Wednesday, June 20, 2007

TCC: The Fifth Crumb, Part II

No, Scouting was not the only thing unto my life back then. For I continued to excel academically.

Proof of that can be found in the fact that I was chosen to be a member of the "National Honor Society" in the first year of eligibility; and in the 1975 Edition of "Who's Who Of American High School Students": you will find my name, along with a brief profile.

There were a few hiccups, however. Some worse than others; and a D- in the fourth quarter of my sophomore year in Algebra II kept me from finishing in the top 10 of my graduating class.

Now, reading and (w)riting had always been a lot easier for me than (a)rithmetic; but that grade that cost me so dearly had more to do with my attitude than an inability to pass any tests. For I just quit on the class.

During the summer: my parents administered an attitude adjustment upon me; and that was the end of any grades below a B. That is: at least for the time being.

Nonetheless: the damage was already done. For the grade average of the Class of 1976 was very high; and I wound-up graduating twenty-first out of 114.

Thankfully: The damage was not scholastically fatal. For I received letters of inquiry from dozens of schools that wanted me to give them some consideration.

One of those letters even came from Harvard in Cambridge, MA; and even though they did not offer me a scholarship outright: I still found the letter quite flattering. For it did say that they would see what they could do for me if I would come up there and check them out.

After all was said and done: I found myself enrolled in the University of Missouri at Columbia (around 200 miles north-northeast of Cassville) for the fall semester. For they had offered me enough scholarships and grants to avoid having to take-out any student loans.

A job in their "Work-Study Program" was also included in my financial-aid package at Mizzou (mostly for the purpose of giving me a little spending money while school was in session); and that was where I had my first experience with computers. For my job involved feeding computer cards into a key-punch machine, along with sorting them after they had been processed. Yes, it was certainly a different world back then.

I imagine that it was a combination of things that kept the door open for me to pursue a higher education. Not the least of these was undoubtedly being a member of the bands at Cassville High School. For both the concert band and the stage band were perennial state champions in both the Class 2 and overall categories; and the marching band received an invitation to compete in an international competition being held somewhere in Europe.

No, we did not get to go to Europe. For the cost was just too prohibitive.

Nonetheless: we did have our moments. For providing the half-time entertainment for a Arkansas Razorback football game (at Fayetteville, AR, around 75 miles southwest of Cassville) once a year was certainly a thrill.

There were, however, some moments that were not so thrilling. For I came to despise having to march in Cassville's annual Christmas Parade; and I did not feel much better about performing at all of those high school football games, neither.

It was a different story with being in the concert band. For we got perform classics like: Rossini's "William Tell Overture" (The Lone Ranger TV Show Theme) and Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture"; and we performed them well. In fact: it could be said that we performed them very well. For one would be hard-pressed to distinguish between our 1973 recording of the William Tell Overture and some made by full professional orchestras.

The same can be said of being in the stage band. For we got to perform arrangements of both contemporary hits and classical jazz by musical greats like: Maynard Ferguson, Stan Kenton, and Buddy Rich.

Another one of those things that helped to pave a way for me to formally attain higher learning had to be joining the debate team in my senior year of high school. For Russell Brock and I made it all the way unto the State Finals before losing unto St. Louis Parkway East and St. Louis Parkway West (which were over 10 times larger than Cassville) in the first-round.

Sports participation was probably not a factor. For I did letter in golf for 3 years; but I never did place very high in any tournaments.

Nonetheless: I did show some talent. For I averaged 9.7 putts per 9 holes in my senior year.

Needless to say: it was getting into a position to putt that was the problem. For it does not matter if you can putt with your eyes closed if cannot see where your ball went along the fairway more times than not!

No, it was not only on the greens of a golf course where I displayed some potential. For in the first semester of my freshman year (1972): I could run a 4.6 (seconds) 40 (yards); and the head football coach asked my father to let me play ball for him.

Oh how I wanted to be on the field with pads and a helmet on instead of blowing my horn during half-time; and I do believe that I would have been very good at it. For aside from being really fast for a white-boy in that day and age: I could leg-press at least 440 pounds (that was as high as the equipment went); but in the end: none of that mattered. For my parents were afraid of me getting seriously hurt (Rheumatic Feveritis, no doubt); and the subject was not open for discussion.

I could have played basketball; but that was not a viable option for me. For I was just plain not good enough.

Evidently: my father was good enough in his day. For he was a 4-year starter at Blue Mound High School; and the University of Kansas offered him a full scholarship to play point-guard for Phog Allen (generally considered to be the "Father of Basketball Coaching") and his Jayhawks.

Sadly: he turned-down their offer. For the call of the pipeline was too strong to resist; but he did have a story that few could tell about themselves.

He also had some stories about his playing days at Blue Mound to share when he was in the mood. One of them was about him making 2 free-throws in a game at home during his freshman season.

No, it does not sound like much of a tale to tell; but when the rest of the story is heard: the plot most definitely thickens. For those 2 free-throws were the only points made for Blue Mound in a 100 - 2 loss!

The next day the School Principal called for an assembly of the entire high school; and then he announced that he would disband the team and forfeit the rest of the season if things did not change for the better in a hurry. For he was not about to let a bunch of loafers make a laughing-stock out of his school.

