Volume X, No. 3, Spring 1983


RAGFOOT ADAMS

A VISIT WITH EMMETT ADAMS

Edited by Cherie Burns


"I've had my part of the fun," said Emmett Adams who at various times in his life has been, among other things, a farmer, storekeeper, teacher, county superintendent of schools, case worker for welfare, reformatory superintendent, author, horseman, square dancer and fox hunter.

I used to go to square dances. That's where I got the name "Ragfoot." Everybody knows me as Ragfoot Adams. I got that because I jig danced. And I still do.

I jig danced down at the flea market the other night. But I can do about as good a job as I used to though I can't last as long. I've had eighty-one birthdays, so I have to slow up a little bit.

I grew up on a horse. My dad bought a car and we still had two horses. My brother just younger than me went to work in Dad's office, but I wasn't office-minded. I'm not yet. They wore that car out, and I never did drive it. I didn't ride in it more than once or twice. I'd go horseback. I pulled them out of the creek two or three times--tie a rope to the saddle horn. That was before we had good roads.

I sold my last horse five years ago. I'm known now as the horseless horseman!

I like to be remembered as Emmett Adams, son of a homesteader. My father and mother and three of my brothers came to Goodloe in 1892 and homesteaded before I was born. We were an old Kentucky family. We lived in a community where everyone came from Kentucky. I had five brothers and three sisters. That was before you weren't supposed to have over four children. My next to oldest sister wanted to send me back when I was born because she still wanted her younger sister to be the baby.

I was born at Goodloe, which is no longer there. I have a brother in Washington who is ninety-four, and one sister living in Tulsa who is eighty-nine and I am eighty-one. But I was not the youngest. There were two younger than I.

We built a house in 1892. Later on my father weatherboarded the house and enclosed the front porch, making two rooms on the front, and they roofed over them and closed in what is called a dogtrot. In one of the rooms we had the Adams Printery and in the other room we had a post office. Father was a photographer, and he had his darkroom in that dogtrot. We had two stories. Most people had to go into the dogtrot to put up a ladder and climb to the loft, but we had a stairway going up.

We had two rooms upstairs. One was a bedroom with two beds. The other was a room where Mother kept her spinning wheel and sewing machine. Downstairs we had the living room with one bed and stove. Across the hallway was the kitchen and dining room. There were several of us, but we weren't all at home all the time.

We didn't have a fireplace. We were the only ones in the whole community that didn't have one. We had a box heater. Since my dad said he had cut enough wood for a fireplace in Kentucky to do him a lifetime, we used a stove.

We had one of the first organs in the community. That was 1906, and it was in good condition when it was destroyed in the 1927 flood at Forsyth. We also had one of the first phonographs in the community and held a phonograph exhibition at Goodloe and charged five cents admission. People came twenty miles in covered wagons to hear the music. Those folks and members of our family sat up all night listening to "The Preacher and the Bear," "Anvil Chorus," and "Oh, Where Is My Wandering Boy Tonight" and others.

My father was an attorney, too. He was a surveyor of the county for eight years, and he also established the Adams Abstract Company. I'm not bragging on my folks, but when my father came from Whitesburg, Kentucky, he had already published a newspaper there. He also published the Taney County Sentinel after he came to this state. He was said to be the most versatile man in Taney County. He surveyed this county and surveyers yet look for a corner established by Riley Adams because he wouldn't do anything that wasn't on the dot. If later surveyors found one he put up, why they'd go from there and would know it was right.

[4]

Two of Emmett's brothers outside the log house at Goodloe, Missouri.
The country store at Goodloe in 1906.
Emmett, holding cat, with his brother Wilton in 1907.
Emmett's father took this picture of him at age three.
Emmett, Wilton, and Ross Hughes trying to boil eggs for Easter in 1908.

[5]

Father was a prominent man in the county, but like most women, Mother was queen in the home. Like other homestead mothers, she sewed and spun yarn to make much of our clothing.

