Posts Tagged ‘Ripley County Missouri’

My grandfather lived in Ripley County, Missouri and was a farmer, Baptist preacher, and fox hunter.  As a child I remember he smoked a pipe often and he had an ever present cough.  To treat the cough he medicinaly applied a bit of whiskey each evening.  One of his hunting buddies would take his canning jar and glass lid to a blind tiger known to those who needed to know.

It was a stump on property owned by a “big city lumber company.”  The stump faced an open, sometimes cultivated field and dusty road.  To the back was thick brush and trees leading into swampy bottomland.

Sometime in the afternoon you put your money on the stump with the jar on top.  You came back early the next morning and picked up your filled jar, leaving by a route different than the one coming in.  It was not considered neighborly to create a path.

Stories about Prohibition and moonshine are fun to tell, but the truth is grim and dark.  Accustomed to the movie and television versions, Daniel Okrent’s Last Call: The Rise And Fall Of Prohibition will remake your history of the period.

Okrent writes in the Epilogue, “In almost every respect imaginable, Prohibition was a failure.  It encouraged criminality and institutionalized hypocrisy.  It deprived the government of revenue, stripped the gears of the political system, and imposed profound limitations on individual rights.  It fostered a culture of bribery, blackmail, and official corruption.  It also maimed and murdered, its excesses apparent in deaths by poison, by the brutality of ill-trained, improperly supervised enforcement officers, and by unfortunate proximity to mob gun battles.”

The author begins with the reform movements that built into the temperance movement, and covers the religious and political maneuvers that finally led to the enactment of the Eighteenth Amendment and the Volstead Act.  He covers the metastasised evil of it all that met its end with the Twenty-First Amendment.  It’s a lot to cover which he does with great skill.

The myth of mobster/bootlegger lives on.  In today’s Wall Street Journal, July 20, 2010, there is a story by David Kesmodel about the bickering extended family of Al Capone and of a strange person who dresses like Al Capone and claims to be a grandson.  The extended family wants nothing to do with him or his request to exhume Al Capone’s body for DNA tests.

One myth the author deflates is that of Joe Kennedy, bootlegger and mob associate.  Those pages, 366 to 371, are Kennedy gold.

You’ll be glad you read the book.  Charles Marlin


Read Full Post »

How could I not love Paulette Jiles’ Enemy Women?  Jiles mentions underwater panthers spooking horses as they cross rivers.  So who has an antlered underwater panther as a blog logo?  From Clarion County, Pennsylvania to Ripley County, Missouri those underwater panthers were a widely dispersed species.  The setting for this historical romance is not just Missouri during the Civil War, but Southeast Missouri, and not just Southeast Missouri but it begins and ends in Ripley County, Missouri.  At one time I knew a lot of people who lived in Ripley County.

For other readers, the eighteen-year-old heroine Adair Colley has inner and physical beauty and a beautiful voice.  Her shape, her grace, eyes, hair, and expression are all mentioned.  She rides Whiskey, a horse one finds only once in a lifetime.  War destroys her family and home, forces her on to the road to starve and run from death.  While imprisoned she falls in love with a stud in blue, and he with her, but the struggle has only begun.  She is sick.  He is wounded.  Sorry, I won’t give you anymore of the story.

My grandmother was a young child at the time of the Civil War, living with her parents and two older sisters on a homestead on Cypress Creek, not far from Fairdealing, Ripley County.  She lived to be 103 so I knew her well, and remember her favorite war story.  She claimed to remember the incident but admitted it was reinforced by the frequent retelling of her mother and sisters.

Forewarned in advance of a guerilla band, her father and uncle took their rifles, good horses, and milk cows and hid deep in the woods.  When they hid they always left behind a weak horse and the oldest cow in plain view as decoys.  When the band rode in, her mother hitched her daughters to her left and right side and met the men in the front yard.

When the men dismounted, they had a fatally wounded man they laid on the ground to rest and asked for water.  After providing water her mother, hoping to make an honorable trade, said to the men that the home is Godfearing Methodist.  “Leave him.  When he mends he can catch up with you.”  There was no response, but when the captain ordered remount, she stepped up to him and said, “He has a mother.””  Although the captain said nothing, when they rode off they left with only the water given them.

When the men cleared the homestead her mother said, “We must do our prayers for the man has a long ride this day.”  Her mother rose from the prayers, brushed her apron, and said to the girls, “We need not tell your father about our prayers.”

The sisters eventually buried their father, age 99.  He was unaware of their prayers.  Charles Marlin

Read Full Post »