Eureka Springs Independent Newspaper Column for October 22, 2014 by Steve Weems

While in college, we splurged and celebrated our anniversary at the nicest restaurant we could afford in Russellville, Arkansas. I remember the croutons were good. At the table next to us was another young couple and they ordered wine with their dinner. The waitress apologized and said, “I’m sorry, we’re dry.” When the waitress departed, the couple put their heads together in lively discussion. At the return of the waitress, the young lady said, “We’re from California. Can you explain to us what you mean about being dry?” The waitress cheerfully enlightened the travelers about alcohol sales in Pope County and much of the state.

Arkansas has more dry counties than any other state in the nation. Of the 75 counties in the state, 63 are dry or partially dry. Many locals don’t seem to realize that most of our own Carroll County is dry. There are 21 townships in Carroll County and 14 of them are dry or partially dry.

Since it was decided by a vote of the people, some say it was democracy in action. Others cite big government or the influence of certain church denominations. Others have a simple argument about freedom. I don’t care myself, although I am prone to occasional fits of perverse pride when Arkansas is out of step with mainstream America. It is, after all, an issue settled by most of the United States before World War II.

I’ve read that Arkansas liquor distributors are not necessarily in favor of repealing the ban, though one might wonder why. Some believe it will not change consumption or total sales, but will increase costs of doing business (transportation and paperwork costs, I suppose.)

Of course, Eureka Springs is not dry. My understanding is that it never has been, not even during prohibition. Since supply follows demand, local hill farmers with entrepreneurial ambitions sprang into action. I won’t name names, but I had kin who profited because of prohibition. And some did a little jail time, too. In the 1920s and the early 1930s the federal courts in both Fayetteville and Harrison did a booming business prosecuting and processing many small business owners.

Eureka Springs Independent Newspaper Column for October 8, 2014 by Steve Weems

I had a good friend in the army named Jim Never who always amazed me with his strength. He could do 80 or 90 pushups so fast that he’d just be a flash of motion. I talked to him recently and asked if he was as strong as he once was. He said no, but that after a recent full workout he bench pressed 225 pounds (about his body weight) 22 times. That sounds strong to me.

Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve heard from numerous local old-timers that the strongest person they ever knew was Wells McCall. His feats of strength are legendary. When I was in the army twenty-five years ago, I had a recurring notion that I’d like to introduce Jim Never and Wells McCall to each other.

In the late 1940s, McKinley Weems put in a spring-fed water system for Wells on his farm east of town. McKinley had driven his work vehicle, a four-wheel drive Willys Jeep down under the hill where the spring was located. There were a number of rock shelves that the jeep had to traverse and it was unable to get traction. Wells said if McKinley would drive the jeep so that two wheels were able to grip, Wells would lift the other end of the jeep onto the rock shelf. And that is what he did.

Another time, Wells had a sick draft horse that was down and needed to be stood up. Wells cut a hole in the floor of the barn loft and lowered a sling that he put under the horse’s belly. Using heavy rope that he tied on either side of the sling and looped up into the barn loft, he squatted down with the rope over his neck and then stood up, lifting the massive animal to its feet.

Obviously, I only knew Wells in the latter part of his life. He died in 2006 at the age of 94. In his senior years, he was still strong, but did not look like a classic symbol of strength like a Charles Atlas. Wells was not overly tall and was somewhat rotund, with thick, heavy arms. I’ve seen photographs of him in his youth, though, and he looked like a bull.

Eureka Springs Independent Newspaper Column for October 1, 2014 by Steve Weems

A long-legged coon dog wandered in recently and spent the day at my youngest sister’s house. The healthy, well-fed canine had a collar but no tags and Barb was getting ready to put up flyers to advertise his presence. The next day he was gone. Maybe he was just resting up at a friendly location for his journey home. Hounds will travel if given the chance.

My grandpa, Jack McCall, was a coon hunter and kept hounds. He enjoyed going out at night with his Uncle Otto and others with their lanterns and guns. Hunting raccoons was a respite from endless farm labor and the stresses of life.

One day while working on his place on Kings River, a stranger’s automobile pulled up with one of Grandpa’s coon dogs. The stranger introduced himself and said he’d found the dog crossing the US 62 White River bridge and gave it a ride. Turns out the man was a hound talent scout of sorts from Kentucky. He traveled the United States looking for the scattered pockets of coon hunters and studied their dogs and bloodlines looking for champion-type hounds. Grandpa took the guy around and introduced him to the local coon hunters.

There used to be more hounds around here, but with changes in the local culture and fewer rabbits, for example, those breeds aren’t as popular. I’ve had a couple rabbit dogs myself. The first was a high-energy Beagle with an effusive, charming personality. I had Rusty as a kid and he loved everyone and everyone loved him. Once I saw a station wagon drive by with Rusty in the back. I don’t know who the people were but Rusty returned later in the day. Just hanging out with friends, I guess. I always thought Rusty was a bit too good for me, kind of like Snoopy and Charlie Brown.

Waldo was more my speed. He was a Basset Hound we adopted from the Good Shepherd Humane Society shelter. He was ponderous, well-intentioned and often asleep. He was the only dog I ever had that I could out run.