The Observer was cruising state Highway 62 east from Rogers en route to Eureka Springs last week, feeling a little guilty that it was a workday and instead of chugging at our computer we were driving in the Ozarks. Especially enjoying being out of Rogers and Bentonville, where the traffic is bumper-to-bumper and the Ozark plateau is being denuded, reshaped and covered up in shops and housing developments like the Tuscany enclave, which sports fake Italian ruins at its entrance.
The farther east one gets, the easier the living becomes, changing from zipped up and paved to loose-fitting and green. We shook off the last of our tension when we saw the giant rabbit. (Here, a work opportunity!)
Mike Cowen and Vickie Hall live along Highway 62, in a white house behind a picket fence and in front of lots of woods. Cowen was seated on a small stool painting pink spots on the bunny’s feet and nose. His wife was weeding the flower beds. Hall said the bunny, originally a Mardi Gras float that spent the last 25 years of its life at a restaurant in nearby Avoca, would be the centerpiece of a fantasy garden. Cowen said a space ship and a dinosaur would someday appear in the woods behind the garden. The retired Californians arrived in Eureka Springs seven months ago and decided to stay. Why? “Never been here before,” Cowen said. We didn’t say so, but if one were to guess where people who like giant rabbits might settle in Arkansas, Eureka would instantly come to mind.
Just a piece down the road, we ran into another large animal display (the source, perhaps, of Cowen’s future statuary), featuring dinosaurs and cavemen. It reflected yet another part of the mindset of some Eurekans, that the earth is only 7,000 years old. With such a young earth, it’s no wonder its people unabashedly enjoy their childlike endeavors.
Anxious local collectors started turning up at the Armistead Road home of Mr. and Mrs. Sterling Tucker a little after 4 p.m. Monday a week ago for a preview party at their living estate sale. While the pre-sale hours had the feel of a garden party (with lawn furniture for sale in the yard and a bar by the garage), once the doors opened at 6 p.m. the scene turned feverish. On every wall and on every table and in places down low and up high, there was something desirable for sale, and everyone, it seemed, wanted to get everywhere at once.
Within the clamor there was an order of sorts. Those who wanted art or sterling or furniture stayed on the ground floor, while big-eyed women crammed into a room on the second floor filled with dresses from Paris that a Dudley employee would model every so often. The Observer, meanwhile, took refuge in the attic, with hundreds of antique toys and pop-culture ephemera.
All around, dozens of workers buzzed, ready to collect large items and take them to buyers’ “piles” in the front yard. One chatty worker, who helped The Observer and his companion to their car with, among other things, a Solid State portable record player and a ’60s “How and Why” book on atomic energy, mentioned that over the course of much of the past eight weeks he’d spent helping prepare the house for the sale, he’d searched in vain for a rare postage stamp worth several hundred thousand dollars. Mrs. Tucker, he said, remembered only that the stamp was in a book with the word “paradise” in the title.
Of course, we immediately, furiously rifled through our book on atomic energy, but, alas, paradise was not hiding amongst the neutrons and evil Commie scientists. Maybe someone else was luckier?