Eureka Springs Independent Newspaper Column for December 4, 2013

It was in March of 1961 that the newlywed Duane and Doris O’Connor were watching television one evening, relaxing in their newly-bought home on Ridgeway Avenue in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, when Doris said, “I think I hear someone on the roof.” Next there was the definite sound of someone in the basement, then an incessant pounding on the windows and doors began. When Duane declined the crowd’s demand to come out, he was grabbed and bodily carried and placed in a waiting automobile. Doris followed.

This may sound like kidnapping, and perhaps it meets the legal definition, but it was also a shivaree, an age-old tradition brought to the Ozarks, in which the newlywed couple are serenaded with noise and pranks are performed.

Duane and Doris O’Connor were driven to the Eureka Springs Post Office, where a wheelbarrow was produced for Doris to ride in. Duane had to push her down Spring Street to the old Eureka Drug Company, where they switched places and Doris pushed Duane in the wheelbarrow down the hill to the Basin Park Hotel.

Shivarees had been banned in Eureka Springs some years earlier because they could get out of hand. For example, couples would be dragged from their beds in various states of dress and carried to the horse trough and dunked.

Despite the ban, members of the crowd that descended on 44 Ridgeway Avenue that winter’s night had permission from the Chief of Police Norman Faulkner. He is reported to have said, “If Duane O’Connor got married, then shivaree him.”

Returning to their home, the couple found that their bed had been stacked on cans, short sheeted, and was full of cracker crumbs. When it was found out that Doris had to be at the hospital at seven the next morning for work, some of the people cleaned the house and yard and others fixed a breakfast of bacon and eggs. Most of the crowd of thirty or more dispersed, but some spent the rest of the night at the O’Connor’s house. It was all in good fun.

Write to me at P.O. Box 43, Eureka Springs, 72632 or steve@steveweems.com.