We did a lot of things like the old pioneers. We had an ash hopper at one end of the house, and we would put squirrel hides and ground hog hides in to tan them. That's where we got our shoestrings. Dad had a sharp knife and I remember holding the leather hides while he would slice off shoestrings. When you got them cut, you could tie them real tight, but when they got dry, you could not untie them. But we made do. We mended our own shoes, too.

"At the Kansas wheat harvest, we had a washpan under a tree. One fellow said he could tell where a man came from by the way he washed. A man from Kansas would wash and throw the water out. A man from Missouri would wash and leave the water in, and a man from Arkansas would come along and wash in the same pan," said Emmett.

Despite the fact that my five brothers wore overalls, cotton shirts and brogams and the three sisters wore mostly calico and gingham, we always had enough clothes and plenty to eat. We canned, dried, strung up and holed up fruit and vegetables of all kinds and put up our own meat and had milk from our cows.

In winter we slept on featherbeds. In summer after the threshing was done, we would empty our straw ticks and fill them with nice clean straw for the remainder of the hot weather.

We kept a rain bucket at the end of the house for rain water to use for washing clothes.

We had a bucket well, and every summer if we had a dry spell, water would get low and the bucket would hang. We put in enough time getting the bucket loose to have dug a good well. Sometimes if that well would go dry, we had to take our clothes a quarter of a mile to a wet weather spring. We carried the laundry down in the hollow, and we had a big black kettle down there for heating the water in which we boiled our clothes. We had a punching stick and a blueing rag. Mother and the sisters would wring those sheets and other clothing out and carry them back up to the house. A lot of other people did the same thing.

We did have doctors but we had to go horseback and it was at least five miles from my home to where a doctor could be reached. If somebody needed a doctor, somebody'd have to ride horseback to go after him, until finally the telephone came into being, making it possible to contact the doctor and save a lot of time.

When we finally got the telephone, we invited some of the neighbors to let them see and talk over it. Uncle Billy Kelly and his wife came, but Mrs. Kelly wouldn't talk over the phone because she thought it was just someone standing out in the yard yelling back to her!

Each person had a signal of longs and shorts. Everybody knew everybody else's number. When the phone rang and you picked up the receiver, you would hear the click, click, click of other people listening to see what was going on.

[6]

I remember one time we invited several neighbors to our house and had them stand in a group holding the receiver and singing songs.  W had made it known this would happen, so that those who wished could listen and hear the music. This was probably a forerunner of broadcasting.

People helped others in those days by sitting up with the sick, laying out the dead, raising a house or a barn in a day. I once watched a field fenced in one day. The farmer and sons had the trees cut, and all the men in the neighborhood came with an ax and a mall. My father laid the worm for the fence, while others split the rails, while others laid the ground chunks and locked the corners. Out in the yard at the house, there were two large black kettles full of fat hens and dumplings and a long plank table weighted down with vegetables, fruit, cakes and pies.

We had home remedies. I know I had spells of upset stomach. My mother would always get slippery elm bark and put it in a glass of water. The bark would get kind of thick and fizzy and that was supposed to settle my stomach. I would drink it and I kind of thought it did.

We used to have boils--risin's we called them. We don't have them anymore and I wonder why we ever did then. We would bring the boil to a head by soaking biscuits in sweet milk and putting it on the boil. Fat meat poultice was good, too.

I was the only one in the family that ever had croup. I had it quite often. Mother used to put kerosene rags on my throat. Some people used skunk oil. They would render the fat of a skunk and use it, but we never did do that.

We walked to school six miles round trip, and, of course, everybody carried their lunch. We went to the Kentucky Hollow School. We called it Kain-Tuck Holler. The school got its name from a little stream that ran by, and every family on that stream for three miles were all from Kentucky and came to Missouri about the same time. However, we lived on a ridge.

School began the first Sunday after the Fourth of July, which was always in real hot weather and a good time for seed ticks, wasps and flies.

