Adding Water

IMG_7527.JPGYes, that is a bride beating her groom to the end of a water slide while in her wedding dress. A lovely couple of friends of mine got married at their home on the edge of town over the weekend. It had your usual emotional vows, goofy dancing, exaggerated cake-slicing, all of that fun stuff. The water slide was a new one for me.

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IMG_7555.JPGThe double-barrel slide for the wedding was the largest I had come across for less than 24 hours — by some coincidence, Fayetteville had to show them up the very next day.

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_C1_7937.JPGA few thousand people turned out for the Dickson Street Slide on Sunday, a thousand-foot, all-day inner-tube ride that raised money for Soldier On Service Dogs, a nonprofit that places service dogs with veterans who could use their company. The street was filled with flowing water and chatter and happy shouting as kids and adults slid down and ran back up again. A troop of volunteers and staff did their best to corral the flood of people.

Other than a brief downpour, when I took shelter on the roof of the 21st Amendment bar, the thing went off without a hitch.

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_C1_8348.JPGThanks for lookin’, and congratulations to Joe and Susannah!

Dan

The Gems of America

IMG_1713.JPGHappy 100th birthday to our National Park Service, the federal agency that oversees and protects hundreds of national parks, monuments, preserves, recreation areas and other places worth seeing and saving.

The history of these parks is complicated, as histories usually are. They’re all infused with the countless forcible removals of Native Americans — Yosemite Valley was still home for some indigenous people until just a few decades ago — and one of their most important early proponents also helped inspire the Nazis. Today their maintenance is billions of dollars behind, and researchers have found the effects of climate change are decimating the conifers in the Rocky Mountains and poisoning the wetlands in the Everglades.

But these parks still protect thousands of square miles of every biome the continent has to offer. They span deserts and forests and rivers, and they hold our highest mountains, our lowest basins and our oldest trees. They gave an example for other countries to follow, setting aside their own natural treasures. As longtime National Park Service specialist and Nez Perce member Otis Halfmoon put it, “they are truly the gems of America.” They also do something less visible but crucially important, in my mind: They show us how small we are.

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IMG_4323A little humility seems all the more valuable to me these days. Now go visit some parks and help the National Park Service take care of them.

(If you don’t recognize these photos, they’re tiny pieces of Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado, Yosemite National Park in California, White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, and Hot Springs National Park and the Buffalo National River here in Arkansas.)

Back to School

_C1_7647.JPGI loved lots of things about marching band at the University of Nebraska, but one of the subtler pleasures was moving in a week before almost anyone else for the 14-hour days of band camp. I (goofily) felt like the campus was ours and the rest of the students were intruders, coming too late to know the place as well as we did or to pour as much of themselves into it. But I loved their return anyway, because it also meant returning to great friends I hadn’t seen all summer and soaking up the infectious energy that boomed from the loudspeakers at every pep rally and welcome ceremony.

The excitement’s not really aimed at me these days, but it’s hard to avoid when roughly one-third of Fayetteville’s population learns or works at the University of Arkansas. The 27,000 undergrads are a pain to some and a boon to others, as my colleague Stacy Ryburn cheekily wrote for today’s paper, but you can’t deny they have a good time.

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_C1_7767.JPGGood luck to all of the students, and to the people who have to deal with them. If all goes well, the undergrads will get their names etched into the university’s sidewalks when they graduate, an Arkansas tradition that I caught a glimpse of as I left campus.

Thanks for looking!

Dan

Greenway V

_C1_7396.JPGIt only took eight months, but yesterday I got past the Fayetteville section of the Razorback Greenway and into parts I’ve never seen before. A beautiful Saturday brought a few more miles of the 36-mile thread that carries characters like this pair, who were taking a break during a ride from one end of the trail to the other and back — I’d need a breather, too. Others included some disc-golfing fraternity brothers and a bulldog puppy named Princess that got doused with water to cool off from the trek around Lake Fayetteville.

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_C1_7449.JPGWe’ll see what’s going on in Springdale next time. Thanks for looking.