Sunday, February 28, 2010

Two Shadows Cross One Trail

Young Butcher Redoak

Photo From Book, "A Stranger in London Smoke."

Butcher Redoak in Later Years

A Time to Remember
Butcher Redoak
By Ronnie Powell
Butcher and I met many years ago at a crossroads in my life. I was very young at the time, wounded somewhat, disillusioned and disappointed by folks around me. I had suffered a devastating fall resulting in losing my voice. I could only communicate with clarity by writing on a piece of paper about what I had to say or answer. Most folks were kind and understanding, but there were those who of course poked fun at me or said I was mentally challenged. I retreated as best I could to get away from this nightmare. I had lost my voice that had been good enough to sing in a quartet and played a Martin guitar Grandmother Carrie had bought for me and in my thinking I gave up playing it. I turned instead to rambling up and down Dousinberry creek and became interested in Prehistory Indians. This past time led me further away from my ordeal, but was also fascinating and for many years afterwards I continued my journey into Prehistory. Whether it was self pity or just a way to survive helped to shape me as I am today, intolerant of those who mistreat disadvantage people and left me perhaps a bit too independent.
Time finally healed the wound after about a year and again I could speak, but not with the voice I had been born with. But it has served me well, with the exception at times when it fades to within a whisper. Singing is out of the question, or rarely so and when I slipped away from home at sixteen to go to Texas, I fell into hard times and had to pawn the guitar for $2.25.
After returning home and while in Springfield one day with some friends and my twin brother I was confronted by to burley men who did not favor the way I was dressed, a western hat, shirt, jeans and boots. They proceeded to cut the buttons from my shirt and stomped my hat and then challenged me to meet them in the rear of the building we were in. It was at this point of time I truly met Butcher although he had been at my side for a long time, but I had yet to discover his name. I accepted the challenge with reasonable certainty that with the help of my friends, my brother and Butcher we could handle the pair. But the closer we got to the rear of the building, the further behind my friends and brother became. Only Butcher walked beside me. And to make a long story short one of the men among four now facing me whipped me soundly and I fell to the ground. I could hear Butcher’s voice urging me to get up and so I did and again faced the man. He laughed and swung and I ducked and I swung with all my one hundred ten pounds and hit the man in his left eye. The eye popped out and after that I don’t remember much, for the remaining three men beat me to the ground and kicked me under a car.
A couple of years later I saw that man I had injured at a skating rink. He was a good distance away from me, but recognized him without a doubt. He was wearing a black patch over his left eye.
Butcher and I became close, for we shared the same dreams, fought the same battles and shared the same friends.
During the next several years I never turned my back on Butcher. The name Butcher was given him by an old friend of mine. Butcher loved to carve wood and so the name stuck, Butcher of wood, but the name or part of it would change.
There was another side to Butcher. At a very young age he discovered he was fast with a gun and over the years twenty five men and one stagecoach driver, a woman challenged his gun and lost.
One evening, I believe in the spring of 1970, I received a call from a professor friend of mine in Columbia, Missouri, requesting that I guide a small group of college students through a part of McKee Cave, situated high on a bluff of the Niangua River. I agreed and a date was set for their arrival.
The students, accompanied by the professor were late and by the time we arrived at the site overlooking the cave, darkness was fast closing in. I led the way down the treacherous slope and soon came to a ledge where I stopped and waited for the party to catch up.
“It is imperative that I take your hand and help you down to the next level, otherwise you could fall to your death on the rocks below,” said I.
One by one they stepped up and were safely deposited in front of the massive cave entrance, well, all by one, a young Indian woman, fiercely independent who said. “No, I can take care of myself.”
The woman turned to step down, lost her footing and would probably have perished if not for Butcher who reached out. He grasped a handful of her flowing black hair and pulled her to safety. Later she quietly apologized for her carelessness. The matter was forgotten or so we thought.
Approximately two months later, a man, appearing to be of Indian heritage arrived at Bennett Spring Trout Hatchery inquiring about Butcher where he and I were employed. He was a short man about five feet eight inches tall, stoutly built, with distinctive Indian features, high cheekbones and rather dark eyes and hair. The man extended no hand in greeting when arriving on the scene where Butcher and I stood, but remained aloof, not necessarily an unfriendly stance, but rather as man unaccustomed to presenting himself to strangers.
“I am a Searcher and I have come with a gift,” he said to Butcher. “It is not something you can hold in your hand or wear, but will become a part of you. It is not given lightly, but comes deep from the soul of another. This gift belongs to no other and will remain so. Redoak is your name, as in stout of limb and courage as the roots of the great tree embedded in Mother Earth.”
“I don’t understand,” Butcher replied. “Whom is the gift from?”
I could detect only a slight reaction in the man’s face when he answered. “I am the father of the woman you pulled to safety at the Cave of McKee. Your bold and unselfish gift to her must be returned with a gift of equal worth.”
The man said nothing more, turned and walked away.
In the months and years following the strange appearance of the Searcher, Butcher Redoak began casting a distinctive shadow, that of his own that rival mine, a man with often reckless abandon, more so than in previous years. The gun battles continued and he walked away as the victor. He became a Captain in the 8th The Missouri Cavalry, and often pitched a tent with mountain men, buck skinners and stood with the best of them on the firing line. He acquired a lead part in a movie titled, Arkansas Yankees, became marshal of Buffalo Head and fought in the Battle of Womack Mill and met up with a man called Ike.
The town of Buffalo Head, sat huddled on Fifteen Mile Prairie, a lawless place, where rendezvoused the Indians, Wild Bill Hickok, mountain men and a troupe of players of whom performed a nightly melodrama. The Rusty Bucket Saloon and Old Theater were the main attractions. There were preaching men, the melancholy sounds of balladeers, Mountain Banjos and dance halls girls. Prairie Days was a time to remember.
On one particular hot August noon, two men strode onto the wide front street of Buffalo Head, one being Marshal Redoak and the outlaw Ike. Along each side of the street people stood waiting and watching in silence as the two men closed the distance between them. A child whimpered and clutched her mother’s skirt.
Both men stopped, stood for a time and then the flash of a revolver in each of their hands hurled black smoke and fire. Butcher Redoak, stumbled shot down that day.
In reality Butcher did not perish on that hot dusty street as some may believe, for in reality he was and is a part of me, an alter ego I suppose that helped guide me away from a demoralizing wound and became another aspect of my being and a good friend of whom I will not abandon easily. It has been and hopefully will continue being a colorful and interesting experience sharing life with Butcher Redoak. Adios

