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You might say this Douglas County couple has come full circle. Hollis Dain Smith and Dorothy Ann (Duffer) Smith moved back to Ava and began enjoying their retirement in 1992. Dr. Smith retired from his mixed animal veterinary practice and Dorothy Ann from her teaching career that according to him, earned her a P.H.T. (Put-Hubby-Through) degree. “Dorothy Ann, my wife, my biggest fan, and supporter taught second grade for six years while I was at the university. She taught first at a couple of schools in Douglas County, Black Jack and Breedon, then at Ashland, just outside of Columbia, Mo. thanks in part to a recommendation from Claude Hibbard, Superintendent of Schools in Douglas County,” states Dr. Smith.
“I come from a long line of Douglas countians,” continues Dain Smith, D.V.M. “My paternal grandparents, Carl D. and Dora McGuire Smith, lived near Vanzant. He worked at the Topaz Mill and they raised eleven children. He lived to be 98 and she lived to 93. They were subsistent farmers, living off the land as much as was possible. My maternal grandparents, Amos Newton Estes, a sawmiller of virgin pine, and Lillian Fidelia (Dobyns) Estes lived on a neighboring farm. As was customary of that time, they milked a few Jersey cows, fattened a few hogs, and ran a small flock of sheep. My dad, Ramey, and my mom, Loeta Estes Smith, grew up neighbors. Dad graduated valedictorian of his high school class at Mountain Grove and went on to attend the University of Missouri in 1931.”
“In 1938, Dad was elected Douglas County Clerk and we moved to Ava. We milked a few Jerseys by hand and sold bottled milk. Jerseys were the preferred breed because they were ‘easy keepers’ and people loved the cream. We probably didn’t make much, if any, money at it, but it kept my brother and me out of trouble. I was too young to help Dad much with the horse teams.”
“It seems to me that the hardest jobs were given to the children. On Saturdays we cleaned under the roost in the chicken house and then spread the litter on the pastures by hand. During hay time the men would gather in the hay shocks and haul them to the barn on the wagon and pitch it up into the loft where it was thrown into the back corner where we children would stomp on it. We were also the ones to teach calves to drink from the bucket and if you’ve never done that you can’t quite appreciate the process. Jersey calves could be very stubborn.”
“There was no such thing as permanent pasture back then, no fescue for sure. My Grandaddy, Carl Smith, planted Timothy every year on a five-acre field. I remember it took him all day to cut it with a 5′ horse-drawn sickle, but today’s equipment would be able to do it in about an hour.”
“When I was in 7th or 8th grade we followed Tubby Waters’ threshing machine from Ava to Cowskin cutting mostly wheat, oats and barley. Neighbors swapped work so there was always quite a crew. I may have got paid a little, 50 cents a day, or maybe not at all, but the highlight was that I got to ‘eat with the men.’ Now, that was quite a privilege and those women could really put on a feast!”
“We live today on what is known as the Henry Klineline place. I recall Tubby Waters threshing wheat on this place, and it turned out to be his last threshing job. Cloine Robertson’s dad, Rufus, sold John Deere tractors in town and they had a baler. Cloine and I went halves on baling the straw, which turned out to be more work than profit.”
“My first job was with Kraft in Ava, where Heath and Son Feed is presently located. I was 15, almost 16 and loved that job. I made, I believe, 90 cents/hour making cheese. I worked with a great group of guys, mostly WW II veterans. I later worked for Kraft in Springfield, but it was not the same.”
“In 1948 to 1949 there was quite a market for baby beeves. These were probably 500 pound calves that had been grained, but were still on the cow. They brought 48 cents/lb. That would be about $3.00/1b in today’s market, but then the drought hit and cattle prices plunged.”
“I was in the 1953 graduating class of Ava High School, right in the midst of the drought. Back then, no pond in Douglas County was much more than a pothole so they all dried up. There were no deep wells either because they only drilled down until they hit the first spring. We have had droughts since, but thankfully, we have deeper ponds and wells than we had back then.”
“I graduated from University of Missouri in 1960 with degrees in Animal Husbandry and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. Upon graduation we moved back to southwest Missouri right away. I heard that Dr. Ledgerwood in West Plains needed help and thus began our practice. We built our new facility, Animal Clinic of West Plains, in 1978 and practiced there until we retired.”
“We also worked long hours at the Ozark Regional Stockyards in West Plains. There were many times that we ran over one thousand head through the chute in one night. Along with those going through the barn, many farmers would load up their calves and bring them in to get them worked. Most of the farmers wanted them fly tagged, ID’d and/or branded, and vaccinated against IBR and blackleg. We had three separate areas for working cattle. I was always kind of a ‘tinker’ and we had built our own hydraulic chutes, thus making the back breaking work a bit easier. Good facilities are worth a lot.”
“The feeder pig market was strong in southwest Missouri in the early 1970s. We built the pig barn here just south of Ava where Lakey and Lakey hay business is today. Our first sale was held on October 20, 1970 and Dad sold the first sixty pigs that day on his sixtieth birthday. We ran the pig barn for twenty years, closing in 1990. Pigs were good to us. Some have asked how we stood the smell, but they smelled like’ bread and butter’ to me.”
“We sold our veterinary practice in West Plains to Eugene Ulmanis D.V.M, moved back to Ava, and began our beef operation with Gelbvieh influenced cattle. Later we introduced Red Angus genetics for a preferred color pattern; however, most recently we have been using Black Angus. They are consistent breeders and more docile than their reputation would have you believe. The breed even has an E.P.D. now for docility. We run about one hundred breeding females in all, and I plan to synchronize and artificially inseminate about fifty head this spring.”
Although Dr. Smith has been involved in agriculture and ag-production all his life, it is the jobs of his youth that stand out. “I loved to make cheese and I have always loved Jerseys,” he admits.
Hollis Dain Smith, retired veterinarian and former M.U. football player, and Dorothy Ann are still busy living the country lifestyle on their farm northwest of Ava, IN OUR OWN BACKYARD.