We didn't have slickers or overshoes or anything  like that. We went to school and if it rained or snowed, we didn't leave until time for school to be out. We had a lot of fun. One room and one teacher with sometimes ninety pupils.

We didn't have any modern conveniences, even any outhouse. The girls went up the hill in the brush and the boys went down. We made it all right, though. We did like everyone else.

My first two years we didn't have readers or grade cards. I remember the school teacher had a big chart, and he had a pointer. He'd read the words to us as he pointed to each one. I remember one of the pictures showed a big fat hog with an ear of corn in his mouth. The teacher used that pointer for other things, too, when he needed to!

The first two terms of school I had a preacher for a teacher. The next year was another man teacher, and there were two boys in that school that were really mean. Their dad was a preacher and was a school director. But the boys would get in trouble and the teacher would whip them. He'd go out to get a sycamore runner, and in front of the group he would talk to those boys and talk and talk to them. Finally he'd make them stand up, and he'd whip them over the shoulder. I've seen pieces of that stick fly off. I don't know how they stood it. They'd just grit their teeth. They'd go home and we wouldn't see them for two weeks. Then they'd come back to school, and it wouldn't be long before he'd whip them again.

That just scared the heck out of me. I was scared to death of teachers, and I never did get into any trouble.

In 1908 we moved to Forsyth from our Goodloe home where my brother and I enrolled in the grade school at the School of the Ozarks where we had grade cards and numerous books to read. In addition to other textbooks each child had a Bible and we had lessons in that as well as reading, arithmetic and so forth. After two years we moved back to the homestead for two more years when we moved back to Forsyth in 1912 where we continued to live.

[7]

In the grade school at Forsyth, things got a little out of hand, and the school board employed a man, who I still think is the best teacher I ever had, to become  principal. He had been teaching in Oklahoma in a pretty rough school. He hadn't been in school very long until he whipped one boy with a switch one time when it was just the boy and me in there. He sent me after the switch, and I like to never found one. I was afraid he would whip me when I got back for not finding it sooner. He'd straighten things out in a hurry. If someone got smart, he would walk back and rap them three times right on top of the head with his knuckles. One day he hit a boy two licks and missed. The boy ducked, the teacher hit the desk with his knuckles and my brother laughed. The teacher turned around and let my brother have it!

I had a lot of fun in school. I was no good in math though. We usually had arithmetic the first thing in the morning. But when that was over, I had the day made. But I always worried about that. I got on the back seat all the time and hoped the teacher wouldn't call on me. I'd kind of scoot down so the teacher wouldn't think I was there.

This picture was taken south of Forsyth when Emmett was about nine or ten years old

The first time Emmett dressed up in a suit. This was taken in 1917 when he was seventeen years of age. "I finally got to where I could express myself. You saw how I looked when I was young, like I was scared or something," said Emmett.

[8]

When I was in school in Forsyth, I attended school regularly until spring would come. Then I'd take out to stay and work with my brother who had a farm, general store and post office. Finally I came back to grade school, and the principal came by and called me out one day and said, "Emmett, you're getting a little big for the other boys and girls in your class." He said, "Why don't you take this entrance examination and if you pass it, we'll put you in high school." I said okay, and I took the test. I don't think he ever graded it because he was back in about five minutes, and he said, "Okay. You're going to be a freshman." And I made it till the second year. I couldn't savvy plane geometry, and Mr. Coon, the superintendent, called me down to the office. He tried to explain it to me. He said, "You have average intelligence, don't you?" I said, "Well, I doubt it sometimes." I was older than most of the other kids there. He said, "You just want to learn to be a farmer. If you learn plane geometry, you could run a fence across a pond and you could figure out how many posts you'd need. You could do that without getting out in the water." I said, "Well, I would have to walk out there to drive a post, so I'd just pick up a post and step off ten feet and start driving." I didn't come back to school for a long time.