No, this was not an idle threat; and in many eyes of the community: the time for such drastic action was undoubtedly at hand. For with the starting line-up of that team being: 6'11", 6'11", 6'10", 6'9", and 6'0" (my father), there was no way that it should ever lose a game so badly.

Much unto the joy of all concerned: the players heard the message. For they went the rest of the season undefeated.

Yes, they must have been feeding those boys the "really good stuff"; and Blue Mound does not appear to be an isolated case. For I observed a gentleman (who appeared to be of the same age as my father would be) in Liberal, KS (around 400 miles west of Blue Mound) having to duck in order to pass through a 7 foot tall door.

Despite the bitter disappointment of not being allowed to play football: my high school days were most enjoyable for the most part; and this was especially true of my senior year. For I averaged being in class only 3 days a week because of all of the school activities I was in.

Yes, one would think that being so busy would lead unto some logistical nightmares; and one week-end in April of 1976: it did. For I had a concert and stage band competition, a golf match, the Missouri State FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) Convention, and the Missouri State Forensics (Speech and Debate) Finals to participate in.

Needless to say: I had a lot of people upset with me. For I had not figured-out how to be more than one place at one time yet.

I finally settled upon going unto the Debate Finals in Kirkwood, MO (suburb of St. Louis, around 275 miles northeast of Cassville). For that was where I was the most needed.

The Debate Finals was not where I most "wanted" to be, however. For that was in the presence of my girl; and who could blame me? For she was the fairest in all of the land.

Monday, June 18, 2007

TCC: The Fifth Crumb, Part I

Talk about being in the right place at the right time: that is where I found myself back then. For in 1970: Cassville's Boy Scout Troop 76 was recognized as being the best troop in all of the land (I think).

Yes, to be honest about it: I could be mistaken. For I do remember that we did receive some sort of national attention; but in regards unto it being the best of the best: I am not absolutely sure.

Nonetheless: I cannot imagine being in a better troop. For our Scoutmaster: Charlie Vaughn, was truly a giant amongst men; and this was not just in the eyes of young boys, neither.

Hero worship is one thing; but what I personally felt for Charlie went way beyond that. For I loved him as much as any son could love their own father.

No, my feelings for him were not reciprocated. For he kept me at arms length unto a certain extent; but I still cherish the memories of being around him back then.

Now, to say that I excelled at Scouting would be an understatement. For I made Eagle Scout (the highest rank) on October 10, 1972.

Making Eagle was almost expected in Troop 76 back then. For over 50% of its members made it; but it should not be assumed that making Eagle is not all that hard. For national average is around 5%.

Neither should it be assumed that the Scoutmaster must have been really bending the rules in order to record such a high rate of success. For if anything: the things that Charlie did made the goal even harder to achieve.

Case in point: Raymond Jagger. For he was one of the finest individuals I have ever had the privilege to meet; but he was a poor swimmer. That was a problem. For one must earn both a swimming merit badge and a lifesaving merit badge before they can become an Eagle Scout; and Charlie was reluctant to cut him any slack. Raymond finally made it before he turned 18 (the cut-off point), which added even more unto his legend.

Another example of Charlie doing things his way involves myself. For I was held back from making Eagle for 2 years.

Being held back was something that I was not quite used-to yet; but the reason given did mollify the pain a bit. For my father told me that Charlie had said that the reason why he held me back was because of him not wanting to lose me so soon. For when someone made Eagle: they usually quit Scouting fairly quickly.

Yeah, like that was going to happen anytime soon. For who could be Charlie's shadow any better than me?

Besides: there were still things to do in Scouting; and many were indeed done by the time I finally quit in 1976. For I earned the "God And Country Award"; and I received 3 Gold Eagle Feathers (which are to be attached unto the ribbon portion of the Eagle Scout Medal) for earning 45 additional merit badges (21 are required for Eagle).

I was also tapped (nominated) to become a member of "The Order Of The Arrow", which came as quite a shock. For I do not remember knowing much about it before being tapped to join.

I soon learned the The Order Of The Arrow was an honorary group (not so unlike a college fraternity: minus the wild parties, unfortunately) who held their own meetings and activities separate from regular Boy Scout meetings and activities. The first of their activities that I participated in was a weekend long initiation into the "Ordeal" level of the Order at Camp Arrowhead, near Marshfield, MO (around 70 miles northeast of Cassville).

Come to think about it: it could be said that The Order Of The Arrow has some similarities with Freemasonry. For there are 3 levels unto the Order: Ordeal, Brotherhood, and Vigil Honor; and one must be tapped to reach each level.

A year later (I think): I was tapped to reach the Brotherhood level of the Order; and then things started to get really "interesting". For after completing what was required for joining the Brotherhood ranks: I was asked to serve as Chief of the Order Of The Arrow Chapter that represents the Frontier District (headquartered in Branson) of the Ozark Trails Council (headquartered in Springfield, MO, around 55 miles northeast of Cassville).

Yes, being named Chapter Chief was a very great honor: both for myself and my troop. For I was the first to hold such a high office from Troop 76.

