With a pixie grin on her face, Paula Lane greets visitors to the Doll and Toy Shop at the Ozark Folk Center.

“Welcome to the Doll Shop,” says the woman who looks like everyone’s favorite kindergarten teacher.

Actually, Paula really is a school teacher. She recently retired from teaching in Bakersfield, California and returned to her roots here in Mountain View, Arkansas. In addition to her way with children and the delight she brings to them as she teaches them tie their own dolls, she inherited the Ozark Storytelling gene. Adults love to sit and listen to Paula as she ties whimsical corn shuck dolls and shares tales of her mother’s family.

Her grandmother and aunt married brothers and they each had eleven children, making 22 double cousins. They had delightful names like Alfa May; Eufala June; Verna August; Lucky Thurlow; Herschel Sadie; Harriet Signora; Herpel Stanley and the list goes on. Paula tells Aunt Sadie stories – such as the time when three or four of the eldest girls started to town, with Thurlow driving the wagon. Sadie was a young girl and she went along for the ride. Aunt Bert was in the wagon holding the baby. About a mile or two from home, something in the woods spooked the horses and they took off. The wagon was bouncing so hard, one-by-one the family came out of the wagon. The last to get dumped out was little Sadie who came running up to the house shortly after the horses arrived at the barn with only the wagon tongue and the harness between them.

Little Sadie ran up to her daddy and cried, “The horses ran away with the wagon and kilt us all!”

Her daddy went back along the road, gathering up his family and discovering that they had all survived just fine – like the family story that has now been shared through three generations and is being passed down to visitors in the Doll Shop.

Paula came back to Mountain View at the urging of her cousin, Erlene Carter. But she had the added pull that her 96-year-old mother, her sister and her brother, as well as lots of cousins are here.

“Erlene kept telling me I’d be fine,” recounts Paula. “She applied the extra nudge that I needed to make my escape.”

Like many Ozark families, Paula’s headed out of the hills during the Depression, looking for work. Some of them went to South Carolina, but many of them went West. However, their ties to the Ozarks stayed strong.

“My daddy said nearly every day of his life that he wanted to go back to Arkansas,” said Paula, so she had that draw to bring her here. And her mom has always shared stories of the early days in Mountain View. She doesn’t hesitate to let Paula know how things were back then.

“Every time I put on this apron,” said Paula, pointing to the one with the full bib top, “my mother says that her mother always just wore a plain tie-around apron.”

Her mom talks about trying to drill through a rock with a hand drill and making blacksmith rainy day toys.

“The one I want to figure out is ‘stink-base’?” Paula said. “I think it’s a tag game, that mom talks about.”

Paula loves old-fashioned toys and wants more of them in the shop. “I covet Lincoln Logs,” she said, laughing.

The nurse doll she’s been working on as we talk continues to take shape, with nurse cap complete with red cross perched on a head of white hair tied back in a bun. The doll has a long blue skirt and a Civil War era pinner apron over her bodice.

A family comes into the shop with several young children. When asked if they know what corn shucks are, one of them replies “Yes, they’re like blankets on corn.”

“Like blankets on corn,” muses Paula. “That’s perfect. I really like that.”

Visit Paula in the Doll and Toy Shop in the Ozark Folk Center Craft Village Tuesday through Saturday, April -November.