Volume X, No. 1, Fall 1982
A VISIT WITH CLARICE SPLAN
Edited by Jill Splan
When I was younger I always hated getting up on Sunday mornings for church. Church wasn't all that bad, but sitting through the services knowing Granny had dinner waiting and ready for us was sometimes more than my sisters and I could take. We'd squirm anxiously what seemed like hours, but we knew the promised visit to Granny's would soon come.
We'd hurry Mom and Dad out of the church to the car because it was a long drive to Granny's when you were hungry. She lived on a farm near Bennett Springs, a nice change from our crowded neighborhood. Granny's nearest neighbor was a mile away. The farm lay in a beautiful valley encircled on three sides by the Niangua River and its bluffs. About half way down the mile long driveway, her dogs, Tippy and Billie Joe, usually met us and escorted us to the house. Granny's cat, Jessie, would always be waiting on the porch with Granny to welcome us in. Granny always had to "Steal some sugar," as she would say, giving us all a big kiss on the cheek as we went by.
We'd head straight for the dinner table and fill our bellies full. The food was always a treat, but I think the best part of eating dinner at Granny's was, after we stuffed ourselves with chicken and dumplings or roast or whatever Granny had cooked for us that day, we'd always go to the back porch with Granny where she would tell us stories about the things she'd done and the life she has lived.
I was born with long hair and Madge, my older sister couldn't stand it. She was a beautiful baby and a beautiful young lady, and she had white-blonde curly hair and the pinkest cheeks and fairest skin and bluest eyes. I had freckles and a turkey-egg complexion, and when people would come, I would hide behind my mother. They'd only see Madge, and they'd say, "What a beautiful child, Ann." They never said a word about me, and here I was born with this long hair.
My mother let my hair grow long, so soon people got to where they'd say, "Look how long that child's hair is." That was the only thing I had. But Madge was jealous. We went back around the shed, she took the scissors and chopped and chopped till my hair was all chopped. It didn't do nothing to me, but when my father saw that, he said, "Well, I'll tell you what. You was supposed to have been a boy and Robert was supposed to be your name." He always called me Bobbie. My whole family called me that. So Dad shaved my head and bought me overalls and I dressed just like a boy.
I was born in 1901 in Hancock County, Illinois, and I lived there till I was seven years old.
My dad built the house we lived in. We had three rooms but they'd be as big as can be. There was a great big kitchen. Then there was a living room, and our folks slept in a bed in the living room. Our room had three beds in it. We had warm wood heat from a wood stove. I started there in a little one-room schoolhouse.
I used to have a pet pig there that I found down in our cornfield. I said, "Dad, I hear a pig." Wherever my dad walked, I was in his tracks. He used to call me his shadow. He said, "Bobbie, you don't hear a pig." I turned around and the pig was right behind me. It was a little pig, ice and hair was coming off him. I picked him up, took him up to the house and bathed him in cold water, got the ice off him and fed him.
He went with us wherever we went. He'd sit on the back porch on his haunches, and Mom would come out, take a broom to him and say, "You get out of here!" He was part of the family. He never got in the house but he sat on the wooden porch.
One time, when one of the babies was born and the doctor came to our house to deliver the baby, he said, "Why don't all you children go out to that great big stump there in the field. The baby has got to be under that stump." This was to get us out of the house while Mom was having the baby. Of course, we didn't know that at the time. We went out there and so did the big hog with us. We were digging around that stump and that hog was rooting and rooting helping us, and finally my father came to the door. He said, "Do you know something? You seen the doctor come in here with that crib?" We said, "Yeah." Dad said, "Well, he brought that baby in here." So the hog and us went to the house.
That pig was something else. Its name was Jarvis. I named him. It's a good hog name. He was a male hog and we didn't have any other hogs but sows, and we had some beautiful pigs. We got back in the hog business.
From there we moved to Iowa and lived there outside of Keokuk on a farm. We had a nice little white house. It had an upstairs and a downstairs. We had a chicken house, cellar and outhouses, all kinds of animals--ducks, geese, pigs and all that sort of thing.
