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The Crackerhead Chronicles: The First Crumb

Posted by Jerry E Beuterbaugh Labels: ,

Howdy!  My name is Jerry Eugene Beuterbaugh.  I was physically born into this world at 2:30 p.m. on November 24, 1957 in Newport, Arkansas, which is around 70 miles northwest of Memphis, Tennessee, and this is an abbreviated account of my life so far.

Now, a great deal of what is contained in this book is for the benefit of my estranged children.  For there will come a time when at least their children will desperately want to know as much about me as they possibly can.

Nonetheless, I do believe that my story will be found to be rather intriguing by others.  For by definition, a crackerhead is someone who crumbles under pressure—regardless of whether real or imagined, and for most of my born-again life, I have felt much more like a spiritual crash-test dummy than any sort of conquering hero of the faith.

No, mine is not another tragic tale of woe.  That is, at least not in the beginning.  For I figure I had a really good childhood in comparison to what far too many others have had to endure.

On the other hand, the rest of my story is debatable.  For in the eyes of this world, I have not met with much success.  In fact, considering the amount of my perceived potential, I have been a miserable failure at almost everything I have endeavored to do, and there is much about my past that I am deeply ashamed of.

Thankfully, the end of my time in this world will not be the end of my existence, and despite just how painful it has been, it does bring me some comfort to now understand that all I have experienced in this world has been for the glory of our Heavenly Father and my ultimate good.

Of course, that may be something you would consider as being absolutely ridiculous.  Before the end, I hope you are convinced otherwise.

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

The Crackerhead Chronicles: The Second Crumb

Posted by Jerry E Beuterbaugh Labels: ,

(The Second Crumb
The maiden name of my mom is Mabel Elizabeth Honeycutt.  She was physically born into this world on October 22, 1926 in a log cabin near Mountain Home, Arkansas, which is around 140 miles north of Little Rock, Arkansas.

Aside from the fact of her being born at home in a log cabin, there is another thing that I find rather interesting about the place of my mom’s birth.  For what may remain of the log cabin now lies at the bottom of Norfork Lake, which was formed by the damming of the North Fork River in 1941.

Sadly, I do not know much about her lineage.  For she did not know all that much about it herself, and all of our efforts to find relatives and others who might be able to fill in the blanks proved unsuccessful.

Oh yes, we went looking on several occasions, and I have many fond memories of those trips—even though we never caught a whiff of her family’s trail.  For it was as if they had vanished without a trace, but roaming all over that rugged area was still quite an adventure to me.

On one trip, I can remember observing a very large black snake in quite a predicament while curled around a cedar fence post next to the road.  For it had swallowed a large rat up to the point where the rat was still caught in a very large rat trap, and the black snake could not open its jaws wide enough to swallow the trap, too.

On another trip, we visited the ghost town of Rush, Arkansas and stood outside of the only building left standing.  The building used to be the general store, and my mom talked about being given candy by the owner when she was a little girl.

On yet another trip, we went across the White River on the very same ferry at Calico Rock, Arkansas that my mom did on trips with her family over forty years before, but it still troubles me that there appeared to be nary a trace of her family to be found.

On the other hand, perhaps it was all for the best.  For she was born a Honeycutt, and her father was a full-blooded Cherokee.

Oh no, it is not because of him being a Cherokee that it might have been for the best that we never uncovered a clue of where they may have gone.  In fact, I considered being a quarter Cherokee as being something really special, and I delighted in hearing all about what my mom could remember being told when she was a little girl.

Most of these things came from her great-grandmother on her father’s side, and one involved her great-grandmother being forcibly removed, along with the rest of her family, from their home in northeastern Georgia when she was a little girl.  She was then marched to Oklahoma on what came to be known as the Trail of Tears, and she was the only one of her immediate family to survive the trip.

After her folks died, a relative took her in, but she did not stay on the reservation in Oklahoma long.  For her new family, along with some others, decided that they would much rather fend for themselves in an area they had passed through along the way. 

That area was in the vicinity of the Buffalo River in north-central Arkansas, and since it had more than its share of rough terrain (to say the least), the wayward Cherokees were left in relative peace.  For there was still plenty of much easier land to settle elsewhere, and that is the way it stayed until the War Against Northern Aggression broke out.

It is not known whether they volunteered or were conscripted, but my mom had several relatives who served on the Confederate side of the American Civil War.  One of them supposedly helped to hide a cache of gold bars in a cave that had an opening under a 15-20 foot overhang near the top of a 100 foot-tall rock-bluff on the Buffalo River, not too far from where my mom was born.  In true Confederate gold legend fashion, a huge hornet nest hung from the top of that opening, and the more accessible one was filled in.

Oh yes, I would certainly like for the story to be true, and since my mom’s six uncles spent years looking for the gold, one would think that there must be something to it.  They did not have much to go on, however.  For the rest of the story is that their relative was led blindfolded to where the wagonload of gold bars was, and was led blindfolded back to his cabin after all of the gold was carried into the cave.

