"My 4th, 5th, & 6th Grades"
From 10 to 12 years old, Mother as Teacher
I, about age 10 to 12, was elated. We were moving back to Monegaw Springs! This time it was my mother who had resumed teaching, and was to be the next year's teacher in Monegaw. This meant that my mother was to be my teacher, plus I could go to school with all my friends I had so sorely missed during my two years exile in Appleton City and on that farm near Chalk Level..
I took great advantage of the fact that my mother was the teacher. I became the class clown. I became the disobedient scholar, I thought I had free reign with no limits. Well, my mother was so determined to inject some discipline in me that practically every day I got a switching at school. Heck, it was worth it - I still was the envy of the other kids, or so I thought.
One night after dinner, my mother sat me down with my dad and told him all about how I was acting in school. He pondered for awhile, and told my mother, "No more switching at school". I thought, great! Now I really had free reign! Not the case - my dad looked at me and said that every day I acted up in school, that I would go to bed immediately after supper. No more playing with friends. No more running loose around town. No more fun! I tried the new rules a couple of times, and found that they worked really well - I got a lot of sleep. I became a model student almost overnight.
Last day of school after my 6th grade in Monegaw.
Goats & Bats
There were some happenings that I remember quite well during this period, some I participated in, some I was merely a spectator. Which ever the case, I thought these things were great fun. One time during a revival at the Baptist church, during a very hot summer, the windows were wide open. No screens. No air conditioning - heck, we didn't even have electricity in this town yet. Anyway, some of the older boys (whom I admired very much) caught a billy goat and took it to the church. They threw this goat in thru an open window, and more or less ended that night's meeting. Of course, we all scattered and acted all innocent the next day - and naturally, no one knew who these boys were that had the goat. (Everyone did know, but it was better to play ignorant).
A few nights later, a pack of us kids went to the big cave about 3/4 of a mile up Little Monegaw Creek which became known as "The Cleveland Cave". W caught a batch of bats. Probably a few dozen of them. We took them back to the Baptist church where the revival was still in progress. The window was open, as usual, and we turned the bats loose inside the church. This really did end the meeting, and for some reason some of the people in attendance became quite riled. None of us ever admitted to doing this, but we were suspect for quite some time.
Dad Buys Land
During this time the old Cleveland hotel where I had lived during my first grade in school, burned to the ground. The grounds still had the barns and outbuilding, so my dad thought it was a good idea to see if the elder Cleveland lady would sell him the property, now that the hotel was gone. I never did know where she lived, and never met her, but my dad went to see her, and they struck a deal. He bought the hotel property, and not known to me at the time, the 80 acres of timber land to the north, and across Little Monegaw Creek was part of the property. Part of this property had huge hickory trees on it, and part had huge oak trees. Some was "bottom land" and was a marsh most of the time. It so happened that the 80 acres included the entrance to the Cleveland Cave! You can "Google" "Cleveland Cave, Monegaw Springs, MO" and read a quite accurate history of the town!
Acquiring More Best Friends
In addition to Chop Carter, another boy my age became another "best" friend. His name was J.D. Weant. J.D., Chop, and I were seen together most of the time. We were like the three musketeers - when you saw one, you saw all three of us. J.D. had an uncle, Aaron Weant, who with his wife Goldie ran the general store, and another uncle, Rusty Weant. Rusty had a daughter my age, named Lovel, but everyone called her Dewey, and two boys named Harold and Norman. These three were part and parcel of our pack. Dewey had an older sister named Rowena, but she was seldom in our pack. She was maybe two or three years older than Dewey.
J.D. had a sister. Her name was Betty Lou, and she was so pretty I was totally frightened of her. Whenever I was in her presence, I'd be sure to fall over a chair, or make some stupid mistake. She had me totally captivated, and I would have jumped off the Monegaw Bluff if she asked me to. Of course, she was two or three years older than me, so all hope of romance was gone. She didn't associate much with us younger kids, so she was not part of our pack.
Fishing Trip Turned Bad
There was another Weant, named "Boze" who was probably another uncle, but I don't know much about him. He spent a lot of time in the mental institution in Nevada, Mo. On occasion Boze would be in Monegaw for awhile, then gone again. We never thought much about him. Until one day us three boys, along with 3 or 4 other kids were fishing off a limestone embankment on Little Monegaw Creek, at the north edge of town.
