Possum Flown

(Staff Photo: Richard Davis) The bench in front of Flying Possum Leather following the fire early Monday morning. Owner Bruce Walker perished as a result of the blaze.

End of an age as Dickson Street icon passes, shop burns

By Richard Davis
TFW Staff Writer

In an area that changed dramatically and at intervals rapidly, Bruce Walker and Flying Possum Leather along with faithful canine companion Bugsy were longtime, laid-back fixtures amidst the rock and sometimes raucous nature of Dickson Street.

A fire early Monday, however, gutted the shop and ended Bruce’s life along with his life’s work for the last 35 years. Only Bugsy, somehow, emerged unharmed from the blaze.

In a previous life, Bruce worked as a U.S. Forest Service guide at Blanchard Springs Caverns, but since 1976 he was known for his skills with leather, particularly in the fashioning of custom-fit Birkenstock sandals, which customers swore by for a comfort that matched their longevity. In addition, Bruce created a patented handmade leather guitar strap, the first three of which went to Neil Young, Willie Nelson and local musician Jed Clampit.

For many years, Bruce and Bugsy walked to his shop from his home just a couple of blocks away. It was a common sight to spy Bruce walking Dickson Street, often with Bugsy, sans leash, maybe on his way to or from the bank or going to get a bite to eat.

A longtime friend and neighbor, Marianne Beasley described Bruce as “nonpretenious, gentle toward animals, respectful of everyone, casual in style with an easy-going nature, but nobody’s pussycat if he were wrongly crossed. He lived life according to his own rules, he didn’t ask others to define him or help him discover himself, nor did he get into the path of anyone else’s path toward self discovery.” She recalled how Bugsy would come by her place as a pup and play with a wolf she once owned before Bruce collected his companion on the way to the shop.

Another friend and neighbor, Martha Robson described how Bruce’s four-footed friend would often stop by for a splash in her and her husband’s fish pond as the two walked to Flying Possum.

Susan Porter, the founder and former editor of the Free Weekly, recalled that Bruce and the Mary Hinton, a former owner of George’s Majestic Lounge, were named King and Queen of the Demented Krewe of Dickson in 1996 for that Mardi Gras celebration. She said he also received an honorary Northwest Arkansas Music Award for his support and love of local live music.

On Monday evening, many gathered outside the burned shop, leaving flowers, messages, photographs and even a tall boy beer on the bench in front of Flying Possum. Nearby, a shiny new Waffle House restaurant is open for business. Soon a Chipotle franchise will open in the old Dickson train depot. Further down the street, the tenured fixtures the Bank of Fayetteville, Jose’s, Buster Belly’s and Condom Sense continue to operate. Meanwhile blackened windows, a large Birkenstock sign and a wood-carved “Since 1976” plaque remain as reminders of a severed anchor between past, present and future.

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Memorial Events

These are shows and events that are known at this time. More may come about or times and locations may be altered. Check back for updates.

▲ A memorial show will be held from 8 to 11 p.m. today (Thursday, March 10) at Rogue on Dickson Street
▲ Sixteen local bands will perform from 1 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday, March 13 at George’s Majestic Lounge. The memorial event will include a silent auction and food from Greenhouse Grille, Jose’s, Hog Haus, Flying Burrito, Common Grounds, Little Bread Co. and Pesto Cafe. All proceeds will go to the Bruce D. Walker Memorial Fund, part of which will be used to start and maintain a stage in Bruce’s name each year at Springfest. Performers include Jed Clampit, Charliehorse, Sarah Hughes Band, Mountain of Venus, 1 Oz Jig, Earl & Them, Ultra Suede, Pope County Bootleggers, Groovement, Kory Montgomery Band, Big ’Uns, Benjamin Del Shreve and more.

▲ “Jam for Bruce” will start at 5:30 p.m. today (Sunday, March 13) at Rogue on Dickson Street.
▲ Another memorial event will be held from 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday, March 20 at Jose’s in Fayetteville.

More Photos

From Bluebird Photography


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