On the other hand, I have my doubts.  For those men knew every inch of that area, and they would have surely found at least the opening to the cave above the Buffalo River if there was one to be found.  Nonetheless, I am not opposed to entertaining thoughts to the contrary on occasion.

Contrary would be a nice way to describe the Honeycutt boys, who were comprised of my mom’s six uncles and her father.  For they had several ways of generating an income, and most of them were of a dubious legality—at best.

No, living was not at all easy in that area during those days.  In fact, the Great Depression of the 1930s had virtually no impact on most there because of it already being so bad.

Therefore, it could be argued that they were just doing whatever it took to survive, and some might even go so far as to applaud their ingenuity.  For one of their means of generating some income involved being one of the first to conduct float trips down the Buffalo River, which certainly sounds quite enterprising.

It was, however, to the extent that they took this enterprise that all with some scruples should take exception.  For their clients were almost all quite wealthy, and they usually brought a lot of very expensive hunting and fishing equipment with them, which was carried down the river in canoes.  Invariably, those canoes would flip over in rough water, and all of their contents would be dumped into the river.  Most of those contents would be then carried downstream in the strong current, get caught in the nets that the brothers had set up beforehand, and finally sold to anyone who did not insist upon asking too many questions.

No, not everyone in the area during those days condemned such practices.  For the law of the jungle was most certainly practiced to perfection, and anyone willing to pay good money for a float trip was considered fair game by most.

One who did not cotton to playing by such rules was supposedly a Marion County Sheriff, or Deputy Sheriff, and what is said to have happened to him may have something to do with why nary a trace of my mom’s father’s family can be found now.  For he was gunned down by one of my mom’s uncles, and his family would have been honor-bound to avenge his untimely death if they had any love at all for the old ways—especially since no arrests were ever made for his murder.

Since no name for the alleged murder victim was provided, there may not be any way of confirming the story.  Nonetheless, it certainly appears to be in character for the Honeycutt boys.

Yes, they were definitely a rough bunch, and the worst of the lot seems to be my mom’s father.  For he was supposedly some sort of a gangster—like Clyde Barrow (of Bonnie and Clyde fame), Pretty Boy Floyd and Machine Gun Kelly.

No, there is apparently not any evidence of my mom’s mother being involved in any previous illegal activities, but the supposed details of her death leads one to wonder.  For it is said that she smuggled battery acid into my mom’s father’s jail cell in Searcy, Arkansas during a visit in 1933 or ‘34, and that is where they both died of apparent suicides after drinking the acid.

Yes, I know of much better ways to commit suicide.  So, I have my doubts about what really happened, but there is no doubting that it was still a tragedy of monumental proportions to my mom—regardless of the circumstances involved.  For she found herself an orphan at the tender age of seven during the Great Depression in an area where only the strong were meant to survive (naturally-speaking, of course).

Needless to say, my mom did survive, but it was touch and go for a while.  For there were apparently no relatives on her mother’s side around, and she was bounced from one relative to another on her father’s side.

Her summers were mostly spent picking cotton on a great-uncle’s place near Stuttgart, Arkansas, which is around 100 miles to the south of the Buffalo River region.  I’m not sure if it qualified as a plantation, but it was evidently a fairly large operation.  For it had space for sharecroppers, and my mom received room and board, along with 50 cents a week, for picking 100 pounds a day.

Her winters were spent back up north, and she managed to complete the sixth grade in Yellville, Arkansas before taking care of her cousins took precedent over her getting more of an education.  Nothing was ever said about her having to take care of any other things.

Sometime after she turned 14, my mom heard voices calling her name from just over the horizon, and she went to live with an unrelated couple, who owned a cafe in either Lepanto or Marked Tree, Arkansas (around 45 miles northwest of Memphis, Tennessee).  She learned a lot about a lot of things from them, and she really appreciated all that they did for her.

Nonetheless, my mom had her share of teenage moments.  Some of those moments involved borrowing (without permission) the nice couple’s car so that she and some friends could dance the night away in Memphis (Beale Street?).

After staying in northeastern Arkansas for a while, my mom heard the voices calling her name again, and she eventually found herself on the opposite side of the state (over 250 miles away) in Texarkana, Arkansas.  She wound up moving in with a lady, whom she came to think of as being her mother.

It was there, while working as a carhop in 1951, that she met a fun-loving pipeliner, who introduced himself as being, “Buddy.”  A few days later, she left with him to start a new job in Ohio.

This was after being married by the justice-of-the-peace as soon as her last shift was over, of course.  For my mom was most definitely not that kind of a girl!

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

The Crackerhead Chronicles: The Third Crumb

Posted by Jerry E Beuterbaugh Labels: ,

The name of my dad is Fred Marshall Beuterbaugh.  He was physically born into this world on February 4, 1920 in the small farming community of Blue Mound, Kansas, which is around 65 miles south of Kansas City, Kansas/Missouri.

I do not remember if he was born in a hospital, but it sure wasn’t under the same conditions as my mom was.  For my dad’s family was much better off than hers in a number ways.

Sadly, I do not know all that much more about my dad’s lineage than I do my mom’s.  For I was allowed and enabled to actually meet his mother just before she passed away, along with having a fairly close relationship with two of his sisters, but there is so much that is still a mystery to me.

