Monday, August 3, 2009

Come Monday...Bates Corner

“Come Monday…” is a weekly series that will involve a review of, or commentary about, websites, movies, documentaries, television shows, sports, music, and whatever else may tickle my fancy at the time. Be assured that these reviews will be generally positive, as in accordance to the Jimmy Buffett song “Come Monday.” This is subject to change, however. In fact, I would be most derelict in my duties to neglect going on a rant every once in a while. For rants promote change, and change can be good—right? Therefore, since good is generally considered as being a positive force in 99.3% of the parallel universes that I am aware of, even a rant could be considered as being something positive, and a genuine hissy-fit would be even better (so I’m told).

The following is another chapter from the rewrite of The Crackerhead Chronicles. No, I still haven’t found where I put my stuff, and I would think that you would tired of asking about it by now.

The Ninth Crumb
(Bates Corner)

In 1972, the time for us to move had come around again. In fact, it could even be said that it was late on this occasion. For in 1970, the school at Eagle Rock closed because of not having enough students to justify the expense of maintining it any longer, and the 20 mile bus ride to Cassville was a great strain on us all.

Furthermore, my mom 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 to a place near Bates Corner (around 5 miles east of Cassville) was most prudent in regards to the saving of time and money.

Bates Corner was actually a landmark—not a town. For the old Bates Corner Store 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 it is still standing.

Now, the site that we moved to was an unimproved strip of land on the southside of MO State Highway 76 about a mile east of Bates Corner, and this left for a lot of decisions to be made. For it did not even have a driveway—let alone a house to live in, nor 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 dad was a master at getting things done, and I am quite sure that my mom played an essential role in it all.

Perhaps it was her who suggested that they buy a doublewide 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 doublewide, 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 to concrete footings that my dad had poured for this very purpose, with the wheels, axles, and front hitches removed.

To give you some perspective on just how secure our “mobile home” was, it was bolted to those concret footings. Whereas many houses that are built today are nailed to their foundations. Some merely sit on concret slabs without any sort of attachment at all.

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 2 x 4 studs on 16" centers, and the floor and ceiling joists were 2 x 6's on 16" centers.

Yes, the roof and siding was made of aluminum. For that was the only option available at the time, but with painted heavy-duty underpenning, along with a full-length 12’ wide covered front porch and a 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 to 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 principle also applies to 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 (Exodus 17:1-7).

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 an unwitched well that was drilled across the road a few years later 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 for it 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 me and Terry. For there had to have been at least 20 million tons of rocks that needed to be removed before we could even think about having a front yard with grass, and it was our job to haul off a minimum of ten little red wagon loads before we could even think about playing.

No, I am not exaggerating as much as you probably 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 to as big as a human head) that we never got even close to getting to the bottom of.

If I didn’t know better, I could swear that for every rock we picked up two more would take its place. Finally, our parents had some mercy upon my little brother and me and had some dirt hauled in after we spent that summer removing 2-3 feet of the rocks that had covered our 40’ x 40’ front yard.

Needless to say, I was very glad to see the start of school that year, but that was not all that unusual. For I generally enjoyed going to school, and 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 my first year of eligibility, and that is not all. For 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 getting a D- in the fourth quarter of my sophomore year in Algebra II was one of the worst. For it 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 with any sort of inability to master the curriculum. For I just quit on the class because of how much I hated the teacher, and I can’t even give you a reason for I felt that way about her now.

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 rest of my time in high school.

Nonetheless, the damage had been already done. For the grade average of the Class of 1976 was very high, and I ended up graduating 21st 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.

They may have felt differently if they had of known how treated one of those letters, however. For it came from Harvard College in Cambridge, MA, and it was not until years later before I realized that it had came from HARVARD!!!

Yeah, I can be really stupid at times for someone who is supposed to be so smart. For I had in my head that any letter from HARVARD!!! would be from Harvard University—not College.

Therefore, I dismissed the letter as being from just another small private school that I certainly did not want to go to. For I was of the opinion that if you are going to go to all of the time and expense to seek a higher education, it would behoove you to get a degree from a school that is recognized as being one of the best. After all, if two people apply for the same job, and one has a degree in chemical engineering from M.I.T. (Massachusetts Institue of Technology) while the other has the same degree from Podunk City College, who do you think they are going to want to hire?

No, HARVARD!!! did not offer me a scholarship outright. For the letter only invited me to pay them them a visit and they would see what could be done, but I still found the letter quite flattering. A little late, of course.

Come the beginning of the fall semester, I found myself enrolled in the University of Missouri at Columbia (around 200 miles north-northeast of Cassville), which is where the main campus of the University of Missouri system is located. 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, which gave 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 keypunch machine, along with sorting them after they had been processed. Yes, it was certainly a different world back then.

It was the result of a combination of things that I still received so many offers to go to so many different schools after I failed to even be in the top ten of my high school graduating class (naturally-speaking, of course). Not the least of these was undoubtedly being an Eagle Scout. For that sort of thing was highly respected in those days.

Also being a member of the bands at Cassville High School certainly didn’t hurt, I would think. 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 to shine rather brightly. For providing the half-time entertainment for an Arkansas Razorback football game in Fayetteville, AR (around 75 miles southwest of Cassville) once a year was certainly an honor—not to mention a great 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.

On the other hand, 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 catch the attention of so many schools had to have been being a member of the debate team in my senior year of high school. For Russell Brock and I made it all the way to the State Finals before losing to St. Louis Parkway East and St. Louis Parkway West, which were both 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.

On the other hand, getting to where I could take my putter out of the bag was a 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 dad 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.

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 to 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 wound up with a lot of people upset with me. For I had not figured out how to be in more than one place at one time yet.

I finally settled upon going to 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.


  1. Hi! Great blog! I added ur link to my site and drop my ec. Have a great day! :)

  2. Very interesting post! I never heard of the witching process, but it is fascinating. Sometimes our parents leave us wonderful imprints and storylines without realizing it. You were certainly a busy and diverse fellow during your scholastic years, weren't you? Learning about a person through their blog can be endearing.

  3. Thank you so very much, my dear Laiza!!! I just got through adding your "Pieces of Me" to my Places of Interest over there on the sidebar.

  4. Thanks for stopping by again, my dear Cher (or is it Rich this time?)!!! I was sure flying high for a while, which made my crash down to earth all the more spectacular. Stay tuned.

  5. I really liked this post FishHawk!! It is nice to get to know more about you. Plus, the witching process you described has always been of interest to me, (and yes rants are good sometimes).


  6. Yes, a good rant can do wonders, and I will be glad when I can focus my attention upon such again. Thanks for stopping by again, my dear Mike!!!

  7. I would have a hard time believing that water witching is real if I had not of seen it happen many times, and on top of that, I have actually felt the witching rod pull down towards the ground quite forcefully while I was trying to keep it level. Of course, it is the same with that as with so many other things. For it is in accordance to our Heavenly Father's will at this time to keep His hand hidden from those who do not want to see it in action. Thanks for stopping by again, my dear Annie!!!

  8. Thanks for sharing - interesting reading. Always a great site with plenty of great posts.

  9. Thanks for stopping by again, my dear New Hampshire Mike!!!

  10. "Needless to say, I wound up with a lot of people upset with me..."

    I really canny understand why.....

  11. To be honest about it, my dear Adullamite, I have never really understood how anyone could ever be upset with me. Now, if I was like you...


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