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Betty Gardner and Ada Beard were among several well-wishers who visited with Athel and Lillie Jackson last week. Our prayers and thoughts are with the Jacksons at this time, as they both have health problems.
Betty says she hopes she never gets too old to learn something new. Last week, she and son Michael attended the grazing school sponsored by the University of Missouri Extension Service, a three-day event held at the Douglas County Livestock Auction barn. When the attendees were out walking through pastures, Betty stayed in the truck, but during the instructional sessions she was a full participant.
Kailon Bell, Betty’s grandson who is a student at the University of Central Missouri at Warrensburg, is visiting family here this week.
Faye Hampton is proud of her granddaughter, Trish Beard Ladymon, of Sturgeon, Mo., who is having especially good results from her garden this year. Trish and her mom, Ronda Beard, have been canning tomatoes with the surplus.
The weather has been the dominant topic of conversation lately, especially among those of us who live close to the land. We experience the effects of extreme heat and lack of rainfall in ways that our friends who live in town cannot. Pastures and hayfields and ponds get too dry, and livestock must be watched closely. As the skies cloud over and the winds begin to blow, we wait for the rain to fall, hoping that this time it will be our turn.
But some folks say that we “ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.” In talking with those who recall the dry times of the 1930s and 1950s, we are reminded that things could be worse than they are now.
Howard Plaster recalls coming home from Alaska, where he was stationed in the military, late in 1953, right in the middle of that decade’s record-breaking drought. With wife Virginia and newborn son Glen, he was ready to get started in the dairy business. Things were tough.
“Lots of people had to sell their livestock because there was no pasture,” Howard remembered. “We didn’t have good stands of fescue back then, and the ground wasn’t even cleared like it is now. There was just native grass and lots of brush. I remember going down into the holler and cutting down stovepipe-size trees so the cattle could eat the leaves. The cows would follow me; they were so hungry for anything green.”
Howard also noted that there weren’t many ponds in those days, and the ones they had weren’t very deep, so they went dry quickly. The Plasters were fortunate to have a nice spring on their place, one that always ran good and strong. Neighbors, such as Ora Murphy whose farm adjoined theirs, would drive their cattle up to the spring every day to let them drink. Others, who lived farther away, would bring milk cans in their wagons and fill them at the spring, to take water back home to their stock. It made for some very hard work for the farmers.
Howard and a few others, such as the late Curtis Taber, looked beyond Ozark County for a solution to finding feed for their cattle. They rented pasture in Wright County, where pastures were greener, and hauled their cattle up there for the summer season. It was an expensive venture, but at least they were able to keep their stock, surviving to farm another year.
Donna Walker, who grew up at Souder and now lives in Ava, recalls a time that was even worse than the ’50s. The 1930s, those terrible years of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma, caused a dark shadow that spread all the way into the Ozarks.
“I remember the way the sky looked when the sun set in the west,” Donna recalled. “There would be a cloud of dust over the sun, giving the sky a funny color; folks said it came up from Oklahoma.”
Like Howard, Donna remembers her family having to drive livestock to neighbors’ springs for water.
“There was one that they called the “Viola Spring,” Donna said, “so called because a lady named Viola Hargis had lived on the property. The spring was faithful and never ran dry. During that hard time, local people cleaned the spring out and built a huge, wooden trough close to it. Then men would scoop buckets of water into the trough and let their livestock drink from it. It was a lifesaver for people who lived nearby.”
But even as memories of the hard times remind us that today isn’t quite as bad as it could be, there are good times recalled from those days, too.
Donna looked forward to the hot days of July and August when her cousins from Oklahoma came to visit because then it was time for a special treat. They would all load up and go to Rockbridge for swimming in the icy waters of Spring Creek, below the beautiful bluff that is now part of Rainbow Trout Ranch. Donna said that no matter how hot the day was, the first plunge took one’s breath away.
Julia Taber also remembers swimming in that same part of the stream as a young girl. Her folks would all go, usually when some of the uncles and aunts came to visit. The grownups didn’t have swimsuits in that day, so the men would wade in clad in their overalls. Women wouldn’t have dreamed of wearing pants, so their dresses were their swimwear. It didn’t matter at all; the cold water, on the hottest day of summer, was the treat. And since swimming was such a good appetite stimulant, a picnic on the creekbank was also part of the fun.
Happy birthday to Irene Young, who is 95 years young as of last Saturday, August 6. Irene was born between Almartha and Souder, in a log cabin on her family’s home place where she grew up. She now lives just outside of Gainesville and is thankful for good neighbors, June Hicks and family, who make it possible for her to remain in her home.
Also, birthday wishes are extended to neighbor Mike Mashek whose special day was last Sunday, the 7th.