In 1965, our parents moved our home base from the Branson, Missouri area 30 some miles west to the Shell Knob, Missouri area. The first stop was in a trailer park near the Campbell Point Boat Dock on Table Rock Lake, and then they bought a small green house directly behind the Skelly Gas Station and a stone’s throw from the Central Crossing Bridge over the lake.
Yes, Table Rock is a fairly large lake. For it is around 65 miles from Beaver Dam (around 15 miles west of Eureka Springs, Arkansas) to Table Rock Dam (around 10 miles southwest of Branson, Missouri.)
Obviously, it is not a natural lake. For it is part of a chain of lakes (Beaver, Table Rock, Taneycomo, and Bull Shoals) that were formed when several dams were built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers across the White River, which naturally flows back and forth across the Arkansas/Missouri border on its way to the mighty Mississippi River.
Yes, I suppose it could be argued that this move was mostly on account of me. For it was because of how much our semi-retired neighbors complained about the school bus (yes, I was still welcome to ride it) picking me up early in the morning when we were there during the school year that my parents thought that it would be in everyone’s best interest for us to just move somewhere else, but my parents were never really comfortable there, anyway.
Talk about a blast from the past, Shell Knob was a two-room school back then. The little room held grades 1–4, and the big room held grades 5-8.
With there being no high school, most in grades 9-12 were bussed around 25 miles to Cassville, Missouri. Others were bussed around the same distance to Blue Eye, Missouri.
Be assured that my bout with rheumatic fever took a lot out of me. For aside from a parentally-sanctioned fight with a fellow second-grader over a chair at a PTA (Parent/Teacher Association) meeting, one could say that I was relatively well-behaved at the time.
In fact, it could even be said that I was being a really good boy in school for a change. For within just a few weeks of being in attendance, my teacher wanted to promote me to the fourth grade!
No, it was not because of her being sick of me already. For my second grade teacher, Mrs. Redding, would have also been my fourth grade teacher.
Now, as far as my own feelings on the subject of my grade promotion were concerned, I thought that it was only fair. For I had been held back from graduating from kindergarten to the first grade a couple of years before.
No, it was not that I had flunked kindergarten. For it was because of there being different age policies in different school districts back then that prevented me from moving on to the first grade after I had completed a year of kindergarten.
To dig into the particulars a bit, I had started kindergarten somewhere down south (Harrison, Arkansas, I think) when I was four and turning five in November, but at the start of the next school year, we were up in Minnesota. Therefore, since I was only five and not turning six until November, I had to be enrolled in kindergarten again.
My parents did not want me to feel any more physically intimidated than I already did, however. For by the time I was diagnosed with rheumatic fever, I already weighed 105 pounds, and not being able to exercise properly just added all the more to my weight problems. Therefore, the offer was declined.
I don’t know if my parents ever had any second thoughts about their decision, but they sure had reason to. For I started the second semester of the second grade in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and I almost didn’t graduate to the third grade on account of acting out in class.
No, I was not acting out because of being denied rapid academic advancement. For I was just starting to feel much more like myself, and that should have been taken more into account. After all, if they really were serious about not wanting me to check out all of the stuff that was in the gallon jars on the top shelf around the classroom, they shouldn’t have had them out in plain view!
I seem to recall also getting into trouble for another thing that was really not my fault. For I loved watching Superman on television, and when I smacked the heads of two classmates together during recess one day, I was just imitating the actions of my hero.
Oh yes, steps were most definitely taken. For I started receiving a spanking from a teacher at school, another from my mom after she picked me up from school and yet another from my dad after he came home from work almost every school day until just before graduation time.
No, I was not being beaten bloody. In fact, the look of disappointment upon my parent’s faces was more of a punishment to me than what physical pain was involved.
Yes, it could be said that I was obviously not mature enough to skip any grades, but I wouldn’t. This is, after all, my story, and by the very next year, I was being recognized as a model student again.
