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The Crackerhead Chronicles: The Fourth Crumb

Posted by Jerry E Beuterbaugh Labels: ,

It would be around another decade before Dinah Shore would start singing about seeing the U.S.A. in a Chevrolet in advertisements, but that didn’t stop my parents from starting early.  For a Chevrolet was the vehicle of choice for my dad, and from fire ant hills down old El Paso way to garbage can-raiding black bears on the upper peninsula of Michigan, he showed my mom sights that made her heart sing.

Of course, that had little to do with wildlife.  For my mom was raised in an area where a man was not considered to be fully respectable until they had been chewed on some by a mountain lion or a bear, and a woman was expected to be just as tough.

One of her favorite stories was of a very young mother, who was left all alone at home with a colicy baby while her husband was off on an extended hunting trip.  The crying of her child attracted a mountain lion because of it being very similar to the sound that their own cubs often make, and it wound up trying to go down the chimney in a desperate attempt to get inside the log cabin after exhausting all other possibilities.  Needless to say, the young mother was just as determined to keep the big cat from getting her baby, and she started burning what furniture they had after using up all of the firewood that had been piled up next to the hearth.  Finally, the only thing left to burn was the mattress that her mother and grandmother had worked so hard to make for a wedding present, but when she dragged it onto the fire, the only thing the mattress succeeded in doing was put the fire out.  When she heard the mountain lion making its way down the chimney, she grabbed her baby and rushed out of the door, while making sure of being closed behind them .  After making it to her folk’s place, she returned with her father and a couple of her brothers to find the big cat curled up on the mattress and appearing to be quite content.

No, seeing wildlife was not the reason for the song in my mom’s heart, but she would be the first to admit that seeing such sights with my dad was like nothing she had ever experienced before.  For he made everything better for her, and he was always quick to tell anyone who would listen that she made everything better for him.

Oh yes, the good times rolled as my parents traveled from job to job, and in what seemed like no time at all to her, my mom had dangled her feet in the Atlantic Ocean from a pier in both South Carolina and Connecticut.  She enjoyed being down in the deep south more than anywhere else because of how much it was generally like home, but she had to admit that New England did have its charms.

They (the good times) do have a tendency to come to an end after a spell, however, and the extreme reluctance of three of my dad's sisters to truly accept my mom into the family put a definite strain on my parent’s relationship.  So, establishing a home base in southeastern Kansas was out of the question.

A home base was somewhere to go during downtimes, and not all pipeliners saw the need.  For the way the business worked back then was that a particular project (or job) would last from a few weeks to several months, and many hands would just stay where they were until the next one came along.  Considering the fact that most new jobs were lined up before the old one was completed, there usually wasn’t much downtime to be had if you were any good and wanted to work.

No, there was no set crew that went together from job to job.  For it was left to the project manager to pick who would work under them, and they always wanted the best available.

So, when there were jobs in different locations, the best workers often had their choice of where they wanted to go.  They also had the option of not working at all, of course, and this is when having a home base to rest for a while was especially nice.

Be assured that these breaks from the action were not just for the menfolk, neither.  For as my mom would attest, not having all that much to do while their husband is at work for sometimes up to fourteen hours a day is harder on some wives than others.

My parents finally settled on buying a nice little house just outside of the city limits of Miller, Missouri, which is around 40 miles west of Springfield, Missouri.  For it appeared to be a fine community of a few hundred good people and a couple of old sore-heads thrown in for good measure, and it was well within the neutral zone (DMZ) between Blue Mound, Kansas and the Buffalo River area of Arkansas, which limited their exposure to the in-laws and outlaws on both sides of the family.

The plan worked to perfection.  For the only visits they had were very welcomed ones from my dad’s sisters, Ann and Maxine, and my mom’s unofficially adopted mother from Texarkana, Arkansas.

Alas, they say that all good times must eventually come to an end, and this is exactly what happened six years into their marriage.  For the time had come for me to wreak havoc on their happy lives.

No, it is not that I was unwelcome.  In fact, just the opposite was true.  For my parents had been praying for a child for several years, but it was not long before their eyes would glaze over whenever they heard any reference to the old adage, be careful with what you ask for because you just might get it.

It started right away, actually.  For pipeliners generally had a reputation not so unlike that of cowboys on a cattle drive.  This often led to a great deal of difficulty finding a place to stay in less-populated areas, and having a small child in tow made it even harder.

To remedy the situation, my parents went the mobile home route.  I’m not sure what they started out with, but before it was all over, we had a 8’x45’ Spartan that my dad towed behind a heavy duty one-ton GMC truck.

