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Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014
"Canalou: People, Culture, Booheel Town" - a book!!
Posted Wednesday, December 11, at 4:08 PM
SEMO State U's Center for Regional History has published my book about life in the former swamp of our region known today as the Bootheel. It's a book about the original settlers who went in to harvest timber in Gray's Ridge and Canalou in the late 1890s and early 1900s...

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Bootheel Book Features Stoddard/New Madrid counties
Posted Friday, July 5, at 5:17 PM

Ever wonder what it was like, as a five year old in 1905, to float into the Bootheel swamp in a Jon boat, with panthers and bears lurking in the woods? At age 112, Florence Robinson Poe, shared in my forthcoming book about swamp life. The book chronicles school days at Cline Island School, and the Harlan boys who helped guide people through the swamp leading from Cline's Island to Salcedo...

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All Cotton Choppers Knew 'The Man's' Identity
Posted Thursday, January 31, at 9:30 AM

Pretty Patricia and pampered pooch "Honey Bear" may not have understood why I couldn't sleep the recent night Stan "The Man" Musial died at age 92. During farm days of youth, "The Man" was all you had to say to let all the other cotton choppers know you were speaking of St. Louis Cardinal slugger Stan Musial...

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Gaylon Lawrence - GIANT man and farmer
Posted Tuesday, July 24, at 3:16 PM

First met this "farmer/businessman" as a young newspaperman in Poplar Bluff and Sikeston. Did one of the first stories about his "vision" of transforming his farm acreage from traditional crops to rice...a move that helped transform a lot of the Bootheel's farming economy...

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Little Farm Town Produced One Bank Robber
Posted Wednesday, July 11, at 3:53 PM

One of my youth baseball coaches of the 1950s moved from Canalou to Morehouse. Another ended up working in and near D.C.'s White House. The third, perhaps the most colorful, was sent to the "Big House," as in the state penitentiary in Jefferson City...

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1952's 'Heat Wave" Also Hurt Bootheel Folks
Posted Saturday, July 7, at 10:51 AM

It was 60 years ago that the heat wave of 1952 settled over the Bootheel. I recall the tortureous sweltering heat like it was yesterday. Three things I particularly recall from long ago 1952: First, I recall the terror, from seeing Momma Whittle suffering a "heat stroke". ...

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Memories Help Prepare for Road of Life
Posted Tuesday, July 3, at 10:08 AM

Memories...I love dusting them off, savoring them a while before putting them back on the shelf for reference during future tough emotional days of life. Earliest life's memory goes way back in my iron-barred baby bed at our farm house in New Madrid County. It was my second birthday when I recall hearing my loving mother complain to neighbor farm lady Ollie Bryant the family could get no rest, because of my incessant "crying."...

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Fourth of July Fireworks
Posted Monday, July 2, at 3:32 AM

In 1953, merchants at Canalou's seven small grocery stores agreed to stay open for business on the Fourth of July. That included Tootie Ralph's combo grocery/whiskey store, the scene of some real Fourth of July fireworks when Ralph, a former resident of Dexter, got into an argument with an area farm laborer about which farmer had the first cotton bloom that crop-growth season...

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Father's Day, 2012
Posted Saturday, June 16, at 4:07 PM

Daddy Whittle was a hard-working, successful farmer, who gambled on Mississippi river boats during non-farming months. As a tyke, when he gambled in local gambling rooms in Canalou, Morehouse, Charter Oak and Hill's Store, he'd let me sit on his knee with two firm instructions: "Don't talk while Daddy's playing poker," and "Don't tell your mother where we've been..."...

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"Bootheel" book coming soon through SEMO State U
Posted Thursday, April 12, at 3:19 PM

Sorry for not posting columns regularly of late, due primarily to final detail editing, picture-matching, and "re-editing" of book chronicling the life of early Bootheel "swamp" settlers, the bravery and toughness it took to survive the elements, the world-record dredging it took the drain the 6-county region now transformed into some of richest farm land in the nation...

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Bootheel Snow Days Deep in Joyful Remembrances
Posted Sunday, January 29, at 5:13 PM

It's mystical we have such warm memories of otherwise brutal cold tundra-like "snow days" of youth. Brrr, even when freezing back on the farm, snow days seemed to end snuggy and warm by our trusty Warm Morning coal stove, where Momma Whittle and aunts Doris Whittle and Durette Reed had prepared us children some hot sassasfras tea to drink as we removed our layers of clothing to let dry in the stoves' radient heat...

