Eureka and beyond


We finally left Oklahoma a few days ago and headed northeast. Roo’s paw is still giving her trouble, and so I was going to stick around a few more days in case she needed to go back to see Dr. Stokes. But then, when I kneeled down in the grass to repair something under the camper, I felt several sharp little pinpricks in my knee. I had no idea. It was burr clover. It’s so pernicious that it stuck to the bottom of rubber-soled sandals. It was so bad that it had turned into the reason Roo had stopped wanting to walk there.

She had become more and more unwilling to go outside, and I was putting it all down to the surgical wound. But it wasn’t, not after a couple of weeks. It was that she was getting pinpricked endlessly while walking on the grass. Walking on concrete she was fine. She only wanted to go for walks if we went to town, where she could walk on concrete and asphalt. I felt terrible for not realizing how bad it was. Something must have blown that breed of weed in this year. It’s all over that part of Oklahoma and there’s plenty, though not as much, where we are now in Arkansas. Roo is so tough that it has to be bad for it to hurt her. I suppose that with all the pain from her paw surgery, she just had it. She was tired of taking chances.

Our first stop is a small town in north Arkansas called Eureka Springs. It’s beautiful small town, one of the few in America that is still filled with the houses built when it boomed around 1900. Most of them are bed & breakfasts now. A couple of old grand hotels are still up there, lording it over the town from the highest hills. 

Just about all the towns that we’ve been to in rural America that are still pretty and vibrant tend to be liberal oases in red states. Bisbee, Arizona and Eureka Springs are the best examples. Artists, writers and artisans settle in, neighborhoods are beautified and the tourists come in to spend their dough. In the case of Eureka Springs, there are good schools, museums, restaurants, and tons of shops. Everyone with a B&B seems to have NO VACANCY signs out front, though, from what I understood on the local grapevine, the B&B business is filling up with sharks who are taking over City Hall and the Historical Commission to rig the rules so they can rake in some more money. There was a funny example of this in the local paper, in which there was an article about a vicious commission meeting in which threats were leveled, pressures brought to bear over unauthorized construction — and when I read the name of the person whose attorney was making the threats, the name sounded familiar. It was: it was the name of the paper’s publisher that appeared in the byline of the other story on the page.

Everyone I spoke to there told me that the main thing about Eureka Springs was that everyone not only knew everyone else, but knew everything about them and what they were up to. It was even printed on an apron for sale in town: The great thing about Eureka Springs is that even if you don’t know what you’re doing, someone else will.

The other thing that Bisbee and Eureka Springs have in common is that there is almost no room to clutter them up with more houses. They’re both built into rocky hills that can’t handle anything bigger than what’s there. So, while prices will probably always tend upwards over time, they can’t reach astronomical levels because even if they ever let you tear the old houses down, which, so far, they won’t, there wouldn’t be enough room for sizable houses. It’s a lucky thing, a form of built-in protection to keep Eureka Springs and Bisbee from turning into Jackson, Wyoming or Telluride, Colorado, once magical towns that are now indistinguishable from the average strip mall, where instead of Subways and a laundry, there are pearl jewelers and boutiques for rich hippies surrounded by the same beige McMansions in there same subdivisions as in Kansas City or Phoenix or San Diego. Once the centers of those towns get scooped up, the subdivisions follow and if you got kidnapped out of one and returned to another 1000 miles away you wouldn’t know you’d changed neighborhoods. The area surrounding Eureka Springs will probably undergo the same kind of transformation one of these days. The small art galleries and coffee shops there now will be replaced by Edward Jones financial advisor offices. As soon as a high-end jeweler opens and starts selling gold jewelry instead of silver, the end for any of those towns is nigh.

It probably won’t happen fast here, though, because the surrounding area is so deep red. Get out into the beautiful countryside around here, in the part of the southernmost Ozarks where you can see why the cliché ‘rolling hills’ was settled on (they look like colossal wagon wheels dropped from the skies and have developed into grassy mounds over the eons and I’ll be damned if I can thing of any other word that works), and you are in Trump country. Flags for Trump-Pence 2020 are already flying, usually in front of the homes already garbaged up with other junk in the yards. But it is pretty country.

We went to look at a few rentals not too far away, but there was nothing workable. One or two were far enough from the nearest Confederate flag-draped hog farm, but that was about all they had going for them. We’ll head out tomorrow. It’s going to be another hot one. Roo can’t stand to be out in it anyway, so we might as well drive.

Dr. Stokes prescribed another antibiotic before we left, and Roo’s on that now and it seems to be helping her, but she’s miserable. Though it has thankfully not been humid or stormy these last few days, this is the first time in her life since I’ve known her that she hasn’t been able to go swimming for weeks on end. The heat is getting to her, and she looks longingly at any stream, but as soon as I remind her that there’s no swimming because she has the hand, as I say to her, she backs off. She knows and agrees. But if she can’t swim, she just wants to stay in the camper all day. She resists going out for more than the basics. She’s getting a little depressed. To keep her from licking her paw, she has to wear a sock all the time, but that she doesn’t mind at all. When I put it on, she looks away, with that stoic look dogs specialize in, in case I do anything that’s uncomfortable for her, which I don’t have to now, but if I did she would let me without complaint, and when I’m done she smiles and plasters her ears way back and gives me a few licks on the face. She appreciates having her paw taken care of.

We will continue to head east and north. Hopefully in another week she’ll be out of her sock and able to be Roo again.