Of course, that led to a whole new set of problems.  For instead of just finding an apartment to set up house in, a trailer park with an empty space would have to be located, and when that was accomplished, the trailer had to be set up for occupancy.

Yes, I am quite sure that my dad looked forward to actually going to work.  For that had to have been more enjoyable to him than making sure of the trailer being level and hooking up all of the utilities.

It also brought him some relief from me.  For at the age of nine months, it was off to the races, and to make matters worse, I absolutely hated going to sleep.  Did they not have Benadryl back then?

Whether it was to keep bad guys out or me in, I am not sure, but an 80 pound German Shepherd by the name of Lady was conscripted into service sometime around 1960, and oh the good times we had.  For I would grab one end of an old towel and she would grab the other, and we would spend a good part of each day dragging each other the full length of the hallway down the center of our trailer.

The winter of 1962-3 was eventful.  For my parents had built a fabulous house overlooking Table Rock Lake in a subdivision near Hollister, Missouri, which is across Lake Taneycomo from Branson, Missouri, that came to be called Poverty Point by the locals because of the affluence of those who built homes there.

Yes, my dad made very good money for that time, but we certainly did not rank up there with the doctors, lawyers, and celebrities who came to be our neighbors.  For I can remember him saying in 1964 (I think) that no one is worth being paid six dollars an hour.

No, it was not part of the plan that we wind up being among hillbilly royalty and the societal elite of the area.  For our house was the second to be built in that subdivision, and by 1965, we were gone.

Before going there, however, I still have more to say about the winter of 1962-3.  For just after Thanksgiving Day, my mom left for about three weeks, and I found out that my dad could only cook eggs and hot dogs.  Needless to say, we both eagerly awaited her return, but when she finally did come home, she was not alone!

They named him Terry Alan Beuterbaugh, and I was absolutely fascinated with my new baby brother, who was physically born into this world on December 14, 1962 in the same town of Newport, Arkansas as I was.  Then the new wore off, and I went back to my job of trying to be the center of attention at all times.

Yes, my job had become a lot harder with that cute and cuddly newborn around, but I was quite resourceful for my age.  One time I even went as far as to suck a holly berry up my nose after being told (repeatedly) not to.

Off to the medical clinic in Branson we went, and when the good doctor came at me with a tool to remove the berry from my nasal passage, I hollered, “HOLD IT,” in a very loud voice, put a finger in the unobstructed nostril, and then promptly blew the berry across the room.  The doctor cracked up and my mom was mortified.  Mission accomplished!

Alas, there were also times when I attracted too much attention to myself.  One of those was when I played Guess Who? with my Hollister school bus driver.  If you are familiar with the game, it requires one to hold their hands over the eyes of the other while asking them to guess who you are.

No, there was nothing necessarily wrong with that.  That is, unless you consider it wrong to be playing the game while the bus is going down the road.

Thankfully, a guard rail stopped the bus from sliding off of the side of the mountain after it had flipped onto its side.  For instead of there being multiple deaths and serious injuries to report, only a few scrapes and bruises occurred.

Of course, I was physically unhurt in the accident, but I still get a little shaky whenever I must pass through a very tall doorway because of how tall the Hollister Elementary School principal's office door was.  I swear, it must have been 20 feet tall, but I suppose that my tall-door phobia has more to do with what happened to me after I went through the principal's office door than with the door itself.

My reign of terror came to a screeching halt after my tonsils were removed in Harrison, Arkansas (I think) when I was 5 years old.  For they failed to do a throat culture on me before performing the procedure.

So?  Well, it so happened that I had a Group A streptococcal infection (strep throat) present at the time, and I subsequently contracted a very serious disease by the name of rheumatic fever, which was left undiagnosed for several weeks.

Thankfully, the next job was in Minnesota.  For the doctors up there were quite familiar with the disease.  Whereas, most of the doctors down south at the time were not.  For rheumatic fever rarely reared its ugly head south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

My parents were advised to get me to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.  For the medical facility had quite a reputation for going above and beyond the standard call of duty for their patients, and it was there that I was correctly diagnosed.

Alas, I do not have much of a memory of those days.  For what recollections I do have are mostly rather hazy at best, but the sight of that Mayo Clinic doctor coming up to my mom with the results of the tests that they had done is still as clear to me as if it happened just a few minutes ago.

I was so scared.  For they had left me sitting all alone on an examination table in a room with large windows, which was kinda like being placed in a petri dish, and then I saw my mom put her right hand over her mouth, go almost completely limp and start sobbing.

