To get to the intersection of Woodlane and Capitol Avenue, where the fire trucks were parading in front of the Capitol, The Observer had to walk across the grounds from a parking place near Seventh Street. We passed the memorial to Arkansas's Medal of Honor winners, with its soaring stone eagle; an obelisk honoring the soldiers of 1812 who are buried in Arkansas; a marker that says Arkansas's Capitol grounds are considered the most beautiful in the nation (Texas must be eaten up with envy), another marker honoring former Secretary of State Kelly Bryant. The monument to Arkansas's Confederate dead is off to the left.
What will be the latest addition to the Capitol grounds is on a flatbed truck in the middle of the fire-truck parade that is coming up Capitol Avenue from the east, then turning right on Woodlane to go all the way around the building. This is the Arkansas Fallen Firefighters Memorial, an imposing monument to Arkansas firefighters killed in the line of duty. It depicts four firemen in various poses. One mans a hose. Another holds a rescued infant in his arms.
Some 150 people have gathered to see the unveiling of the monument, and attend a brief ceremony. Many are firemen or retired firemen, some in uniform. One lady has brought a Dalmatian. Some attendees, The Observer guesses, are just fans of firemen. Much as people respect the police, most of us have had at least one unpleasant incident with a police officer — maybe it involved a speeding ticket. Whatever it was, it inhibits our affection for policemen. But we don't have those experiences with firemen. They're universally loved. (The Observer knows the preferred term these days is “firefighter,” but he's never gotten comfortable with it.)
Maybe it is fitting that the firemen will be the last group to get its monument on the Capitol grounds before a new state agency imposes rules to make access harder. The rules will be a good thing. Much as we admire all the honorees, space is limited, and there are many monuments there already. The Capitol grounds might be in danger of losing their “most beautiful” title if they become cluttered. (There is, however, still room to fulfill The Observer's dream of a monument to journalists who've covered the Capitol. Those who sat hung-over through endless meetings of the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee deserve recognition, surely.)
The Firefighters Memorial has not yet been placed on what will be its permanent site. A sponsoring group is still holding fund-raisers (call 377-1110, if interested). Eventually, the memorial will be installed on the west mall, behind the Capitol, next to the Bauxite Boulder.
A fire-truck parade is some kind of parade, The Observer now knows. There were fire trucks of every kind, size, era and color, and not just from Little Rock and North Little Rock, but from Keo and Sherwood and East Saline County, and all the sirens were blaring. What sweet music they made.
Eavesdropping, part one:
While The Observer was unlocking our bike after lunch at the famed Scott eatery Cotham's we overheard our group ride leader talking to some of the locals. He was telling them we had ridden from Burns Park and out through Keo, England, Scott and were heading back to Burns Park. One of the young girls looked at us oddly and asked, “Y'all chose to do this?”
Part two: Two riders were talking about the incomplete River Trail, which at one point requires bikers to take Cantrell, since neither Dillard's nor the Episcopal school will allow access to their property. “It's going to take someone getting killed before it gets finished,” one of them said.
It was word-for-word what we'd said a week earlier.
It's a dangerous stretch. As soon as someone does get killed, will the city pay attention? Will they beat their breasts? The Observer would respectfully suggest that the city-powers-that-be save that first life and design a bypass of that busy four-lane.
An idea: Maybe they could use the money they're planning to waste tearing down the Walker Tennis Center. (Memo to city board and mayor: Not all of us have memberships at private clubs.)