has hung on our kitchen wall for 44 years!”