Friday, February 26, 2010

Foods Fit For A King

Foods Fit For a King
Caviar is alright I suppose among all the other so called delights that stirs the appetites of the elite. I also consider myself elite, but I am not among the wealthy bunch or of royalty and my taste is much different. I never did like to gob everything together like I have seen on the plates of the other elite and given a name that is supposedly French, German, Italian or perhaps mixtures of all of them. I imagine folks of my caliber in those counties have simple names for their foods as we do here in the States. I have a spoon, a fork and knife to eat with and I don’t understand why you cut with one knife, move it around with a special fork and then lay it aside and then cut it again with a different knife and pick up the food with yet another fork and if you drop it on your plate, you select a particular spoon to move it to its original place and then begin again all over. A spoon is a good all around tool, especially a large one. You can eat mash potatoes, peas, beans and many other delights in one fell swoop. Fried chicken or a pork chop need no tools, for the fingers are well adapted to lift the morsel to your mouth and while you are there you can lick them clean. “Finger licking good,” I say.
I came away from my childhood with many favorite foods, such as molasses cake, head cheese, fried apple pie, limburger cheese, pickled pig feet, pickled jalapeƱo peppers hot enough to send the average person running for the water bucket. Paw Paws are good as are dried persimmons. Home grown hen eggs, fried over easy and I mean treated gentle and then sopped up with a slice of home made bread is indeed food for king. A fried, over easy real gentle duck egg is out of this world. I could go on and on about the other foods I was raised with, delicious fare that you don’t see around much these days. A bowl of hot oatmeal, laced with molasses, a handful of walnuts and a strawberry and a pinch of cayenne pepper is a staple that no other food can match. It is true that sardines were not a homegrown food back then, but once in awhile my father and I indulged. At the time a can of sardines came in a large can, unlike the cans of the present. A slice of limburger, a glass of spring cooled buttermilk and sardines were food fit for a king. Of course every one left the room, except Father and me. Sardines were always in my pack when I went out a wandering on the river. My class of the elite does not dab at our face with a napkin after each bite, but wait until the meal is finished. Food was fuel to get you through the day and that doesn’t mean we didn’t have a deep appreciation of our fare .It was serous business for the women folk who took great pride in what they put on the table. Adios

