"My 11th & 12th Grades"
About 16 & 17 years old
Chop Tries to Fly
By this time, I was a serious smoker, and so was Chop and J.D. About the only thing we heard about it affecting our health was "It will stunt your growth". Our growth was already about completed, so we did not feel any danger. The only danger we had was our parents finding out about this smoking. I'm sure they knew, or suspected, but we played the game and hid it from them.
One evening it was just getting dark and when J.D., Chop, and I were splitting up for the night, we decided we should have one more smoke before going home. Next door to my home was a old abandoned bakery building that my dad had purchased for some unknown reason. It was a two story building with big bay windows on both floors over the sidewalk. Sharing a common west wall with this building was another building that was at one time a mortuary. It still had some wooden caskets in it, and all us kids were afraid to go inside, even though it had been vacant and abandoned for years.
Us three brave boys went into the old bakery, climbed the stairs to the second floor, and lit up. It was totally dark by now, and we could only see the glow of the cigarettes. We were sitting on the floor and everything was quiet, when suddenly there was this gosh awful banging in the attic above us. By reflex, Chop jumped up, and ran thru the bay window facing the street! Off the second floor!
J.D. and I ran for the stairway and fell all the way down it, tumbling over each other. We went out the front expecting to see Chop dead on the ground, but he had cleared the sidewalk and landed in the road ditch. He only had the wind knocked out of him. The next day, we got brave enough to see what had caused all that noise. A rotten roof rafter had come loose and had fallen on the wooden ceiling above us.
Somewhere around the age of 15 or 16, several of my good buddies, "Chop" Carter and J.D. Weant included, were sitting around bored stiff trying to think up something to do. We decided to go down to J.D.'s grandmother's place which always had interesting things around to look at. Her parents (J.D.'S great-grandparents) had owned and operated a hotel at this location in Monegaw Springs back during and after the War between the States. The grandmother had a lot of old photographs, newspaper clippings, and souvenirs from the days when the Youngers, and the James's had stayed in their hotel.
Well, one of the interesting things we concentrated on that day was a small cannon on wheels. It was a real cannon, not a toy, but very small - the barrel was maybe 24 inches long, cast bronze, and on cast iron wheels. I suppose it was a relic left over from the Civil War (or, the War Between the States) as people around there liked to refer to that period in our history. It was very heavy, but could be pulled by one person.
We played around her yard with it for some time and finally one of our group wondered how it would be to actually fire this thing. Well, we appointed a couple of the guys to get some powder. Harold and Norman Weant, double cousins of my buddy, J.D. Weant, were to get some powder. Of course, we all knew where they would get it - we could not buy any for two reasons - first of all, we had no money, and probably no one would sell it to us anyway at our age. So, they stole a few boxes of 12 gauge shotgun shells from their dad's hunting stuff.
We pulled that heavy cannon about 4 blocks away from the grandmother's house and started to cut open the shot gun shells. We dumped the powder on some paper. Another couple of our group went to the only store in town and got some empty wooden orange crates and cardboard boxes which were in a pile to be burned as trash. These made a really good target when set up about 100 feet away.
We got this thing all set up, put some powder in it, stuffed some newspaper down the barrel, put in a handful of glass marbles (we always had several marbles in our pockets, just in case a marble game was called for), and jammed more wadded up newspaper in the barrel to hold everything in place. Then taking aim, we put a pinch of powder in the "touch hole", put a match to it, and WHAM, it went off with a terrific bang. We were delighted.
We missed the target completely, but we could hear the marbles going down thru the brush and see leaves flying off trees. It worked! Man, this was fun. We repeated this operation three or four times, and were having a ball. We even hit the targets a few times. We had run out of marbles, but found that marble-sized gravel worked as well, and we didn't lose our marbles. (no pun intended). Now, down the street a few hundred feet lived an old man we knew as "Chalky" Malicoat. What his real name was, I don't think I ever heard it. He had one peculiar habit. He never started a sentence without the phrase "You take and then". What meaning this had we never knew.
Chalky had heard the noise and came up to see what us kids were up to. He watched as we fired off another shot, and then told us, "You take and then, you kids are going to get hurt with that thing. I'll show you the right way to fire that cannon". He loaded it up, touched a match to the touch hole, and fire flew up right into his face. The cannon fired, but the touch hole had burned his eyebrows off, singed his hair, and gave him some burns about like a really bad sunburn. He was not seriously hurt, except his pride, and he went back home. After he left, us kids had a rolling-in-the-dirt laugh, and took the cannon back to the grandmother's place, and enjoyed the rest of the day! Except for Harold and Norman Weant. Their dad missed the shotgun shells, and they got a good whuppin for that. They told us it was worth it.
The 1951 Flood
In the summer of 1951 we had a record flood in the town of Monegaw Springs. About 1/2 mile to the south of town was the Osage River. Passing on the north edge of town was Little Monegaw Creek. Two or three times a year, these streams would got over their banks and do some not-to-serious flooding.
But 1951 was different. The river started to rise, backing up the Little Monegaw Creek. They both got out of their banks and just kept rising. Us kids would go down to the edge of the rising water and put a stick in the mud to measure the increases. It was coming up at about one foot an hour. That was FAST, and everyone in town realized this was going to be no ordinary flood. The rate of increase slowed down, but it just kept coming up, although at a slower rate. Maybe at the rate of two to three feet a day.
Of course us kids were elated. Unlimited swimming possibilities. Fish to catch. People to help - moving their belongings as water approached their homes. Boats to ride in - all very exciting. Now, this was "backwater". The fast water was in the river, and no threat to anyone in town. But, the river backed up Little Monegaw Creek, which we called "backwater" and it had no current. Just still water, slowly getting deeper and deeper.
Tip during one of the minor floods that happened once
or twice a year.
Chalky Malicoat's Experience During the '51 Flood.
We helped several people evacuate their homes and get temporarily settled to out-wait the water. We kept an eye out for those whose house was about to get flooded so we could help. We went to check up on "Chalky" Malicoat and the backwater was in the corner of his yard, but he said: "You take and then, my house has never been flooded, and I'm not going to move". We told him we would keep a check on him and left.
A couple of days later, we did check on him, and water was about 2 feet deep in his house! But, there was Chalky, not too concerned. He said: "You take and then, I moved everything that the water would hurt upstairs, and everything is safe." "You take and then, the water will start going down soon". We told him we would keep checking on him.
Another day or two went past, and we checked on him again. This time, Chalky told us: "You take and then, I moved everything the water will hurt into the attic". The water was over the floor in his upstairs rooms! We asked him if he wanted help, and he declined again. "No, you take and then, this water will go down now, it's never been nearly this high. Don't worry about me".
After another day or so, we saw Chalky coming toward a gang of us kids. He said: "You take and then, you kids were right. The water is still coming up, and it's time you helped me". We borrowed a flat bottom row boat from R.V. Bean, and took Chalky to his house. We had to chop a hole in his attic gable and take out his bedding, clothes, and other stuff he had put up there. We made several trips to land, and finally got his things out. The water lacked about three feet from completely covering his house before it finally went back down.
J.D. Weant's Grandmother's story.
My friend J.D. Weant's grandmother lived close to Little Monegaw Creek, but her house was built on stilts about 10 feet tall, as everyone knew the backwater sometimes got into her yard. So, as a precaution the house was on these stilts. As far as anyone knew, the house itself had never been flooded. But, this time, all records were broken. The grandmother kept a sharp eye out on the water, and us kids checked on her about twice a day. We, of course, had to borrow a row boat to get to her house, which was great fun.
Finally, the water got so high that she decided she better leave. We helped her with clothes, bedding, papers, etc, and rowed everything to land that we could get into the boat. We made many trips, and finally took the old lady herself to safety. The water did get into her house! It not only got in, it got so deep that only the peak of the roof was all you could see. Then - she got really concerned because she had a new sewing machine in there that we had not put in the boat. She was very proud of this machine, and was highly upset about it being underwater.
One of her sons, "Rusty" Weant, (Harold and Norman's dad) told his mother that he would get the sewing machine out for her. He rowed over to her house and us kids watched as he dived time after time into the sunken house trying to find that sewing machine. We were scared to death that he would be trapped inside the house somewhere and drown! That backwater was so murky and muddy you could not see 6 inches into it. Well, he found the machine, but could not get it out of the house, so he had to give up on it. To our relief! (The machine worked fine after the water went down, and after a lot of cleaning and oiling).
