Volume 2, Number 6, Winter 1966
I am told I was there, but I dont recollect a thing. Anyway it happened in Hodge Hollow in the Fall of ninety three. I was brought into this world to meet six brothers and six sisters. Some welcomed me, others accepted me. I have been told some thought twelve was enough. Be that as it may, my life in the Ozarks was mostly happy from the first day I can remember.
The name of Hodge Hollow derived from the legend of an old settler named Hodge - a small stream, also named Hodge creek, empties into Bilyeu Creek which empties in to Swan Creek, which empties into White River at Forsyth.
We lived at the head of Hodge, just a ways down from the Mail Trace, the ridge that divided Hodge and Gravelly hollows. Our neighbors were the Newt Johnsons, Joseph Coxes, John Morgans, List Wallaces, J. B. Bissels, and the Colonel Moodys. These people made up the population of Hodge creek. The log school at the other end of the creek, set at the junction of Hodge with the Bilyeu. They soon flowed into the Swan and on into the White River.
I, like many of you, recollect the thrill of finding the first dandelions for a feast, also of the wonderful flavor of the first green onion to come in the spring. The grand taste of the mushrooms that sprang up like magic among the rotting logs and stumps. They were extra good in Hog Skin hollow, near our house.
Think back of finding the first Johnnie Jump-ups, violets, and daisies that peeped through in early spring. Also of the beauty of the dog woods and wild plum, in full bloom, just as the leaves were forming on the timber. I recall the good taste of the dew berries, June berries and the apples from the Yellow Transparent, Maiden Blush, and other early bearing trees. We had a large orchard tended by brother George, who was a natural horticulturist.
Easter soon came. It was the time to rival other youngsters in hiding eggs to roast. Hollow stumps and odd corners of the buildings were favorite places to hide them. We would gather them on Easter morning and with a tin can hit out for the creek and build a fire and have our egg roast.
Along about this time it was time for the cattle to go out to pasture. In this open range country, that meant turning them out on their own. I can still see Mack Smith driving their herd by our place, and remember the big horse pistol he carried on the horn of his saddle, when he was feuding with neighbors.
As Fall came on, it was fun to come home from school to look for ripe melons, peaches, cherries, plums, and especially good, ripe apples. It was the time for the beautiful coloring in the timber. Leaves, flowers, and berries blended to make a picture that remains in my recollection. It was the time for Thanksgiving. That was a day to look forward to. We might have a wild turkey, or some rabbits, or squirrels for a big dinner.
It was in this time of year we would go to the Johnsons or Morgans or they to our house to play hide and seek. We would romp till darkness told us it was time to go home. It was the time we would seek adventure with our hunting dog Prince. We would go out after possum, coon, and skunk, and tramp through brush and over rocky slopes. Sometimes we would come out on Long Bald and fill up on black haws or persimmons. Sometimes we would get home hungry and raid the cellar for apples and carrots, or maybe snitch a hand full of kraut out of the barrel. If there was peanut hay in the barn loft we many times filled up on sweet, dried peanuts.
Some mornings before daybreak, I would be awakened by the clatter of horse hoofs, and the beying of hounds, as some of our neighbors were on the chase to the hounds after a fox. Also, I have been awakened by the howl of a wolf, and the screech of an owl. I remember when Jim Johnson holed up a wolf near our house. He came by with his gun going after him, and later came back with two carcusses.
With the coming of the gentle, fluffy snow, came December and Christmas. It was a thrill to go through that season. Old Santa would always come and bring a French harp, knife or some toys. He brought oranges, sometimes grapes and other goodies that were ours only at Christmas.
After the Holiday season we settled down to normal living. The trips we made were to Lone Star to services and to visit with neighbors. Some times we would go to their house for dinner, other times they would come to ours. Another trip we made was to Clarks grist mill on Swan creek, occasionally we would have pie or box suppers or other social doings at the schools. And of course, Dad always went to Swan for the mail each day.
Dad or Mother would read to us on long winter evenings. Sometimes Joe Hore or other Civil War cronies of fathers would get together
and tell tales of the war. They often told ghost stories. Now I believe very few of such tales, but then they were real. That may be why I never cared to be around a grave yard after dark. I recall one experience when I was about fifteen. I was going home at night from a party at Joe Matthews, when very near Swan cemetery, I came up a small rise, and the moon shown on a great white ghost. It looked ten feet tall. I started to turn and run, when the white horse decided he would do the same, and he put his head down and turned so I saw it was no spook.
All told I can truthfully say that my first sixteen years in the Ozarks were some of the best of my life. I still smile and feel an inner satisfaction when I hear folks say how sorry they feel for the poor people in the old days who had to live such a life of privation in the Ozarks.
I left the Swan area in 1911. Since the story of the Burger family came out in the Winter issue of 1963-64, Bess died in October of 1965, and is buried in the Sparta Cemetery.
I was enrolled at the School of the Ozarks during the winter of 1909-10. I was taken out in a spring wagon on a mattress after an almost fatal siege of typhoid-pneumonia. We were by the new buildings last Fall, and while it does not look much like the old layout at Forsyth, it brought back many memories.
(Herb Burger of Conrad, Montana is preparing a book of poetry titled, "Over the Back Field Fence." Perhaps when it is published he will send a copy of the Historical Society Library and then perhaps members will want to buy copies. JRM)
Copyright Ó White River Valley Historical Quarterly
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