Monday, February 22, 2010

Snake In A Box

A Time to Remember
Snake in a Box
By Ronnie Powell
Minnie Pitts Powell was of Irish, English parents and in most respects a fearless woman who would have if necessary taken on a grizzly bear single handed to protect her children. A petite woman with red hair, blue eyes, a bit of a temper, quite innovative in all aspects of farm life and a wife, my mother and confidant.
A fox in the hen house was no match to Mother’s protective instinct, flailing it with a broom as well as an opossum, stray dog or any other critter that trespassed. She stood her ground with the bullish of bulls, marauding ganders or roosters and sent an old drunk fleeing one night when Father was away. Yet for all the bravado in that mite of a woman she feared snakes with a passion.
My first inclination of her fear of snakes, any snake for that matter from the largest King to the smallest garden variety came about one day while cleaning the upstairs rooms. I had been drafted to help with the cleaning and did not appreciate the chore. Mother and I began in a curtained off area where lay accumulated boxes of a scrape cloth to be used in quilting, several empty Mason jars and other items to numerous to mention. Wanting only to finish the job I obediently followed her instructions removing the boxes and bundles out for her to examine.
One particular box caught my attention, laden with an assortment of belts. A black patent leather belt lay tightly coiled on top and especially interested me. I envisioned it as a hat band. Picking it up and turning toward mother the belt inadvertently uncoiled, snapping quite loudly when it reached the end of its length. Mother screamed, stumbled and fell over a box in a dead faint. The incident if nothing else removed all doubts I may have had about her fear of snakes.
A month or two later on a warm spring morning Mother announced that it was wash day and said to me the dreaded words. “Ronnie it’s your turn to help me. Before you draw water for the kettles get out of those overalls. You’ll find clean ones on a chair in the kitchen.”
“But Mother not out here someone might see me naked!” I protested.
“Do as you’re told young man,” she replied sternly. “You won’t be naked and beside ain’t nobody gonna see you.”
I knew better than to argue and shed the overalls, tossing them on a heap of other clothing. I ran up the steps into the kitchen, pulled the clean overalls on and was about to snap a gallous in place when I remembered I had left an aspirin tin in a pocket of the overalls lying outside and it contained a very small garter snake. I dashed out the door to the landing, but that was as far as I got.
Mother stood with the aspirin tin in her hand and in the process of opening it. I shrank back against the banister, too late to retrieve the little box. It was perhaps a couple of seconds later when the lid burst open and Mother screamed, again and again tossing the box containing the snake high into the air.
Strangely all I could think of was to try and retrieve the little snake and ran down the steps trying to keep up with the box now tumbling end over end. I had previously rescued the snake in the chicken yard as it was about to be gobbled up by a hen. Mother’s screams distracted me and the tin fell near the back fence and the snake fled into a clump of iris.
Upon hearing the frantic screams, Father raced around a corner of the house to find Mother down on a pile of dirty clothes recovering from a faint.
“Herschel, take Ronnie to the field with you!” She exclaimed. “Donnie can help me with the wash.”
I wasted no time running around to the front of the house and sat down on the steps to await my fate. Father arrived shortly and sat down beside me, but not before he gently whacked me on the head.
“Son, you’re lucky,” he said. “If she’d been standing you would have got a whupping for sure.” Adios

