Third Year in a Row

I was in a hurry this morning, but I glanced at the barn as I always do and noticed something out of the ordinary. Driving away I clicked a quick photo.

Enlarging the photograph, you can see the youngster in the window. It’s always amazing to see how fat, white and fluffy a Black Vulture baby is. I hope I see it again so I can attempt a better picture.

Buzzards in the Barn

Just like a year ago, a black vulture nested in our barn and raised a young one. Last summer, she had two babies. I was just watching the chick, who has finally lost all of his fuzzy white feathers and looks like an authentic buzzard instead of a weird muppet creature. It was sitting in the barn window looking around and then would suddenly swoop down inside the barn with wings spread. It would fly a circle and then land back in the open window and strut back and forth and make a gravelly sound of pride. It was cute. I have yet to see it fly outside of the barn.

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.

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.