Not very long afterward: things got even more interesting. For I was informed that I had been "elected" First Vice-Chief of The Order Of The Arrow for the Ozark Trails Council.

Again: being named unto an even higher office was a very great honor; but I found it all very strange. For I had not sought to hold either office; and I certainly was not aware of being on any sort of an election ballot!

Around a year later (I think): I was tapped to reach Vigil Honor; and this is when some cracks in my foundation began to show. For after getting into a rather heated dispute with the Council Chief at the time: I resigned from my office, and then I declined to reach the level of Vigil Honor.

Why did I do that??? Quite frankly: I do not know; and this goes above and beyond merely not being able to remember. For I have absolutely no idea about what happened; and I count it as being one of the most bitter of my many regrets.

Later on: I was informed of some news that gave me even more to be bitter about. For I was told by some high officials that I would have been the next Council Chief.

No, not every day as a Boy Scout was a good one for me. In fact: it started out that way. For the first Monday after I reached the minimum age of 11 in 1968: I attended my first meeting of Troop 76 at the Scout House in Cassville with my father; and I was absolutely scared to death.

A classic case of a parent making their child do something that they did not want to do for their own good (in the parent's opinion, of course)? Absolutely not! For I really wanted to be a Boy Scout; but there was a matter of being quite insecure about my physical abilities that had to be overcome.

No, I would not have lasted very long with Troop 76 unless a drastic change took place. For they held outdoor activities at least every 2 months back then.

These activities included several weekend camping trips in Broken Arm Valley (an area owned by Troop 76 around 10 miles northeast of Cassville). There were also a couple of Frontier District Camporees per year, a play weekend at Buzzy Snider's on Flat Creek near The Stackyards (an old logging site around 20 miles east of Cassville and 10 miles north of Shell Knob), and an annual week at Camp Arrowhead.

I was absolutely miserable the first time I spent a week at Camp Arrowhead in the summer of 1969. For on top of being woefully homesick: I was terrified of having to pass swimming and canoeing tests in order to earn merit badges that were needed for advancement in rank; and going to pieces on Thursday night (with camp ending on Saturday) certainly did not help matters much.

My psychotic break came as a result of being told about "The Legend Of Green Hands". Later on: I found-out that it was an old tradition to tell rookie campers about the legend; but it took some time before I could fully appreciate the significance of the occasion.

Just imagine being in a darkened tent late at night hearing about an Indian brave who had his hands chopped-off by the father of the maiden he loved because of how much he disapproved of her seeing him; and as if that was not bad enough: his hands were then buried inside of Soapstone Cave. This cave was, of course, not very far from our encampment; and what made it even worse on me was the date. For according unto the legend: the glowing green hands of the brave would leave the cave to search for a body to attach themselves unto on the fourth day of the fourth week of every month during years when there was an abundance of "4-trees" (trees with limbs shaped like a 4).

Yep, the time for my demise was surely at hand. For it all lined-up; and several 4-trees had been pointed-out to me by older scouts throughout the previous days.

Adding even more unto the drama: one of my worst fears was then realized. For the last thing I wanted to do was to leave the relatively safe confines of that tent; but I had to "go" really bad.

What happened next may still be talked about in certain circles. For I had just stuck my head out of the tent flap when I saw someone coming into camp with half of his face still covered in darkness.

I went absolutely berserk. No, that does not do it justice. For by the time my hysterics subsided somewhat: I had torn down 3 tents; and was heard over a mile away.

No, I never did live that down amongst those who were there; but I eventually came to laugh along with them. For it was just one of those things that happen along the way unto adulthood; and as an added bonus: no one ever messed with me all that much after that.

Yes, my insecurities were gradually overcome; and when the summer of 1971 came around: I felt more excitement about going unto the Philmont Scout Ranch (near Cimarron, NM) than apprehension (or even dread). For a 20 mile hike over mountainous terrain with a 60 pound backpack was little more than a leisurely walk in the park unto me by then.

Alas, I do not have the words to adequately describe what a wonder Philmont was. For from the French Henry Copper Mine near the top of Mount Baldy (where lightning strikes ran along the ground for yards) unto active archaeological digs: it was certainly a sight to see; and I hope that it still is.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

TCC: The Fourth Crumb, Part II

Oh yeah, I was just reminded of another thing about the Wolf Pen Gap area that should be included before we get too far away from the subject. For I had a "dream" one night about a Tyson Foods semi-truck (tractor-trailer, 18-wheeler) pulling a refer (refrigerated trailer) headed south on the "Ridge Road" (a.k.a.: MO State Highway 86 south of Bates Corner). As the truck started down a very steep section of the road in the Wolf Pen Gap area: the driver geared-down, and applied the brakes; but for some reason or another: he had no brakes to apply! So: he tried riding it out by driving the rig into the ditch next to the cliff-face on the northbound side of the road; but he hit a whistle (galvanized water drainage culvert). The rig flipped over the road; and then rolled-over several times before coming to rest about 100 feet down the side of the mountain.

A couple of days later (I think): my mother was heading south on the ridge road when she "heard" someone calling for help. She stopped to investigate; and then saw the wreckage of a Tyson Foods truck about a 100 feet below her.

