Arkansas’s first environmental education state park interprets the importance of the natural world and our place within it.
If you're a longtime reader of The Observer, you know about the one standing holiday tradition in our household: the ceremonial presentation of the Christmas spoon. The Observer and Spouse have been married so dang long now that Yours Truly can't quite remember why we started it — the spoon, not the marriage — but every year since we've been hitched, The Observer has purchased his lovely bride a single teaspoon, and had it engraved with the year. We tend to see it as a symbol of our unfading love for her. After all: a teaspoon is a sturdy machine, friends. Buy a good one, and unless it gets buried in the backyard by some excavating little crumb snatcher, it's more than likely gonna outlive you by a long shot.
Back when The Observer was in grad school and dead broke, the Christmas spoons tended toward the silver-plated variety, brass showing through the finish. One year, we just walked over to the kitchen drawer, pulled out our favorite cereal killing implement, and got that engraved (that might sound cheap, but it was quite a sacrifice for us. A good spoon — perfectly balanced, kind to the lips, deep enough but not too deep — is hard to find).
In recent years, as technology has caught up to our penchant for absolute-last-nanosecond Christmas shopping, we've been buying the annual spoon off that flea market of flea markets, eBay.com. Good mismatched flatware can be had on there for a song, and there are enough silver patterns in the world that we feel fairly certain that Spouse will be shed of us long before we ever have to buy her a duplicate.
A few minutes ago, the 2009 Christmas spoon came sailing into The Observer's mailbox from afar — the final present of Xmas in the can, only the engraving to be completed. When we opened the box, we saw the same, lovely piece of silverware we'd looked at in photographs on the Internet; gleaming silver, un-monogrammed, filigreed within an inch of its life. The problem was: the spoon, as a whole, is a good half-inch shorter than The Observer's pinkie finger.
Note to self: when buying on eBay, always remember to read the fine print. Here's hoping that our girl hasn't lost that sense of humor we came to love all those years ago.
Eureka Springs has been putting a lot of energy lately into the issue of its historic limestone sidewalks. And you can count on the Lovely County Citizen to put a lot of energy into its reporting on the city debate on whether and how to fix the slippery and sometimes cracked limestone.
It quoted Mayor Dani Joy's argument before the city board that wise locals use the streets instead of the sidewalks to stay safe.
The Citizen's subhead on the story read, of course: “Most streetwalkers are local.”
This Observer picked up a few Christmas presents recently, and didn't pay a dime for them. No, we weren't boosting, the term for shoplifting that the song by the Coup taught us. We were stooping, crawling all over our front yard, picking up the pecans that our yard tree shed in abundance.
Usually this time of year our yard is full of half-chewed pecan pods, the squirrels' leftovers. We have cussed the tree. We should have cussed the squirrels.
This year was different. We picked up six pounds of lovely whole pecans in a yard no bigger than Scrooge's heart. There, on our hands and knees in the yard, we were as one with aboriginal Arkansans, the nutters of Christmas past. Having no metate, however, we turned to a professional to prepare our nuts: The Baucum Nut House.
We learned a thing or two about pecans at the Nut House, which is just this side of Baucum on Hwy. 165. For example: If you want to crack your yard pecans industrially, do it right after you pick them up. Otherwise, the shell gets too dry and what you get when the nut goes through the cracker is pecan dust.
We also learned that not all yard pecans want to be cracked by machine. Some are too small, and want to be cracked by hand. And that the nuts with the pointy ends are sometimes the tastiest. Pointy pecans for our pointy-headed book club — perfect.
There at the Baucum Nut House we watched as the big pecans, the varieties the real growers sell, go up a notched moving belt, nut by nut, into a sheller and through a blower. In go whole nuts, out come beautiful pecan meats. It's a wide world that produces a mind that comes up with a pecan escalator.