Boze showed up and watched for awhile. Then he picked one of us, and threw that kid in the creek. Then another, then another. We thought he was playing with us for awhile, but it turned serious. He kept yelling "I'll drown you all", and he was trying to, but we were too good as swimmers for that. That night, I told my parents about Boze playing with us, and they didn't think it was funny. They and several other parents got together, and Boze was taken back to the institution. We never saw him again.
Swimming Home From School
Along about this time there were three brothers who lived on a big ranch across the Osage River which was crossed by a swinging bridge. The Rolands. Two were twins. They came to school, walking, and had to cross this bridge. Their parents and my parents were close friends - Mr. Roland was on the school board which hired my dad. One day Mrs Roland came to visit, and she had a story for us. One of the twins had been pale and tired for several days when they got home from school, and she was afraid he was really sick or something. No - it turned out that on the way home from school, he would strip off, swim that wide (and sometimes swift) river while a brother would carry his clothes across on the bridge. It was not long after that that the Rolands moved. I doubt it had much to do with the swimming incident, but it probably helped.
Not long after this incident
a loaded logging truck broke the south ramp to the bridge, before it was
actually over the water. This caused the bridge to be condemned, and
a few years later it was torn down. I was a witness to the tearing
down of this bridge. The wrecking company cut the cables on the anchor
on the north side of the river, and the tower was pulled into the river along
with the cable. The wooden part of the tower broke up, and the debris
floated down the river, but the cable was now in the water. I was told
that the salvage company was really after the cables. They were about
4" in diameter, and a few hundred feet long. So, they went to the south
side of the bridge, cut the cables at the anchor, and the same thing happened.
They tried for several days to get those cables out of the water, but
as far as I know, they are still there today!
Rifles in School
Us boys fancied ourselves great hunters. We all had 22 single shot rifles. On school days, we would take the rifles to school and stack them in a corner until lunch. During lunch, we would choke down our sandwiches, grab our rifles, and go squirrel hunting. After school we would hunt, also. It was not uncommon to see 5 or 6 of us boys walking down the main street, each carrying a rifle, on the way to a squirrel hunt. Someone might yell "Boys, you all be careful and don't be shooting toward no houses, you hear?" We never did, and we never got into any trouble with our rifles. Times, they have changed. Try that today and someone would have the SWAT team out.
Monegaw Gets Invaded
About this time in my life, the population of Monegaw was probably 100 or less. Then, we had a whole bunch of families arrive at about the same time, exploding our population to maybe 150 or so. They came from Arkansas, so the rumor went, and cut railroad ties for a living. They were nicknamed as a bunch "the tie hackers". They were not particular whose timber they were cutting, as they owned no land at all. This caused a dividing line in the town between the older residents, and the newly arrived. Several feuds broke out, but no violence that I remember.
After a few years, the community assimilated, and all was forgotten. I do remember a slogan at the time. Many of the original residents made a slogan, depicting their originality. Their last names were "Long, Green, Beans, Cook, Dunn, Paynes, Weant, Withem". Us boys soon found that a lot of these tie hackers were nice folks, especially the girls! There were some beauties amongst them, I can remember that! One, named "Bonita", and I dated off and on for a few years. Bonita had a younger brother named "Stanley", which leads to the next part.............
Left to Right - Lovel "Dewey" Weant, "Tip", J.D. Weant,
Tip Becomes a Sub-Contractor
Bonita's brother, Stanley became very handy for me. My parents would pay me to do certain tasks around the house, such as weeding or plowing the big garden my mother had. Or cutting weeds, chopping and carrying wood for our heater, carrying water from our neighbors well on wash day (we had no well), jobs of this nature. So, if I was to get fifty cents for weeding the garden, I would go hunt up Stanley and pay him a quarter to do the job. He was happy, I was happy, my parents were happy. The same routine was used on any other menial jobs I was to get paid for. I would find Stanley and hire him for half! Stanley would get the best of me tho, in playing marbles. We played for "keeps" and he usually won, so I had to keep buying marbles for the boys who were better players than I.
Panther on the Loose
Most of the school age kids in the town formed "packs" (as opposed to gangs) and played together according to age groups. My age group consisted of probably 8 or 10 kids, including my good buddies Chop Carter and J.D. Weant. We would play games, shoot marbles, and generally have a good time. We had some girls in our "pack" which was O.K. with us. Most of these packs could be found at someone's house until about dusk when the pack would break up and each kid headed for home.