We lived on that place when Halley's Comet came in 1910, and everybody said it was going to strike the earth. My father took us upstairs. We wasn't afraid, but my mom was. Us kids were really too young to understand. The sun was just coming up as we were watching it, and I was busy watching our blue mallard ducks in our pond when it passed over. It went over and down and nothing else happened. Everything took shape and went on as usual.
We used to have to put the coal oil lamp on the table and us kids would get around it to do our homework--just be so close to study by. It makes you think of all the things we've got now compared to back then.
From that farm we moved over to another little farm across the road. We rented it and it was a fruit farm. We had the most beautiful fruit you ever did see. We had three kinds of grapes, Tokay, white seedless and blue. It was great to have all that from apples to pears to peaches.
We had lots of big maple trees and we'd put spickets in them. You drive this spicket right into the tree, then you collect all the tree sap. February is when they drain, when the sugar water runs. We'd put buckets underneath the spickets. Everybody would come, and we'd have iron kettles on a fire and we had to keep that fire going all the time. We got genuine maple syrup, plus, cooked down to the sugar, maple sugar.
My little brother was born on that place in 1912. The neighbor came in and took care of him and Mom. They named him Bud. You didn't go to the hospitals back then. The funny thing of it was my sisters and I were snooping and found a great big box of clothes, and we thought for sure they were for Christmas. We thought they were doll dresses for all our dolls. We just couldn't wait, and Christmas came and we didn't get any clothes at all. We waited and waited. We couldn't figure it out, and then our brother was born in February, and Mom got the box down on the bed and put them on Bud. Us kids just all looked at each other. That was a precious moment even though. We got to hold him right off, all of us just right after he was born. Those days they just cleaned the babies up and everybody got to hold them. My father then told us to go upstairs so Bud and Mom could rest. We went upstairs. It was a big open room. The pipe from the stove went right up the middle of the house. We always heated with wood and it was always warm. It was warmer upstairs than down. We all slept up there and we just had a great time at that farm
We had a beautiful riding horse. His name was Prince. We used to take him to fairs and win all sorts of prizes 'cause he was a gaited horse. You know, like holding an egg in a spoon and not dropping it and all kinds of things like that. My big brother would win all the prizes 'cause the horse was pie-gaited and it took racking to where the horse wouldn't jog and bounce the egg out.
Then one time Prince came up with disease in the foot. He'd just go around holding his foot up and there was nothing the doctors could do. Something like that happens, that's it. You either put them out to pasture or kill them. Dad put him out to pasture. Dad went to a sale and said, "Kids, I'll get you another one." He come home with this brown horse, not a great big one like Prince.
Dad had to go somewhere one day, and he said, "Now I'll tell you what. I don't want you kids riding him while I'm gone." As soon as he left, us kids went and got the saddle and put it on him, buckled him up, and I got on him. No more than my butt hit the saddle till it hit the ground. Flap! He just threw me. He was what's known as a bronco. It jogged the teeth in my head. We weren't going to tell Dad, but that horse ran down to the orchard. The saddle was under his belly and we couldn't catch him to get it off. So Father came home. He said, "Well, I see you didn't do what I told you. You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to take that horse back. That man told me he was a gentle good horse." He never did whip one of us, never did. He took that horse back and I don't think he ever did buy us another riding horse.
We had work horses we could ride back and forth to school when the weather was bad. Three of us could sit on one of those horses. My dad would come get us in snow or mud. It was two miles to school. We walked when the weather was good. But the nicest thing about it was there were always other farm kids along the road walking with us. I think we lived the farthest back. We lived by the Petersons, Yonsons, Moanders, near a Swedish settlement.
The Swedes made their own sugar. They had a sugar mill. It was great. They had raised the cane, put that cane in the mill and it pressed the juice out. It was wonderful.
We'd go over there and pick strawberries, and while we picked strawberries, they fed us four times a day! Here they'd come out in the morning with a cart. We'd have milk, cookies or whatever we wanted, anything on the cart. Then we rested. At noon we went into the house. They were very religious. We'd all pray together. They had a great big long table. We'd eat lunch and rest another hour. They had beautiful strawberries and we'd work hard to pick them. They'd do the same thing in the afternoon, come with the lunch cart. Then we'd go home when we were through.