Meridian, Mississippi is where that happened, but it was not all good. For I was treated like a leper by my fellow classmates after the teacher pointed out that they would do well to follow my example of quietly reading at my desk while she was out of the room.
Included in that group was a beautiful blonde southern belle, whom I had a huge crush on. Not that she would have anything to do with me before, but I still held out hope until the teacher took care of that.
On the other hand, my parents sure were proud, and this made me happy. For all of the trouble I had been in was never about rebellion.
After testing at a college level reading aptitude during the first semester of the fourth grade back in Shell Knob, both Mrs. Redding and Mrs. Reaser, who was the big room teacher, strongly recommended that I be promoted to the sixth grade, but there was no changing the minds of my parents. So, I remained the smartest kid by far in my fourth grade class, which wasn’t all bad.
What was bad happened in 1967. For a doctor in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma told my dad that he faced permanent paralysis if he did not quit running heavy equipment immediately, and after receiving basically the same opinion from several other highly-respected doctors, he finally accepted that he may really have a problem with his back.
Alas, to say that my dad had a problem with his back would be like saying that someone with an inoperable brain tumor has a problem with headaches. For after over 30 years of running bulldozers and ditching machines over all sorts of terrain, in all kinds of weather, one vertebra had completely disintegrated, along with the discs on both sides of where it was supposed to be.
Needless to say, it came as a great shock to find that my dad had lost around two inches from his six foot tall frame, but that was the least of his problems. For with bone grinding against bone, the pain was becoming more and more unbearable, and it certainly did not help matters much that the only surgical option available at the time was to have his back fused in either a sitting or standing position.
No, back surgery was not at all acceptable to my dad. He did, however, go ahead and retire from pipelining.
As if his physical infirmities were not enough, it was at this time that he found out that the work he loved so much did not love him back. That is, at least not the ones in charge of the different aspects of it. For after paying dues for over 30 years, the International Union of Operating Engineers informed my dad that he was ineligible for retirement pay because of not being 65 yet. Adding all the more insult to his injury was that he was ineligible for any workers compensation from the companies he had been working for, nor for any disability benefits from the union, because of his condition being the result of many years of hard labor instead of any one injury.
Now, in all fairness, my dad was offered an office position at a fairly high salary with one of the companies he had worked for, but he was just in too much pain by then to do even that. Therefore, we lived off of the selling of assets until the decision of the Social Security Administration to deny my dad’s disability claim was reversed in 1969.
No, I had no idea just how financially well off we were before my dad had to quit pipelining. Not that it really mattered. For our parents did a wonderful job of shielding Terry and me from feeling the effects of the strain they were under.
In fact, the most prominent memory I have of the time is of the shame we felt one night at the supper table after my dad announced that he had not smoked a cigarette in over two weeks. For none of us had noticed that he had quit a four pack a day habit cold turkey!
Perhaps I was not nearly as smart at the time as I would like to think? For how could I have not noticed that my dad was no longer smoking since it was such a thrill for me to be allowed to walk down to the Skelly Service Station (around 100 yards in front our house) to buy a cartoon of Kools for him all by myself?
No, that may not sound like much to most, but my parents were very protective of me—to put it mildly. Therefore, anytime I was given an opportunity to be out of their sight (as far as I knew) was something very special to me.
Much to my chagrin, there is other evidence of me being more bonehead than brainiac back then. For I can remember making a sandwich out of waffles, cold turkey meat, mustard and about a half of an inch of salt on top of the meat. Be assured that I still have trouble eating waffles.
There is also my first experience with getting poison ivy, which happened during a visit by some of my dad's relatives. For after hearing them expressing their fears of being anywhere near the stuff, I grabbed a double handful of the leaves and proceeded to smear them all over my face to prove that I had nothing to worry about. With my eyes being swelled shut for the next two weeks, I had plenty of time to reflect upon the fact that it would do me well to also have a great fear of being anywhere near poison ivy from then on.
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