Boating to School (This was during a minor flood, not the BIG one of '51)
School was not yet out for the year, and Chop, J.D., myself and about 4 girls, took a wooden row boat across the flooded Little Monegaw Creek where the high school bus picked us up during high water. This lasted for several days, and we (the boys) enjoyed it. We would row that boat along the road where we knew the water was only four feet deep or so. One evening coming home from school we were in the boat. When the water's edge was reached we would walk the rest of the way home. This particular evening, us boys pretended the boat had hit a log, and it turned over, spilling all of us in the four foot deep water. No thought was given to the books, lunch boxes, or clothes. We thought it was very funny, the girls did not. They waded out and did not speak to us for several days, as I remember.
Tip Quits School
Along about sometime in my junior year in high school, my dad and I got into some kind of argument. We were in my "bedroom" which was the back porch of the house. I informed him that I knew all I needed to know, and that he was not going to tell me what to do from now on. And, that I was quitting school. (I was 15 years old, and knew everything there was to know about life).
We got into a rather heated argument in which I drew back to hit him. He was 6'1" and weighed about 220 pounds. I was about 5'6" and weighed about 110 pounds. He was kind to me - he only hit me with an open palm. I made an in-air somersault and by the time I landed I had re-enrolled in school. I no longer knew everything about life.
High School In Roscoe
My Junior and Senior year, I finally got to go to the high school in Roscoe. There were only about 50 kids in the entire school, ten of us in my senior class. The school was primitive compared to modern schools of today. We had no running water, which meant outside privys. There was no lunch room, or lunches served. We had no gym, so we practiced on a dirt court with only one basket for basket ball. We had enough boys for a basket ball team, but never did have enough for football. So, we played basket ball, practicing on that dirt "court".
We got very good at basket ball, and in my senior year, we won every game we played! We took first place in all the tournaments, and many games we ended up the game with only four players, because someone fouled out, there was no one to replace them. Being that we had no gym, all our games had to be out of town games. Some of the towns we played, and won, had twenty times as many kids as our school. This caused them to really play their hearts out, because they did not want to get beat by a ragged bunch of kids from a small town most of them never heard of.
Of course, all of the boys in my class smoked. Some chewed. During recess time or noon, it looked like the outdoor privy was burning down, from all the tobacco smoke coming from it. Those who chewed tobacco would judiciously spit out the open windows when the teacher was not looking. It was a crazy place.
For lunch, some times we would bring a paper sack from home with sandwiches. Other times, we walked about 1/4 mile downhill to a general store run by a man named "Albert Wiley". Mr. Wiley would cut us a slice of bologna, or a slice of cheese, put it between two slices of bread for a sandwich. This cost a dime. For another nickel, we could get a bottle of pop, and this made our lunch. No one starved, and no food was thrown away, either! Of course, we were free to smoke going back and forth the 1/4 mile, so we looked forward to lunch time.
High School Senior Play and Photos
It was the practice in those days to have a senior play of some sort. So, we practiced, and practiced, and finally all ten of us seniors knew our parts by heart. The teachers were well pleased. The night of the scheduled play, us kids arrived at school an hour or so before the doors were opened. Someone (not me) had the bright idea of going about 2 miles out of town to a bootlegger they knew of and getting some moonshine. We did.
We got a quart of moonshine in a fruit jar, and it cost us $2. We sampled it. We sampled it again. We were still waiting for the doors to open, so we kept sampling that moonshine. When the teachers arrived, they took note of our conditions and cancelled the play. If my parents ever knew about that, I never found out. In fact, the whole episode was swept under the rug, so to speak.
One of the girls in the senior class wore big horn-rimmed glasses. When the photographer came, every one of us had our photos taken wearing her glasses. The year book for that year looked like a bunch of hoot owls. Our parents were not happy. The teachers were not happy. We thought it was a great joke!