They were so nice. Swede people are kind and loving people. They talked in their tongue. There was a little white Swedish church. They'd have the sermon in Swedish. I can still sing "Nearer My God To Thee" in Swedish. We got to where we could almost know the service. We'd go down and help clean the little church.
We had a buggy--a two seated buggy with fringe around it. That was great. They had those things pretty well fixed. It had a step you could step up on. It had isinglass you could see through and slits for the reins of your horses to come through. I was tickled to death when it rained, just to see it run down the isinglass.
In Keokuk they had electric buggies that'd make a low humming noise but only the rich had those. They had no speed and they'd just ease off real slow.
We had a flat bed sled. We'd pile in that for church. We had sleigh bells for under the horse's belly. My mother played the organ and they all sang so nice. The wood stove would just put us kids asleep. I'd know I'd raise up and think, "When are they ever going to quit," and then lay back down again. I'd sleep on the way home. Dad had hay and blankets on the sled and it would keep us all warm. The snow would be falling and the sleigh bells would be ringing. Those are days that you kids will never know.
From that farm we went into Keokuk, and did that bust up my whole life! We moved into a house just across from the schoolhouse. I wouldn't go to school and back then there wasn't any laws. I went to sixth grade out in the country. I wasn't about to go to school over there. I was from the country, and I figured they'd laugh and hoot at us country kids. They didn't at my sisters but I still wouldn't go. My kid sisters and Madge, she was two years older than I was, did. Madge and I were born big and she finally went and got a job. Mom said to me, "Young lady, you either get a job or go to school." She thought that would get me to go to school, but it didn't.
I went downtown and got myself a job. There was a sign in a window of a hat store that said, "Wanted, someone to clean." I went in that store, and asked the lady what she wanted me to do. She said, "Dust the hats," and she showed me what to do. She was going to give me two dollars, but I had my eye on a beautiful hat, so I told her I didn't want the money. I wanted the hat. I didn't have anything to match it but I wanted that hat.
From time to time I kept finding something to do. My sister and I went down to a candy factory and we made candy. I could make candy today if I had the stuff to do it. I could do any kind of candy work, chocolate dipping, dip cherries, anything. It was great.
The boss came along one day, handed us applications and said, "Well, we do have a law that you have to sign for people who work for us. We do have to get your ages." I had been working for three years. He said, "How old are you?" I said, "Sixteen." The law had come in effect that year that no one under sixteen could work in the factories. The boss always wore a derby hat and when he used to come along, I wouldn't look up. I'd be wrapping butterscotch candy so fast you couldn't see them go by. I wouldn't look up at all. When I'd look out the corner of my eye, he'd be scratching his head. I'd worked there three years and started when I was thirteen, and he thought I was sixteen when he hired me.
I lost that job when strawberry picking time came out at our neighbor's farm in the country. Madge and I just couldn't resist going back out to the neighbor's where we used to live. His name was Peterson, and he wanted to know if we wanted to pick strawberries. We could stay right there with them. We picked lots of strawberries and made more money there than at work. I made only three dollars and fifty cents a week at the candy factory. We even had room and board out at the farm.
When we came back a week later when strawberry season was over with, here was Mr. Brown, the boss, there at the clock. He said to my sister and me, "Just a minute! You go to the desk and get your pay." We went and got our pay, headed out the door, walked about a block down from the candy factory to a shoe company and went in the office. They needed help and they hired us for six dollars and fifty cents a week! We made more money there learning a trade. That's how I learned the shoe business. I worked in that shoe company till I was nineteen years old.
I wouldn't trade my days for what you have, 'cause you've not had what I had.
We had sad times, too. My little sisters, Ida and May both drowned when I was nineteen. They were sixteen and seventeen. That was sad. There was going to be a school dance. The band from Keokuk was going up there and everybody was going 'cause it was a school dance. My sisters kept asking Mom and Dad. Mom would say, "Go ask your father." Dad would say, "Go ask your mother." Finally the folks said, "Yes."
