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Tacoma, Washington, United States

Monday, May 23, 2016

Chapter 3: Back to Bona

Chapter 3
More Moves and a Feud 
The crops did not amount to much that year on Doc Hunt’s place as the big drought of the thirties was getting underway and Hard Times were in full swing.  My father put his seed corn and his hopes into that worked-out red Ozark soil, but neither came to much.  He gave up renting and went back to tenant farming in 1931 or thereabouts.
This time we moved into a big yellow farmhouse about a mile south of Bona and a quarter of a mile off the road to Dadeville.  In all of our moves in those days we kept getting a little closer to that little store was there, is why I feel that Bona (such as it is) is my home town. [village would be a better term]
That yellow house was up a long rocky lane from the county road.  At that time the county road was just a rocky dirt country road.  There were no bridges over Maze Creek, halfway to Dadeville, or over the Little Sac River, south of Dadeville near Tarrytown.  In either wagon or car, it was necessary to ford the streams where rocks and gravel had been filled in to make a shallow riffle for the road to cross.
Richard and I were old enough by then to ramble around the countryside exploring and we really began to appreciate the beauty and peace of those Ozark hills.  It is an area of gently rolling hills, extensive green woodlands, creeks, and river.  There are no mountains in southwest Missouri.  The “Ozark Mountains” that you hear about—really just overgrown steep hills with lots of woodlands and deep ravines—are mostly in southeast Missouri and down into Arkansas.
I don’t like my father’s term “overgrown’ hills.  As an adjective, it is the opposite of what is happening to the Ozarks Mountains.  What Uncle Dick told me, and I believe him, is that the reason the Missouri Ozarks Mountains, particularly those in the area our family is from, are the oldest mountains in the world.  Some people believe that the Appalachians (where our family passed through) are the oldest, but they are taller than the Ozarks. Like old people, the Ozarks have become worn and stooped from the millenniums of years since their birth, but their spirit is strong, but by 1931 the soil was worn out.  When I am there I can feel the ancientness.  Whatever those mountains may seem to suffer when compared to our Cascades or the Himalayas they make up for in spirit.  Too, whoo whoo for you?  Go there.

Those Ozark hills, however, were a veritable wonderland to us.  The deep woods—interspersed with cornfields, grain fields (wheat and oats), and open pastures—were mostly deciduous trees that were thick-leaved and shady in summer and bare in winter.  There was little underbrush in those woodlands so we could roam freely through them.
Fox Squirrel
The hills at that time abounded with small game.  Besides the many cottontail rabbits, grey squirrels and fox squirrels, there were quail and ducks in the fall.  There were more song birds than I can count: mocking birds, whippoorwills, cardinals, scarlet blackbirds, and many many sparrows.  There were many crows and (as scavengers to keep the countryside clean of carrion) turkey buzzards that wheeled silently in the blue sky.
We had plenty of catfish in the rivers and creeks as well as perch, bluegills, and chubs so us kids grew up with a fishing line and cork bobber in our back pockets.  It seemed that we always had new territory to explore and yet, in retrospect, I realize that our real world lay within a circle around Bona of about four miles in diameter.  Anything outside that was alien territory and any person—other than relatives—from outside was a “stranger” upon whom we looked with a bit of suspicion.
In the halcyon days of roaming those hills and woodlands, squirrel rifle in hand and fishing line in pocket, we came to know that home territory so intimately that we could find our way unerringly home even on moonless nights with only the familiar star constellations to guide us.
No matter where they roamed, the stars always seemed to guide members of the family back to Dade County.