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“Finding Miss Muxen”

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July 11, 2010 by wcobserver

By Rebecca Buchanan

director@folkways.arcoxmail.com

The envelope was well sealed and the address, written in the shaky handwriting of Fr. Preske of Horseshoe Bend Arkansas, was scrawled across the envelope in what was once, I’m certain, beautiful script.

Inside the envelope was another envelope dated June 16, returned to sender.  It was wonderful luck or perhaps destiny, that Fr. Preske had written a legible return address on the first attempt to send Miss Muxen home, otherwise the only known photograph that exists of her might have been lost in the mail before it could ever get her back home to this mountain.

Fr. Preske holds one of the keys to our past: a key that fits into the door that leads us back into our “Craft School of the Ozarks” days.  He is the only living person that I know of who knew and had a friendship with our founder, Miss Clara Muxen.  They had an ongoing pastoral relationship for 8 years.  Fr. Preske served as her priest at Our Lady, Virgin of the Smile Shrine from 1959 until Miss Muxen past away in 1966. He is also the only person we have found that has a picture of Miss Muxen.

Fr. Preske, for anyone who knew him from many years ago on the mountain, is alive and well and still saying mass and hearing confessions in Horseshoe Bend, Arkansas . . . but back to the second envelope.

Inside the second envelope was a tiny note, explaining the returned letter and asking for confirmation on the receipt of the second letter and also inside was a hand-made gray cardboard holder with a Kodak picture placed face down.

If you have been following these articles over the last few months, you know how long I have waited for this photo.  Up until about three weeks ago, I did not know that a photo of Miss Muxen still existed.

I was a little emotional as I slid the 3” by 3” photo out of its handmade grey cardboard holder.  As I took a deep breath and contemplated turning the photograph over in my hands, I realized that I was about to see the woman, who in her 60’s and 70’s, poured concrete, bought lumber and helped hang sheetrock in her beloved Craft School of the O

zarks: the woman who drew up the blueprints for the building in her own handwriting, the woman who died before seeing her dream realized. I took a second deep breath and then slowly turned the photograph over.

You know how you imagine the way people look, say from the radio, who you’ve never seen before?  Well I never imagined the Amazon of an older woman, who was Miss Muxen, standing there in the photo dressed in black at the corner of her building.  She gave the photographer a slight smile.  I say her building, because a friend of mine told me, after seeing her picture for the first time, “I always thought of this building as our building, until I saw her standing there.  Now, I know, this is her building.”

So, as promised, I am sharing her photograph with you.

If you look closely, you can see the slight smile on her face.  She is standing at the corner of the building, because as my friend so aptly put it, she IS the cornerstone of this building.

No matter what religion you are, or whether you believe at all, I hope you can see the strong reverence in her stance and the power in her gaze.

Miss Muxen had to leave before her dream was realized; I pray each of us get to bear witness to the day when that dream becomes a reality and this building is completed.

May the Dream Live On.

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