The dance was till three. That was what they ended the dance with, the song, "it's Three O'clock in the Morning." They all got into the car happy and said goodbye. The young man that took them to the dance and another boy, Joey--there were four all together--they were in one of these Ford coupes and they came down by the river. One road went right to the river and then turned left and followed the river and went back down to Keokuk. There was a loading dock at the river's edge that didn't have no chain on it, no guard. The boy that was driving wasn't from Keokuk. He thought it was a bridge and drove right off into the river. The car went right over on its top. He tried his best to get the others out. He got the door open but couldn't get them out. See, they fell on their heads and the driver said the last thing they said was, "My God, we're gone," and they just grabbed for one another. The boy, little Joey, he got him out, but he was hurt and the water was deep and he couldn't hold on to him.
Late that night at home the phone rang. My brother told my dad, "We got to go." They went and got my sisters from the hospital. Dad said, "I knew it! I knew it would happen." My folks blamed each other.
We always kept our kitchen table set. When the dishes were all done we turned the dishes over, and we'd put the table cloth over everything, and then it was all ready for the next meal. My sisters' chairs and plates set there for I don't know how long. My dad would sit down at the table and cry, cry and cry. That was so sad.
We had the funeral in the house. That was the thing they done in that day. People were lined up, I don't know how many blocks down, to come pay their respects. They'd come, pass by, go out the side door and on out. In a little town everyone knows you. When we went to the church with the caskets, my mother fainted and we had to take her out. I can still go up that main street and see two caskets--three.in fact, Joey the boy. It was very sad.
I went to St. Louis when I was nineteen, but I still call Keokuk my home. I packed my suitcase and I was going to leave and not tell anyone. The train was leaving at midnight in Keokuk, and one of the girls going down there had an aunt living in St. Louis. She was going to come and get me. Mom found my suitcase and I told her what I was going to do. I almost made it without anyone knowing. After I got to St. Louis I called home and told Mom where I was.
I soon got a job at a shoe factory. Soon my sister Madge, two other girls, Lenore and Florence, and I rented a cabin on the Meramec River. There were several other cabins around. It was like a regular little town. Out there it was three hundred fifty dollars a year. There were enough of us to split the cost. The cabin had a downstairs and an upstairs where you sleep and a porch all the way around. It looked over the bluff down the river.
We had to go down the hill to get the water. It was my turn to go get the water, so I started down the hill into the valley. I got about halfway down, and I saw some men down there playing ball, so I turned around and walked back to our cabin. The boys, who were members of the Insane Club, yelled at me. Of course, one was your grandpa. They all said, "We'll get your water for you! No use you running." I was bashful. You wouldn't believe how bashful I was. I just kept going up the hill, and when I got up there, Lenore, Madge and Florence said, "You turn around and go right back! It's your turn to get the water." So I went. I didn't even talk to none of them.
They were over in the Insane Clubhouse. Somebody pumped my water and they offered to bring it up for me, for they were wanting to get acquainted with us gals. I said, "No thank you."
That just kept on till your grandfather insisted on knowing me. He came up to the cabin and came in the downstairs. We took turns washing the dishes and I was washing them that night when he came. He said, "I think you're the one I'm going to marry. Anybody who knows how to do dishes and cook, what more would you want?" Talk about red, I was red. I was bashful. I'd just say yes or no.
He just kept pushing. All of them did. Finally there was a dance, at the dance hall at the club with all the boy members of the Insane Club. They were nice, didn't drink, no boozers at all. So we would go down to the dance hall. We all knew one another and the boys asked us all to dance. We had just loads of fun there.
Of course, it wound up that it got more serious. Your grandpa had a Ford coupe, and we'd park it up on top of the hill because we had to walk down to the cottages. It would hold four if someone would sit on someone's lap. We'd ride in comfort and he'd take us all the way home. It saved our train fare. Otherwise we had to hurry down to the station and catch the train.
So that kept getting better and better. He'd say, "Can I come over tonight," and he'd keep on till I let him. When I went with him, I said, "There's one thing I want you to understand, that you don't kiss me." He said that was all right. I said, "Cause the minute you start kissing, that is when you start to go for something else. As long as we don't kiss we'll be okay." I didn't even give him a goodbye kiss, 'cause if you do, your emotions might get stronger and I didn't want that.
