Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
The Observer tries mightily to get up to Eureka Springs the last weekend in October every year for its Halloween Zombie Crawl, which sees hordes of the costumed undead shuffling down the city's picturesque Spring Street. It's a very good time in the dark, followed by a big Halloween-themed dance party in Basin Park, smack dab in the middle of the weirdest, most wonderful little town in Arkansas.
Even as muggy as it was this year, Saturday night found Yours Truly and our loving Spouse — she all made up as Living Dead Girl — stalking the streets of Eureka with the rest of the ghouls, goblins, haints and haunters. The event has grown considerably in recent years, so by the time we crept on down to Basin Park, it was already packed, with a DJ spinning the platters that matter up in the band shell and faux blood-splattered kids, teens and oldsters doing the Whip, the Hustle and the Charleston there in the lovely yellow light from the streetlamps.
For weeks, The Observer has been routinely expressing our ongoing displeasure with this foul 90-degree October and clingy Summer 2016, a season that has overstayed her welcome. Standing there in Basin Park, however, we actually found ourselves happy for the warmish night, so like the summer nights the crooners sing odes to, as opposed to Arkansas summer nights, which are like being boiled in mineral oil. No jackets to weigh down the dancers. No skeeters to slap at in the dark. No need for frigid hands in warming pockets. None of that. Just a light sweater, the music, the movement, and the hope that come that next week, we'll be taking the jacket down from the hook for the first of many times before Thanksgiving.
The next morning, still a little bleary, Spouse and Her Loving Man sprung from our slumber like two Nosferati and headed out in search of breakfast. After a very nice nosh at the Crescent Hotel, we went driving around a bit to see the sights before heading back to rouse Junior and lurch toward Little Rock.
We were motorvating down South Main on the way to the old train station in Eureka when we saw it, perched on a mailbox: a common gray squirrel that was not so common, given its speckled body and large, white tail. The Observer marveled as a kid over relatives' stuffed and mounted albino and partially albino gray squirrels, rarities saved from stewpot oblivion as a curiosity, dang near as rare — even to old-timers — as coming upon Bigfoot. Though Yours Truly has been in the woods of Arkansas our whole life, until that moment in Eureka we'd never seen a partially white squirrel that hadn't already shuffled off its mortal coil. We jammed on the brakes hard enough to give Spouse a start, then hopped out, fumbled our camera phone to life and shot some snaps of the little critter there, digging through the leaves for his daily acorn. Only after he'd bounded off did we mount back up, marveling to Spouse at the rarity of the thing as we drove on.
We'd made it about a block when we saw the second squirrel, this one almost entirely white from the neck back, as if he'd been picked up by the head and dipped in bleach, save for the dark strip of fur up his back. This time, we piled out and shot video until he disappeared into the underbrush, knowing that the boys at the Game and Fish Commission would never believe such a tale without the tape.
All The Observer and our honey can figger is that the abundance of white limestone in the area has allowed these mutant tree rats' spotty coats to serve as camo adequate enough to fool the area's abundance of hawks and other predators. That's our theory, anyway. Could just be that they're carnivorous, cross-dimensional escapees from a secret gubmint lab, as seen in "Stranger Things." Whatever the case, it sure made for a bright Halloween memory in one of our favorite places in the world.
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