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I find it odd that some of the most bizarre events or objects that were once part of our childhood seem to be the ones we remember best. That dog who followed us everywhere; who among us could ever forget that furry friend? What about that special Christmas present? The image of that electric train, talking doll with eyes that opened and closed or a Hula Hoop as the wrapping paper and ribbon was torn away? Those images are just as clear today as they were on those long-ago Christmas mornings.

For Larry, memories of those long-ago cold Christmas mornings and thoughts of his younger brother remain, even to this day, embedded there in his mind. He vividly recalls the years his family spent operating the Riverside Station resort just outside the small Southwest Missouri Ozark town of Noel. Larry can recite a detailed description of his father's sawmill which sat behind the family home, and the wood he cut and shaped. But it is the eventual use of some of that rough-hewn lumber which he remembers most -- the outhouse that his father constructed using boards cut by that sawmill's steel blade.

Larry was born in the year 1939. His parents were hard-working Ozarkians who oversaw the day-to-day operations of a summer retreat for those seeking relief from their hectic city life. When the rainy spring days faded away and the hot summer months arrived, the lodge and the cabins at Riverside Inn began to fill with tourists.

Doctors from Joplin brought their families to the resort located on the old Noel to Pineville Road. Lawyers from Kansas City and Neosho took a brief respite from their law practices and walked the quiet rolling Ozark hills and valleys. The Lodge, once a Butterfield Stage Coach Line stop, and the cabins, scattered about the property, had no vacancies during the restful summers.

The hilly property was home not only to the lodge itself but also to several cabins that had -- and nobody remembered exactly how or when -- acquired colorful names. Vacationers might spend the lazy days relaxing in Walnut Hill, Elm Lodge or Sycamore Inn. Some may prefer to sleep to the sound of the crickets and owls in Oak Rest, Honey Locust or Maple Shade. If none of those cabins were found to suit one's taste, there was always the Cricket.

The sleep-filled nights were lit only by the glow of an Ozark moon, and the bright sunlit days were not interrupted by car horns or other noises common to the large cities. However, there was one city convenience not available inside the cabins and one which proved to be a slight annoyance. There was no inside plumbing, hence the need for a conveniently located and communal outhouse.

In the year 1948, Larry's father used a shovel to puncture the rocky Ozark ground as he dug a shallow hole at Riverside Station. That hole was then concealed when a small structure constructed of rough-hewn lumber was placed atop that depression in the earth. All this took place under the watchful eyes of 9-year-old Larry and his 2-year-old brother, Jim. Although Larry and Jim were fully aware of the structure's purpose, the two always envisioned that someday the old metal-roofed shack might be repurposed as a clubhouse; and so it was to come that the small building later became a place for two brothers to hide from the world.

Years passed and times changed, and so it was for the caretakers of Riverside Inn, R.J. and Eloise Burkholder. The couple and their family, who lovingly cared for the property, greeted the summer visitors and waved goodbye to those who reluctantly returned to their lives and jobs in the cities also bid goodbye to the resort. The Inn was sold and the resort closed in 1954.

R.J., Eloise and the five children knew that the closure of Riverside Inn signaled the remorseful end to a time in their lives. Sure, the work was hard and the hours were long, but they loved the Inn and the property there. What would become of Walnut Hall, Elm Lodge and Sycamore Inn, and what would be the fate of the old outhouse?

Larry and Jim had an idea. What if they could convince their father to load the shack onto a trailer and relocate it to the family's home in Blankenship Hollow? Well, following several days of arguing the case to R.J., he finally agreed to relocate the building. With the aid of R.J.'s home-built trailer, the soon-to-be clubhouse would follow the family to their home.

The two brothers had already selected the perfect spot for the outhouse. There was a flat piece of ground on the other side of the creek that would be perfect. There stood a small stand of trees, but that presented little problem to the determined duo. The two brothers spent several days clearing a spot in the grove of trees, and a path was cleared allowing access to the old wooden shack. That was, at least in the minds of Larry and Jim, the perfect spot for the new clubhouse.

Larry and Jim called their clubhouse meetings to order in the old shack, although the meeting's agenda was rarely known. Each of the brothers tried to frighten the other with moonless, dark-of-night ghost stories. The short walk from the clubhouse to their home occasionally found the two boys running, not walking.

There were times when the two became cowboys and courageously fought off Indian attacks. Firing their make-believe rifles through the gaps where the old boards once came together, it seemed as though the pair of crack shots couldn't miss. "POW, POW! There, I got another one," Jim would exclaim.

After several years and many Indian attacks, the clubhouse would be returned to service as an outhouse. Larry's sister Jean and her husband owned a beautiful tract of land not far from the old Riverside Inn site. A small camper-trailer was relocated to the wooded property which would be used for weekend get-a-ways. The land offered the peace and quiet that Jean was seeking, but the trailer lacked one important feature. It had no inside facilities, hence the need for an outhouse. Without more than a moment's thought, Jean knew just where to find that building and the shack was once again placed on that homemade trailer often used by Larry's father.

Larry never forgot about the old clubhouse and, after a series of events, the building once again lost its original purpose, that of an outhouse.

Larry hooked up the trailer, traveled the short distance to Jean's property and gathered up the old clubhouse. The wooden, metal-roofed shack with all its history and memories was to find a permanent home on Larry and wife Nancy's property located near Burkholder Hill on the Noel to Pineville Road.

After the passage of so very many years, the now rickety old clubhouse rests quietly on Larry's property. You see, Larry discards very little; especially something as valuable as an old outhouse.

When we are both young of years and heart, our imaginations can find many purposes for seemingly ordinary and unwanted objects. Fallen tree branches may be transformed into swords, sand can be fashioned into medieval castles and an old outhouse can become the clubhouse for two brothers.

When Larry looks at the clubhouse, he relives the good times he and Jim had there. He recalls those nighttime tales of ghoulish monsters and hobgoblins and how he and Jim tugged at each other's shirts as they ran to the house laughing all the way.

Wood and metal and, yes, even childhood memories seem to live forever, but not so little boys. Larry's younger brother and the teller of monster stories, Jim, passed away on the 25th day of February in the year 2003 after spending only 56 years on this good Earth.

For Larry, childhood memories, his brother Jim and yes, even old outhouses that became clubhouses, are the things that dreams are made of.

Stan Fine is a retired police officer and Verizon security department investigator who, after retiring in 2006, moved from Tampa, Fla., to Noel. Stan's connection to Noel can be traced back to his grandparents who lived most of their lives there. Stan began writing after the passing of his wife Robin in 2013. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

Religion on 03/01/2018

Print Headline: Keeping It In The Family

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