Electricity Comes to Town
This is the year electricity came to town. (I should say "back to town" as once there had been a 24V generating station there, but was long ago out of service). Everyone was glad to see the REA come - now we could have lights, running water, fans, and lo and behold someone even bought a television set. It was the first one I had ever seen. Chalky Malicoat bought a T.V., and had it installed with a big tall antenna. Every night, a pack of us kids would go to Chalky's house to watch wrestling or something. The picture was so snowy that we could barely see the wrestlers, but we thought it was the best thing we had ever seen. Chalky ate this up - he liked us kids and his house had never been as popular as it was now.
The Monegaw Bluff
At the south edge of town overlooking the Osage River is a tall bluff. Part of it is known today as "Younger's Lookout", as it was storied that the Younger brothers would camp there so they could see any posse coming from a long distance away. My group, or pack, of kids consisted of probably eight or ten kids roughly the same age.
Many nights we would go to the bluff and build a big campfire on top. We roasted hot dogs if we had them, but many times we had to resort to roasting chickens. We would take turns furnishing the chickens. We would take them to the bluff alive, kill and "clean" them, cut them up and roast them on sticks. On the night it was my turn to furnish the chicken, I got one out of my mother's chicken house and we ate it. The next day, my mother was missing one of her best layers and blamed a skunk or possum for taking it. It was a skunk alright, but not the kind she was thinking of. I don't know if she ever knew what happened to that chicken. Some nights we would prefer watermelon to chicken, so we rotated our feasting. No one fell off that bluff, why not, I'm not sure.
My Second Car
One of my dreams came true! I got permission
from my parents to buy a real car! My dad and I shopped and shopped,
and finally settled on a 1936 Ford, being sold by the Zink Motor Company
in Appleton City. I thought this was the best car ever. It was
a V-8. It did not have a heater, air conditioner, hydraulic brakes,
good head lights, nor would it start without being pushed or by coasting
down hill. Also, the passenger side door would not open from the inside
- only the outside.
But, it was mine, and it was the first and only car in my pack of friends. I became instantly popular. Girls wanted to date me. The sky was the limit! This car cost $120, and I promised to cut wood and hunt 'coons to pay for it. Chop and J.D. pitched right in and helped me cut and deliver wood. We took the back seat out and hauled wood in it. We could get $4 a rank for wood, and we worked very hard, but it was worth it. We had no chain saws, we cut this wood by using a cross cut two person hand saw.
I was 16 years old, which meant I could get a driver's license which cost 50 cents, and was available at the Citizens Bank in Appleton City. No tests, no nothing required as long as you were 16 years old and had 50 cents. Now we could go on dates. Now we could go to pie suppers. Now we could live like royalty with this car. We would drive it down to the fresh water spring about every day to wash it. Anywhere I went, I had a bunch of pals wanting to go too. I had one favorite girl friend. Her name was Phyllis Guffey, and she lived part of the time in Kansas City with her mother, and part of the time with her aunt Alma Malicoat there in Monegaw. Which leads me to the next story...........
Home From A Date
Phyllis and I had been on a date somewhere and we had another couple in the back seat. Before we left on that date Phyllis had an extra pair of blue jeans for some reason not remembered. She handed them to the couple in the back seat and asked them to put the jeans in the back of the seat under the rear window.
When we got back from the date, us four were sitting in the car, in the dark, behaving and just talking. We were almost in front of aunt Alma's house, and I suppose she had been waiting for Phyllis, saw the car pull up, but Phyllis was not coming into the house. It was dark - very dark - no street light - no moon.
All of a sudden, we heard a pounding on the side of the door - it was aunt Alma, telling Phyllis to get out of that car right now, and get in the house. Phyllis said she could not open the door, and at the same time told the couple in the back seat "Someone hand me my pants - I gotta go home". Aunt Alma heard this and almost tore the door off. She did not speak to me for quite awhile, but Phyllis eventually convinced her nothing out of the way was going on.
Going to Pie Supper
One time the Upper Monegaw School was having a pie supper. This was another one room school about 10 miles northwest of Monegaw. Phyllis, another couple, and I decided to go to this pie supper. In those days in wet weather the dirt country roads were almost impassable - sometimes they were totally impassable for any sane person. We crossed the Big Monegaw Creek bridge, downhill from the Baumgardner place. We were in the "bottoms" about 2 miles from our destination when the car got hopelessly stuck in the mud.