After leaving the school, I worked at anything I could find to do. I worked in an oil refinery in Oklahoma for awhile. I helped farmers gather corn and put up hay, strip blade fodder and even mix concrete. We didn't have concrete mixers, so we put gravel and sand on a board and mixed in the cement with shovels.

My father wanted me to work in his office, but I never wanted to when I could be outside working, riding my horse or hunting.

While I was working in Oklahoma, I saw old men with a yoke across their shoulders carrying a bucket of water on each end. Their title was water boy. I also went to the wheat harvest in Kansas and there I saw old men hardly able to get around sleeping on fence rows, trying to get enough money to get them through the summer. I made up my mind I would go back and enter school, which I did.

I didn't graduate from high school until I was twenty-four. I'm kind of like one of the boys who took a grade card home. His mother looked at it and she said he didn't have very good grades. He said, "Listen, Mom, I'm not a slow learner, I'm just a quick forgetter." But I did finish high school.

The most vivid experience I had in high school after I made up my mind to finish was a man we had for superintendent. He was a former marine and pretty rugged. We were all requested to leave the building at noon and recess and march in single file. We would all march in and be seated. He'd be about the last one to come in and we'd go up. The study hall was divided by an aisle. I sat on the front seat and Arnold Wood was three seats back of me. Every time he came in, we'd sit down and he'd hit me as hard as he could as he passed by. I couldn't do anything about it because Mr. Jackson would show up. So one day I just said, "I'm gonna get him or else." And I got all set. Arnold passed and I reached back and I got a hold and pulled and tugged and twisted and finally loosened my grip. I thought I heard him laughing and I reached up to get a better hold. Somebody said, "What are you trying to do?" I looked back and I had the girl behind me by the leg instead of Arnold.

I was unsure as a child, but when I came back to school after all those jobs, I opened up. I took part in everything in high school. I was at the declamatory contests, and I was in three class plays and on the debate team that won the first trophy for Forsyth High School.

I also had the lead in what they called a home talent play here in Forsyth which was put on by a lady who lived in Forsyth and used local talent. The play was "Arizona Cowboy." The man who had the lead was called away because of illness in the family, so the lady in charge came to get me play the cowboy. I was glad to do it. I played the part of the sheriff. I was always going to be a cowboy, so I had the boots and hat. I enjoyed participating in that play more than anything I've ever done.

I finally graduated and got into college which was at that time State Teachers College in Springfield. I stayed there a summer term, received a certificate to teach and taught my first school in 1925. I took Algebra 4 in that summer term and found it very difficult. But one day I had a friend work a short problem for me so I could memorize it. When the instructor asked for somebody for the example on the board, I put up my hand, and he nodded to go ahead. I put it on the board as I remembered it. He said, "Well, Mr. Adams, you got it up there, but you've got it wrong side out!" What went in parentheses I had it outside. Embarrassed again. We were talking about proportion. He would go right on talking about it and he couldn't understand why I couldn't understand it.

"Us boys who knew how to square dance would teach the tourists. You couldn't teach them, they just had a lot of fun." said Emmett. From left to right-Johnny Hasket, Cecil Smith and Emmett in 1915.

But I've had a lot of fun. We could always find interesting things to do. I've always loved to square dance. I was about fourteen years old the first time I was in a square dance. I had as a partner a great big woman. I couldn't swing her. I just had to let her walk around. The next dance I danced with a little woman still living here. She didn't weigh over ninety pounds. I almost threw her off the ground.

A family would have the dance in the house in the winter. They'd take a bed down or move the stove so there'd be room to dance. The dancers would pay the fiddler. That's how fiddlers made their money to get through the winter. Every time we danced, the boys paid so much a set--most of the time twenty-five cents. With four partners, it would be a dollar.

A set is just a routine you go through. You call the first couple out and the couple on the right. We danced "Old Jim Lane" and "Wave the ocean" and others. Our dancing was old hillbilly hoedown. That was before folk dancing came into fashion.