One summer, at around going-home time, the most gosh awful screeching sound ever heard came up from the river bottoms. We were told it was a panther on the loose. Every night about the same time, this screeching was heard. When those individual packs of kids broke up, we each headed for home in a dead run, afraid of this "panther". In fact, it was so serious we broke up well before dark for awhile. Remember, the town had no electricity, therefore no street lights. We never did find out who was playing that prank on us, nor what instrument they had, but our parents soon convinced us it was not a panther, and we got back to normal.
There is a hill about a mile southeast of Monegaw, across the creek, but on our side of the river. This area had two long ago deserted farmsteads. The houses were falling in, and the places were full of brush. In addition, there was an open well about 1/4 mile from these places which had no covering whatsoever. And, to top it off, there were three suspicious mounds, side by side, which we thought were unmarked graves. We never went to this hill after dark, even when 'coon hunting. Also, we never went to this hill in daylight unless we had quite a pack of kids along.
We were convinced the area was haunted. And truly on cold winter nights we could hear what sounded like someone chopping firewood on that hill. Looking back, I'm sure it was ice freezing and cracking either on the Monegaw Creek or on the Osage River. Or, it could have been the trees popping when they freeze, which was fairly common. We had a joke that we would play on "outsider" kids. We would tell them about the hill, and the three graves. We would tell them that one of the graves belonged to Chief Monegaw, and that if you jumped up and down on it three times, and ask, "What did you die for?", that he would reply "Nothing". Well, that part was true. Nothing was heard in reply!
Tip Meets Bigfoot
There was a family named Ritchie who had several kids, and they lived down a dirt lane, across a small creek, about 1/4 mile from the edge of town. Several times, my pack would go to the Ritchies for the evening to play. My dad had a rule - if I was not home by dark, he would blow his car horn three times, which could be heard all over town, and after the horn blew I had 10 minutes to get home and still be in good graces. Well, this one night my pack was at the Ritchie house, and dusk came and went, but we were having too much fun to go home. It became dark - total dark - no moon, no nothing.
I heard that horn blow. The other kids in my pack were not ready to leave, so I had to head for home by myself. I started up this totally dark lane, half scared, and only by knowing the way by heart could I follow the trail. I crossed the creek, was approaching an old abandoned tabernacle building, when I bumped right into something warm, hairy, and big! I almost had a stroke at my young age. This big, warm, hairy thing turned out to be one of the Ritchie's horses, standing totally still across the path when I bumped into him. I thought he was bigfoot!
The Copperhead Experience
Another big scare I had during this time, was this. My dad owned a milk cow. The area was open range, so that cow could go about anywhere she wanted. She had a big bell on her neck, and at evening time I could usually hear this bell. It was my job to drive the cow home so my dad could milk her. One evening I could not hear the bell. My mother decided to go with me to hunt that cow, and we started up a path thru the timber toward where that cow had a habit of going. My mother was ahead of me on this path, and stepped over a big log that was across the path. I followed and as soon as I put my foot down on the other side of that log I heard some dead leaves rustle, and my pant leg gave a jerk. Snake! I'll bet I jumped 4 feet into the air, and yelled "Snake". I did not get bit, the snake had hit my pant leg and missed my leg. It was one of the biggest copperhead snakes we had ever seen. My mother told me to run back and get someone to come to kill it, and she would stay there to keep an eye on it. I ran to a neighbor, Clyde Thomas, and told him the story. He grabbed a pitchfork, went up the path, and killed that snake. That taught me to never step over a log without knowing what was on the other side!
On rainy days, or when it was too cold to play
outside, my pack of kids would go to the Cleveland Cave for the day. We
made a game of going to the back of the cave (it seemed like 3/4 of a mile
or so) then turning out all our lights to see if we could find our way out.
We always did, by crawling and feeling our way, sometimes bumping our
head on overhanging rocks. But it was fun - no one ever got hurt, only
a little scared. The girls didn't enjoy this as much as us boys. We
frequently saw many bats, sometimes hanging in clusters. Other times
we did not see any, or possibly one or two. The girls didn't like these,
either. At one time, there was a spring in the cave at about 200' from
the entrance. This spring was at a fork in the tunnel - one tunnel
went up, the other went down. The tunnel which went down had water
in it from the spring, and we never did know how far that tunnel went as
it was filled with clear water all the way up to the ceiling. There
was a wooden bridge over the entrance to the lower tunnel, so that you could
continue using the upper tunnel to other parts of the cave. This spring,
and lower tunnel, has long since been filled in by erosion from rain water
running in at the entrance. Gone forever, unless someone digs out the
dirt and rocks. Due to the building of the Truman dam and lake,
most likely this lower tunnel is now below the water table, even if it were
cleared of the mud and rocks.
