Several people have mentioned to me how much fun it must be to travel and talk to people and visit places in the Ozarks like I do. I’m convinced that anyone can enjoy a day in the Ozarks by just getting out and watching and listening. You don’t need a press pass and notebook to get that thrill. There have been so many trips, that it’s difficult to use just one for an example; however, this one day comes to mind that included stops at Hatchee Creek and Dee Dee’s Bluff.
The Stories from Hatchee Creek and Dee Dee’s Bluff
It all happened one typically hot, pasty summer day in the Ozarks. I asked Miss Molly, a budding journalist, if she’d like to accompany me on this trip. She agreed, and we picked up another friend of mine, Miss Ethelyn, an octogenarian, retired schoolteacher from Belle.
Several years ago, Ethelyn’s sons had visited a place on the Gasconade River between Pay Down and Summerfield where an Indian battle had taken place. According to the boys, the Native Americans used the bluffs on the Gasconade as lookouts. Sometime in the early 1800s, some warriors from the tribe attacked a group of men on the river. The river men hid behind boulders along the river and shot back with their muskets.
Ethelyn wanted to see this place, and I told her I’d take her there. She arranged for us to have one of her friends, Junior Buerhlen, be our guide. We met Junior near the site, and he said he’d chauffeur us in his old car to see the bluff. Here’s where it got … interesting.
Molly crawled in the back seat with me, and Ethelyn sat up front with Junior. The car bumped its way across dry creek beds, and on a particularly steep down-slope I noticed that it picked up speed and Junior wasn’t applying brakes.
Junior read my mind and said something like, “Yeah, this car’s brakes haven’t worked right since she took that run down the hill a while ago.”
Molly’s eyes got big and she turned a shade or 2 paler. Already in the throes of carsickness, she suffered from the twin-effects of jostling and heat, but fear of death kept her from becoming really ill.
Junior went on to tell the story of how his car had just been idling while he ran to get something from the house, and when he came out, he saw it heading down the hill without him. It finally came to rest against the corner of a nearby shed. He was going to have to get the car repaired, but it seemed to work real well on those old private roads.
After arriving in the valley, we stood, peering up at the bluff where all the action purportedly happened. Ethelyn and Junior talked about historical place names and Junior asked, “Now you know why they call it Hatchee Creek don’t you?” He then went on to explain about how the creek was named for a family who lived nearby, that had a passel of children, all with head lice. At this point, Molly swooned and leaned up against the back fender of the old car.
After that, Junior drove to the top of Dee-Dee’s Bluff where we were treated to a glorious view of the river valley below. Molly’s color started to return.
Then, we bid goodbye to Junior, a most entertaining and knowledgeable guide, and drove back through Summerfield, an old town consisting of one street with a junk shop. Summerfield is a photographer’s dream – abandoned vintage cars, old buildings, tall grasses, wild flowers and a line of old tracks. (Note: There are lots of photographer’s dreams in the Ozarks.)
We lunched at a now defunct tea room in Vienna. On the way back to Belle, via Highway 42, we found an antiques shop run by a woman called Granny. Granny gave each of us an aloe plant potted in a coffee can, just for stopping by. Granny’s shop had an extension, a trailer sitting precariously propped on cinder blocks on a nearby hillside. Molly found a chair in the back room while I stayed up front – afraid that our combined weight would tip the trailer over. She paid for it and we got out of there quickly.
All in all, it was another good day spent in the company of fellow Ozarkians. As I mentioned earlier, you don’t need to be a reporter to enjoy the uniqueness of our part of the world. A camera, or cell phone camera, though, will come in handy and also will let you remember the days of summer when winter weather avenges.