We went to dance and not to drink. Oh, I've seen one or two fellows get kind of full. But most of the time the man of the house would make him leave if he did. The people would come in and sometimes they'd have cake and coffee and things like that. Sometimes they would never dance, but they liked to watch us and they liked to hear the music. At that time we still didn't have radio.

My favorite tunes were "Tennessee Wagoner, .... Arkansas Traveler, .... Billy in the Low Ground," and other hoedown fiddle tunes like "Sleepy Eyed Joe."

I'm not a top dancer, but if the fiddler ever misses a lick it's just like throwing a rope around my feet. I like to jig dance.

The dances seldom lasted past midnight because it was time to go home. But sometimes they'd dance later than that. I've been to a few dances where they danced on until daylight.

I was working for my brother one time and we danced till daylight. It was a Saturday, and I thought, "Well, I'll get back to work in the store and post office." I got home and he had the team already harnessed and had me go down in the field and plow. I'd plow a little while, and I'd get so sleepy I'd fall over. I'd go over to the creek, just over the fence, and walk out and stick my head down in the water. That'd wake me up some. I'd get back and it wouldn't be long till I'd be in that same fix again. At noon he told me I could take off and help him.

I remember one time I had come home after daylight from a dance. I was still in grade school. I was in the back seat, and I dreamed I was dancing with three old men with long beards and I got tangled up in the beards. I got scared and knocked off my books. My teacher used to fiddle and dance himself. He laughed and said, "All right," and he always pulled his nose, "Emmett, you just danced one too many the other night." I felt real good about it.

When we were on the farm, of course, we also had the country picnics. Taneyville probably had the biggest picnics in the county. They had a lemonade stand, the general stand, dance platform, and they had an old swing like a merry-go-round powered by men or mules. You would ride for a certain amount of time for ten cents. You see, they had a lot of trees and good shade, and they had a rock big enough for this swing to come around. It didn't swing way out but it had seats and a canvas top for shade. We had a lot of fun doing that, too.

[10]

People used to wonder how we had any fun, or enjoyment. We'd have a man come every year to the courthouse with a picture show, one of those cranking kind. He'd tell what they were fighting about and all. If you got to him in time, you could get in free by carrying water which he had to have for his carbide lamp.

The sheriff's children would all get in free, and one year the sheriff had eleven children! I carried water and worked my way in. Then here came these kids and the operator looked at me. He thought poeple were ganged up on him. I said, "That's right. They all belong to the sheriff!"

When I was still working for my brother, that sheriff came by the store one day and said he wanted some shoes. My brother said, "What size?" The sheriff said, "How many have you got?" The sheriff came to the store and looked. It wasn't a very big store but we did a lot of business. The sheriff said, "Just throw them all in." There was a great big sack of them. "They'll fit some of them." All kinds of funny things like that happened.

I remember the first picture show I ever attended. We went four miles to Bradleyville in the wagon and paid five cents apiece to get in. It wasn't much of a picture show, but it was the first one. We thought it was great at the time.

And then finally we came to Forsyth and we had different kinds of entertainment here. I used to do a lot of bronc riding. I never did any rodeo--I didn't know what one was then. But I learned to spin the rope and catch a horse by the :foot as he came by.

We used to have court week. It was one of the main events of the year in Forsyth. We had it twice a year. You could just kind of feel it in the air when there was court going on. A lot of people came to court, just like they came to a country sale. They couldn't buy anything, just wanted to hear some of the cases tried--murder cases, divorce cases and so forth.

We had a circuit court and it would last a week, sometimes two weeks, and the people had to come in--the witnesses and the jurors and so forth--and some of them would camp down at the creek bottom. They came in wagons with the wagon sheet up like those that come up from the old west. Some stayed in hotels around and had lawyers and laid the case.

It was very different from court now where a bunch of fellows would come in with brief cases and form a huddle around the circuit judge like football players--call a play, and then go on. Those lawyers back then would really plead a case, as we called it. We don't have that kind of oratory any more.

