Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ambush At Jones Crossing

North bank of Jones crossing

Saddle reportedly belonged to one of the assassins

A Time to Remember
Ambush at Jones Crossing
By Ronnie Powell
The following story is true, but is my interpretation of the event, based on eye witness accounts some of which in my opinion were not duly noted and are inconsistent with an article published in a newspaper in 1882. I have changed the names of the characters in this infamous tale rendering it fiction, adding additional points of view not found in the old newspaper clipping.
In the early evening of May 25, 1882 two men were brutally slain in the North-East portion of Dallas County, near Windyville, Missouri. Two other men were wounded. The crime took place along a road near Jones Crossing, between the Harvey and Williams farms about two hundred yards from the Harvey and a half a mile from the Williams farm. Matt Williams one of the wounded in the fracas resided on the Williams place.
The ambush site a brush thicket near the road was carefully prepared. Holes were cut in the brush upstream for a commanding view of the crossing. At least two of the assassins were armed with shotguns and lay waiting for the arrival of their victims. A third man stood picket behind a tree several feet away to alert the other men hiding in the brush and then would quickly join them.
In the meantime Gerald Matson, twenty six and C.R. Matson eighteen, (brothers) one riding a mule and the other a horse were heading home and stopped to pick up two boys, (some say forced them to ride along). John Shantz seventeen and Matt Williams sixteen were about a half a mile from the river crossing where the shooting would allegedly take place.
The arrival of the four victims was detected at about fifty yards from the river crossing in the dusky light of mid-evening with each of the murderers laying in wait. The shooting commenced at a very short range, killing C.R. Matson instantly, wounding Gerald Matson and Matt Williams along with John Shantz. The horse and mule were also killed. Gerald Matson attempted to flee back up the road, but was shot dead by another blast from a shotgun and the shooting stopped abruptly.
Only one of the shooters was observed running from the scene. According to Matt Williams, a man of approximately five feet eight of ordinary build wearing a ragged coat of drab color fled into the brush. The young man stated he did not know the fellow.

Gerald Matson’s wounds consisted of thirty buckshot wounds in his back and left side above the hip. Twenty seven buckshot wounds were found in the left side of C.R Matson one cutting the left common carotid artery and three shots penetrating the heart severing an artery.
Matt Williams received five flesh wounds, three in the thigh and two in the arm. John Shantz received two flesh wounds, one in the leg and one in the arm. Neither boy’s wounds were life threatening and both recovered.
Under oath both boys recounted the events leading up to and during the ambush. Their testimony revealed that Matt Williams met up with John Shantz with intentions to fish in the river. They came upon the two Matson’s and Melvin Harris, Jim Frank and two women and two children near the river. Gerald sat astride a horse and C.R. a mule. Gerald was quarreling with Jim Frank, threatening to forcibly take money owed him from the group.
The Matson’s, Harris, and Frank left along with the women and children. Matt and John remained near the river and began digging for worms and upon the return of the Matson’s; they asked told to ride with them. Matt climbed up behind C.R. and John behind Gerald. Gerald and C.R. were drinking. They rode down into a hollow along the county road and again approached the crossing and were fired upon from buckeye brush. Smoke and the crack of a gun could be seen and heard coming from the brush. Gerald and John were the first to arrive and were the first hit. About a minute later Matt and C.R. were also shot.
The Justice of Peace and acting coroner impaneled a jury and after viewing the bodies and hearing the evidence, submitted a verdict that the deceased Gerald and C.R. Matson died by gunshot wounds inflicted by parties unknown.
Many of the local people believed there were at least seven men involved in the killing of the Matson’s in retribution of not unlawful acts by the young Matson’s prior to the shooting, but rather by unjustified personal retaliation. On February 9th Jim Frank and three other men were charged and held for a preliminary hearing in the assassination of Gerald and C.R Matson. The hearing lasted two days with many witnesses coming forward and a verdict was in favor of the State. A trial date was set for the next term of circuit court. The defendants bonds were set at one thousand dollars each and were released. Jim Frank alone was ultimately charged with being an accessory to the killings. There are no records stating that any of the men were ever actually convicted.

