Sunday, August 3, 2008

A Stranger in London Smoke

A Time to Remember
A Stranger in London Smoke
By Ronnie Powell

There was a time when I could hang out in front of most country stores and inevitably hear a tale or two. Some of these stories were hand me down renderings passed on perhaps from other generation and were usually inflated a bit to hold the attention of a listener. They undoubtedly began at one time as true life accounts. Sadly, however, the country mercantile stores are becoming extinct and are being replaced with convenient businesses designed to run in and go. Two old stores standing in Windyville are unoccupied. They both date back to the turn of the century. One of the buildings is crumbling badly and will soon fall to the ages. The other building a very large structure stands in good repair, but I doubt it will ever house a country store again. They are passing icons of another time.
One story that is a favorite of mine, told to me by Ralph, begins in London Smoke, Missouri in 1882, once situated about three miles southwest of Windyville. Ralph a boy at the time sat on the front steps of the mercantile store waiting for his Pa to finish a transaction inside.
“I was getting a little impatient waiting for Pa,” Ralph said, “for he’d promised to bring me a stick of candy. I knew better than to go to the door and ask for the candy and continued sitting on the step in the hot August sun.”
During the time while waiting for his father to come out of the store, Ralph noticed a man entering the town from the east astride a tall chestnut gelding. The man a stranger, rare in those days in the secluded settlements along the Niangua River and looked upon with suspicion captured Ralph’s complete attention. The Civil War still remained a volatile memory among the adults of the time and children were strongly advised to be wary of them.
“The gelding the man rode, high stepped to the porch and came to halt not more than ten feet from where I sat,” Ralph said. “The feller sat straight in the saddle, dressed in a dark suit and tie and on a finger of his right hand a large silver ring glinted in the sun. He wore a wide brim leather hat, sweat stained and dusty. About the only thing in particular I recall about the man’s face were the blue eyes a looking down at me. He didn’t say anything for a moment or two and cut a chew from a plug of tobacco and carefully placed it in his mouth and then glanced up toward the doorway of the store.”
“Hello Mister,” the stranger said to Pa, now standing on the porch. “I’m looking to buy the acreage where the Wilson Spring is located. “Id be oblige if you would give me direction to the place.”
Ralph paused as if trying to recall the story more clearly. He was uncertain of his father’s answer, but did recall the man being sent on his way with vague instructions on how to find the place. Ralph’s father and the store owner agreed the place was not for sale and the matter although suspicious was dropped from the morning conversation.
The next day Ralph still a bit curious struck out for the Wilson Spring, a little more than two miles from his parents home. The spring according to Ralph was situated on a north slope among a number of larges stones and lay hidden beneath several old growth cedars trees.
“The first thing I noticed when I arrived at the spring was deep horse hoof prints at the edge of the pool.” Ralph recalled. “A huge flat stone had been moved exposing the rotted remains of a saddle bag and a rusted Colt, cap lock revolver lying nearby. Excited by the discovery I began rummaging through the brittle remains of the saddle bag and dang if I didn’t find in the dirt a gold twenty dollar gold coin. I went a little crazy then and tore up the ground where the rock had lain, but didn’t find anything else of value.”
The twenty dollar gold piece according to Ralph went into the family coffer and the old Colt put away and never seen again. The stranger as far as Ralph knew did not return, a mysterious fellow who some said had recovered stolen gold, (booty), taken during the Civil War from folks in the country.
Ralph has long passed on but the stranger that came to London Smoke one hot August day lives on soon to be resurrected in a book I am working on, titled, “A Stranger in London Smoke.”
The book is fiction, loosely based on the elusive man that arrived in London Smoke. Each chapter is chronicled in detail by a different character drawn unwittingly into the hunt for Baldnobbers. It is a tale of entwining love and hate to at last reveal the haunting secrets of Keith Bradshaw, A Stranger in London Smoke.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Welcome to Bare Foot Pass

Welcome to Barefoot Pass from wherever you call home on Mother Earth or perhaps beyond into a far distant galaxy. This blog is not particularly about me, but pertains to many people and creatures, events, places and things that were and are important aspects of life.
Bare Foot Pass may not be an easy place to find, for it emerges from a deep hollow south at a bend in the Niangua River. It has been a rendezvous place many times over the years and will continue to be. Often at dawn river mist rising into rolling clouds shrouds this remote beautiful place where solitude can be found beneath spreading sycamore trees. In August during the Dog Days of summer not far below the bend, gar fish can be seen floating near the surface, images of prehistory. Deer, turkey, beaver and muskrats abound. In the shadowed canopies of the trees, Bald Eagles and hawks of many kinds sit in wait for prey. In the first light of dawn Buzzards can be seen in the barren limbs of trees, their damp wings outstretched a ritual as old as time and soon the birds will rise into the sky to drift lazily in the winds.
South through Bare Pass is a virtual destination on these pages and can be found quite easily. Stories are many of the river, its people and history, but sadly much of today’s stories are endless lines of canoes, broken bottles and disregard for the river. Yet there are place that remain pristine and offer a view into the past.
The Niangua River Legacy embraces many aspects of time and of course will continue into the future. It is a journey across the Ozarks and yes beyond. Come often to this place of solitude to look and listen.