Although Gwen the Beautiful and I live in Paradise, it’s not much of a vacation spot. Our slice of heaven is home to hard-working men and women trying to make ends meet. When they want to relax and have fun, they head out of town.
Last weekend, Gwen and I decided to dive into the tourist season and hang awhile at the home of our friend, Sharon, who lives on the outskirts of the nearby holiday haven called Eureka Springs.
A hilly, 19th century Victorian town that looks the way San Francisco would if San Francisco hadn’t grown up, Eureka Springs is all about festivals and art.
There are music festivals. Film festivals. Classic car rallies. Motorcycle shows. Even canoe extravaganzas. If you can celebrate it, Eureka Springs will schedule a weekend you can celebrate it.
The art comes in a million different varieties too. Folk art. Southwestern art. Modern art. Paintings, sculptures, photographs, ceramics â€” you name it and it’s showing in a gallery in the historic part of town.
Sharon’s gallery sells South American weavings. As it turned out, she wasn’t going to be home because she had to go to Ecuador on a buying trip. She told us where the key was hidden, though, and we still didn’t lack for company because another friend decided to come along.
Our dog, Emmy, bulled her way into the truck as we were packing it up and refused to be left behind with the other Cloud Creek animals in Burl Jr. the New Caretaker’s excellent care.
“If she wants to come with us that badly let’s take her,” Gwen the Beautiful said.
“If she comes with us, we won’t be able to do nearly as much nothing as we intend to,” I pointed out.
“And if I’m feeling bad about how bad she’s feeling back home, do you think it’ll be any better?”
And that was that
Gwen, Emmy, and I rolled onto Sharon’s property early in the afternoon and settled into the cozy cottage. Gwen and I had dinner at Sparky’s, a great local hangout. Then, it was back to our vacation retreat, where we slept soundly.
Until about 5 in the morning. When Emmy jumped off the bed and began barking.
She raced downstairs, going from window to window. Growing more and more frantic.
Then I groaned.
Finally, I got up to see what the noise was all about. I looked outside.
And saw a heifer.
Half a dozen more. Moseying through Sharon’s flowerbed. Grazing on her previously immaculate front lawn.
“Uh, Gwen? I think we’ve got a problem here.”
Now it was Gwen doing the groaning. I realized she was muttering some words: “The neighbor’s phone number’s on the kitchen wall. Sharon said if there was a problem to call there.”
Call I did, and a wide-awake woman’s voice answered. I told her where I was, why I was there, and why I was calling.
“Hold on,” she said. And, after a moment: “You’re right. We’re missing about half a dozen head. They’re pets, you know. Haven’t got the heart to raise anything for sale. I’ll come fetch them right away.”
I hung up. Went to the front door, opening it to get a better look.
And Emmy pushed past me like a flash. She stopped on the porch for a second, grinning like the happiest kid at a party, then barked and gave chase.
The cattle practically flew into the woods, Emmy in gleeful pursuit.
I called the neighbor again to say her pets were heading back her way. Then I went outside and called Emmy.
I called her again.
The city boy in me started worrying. We were on strange turf. Would Emmy be able to find her way back? What if she got lost? I remembered other losses and felt my chest knot.
Then I glanced over at the flowerbed. There lay the dog, merrily rolling in what the cattle had left behind.
Unexpected lessons arise constantly in life, and one came to me that morning. I’ve written about how my deteriorating eyesight suddenly improved not long ago.
What I learned during the weekend goes hand in hand with that miracle.
It’s something I could swear I heard Emmy say as she gave me a wink. “Gotta keep your eyes open, bud. Seeing doesn’t help if you forget to look.”
Larry Brody is an author, veteran television writer and producer and creative director of Cloud Creek Institute for the Arts. He, his wife and their dogs, cats, horses and chickens live in Marion County. The other residents of the mythical town of Paradise reside in his imagination, however, and any resemblance to actual places or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Originally published June 28, 2006