Bob Mitchell: The best part of the year

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

We're getting to the very best part of the year, early spring, when there are a lot of activities that can keep us busy if we let life flow as it's supposed to.

We've gotten past the arrival of Daylight Saving Time, and Thursday is St. Patrick's Day, which brings back so many memories of years past that are very pleasant to recall.

Secretary Kirkpatrick

Mitchell

Back in the days of Secretary of State Jim Kirkpatrick, this town and area had one of the best friends it could ever have in Jefferson City. Kirkpatrick became a staunch supporter of this neck of the woods, mostly through the availability of housing at the Hillbilly Hilton, Sue's cooking, Roaring River State Park, float trips on the King's River and outings on Table Rock and Beaver Lakes.

This guy was one of the most congenial politicians I have ever known, and there has been a bunch of them.

During a TV interview at the opening of Roaring River State Park one year, he was asked why he always attended this state park opening. His reply was "because they ask me." He went a step farther, at which I cringed and he stated, "This is the most beautiful park in the state."

Once these words were out, I questioned the statement, since he was running for re-election that year. He simply said, "Well, it's the truth." There wasn't anything to say after that.

Float trips

Kirkpatrick was always in for the annual float trip on Kings River each year. The outing, that included J.D. Fletcher, Almon Maus, Kirkpatrick and myself always ended at Summer Ford, north of Berryville. There would be a contingent waiting at the Ford, with Art Hegi at the grill cooking some of the best steaks possible.

Kirkpatrick always wore himself out visiting with this group that included several of his party's representatives. Another who enjoyed the get-together was Judge John Baty. The Republicans in the group could be counted on one hand -- Fletcher, Joe Ellis and Cherry Warren. For this one evening, usually finished under the stars, even they were void of criticism.

Due to some of the other activities and the distance from Cassville, this activity was later transferred to Memorial Park in Cassville. Again, the Secretary of State was always here for the event.

Governor's mansion

One of the most memorable activities with the amiable secretary was a St. Patrick's Day invitation to attend an event at the Governor's Mansion in Jefferson City. Governor Mel Carnahan had scheduled a dinner and program to honor Kirkpatrick with Mr. and Mrs. Maus, who was then an Appeals Court Judge in Springfield, and Sue and I were to be his guests at the event.

Every state officeholder, several members of Carnahan's party in the legislature and some government division heads were crowded into the dining room. The introductions Kirkpatrick gave to some of his guests probably should not be repeated in print, but they brought down the place with laughter.

After dinner, the Carnahans had planned a program to honor the Irish that required going to the third floor of the mansion. This area was accessed via a winding stairway that would not have been adequate to handle the crowd in case there was an emergency. Several of the guests who hadn't been there previously expressed their relief of the program being over.

St. Pat's in Cassville

Another enjoyable evening on St. Patrick's Day was in Cassville during a visit of the secretary that included a dinner outing at Roaring River when Jack Nickols was concessionaire. Jack really "put on the dog" for the evening, with a table that was nothing short of perfect.

After dinner the group adjourned to the home of Dr. Mary Newman Merideth for an evening of visiting that lasted well into the night, Dr. Mary Jane became a staunch supporter of Kirkpatrick during his 20-year political run.

There were a lot of folks in Cassville and Barry County who became good friends of Kirkpatrick. His love of this area never slackened.

For as long as his health would permit, he continued his visits to Barry County for any special event he was invited to attend. The final visit was a fundraiser for Rex Stumpff during one of his political campaigns.

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

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