Saturday, February 20, 2010

An Ozark Mountain Man

Marion in 1990

(First Published in Country Folk Magazine
A condensed version)
In Rembrance of an Ozark Mountain Man
A Time to Remember
By Ronnie Powell
Some time during the early hours of December 14, 1917 a blizzard hit Wichita, Kansas and swept North across into the town of Burns. Included in the path of the storm was a small farm owned by Roy and Olive Maggard. It was during these early hours, before the dawn, Olive Maggard became aware her pregnancy was about to end in the birth of her second child. Olive awakened Roy and informed that he should hasten to Burns to get Doc McIntosh to assist her in the birth of their child. Roy wasted no time and went to the barn hitched a team of horses to a wagon.
Out side the wind was howling, but undaunted he climbed onto the high seat and set out for Burns. The snow was already drifting across the road. The wind nearly took his breath away. Fortunately he made the trip to town and back within two hours with the doctor. Not long afterwards Marion a thirteen pound baby was born, second son of Roy and Olive.
The weeks and months passed and spring at last came to the prairie. Marion had grown strong adapting well to the harsh life of a Kansas farm.
“I never did learn to crawl,” he said, “just up and started walking one day.
In his twenty first year, Marion left his parents farm and headed for Soda Springs, Idaho. He quickly found a job on a cattle ranch. “Those were my cowboying days.” He recalled with great fondness. Marion was issued a high stepping, young gelding and began riding fence around a fourteen hundred plus acres.
In December of 1942, Marion Joined the Navy See Bee’s, for World War two was looming darkly on the horizon. After boot camp Marion was sent to the South pacific. He participated in the battle of Boganville and from there went to New Guinea, a build up point after it was liberated from the Japanese. While stationed on an island in the Philippines, a Japanese plane carrying a bomb came in low and turn in toward the island.
“We had been told,” He said, “that you couldn’t out run a bomb when it is heading for you.” He smiled, and then replied. “But they were wrong; we did out run it and dove under a huge crane. The only injuries we received were cuts and bruises from bumping into each other.
Marion was discharged in October of 1945 and married and bought a farm in Missouri near the Dallas and Webster county line. Marion was not a farmer and sold the land and began his life’s profession as an iron worker, and raised two daughters. In 1975 Marion retired at the age of fifty nine and in 1985 he heled to organize the Dallas County Ozark Ridge Runners, a muzzle loader enthusiast group. This group of men and women became involved in living history, sponsoring reenactments of fur traders, mountain men and civil war aspects. It was during this time, Prairie Days; a festival sponsored by the Dallas County Historical Society took roots The Ozark Ridge Runners became an important part of the festival.
Prairie days, a three day annual event was time for the Indians to gather there, representing five tribes. The mountain man, fur traders and Civil War enthusiasts were there, and the gunfighters, saloon girls along with a fast shooting sheriff. There many craft booths, shooting contests, melodramas, country music and old time preaching in brush arbor. Prairie days lasted for nine years and drew people from far and wide. Marion was there doing his part to make the show spectacular.
Prairie Days is gone but not the spirit of it, for every spring and autumn many of the people including Marion gathered in Granny Hollow to relive the past. Tee pees, Baker tents and a host of other primitive shelters were set up for a three day shoot and social gathering.
Not long before Marion passed on he said. “The best part of a Rendezvous is when the sun goes down and the tantalizing aroma of camp coffee, fresh baked biscuits and stew fill the air. It is a time when friends get together to share the past and most important the present.”
Marion has not been forgotten. “Farewell Old Friend.” Adios

Monday, February 15, 2010

To Journaling Woman

That beautiful princess of the season is close by and I am certain she is listing. She has touched the lilac and encouraged the birth of baby squirrels and rabbits and the Robins are arriving. So keep calling out to her, for I'm sure she is pleased to hear those anxious voices. Adios

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Cane With Soul

"I'll Be Here When You Need Me."

A Good Solid Cane of Red Cedar

Many years ago I began carving wood and later when I became an adult and after I was married I began carving again. First it was country people, teachers, farmers, lawmen and a host of others. One day while walking through an old cedar forest I found a stand of young trees that had died from been too thick. I pulled one of the cedars from the ground and discovered the roots were attached. Several trees later I carried them home. The roots were different shapes and quite colorful. From them I carved staffs and canes. I sold many of them. One day a particular cane, the handle was the face of an old man. I decided to keep it and brought to the house and leaned it up against the wall behind the heating stove. The old man caught my eye now and then and I wondered why until one day he seemed to say, “I’m waiting and will be here when you’re ready for a cane”.
He has been there now several years, gathering dust, (I clean him once in awhile) but I keep telling him I not ready yet. I really do appreciate his patient and it comforts me knowing if I need him, he will be there. Adios

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Reminder of Winter

Deer were moving slowly along the South Slope of the Glade this morning

Two days ago, a cold snow covered cedar glade

Winter's days are numbered, for I can see subtle stirrings of Spring, but until Spring makes its arrival there will probably be other winter scenes like the above photos.

