Eureka Springs Independent Newspaper Column for March 5, 2014

The house that McKinley Weems was born in no longer exists. It was sold, torn down and replaced with the Statue Road Inn. Now that location is called Passion Play Road, but at the time of McKinley’s birth it was Magnetic Hollow Road. It would be another 45 years before Gerald L. K. Smith came to town and started shaking things up.

In the 1920s, most of the traffic on Magnetic Hollow Road was horse drawn log wagons slowly hauling railroad ties from sawmills in the woods to the railroad on Main Street. The drivers of these wagons often dozed as the horses knew the way. About twice a week there would be the excitement of an automobile coming down the road.

This was the same timeframe as “Lucky Lindy” flying a single engine airplane from Long Island, New York, to Paris, France, and young McKinley’s imagination was aflame with the possibilities of flying machines. He wanted to fly.

McKinley would walk up the long hollow that drained water from the direction of the Odd Fellows Cemetery and go up under the bluff and capture brooding buzzards. He’d carry the vultures (which will cause them to vomit) into the open and release them, just to see them take off and fly like an airplane.

In 1930, a big airplane fly-in was organized to celebrate Independence Day in Eureka Springs. About a hundred biplanes landed at the airport on Onyx Cave Road and rides were offered at $1 per flight. Young Mac wanted to walk over and see the planes, but his father refused to let him go. I asked, “Why?” and McKinley shrugged and said, “It was the horse and buggy days.”

He had to content himself with watching from a distance, sitting in the top of a tall tree on Magnetic Hollow Road watching biplanes clear the forest after takeoff or coming in low to land.

Beginning in 1952, McKinley’s dream of flying was realized when he piloted a Piper Cub over Eureka Springs, dipping down to glance in the top windows of the Basin Park Hotel before going to take a look at Beaver. He flew for many years thereafter.

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