It was also in 1967 that the time had come for us move our home base again. For after lodging a complaint with the authorities over people sunbathing on our lawn next to the lake, it was discovered that the property line between us and what was under the control of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers went across our cellar door. So, a move to another two-room school district about 20 miles to the west was made soon after.
No, it was not on account of the school district that we moved to the Eagle Rock, Missouri area. For I am quite sure that my parents would have preferred a bigger school, with greater opportunities for Terry and me, but my mom loved to fish. Therefore, getting a place close to the lake was a priority, and even though where we moved to was not right on the lake, it was close enough.
Yes, that makes my mom sound rather selfish, but be assured that it wasn’t like that. For she had been asked to give up plenty over the years, and I have many fond memories of our stay in the stucco house on F Highway (now EE) between Eagle Rock and Mano.
Just to be clear, we didn’t actually live in Eagle Rock, and I am not really sure that we could have if we had of wanted to. For the city limits consisted of maybe 40 total acres along Missouri Highway 86, with a general store and a separate post office on the west-side of the road, and a real estate office directly across the road from the Post Office on the east-side. There were also five or six houses on both sides that might have been available at the right price for the owners, but we settled on a place around five miles to the northeast.
Yes, I suppose that qualifies as a fond memory, but it does not compare with thoughts of how thrilling it was to go to Jenkins, Missouri (around 30 miles to the northeast) once a year to play in a softball tournament against the other two-room schools in Barry County at the time. Those were Jenkins, Shell Knob, Horner, Golden, Mineral Springs, and another school that I think was named Mt. Sinai.
It was an even bigger thrill to go to Cassville (around 20 miles to the northwest) to play basketball in a real gym, with bleachers, locker rooms and a hardwood floor, against the Cassville Junior High team. For our home court was outside and made of dirt, with the poles that the backboards were nailed to being somewhat less than straight up and down.
Yes, we always got our butts kicked good by the big (population 1,910) city boys, but they did have an unfair advantage. For it was easy for them to steal the ball since we were so used to looking for rocks while we were dribbling.
Of course, one would think that we might have had something of an advantage, ourselves. For one of our best players was Charlotte Maloney, who was not bad looking at all.
In fact, Horner actually did beat Cassville a couple of times when Caroline Vaught was on their team, but I suspect that might have had as much to do with intimidation as anything else. For she was every bit as tough as she was beautiful, and she wouldn’t think twice about knocking the snot out of anyone who even thought about making googly eyes at her when she was not in the mood. Well, at least that is what I heard.
Anyway, our softball field was in just as sad a shape as our basketball court. For there was no backstop behind home plate, and our bases (including home plate) consisted of burlap feed sacks filled with sawdust from Mr. Fogg’s sawmill across the road that marked the right field foul line. Anything hit over the barbed-wire fence around his cane field was considered a home run.
During one winter, a few of us boys (and there weren’t many of us to start with) gathered up a bunch of cane stalks and made ourselves a fort out in the middle of center field, which looked more like a teepee than anything else. Be assured that it only happened once. For Mrs. Davis, who sometimes substituted for Ms. Walters, who was the regular big room teacher, threw a genuine hissy-fit over the fact that we might be playing dice and other unacceptable stuff out there. This brought confused looks to all of our faces. For none of us had any idea what playing dice was.
No, there were not many of us boys at Eagle Rock at the time. Neither were there very many girls, for that matter. For my grade class consisted of two boys, me and Randy Tinsley, and three girls, Mary Ann Farwell, Cindy Tichener and Cindy Apperson, and the rest of the grades had similar numbers.
I do not remember much about the class work—other than that I was the smartest kid, of course. For that is something I would most definitely want to remember.
Evidently, the teachers at Eagle Rock concurred with my humble assessment of myself. For they were soon asking my parents to allow me to be promoted at least two grades, and again my parents declined.
Other memories of living in the Eagle Rock area include having my first taste of being around cattle, and I fell in love with all aspects of the enterprise. Since my dad could not do all that much because of his bad back, we ran a very small operation ourselves, but our next-door neighbors to the east and west had fairly large cow/calf finishing operations for the area.
A cow/calf finishing operation is one that keeps the home-bred calves with their mothers until time for weaning, and then the calves are often kept on the place until they reach full size before they are shipped off to market. This is very different from the way the cattle industry is mostly run today. For most weaned calves are now sold at auction to be finished in commercial feedlots, which is supposed to be a much more efficient system.
Despite his severe disability, my dad did teach me how to build what he considered to be a proper fence, and I actually enjoyed it, which is more evidence that there probably is something seriously wrong with me. For building the kind of fence my dad wanted was very hard work, but in all fairness to my sanity, I did get very tired of hearing him repeatedly say, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right!”
In case you are curious, what my dad considered to be a proper fence consisted of hog-wire (at least 3o” tall) on the bottom, and at least two strands of barbed-wire over that. Cedar corner posts, with a lot of heartwood (reddish centers) had to be at least a foot in diameter, and at least eight feet long. For that would allow for them to buried around four feet deep. In fact, all the posts had to be buried at least four feet deep, which was a lot of fun to achieve when you usually run into ledge rock less than a foot below the surface.
