Volume 4 , Number 10, Winter 1972-73
Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Mahnkey(Photo by Townsend Godsey)
It was November 1921 we purchased the White River Leader, the Branson newspaper of the Ozarks. There werent many issues of the paper until we became aware the correspondent of the Oasis items was not just an ordinary writer. Her intrinsic winsomness turned mundame items into beauty with a word of description or the turn of a sentence.
It was a foregone conclusion that it was a must to visit this Correspondent of Oasis. But where was Oasis? From the paper salesman of Springfield we got some directions. It was our first venture outside of Branson. Gravel roads, steep hills, bridgeless creeks werent the most joyful adventure. So it was some time before we put the action into executo, and then not until subscribers would write the Editor and demand a reason for the Oasis items being ommitted at times!! Of course it was because they werent sent in and we also wondered about his lapseIt wasnt until they stopped altogether that we decided it was time that we made that visit to Oasis, and find out for ourselves what is the matter.
By this time we had a one seated Model T Ford. We packed a lunch, crowded three children and outselves in the one seat and started out as directed. That was an adventure in itself.
We took Highway Three as 65 was then numbered, crossed the railroad track at Hollister, up the hill to the School of the Ozarks, a School then with four buildings. About three miles south of the long "Johnson Hill" we turned west and immediately began descending a long hill to a "branch" that flowed into Long Creek. Horrors! would our brake bands hold?? Fording the little stream we immediately had confronting us a short, steep hill with a hairpin turned from the creek. Could we make it, was the next question? The road ran around the foot of a bluff, one track with the swift waters of Long Creek just below the road. The famous Long Creek Bridge had a right angle turn to the approach where it abuted into the cliff. Clattering across the bridge we abruptly ended at the gas pump attended by Mr. Pres Mahnkey, husband of our Correspondent. He greeted us with a welcoming smile and he filled the empty gas tank.
So this was Oasis!!! We were taken for a trip through the village. Oh, yes, there were tourist cabins, for this was the famous fishing street of the Ozarks, Long Creek with a population of twenty. The grist mill? "Well," Mr. Mahnkey explained, "for some years the heavy stone buhrs ground the corn of the area into cornmeal, but it is abandoned now." The barn along side was weather beaten. With the rumbling of the rumor of the new Dam being built, when the village would be covered up. "The people were in such suspense nothing much was being done to keep up the village," Mr. Mahnkey explained.
Finally we came to the long rambling porch of the General Store and the United States Post Office. Here Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Mahnkey held sway, as store keeper, and Post Mistress. Such a warm welcome as we received. She came from behind the counter in her starched dress, all smiles, and in her low sweet voice showed much concern for our
dinner and the trip. We brought our lunch, we explained, for the children wanted to picnic and this we did on the bank of Long Creek in this fairy bower of flowers and beautiful trees, near the plum orchard. Here is how Mrs. Mahnkey explained the orchard.
"Planted by winds or wide winged birds,
My wild plum orchard stands
In irregular beauty along the old fence
Untouched by destroying hands.
I question its birthright with wondering
When I go in the spring to see
That flowering glory of ivory and white
Adorning each sweet smelling tree.
I offer thanksgiving with laughter and
As I work in the August sun,
Filling my basket with bright ruby gems
From this planting that nature has
After a long visit relating to her long years of writing, and how much her Oasis news was appreciated by our subscribers as far as the Pacific Coast, who called us on the carpet to explain why some items were missed, so we had come for information to defend ourselves.
Then she showed us the reason. Holding up her hands she explained they were so stiff with rhumastism and ached so after holding the pencil she was only able to write the items for the County paper, for which she had since she was fourteen years old. "I had a vision of writing the story of Kirbyville, and calling it When Roseville was Young but cant think of that anymore"
Inquiring if she would use a typewriter she was all aglow saying, "Sure would try it, although it would be a one-finger affair"
We inquired how she gathered her news, and how she was inspired to write those beautiful gems of poetry. She said the children were her source. When they came to play with her children, or came for the mail or sent for some sugar or coffee. Also the elders who came to grist mill and waited sitting on the porch and discussed the village affairs. Then her poems came to her when
"They came when I was churning, Or when I was making bread, Or when I'm hanging out the clothes, A dancing round my head."
We made the second trip to take the typewriter to her, and now the story of Roseville became a weekly feature of the White River Leader.
One day a letter came from Mrs. Mahnkey to make some change in a line of her story which ran like this,
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