Grizzly Bears in the Western Ozarks Circa 1500

I’ve been browsing wildlife range maps for more than forty years. I find them fascinating. Below is the range map of the Grizzly Bear showing both the present day (striped) and the year 1500 (yellow). As you can see, it shows the Grizzly Bear being present in 1500 in the western Ozark hills. The map was included in a recent Washington Post story.

Buzzards in the Barn

One day Ian was in the barn and a big buzzard swooped down from above and aggressively flew at him. It spooked him a bit. Turns out the buzzard had a nest hidden in the barn and she was defending it. Later, I started seeing two white chicks standing in the barn window, waiting for their mother. Or maybe cooling off as I imagine it gets pretty hot under that tin roof during the day. They are getting quite large and turning black now. The buzzards are of the black vulture variety.

ES Independent Column – Panthers

For years, there has been accumulating evidence of mountain lions (or cougars or panthers) residing in Arkansas. The Fish and Game Commission officially denied it, apparently because it was a can of worms that they wanted to avoid opening. Then, last November, a hunter in a deer stand shot one, the first killed in the state since 1975. The cat was out of the bag, as they say.

It’s always a pleasure to hear from readers and I recently had a letter from Genevieve Bowman. In it, she told me of a panther scare in Eureka Springs in the 1940s. It all started with people hearing the trademark shrill scream of a panther. Soon there were reports of sightings of the big cat and men organizing to hunt it. Armed with a shotgun, one local man would walk his grandson home from the night shift at the Basin Movie Theater.

Cora Pinkley Call wrote of the panthers seen and heard by the pioneers of this area and the fear they caused. She wrote in Pioneer Tales that she only knew of one actual attack, though. It was by a female cat emaciated by hunger and  suckling young. A local man was returning home late one night and the panther leapt from a tree onto his back and nearly killed him.

The local panther scare of the 1940s, however, was not what it first appeared to be. Genevieve knows the true story behind the scare. It starts with John Bowman (her future husband) and Wayne Farwell. She wrote that they “got hold of a wooden contraption that slid in and out like a match box. When worked correctly it emitted a shrill yell. They thought how funny it would be to go over to East Mountain and try it out.” When the prank got out of hand and touched off widespread fear, they swore to keep it a secret. Years later, John told Genevieve and she said that “what they meant as a joke turned out to be not so funny.”

ES Independent Column – By Golly

Ernest Schilling (1878-1975) is buried in the Gracelawn Cemetery at Van Buren, Arkansas. On his tombstone is the likeness of a billy goat and the name by which he was most known: “By Golly”. He was a sign painter by trade, but also a talented artist. His trademark was the “By Golly” signature on all of his work.

Though he lived out the end of his days in the Van Buren area, he was a resident of Eureka Springs off and on for many years. He would set up at the side of the road with a sign that read “By Golly, The Sage of Pine Log.” I’m told that tourists would stop to have their likeness drawn or to take his photograph. Though an educated man of Swiss-German heritage, By Golly could look like a stereotypical Arkansas hillbilly with his long beard and floppy hat.

McKinley Weems remembers By Golly being in Eureka Springs in the middle 1930s working on the painting of the big Onyx Cave sign on the building downtown. In those days, By Golly worked out of a cart pulled by a jenny.

McKinley worked in the radio shop in the lower level of the building and outside were barrels full of junk. One cold day, bundled up in winter clothes to keep warm, By Golly was high up painting the Onyx Cave sign when he fell and landed on the barrels below. It is said that the only thing that saved him was the many layers of bulky clothes that he was wearing.

I’ve heard the story that he lived in Seligman, Missouri for awhile and a church hired him to paint a sign. He painted the name of the church and other  information as instructed and at the bottom he signed it “By Golly.” The church was unhappy with the signature and demanded that it be removed. Without a word, By Golly climbed the ladder and painted over the signature. The next time it rained, however, the paint that he used to cover the signature washed away and his “By Golly” signature reappeared.

ES Independent Column – September 1969

Time to dip into my boxes of old Eureka Springs Times-Echo newspapers and see what the past has to tell us. The news of September 25, 1969 was dominated by preparations for the upcoming Ozark Folk Festival. I’ve always heard that the scale of yesteryear’s Ozark Folk Festivals was much larger than that of those held currently, and the newspaper articles confirm this. For instance, the 140-member Razorback Marching Band was slated to lead the festival parade. Another example is that Louise Berry announced that TV Channel 27 out of Springfield, Missouri was going to broadcast a 30 minute program previewing the 1969 festival. Local Eureka Springs musicians and entertainers were to appear on the show.

This front page article caught my eye. The estate of the late Miss Beulah Edge, formerly of Eureka Springs, was left to the United Nations. The estate consisted of $125,000 in cash and 50 oil wells situated on 4,000 acres of land in Roberts County, Texas. The short item states that Miss Edge had a PhD and that her parents were natives of Eureka Springs.

The classifieds are always interesting in the snapshot of the past that they provide. In 1969, one could purchase Avon products from Judy McClelland or buy a 1954 Ford (with radio) for $250.

Prolific writer Virginia Tyler penned three separate columns for the Times-Echo back then. The first reported that 19 had attended the meeting of the Ukulele Club at the New Orleans Hotel. The second column told how seven car loads of folks hiked the old railway line for the meeting of the Alpine Hiking Club. She mentioned that “devil-may-care individuals such as Janie Reeder and Bob Kappen” had walked across the tall trestle. She was disappointed that the old train tunnel was blocked by fencing that they couldn’t scale. Virginia Tyler’s third column was the long running Around Town and it told about George and Ruth Pinkley’s business, the Wardrobe Cleaning Company. She reported that several Birchfields worked there and that “These Ozark hills are full of Birchfields – they are all related, and are the salt of the earth.”