Bob Mitchell: Long-time country reporter remembered

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Years ago the community reporters, we called them correspondents, were very important to the Cassville Democrat and its readers.

Weekly, they would relay what had gone on in the communities where they lived. This might include who was visiting in the community, up-coming activities that might be planned by a church group, an upcoming family gathering (generally to which everyone would be invited) and virtually always who might have “taken dinner” with someone in the area. The choice about what they submitted for publication was entirely up to them, that’s not to say there wasn’t editing to be done on some items, which might have been due to space limitations that particular week.

Mae Long

Differing from the run of the mill information was Mae Long, longtime correspondent from Seldom Seen Hollow. Most folks these days haven’t heard of this location in Barry County. It was in the Viney Creek community that is now part of Table Rock Lake. Mae kept in close touch with her “people” giving the readers a full account of what went on the past week in Seldom Seen Hollow.

Mae wasn’t above adding something spicy in her column, written in pencil on sheets of Chief tablet paper. We provided the paper and postage for all the correspondents each week, but Mae preferred using the lines on the tablet for her offerings.

With her forthright style, her column was read each week to make sure there wasn’t anything objectionable that might cause harm or great embarrassment in the community.

However, it was some of her “spice” that made her column probably the most read of any and which attracted being published elsewhere.

Attracted Dale Freeman

During those years, Dale Freeman had become editor of the Springfield Newspapers and became an admirer of Mae Long. Dale and I had become friends during the successful campaign of Democrat Charlie Brown as he defeated longtime Congressman Dewey Short.

Constantly during our telephone conversations about one thing or another, he would inquire about Mae Long. And frequently, as he read her column, would call and ask if he had permission to use something she had written in his weekly column.

Finally, he was told he had fulltime permission, as long as what he lifted was verbatim and didn’t reflect on the Democrat with any possible changes.

Transported by rural carriers

Mae Long was a stickler about her news reporting always wanting the information to be up-to-date and providing valuable information to her community and our readers.

But, it was her frequent spicy remarks or stories coming out of Seldom Seen Hollow that made her tick. And that was the way she wanted it, in fact, that was close to the way she lived her life.

She got disturbed at times when the rural mail carrier in that area would come to her mail box before her column was ready to be dispatched to Cassville. The carrier told us on several occasions about waiting at the end of her drive until she made the trip from her house with the weekly column envelope.

Community changed

Mae Long stayed with the community correspondent title for a longer duration than most reporters; she was that dedicated to her neighborhood.

But, along came the Army Corps of Engineers and their high dam on White River and the Seldom Seen Hollow community was like many around the reservoir as new faces began to arrive, many who couldn’t care less about what was going on in Seldom Seen Hollow, so there was little for her to report on a weekly basis.

She reluctantly turned in what postage she had remaining and called it quits for her career of telling it like it was in Seldom Seen Hollow, and the readers of the Cassville Democrat and this region were at a loss for Mae Long no longer putting her pencil to her lined Chief tablet to spin a weekly story.

Still good fishing

Even noting at the mid-point of the month there are still plenty of good fishing days ahead. Best are 14th, 19th, 20th, 22nd, 23rd. Good days remaining, 13th, 17th, 18th and 21st.

All this is ahead of us in addition to the first day of summer arriving Friday, June 21.

This was once the time of the year when late afternoon and early evening were the highly desired trips to Table Rock to avoid the heat and seemed to be when the fish you were after were more willing to encounter a bait.

Also, setting out in a cove with all noise abated, was the time that wildlife began to move around. The wildlife presence in those trips was nearly as good as getting your bait hit by a keeper bass.

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.