No, the news was not all bad.  For they did want me to stay in the hospital for a period of observation because of having a slight heart murmur, but the disease had mostly attacked my joints.  Therefore, it was quite treatable with penicillin.  Aside from not being able to walk very well for a while, my life was expected to return to normal.

I do not remember just how long I stayed in the hospital, but I do have some very clear memories of being there.  For my legs hurt a lot, and there were all of those needles coming at me from all directions, at all hours of the day and night.

Nonetheless, I also have some very good memories of being there.  For I milked my plight for all it was worth, and my parents responded by bringing me lots of G.I. Joe stuff and enough comic books to jam my overactive imagination into overdrive.

I can see now that my stay in hospital, along with the subsequent time of convalescence at home, was truly a great blessing.  For it was during that period when I learned about the joys of reading, and not all of my reading material was about Superman, Batman, and Spiderman, neither.  For I practically wore the covers off of a comic book of Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, and I did the same to a comic book of James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans.

No, not all of my time as a certified invalid was spent indoors.  For I was sometimes granted a furlough to be led outside into the sunshine, and I was told about my mom placing me on a limb of a tree that I could see from my window and cry about not being able to climb it.  One would think that I would have some very pleasant memories of such an auspicious occasion, but there are none to be found rattling around in my head.

Jealousy over Terry and Lady playing our game helped to accelerate my recovery.  For I was not about to let them have all of the fun dragging each other up and down the length of the trailer, and within two years, I was back to walking almost normally—much to the joy of my parents and brother, I’m sure.

Click [here] for a free fancy PDF of the entire book.


  1. EddieGarcia

    Hey Jerry,
    I can see that you were an ordinary child with all your mischievous ways. Who wasn't, right? I hate to hear that you had such an ordeal with the Rheumatic fever but that you were able once again to join your brother and your pet in the hallway adventure. You must have had a wonderful childhood experience even though there were some touch and go situations. I had a wonderful childhood myself and wouldn't trade it for anything in this world. Looking forward to reading the next crumb.

    Friends 4 Life!

  1. FishHawk

    Thanks for stopping by again, my dear Eddie!!! Yes, in comparison to many, many others, I did indeed have a wonderful childhood, but it still left very deep scars. You will see that as you read on. It was, however, necessary in order to set the stage for what was to come.

  1. Rob

    Wow, thats quite an account. The part about playing 'Guess Who?' with the bus driver!! Oh my goodness! That's both funny and a really creepy outcome at the same time!

  1. FishHawk

    Yeah, I am truly "special." Thanks for stopping by again, my dear Rob!!!

  1. One Creative Queen

    YOU, my dear, sweet friend, ARE A PIECE OF WORK! I say that with true affection. xx

  1. One Creative Queen

    I meant to ask you - are you familiar with Maryville, MO at all? That is where a lot of my family came from/lived. They are all gone now - but I just wonder if you haven't tromped all over that small town. (I know there is a university there - with a dental school...because I remember walking the 2-3 blocks from my great aunt and great uncle's house, to get there.) xx

  1. FishHawk

    Thanks for stopping by again, my dear Queen Katherine!!! I figured that you reading about some of my exploits as a child might make you feel better about your own kids. Maryville, MO is over 200 miles to the northwest of where my wife and I now live in Springfield. I have been through there, but I am not very familiar with the town. The school you referred is Northwest Missouri State, and their football team just got through winning another Division II national championship. Here is a link to an article about it: http://ncaafootball.fanhouse.com/2009/12/12/northwest-missouri-state-wins-ncaa-division-ii-football-champion/ The football team at Northern Colorado in Greeley is also in the Division II.

  1. Gail

    very interesting

  1. Jerry E Beuterbaugh

    Thanks for stopping by again, my dear Gail!!! "Interesting" would not have been a word too many would have used to describe me back then.

  1. Karen S.

    Oh my gosh, what an amazing life story you have assembled here. Very interesting. My one and only sister died at the age of almost 19 of Rheumatic Fever, as the main complication, I was too young to really understand it all, but she was born with heart-trouble, and at the time the doctors never believed she'd live as long as she did. But God willing or just plain healthy good life, (my mother god bless her gave her all) my sister, Oriana still left this world too early .....Thank goodness for places like Mayo Clinic, as well.

  1. Jerry E Beuterbaugh

    Thanks for stopping by, my dear Karen!!! Not more than a minute ago, while I was leaving a reply to the comment you left on the Come Monday about AMC's The Pitch, I was hoping that you might want to start reading this, and He already had you here! Um, if you get sick of reading about how much potential I was displaying back in my younger days, hang in there. For it all started going downhill in a hurry after I graduated from high school, and by the end of the book, you just might think that I really did lose my mind.