Camping on Store Porch
One night us three boys planned to "camp out" in J.D.'s back yard. He had a little brother (Donnie) who was 2 or 3 years younger than us, and we didn't want him tagging along with us, nor camping out with us. But J.D.'s mother made us let Donnie camp out with us. Donnie had an old canvas army cot he was sleeping on, and after awhile he fell fast asleep. It was summer time, hot, and Donnie was sleeping in his underwear. J.D. and I each got one end of the cot, with Donnie sleeping on it, and carried it about one block down to the general store. We left him on the front porch of the store. He didn't wake up until the next morning when the store opened up for the day, in full daylight. He was sorely vexed when he got home, and so was J.D.'s mother!
Front Yard Beating
I got into trouble over something, I know not what, when I was about 12 years old. (This getting in trouble happened many times, but this one time stands out in my memory). We were out in the front yard, next door to the store, and there were a lot of people out just enjoying the evening. My dad, having a reputation of being a fair, but strict disciplinarian was getting ready to give me a spanking right there in front of my buddies.
How embarrassing. So, when he started to pick me up, I started screaming, "Please don't beat me again". He hadn't touched me yet, but it got the attention of many onlookers. He told me to shut up, and I screamed even louder, "Please don't beat me, I've not healed from the last one". "Help, someone, please don't let him beat me again". I was dragged in the house, given a good whipping, and put on restriction for several days. No one believed my screams, but my dad was furious anyway.
My dad had an old milk cow, which he milked every night after I chased her into the barn. This cow gave way too much milk for our family, so my dad started a milk route there in town. We had 4 or 5 customers, and it was my job to deliver a quart of milk in glass bottles to the customers each night. I do remember that the milk brought 10 cents a quart, delivered. Well, 40 or 50 cents a day was a big deal in those days. For my efforts, I got 2 cents a day for the delivery, or, if I waited for a full week to collect, I was paid 15 cents. I didn't tell my parents, but this kept me in a sack of dukes tobacco for my pipe, plus a bottle of pop, and a candy bar! I was living high on the hog.
Selling Used Nails
Money was always tight with us kids, and we took every opportunity to earn some. My parents had recently bought the 3 room house next to the grocery store. It had a kitchen, a living room, and one bedroom. That was it. My dad had previously bought the land the old Cleveland hotel had been on (after it burnt) and it still had a big old barn, a corn crib, and a small building like a car garage on the property.
For our "new" house, my dad wanted to build a back porch, a smokehouse, a garage for his car, and a small barn for the milk cow. He was sly. He knew none of us kids would want to work all day tearing boards off the old buildings for the planned new structures. So, he rounded up 5 or 6 kids about my age, gave us claw hammers, and announced that he would pay us 10 cents a pound for used nails. And, if we wanted to get these nails from the old Cleveland property, that would be O.K. Did we ever go to work. In a few days we had forty or fifty pounds of used nails, and got paid $4 or $5 for them. We had struck it rich!
We had also provided him with all the nice pine lumber needed for the planned improvements. That was a win-win situation! The porch he built on the back of the house was screened in for 1/2 of the south side, fully screened in on the west and north. This became my "bedroom". It was great in summer with the breezes, fair in fall and spring, but very cold in winter. In winter time, my mother would put two feather beds on that bed, and I would sleep between them. That worked just fine until morning when I had to get up barefooted on that cold lineolium floor. It would not take me long to get in the house next to a roaring wood stove!
Rabbit Roost School
One of my years with my mother as teacher there in Monegaw, my dad got a contract to teach in a school about 3 miles west of town. The name of the school was "Rabbit Roost", and only had eight kids enrolled. Eight was the bare minimum, as the county would not support a school with less than eight students. Right after the start of that school year, there was a family named "Parker" who lived down on the banks of Big Monegaw Creek, and they had four kids in that school. Well, the Parkers moved to parts unknown, taking the four students, which left only four students for my dad to teach that year. After that year, they closed the school permanently, and sold it.
