Right now I am glowing, I am beaming. I just struck serendipitous gold and I can’t believe it. While talking to our director, Allyn Lord, I spot a partially covered-up something-or-other tucked behind the computer monitor in her office. My mind drifts away from the conversation and registers a wood-grain pattern. Now where have I seen that before? Al is talking but I’m not listening. My brain is whirling, running through everything that’s happened in the last few days.
Bam! Two days earlier I glanced at a faded photocopy of a newspaper article while doing research about medicinal springs. My eyes were drawn to a blurry photo of what I thought were pottery pieces. I make pottery myself, so I take notice of such things. The caption identified the objects as wood vases. Not pottery. I move on.
Back in Al’s office, my brain halts its mental review as the visual of the newspaper photo pops into focus. That’s where I saw it. I grab the vase for a closer look and find a small decal, “Copyright 1930 by Ozark Colony Association.” Yep, I know about the Colony. It was a cottage-style summer resort founded in 1921 by Walter R. Eaton at Sulphur Springs in Benton County.
Al says that the vase has been sitting in her office for months. Friends Linda Flores and Robert Pressman, who own All My Treasures Flea Market and Antique Mall in Fayetteville, gave it to her, thinking it might be something to add to the collections because it said “Ozark” on it. Neither they nor Al know a thing about it. But I do. The decal nails the identification and the faded newspaper article rounds out the story. Here’s what Steele Kennedy wrote for the July 16, 1933, edition of the Arkansas Democrat:
Here, on the banks of this little stream [in Sulphur Springs], is a novelty shop, the only one of its kind in all the Ozarks. Ask for Richie Eaton, a shy young mountain lad, who makes novelties and rustic furniture from native Ozark woods. . . . Every article is hand made, and it is made, Richie explains, “by the feel of the wood.” Instead of picking up a piece of native timber, which is taken from the forest during the winter months and properly treated to prevent checking, and saying, “I am going to make this or that thing out of you,” he picks up a piece of timber, feels it, looks it over, and asks the question, “What would you make to look the best and be the most useful?” When he gets the answer he starts lathing, sanding, polishing and varnishing. When the job is finished, all the knots, the grain of the wood and perhaps some of the bark show in their beautiful natural color. The product stands upright, perfectly balanced in form and contour and pretty enough to adorn the finest city mansion.
Merriam-Webster defines “serendipity” as “luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things unlooked for.” There is no mention of what serendipity feels like, but I can tell you. It feels exhilarating.