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Notes from Hunter Creek – Roger Wall

Notes of Local Interest

In the valley, here’s what been happening, and when: 

September 29, 2018 – first eagle sighting soaring west. Going up Hunter Creek Valley. About average for time of year. 

Two days later, I intercepted a full mature bird with a full white bald head, full white wing tips, and a beautiful white tail, fishing down at the bridge.    

I have read that these large nature birds are usually female. The male is lighter and supposedly, not as industrious.  

Somewhere in there lies a good late-night joke, but I shan’t go near it.        

First week of October: We had a hard and surprisingly healthy dose of rainfall. Just over three-inches in the gauge. It is good for second hay cuttings, good to revitalize the springs and the creeks, and bad for my high-gradient driveway. It’s going to require my tractor skills (grader-man) for a couple of days unfortunately. My place is as green as I have seen it before for late September early October.  

October 15, 2018: Along the creek, fall colors are largely non-existent so far. Very late. 

October 18, 2018: First freeze; hello frost, 25° cold at dawn. Lots of frost-jackets down close to the creek.  Around October 28, fall colors gloriously arrived , but are only present for about a week.     

October 20, 2018: Attended annual Pendergrass Reunion in Dora, my adopted family. It’s usually held in September but was delayed for Dale to make it in from Idaho. 

November 12: First little snow of almost one inch, but still about a month ahead of time.

There were 21 children born to Ed and Neddy Pendergrass on Bryant Creek. All of the children were raised in a modest four-bedroom farmhouse. There are only six left. The oldest surviving girl is Geneva, age 93. and the youngest surviving boy is Larry, age 75. Each child carries around proud Cherokee and pioneer heritage. 

My dear departed mother-in-law Una, situated right in the middle age-wise, liked to tell a lot of tales about growing up with 20 siblings separated in age by two decades. 

One of her favorite stories –– Each Christmas, the walnut hulling money was divided among all the children as well as the parents. This small sum of money was allocated to each child to buy gifts for others. The parents took larger portions and bought each child a pair of shoes. The children were grateful, but they knew that these precious shoes had to last until the next Christmas. 

And of course, unlike today’s youth, kids walked everywhere if they wanted to go anywhere. Their church was only 1/2-mile distant; Hodgson Mill at Sycamore which also sold a few candy items was over four miles away. And the little school house was almost two miles away. 

Una claimed, and I’ve been told she was being truthful, that at least all of the girls, including my former mother-in-law, would walk barefoot to school and stop at the entrance of the schoolhouse, and then place their shoes on to sometimes squishy, damp feet. 

This story always made my  feet feel painful for some reason.

One hundred years ago population wise, both Ozark and Douglas counties were only slightly smaller than they are today. However, Ava and Gainesville were significantly smaller. There were local villages like Gentryville, Bertha, Rockbridge, Thornfield, and others, that had post offices, stores, and quite a few residents. 

And people had large families for several reasons. For one thing, you would have more mouths to feed, but you would also have more people available to feed those mouths. And I’m sure that some people viewed their offspring as a form of “social security.”  After all, the Social Security Act didn’t become law until 1935.

And so on Bryant Creek and just across the Douglas/Ozark county line, one large family after another dotted the riverbanks.   

There were the following clans situated up and down Bryant Creek: Strong, Curtis, Stone, Tate, Pool, Berry, Pendergrass, and Tetrick families. 

Most have told me they could not have asked for better neighbors. Some of them have told me that they were all raised “poor;” they just didn’t know it at the time – because everybody was poor. 

So I feel privileged on this date to watch these “band of brothers and sisters” exchange hugs, handshakes, and hellos. Tall tales are re-told and generous helpings of chicken, pork, beans, rolls, casseroles, salads, and still fresh-sliced tomatoes, and a whole table full of cakes, pies, and coolies are there for the taking. 

Several different members of the various clans have appeared for this momentous yearly occasion. Later, musical instruments will probably be broken out.

As I look out at the yard, I notice about 30 children, including two of my grandchildren, and most are playing dodgeball. This brings a smile to my face when I realize that the Pendergrass reunion is in pretty good shape for at least a generation or two. 

Thanksgiving: it’s my favorite holiday and yet, I have friends that dread to see it coming.

Depending on the recent printing of this newspaper, I hope you have enjoyed your Thanksgiving holiday as much as I always do. 

Of course, it’s a great time to connect with friends and family, near and far. It’s so hard to keep track of the “far” ones like one should. 

Thanksgiving weekend, (Friday-Sunday), in the past always meant hooking up with friends, and either floating or hiking, depending on the weather, usually in northwest Arkansas.                                   

Note:  Once we could gravitate around after the Thanksgiving meal, we would often take Shorty, our beagle, and Jesse, our part Walker hound, and go load the .22’s and shotgun and hunt for squirrel or rabbit till the sun started going down over the river bluffs.   

Then it’s back to the house for some dessert, coffee, and tea. After stoking the fire, we’d gather around two tables and play small stakes poker. On this day, the kids or grand-kids usually get to operate a small tractor or side-by-side, supervised, of course. It’s a great day for everyone. 

And whereas Thanksgiving is always on Thanksgiving day, Christmas is now celebrated whenever and whenever, depending on everyone’s family and work schedules. 

I miss going with my dear departed mother, Alice, to midnight mass at the Oxford Catholic church. 

Oxford, established in 1701, is located in the very southeast corner of Pennsylvania where it meets up with Delaware and Maryland, located just about a mile away from the famous and historic Mason-Dixon Line.       

Now, get up and go enjoy our beautiful Ozarks outdoors!