Eureka Springs Independent Column

The way I heard it, it was about 1937 when Burt Hull lost his hand in the sawmill accident. He was cleaning sawdust out from under the machine when he raised his hand and the spinning blade caught it. His son Curtis rushed him to the Eureka Springs Hospital in a Model A Ford. That night, Burt was unable to sleep because he could feel worms eating into the severed hand. He had Curtis go back to the sawmill, collect the hand from the sawdust pile, and bury it.

I don’t remember ever seeing Burt Hull, but he’s one of those people I’ve heard about all my life. As a kid, stories of a one-handed sawmill operator grabbed my attention. I understand from the stories that he could do as much work or more with a hook than others could do with a fully functioning hand.

I ran across an article about Burt Hull in a 1975 Carroll County Historical Society Quarterly magazine, written by Coy Logan shortly before Mr. Hull’s death. As I expected, his first job off the farm was sawmilling for Franzisca Massman down at the bottom of Oil Springs Road. But, it turns out that Burt Hull was much more than just a hook-handed saw miller. He was a butcher, a blacksmith, an entrepreneur, and a progressive farmer intrigued by modernization and machinery.

Always for trying new things and for improving what he had, Burt Hull invested $175 in a Case steam tractor as a young man. He bought it up in Joplin and had to get it back to Arkansas. He and his brother and a cousin drove the machine home, gathering wood along the way to fire the engine and hauling water in a barrel for the steam. At night, they’d camp by the side of the road. It took seven days to drive the contraption home from Joplin to Eureka Springs.

Like many in the Hull family, Burt is buried in the Shady Grove Cemetery east of Eureka Springs not far from where he grew up on Kings River.