Can Christmas really be the same without Larry Evans driving around with a lit tree on the back of his vehicle? Or does he still do that and I just don’t see it?
Someone mentioned that I wrote that Eureka Springs was a small town where everyone knows everyone else. I hope I didn’t say that because I don’t believe it to be true. Eureka is full of various cliques and factions that don’t necessarily mix with each other. I see many familiar faces around town, but I often don’t know names. I do believe that if two residents were placed in a locked room, they’d come up with a list of mutual acquaintances.
Eureka does have a permanent population of a certain size and many of those people know each other. Several times in my life I’ve found someone looking intently at my face and they follow with the question, “Are you a Weems?” Maybe it is the nose.
If people ask my name now, occasionally they know that I write. Other times they say, “Are you related to Arlie?” or “Mac” or “Mary” or “Terri” or “Diane at the bank” or “Diane the nurse.” Or they have a blank look on their faces and they ask where I’m from. It makes me sad when I say, “I’m from Eureka, born in the hospital,” and the response is, “I didn’t know there were any of those.”
I’ve told this before. I was behind a man in line at a local convenience store and a tourist asked him if he was a Eureka Springs native. The man answered, “I’ve lived here five years, I think that makes me a native.” That’s a curious statement.
But this is a Christmas column, so never mind all that. I was trying to remember Larry Evans’ vehicle that he’d decorate every year, so I asked someone with a better memory than mine. Scott Schmitz confirmed that it was a blue 1953 Willys Jeep wagon with a Ford 289 cubic inch V8. I hope Larry Evans knows that people appreciated his Christmas cheer. It made a lasting impression.
Perhaps one doesn’t hear the name Groblebe around Eureka Springs as often as years ago, but they’re an old local family. They inhabited these hills and hollows before the town did.
Ed Groblebe was born about the same time as Eureka Springs and spent his professional career as an engineer with the Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad. Growing up, he worked around sawmills, loading and unloading railroad ties and lumber onto wagons. This kind of work either cripples you or makes you strong. I understand that he was like most Groblebe men – tall and easy going with a ready grin.
When Ed Groblebe was about 17, he was driving a lumber wagon pulled by two mules up Main Street in Eureka Springs. When he reached the bottom of Planer Hill, a man jumped out and grabbed the reins of one of the mules and yelled, “I’m going to kick you to pieces.” Or maybe what he said wasn’t quite that polite. Ed Groblebe knew him and had no reason to doubt that he wouldn’t or couldn’t do what he said. The man was known to be a bully and downright mean. I’ll not repeat his name in case you’re kin: I’m not looking for trouble.
Fearing for his life, Ed Groblebe jumped down off the wagon and, as he landed, he drove his fist into the jaw of the bully as hard as he could. The man promptly fell to the ground as if shot. Stunned by the turn of events, Ed Groblebe felt sure he’d just committed murder. He climbed back on the wagon and left town as fast as possible. He did not show his face in Eureka Springs for a full month.
When he finally returned, the law wasn’t waiting to arrest him for murder. In fact, his adversary wasn’t even dead. The only thing Ed Groblebe ever heard about the incident was that when the local bully was questioned by the attending doctor, he claimed that he’d been kicked by a mule.
I’ve heard that a domesticated turkey will stare at the sky with its mouth open in a heavy rain and drown. I worked as a farmhand on a turkey farm in my youth and I never saw this happen, but I wouldn’t rule it out. I had the impression that the turkeys weren’t so much stupid as just being slow thinkers. I couldn’t help but identify with them at times.
To be honest, I was a mediocre farmhand. Monotonous physical labor gave me time to think, which I liked, but I’d become so engrossed in the personalities of my charges that my work would slow. Or a soft, spring breeze might distract me, or the beauty of the bucolic Ozarkian landscape.
Of course, most of my dealings with turkeys were inside long metal buildings. However, on occasion, they were herded from one structure to another. I remember one particular day with a biting subzero wind chill that the turkeys had to be moved. When they stepped out of their warm home and the first blast of cold air hit them, their inclination was to immediately settle down onto the ground despite the humans yelling and flapping their arms behind them.
In Army basic training, a drill sergeant accused me of thinking too much, an activity better left to higher pay grades, and I saw the point. In combat, if you stop and slowly and thoughtfully consider your predicament, the odds increase you’ll get yourself or someone else killed. That is a time for your training to kick in, a time for that obedience to the experienced sergeant directing your actions.
As it is with herding turkeys in a bone-numbing wind. The obedient turkeys made it to the next warm building and lived. The turkeys who ignored the frantic humans and settled down to conserve body heat while they slowly and thoughtfully considered their predicament, froze to death by the dozens.
It has been thirty years since that day at the turkey farm and I’m still trying to determine the inherent risks of being a slow but independent thinker.