My folks came down there to meet him one time and went out to our cabin. He went right up there to my dad and said, "Mr. Printy I want you to know I'm going to marry your daughter." He hadn't even asked me! My father said, "Well, that's good. Do you have any money?" My father could joke real good and your grandpa said to my dad, "No, I don't but I'll still marry her, anyhow." That was so embarrassing to me.
He was real cute about what he done. He was very straight faced. He didn't hardy laugh at stuff he did at all. He didn't talk a lot, either.
We finally got married in 1927. We went together for a year and one half. We went to the Justice of the Peace and were good friends of ours stood up for us.
After that we went right on out to the river. There was a big party out at our cabin. So the man that stood up for us had a cottage out there. He said, "Why don't you two come spend the night out at our place." We weren't going to tell anyone. I said it was all right with me.
So your grandfather took his friend's room and I took mine. The man that had the cabin said to my husband, "Don't you think you ought to sleep with your wife," and he said, "No, that's her choice and mine, too." I went back to my cabin then 'cause I didn't want to go live with him at his house. And I tell you he had to talk dutch to get me to leave. He would come and say, "Don't you think it's time to pack your things." What it was, I didn't want to go live with his mother. That's what I was bashful about.
But we finally went to Grandma Splan's to live. We had our own bedroom and things, but it just wasn't my house. She was a hard lady to live with because she was deaf, but she taught me more good things about cooking and how to make good food than anyone. She was German. Finally we got an apartment by ourselves. Then she and Grandpa Splan came and lived with us. I felt better about that because it was my house.
Grandma Splan died with leukemia, God bless her heart, when I was pregnant with Gail, my daughter. Your dad was born in 1936 in St. Louis. Aunt Gail was born in 1939. Their dad just adored them both, just loved them so much.
My father died soon after Grandma Splan did and then went my mother. I was up there when my father died. I always went up to take care of him and Mom, too, later when she got sick. I wanted to be a nurse and take care of people or somebody hurt. I did a good job taking care of my parents. I had just come downstairs from my father, and my mother had just come down to get Dad's Bible, and when we came back up there, he was gone. It looks like the Lord knows what he's doing to spare you. The same thing happened with Mom. I went upstairs and Purl, her husband--Mom remarried after Dad died. Purl had come home from work and when I came back down Purl said, "She's gone."
From there on my husband worked at the pattern shop making wood patterns for machines. They were smooth as velvet. He was the key pattern maker. He made patterns for watches and they were very, very little. He made forty dollars a week. That was a lot of money in those days. I wonder what the difference is now. Everyone makes a lot of money now but everything is high. Back then we didn't make a lot of money, but things didn't cost much. It's the same ratio.
One day in St. Louis I took the kids shopping. They were just little bitty guys. I was going through a big rack of dresses and the kids were playing hide-and-go-seek. I moved to another rack of dresses. The kids thought I was still there, but another lady had moved in. They crowded through the rack and grabbed the lady by the legs thinking it was me. She screamed and screamed. Boy, I didn't tell them it was my kids! They called the manager and there was such a to-do you'd ever seen! Those kids were so scared they squatted there on the floor. I kept thinking, "Don't come near me," and I kept moving farther and farther off. The manager kept looking around saying, "Whose children are these," and "Who's your mother?" Those kids were so scared they didn't say a word. I laugh about it now but it wasn't funny at the time. It's a hard thing to take kids shopping.
We moved down to Bennett Spring State Park in November of 1948. My husband was fifty-one and I was forty-seven. Bill and Gail were twelve and ten when we moved there. We first went down to Bennett on vacation the year earlier.
It was so beautiful, the clear water and the woods. We stayed at the Bennett Hotel which just happened to be for sale. We talked it over and that fall bought the place. The kids were pretty little then, and it made a big change for them going from their school in the city to down here to the country schools.
The hardest thing we had to get used to was the talking. They said "we'uns" and "you'uns" and that was against our grammar. In St. Louis schools they taught you how to speak perfect English and when we came down here, I even took myself over to the school to see about it. After I talked to the teachers and principal I saw there was no hope about that.
