Bigger Than One Family: Film looks at decades of oppression, separation

Bigger Than One Family: Film looks at decades of oppression, separation
LARA JO HIGHTOWER/Special to the Free Weekly

On June 2 and 3, a huge field on the outskirts of Prairie Grove will hold the largest selection of open-air flea market booths in the Northwest Arkansas area. From polished antiques to funky vintage treasures to rusty farm finds, shoppers should be rewarded with just about anything they’re looking for at the Junk Ranch, which boasts 150 vendors and more than 200 booths.

We asked a few vendors what they’re bringing to the event, how they got involved in junking, and what their best find ever was.

Don Wilkinson

Don Wilkinson found his way to junking the way a lot of vendors do: he kept finding great stuff while shopping for his own collection of vintage Speas Vinegar bottles. So when he retired in his mid-50s after 35 years with the Arkansas Highway Department, he threw his hat into the flea market ring and got a booth at one of the largest flea markets in the country in Canton, Texas. After 10 years of selling at Canton, he moved up to an even bigger venue — Round Top, Texas, the Holy Grail of flea markets.

“It was a lot of work on my part,” he says. “We would haul seven or eight trailer loads down between shows, store them, and then we’d go down and set up and stay two weeks, selling. We sold to people from everywhere — California and everywhere. They got to buying from me, and they actually got to buying too much. It became too much of a job, and age took over.”

Wilkinson is 85 now, and he was thrilled when the Junk Ranch opened up so near his home in Mountainburg. Though the main product he sells are chicken laying houses — he estimates he’s sold around 30,000 over the course of his junking career — the booth he runs with his son is an eclectic mix of auction, estate and farm sale finds.

Wilkinson’s best find ever was deceptively simple: a box full of old bottle caps.

“I told my wife, ‘I found the Holy Grail,’” he remembers. “They were unused, cork-lined Dr Pepper bottle caps from 1907. The first bottle caps ever used on a Dr Pepper bottle.”

When he put them on eBay, he says, “people went crazy.”

Stacey Murphy

The Weathered Pearl

Stacey Murphy’s relationship with the Junk Ranch started off as a shopper.

“I loved the eclectic mix of old, used, collectible items and the vendor inspired pieces! I thought to myself, ‘I could do this,’” she recalls. “I applied the next year, and junk has been my livelihood ever since.”

Murphy advises yard sale shoppers to look for the signs with a torn piece of cardboard with the word “sale” scribbled across it as a marker.

“Often these sales are not advertised on social media, so it increases your chances of finding a hidden treasure,” she says.

She also hits the widely advertised sales, like the Oklahoma 100-mile Yard Sale. That’s where she found her favorite find: a 13-foot late 1800s banquet table discovered in a barn in Cleveland, Okla.

“I have done several shows all over Oklahoma and Arkansas, and I would say what sets the Junk Ranch apart from the others is the venue itself, the friendly vendors, the amazing shoppers, but most of all how well [Junk Ranch founders] Amy [Daniels] and Julie [Speed] have it organized,” Murphy says.

Tracy Davis

Rusty Heart Relics

“I have always loved old things as long as I can remember,” says Tracy Davis of Rusty Heart Relics. “My mama had an eye for the ornate and passed it along to me. We spent many a weekend traveling the roads for that elusive treasure.”

For her booth, she stocks a wide variety of items.

“I love vintage and antique garden items, primitive and antique furniture, and holiday decor,” she says. “I loved MCM before it was cool.”

Her favorite find is an antique child’s bedroom suite she found at the famed Texas flea market Round Top.

“It is a beautiful faded robin’s egg blue with a painted design, and it’s to die for,” she says.

Davis has had a love affair with the Junk Ranch since the first year.

“From the live music and food trucks to the mountains of treasures and lovely vendors, I knew this was the show that I wanted to be a part of,” she says. “Amy and Julie are the best and treat us like family.”



Junk Ranch

WHEN — 9 a.m.-3 pm. June 2; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. June 3; tickets go on sale at 8 a.m.

WHERE — 11195 Centerpoint Church Road in Prairie Grove

COST — $10


Baldwin Chiu was used to his father’s vague answers when he questioned him about his heritage. But when Chiu had a daughter of his own, he decided vague answers weren’t enough; he wanted to learn more about his family lineage and how and why his Chinese relatives came to America. He was shocked when the search took him to the Deep South, and what he learned along the way was both educational and entertaining enough for Chiu and his family to turn the journey into a documentary called “Far East Deep South,” available for streaming through the Arkansas PBS website now until June 3.

“We heard that my grandfather and great-grandfather were buried in Mississippi, and my brother thought we should go out there and pay our respects,” says Chiu. “We went out there thinking we’d find two Chinese men buried in Mississippi, and we would throw some flowers on there and pay our respects and go home. What we were not expecting was to learn about the entire community of Chinese people in Mississippi or to find the Delta State University Chinese Heritage Museum. When my wife, Larissa Lam, showed up and looked around at the museum, she said, ‘This can’t be just a family film. There’s so much going on here — we need to make this into a documentary.”

As a Chinese American, Chiu was familiar with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, a racist law that suspended Chinese immigration for 10 years. But until his trip to Mississippi to delve deeper into the history of his family, he had no idea of the impact it had on his own family tree.

“What we discovered was that the Chinese Exclusion Act wasn’t simply a law that happened a long time ago and got fixed eventually,” he says. “It was a law that had some serious repercussions. It affected families for a long time — multiple generations — and it still affects families today. My father did not have a father to raise him, and he had no idea it was the Chinese Exclusion Act that separated his family. … So many of us have been driven away, and our families have been divided and separated for so long.”

“Far East Deep South” resonates particularly strongly these days: A report released last year showed that hate crimes against Asian Americans increased by 150% in 2020. Chiu believes that bringing to schools documentaries like the one that tells the story of his family would go a long way toward combating racism.

Film looks at decades of oppression, separation

“We could fix essentially all this racism and really bring unity to our country in one generation,” he says. “But it requires our youth to become educated, and it requires our adults to allow our young people to learn about the truth of our country, the good and the bad. … If we tell all our stories, and the stories are not just diverse for the sake of diversity, but the stories are diverse for the sake of authenticity, and honesty and truth, then we can truly understand what got us to where we are today, and then we can finally understand what we need to do in order to fix the future.”


‘Far East Deep South’

WHEN — Streaming through June 3


COST — Free


Categories: Theater