I knew someone would come along after the pie supper and help us. We sat there for an hour or so, and we saw my uncle Leslie and my cousins were coming back from the pie supper with a team and wagon. He managed to get that team hooked to the car and pulled us backward to solid ground. After much thanks to them, we headed back to Monegaw, it being late by now.
About half way back we hit another slick spot of red clay and the car slid into the driver's side ditch. The car was resting almost on the driver's side and I had to open the window and crawl out into a ditch full of red clay. I was a mess. There was a farmer that we knew slightly who lived about 1/4 mile down the road. I started out in the dark and mud. When I got to the house it was completely dark, but I knocked and knocked on the door and he finally came to the door. I explained my problem, and he was not happy. However he was kind enough to fire up his old tractor, find a log chain, and pull us back onto the road. We got home about 1:00 A.M., and again aunt Alma was not happy.
The Red Clay Experience
I seldom went anywhere with another girl, but on this occasion, Phyllis was visiting her mother in Kansas City. There was a pie supper scheduled at a neighboring school, and one of the townspeople had a granddaughter visiting from somewhere in Kansas. We never thought much of people from Kansas anyway, a hold-over from the war between Lane and Quantrell. I don't remember her name, thank goodness! But I do remember she was fat - very fat.
Chop talked me into taking he and his girlfriend, and this granddaughter, to the pie supper. The granddaughter had the impression that a pie supper was a big deal, and she put on her finest clothes, nice shoes, all dressed up kinda formal like. The rest of us were in blue jeans, like any normal kid would wear.
My '36 Ford had a tricky door on the passenger side. It would not open using the handle from the inside, and would sometimes come open unexpectantly. We were going down this slippery road, when the car lurched to one side while sliding into a deep rut.
The passenger door came open. The fat granddaughter fell out, and on the way she grabbed the car seat and tore it loose from the floorboards! She slid down into a deep red clay ditch partly full of water, and could not climb back out, it was so slick. We had to help her out, and of course the pie supper was now out of the question. She was a royal mess, so we took her back to the grandparents. I suspect they thought we had somehow planned that on purpose, but we had not. After that trip she never got back in my car, which was alright with me!
A Scare With The Car
Vickie, my much younger sister, was about 4 years old, and begged me to let her go with me in my car. Being only a girl, and sister at that, and very young, I would usually not let her go. I was going somewhere, probably to hunt up either J.D. or Chop. I backed the car out of the driveway, scratched gravel, and went up the hill to find some of my pack. Well, I did not see anyone, so I backed the car across a shallow ditch, turned around and headed someplace, I can't remember.
As I was going down the street, I saw people waving at me and I thought they were being friendlier than normal, but continued on my way. When I stopped at the store, here was Vickie. She had been riding on the rear bumper of that old '36 Ford! I could have torn her legs off when I backed across that ditch, but somehow she did not get hurt. Well, she got hurt, alright, but not with the car. When I got her home, I told my parents what had happened, and she never got on my bumper again!
Earl Gets Religion
At one of the three or four churches still standing in the town, they were having a revival meeting. Earl Kenyon was a nice, but very big, old man who lived about 3 miles west of Monegaw, and he had walked in for a night's sermon. A batch of us kids were on the front porch, watching thru the windows as the preacher got more and more excited. People were speaking in "tongues" as they say. Earl jumped up, threw away his tobacco, and joined in the rejoicing.
After the meeting was over, Chop, J.D., and I had a plan. We went ahead of Earl, and on a hill west of town (called the Rittemier Hill) we stretched a wire across the road in front of Earl. He came up that hill singing "The Old Rugged Cross" at the top of his lungs, swinging his kerosene lantern. When he hit that wire, the lantern made a full circle over his head and he went down like he had been pole-axed. He jumped up and said "You SOB's, I'll kill you" and started chasing us down thru a patch of scrub oak timber. If he would have caught us, he may very well have killed us, he was really mad! In fact, the oak brush did a lot of damage to us as we ended up cut, bruised, and all scratched up during our escape. Poor ol' Earl never did know who did this, thank goodness.