Believe it or not: it was the driver of the rig who was calling for help. For he was trapped in the crumpled-up cab of his truck; and after he called-out again: my mother told him to not go anywhere while she went for help.

By the time my mother got home: she was babbling quite incoherently; and after my father got her to calm-down a bit: she called the Barry County Sheriff's Office in Cassville (no 911 in that area back then). They then drove back to where the truck was; and after several hours of work: the driver was finally freed from the wreckage.

The Missouri Highway Patrol was also on the scene; and they started their investigation almost immediately after getting the driver out. No conclusion was reached, however; and the driver was of no help at that time, neither. For he was drifting in and out of consciousness; and he was quickly whisked away to the Southern Barry County Hospital in Cassville with some very serious injuries. He was later transferred unto a hospital in Springdale, AR, which is where Tyson Foods is headquartered, as well as where he and his family lived.

After coming home from school that day: my parents told me about the wreck. I then told them about the my "dream"; and after his condition had improved some: the driver was able to give his statement about what had happened. His account matched what I had seen in my dream exactly; and I got chills down my spine when I heard about it.

I am also reminded of some other things that happened while we were living in the Eagle Rock area that should be included. Two of them involved violence: albeit unintentionally.

The first thing occurred when Terry walked-up behind me while I was batting rocks across the road, and got hit on the top of his head by the back-swing of the bat. I thought I had killed him. 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 unto a screeching halt after our father got a look at him; and he really got scared after hearing our mother scream: WHAT DID YOU DO???, at me.

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. Nonetheless: be assured that I was a lot more careful about batting rocks across the road after that.

I also learned a valuable lesson about what can happen when you "throw" rocks while we were living in the Eagle Rock area. For I got all upset over taking the head clean-off of a duck that had been eating baby chickens (young chicks). It was, however, quite a throw from around 30 feet away.

Another lesson learned involved what to do when finding chicken eggs out in the woods. For I found-out what a rotten egg really smells like when the one that I had found exploded all-over me just before I reached the back door of the house.

Yes, life went on; and in 1972: the time for us to move had come around again. It could even be said that it was late on this occasion. For in 1970: the school at Eagle Rock closed because of having so few students (my class had 5 regularly in attendance: Cindy Apperson, Cindy Tichenor, Mary Ann Farwell, Randy Tinsley, and myself); and the 20 mile bus ride to Cassville was a great strain on us all.

Furthermore: my mother had taken a job in the sporting goods department of Johnson's Department Store in Cassville; and then there were also all of the after-school activities (band, sports, etc.), Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and a host of other things that required travel to and from Cassville. So: our move unto a place near "Bates Corner" (around 5 miles east of Cassville) was most prudent in regards unto the saving of time and money.

Bates Corner was an old country store that served as a landmark for decades. It was located at the eastern split of MO Highway 76 (towards Shell Knob, via MO State Highway 39) and MO State Highway 86 (towards Eagle Rock); and I think that it is still standing.

Now, the site that we moved unto was an unimproved strip of land on the south-side of MO State Highway 76; and this left for a lot of decisions to be made. For it did not even have a driveway; let alone: a place to live, and a water supply.

No, I do not remember just how long it actually took; but I do remember that all of the "big" things (something to live in, water well, driveways, and fencing) were completed in very short order. For my father was a master at getting things done; and I am quite sure that my mother played an essential role in it all.

Perhaps it was her who suggested that they buy a double-wide mobile home instead of building a house? For it would be, after all, a lot faster; and a lot less expensive, as well.

Yes, a mobile home is not a house: not even if it is a double-wide; but by the time they had it set-up the way they wanted it to be: one would be hard-pressed to tell a difference. For they had the structure attached unto concrete footings that my father had poured for this very purpose, with the wheels, axles, and front hitches removed.

Furthermore: the structure itself was wonderfully built by true craftsmen at the Ozark Homes facility in Neosho, MO (about 35 miles west of Cassville). For the walls were framed with 2x4 studs on 16" centers; and the floor and ceiling joists were 2x6's on 16" centers.

Yes, the roof and siding were aluminum. For that was the only option available at the time; but with painted heavy-duty under-penning, a full-length covered front porch, along with car port, attached: many who visited our home had trouble believing that it was indeed a double-wide mobile home after being told that it was!

The truth about the well that my parents had drilled on our new place might be of interest unto some. For they had it "witched".

Now, the witching of a well is for the purpose of locating where it should be; and it involves someone with the "gift" walking around with a Y-shaped "witching-rod" pointed forward and held horizontally in their hands (with their thumbs pointed towards themselves). The witching-rod is usually a willow, sassafras, or peach limb; but a piece of wire (like a coat hanger) is known to be used by some.

When passing over a good source of water underground: the witching-rod will point to the spot with a certain amount of force. The more force: the closer the water supply. This principal also applies unto how much water is available; and in the case of our well: the witching-rod jerked down quite violently. In fact: the well-witcher almost lost his grip on it!

Yes, my parents were plumb serious about being Christians; but not so unlike a very great many of their generation: they were rather superstitious about certain things. This was especially true of my mother; but neither one of them saw anything wrong with the practice of well-witching.