Yes, I now know that they did not have to be so deep in that area, but my dad learned how to build fence on the eastern Kansas prairie, where one can dig for several feet before finding a single rock. In all fairness to his way, however, most of the fences he had a hand in building around our places were still standing strong forty years later, and the ones that were not had been torn down on purpose.
Besides cattle, we also raised chickens, ducks and rabbits. Well, okay, we didn’t really raise the ducks. For we did have some, but they pretty much had the run of the place.
Looking back, I have no idea why we had them in the first place. For we gathered plenty of eggs from the chickens, and none of us liked eating duck because of the meat being so dry.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ve heard plenty about how to cook them so that the meat is not so dry, but my mom must have never mastered the technique. For what I remember is trying to swallow a ball of meat that kept getting bigger the more I chewed it. Besides, being able to cook an edible duck doesn’t do anything about having to watch every step you take while outside.
Be assured that excessive fertilization was not the only problem we were having with ducks around. For the ones we had evidently could not tell the difference between a newborn chick and a large grasshopper.
An especially bittersweet memory of mine is of taking the head clean off of a duck with a rock thrown from around 30 feet away after seeing it gobble up one of my favorite chicks. What makes it so bittersweet is that I do not relish the memory of killing an animal that was supposed to be under my care in a fit of rage over it doing just what came naturally, but it was an amazing throw.
Be assured that my memories of butchering our rabbits are also troubling to me, but those are different. For it was because of being contracted with Pellfreeze out of Rogers, Arkansas to provide dressed rabbits for consumption that we had them.
Before moving on to something else, I must mention that our rabbits were housed in cages hung from the rafters on one side of what I thought at the time was our huge barn. For it came as quite a shock to me to go by years later and see that it was actually not much bigger than a good-sized shed (30’x20’). Could it be that it shrank over the years?
Another memory that should be included before moving on is of another encounter with bloodletting that I was involved in. For it occurred when Terry walked up behind me while I was batting rocks across the road, and my backswing took a chunk of flesh out of the top of his head.
Oh, I thought I had killed him for sure that time. For he was most definitely a tow-head (having snow-white hair) back then, and he quickly begun to look more like a strawberry sundae than my little brother, with all the blood streaming down.
No, he was not screaming in pain. In fact, Terry was more concerned about me than himself. However, that came to a screeching halt after our dad got a look at him, and Terry really became scared after hearing our mom scream at me, “WHAT DID YOU DO?”
Thankfully, the only real damage that was done was a quarter-sized patch of skin and hair missing from the top of Terry's head, and I did not even get a whipping out of it. I was, however, a lot more careful about batting rocks across the road after that—be assured!
Moving on, it was while we lived in Eagle Rock that I also had my first experience with playing music. What led to that was hearing Ruthanne Thompson play Beethoven’s Fur Elise in a piano recital by the students of our next-door neighbor (about a half-mile away) to the east, and after taking lessons from Mrs. N.W. Ford for a couple of years, I also played that same piece in one her recitals. I eventually became the substitute pianist for the Roaring River (Southern) Baptist Church in Eagle Rock, but after my Singer (yes, the sewing machine company) upright piano could not make the next move with us, I pretty much stopped playing piano all together.
Last, but certainly not the least of my pleasant memories of living in the Eagle Rock area, is the starting of the family tradition (minus dad) of being there on the banks of the river, with a pole in hand, when the horn sounded, signaling the opening of the Missouri Trout Fishing Season at Roaring River State Park (around 8 miles south of Cassville). For it was one that I personally observed for 14 consecutive seasons, and my brother even won the trophy for catching the largest trout (5 pounds, 14 ounces, I think) by someone under the age of 12 one year.
Now comes a couple of not-so-pleasant memories, and the worst one is of racing Billy Easley, who was the youngest child of our next-door neighbor to the west, on my super cool 3-speed bicycle and winding up in a heap. It all started when we were going downhill on a gravel-covered dirt road not far from the house. He was on his Honda 90 mini-bike, and I had just pulled even when I looked over at his speedometer. It read 45 MPH, and I felt like I was flying. Then the front tire of my bike hit a good-sized rock sticking out of the dirt, and I really did go flying. For as my bike went sideways, I went straight over the handlebars, and after sliding face-first on the gravel for 15-20 feet, I was one big scrape from my forehead to my knees. For my shirt had been torn completely off, and my jeans were in shreds.
Thankfully, I suffered no serious injuries, but that incident effectively ended any joy I could receive from riding on two wheels from then on. For whenever I have ridden a bike (or a motorcycle) since, I have always been way too nervous to really enjoy myself.
Another not-so-pleasant memory of living there involved learning that it is not always wise to come running to the house after finding a chicken egg in the woods if you are not sure of just how long it has been out there. For I found out what a rotten egg really smells like when one I had found exploded all over me just before I reached the back door of the house.
Yes, I suppose it was good that it exploded before I got into the house with it. For at least I did not bring the wrath of my parents down upon me for making a mess in the kitchen, but…
Click [here] for a free fancy PDF of the entire book.