Midnight Trip To Osceola
One day J.D.'s parents were leaving for the day and night. J.D. was going to be alone in this great big house, so he wanted Chop Carter and I to spend the night with him. Along about 8:00 P.M. he decided to go to Osceola and find someone to buy him a jug of wine. Chop and I declined to go, seeing all kinds of problems with this plan, especially since J.D. was going to hot wire his dad's car and drive it. Chop and I went to bed, J.D. took the car and left.
About midnight, J.D. came in and woke up Chop and I saying he needed help in the worst way. What had happened was that he had "tasted" the wine, and about one mile before getting home he had run his dad's car off the road. It was more than a "taste", but we got up, got dressed, and assessed the situation.
My house was about one city block away, with my car in the driveway, but as punishment my car was "impounded" by my parents for some infraction that I can't remember. We quietly went to my house, pushed my car out of the driveway, coasted down the hill, and started the motor a safe distance from our house. We drove back to J.D.'s house and got a bunch of chains which we took to the scene of the disaster. He had run off the road, knocking down a bunch of scrub oaks, messing up the front radiator. The front wheels were also out-of-line and pointed slightly toward each other. Well, we hooked the chains to my car, and with some effort got his dad's car back on the road. He drove it home, and with the steering all messed up he was all over the road. J.D. parked his dad's car and we took my car to the top of the hill, shut off the motor, and coasted down and into my driveway, leaving my car in it's approximate original location.
We all three went to bed. We all three got into a single size bed, and in the process, the slats of the bed broke. We went to sleep anyway. His parents arrived back home early that morning before we woke up. His dad had already seen his damaged car, then he found all three of us asleep in a broken down bed, he was not happy. We heard a lot of yelling and cussing as Chop and I high-tailed it for home. J.D. was on restriction for several days. Chop and I stayed away for a few days to let things cool off.
After graduating from high school, we had the summer in front of us, with no income. So, J.D., Chop, myself, and another friend a little older than us, with the last name of "Masten", decided to go to Arkansas to pick strawberries. We took Masten's car, it was better than mine, and even had brakes. We arrived somewhere east of Fort Smith on a strawberry farm, and they hired all four of us.
They even let us live in an old chicken house, when not picking. One of us wrote a post card home, telling the parents where we were, and the name of the people who had hired us. We would get up early in the morning, and our goal was to pick a certain number of quarts before it got too hot and humid to work. We generally had our quota by 1:00 P.M. or so. It was not too bad working there, except we had to crawl on our knees, in a field full of flint rocks, and about every row we would encounter a snake of some kind.
We had been there about a week or 10 days when J.D. was called to the phone about supper time. His dad had died unexpectantly. We made our apologies to the nice folks who had hired us, and set out for home right away. A very sad trip for all of us, especially for J.D.
Later in the spring, after the strawberry picking, J.D. and I decided to ride out to western Kansas with an acquaintance for the wheat harvest. We were told we could make a lot of money. We rode in the back of this fellow's truck to Pratt, Kansas, where he dropped us off and went on his way. We were as green as gourds about harvesting wheat, but we went to the local employment place and told them we needed a job. Well, we were informed that the harvest in that area was over with, and it was farther up north by now.
Fortunately about that time a wheat farmer came in looking for someone to plow his harvested wheat fields. He asked us if we were familiar with a "16 inch four bottom plow" and we replied in the affirmative. We actually had no idea what he was talking about, and he knew it, but hired us anyway.
He had two fields, each a square mile, side by side to be plowed. He put me in one field, and J.D. in another, and took each one of us on a full round (4 miles) to make sure we knew what to do. He also had an area with gasoline tanks where we were to fill the tractors when they got low on fuel. My tractor was almost new, J.D.'s tractor was old, and it had to be cranked by hand to start. Mine had an electric starter. I was lucky. When both tractors were getting low on gas, we both drove over to these tanks to fill. I filled mine, and started to leave, and J.D. had filled his, but had to crank it. I looked around and J.D. was about 6 feet in the air because his tractor had kicked back on him. The crank had caught him right below the rib cage. I shut off my tractor and ran over to him, and he had the wind knocked out of him, but he had nothing broken that we knew about. He did have a horrible bruise for a long time after that.