But it was a beautiful place, just as pure as honey. The only resort there was Sleepy Hollow. The park was there and some neighbors and us. It was just glorious. I was reading in the paper that twenty-five years ago, Bennett Springs Park sold eighteen hundred fishing tags in the year. We were down there before that. It was something like three or four hundred tags when we first moved there.
We had lots of campers. That was the style back then. People had their tent and camped. At that time they could camp right along the stream. They had to keep everything clean, but there weren't any special camping areas as there are now.
When I think of it then compared to now, it was beautiful. It was what you think it ought to be. Not like now with all the modern buildings. But that's progress.
On July 11, 1949 my husband drowned. We had those few months down there and had lots of fun. He was a beautiful swimmer, but he had hurt himself as he was going in to save a little girl. He fell on the bank and broke his collar bone and his hand. He couldn't even use his right arm but he went on anyway. He saved the little girl--Judy Reed was her name. He was exhausted and knew it was over with. Your dad got a boat and went after the girl and got her after your grandpa went under.
Another man, a minister from Bolivar, almost drowned. He came in to help. We didn't have the number of fishermen that we have down there now. It was right at noontime while everyone was having dinner. He had just had dinner and he saw Dad needed help. He jumped in, folded up with cramp and almost died right there in the water. So they had to get him out and they went up to the hotel and got blankets to wrap him in. It took awhile for them to get him not to die. My husband had already gone under.
When your daddy came home he was all upset. It was quite an ordeal for him. He was only twelve and he saw his father drown. Your dad had the boat out there on the water, and when the girl came up under the boat, she'd grab the side and it would tip. So your dad knelt in the middle so it wouldn't and decided then that the next time she came up, he was going to grab her by her hair, which was real long. He pulled her up into the boat. He didn't have any oars, because the girl had knocked them away, so some fishermen came over to help get the boat in to the bank. This was where the spring branch empties into the Niangua just down from the hotel.
It's funny about the current of the river. When anyone drowns don't ever look for them two hundred feet down from where they went under 'cause there's no current on the bottom. Mr. Bramwell, our neighbor, came up the river in a boat dragging the river. They found your grandpa just a short distance from where he had drowned.
He was a champion swimmer, belonged to a team, and his whole team came to the funeral.
As I was down on the river bank afterwards, with Bill and Gail, I said, "Lord, please give me strength." He has never let me down.
It just went from one thing to another. Just being new in the hotel business and having two little ones, all this went through my head on that river bank when I asked the Lord to give me strength. Whenever you have a tragedy, you have to occupy your mind off of what happened. That was a good thing for me. If that had to happen, that had to happen, 'cause he gave his life for another, so that won him a seat in heaven. She was young and if one had to go, it was better he went. He was fifty-one and she was only ten, about the age of Gail.
My husband's decease was a hard blow 'cause we had just bought that place, and to lay it all on me right off. I remember only one thing I said, "God give me strength." He really did.
I made a lot of friends there when we had the hotel. People would help me. They'd come in and do things. Anything that was broken they'd fix it. Believe you me, we learned how to do everything, me and your dad. We learned how to fix a broken toilet, ram out a sewer line.
I loved that old hotel. I still do. We owned right down to the spring. The hotel had a porch and on top of the porch were some rooms. When the posts of the porch started leaning, we took those top rooms off. Mother Bennett lived alone for quite awhile in one of those rooms up there.
She was in her eighties and died at ninety-two. I really missed her. She was one fine lady. I never heard her talk bad about someone. If you ever mentioned somebody's name, she'd always praise them. She was a godly woman. Her name was Bolles and she married a Bennett, of the original Bennetts of Bennett Spring.
I did a lot of things at that hotel while I lived there. They didn't have gas--they had wood heat--and I put gas in all the rooms, cabins and then I put in water. There wasn't indoor plumbing. You went outside for your water. The only thing was a indoor toilet with a little water that you flushed. We had a shower house across the lawn--men's and women's. It was seasonal. In the winter we'd put in oil heaters on each side, the old-fashioned coil. It would be so funny. When the season opened in March, it was cold. The shower floors had drains and sometimes it would be so cold the floors would ice over and we'd have to slide to get anywhere. Sometimes we had to sit down cause we couldn't stand up.