Then they'd hold court sometimes till one-thirty in the morning and then be back at eight to start a day. The most peculiar case I ever heard was a man was tried--charged for biting off another man's ear. He just left a little bit on top and a little on the bottom of his ear. He just took a watermelon slice out of the ear. I never did know how the case came out, but he never did get his ear back, I do know that! I was young and I guess I got right up close to that.

The judge one time was really my idea of a jurist. He was a big man. He had a big head. He wore a vest and a big watch chain like they used to wear and he was just typical. He was quite a guy. He chewed gum, but when he had court, he'd take the gum out and stick it on the back of his ear. When the court had a recess, he'd get that gum and chew it like a sheep eating fodder.

When we lived in Forsyth, my dad was the prosecuting attorney for ten years, and a surveyor. He knew people all over the county and he'd stay with them. Come dark, didn't care if they were Republican, Democrat, or what, he'd stay with them. During court week, there weren't enough hotels for people, and some of them wouldn't have enough money to pay, anyway. They would camp down at the bottom, and they would bring their own wagon and their own food.

[11]

This one man would always come to our house. He rode a big black mule, and he'd come down the back alley to our barn. He'd have a sack of shell corn to feed the mule. We'd furnish the hay and he'd pay us. My brother and I took care of the mule. They called him Black John Burns. He wasn't a black man. He was an Indian--real dark skin. We wouldn't see John anymore, after he left the house until court week was over. He'd go up to town and get called on the jury so he'd stay at the hotel. They paid him for being on the jury, too. If they didn't call him, he'd play a little pool, and he liked to drink some whiskey. But when we saw him coming down the back alley, we knew one of two things. Court week was over or John had lost all of his money in a poker game.

With the court week there would always be a medicine man come along. He had a man with him who could do a little dance and get a crowd around him to sell them something. That man blacked his face.  We didn't have black people down here.  He was selling some kind of liniment.   A boy I ran around with had a corn
on his toe. This fellow had a little bottle of oil guaranteed to take the corn off. You didn't even have to take your shoe off, you just pour it on. So Dick bought a bottle. I saw him in about three days, and I said, "That take your corn off?" He said, "Heck yes, and part of my toe!" I looked and saw a hole in his shoe.

There was another medicine man who sold Irontone, a dollar a bottle. It wasn't worth it. But he had another small bottle which he said would cure a headache. I had a terrific headache and he said, "Anybody have a headache?" I raised my hand and went up there. He rubbed my forehead and I couldn't feel it hurt because what he put on my head was burning me so badly I couldn't feel my headache. But I said, "It's gone," and it was. But when I got back, it was hurting again. He sold a lot of that stuff, and I felt kind of mean about it. But I told them the truth at the time.

The medicine man had a little skit and they'd have a contest like running for prettiest girl at a pie supper. The bottles were worth points and the boy that bought the most points for a girl was the winner. My brother bought ten bottles of that stuff. He and the man almost had a fight. It got pretty rough finally and they ran the man out of town.

It's a vanishing breed these old hill people. I'm one of them. Somehow there's been created a synthetic hillbilly. They'll show a man under a tree with a big jug of whiskey and his wife bare-footed and pregnant with a snuff stick in her mouth and kids all around. You don't find that at all. But we do have old-timers that still say the old speech--old-timers that say holt or helt and et. But et is still a good word in England. You could read books and find that several famous authors from England use that. Seed is the past tense of see. I lost a fox hunter friend a year or two ago. He said, "I swope under the bed," meaning swept. Some say, "He div off of the bluff," if he did a dive. He clumb for climb. I notice a lot of people, I mean educated ones, make mistakes, like thang. You should say thing, but they say, "Take that thang out of here." I say that, I know, and a lot of other people do, too.