We proceeded to plow that man's fields, it took us four days. He paid us, and we decided to head north to catch up with the wheat harvest. We bought bus tickets to somewhere around Goodland, Kansas. When we got there, the harvest was already done there, too! We were about broke, so we decided to start for home. We started hitch-hiking on old Route 40, and got a couple of hundred miles that day. We slept in some straw that night, and the next day two college boys stopped who were heading for Lawrence, Kansas for college. They searched us to make sure we were not going to hold them up or anything, and we rode all the way to Lawrence with them.
They wanted to know where we would spend the night, and we told them "hitch-hiking". They said that being it was summer, their dorm had a lot of vacant beds and we could sleep in the dorm that night. We did. The next day, we made it all the way to Appleton City where my grandmother lived. We were famished, and she fed us until we could not hold another bite. Someone, I don't remember who, drove us back to Monegaw the next day. My parents were furious with the guy who had dropped us off in Pratt and left us, but no permanent harm had been done.
We Try Being Fishmongers
After failing at picking strawberries and going to the wheat harvest, Chop, J.D., and I were at a loss as to how to earn some money. It was too hot to cut firewood with that old cross-cut saw, besides no one would buy wood in the summer time. We hit upon a great idea! Several of the local men fished the Osage River with nets, (illegally) both for food and to sell. My dad had gone to see some of these men several times, and we would go with them to the river where they had "live boxes" full of fish ready to sell. We would buy some from time-to-time to eat. Live scale fish sold for ten cents a pound, live catfish sold for twenty cents a pound. Pick out your fish, pay the man, and you had all the fish you could eat.
Our bright idea was to remove the back seat from my car, lay down my dad's heavy canvas tarp and buy some fish to re-sell. We did buy about 20 or 30 pounds of scale fish and the same amount of catfish. We put them on that tarp, put all the water in that the tarp would hold, then covered the whole thing with fresh cut brush with a lot of green leaves. We thought the green leaves would help the fish stay alive, plus any game warden we ran across would not know what we were doing. We started out for the countryside, and stopped at various farm houses seeing if they wanted to buy fish. We had them priced at twenty cents a pound for scale fish, and forty cents for catfish - exactly twice what we had paid for them. We sold the entire load! Man, we had hit it rich. We were going to repeat this operation when the bad news came.
The game warden had come up river and by using a big treble grab hook, had pulled up all of the men's nets and burned them. This happened about once a year, no big deal, the fishermen expected this. But by the time they had made new nets, it was time to join the Air Force!
4th OF JULY
Well, actually, the 5th of July. The previous day and night, being the 4th, a lot of the older kids and men, had shot off a whole bunch of fireworks on the main street in town. Most of us kids in my pack could not afford anything much in the way of fireworks, we had to content ourselves with a few packs of the smaller firecrackers. The next morning, we canvassed the area and found about 15 or 20 "M-80's" that had not exploded for one reason or another the night before. I think they were called "M80's" then, not sure of the nomenclature, but they are not allowed to be sold to the general public anymore because of their potency. At least they were BIG firecrackers, maybe two to three inches long and packed a huge wallop. Us kids took the ones that were "duds" or had not exploded for some reason, and proceeded to break them in half, set them on a rock, and light the powder inside.
Upon lighting the powder, it would spin, fizz, and make quite a spectacle for us. Also, we learned that if we stomped on them while they were spinning, they would explode with a fearsome noise. We had to have good soles on our shoes for this operation.
Now, enter my Dad. We were doing this in front of my house, and he saw what us kids were doing. He came up to us and told us we were going to get badly burned, doing it the way we were doing it. (We had already done this several times, without getting hurt). He proceeded to demonstrate the safe way of lighting these broken-in-half firecrackers. Well, the first one he tried, the burning powder shot out right onto his hand, burning him severely. He had to be rushed to the Doctor's office in Osceola, get all treated, tetanus shot, bandaged up, etc. All us kids had mixed emotions. We were truly sorry he had gotten hurt, but also we thought it was kinda funny. He was teaching us, right? Later, we did tease him about showing us how to do something without getting hurt, but we did this gingerly. No use prodding the Bull, right?