Matt Williams sometime later fell into a hog pen and was attacked by hogs. The wounds resulted in his death. One account of the shooting at the river states that Gerald returned fire with a shotgun he carried. Nearly a hundred years later at an estate auction a saddle allegedly belonging to one of the assassins sold for fifty dollars and is at present in my possession. The river crossing where the shooting supposedly took place is now part of an old abandoned county road where even at the present the vintage road snakes down through a hollow to the ford where buckeye brush still flourishes affording a commanding view of the ambush site where the shooters lay in waiting. Adios.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

What Error To Gain A Biscuit?

This story is in its original notation, but is in story form in the book, Life Along The Dousinberry
What Error to Gain a Biscuit?
By Ronnie Powell
On an especially warm day in late spring of 1947, my twin brother Donnie and I stood waiting for Dad to finish hitching our team of horses to a cultivator. The sun was barely over the horizon and we were facing a rather long day in the cornfield replanting corn, a kernel at a time. Our overall pockets bulged with these precious kernels. The process would take us down each row to stop and drop a kernel where needed, cover it with a hoe and then move on. The sun would be hot, the horseflies and sweat bees were most aggravating. I did not relish the thought of being in the field with nothing to eat, for noon lay beyond my comprehension. I glanced at Dad appearing totally absorbed in the hitching and handed my hoe to Donnie and sprinted away toward the house.
I estimated the journey to the house and taking possession of several left over breakfast biscuits to take no more than a couple of minutes and was certain Dad would be unaware of my absents. How very wrong I would be.
I rounded a rear corner of the house, glimpsed Mother at the well drawing wash water and headed for the backs steps. Never breaking stride I took the first step up stumbled and fell striking my neck across one of the rough oak planks and the journey ended abruptly and with dire consequences. I struggled to breath, slipping close to the brink of unconsciousness. I rolled off the steps gasping and croaking like a frog. I continued thrashing about on the ground vaguely aware of Mother’s hysterical screams. It would be several hours later before I regained consciousness.
Doctor Plummer was the first face I saw, a kind old man in a rumpled suit who had helped bring me into this world. I was struck by the grimness of his face, flinching at the probing hand on my neck. I attempted to smile, but could not and then tried to speak, but failed to do so and once again moved quietly into blissful oblivion.
The good doctor of Buffalo, Missouri informed my parents I had received a crushing blow to my larynx, but couldn’t be certain of the extent of damage. Doctor Plummer informed them I would probably be unable to make a sound for awhile if ever and advised the distraught couple I should be placed in a hospital for further examination, fully aware they had no money for such a stay.
I awakened early the next morning on the davenport in the parlor. I caught the dawning sun glinting from Mother’s prized cut glass vase sitting on a table near the front window. I then recalled the day before and sat up, feeling remarkably fit except for a deep soreness in my throat. I took notice that I was clothed in one of Mother’s old flannel night gowns and became quite angry. I looked about the room for my clothing and saw the shirt and overalls lying in a heap near the door. Intent on getting out of the gown I tried standing but too weak slid to the floor and began crawling toward the garments. I could barely hold my head up, saliva drooled from my mouth making the floor slippery. The pain was near unbearable, but I continued on to the clothing. I quickly shed the gown, got into the shirt and overalls and crawled back to the couch hissing like a snake. I had at least restored my dignity.
A little later that morning the entire family entered the room. Both of my brothers stood at the door. Dad, Mother and Grandma Carrie came to the couch. Not one to mince words, Dad quietly informed me I had severely injured my voice box, as he called it and would be a spell before I could talk aloud again and perhaps never. Mother stood looking down at me weeping. Grandma also wept, holding a steaming bowl of her chicken noodle soup.
I did not take well to the disturbing news, but nodded, peeking under the covers to see if Mother had again put the gown on me, but she had not. Grandma coaxed me into eating the soup and I did so without too much difficulty and later was accompanied to the outhouse, where I set for a time idly looking through the pages of a Sears, Roebuck catalog reflecting on my dilemma.
Resilience is the definition of youth and in a couple of days I was again back on my feet resuming my chores. I could not imagine ever speaking aloud again. The thought of being a mute haunted me and in the following days, weeks and months I began realizing what I was up against. My brothers of course teased me and a few adults treated me shamefully as if I did not have good sense. One of the local ministers came by one day to see me and began shouting as if I were deaf. He then asked Dad if I was mentally challenged. The man was told to leave.
Grandma Carrie encouraged me to write on paper as clearly as I could to answer any questions presented to me and to try and communicate with people. I took advantage of every idle moment slipping off alone in the woods to try and make a sound, but September came and school. It did take long to discover that my peers including the teacher were understanding and did their best to put me at ease. It was not the children, but the few adults I came in contact with that depressed me the most with their I suppose good intentions and thoughtless behaviors. Yet during the long silent months I never lost faith that I would speak aloud again.
In early spring of the following year while walking along the old Brushy Ridge road, trying in earnest to make a sound, I uttered a guttural word or two, yet they were music to my ears. From that day on I began to speak aloud again, at first a raspy whisper and gradually a more normal vocalization. There are times even today my voice fades but for the most part has served me well. I came away from that dreadful experience a bit too independent I suppose and a deep appreciation for folks who have been handicapped. Life comes in many flavors and colors and to survive one must not judge people by a bad taste or gray reflection that does not represent the soul of a fellow human. Adios

