Bob Mitchell: Good park opening

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Yep! That was me pulling the trigger on the Roaring River State Park rainbow trout season opening March 1.

Park officials had asked me to perform the act about six weeks ago.

For the first time in many-a-year, it was me, an unusual experience to be on that end of the ceremony.

It was great that park hatchery manager Paul Spurgeon said there were many who had made the recommendation.

A couple of calls the night before said they were glad I was replacing Jimmy Kirkpatrick in the roll. My reply was “no one will ever replace the Jolly Irishman in any roll.” He fired the opening shot every year he was Missouri Secretary of State, except when a governor was on hand for the opening, then he just fished.

Cold morning start

Despite temperatures at 26 degrees at the top of the hill, there were 1,306 tags sold at 8:30 a.m. in the adult department and 216 for youths.

At 5:45 a.m., cars were backed up to the hill in the park gaining entrance. Park Rangers were working hard filling every parking space available for fisherpersons and spectators alike.

I met a number of park officials for the opening, and newly appointed State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick was also on hand for the opening. His grandparents, Fitz and Eve Fitzpatrick built and operated Fitz’ Fish and Fun Resort of Viola on the Big Mill Creek Arm of Table Rock Lake during the early days of the lake.

There’s just one more thing to say and that is what my son-in-law, Dennis Bartkoski, told me at the conclusion of the opening, “your celebrity days are over.”

Legion baseball

Nothing was more enjoyable years ago than American Legion Baseball. Playing two years was a blast. Coaches for the first team ever here began in 1946 with Paul Young, a mechanic with the Ford sponsor Hailey Motors, who was followed by Chan Griffin and then Charley Bashe.

Coaches were short term for a period of years, and then the program disappeared from the community. About 1996, Jerry Marple and Roger Brock had a long run at the helm of the Irwin-Easley Post sponsored program.

About five years after that, Jeremy Marple and Brock were in the coaching boxes. In these periods, Cassville participated in the prestigious wooden bat tournament in Van Buren, Ark., winning outright once and always ranking well.

Back to 1946

During those initial years, the team did well, usually ranking just behind Joplin in district competition.

Check these team member names on your family trees: Leonard Stansberry, J.D. (Chick) Cox, Charles Truhitte, Bill Gunnels, two Bob Mitchells (one from Seligman), Cecil Abrams, Bill Testerman, S.T. Sims and Buford Blythe.

The two Mitchell players required coaches to carry birth certificates most of the season to cover questioning opponents.

Bashe most fiery

Bill Hailey Motors in Cassville was joined by his brother Newt Hailey in Rogers, Ark., to make a team. The two got together in Rogers one evening, with Cassville winning 8-2.

On a particular inning, I was a runner on third base when Truhitte was batting. Bashe called a squeeze play. About the time Truhitte bunted, I crossed the plate. At this point the umpire called the batter out and sent me back to third, ruling the batter had stepped on home plate in the process.

Bashe came out of the dugout, recognizing his knowledge of the official and argued so long and hard that the ump finally forfeited the game to Rogers.

We didn’t really care, having beaten the Arkansas team pretty handily.

Confession is good

There is a saying that says “confession is good for the soul.”

If that be the case, then it might be that there is one that is due, coming from me!

Prompting this are recent events in Virginia. That would be the admission by public officials of having supposedly appeared in blackface.

The incident that provoked my confession was appearing in what was titled a Negro Ministerial back in my grade school days.

You see, it was my assignment to be the only white face on the stage of the old high school building during the program. There were 10 or 12 other participants in the program that were actually participating in the afternoon program for the campus and then a public program was presented that evening.

The two performances were appreciated by the black-faced performers, since their makeup was required only once. They did cause considerable attention if they appeared in public outside the stage.

If participation in the program, even though remaining white faced myself, will someday haunt our household, then that’s off my chest and I’ll rest at ease.

DST arrives Sunday

It’s that time of the year. Daylight Saving Time arrives Sunday, March 10. Don’t forget to spring forward before going to bed on Saturday, and you won’t be late for church Sunday morning, as my mother, Kathryn Mitchell always reminded me every spring.

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.