What I do know is that Beuterbaugh is Dutch—Pennsylvania Dutch, if you are so inclined.  For I can remember my dad becoming really upset with me over telling him that the name was Germanic in origin.

Okay, the Pennsylvania Dutch part is on me.  For my dad’s bunch eventually settled in the Lancaster County area of Pennsylvania after coming over here from the old country, and I thought it was a nice touch.

Whether or not they were Mennonite, I do not know.  For my dad’s mother and father considered themselves to be non-denominational Christians, and I was not made aware of any evidence of what prior generations were.

Neither do I know just when they came over, but it had to have been before the Civil War.  For Samuel Buterbaugh (same name with a different spelling) served under the Union General Sherman on his march to the sea through Georgia and South Carolina.  After the war, he rode under General Sheridan in a U.S. Army Calvary unit, and later became one of the earliest settlers of Kearney, Nebraska.

My dad’s father was raised in Omaha, Nebraska, and how he came to settle in Blue Mound, Kansas is another part of the mystery.  The same can be said of where he met my dad’s mother, who was about as Danish as one can be.

Anyway, there is no mystery to where the anger in my dad over me insisting that Beuterbaugh is a Germanic name came from.  For he served with the First Infantry Division of the U.S. Army during World War II, and he saw his first action when he went ashore on Omaha Beach with the second wave of the division on June 6, 1944 (D-Day).  Furthermore, severe wounds, he suffered while out on patrol in the Ardennes Forest region of Belgium several months later at the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge, landed him in a hospital in Paris, France for several weeks.

It could be argued that being wounded like he was saved his life.  For when he woke up in the hospital, he saw his first sergeant lying in a bed across from him, and when he asked him what he was doing there, his first sergeant told him that they were the only survivors from their company.  For what ones were not shot first, were crushed to death by the German tanks that had rolled straight over their position a day or so after he was wounded.

As if that was not enough, when he was released from the hospital, my dad was assigned to another unit that helped liberate the Buchenwald Concentration Camp in Germany.  The only thing he really had to say about it was that it was then that he became glad of the Army sticking a rifle in his hands instead of letting him do what he knew the best, which was run a bulldozer.

You see, my dad was a pipeliner, which is someone who travels around the country (the world, actually) building pipelines for the transport of such things as natural gas and oil.  They can be heavy equipment operators, welders and a host of other things, and my dad was a master bulldozer man until back problems forced him to start operating a ditching machine a few years before those back problems forced him off of the job completely.

It all started when his sister Maxine married Paul Williams, who was a full-blooded Choctaw from the reservation in Oklahoma.  Uncle Paul was also a pipeliner, and he was able to arrange employment for my dad as a bulldozer greaser during summer vacations from school.

From then on, my dad was hooked.  For the money was very good—especially during the days of the Great Depression, and tales of faraway places (like South Carolina and Connecticut) fueled the imagination of a boy, who knew only the prairie of eastern Kansas.

No, not even an offer of a full scholarship to play basketball for Phog Allen at Kansas University (ROCK-CHALK, JAY-HAWK, K-U!) could dissuade my dad.  For he was going to be a pipeliner, and be the best bulldozer operator that had ever been seen.

Speaking of my dad playing basketball, he once told of his high school team getting beat 100–2, and that he had scored the only points for his team on a pair of free throws.  The rest of the story was that the principal called the entire school to an assembly, and after placing the members of the basketball team in chairs behind him so that they could be clearly seen by all in attendance, he proceeded to declare (in no uncertain terms) that he would dissolve the team and forfeit the rest of the games if anything even remotely like that 100–2 defeat happened again.  Considering the fact that my dad was the shortest player on the team at six feet tall, and that the rest of the starting line-up consisted of two at 6 feet 10 inches tall and two at six feet seven inches tall, who could blame him?

No, I cannot blame you for thinking that his story is quite a tall tale in and of itself.  For there being so many white boys that tall around a very small eastern Kansas farming community back in the 1930s is hard to imagine.

On the other hand, my wife and I saw an older gentleman, who appeared to have been born around the same time as my dad, have to duck to go under a seven foot tall doorway in a Liberal, Kansas restaurant one night.  So, maybe they just knew how to feed ‘em right back then?

My dad was also quite a shortstop for his Blue Mound High School baseball team.  In fact, he even received some offers to play in the St. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Browns (that became the Baltimore Orioles in 1954) and Chicago Cubs farm systems, but the money they were talking about was not nearly as much as he was already making as a pipeliner.

So, after sticking around Blue Mound for a year or so to care for his ailing parents upon his return from the war, my dad returned to the life that he loved.  Granted, it was a lonely one, but that all changed when he met a red-headed Cherokee from Arkansas in 1951.

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

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.

The Crackerhead Chronicles: The Fifth Crumb

Posted by Jerry E Beuterbaugh Labels: ,

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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The Crackerhead Chronicles: The Sixth Crumb

Posted by Jerry E Beuterbaugh Labels: ,

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…

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