I think my first visit to Eureka Springs was a long day-trip in 1984, driving up from Little Rock where I lived. I rode the trains. I toured the town. I was charmed by it.
When I was dating Angi, we made a weekend trip up and stayed at a charming bed-and-breakfast called Cedarberry Cottage (now the home of my newly-engaged friends Michael Johnson-Gallina and Marilyn Sloas). I proposed to her on the luncheon train Saturday afternoon (the dinner train was booked up!).
On our family trips up from Little Rock, the germ of the idea of the “Balm of Life” waters from the springs lending extended years to someone’s lifetime began to take shape.
In the Skylark stories I wrote as a teen in the 1970s, the main character was an orphan whose parents were lost when their spaceship was destroyed — but not before getting their baby into a shuttlepod with an AI control system named FRAN which became the baby’s parent and found a family to raise him.
The story taking shape in my head involved a space vessel hurtling backward in time, and its jettisoned water supply becoming the Waters of the Stars in Eureka Springs.
My concept languished for years as career and family and love and loss took priority, but when I semi-retired here, it began to take root. I dived into the souvenir book histories of the tiny city, bought more, delved deeper into railroad history, even took a position for 2-1/2 years as a conductor on the tourist railway.
Finally retiring in 2019, I began writing in earnest, beyond just plot and character notes. I toted my little iPad Mini and its Kensington keyboard down the steps of Mud Street Cafe (and sometimes during winter hours Mud Street Annex) every Monday morning, and the story began to take shape.
And quickly ground to a halt.
That’s another story.