We had a beautiful restaurant in the hotel. The whole main floor was a dining room and a kitchen. I had all wood flooring, and we put inlaid linoleum all over it. The tables were handmade. Mother Bennett had them handmade out of oak. She had six of them great big long tables you could seat twelve or better. We had them filled all day. The prices I charged for my food, it was no wonder. The park officials came down and were aggravated because they didn't have no business and I had it all. They wanted to find out why. I just charged one price for breakfast and one price for dinner--eighty-five cents. You can make money on volume. What's more, we served family style, unless they wanted a steak or something then we took extra orders. We cooked beef, pork and stuff like that. But we did have a business. It got so big that I had to cut it down and serve only my own guests. And then everybody was trying to stay at our place!
I'm so proud of my children. After we were married, I had waited ten years for your dad. The doctors said no, but I got him. I had a wonderful daughter, your Aunt Gail. She helped in the dining room and with the dishes and cabin work. I always stayed by Bill's side for he was young, and I did help guide him in what he was doing. He was always so concerned about others.
One day we were in the hotel yard and Bill's friend, Bill McAllister, came running for help. Some folks had just had lunch--a man and wife, and two little girls. The little girls walked right into the cold stream, as it is clear at the point across from the spring branch. The current washed them out in the river. The father went after them and collapsed from cramps. My Bill took the girls--ten and twelve years old--and told them to stay there on a log while the two boys got the man out. He had swallowed too much water. They gave him the help they had been taught, but in vain.
Then it wasn't long until a little girl came running up to the hotel calling out for help. The car had gone off the little, flat wooden bridge that crosses the spring, turned over on its side and was filling up. Her grandpa and grandma were in the car. So again Bill helped roll the windows down and got them out.
And not long after that again about dark, a call came for help. A board on the bridge had broken and a car was hanging on the edge. Bill got a park attendent to help.
After that, people used to come in the hotel and ask if this was the place to come to be saved. We always said, "Yes, if we could help in any way."
I was there for nine years and then went over to the motel in 1956. I served over there, too. It was a clean place. It was really great. I had a big old iron stove with a grill and everything on it. I was the cook. The rest of them waited On tables and kept the pots and pans washed right behind me. I enjoyed it a lot. We finally gave it up to no cooking and I hated doing that.
I went into the hospital in 1968. I was sixty-seven and surely thought that was the end of the line. Mom was sixty-six years old and dad was sixty-six years old, my grandmother was sixty-six years old when they died. It was in me to think that. I had gone one year over what the rest had. When I went in that surgery room, I didn't plan on coming out. They told me what I had, cancer, and I was in there ten days before I was strong enough to be operated on.
The doctor came in and said they were going to operate in the morning. It didn't matter. I had already given myself to the Lord. They rolled me down the hall to the operating room, and I had to wait thirty minutes because my doctor was late. Here I was lying under those big beautiful lights they use, and I said the Lord's Prayer and told him I was ready.
Then they put me asleep and I didn't remember any more till I got in the recovery room. I will never forget what my doctor said. He said, "Lady, if anyone asks what happens to you, tell them you got run over by a train." Then they took me back up into my room. You little darlings crawled up on to my bed and wanted to see where I was hurt.
After I got out of the hospital and left the resort, I settled down on a farm not far from Bennett. I had asked the Lord years ago to give me at least one more year back on a farm and he did. I lived there for nine.
A good friend of mine, Brother Moore, would often come down and fish on the Niangua. He'd say, "Sister, I get so confused down here." I'd say, "Well, how, come?" He'd say, "I don't know if that up there is heaven or this farm." I'd tell him it was heaven on earth.
For you see, at night me and my dogs, Tippy and Billie Joe, one on each side of me and Jessie, my cat, in my lap, would sit out there in one of my rockers on the back porch till dark. We'd look out over the fields, down to the river and around the bluffs. We'd hear sounds and the dogs' heads would turn and their ears pop up.
There was so much going on. The cows would be out in the field and we could see them walking around, grazing and chewing their cud. There were all sorts of wild animals roaming around--fox, rabbit, coons, possum, coyotes, beaver. But it was so peaceful and relaxed to me it was indeed heaven on earth.
Copyright © 1981 BITTERSWEET, INC.
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