Welcome to the Ozarks Lori and a Remarkable Heritage
Coming Soon, a Journey to Liga Cave and beyond into a Prehistory Wilderness. Adios

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Dragon Slayer

A Man Called Ike

A Dragon Slayer
Mythical knights of old, they say, went about the countryside hunting down dragons to keep the neighborhood safe. A brave heart, a trusty sword, body armor and a faithful horse was all one needed to accomplish the deed. A fierce battle ensued; singed whiskers and a dent or two in the armor was not uncommon. For the most part an ideal situation when at last the dragon lay slain. The knight rode away a hero.
Fast forward to the present and to the dragons of the present day. There is a breed of dragons that cannot be slain with a sword, a gun or club. They do not breathe fire and smoke and are very small, so small in fact most of the time you cannot see them with the naked eye, but what they lack in size they make up in treacherous cunning and have an uncanny ability to sustain great wounds. The dragons of today are like an uneasy shadow that comes with a new day or a sense of dread that stirs inside you and then passes for a time. They strike unexpectedly to deal a stunning blow and retreat for a time to come again with malicious intent to slay their victim.
There is another dragon slayer, a man called Ike, a good and valued friend of mine who has stood bravely and faced his share of dragons and has slain a few. He has been wounded brutally at times to within shouting distance of death, but did not falter. He is a knight and his courageous spirit shines like armor of old. There is a love of life in this man that is unequaled.
Ike is not alone, but he fought alone and for those of us who cared we had to move aside, for the battles he has endured are his to fight and he stands the victor today, but does not lower his guard.
Ike is not a fearless man, for fear is a constant companion, but courage is wielded like a sword and his shield carries the color of faith.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

No Time Of Their Own

It has been a good morning for a steaming cup of Red Rose tea, while looking out my window at a snowy landscape and to let my thoughts wander.

No Time of Their Own
I have picked up pieces of time that are scattered all around of an hour, day, month or year that were left behind.
Pieces of dreams that have no time of their own
They are borne in the wind like autumn leaves, lost forever in the yesterdays
Except for those I hold, dreams that have no place of their own.
All is not lost for these fragile reminders of fantasies, for often the sunlight sparkles like tiny sequins from deep within and warms my heart.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Too Strange For Fiction, Too Real To Be True

A Dream

Ben, (a friend of mine) and I were together going to yard sales and at each one we attended we found tables laden with a variety of articles of little interest to us. We came at last to an elderly woman’s house and to where the sale had been set up in a garage. Inside the garage we found a large table laden with hundreds of bundles of paper. The paper appeared blank, some were dirty, some worn and stained. Others were torn and damp.
“Why would anyone try and sell old stained and torn paper?” Ben asked.
“I have no idea,” I answered.
The elderly woman came in to the garage and I asked her why she had all the bundled blank paper for sale.
She looked up at me rather strangely and shook her head. “You are either dumb or very insensitive,” she sharply replied. “The paper is not for sale and is not blank and each bundle is a life story and there are hundreds of them. Some are torn and stained from life’s hardships. Some of the stories are tragically short, others are long and damp with tears of joy and sadness.
“But there is nothing written on them,” I replied.
“You cannot read life,” she answered, but live it, feel it and then and only then will you appreciate each bundle here.”

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Time To Remember

A Fine Old Relic of a Bygone Era

Monday, February 1, 2010


Looking Into The past

It has always been a desire of mine to start at the spring near Marshfield, Mo. where the Niangua River rises from its cradle and begins its erratic journey across several miles around high limestone bluffs, past fields and hollows to finally bury itself in the Lake of the Ozarks. What a spectacular expedition that would have been. The Niangua River like all free flowing streams are haunted with many secrets and are not given up easily and should not be. To stand on a high ridge and look out over the broad expanse of land as the river meanders past ageless stone bluffs where secrets of the past abound and often in the early dawn when river fog is rising these secrets are more evident than at anytime of the day. It is easy for me I think, to see beyond the river of today where long lines of boisterous weekend floaters do not exist. I can see in the fog another people where pole lodges stand and their images sway and too soon they are gone for a time. In reality all that is left are remnants, fragile reminders that frequently have been selfishly destroyed. Yet my journey along the Niangua River basin has been wondrous to say the least, for I have traveled beyond the realm of my world to stand where few of my kind have been. Adios