Winter days allow me the excuse to procrastinate about my taxes and spring cleaning and devote myself to the many books I’ve set aside.
Today I’ve been enjoying “Searching For Booger County,” a book I picked up as I’ve heard McDonald County referred to as Booger County and was curious about its real location. Not McDonald County, for sure, but the author, Sandy Ray Chapin describes it as being Douglas County in south-central Missouri, deep in the Ozarks. Published by Boogeyman Books, the area sounds similar to my beloved county.
“For generation after generation the people of Booger County have suffered nightmarish hardships. Floods, epidemics, Indian wars, blood feuds, savage barbarity during the Civil War, baldknobbers who invoked the Lord’s will with the bullet, the bullwhip, and the hangman’s noose, and the Dust Bowl drought that uprooted so many families are just some of the tribulations people here have endured.” Sound familiar?
Of particular interest, I found Lee Cooley. “Often the Cooleys subsisted on cornbread and “water gravy” made from tins of lard purchased at the Drury Store. Poor hygiene and an unhealthy diet caused bouts of sickness. New shoes had to last two years. In the warm months they went barefoot. During winter they wrapped their feet in burlap tied with binder twine. Their clothing became ragged. Nevertheless, there were soon more mouths to feed. Elsie gave birth to Francis in ‘32, Janice in ‘34, and Landon in ‘36, the worst drought year.
“Lee was a chubby 11-year-old when he moved to the farm. Realizing the hardships his family faced, he did his best to help out. Numerous times each day he carried water from the spring. He cut and split firewood with a saw and axe and stacked it beside the cookstove. He learned to harness the horses, drive the wagon, use the plow, and handle a hoe. On Saturdays he carried two big cast iron kettles to the spring and started a fire. While Janie watched the babies, Elsie and Lee would boil the soiled clothes, scrub them on a rub board and hang them to dry on wires strung tree to tree. If the weather was inclement, the Cooleys went dirty.” At the time Ms. Chapin authored the book (2000) Lee Cooley lived in Mountain Grove’s senior housing, at 81 years. A very interesting read.
If you missed the March meeting of the McDonald County Historical Society in Pineville, I’m sorry, you missed a great presentation by Clara Barton, (brought to us by Sondra Torchia). Miss Barton (1821-1912) was the first woman who expected (and gained) equal pay for her role as clerk in the U.S. Patent Office, and known as “The Lady Who Followed the Cannons” and “The Angel of the Battlefield” as she created — and administered to many — today’s Red Cross.
Our next meeting will be in May but this will be the weekend of Memorial Day – do watch this paper as we share with you a preview of all the exciting plans for this three days. Music, games, silent auction, a good old-fashioned horseshoe tournament, etc. If you would like to help or be involved in this big event, check firstname.lastname@example.org. or write to McDonald County Historical Society, P.O. Box 572, Pineville, 64856.
Alberta Anders writes a weekly column for the Daily News.