Water and Fire

_C1_8106I dropped the ball last weekend, so you get twice the photos today.

First, some friends of mine guided me to an exceptionally beautiful spot in the Ozark National Forest, almost exactly between Fayetteville and Clarksville. Clear water tumbles down dozens of natural stone steps before falling down a medium-sized waterfall. The falls open to a roughly circular opening in the canopy, where the water turns a cloudy green.

A few other groups came and went while we were there. I didn’t jump in. Some of the others did.











_C1_8153Second, I’ve been working on a bit of a summer project for the Times about the volunteer and rural fire departments in the area. I’ll be writing a story, and they’re also letting me take the photos. It’s sure been a while since I’ve had that chance, so I’m excited.


There’s an overall pattern of connection: Within departments, almost everyone is related to, or long-time friends, with everyone else. Several siblings work in adjoining departments. Many volunteers have uncles or dads or moms who fought fire — some families have been in it for five generations. A bunch of them also work in the professional departments throughout northwest Arkansas. They say they do it for pride, to give back and to have fun.

But some departments are also struggling. Breakfasts or potlucks that used to bring a hundred people are cancelled because no one shows up. Departments that used to have more than 50 members now have a dozen. The same thing’s reported nationwide, and chiefs aren’t sure if the pattern will ever reverse.

So far, I’ve mainly gone to training and other meetings, so I have plenty of work left to do. I absolutely need to get out there when they’re responding to a fire, for example. We’ll see how the story shapes up. It should be running in September, if you’re interested. Now, more photos.










_C1_7121Thanks for looking! I always hope to make this blog worth your time.



A Fayetteville Christmas Story

_C1_9718 smallThis picture looks ominous, but believe me, the story I got to write for today’s paper to go along with this photo is a happy one.

That’s what remains of Paul Pannell’s car after a major fire destroyed most of his home Monday evening and Tuesday morning. All of those icicles are from fire fighters’ efforts to dispel the blaze.

Pannell is 92 and lives toward the northeast edge of town. His son-in-law, Bill Meissinger, lives next door.

From my story here (requires a subscription):

Meissinger said he grabbed an extension ladder and smashed it through Pannell’s bedroom window. Gray smoke billowed out and he couldn’t see, even with his flashlight. He hollered several times for Pannell but got no response, he said.

Then he said he remembered Pannell fought in the Battle of the Bulge and still dreams of it. Meissinger called out his rank: “Command Sgt. Maj. Pannell!”

“‘What, what’s going on?’” Meissinger said he heard immediately. “I said, ‘You gotta get to this light!’ As soon as I felt his hand the war was on.”

Meissinger was able to pull his father-in-law to safety, and he was shortly taken for treatment of minor injuries. Meissinger said nurses told him Pannell was likely a dozen seconds from death.

Just an astounding story from here, and it’s really a coincidence only that I got to be the one writing about it. I’m sharing it also because these are the first photos I’ve been able to take at my job here, though they aren’t much to look at. Meissinger’s on the left:

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Thanks for looking, and if you celebrate Christmas, I hope it was a merry one.