Some would even go as far as to suggest that well-witching was ordained by God. For Moses was instructed to tap his staff upon a stone; and water would then pour-out from it.

Besides: it certainly seemed to work. For when the outfit that my parents had contracted to actually drill the well set-down upon the point that had been marked by the well-witcher: they hit a good stream of water at only 45 feet down. Whereas: a well that was drilled across the road a few years later (which was not witched!!!) did not hit water until going over 600 feet down; and the average depth of water wells in the area (whether witched or not) was around 400 feet.

I even tried my hand at witching once or twice; and I was told that I did indeed have the "gift" by a few who should have known what they were talking about. I never put it into practice, however.

After all of the "big" projects were completed: the "fun" really started. For there were about 20 million tons of rocks that needed to be removed before we could have a front yard (40 feet x 40 feet, I think) to mow.

No, I am not exaggerating as much as what most would think. For there was less than an inch of topsoil on that ridge; and underneath it was a layer of rocks (from as small as a grape unto as big as a human head) that we never got even close to getting to the bottom of. In fact: we finally settled for hauling some dirt in after removing 2-3 feet of the rocks off the top.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

TCC: The Fourth Crumb, Part I

No, finding-out that I was adopted was not the only shock unto my system that I received that day. For it was also at that time that I learned that my father had been married when he entered the army during World War II; and that he had a daughter by the woman. Both being estranged for a long, long time. For she had left him while he was still overseas; and all of his efforts at reconciliation after returning home from the war were rebuffed.

Perhaps it was an overreaction; but at the moment I learned that I was adopted: the image that I had of myself turned to dust right before my very eyes. For I could no longer think of myself as be 1/4 Dutch and 1/4 Danish (from my father), as well as 1/4 Cherokee and 1/4 Irish (from my mother); and for the first time: I started to question just who I really was.

No, it did not have to go that far. For if my parents had of had some answers unto my questions about who my biological parents were, along with the circumstances involved: the news of my adoption would not have been so devastating unto me; but all of my questions were left unanswered.

Even worse was their reaction unto my questions. For they took my questions as being a personal affront; and they became very angry with me for not acting like it was no big deal.

Yes, I am quite sure that a very great many would be of the opinion that I did overreact. For gaining knowledge about their ancestry is not high on their list of priorities.

Nonetheless: I was (and still am) a very serious student of history; and I would spend hours fantasizing about who was in my family tree, and what part they may have played in the shaping of the world that they lived in. Were any of them vikings, or great warriors? How about great explorers, or industrial giants? Poets, preachers, princes, or paupers? Like dust in the wind: all of that had blown away.

Now, Terry was most definitely a different story. For I do not remember him having a reaction unto the news of his adoption. Whether it was because of him being too young, or that it really was no big deal unto him: I do not know.

No, I do not remember just how it came up. Perhaps something had been said at school about someone being adopted that got me curious?

Neither do I remember just exactly when my little world came unto an end. For what I do remember is that I was riding with my mother heading south on Missouri Highway 86 through the Wolf Pen Gap area coming from Cassville towards our home in the Eagle Rock area. Therefore: it was probably around 1971-72; and I would have been either 13 or 14, with Terry being 8 or 9.

Wolf Pen Gap? Yes, one would think that there is a very interesting story about such a place; but the only thing that I do know about it is that an early settler (1830's) in the area built some wolf traps in a holler (hollow) not far from a trail through a particularly mountainous part of the Ozarks about 10 miles northwest of Roaring River, MO (founded in 1832), which was later moved down-stream and renamed: "Eagle Rock".

I found much of that out while compiling a history of the Eagle Rock area for the purpose of completing a Boy Scout community service project; and what a project it turned-out to be. For one of the most highly-respected leaders around, Emory Melton (of Cassville), included my findings in a book that he had published about the history of Barry County, MO.

No, I am not talking about traps for coyotes and wild dogs. For there really were wolves in the area back then, along with: black bears, black panthers, mountain lions, lynx, bobcats, wildcats, elk, and several types of deer; and all but the wolves, elk, and some of the types of deer still remain there unto a certain extent.

Yes, I am being serious about there still being some mountain lions, black panthers, and black bears in parts of southern Barry County, MO. For what I have not personally encountered myself: my brother has.

One of those personal encounters of mine is even worth expounding upon (in my humble opinion, of course). For it happened when I was checking-out an old hollered-out tree while squirrel hunting not far from the house. The tree had to have been at least 5 feet in diameter; and when I started to circle around it: I came face to face with a black bear about as tall as I was (around 6 foot). Both of us took off in opposite directions; but this is not the funniest part of the story. For after I had ran about 50 feet away: I stopped and looked back to see the bear stopped and looking back at me from about the same distance away from the tree.

No, that is not the only noteworthy encounter that I have had with the wildlife of the area. For there was one time when I was riding with my mother heading for Cassville after dark; and I had to take a whiz really bad. When she finally stopped: I jumped out and let 'er fly right there on the side of the road. I did not even take the time to close the door; and then I heard a mountain lion cut-loose somewhere off in the distance. Now, if you have ever heard one: you can probably understand why the cab of my mother's pick-up truck had to be cleaned afterward. For it sounds like a woman screaming; and I was not about to wait until I had finished my business before jumping through that open door and locking it securely behind me!!!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

TCC: The Third Crumb, Part II

No, I was not being beaten bloody. In fact: the look of disappointment upon my parents faces was more of a punishment than what physical pain was involved.