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'Damn Ditch': Life threathening flood issue of the 1950s
Posted Wednesday, January 4, at 12:28 AM

Glad to read last week where the Army Corps of Engineers is getting $800 million to make repairs along the flood-damaged Mississippi River. Flooding can not only endanger lives, it can endanger livelihoods for farm families. This I learned as a young boy, when my recently widowed mother came charging into our New Madrid County farm home, while ordering older brother to "get the shotgun and follow me!!"...

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'Gandy Dancers' Helped Maintain Peavine RR
Posted Wednesday, December 28, at 4:27 PM

As a small boy in the Bootheel, I thought they were "chain gang" convicts working on the railroad between Morehouse, Canalou, Parma and Gideon. But well-read farm neighbor A.J. Neel, informed they were "Gandy Dancers" who worked and chanted in rhythm as they laid and maintained railroad tracks...

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This "Buck" Doesn't Stop Here
Posted Saturday, December 17, at 6:59 AM

Famous Missourian Harry Truman, as U.S. president, once said: "The buck stops here." A not so famous Missouri native, John Buck Jr., who was born at Canalou in New Madrid County, said: "This Buck does not stop here." Following a four-wheeler accident that snapped his neck in 2004, the prognosis from medical experts,was that he would never walk again...

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Christmas and 1948 hog-killing celebration
Posted Friday, December 9, at 8:36 PM

Christmas 1948...my "last" Christmas of "innocense." As weather dictated those cold winter months, my family decided to kill hogs on Christmas Eve. No problem, for a good hog killing day meant that farm families from miles around would pitch in, bring their hogs for slaughter and butchering. It was hard work, but enjoyable because it was a coming together of our Bootheel farming community...

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School bus drivers were "Rolling Sheriffs"
Posted Saturday, December 3, at 6:27 PM

Country school bus drivers were important in the fabric of Bootheel life of my youth. One of the best was Gray Ridge School driver Walter Wyman. Being that our farm house sat a mile outside of the official Gray Ridge district, it was good ol' Mr. Wyman who would "fudge" a little, and drive across Little River, the boundary between New Madrid and Stoddard counties,to keep me from freezing or getting soaked to the bone during inclement weather...

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Robert Rasche, hero school man
Posted Tuesday, November 29, at 3:30 PM

To quote Gray Ridge High graduate Ann Rice (Simone), Robert L. Rasche was more than just a great educator. "He was a God-send," credits Ann, now a neighbor down in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Like Ann, I would not have graduated from high school, if not for the patience and tender/tough intuitive guidance of the late Superintendent of Schools Mr. Rasche, who died the year following my graduation in 1962...

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Song Idea Came At Cotton Gin
Posted Thursday, November 10, at 9:24 AM

It was the late 1950s, when I needed a "ride" back to Canalou from the swimming pool in Sikeston. Fortunately, Gray Ridge High School fellow student Larry Tubbs was there in his family's new swoop-finned Chevy red-and-white Impala. Upon climbing in the car, it was the first time I heard the song "Alley Oop" over KSIM Radio...

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Second Grade: Emotional Journey
Posted Saturday, November 5, at 5:44 AM

(Correction: In last column blog, I mistakenly identified the late Hutson Goza as co-owner of the Sikeston's Goza-Harper Motor Co. It was his brother, Kelly, who sold us our Plymouth "farm cars.") Forgive me for taking a personal journey back in time. Ain't nothing bach there I can change. If I could, don't know that I would...

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Goza Family Supplied 'Farm Cars'
Posted Sunday, October 30, at 8:14 AM

I had moved to Tennessee before hearing the phrase "farm car." One of my newspaper editors was describing Plymouth automobiles. "That's what we call Plymouths in Tennessee," editor Mike West editorialized. "They're 'farm cars.'" It was 1950 when the Whittles got their first "farm car."...

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Retired recently as world-traveled newspaperman, career made possible by late Superintendent of Schools Robert L. Rasche, about to have Bootheel life book published by SEMO State University. Loved farm life, but knew at five years old, didn't want to be a "cotton picker" when I grew up.