My father's description of Bona (pronounced Bonnie) reminds me of Harper Lee's description of the fictional Macomb, Alabama except that Bona would have made Macomb look like a metropolis.
After about two years in Vancouver just off-bearing lumber at the sawmill, Dad was not getting ahead much and being a very independent type he was sick of working for wages. He was probably tired of the winter rains, too, and I am sure that both he and Mother were homesick for the Ozark hills. Except for missing Grandma and Grandpa Stanley, our maternal grandparents, and some pieces of candy corn or a box of Crackerjacks from the store Grandpa had in Bona (and Grandpa sent us those in a package in the mail sometimes) I guess Richard and I did not care much was we could always find plenty of things to do wherever we were.
Anyhow, in 1927 when I was five years old, Dad scraped together enough money to buy coach tickets on the train for Mother and we three boys and he sent us off to Missouri. He apparently had to stay and work until he had enough to get himself back there.
I remember a few things about that trip back to the Ozarks on the train. The train coach had green plush seat. Mother had bought Richard and me each a little notebook to scribble and draw in and she got each of us a new little toy car. We would run those cars along the back of the seats and sometimes we sent them scooting down the aisle.
Mother did not have enough money to take us to the dining car to eat so she would get us sandwiches either from a train vendor or from the stations when the train stopped for a little while. At one such stop somewhere, she left baby Rex with a fellow passenger and got off the train to get some baloney and bread for us to eat. While she was gone they were switching cars on the train and the one we were in suddenly moved a little way.
I had watched from the window while my mother got off and when the car moved I thought they were going to leave her behind. It was traumatic—I panicked and started running down the aisle crying and yelling, “Don’t leave my Mama! DON’T LEAVE MY MAMA!!” It was a great relief when she got back on safely with the bread and baloney and I felt very foolish for having made such a scene.
I do not remember much about our arrival back in Bona except I sure was glad to see Grandpa and Grandma Stanley. Their house was right alongside Grandpa’s general store, separated only by a small front yard. “C. B. Stanley, General Merchandise” it said in gold lettering on the front window of the store—and that store was a wonderland for little boys. There were many treats in the candy case, the rack of cookie boxes, and the red Coca Cola cooler were Grandpa kept bottles of Coca Cola, Dr. Pepper, and all flavors of NeHi pop on ice.
Grandma and Grandpa Stanley lived in Bona, Missouri, which was truly a backwoods crossroads village. Bona was at the top of a hill on the road from Dadeville to Fairplay in the North Morgan township of Dade County. The east-west crossroad went from Aldrich, seven miles to the east, through Bona to Cane Hill and over to Arcola.
Grandpa’s house and store occupied the northwest corner of the crossroad. The southwest corner was the churchyard of the white wood-framed Bona Church [and where Uncle Dick, his daughter Janice, my son Frank, I scattered my father’s ashes in 2002]. The northeast corner was, in the late ‘20s when we came back from Washington, a vacant lot that had only a hitching rack used by buggies and wagons coming to trade at the store or, on Sunday, coming to church.
The southeast corner of the crossroad was occupied by the second store in bona, Whiteside’s Store. Actually it did not amount to much compared to Grandpa’s “General Merchandise.” Next to Mattie Whiteside’s store there was in those days a blacksmith shop operated by the Slagle brothers.
There were maybe six other houses and buildings in Bona in those days. South of the blacksmith shop there were two small houses. Across from those and south of the tree-shaded church yard, there was a board and batten house where our cousins Claude and Billy Todd lived. Just beyond it there was a little building that Eulas Todd, Claude and Billy’s father, called the Bona “garage,” but I never saw him working on a car there.
West of the crossroad there was not much except just down the hill from the churchyard there was another board and batten house where Cook Neil and his family lived. Across from that and west of Grandpa’s barn there was a frog pond.
Just north of Grandpa’s house there was a large white two-story house called the Welly Depee house. Old Welly Depee was a crippled old man who made brooms for a living. He had a small shack out behind Grandma’s flower garden that was his workshop where he made the brooms.
Down the hill to the east there were only a couple of house, both of which were occupied by what was left of the Whiteside family. In the first lived Mattie Whiteside’s daughter and her family and beyond, in the second, was where Mattie and her illegitimate grandson Frank lived.
Dade County, Missouri where Bona was [there is little left of it, save the church and one or two houses in the 21st century] located on the edge of the “Ozark Mountain;” however, there are no mountains around. There the Ozarks consist of gently rolling hills that are tree covered except where they have been cleared for pasture, cornfields, or other crops.