Yes, it took awhile; but I finally got the message. Subsequently: I returned unto being on my best behavior; and this resulted in some good things.

One of those good things happened in Meridian, MS. For I was recognized as being a model student by my third grade teacher.

Well, being recognized as a model student was not all good. For I was treated as a leper by my fellow classmates; and this included a beautiful blonde southern-belle, whom I had a huge crush on. Not that she would have anything to do with me before.

Another one of those good things happened back in Shell Knob. For after testing at a college-level reading aptitude in the first semester of the fourth grade: the "big room" teacher, Mrs. Reaser, strongly recommended that I be promoted unto the sixth grade. This was backed-up by the "big room" teacher, Miss Walters, during the second semester of the fourth grade at the school in Eagle Rock, MO.

Yes, the time for us to move our home base had come again. For after lodging a complaint with the authorities over people sunbathing on our lawn next to the lake: we found-out 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: we settled in another "two-room" school district around 20 miles west of Shell Knob, MO.

No, our move into the Eagle Rock, MO area was not the only change that we experienced around then. For in 1967: a doctor in Oklahoma City, OK told my father that he faced paralysis if he did not quit being a pipeliner immediately; and after receiving basically the same opinion from several other highly-respected doctors: my father finally accepted that he really did have a problem with his back.

Alas, to say that my father had a problem with his back would be like saying that someone with an inoperable brain tumor had a problem with headaches. For after over 30 years of running bulldozers and ditching machines over most of the country in all kinds of weather: one vertebra had completely disintegrated, along with the discs on both sides of where that vertebra was supposed to be.

Needless to say: my father had lost around 2 inches from his natural 6 foot frame; but that was the least of his concerns. For with bone grinding against bone in his lower back: the pain had become 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 position or a standing one.

No, surgery was not an acceptable option unto my father. He did, however, retire from the work that he loved so much; and this is when he found-out that the work did not love him back in the same way. That is: at least not those who ran the businesses involved. For after paying dues for over 30 years: the Operating Engineers Union informed my father that he was ineligible for retirement pay because of not being 65 yet. Even worse: he found-out that he was ineligible for any workers compensation from the company he had been working for, or any disability pay from the union, because of his condition not being the result of an accident.

Now, in all fairness: my father was offered an office position at a high salary; but he was in too much pain by then to do even that. Therefore: we lived off of the selling of my parents assets until the decision of the Social Security Administration to deny my father's disability claim was reversed in 1969.

No, I had no idea just how financially well-off we were before my father had to quit pipelining. Not that it really mattered. For our parents did a wonderful job of shielding Terry and I from feeling the effects of the strain that they were under. In fact: the only memory I have of something directly related is of my father announcing that he had not smoked a cigarette in over 2 weeks; and of the shame that the rest of us felt. For none of us had noticed that he had quit a 4 pack-a-day habit cold turkey.

Yes, I have other memories of when we still lived in the little green house by the Central Crossing Bridge over Table Rock Lake in Shell Knob, MO. Some are very pleasant. For I can remember running around the yard with Lady and my little brother; and going swimming in the lake next to our house.

Nonetheless: some of my memories of our residency in Shell Knob are not so pleasant. For I can remember making a sandwich out of waffles, cold turkey meat, mustard, and about a 1/2 inch of salt on top of the meat. I still have trouble eating waffles; and then there was my first experience with getting poison ivy. It happened during a visit by some of my father's relatives after they had expressed a great fear of being anywhere near it. So, with me being me: I grabbed a double handful of poison ivy leaves, and smeared them all over my face in order to prove that I had nothing to worry about; and after my eyes swelled shut: I had 2 weeks 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.

My memories of living in the Eagle Rock, MO area are similar unto the rest of my memories of my childhood. For some pleasant memories include the thrill of going to Jenkins, MO (around 30 miles northeast) to play in a softball tournament against Jenkins, Shell Knob, Horner, Golden, Mineral Springs, and another school that I cannot remember the name of; and the thrill of going to Cassville, MO (around 20 northwest) to play basketball in a real gym with bleachers, locker rooms, and a hardwood floor against the Cassville Junior High team.

Then there are my memories of our cattle, chickens, ducks, and geese; and raising rabbits in our huge barn, which was actually not much bigger than what a double-car garage would normally be. As well as my memories of playing Beethoven's "Fur Elise" in a piano recital of Mrs. Ford's students; and being the substitute pianist at the Roaring River (Southern) Baptist Church in Eagle Rock.

Last, but not least of my pleasant memories of Eagle Rock is of the starting of a family tradition (minus my father) of being there on the banks of the river with 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). It was a tradition that I 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.