I've heard every kind of a hill expression. Like you'uns. I've heard a lot of people say you'uns, and yourns's. "Yourns's cows are out in the garden." I don't know to spell yourns's but I've heard people say it. I've read one book that said we'uns. I've never heard anybody say we'uns, but Townsend Godsey--he's a folklorist and used to be on the faculty of the School of the Ozarks--he's been over here two or three times, and he claims that there are people who use that, but I never heard of it. And the word mostest. "Get there firstest with the mostest."

We had a man, his name was Joiner Huff. Everybody says Jiner Huff. And at a revival they say, "Anybody jine the church?" I'm sure some of it came from Kentucky. I don't know how much. But it was in the hill country, Arkansas and all around. It's pretty common.

There were some words we were not allowed to use in our home. We didn't say stud horse. Mama would slap us right in the face if we said that. We could say stable horse. We didn't take our cow to the bull. We took her to John Eldgridge's cow brute. That sounded to me more offensive than bull. Some people wouldn't allow their children to say rooster. They had to say chicken. I remember twice we had a hen start crowing like a rooster. When that happened our mother would put the dog and children after that hen to be caught and killed. I suppose Mother felt that the hens were possessed by an evil spirit. Anyway, we always had chicken and dumplings, which was delicious. No doubt the cooking had taken care of the evil in the hens.

[12]

I like to think about the hill people. I'm a hill man myself. They are not stingy, but they're careful.

I worked in a little country store for my next to oldest brother. I watched people that bought on credit. We called it booking then. I could always tell if this one man had the money when he came in. If he had the money, he'd come galloping on an old mare, swing off like a cowboy and come in laughing, slapping his side and shaking hands with everyone. If he didn't have it, he'd come just a slow poke, and it'd take him a long time to get his leg off the back of the saddle. He wouldn't buy anything until just at closing time when everyone else had gone.

We had characters around Forsyth, too. John Hilcabeck and his wife had the Northside Hotel. He was a Hollander and wore wooden shoes turned up at the toe. He fished all the time, trying to keep fish for the tourists. And he chewed tobacco. He'd chew it as long as he could get a taste out of it. Then he'd take it out and put it on a rock and dry it out and smoke it in his pipe. I came along one day and he was trapping minnows. He always said, "I say, I say, don't knock that off. That's a fresh chew." Every community had its characters like that.

Then things began to change. The Powersite Dam was begun in 1911. People all over the county had worked on it. They didn't have any machinery, and they brought several workers from Kansas City. They called them dagos--Italians is what they were. But they were used to that kind of climbing work. They had one fatality. One fell fifty feet from the top of the dam and it killed him. They kept a company doctor here in town who stayed in a building over on the east side of the square. If they had some minor injury, they'd bring them down to this doctor. He had a little French pony mare and kept her hooked to a buggy in the daytime. If a serious injury occured, a siren would go off at the dam about three miles away. That little mare got used to that, and she'd go to prancing when she heard the siren. The doc would go out, his bag ready. He had her tied to a lead and he'd unsnap that, jump in the buggy and leave on a run.

Grandma Johnson and her daughter Laura, who lived across the street from us, had a two story building. They kept several workers from the dam, bedding and feeding them. The men would come in from work in a wagon pulled by a team of gray mules. They'd leave the mules in Grandma's lot for the night. Next morning at four o'clock, lights would come on. The men would have their breakfast, get their lunch Grandma fixed them and would load in the wagon for another day's work. They all stood in the wagon, as many as would fit.

The dam was completed by 1913. The dam and lake brought in a lot of tourists. Many tourists would come on a train and then get on a boat and come to Ozark Beach, a resort just above the dam. If any came to Forsyth, we brought them in a three-seated hack. Some would go over to Hollister. Hollister used to be a prominent tourist place before Branson was.

Most of the tourists stayed longer, two weeks or a month. They came to fish, bathe, sightsee and ride horses. Some people would hike around and swim. They had a swimming hole down here. It was a famous bathing place then.