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Time For Beautiful Heidi

Beautiful Heidi

Time for a treat

Heidi finds a cricket

Heidi on point

At this writing Heidi is well and more beautiful than ever. She and I are close companions and we have endured the long winter months, where every evening she and I would sit for a time in her cabin with the door closed. Often the wind blew wet and cold outside and after sharing little peanut butter sandwiches with me she would snuggle down beside me and sleep. One of my old winter shirts after being warmed by the stove inside my house covered her. There she would remain until she sat up as if to say it is time for me to leave. Of course she knew I had a treat to give her. She likes to shake hands with me and often licks my face or hand. She is very protective, perhaps a little too much. Heidi welcomes the time when I arrive to go in her cabin and seems relieved to be locked inside for the night. There are still signs of her experience of being mistreated. She does not trust very many people and often reverts back to cowering, even from me. But time is slowly dimming those memories. She loves to play ball, but as yet will not bring it to me. She cries when I leave and sits and watches when I am in sight of her. She trusts my wife and comes to her most of the time. Sadly she will not enter her cabin during a storm unless I tell her to and will and has remained outside drenched to the skin. But I am patient and know that I will see the day when she is completely at ease with her world and mine. Adios

Monday, April 12, 2010

Beware Wild Beauties

At last they have arrived to share the summer with me

I have returned once again to Barefoot Pass. My new book demanded my attention and I have been very busy mailing them out and hosting those faithful readers who came to take possession of Life Along The Dousinberry. The book is selling well and I am deeply appreciative of the response. They have and are traveling far and wide to people to read. All my books except the first one, South Through Barefoot Pass is numbered, but all are signed and dated. My new book has been compared to the writings of Booth Tarkington, author of Penrod and Sam and many others. I am flattered by such a comparison. Life Along The Dousinberry is the story of an Ozark boy growing up in the troubling years of the 1940's. All my books are without profanity and other lurid aspects. For more info go to

Beware Wild Beauties
Soon now as spring gains the upper hand the lawns of most homes will flourish. The majority will be carefully groomed and will be void of wild flowers, (Weeds) representing the intended perfection of the owners. Chemical warfare will be in full force, eliminating anything that threatens to trespass these sacred grounds. For some there is no tolerance and anything of nature’s wild beauties will perish. This sounds ominous, but it is the right of the owners to display their taste in groomed lawns. The lowly Dandelion has been the victim of mass extermination for many years, systematically destroyed as if it is a plague, but in truth it is one of the most beautiful, delicate and enduring creation on this Earth. It is also edible containing healthy nutrients in salads and tea and wine. To eliminate all Dandelions from the face of this planet would be a tragedy, nothing less. Never again would a child pluck one that has gone to seed and make a wish before blowing the seeds into the wind. To never stand at the edge of a field and see the Dandelion in bloom and watch the bees buzzing around is an awful thing to comprehend. It is doubtful and more of a certainty I believe the dandelion will never perish, for it has a way of slipping in among the hierarchy of grass, snuggling down and then rises to shine like the sun as it was meant to be. When at last the first Dandelion appears on my lawn I will welcome this delicate bloom for it has a place on my lawn, but it must hunker down on mowing day. If indeed the Dandelion is a weed, than I am kin. Adios.