Yes, I aslo have some not-so-peasant memories of living in the Eagle Rock area. One of them is of racing Billy Easley on my super cool 3-speed bicycle. He was on his Honda 90 mini-bike; and we were going down hill on a gravel-covered dirt road. I had just pulled even when I looked over at his speedometer. It read 45 MPH (75 KPH); and I felt like I was flying. Then: my bike hit a good-sized rock sticking-out of the dirt; and I really went flying. For my bike went sideways; and I went straight over the handle-bars. After sliding face-first on the gravel for 15-20 feet: I was one big scrape from my forehead to my knees. My shirt had been torn off; and my jeans were in shreds. Thankfully: I suffered no serious injuries; but that incident effectively ended any joy that I could receive from riding on 2 wheels.

My next not-so-pleasant memory of living in the Eagle Rock area involves no physical trauma; but it is no less painful than my bicycle crash. In fact: it could be said that it is actually much more so. For I still feel some pain from finding-out that my brother and I were adopted.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

TCC: The Third Crumb, Part I

In 1965: my parents moved our home base from the Branson, MO area 30 some miles west to the Shell Knob, MO 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 a stone throw from the Central Crossing Bridge over Table Rock Lake.

Yes, Table Rock is a big lake. For it is around 65 miles from Beaver Dam (around 15 miles west of Eureka Springs, AR) unto Table Rock Dam (around 10 miles southwest of Branson, MO.

No, it is not a "natural" lake. For it is part of a chain of lakes (Beaver, Table Rock, Taneycomo, Bull Shoals, and Norfork) that were formed when several dams were built by the U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers across the White River that naturally flows back and forth across the Arkansas/Missouri border from west to east.

No, our moving had nothing to do with me. Well, not exactly. 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 everyone's best interest for us to just move somewhere else.

Besides: I was not yet back to form. For aside from a parentally-sanctioned fight with a fellow second-grader over a chair at a PTA Meeting of the Shell Knob School: I was still relatively well-behaved.

In fact: one could say that I was on my best behavior. For within just a few weeks of being in attendance at the Shell Knob School: 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 also be my fourth grade teacher.

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.

Most of the high-schoolers in the area were bussed around 25 miles unto Cassville, MO. Others were bussed around the same distance unto Blue Eye, MO.

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 unto 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. For I had started Kindergarten somewhere down south when I was 4, turning 5 in November; and then, at the start of the next school year: we were up in Minnesota. Therefore: since I was only 5, not turning 6 until November, I had to enroll in Kindergarten again.

None of that mattered unto my parents when they were approached with the idea of allowing me to be promoted from the second grade unto the fourth. For they did not want me to have to compete with older students; and this is why they said: "NO".

Yes, upon reflection: I am quite sure that physical disadvantages had a lot to do with their negative decision. For aside from being behind in the natural growth process: I had ballooned unto around 130 pounds since contracting Rheumatic Fever; and that excess weight did not appear to be going away anytime soon.

As time would tell: I was apparently too immature to skip any grades, anyway. For I started the second semester of the second grade in Oklahoma City, OK; and I received 3 whippings a day (one at school, one from my mother when I got home from school, and one from my father when he got home from work) until just before the end of the school year.

No, I was not "acting-out" because of being denied the opportunity of rapid academic advancement. For I was just being me at the time; and that should have been taken more into account. For if they really did not want me to check-out all of the stuff that was in those clear-glass gallon jars that were on the top shelf around the classroom up close: they should not have had them out in plain view!!!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

TCC: The Second Crumb, Part II

My reign of terror came to a screeching halt when my tonsils were removed in Harrison, AR (I think) when I was 5 years old. For they failed to do a throat culture on me before preforming 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, MN. For even in 1963: 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 my earliest 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 mother with the results of the tests that they had done is as clear unto 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 (kinda like being placed in a petri dish); and then I saw my mother put her right hand over her mouth, go almost completely limp, and start sobbing.

No, the news was not all bad. For I did have a slight heart murmur; but the disease had mostly attacked my joints. Therefore: it was quite treatable with Penicillin; and aside from not being able to walk very well for around 2 years: my life was expected to return to normal (for me) after a short stay in the hospital, which was really just to be on the cautious side.

I do not remember just how short of a stay I really had in the hospital up there in Minnesota; but I do have some very clear memories of actually being there. Perhaps it is because of the pain involved? For my legs did hurt a lot; and then there were: needles, needles, needles, and more needles. Nonetheless: I also have some good memories of my parents bringing me G.I. Joe stuff; and enough comic books to jam my over-active imagination into overdrive!

Yes, I can see now that my stay in hospital, along with my time of convalescence at home, was truly a great blessing. For it was during that period that I learned about the joys of reading; and not all of my reading material was about Superman, Batman, and Spiderman. For I practically wore the covers off of a comic book of Sir Walter Scott's "Ivanhoe"; and the same can be said of another 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 out into the sunshine; and I was told about my mother 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 pleasant memories of such an auspicious occasion; but there are none to be found rattling around in my head.

Thankfully: my period of rehabilitation was greatly accelerated with the help of Lady, our 80 (+/-) pound German Shepherd. For she would drag me down the hallway of our 45 foot Spartan "mobile home"; and then I would drag her back the other way. I have a lot of fond memories of her.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

TCC: The Second Crumb, Part I

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 unto the old adage: be careful with what you ask for because you just might get it.