But since that time, there's motels and hotels everywhere. It used to be if tourists rented a cabin, they'd stay at least three nights. Most of them would stay a week and make reservations for the next year. We had boats for rent. Now they bring their own boats and their own trailers, and they don't stay as long. Those that do, they are here at night, gone tomorrow most of the time.

Things change. Livery barns turned into automobile and lumber yards. I drove a team from a livery stable to haul freight from Ozark Beach to Forsyth. The traffic came down the lake then. All the mail and freight from Forsyth was transported to Branson by boat. The tourists caused a big change. We still had the Northside Hotel--family style food--but the tourist demanded a little more sophisticated circumstances, so Peck Miller came from Kansas City and opened a modern hotel.

At first the tourists were quite an attraction. There was an old couple down at Protem, John and Mary. They heard about the tourists and they decided to come up to Forsyth to see them. They came twenty-seven miles in a buggy to see the tourists. They drove over to the hitching post at the courthouse and John got out. He knew several people around town. The men tourists usually wore khaki clothes and had a hat full of fishing lures. About thirty minutes later Mary went to John and said, "Come on, let's go home. Them tourists ain't nothing but people!"

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One day my dad went into the general store and three women tourists were in there with bathing suits on--not like you see now. You could almost see to the kneel They caused quite a commotion in town. They'd been in the swimming hole, too, water dripping off on the floor. They were buying things from the merchant. Our old cow got loose and my dad was standing there. The cow walked right up the main street and Mr. Felkins stammered, "R-R-Riley, you ought to keep that old cow home! Tourists don't like to see that, you know." It made my dad kind of mad. "Well, I'll just take her down home and put a bathing suit on her and bring her back up," he said. That stopped him that time.

Like many an Ozarkian, Emmett Adams loves to fox hunt. His house if full of awards he's won on his hounds, figurines and photographs of hounds and foxes. "I was born with the knowledge of what a good hound ought to look like," he said. Perhaps this sport, which he has had to give up, illustrates about as well as any the change that the influx of people in the lake area has brought about. Emmett is an expert on foxhounds, judging in twelve states and author of THE PLIME BLANK TRUTH, a book about fox hunting, and contributor for many years to fox hunting magazines, RED RANGER and HUNTER ' S HORN.

I was born interested in foxhounds. You can't make a fox hunter. They're born. I know of people who spend a lot of money on hounds. They try to fox hunt, but it's just not in their blood. I've always said that of fox hunters. If he's worked all day, and hot and tired and everything, and he hears his hound crying a fox, he'll leave, grab his hat, and if he misses, he won't grab a second time. He'll go on with the hounds.


In 1941, Emmett showed a hound, Sue Adams. At this time, he was superintendent at the reformatory in Jefferson City. Emmett has shown most of his life.
Old photos courtesy Emmett Adams.

I put in a lot of time fox hunting. I've had letters from every state in the union except Hawaii, and I know fox hunters in practically every state. It's just kind of rewarding. When I quit writing a couple of years ago, I told them not to send the magazine any more. I said I'd get to looking at those pictures, those good hounds and my fever would go up. But it is just silly to try to have a fox race now. We used to go out and build a big fire, and we wouldn't have to move all night till daylight. We could stay where we were and hear the complete race. We knew where we'd hit a fox and where it'd run and where the race would end. We hunt not to catch the fox, but to hear the voices of the pack of dogs. It's the only sport you can eat your cake and still have it. But it's no fun anymore.

Fox hunting is almost a thing of the past in Taney County due to influx of people, subdivisions, mobile home parks, posted land, hardtop roads and increased deer population. There's not enough room to even have a field trial. When table Rock Lake was completed, that sealed the doom. That's why I quit.

I've really enjoyed life a lot. I like people more than anything else. All the experiences I've had help me to undertand young people. Back when I was growing up we had good times. Everybody had all they wanted to eat. We weren't dressed up, but we got there and back, anyway. I always said, "If I had a good horse, a big hat and a pair of spurs and boots, I was on cloud nine!

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Copyright © 1981 BITTERSWEET, INC.


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