This sunset came Friday — a perfect birthday gift. It was a tough week here. On Thursday, a solitary locomotive a few miles south of Fayetteville collided with a small, stationary passenger train it had been sent to help. No one was killed, but most of the 50 or so people on the two trains were jostled around pretty well, and a few were seriously injured. The AP and the Wall Street Journal had picked up the news by the time I left work.
It was a lot for us at the newspaper to deal with, but obviously the ordeal was far more agonizing for many people on the trains, including the driver of the aiding locomotive, who officials said was among the most severely wounded. I hope everyone recovers as well as they can.
Within half an hour of the accident, several dozen emergency responders in ambulances, fire trucks and deputy cars swarmed Highway 71 near the tracks, including a lot of volunteer firefighters I recognized. At least half a dozen agencies were involved coordinated their efforts. Even Benton County to the north sent ambulances southward to make sure all of this county remained covered.
As the sun neared the horizon Saturday, giants made of papier-mache and cloth gathered in Fayetteville’s Wilson Park to put on a play: It was time for the eighth annual Puppets in the Park. At least a hundred people, mostly families, sat and stood in a semicircle to watch a story about good and evil told only with music, gestures and caricatured masks.
Here, the Coyote leads the small Mud People to a better home, watched over by gods of the Sun and water. The goats helped. It was a simple, archetypal story, and the crowd gamely supplied enthusiastic cheers for the Mud People and boos for the grotesque villains along the way.
I’d never seen anything like it in person, but I loved it. The play felt old somehow, as if it were the re-enactment of a religious tradition kept for hundreds of years somewhere else in the world. The Art Experience of Fayetteville, which organized the event, also gave the story a political edge, setting it in the context of the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children who came to the U.S.’s southern border earlier this year.
My birthday weekend drew to a close today, but this evening I finally got what I wanted most after a tough week: a hike.