Bob Mitchell: Memories of my dad as Father's Day approaches

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

With Father's Day coming Sunday, I remembered some of the things my dad and I did and some of the things we didn't do.

One of the most memorable outings was always -- without fail -- on my birthday, July 15. In those days long ago, this was opening day for catfish on the White, James and Kings rivers. My dad always preferred White River for pursuing those whiskered ones.

There was always room for one of my buddies, both of whom are no longer with us. Dad and Ralph Hawk almost always fished together, making the outing two adults and two kids. Those of the younger generation were either Trolinger Wilson or Bill Barber.

The Johnsons

A favorite haunt on White River was Cottner Ford, just between Owl Creek and Rock Creek on the White. This meant we usually camped on land belonging to the Lem Johnsons. They were some of my dad's favorite people. They would come by the camp of an evening after their chores were finished.

Mrs. Johnson gave my dad quite a scolding one time when a severe thunderstorm hit the area. Fortunately, we had good cover in a grain truck with a tarp over the bed, which survived the wind and kept everything dry. The next morning though, she was at our campsite admonishing my dad, in no uncertain terms, concerning his failure to bring me to their house during the storm.

We later learned that we might have been better off in the truck bed when we were told of the number of roof leaks they had in their house that night.

Table Rock Lake was probably the best thing that ever happened to the elderly folks in later years. The reservoir backed up over most of their farm, and they were compensated adequately to buy a farm in the Hilltop community near Cassville.

Barrel hoop

I'm not sure whether my dad ever saw me play a basketball game. He worked hard at his job of sales in Cassville, and later in Springfield, and was always tired in the evening. But he gave me a good start by making a practice area available on the place we owned, which is on First Street, now owned by Les Chapman.

In those days, money wasn't that easy to come by, so there wasn't going to be any fancy goal and net with which I could practice. Dad scouted around until he found a barrel hoop that was at least near the size of a basketball goal and hung it exactly 10 feet up on the side of the barn above a garage door that gave additional room for drills.

Getting some youthful training gave me the opportunity to play on teams in Cassville and Springfield. The late John Q. Hammons was my first coach in the sixth grade.

Early quail hunts

Dad's favorite fall pastime was quail hunting, a sport at which he was quite accomplished. These were the days when the Cassville area was known far and wide as good quail territory. Motels in the area would fill, quite like a Roaring River opening, as hunters and their dogs from north Missouri and Arkansas came into the area.

In those days, there was a split season between northern and southern Missouri, pushing the Yankees into our grounds to run their dogs. Also, the season opened earlier here than in Arkansas.

Dad would never let me shoot his 12-gauge Model 97 shotgun because it had a hair trigger with which he was familiar and could handle. My first shooting trip came with dad and Rube Fuquay on his place east of town.

Since it appeared to be sticking, I later sold a Jersey calf for $20 and bought a .410 Winchester pump from Fred Browning in Exeter, and he threw in a box of shells. Today, that gun, in good condition, would bring thousands of dollars.

Because we liked bird hunting as our sport, my dog was always a bird-dog type. I had both an Irish Setter and Pointer, both of whom made good pets and were good hunters. When we moved to Springfield, Bill Barber took the Setter.

By the way...

My dad's name was Leonard J. He came here from Nora Springs, Iowa, with his family, which was in the clothing business here. They lived on Gravel Street. Their property was later purchased by the Latheml family, then the Methodist Church.

Dad sold cars back and forth between Ford and Chevrolet, and we milked six cows and raised some OIC hogs as "depression breakers," as they were called in those days.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat.