Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
It has recently come to The Observer's attention that the city of Conway has canceled this year's iteration of its most profound and widely beloved annual tradition: Stuck on a Truck, held each May at the city's Toad Suck Daze Festival. It was a test of mettle and endurance, but it was also more than that. It was a story about people, about what we are capable of as a species, and what we are willing to do to earn free stuff.
Stuck on a Truck, which allowed poor souls to win a free truck by simply keeping their hand on a truck — and keeping themselves awake long enough to cause psychosis — was a vital component of the cultural life of a city that notoriously lacks what most discerning outsiders would deem "cultural life." Looking back now, it seems like a dream: all those long nights, cheering crowds, and free vehicles. And then there were the participants, those chosen few, each wearing matching T-shirts and each stuck, in more than ways than one, on a truck. They were gladiators, and all of us envied them and their courage. Five-minute breaks every hour, 15-minute breaks every six hours, no exceptions, no loopholes. Most people left empty-handed. Last year's winner, Jacob Odom, remained stuck on the truck for 93 hours. Now Jacob owns that truck. Where are you now, Jacob? Stand up and speak for yourself. This is history.
If you're looking for someone to blame — and who isn't? — direct your chagrin toward Centennial Bank, bookkeepers with prim bottom-line efficiency. "Bank officials," according to the Log Cabin Democrat, "said the parking lot of its downtown branch would instead be used as a command center for all emergency services during the yearly festival." What is the cancelation of Stuck on a Truck if not an emergency?
Of course the people of Conway aren't standing by peacefully as decades (or one decade anyway) of tradition is razed. Like any good Americans, they've gone and started a Facebook group in protest: "Bring Back Stuck on a Truck." So what if this approach lacks any chance whatsoever of having an effect on the issue, or if the group itself, as of this writing, has only 93 members? They have raised their voices!
If The Observer doesn't exactly sound impartial here, keep in mind that Yours Truly doesn't have a truck and does desperately want one. We've never come close to winning the contest, but we also always figured we'd have another chance. See, this particular Observer has lived in Conway for a time, and it's rough out there. We used to sit out on the patio of Bear's Den, nursing $2 well drinks and watching frat kids shoot pool. We wanted a truck and still want a truck, and more than anything else, we don't want to pay for a truck. We want to earn it the old-fashioned way: The Conway Way.
The good news is that we've seen this movie before. They won't get away with this, because the people always win. There's more at stake here than a simple contest: This is about faith. To quote the rapper and noted truck-aficionado Rick Ross: "Hold your heads high, we had a nice run. Let the bankers know we have just begun."
Speaking of cars: The Observer was out and about when Snowpocalypse 2014 hit on Friday night, motoring over to the far side of the river to meet some friends. By the time we got to downtown from The Observatory in Stifft Station, what had been a sparse, blowing snow had turned into a gatdang blizzard, so dense that it swallowed the skyline. Still, we pressed on. Having inched our way to the gettin' place, we dashed in, said our hellos and goodbyes in short order, and soon headed out to meet our assured doom.
Luckily, Spouse's Honda is all-wheel drive, a surefooted little billy goat. After Saturday night, we're confident that we could drop that baby down in second gear and summit Mt. Everest given enough kitty litter and under-the-breath cussing. Still, we knew not to dare the freeway in such weather, so, the roads a solid blanket of white fleece by then, we crawled down McCain to JFK, then through Argenta.
There's some hills in there, folks, and the sights we saw! Pickups trucks with Marlboro Men at the wheel, immobilized and impotent. Jeep pilots grimacing into the skid, big-wheel hubris for naught. Toyotas turned bumper cars. Meanwhile, our little goat putt-putted right on through the carnage.
The car that we saw spun out the most? Those new Dodge Challengers, including one that we saw rendered moot at a red light downtown, having attempted a take off on what looked to be perfectly flat surface. Shoulda put that Hemi in the trunk, fellas. Did we beep-beep our Honda's meek little horn at his steroidic musclecar bulk as we putted past? No. That would have been beyond even our pale. But we wanted to.
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