Eureka Springs Independent Newspaper Column for November 13, 2013

At the end of the Cold War, I was a soldier stationed in Germany. The other teenagers in my unit and I would shake our heads at how the details of military life were incorrectly portrayed in movies. Likewise, accountants and Arkansawyers shown on film and television are often clichéd and predictable. I can spot these inaccuracies because I’m a former CPA, I was once in the US Army and I’m from Arkansas.

I write a column, but I’m not a professional newspaper reporter. Journalism has standards and jargon and codes of conduct about which I know little. And my little bit of knowledge is dangerous because it comes from movies and television. But if I learned one thing from watching those Lou Grant episodes during summer vacations in the late ‘70s, it is to always check your facts.

I previously wrote that Richard Banks died in 1973, but his grave marker says otherwise. As I should have done in the first place, I ran out to the Eureka Springs Cemetery and checked his date of death. He died January 23, 1975.

Randy Freeman told me where to find the grave, so it only took a minute to locate it inside the front gate. Richard Banks had worked for the Freeman family for decades and Randy had been at the funeral. In fact, Randy’s grandfather, Ray Freeman, paid for the funeral.

Randy articulated something about Richard Banks that was true for many in Eureka Springs. He said, “He was the first black man I ever saw, and was the only black person I knew for years.”

He also remembered the “huge smile and deep, booming laugh.” This reminded me that McKinley Weems had said something similar. He said that he remembered being in the audience at the movie theater on Spring Street and Richard Banks would be up in the balcony. When he laughed everyone heard it and knew it was Rich.

Randy Freeman also said, “I remember the phone call from my mom telling me Richard had died. He had cancer and had already lost an eye because of it. He worked at the Joy (Motel) right up until the end. I felt like a piece of my childhood had suddenly vanished. Richard was an institution in my life and he was gone.”

Eureka Springs Independent Newspaper Column for November 6, 2013

When the opportunity arises, I read old issues of the Eureka Springs Times-Echo newspaper to try and get a flavor of the past. Currently on my desk are the Nov. 12 and Nov. 19, 1959 editions.

The big news then was a devastating fire at Clark’s Market on Main Street. Manager Roland Clark quickly reopened in a temporary location on White Street. I am told that this is the same building that has now housed Lux Weaving Studio for many years.

Another big event was the staging of Carroll County’s first annual modern deer hunt. Locally, bucks killed were checked in at O’Connor’s Texaco Service Station or at Busch. In total that first deer season, 56 bucks were killed in the county. The largest was a 17-point, 290-pounder by J.T. Littrell. For comparison, now nearly a thousand deer are killed annually in Carroll County.

Deer were so scarce in those days that when Ben Walker hit and killed a 140-pound doe with his car near Beaver one evening, it was a front-page story.

As the proposed Beaver Dam was to be constructed in a relatively remote spot on the White River, a new heavy duty road was needed from Busch to accommodate the future construction traffic. A company out of Pine Bluff submitted the low bid. Construction of an office building was ongoing at the dam site.

Tommy Walker was out on the ocean somewhere between New Zealand and Antarctica serving aboard the destroyer escort USS Peterson.

On the social scene, Miss Nancy Ann Mullins became the bride of William Ernest Goff of Tulsa at the Penn Memorial First Baptist Church on Spring Street. An all-star cast of Eurekans assisted in the ceremony. Among others, Ludean Cross was matron of honor, while the bridesmaids were Sue Cole [Jones] and Bobbie Jean Walker [Bayles]. Diane Weems [McClelland] served as flower girl. Ushers were Steve Bingaman and Gary Higgins.

Return of the Fly with Vincent Price and Some Like it Hot with Marilyn Monroe were just two of the many films shown that November at the New Basin Movie Theater on Spring Street.

One of the best real estate opportunities advertised that month was a 120-acre farm on the highway 2.5 miles from Eureka Springs. Included are a house, barn, cellar, well, 3 ponds, 5 springs and more, all for $6,500.

And Jello was on sale at Walker’s Super Market for five cents a box.

Eureka Springs Independent Newspaper Column for October 30, 2013

Late one night as I drove out of the hollow and onto the county road along the top of the ridge, my vehicle’s headlights swept what I first took to be a very large black dog. Then something clicked and I realized that I was seeing my first wild Arkansas black bear. It wasn’t that big, as far as bears go, about the size of my old dog, Frost, who weighed 160 pounds. I was amazed at how quickly the bear could move as it leapt the little ditch along the road and disappeared. I stopped and backed up, looking for it in the headlights, but couldn’t find it again.

Arkansas’ first nickname was “The Bear State” and if you read early accounts  you’ll understand why. It’s estimated that the state had 50,000 bears at one time. Local 19th-century pioneer, John Gaskins, said he killed more than 200 here. Overhunting decimated the native bear population, but after decades of careful management, the population is now in the 4,000 – 5,000 range.

Because of the small size of the bear I saw, it might have been a female or a young male. Arkansas has some prime bear habitat and black bears here grow larger than in some other states. There have been boars killed in the annual Arkansas bear hunt that topped 600 pounds. That is a lot of bear.

Although there were only three bears killed by hunters in Carroll County in 2009 (the last year for which I found statistics), we do have several here. I’ve only seen the one myself, but I’ve heard about bears looking in kitchen windows near Hillspeak and getting in the dog food near Holiday Island. For comparison, there were 48 bears killed down in Madison County that same year.

Which leads my thoughts to this: did you know that the United States Census Bureau decided that Madison County is part of the Fayetteville–Springdale–Rogers Metropolitan Area? That means that, according to the federal government, Madison County is an urban area. Don’t get me wrong, I like Madison County, but not because of her big city ways.

If you have seen a bear, let me know at