Yes, hop-scotching from job to job became much more of an "adventure" with me in tow. For pipeliners generally had a reputation not so unlike that of cowboys on a cattle drive to start with; and it certainly did not help matters much when at 9 months of age I hit the ground a-runnin' (so I have been told). So: many landlords would not even talk to my parents about renting us a place to stay. Did they not have Benadryl back then???

The winter of 1962-3 was eventful. For my parents had built a fabulous house overlooking Table Rock Lake in a subdivision near Hollister, MO that came to be called "Poverty Point" by the locals because of the affluence of those who built homes there. Yes, my father 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 was worth being paid 6 dollars an hour.

Perhaps our being there amongst hillbilly royalty and the elite had something or another to do with being the second house built in that location? For the lots may have not been very expensive at first; and let us not discount the fact that it was during the early 60's. For a shrewd person could get a lot for just a little (not so much) by today's standards.

Anyway: moving into the new house by the lake was not the only thing worth noting about the winter of 1962-3. For just after Thanksgiving Day: my mother left for about 3 weeks; and I found-out that my father could only cook eggs and hot dogs. Needless to say: we both eagerly a-waited her return; but when she did come home: she was not alone!

They named him: Terry Alan Beuterbaugh; and I was absolutely fascinated with my baby brother, who was born on December 14, 1962 in Newport, AR (just like me!!!). Then the new wore off; and I went back unto my job of being the center of attention in every situation possible.

Yes, my job had become a lot harder with that cute, cuddly newborn around; but I was quite resourceful for my age. One time: I went as far as to suck a holly berry up my nose after being told (repeatedly) not to; and off to the doctor's office in Branson, MO we went. 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 mother was mortified. Mission accomplished!!!

Alas, there were also times when I attracted too much attention unto myself. One of those times was when I played "Guess Who?" with my Hollister School Bus driver. No, there was nothing necessarily wrong with that; but the trouble was that he was driving the bus at the time. Thankfully, the bus got stuck on a guard-rail on the side of the mountainous road after turning on its side. For instead of there being multiple deaths and serious injuries to report: only a few scrapes and bruises occurred. I was physically unhurt; 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 unto me after I went through the Principal's Office door than with the door itself.

Friday, June 1, 2007

TCC: The First Crumb, Part II

One of the things that I am reminded of is hearing my father saying that everyone would be a lot better-off if they could make a living out of doing something that they loved. For if they did not: they would not be of much value unto anyone, not even themselves.

Sound advise: be assured; and after the war was over: my father returned to something that he had been doing (off and on) since he was 15. Something that he dearly loved: being a pipeliner.

Now, being a pipeliner is (for those who do not already know) working on a natural gas, oil, or some other kind of pipeline between 2 points. It can involve new construction projects or maintenance of an existing pipeline; and my father mostly ran a bulldozer on the construction of new natural gas pipelines. Depending upon the size of the project: a job (which is what individual projects were commonly referred unto by those of this vocation) would last for a few weeks to several months; and it was not at all unusual to finish a job in North Carolina one week and start another job in Michigan the next.

Yes, my father was a rolling stone; and neither did much moss grow on the back of my mother after she became an orphan. For she was bounced from one relative to another. There was, afterall, a great depression going-on; and times were desperately tough all over. She did, however, manage to get a 6th-grade education at the school in Yellville, AR after her uncle's cotton around Stuttgart, AR was picked.

Sometime after she turned 14: my mother went to live with an unrelated couple who owned a cafe in either Lepanto or Marked Tree, AR. She learned a lot about a lot of things from them; and she really appreciated all that they did for her. Nonetheless: my mother had her share of "teenage moments"; and she would "borrow" the nice couple's car on occasion so that she and some friends could dance the night away in Memphis (Beale Street?).

After staying in northeastern Arkansas for awhile: my mother heard the voices just over the horizon calling her name again; and she wound up moving in with a lady (whom she came to think of as being her mother) in Texarkana, AR. It was there, while working as a car-hop in 1951, that she met a fun-loving pipeliner, who introduced himself as being "Buddy"; and after a whirlwind courtship: she left with him as his wife to start a new job in Ohio.

Oh yes, from the upper-peninsula of Michigan (with its garbage-can-raiding black bears) to the Atlantic coast of South Carolina (Myrtle Beach!!!), Connecticut (with its New England charm) to New Mexico (rattlesnakes, scorpions, and fire ants: OH MY!!!) the good times rolled. They (the good times) do have a tendency to come to an end, however; and the extreme reluctance of 3 of my father's sisters to truly accept my mother into their family put a definite strain on my parents relationship.

To remedy the situation: my parents decided to buy a nice little house just outside of the city limits of Miller, MO (a bustling metropolis of a few hundred good people and a couple of old sore-heads). For this fine community was half-way between Blue Mound, KS and the Buffalo River area of Arkansas. They also limited their exposure unto in-laws and outlaws to my father's mother (his father was deceased), and his sisters Ann and Maxine, during extended periods of downtime between jobs.

To the best of my knowledge and understanding: there was not any contact with my mother's family at the time, other than occasional visits with her unofficially adopted mother in Texarkana. Yes, happier days were there again; and it would generally stay that way until I burst upon the scene.