Tip Gets Blood Poisoning
Around the age of 10 or 11, it had been raining pretty hard, and I was on my way to visit my good buddy, J.D. I was almost to his house wading in water in the ruts on the road, when all of a sudden my bare foot got cut on something. It was bleeding like crazy, and I ran home bawling my eyes out. My dad went to the scene of the crime and found an old rusty tobacco can that I had stepped on. Well, they got the bleeding stopped, I got my foot all bandaged up, and we thought everything was alright. Except my foot turned very red and had kinda purple streaks all the way up to my knee. The adults pronounced it blood poisoning and I had to soak my foot in kerosene for hours. They kept watching the red and purple and it finally started to go away. I recovered, but to this day, there is a tender spot and scar where that can cut me. No, no one thought of going to a doctor, nor did anyone think about a tetanus shot. *
*Jump ahead to 2015. (My Dear Cousin, "Bill" Carpenter, when reading this, sent me an e-mail saying: "They probably thought you would be less of a problem if you didn't make it.")
Bare Foot and Camping
All us kids went barefoot from early April until about Thanksgiving. Our feet got so hardened that we could run like crazy on the flint rock road in front of our house. A piece of cake! We went barefoot everywhere except when going to town or somewhere.
When we went fishing, we were barefoot. Hunting, we were barefoot. One day in school, I was walking up the aisle and someone had dropped a lead pencil. I did not see it, but I kinda kicked it with my right foot, and it drove the point of the pencil into my left foot. It left a "tattoo" mark where the lead went in, and to this day I still have that tattoo.
During summer time, three or four of us boys would take our 22 rifles, some fishing line and hooks, and go up the Little Monegaw Creek a mile or so and camp out. Sometimes we found flint arrow heads from the previous occupiers of the land, Indians. We would skip them in the creek to see how far they would go. No thought was given to saving them. We would stay all day, all night, and all the next day. We would shoot and clean squirrels, bull frogs, and catch fish. We would build a campfire and "roast" whatever we had caught. I say "roast", but I think it was mostly near raw. We drank from various springs or the creek, which ever was handy. If any of our parents ever worried about us, we never knew it. We could pretty well take care of ourselves, outside of a snake bite or something.
Of course, we had to have a fairly good supply of "Dukes" tobacco for roll-your-owns or, failing that, we would take a good supply of cigarette butts we carefully collected from in front of the store. To collect these butts, one of us would stand guard, while others would patrol the area just in front of the store for "good" butts. Sometimes we resorted to "bad butts" when we were desperate, and they consisted of butts that had been run over by a car, or someone had stepped on, or some ugly person had thrown it down. These "bad butts" we would tear apart, re-roll the tobacco with cigarette papers, or smoke it in a pipe which we generally had on hand. No, we never caught any horrible disease, but I'm not sure why not.
One of the more exciting things that happened was that a glider had broken loose from the tow plane and had landed in a corn field about 4 miles northwest of Monegaw. This was during WWII, and it caused a lot of speculation about how the military was going to get that glider back. We all had a lot of fun inspecting this glider - we thought it was a marvelous thing. Well, one day a military truck came thru town, and told everyone they were after that glider. We went to watch, naturally. They put up two poles in front of the glider about 100 feet apart, and strung a rope of some kind between the poles, and hooked it to the glider. After awhile, an airplane flew over very slowly with a hook hanging down and snagged that rope. That glider lifted right up out of the corn field, and that was that. I suppose the glider had someone in it, I don't remember.
Learning to Swim
Us kids did not have swimming lessons. We learned to swim on our own, by frequenting Little Monegaw Creek. The creek had deep holes, but it also had places where we could wade across without danger (except from the cottonmouth snakes, of which there were many). Our pack would go the the creek frequently and splash around and just have a good time. As a result, we also learned to swim. On occasion we would go the the Osage River to swim, but it was a little too dangerous for comfort - the banks were steep, slick, and the water was deep and sometime swift. Generally, we preferred the creek for swimming. Somehow, I forgot to tell my parents that I could swim. (They never asked, and sometimes was better to not tell them too much - they worried a lot).
One time right after learning to swim pretty well, about the age of 11 or so, the flood water came up, and covered the road leading out of town to the east, which was where Little Monegaw Creek crossed the road. The water was about 3 feet deep on the roadway leading to the bridge, and several of us kids had waded along the flooded road out to the bridge where we were standing in water, on the floor of the bridge itself. Several townspeople were standing back watching, including my parents.
For some unknown reason, out of impulse, I climbed up on the banister of the bridge and proceeded to jump off into the main creek where the water was probably twenty feet deep, or thereabouts. My mother witnessed this jumping into deep water. She did not know I could swim. She could not swim. She frantically had my dad wade out to the bridge, shoes, clothes, wallet, and all, to "rescue" me. I thought it was funny. My parents did not. I was put on restriction for several days, but later was congratulated on learning to swim. I guess you could call their reaction "sweet and sour".