Eureka Springs Independent Column

Awhile back, Reggie Sanchez scored 37 points for the Eureka Springs High School Highlanders basketball team in a game against Magazine. His older brother Ryan was a star player for the Highlanders last year and now plays on the college level for Avila University in Kansas City.

This got me to wondering about who some of the best players have been through the history of the Highlanders. I did some informal and wholly unscientific polling of various people that have been associated with Eureka Springs basketball over the years. This subject was also recently discussed on social media. Between these two sources of information, I amassed a list of about 60 names that came up time and time again as being the best players for the Highlanders. I’m sorry there isn’t room to list them all.

For the girls, the names that were mentioned the most were (alphabetically with year of graduation): Tanya Ashford (1988), Ramona Capps (1978), Mitzi Clemons (1978), Bobbie Cross (1979), Frances Fargo (1982), Gaye Lynn Head (1980) and Kim Hull (1985).

For the boys, the names brought up most were: Lynn Ray Brashear (1958), Mike Butler (1974), Billy Clark (1982), James Nall (1980),  Bobby Pyatt (1955), Joe Sheets (1973), Marvin Siebert (1990), Chris Wise (1994) and Scott Young (1989).

Realizing that these players were mostly of fairly recent vintage, I asked McKinley Weems who the best players were from his time as a Highlander. He replied brothers Charles Freeman (1936) and Bob Freeman (1939).

Instead of naming individuals, some people brought up certain teams that played well together, such as the boys teams from 1989 and 1994 that went to the state tournament. Others named off families known for producing quality basketball players over multiple generations, notably the Cross, Freeman, Morrell and Wolfinbarger families.

I saw in an old Times-Echo newspaper that L.B. Wilson scored 46 points in a game in 1967 for the Highlanders. I wonder if that is the school record? By the way, basketball runs in that family, too, as his daughter Kimberly Wilson Jenkins coaches at Valley Springs High School.

Eureka Springs Independent Column

A quiet and shy girl, Betty Southerland was born on the last day of 1914 in the remote Mason Bend of Kings River located between Eureka Springs and Rockhouse. Her education started at the tiny Cedar Grove School located on her father’s farm just a short walk from the log house in which she was born. The school was comprised of Betty and her siblings and the children of a couple other farm families.

Betty’s isolated existence was expanded when the decision was made to consolidate her school with the larger West Concord School District closer to Eureka Springs. A nervous wreck at the thought of the change, Betty now travelled six miles every morning to attend the unfamiliar school. Little did she know that it was at Concord¬† that she would become dear friends with schoolmate Dorothy Wolfinbarger.

The Concord School was located on Rockhouse Road near Keels Creek where the Concord Fire Station now stands. Behind it loomed a bald knob that is now being covered by cedars. My understanding is that the view from the top is borderline spectacular, but that isn’t why Betty and Dorothy would climb the steep trail. No, they climbed that steep mountain because the acoustics were so good. As was the rage at the time, both girls yodeled and they would make the rugged trek to the top to do so. They’d yodel together or take turns and then listen as their voices bounced around and echoed back. They’d shout or sing songs and listen.

Betty was my “Granny,” my mother’s mother, and I used to badger her for stories. Several times she told me about her school closing, but she would then recall Dorothy with as much affection as anyone I ever heard her talk about. When Granny would recount this story, it was with a fondness and wistfulness I rarely saw her display when she recollected the events of her physically hard life. The power of childhood friendships came to mind recently with the news that Dorothy had passed away at the age of 98. (Incidentally, Dorothy was the sister of my paternal grandmother Lola Weems.)

Eureka Springs Independent Column

My wife Diane grew up where the Pig Trail Kart n Golf (formerly The Fun Spot) is located on Highway 62 East in Eureka Springs. If you go back to the early 1980s, it was still a beautiful family home place, with an abundance of flowers, bushes and large old trees around a house with a big yard. There was some pasture and Duane O’Connor sometimes ran a few cows. Diane and her brother Doug would play in the front yard and periodically a car would pull up and tourists would ask for directions to the Passion Play. After being given directions, the tourists would sometimes ask how many blocks away it was. Diane didn’t know how to answer that.

Thirty years ago, we kept my Uncle Don Sisco’s mare Lulabell at our place and I spent many a happy hour riding across the countryside. I wanted to go to my grandparents’ farm, but didn’t want to ride down through the curves on the shoulderless highway. (I’d done that before and didn’t want to repeat it.) My Grandpa Jack McCall knew all kinds of shortcuts, so I asked him for directions. He suggested I take the old road over the mountain and through the woods. Turns out his definition of a road and mine were different (mine undoubtedly influenced by living in East Coast suburbia.)

I still remember his directions. I was to turn left at the red oak snag. I found it. I was to stay straight at the giant dead elm. I found it. I was to watch for the dogs at the house where the hippies grew dope. Those dogs found me before I found them. Lulabell and I made it through that section pretty quick. Looking back, I realize that she and I did a lot of trespassing without a second thought.

Speaking of Grandpa and hippies, he told me once that he’d heard that there were hippies in Eureka that didn’t get out of bed until nine in the morning. He was incredulous. I’m glad he didn’t know what time I got up.