Bob Mitchell: Valued crystal rocks and childhood tricks

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

For a number of years, I was proud of several pieces of crystal rock that came out of the cave that ran under the old school house on 7th Street Hill. They were pieces of the past that were very valuable to me for sometime.

Then, a few years later, the Kime boys got permission to open the cave front from Judy VanZandt, owner of the property. Sometime after their adventure, Harold Reese and I climbed the hill to access the area and found a number of pieces of the crystal lying out in the open as a result of the reopening of the cave entrance.

We immediately went to Mrs. VanZandtís home, and asked her permission to keep some of the rocks. She was in favor, only if we would bring her one of them. This we did quite promptly.

Reese and I quickly decided the best way to get the chunks off the side of the hill was to roll them down to the road where we had a pickup waiting to haul them.

Some were distributed

Some of the rocks were distributed to members of the family for a historical memory about their hometown. The ones we kept were placed at various flower locations around the house.

Eventually, all but perhaps a couple were given to various people who expressed an interest in the chunks of crystal rock, that probably has an official name, but it has been long forgotten.

Lots of rumors

Back in the days the cave was most accessible, there were many rumors about who had used it and what was under the old school location. Some said outlaws had readily used the cave as a hideout back in the early days.

Those who had explored the cave claimed there was a large lake of water about halfway the distance that the explorers had gone in their frequent trips.

The cave had been closed for safety purposes during most of my generationís childhood, but the rocks around the entrances were frequently used by boys in their various outdoor adventures.

Old limestone quarry

The old limestone quarry, present day location of Barry County Ready Mix, was another of those locations used by youths of those days for exploration trips.

This one was an ever-popular outing for lower grades from the school when the weather was good to make an outing. Each student was to bring a sack lunch to school the day of the trip and then the trek to the quarry would begin.

I never did understand how the mothers would permit this trip since each child, boy or girl, would finish the outing covered with clay after several hours of climbing on the rocks and sliding down the dirt areas.

Donít try this

One of our tricks was to attempt rolling a tire down the Seventh Street hill. Rolling tires around was a badge of activity in those days.

Old tires, or casins, as they were called in those days, were readily available since their material was basically material that didnít hold up well in the rocks traveled on Barry County roads.

It was during my high school days Missouri started providing funds for paving of some of the rural county roads.

Another first for me

In addition to working on the paving of the roads, east out of Cassville on Routes 44 and 76, my employment during the summer months, also included surveying Barry Electric Cooperative lines in several county areas.

A humorous side of this work was hitting an area where farmers were reluctant to have a pole or anchor wire in their cornfield. When they would change their minds on easements, our engineer would tell me to mark my transit site and we would pull out.

Days later, that farmer would find the crew, with his hat in his hand, and tell them he had changed his mind. We later discovered his neighbors wanted electricity on their property and had discovered he was keeping them from the service.

Ozarks life was great

There were some instances after events that could be experienced growing up in a rural area. Most of us didnít realize that fact while they were passing before us, but itís a known fact youths raised in the city didnít know what they were missing.

I can attest to this fact since a dose of both came my way for about two and one-half years ago. That was 76 years ago when we lived in Springfield.

The days that mom and I returned to Cassville proved to be about the most exciting and ever lasting material experiences in my life.

It is doubtful my ending up in a newspaper career would have materialize had mom not have joined her brothers in the Cassville Democrat, which was undoubtedly some of the best experiences of my lifetime.

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 Universityís Regional Media Hall of Fame.

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