Opinion

Bob Mitchell: The Houn’ Ditch Inn memories

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

It’s too bad the once flagstone building at the south intersection of Cassville isn’t bearing some kind of designation that would remind folks in the future that it was once a center of activity for the town.

It was built and owned by Gentry German, famous for his Fox hunting dogs, of the July breed. German was famous in his breeding of this line of Fox hunting dogs before fences brought a stop to the sport.

Gentry was a tobacco chewing teller of tall tales regarding his sport. His son, Ernest, was a longtime furniture and appliance dealer at the location. Ernie, always a booster for most things to benefit Cassville, and he might be remembered by some with his tar bucket and brush atop the building attempting to stop leaks in the flat roof.

Originally faced with pine logs, the building was the first to be hit by Flat Creek floodwaters, washing logs into our yard when we lived at Fifth and West Street.

A place to visit

Back in the pre-1940 days, the Houn’ Ditch Inn in Cassville was the place for young adults to congregate and feed the music machines that faced the dance floor. It was there that female cousins did their best to get me broken-in for dancing. They were never completely successful. Rayma and Kathryn, both of whom were quiet accomplished at the social activity. My excuse for leaving the lesson was there was always a ball game somewhere in town.

Regardless of my dislike for the dance floor, the Houn’ Ditch Inn remained paramount in Cassville throughout Gentry German’s successes.

End of an era

Two things closed the German Kennels south of Cassville, Gentry’s age and the demise of Fox Hunting as more and more property changed hands, larger parcels being purchased by people desiring a small acreage. This meant barbed wire would be stretched on the boundary of their property and more than likely no trespassing signs posted.

Without wide stretches of land to run hounds chasing the fox available, hunters became discouraged and lost interest in the sport. The inability to run their animals on a large stretch of land was the downfall of the sport.

Association ended

This downfall of the sport also put an end to the Barry County Fox Hunters Association. It lasted a long time but the demise was a location to run the dogs.

One of the final association hunts and shows I remember was on the Jim Fogg place in the Washburn Prairie community. Fogg, a hunter in his days, was extremely proud to host the association with their limited hunt and bench show.

Cassville Rotary Club counted on this event and later on the Coon Hunters’ Association held their hunt on the Sparkman place down Flat Creek, as a couple of their fund raisers and service projects. George Joslin and Dr. G.A. Purves were usually the club’s principal scheduler and provider of necessary supplies to serve breakfast, lunch and supper (as it was called in those days) and this latter event started me as a fry cook.

More about the Germans

Ernest and Ilene German were very successful in their business and he never failed to share his success by being one of the usual supporters of Cassville’s efforts to improve. He was always one of those who could always be found streamside at Roaring River on March 1 of each opening morning.

Both were usual participants in square dance activities and Ernie could often be encouraged to play a fiddle tune or two during the evening.

During later years, Frank Massey got him involved in the Nebraska One Box Pheasant Hunt. As years went by, others from Cassville going to the activity were always reminded of the entertainment Ernie provided with his fiddle during some of the programs.

Christmas is drawing near

You Christmas shoppers who have not been to the store yet to make your purchases, better realize there are only 10 more shopping days until the holiday. That is, until Christmas Eve, when you are likely to have the door shut in your face or long locked for any more customers as the merchant has gone home for his own family holiday.

Speaking from experience, if it had not been for Shelley for a number of years, my case would have been one of those “without” when it came to putting as package under the tree. Sometimes a check would do, sometimes it might not have!

Like the song says, “Santa Claus” is coming town. Health services have confirmed his Covid shots are complete and he’s expecting all households to be fully vaccinated this year.

If you haven’t filled the responsibility of doing your part against the pandemic, what better time to fill this responsibility than at Christmas time. You will be surprised how proud of yourself you can be!

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.

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