Bob Mitchell: An unusual river story

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

There is one more story that can be added to the Morris (Pinky) Funk and Roy Brooks story that will ring unusual, but not to those of us who might still be around.

This occurred on King’s River, up stream in the Arkansas portion of the stream. There were two or three boats of us doing one of our float trips. We had stopped for lunch, usually consisting of a sandwich, potato chips and naturally, a can of pork and beans. Consumption of this meal was followed by a resting period when we heard another boat making a ripple that was coming toward us. We quickly recognized the boater as Funk.

He was recognizable even when traveling on the road, since he always had his float boat atop his car. He was possibly one of the first to design a carrier that swung into position to permit one person loading or off loading the boat.

Funk quickly recognized our group as being from Cassville. Since we had small portions of our rations remaining, we invited him ashore to join us for a snack.

Conversation followed

There was considerable conversation that followed, including questions concerning why he was on the river by himself. And, it was obvious he wasn’t doing any fishing, since there wasn’t any tackle in his boat. Funk avoided answering the questions about his lone boat trip on the Kings for quite a while.

Finally, he confided in us that he was on a mission, having promised Brooks that when Funk’s fellow river mapper passed away, his ashes would be partially spread on this stretch of the river. It had been the favorite run of Brooks and the promise had been fulfilled just upstream from where we had stopped.

Most of us were familiar with the two men and understood the meaning behind Funk being by himself.

In later years, we never understood why Funk never approached anyone to provide the same procedure for him. But then, we never did know for sure.

Poppy Day

Ahead of Memorial Day, which is next Monday, is this Friday, recognized as Poppy Day in certain veteran organizations. Since 1920, the Red Poppy has been the official flower of the American Legion family.

In years past, the American Legion Auxiliary of Irwin-Easley Post was active in keeping the Poppy Day at the top of memorial recognitions. Regardless of weather conditions, members could be found going from business, buttonholing sidewalk travelers and even manning crosswalk stations confronting passing traffic in selling the symbols.

There were a number of Auxiliary members who once led this project. Myrle Oldaker was probably the most successful, since she would never take no for an answer when confronting a possible donor. She most always chose to confront even the most conservative of Cassville’s business folks in making her contacts. For this cause, it was said she was able to “get a buck out of anyone!”

Others I remember who were always available for this project included the first woman commander of the Legion post Rena Crowe Scott who was usually assisted by Deloris Hutchens, Lana Long, Helen Berning and there were others who followed their leads.

Poppy’s meaning

According to the American Legion Magazine, the red poppy has served as an official symbol of remembrance for the American Legion family for nearly a century. Millions of crepe paper poppies — their petals bound together for veterans as a part of therapeutic rehabilitation — have ben distributed in exchange for donations that support the welfare of veterans, active military and their families.

The 2018 commemoration continues a long history of remembrances. In 1977, a Legion Auxiliary spokesperson said, “What we must keep in mind is that the purpose of wearing the poppy before and on Memorial Day is to honor the nation’s war dead. It is an individual’s personal gesture of remembrance of the sacrifices made by our fallen Americans.”

Honor all who served

Memorial Day recognition will go even further than the poppy with grave flags placed in memorial to all those who have served their country in the U.S. Armed Forces. Cemeteries throughout this area will be graced with small United States of America Flags to designate those who have taken part in maintaining the country’s freedoms.

This, America’s first holiday of the summer, will become a time of family outings, travel over the extended holiday to visit friends and relatives, but, it should never leave anyone forgetful about why their way of live has been preserved.

Even in these times of uncertainty, it is those people who choose to be in the military, wherever they might be in the world and under whatever conditions they might be existing who are ensuring the American way of life for our generations.

My wish for your holiday includes these words, “God save these United States of America!”

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State University’s Regional Media Hall of Fame.