“Larry, come on we gotta get going.” Like most eight-year-old boys Larry always allowed an appreciable amount of time to pass before answering his mother. “Larry, hurry up or I’m going to leave without you.” “Leave without you,” were the words that always prompted Larry to extricate himself from his secret hiding place, “where are we going,” he asked. “We’re gonna pick up the butter,” she answered. “Dust off your pants and get yourself in the car.”
Before the pair could open the doors of the newly purchased Mariner Blue 1949 Buick Super equipped with the inline eight-cylinder engine and Dynaflow automatic transmission the sound of Larry’s father’s voice could be heard coming from the sawmill located just behind the house. “Wait a minute; I might need some help cutting this tough old oak lumber and someone needs to sweep up this sawdust.” That oak came from the trees Larry and his father felled on the family’s 160 acres of land.
That was exhausting and back-breaking work. The father and son used a two-man chainsaw with a fifty-inch blade. As Larry tightly supported the rear of the saw his father worked the controls and if there were any miscalculations the saw would fly out of the young boy’s hands sending Larry crashing to the ground.
The mill’s saw blade was huge; every bit of fifty-two inches in diameter and the gasoline-fueled engine which turned the toothed monster had been removed from an old tractor that Larry’s father once used to move houses. That cutting wheel sometimes grabbed a piece of lumber and tossed it up and against the roof. It happened so frequently that Larry and his father usually paid little attention to the pieces of air born wood.
The mill, if one could call it that, was no more than a roof supported by several posts. Larry often helped his father fashion the oak lumber into flooring that was sold to local residents. The money generated from the operation supported the family but the new Buick was purchased with some of the $5000.00 that Larry’s father received when he sold his Ford Tractor dealership located on Park Street in Noel.
The dealership sold tractors and farm implements to farmers throughout the southwest Missouri Ozark region which surrounded the summer tourist-dependent town of Noel, Missouri. Although some in the area earned a living accommodating the summer influx of people coming from all over the Midwest to swim in and float on the Elk River others grew crops on rolling hills and grassy meadows that had been in their families for generations.
“The boy needs a break from all that sawdust,” Larry’s mom spoke as she opened the driver’s side door to the Buick. “Hurry up, Mattie Scott is expecting us.” Larry’s pace quickened as he didn’t want his father to overrule his mother’s decision; after all, anything was better than dodging the chunks of wood that flew through the air as that saw blade tore into the oak boards.
As the new Buick drove away Larry gave a departing wave to his father. Larry was certain his father saw the gesture but busy pushing a piece of oak lumber into that blade he offered no reciprocating wave; just the slightest turn of his head and a hurried glance. “Is Mrs. Scott the lady that lives on highway 90?” Larry knew very well the answer to the question but he thought some conversation was in order. “Yes, you know she lives across the road from Martha Hatfield.” “Oh yeah,” Larry replied. “Isn’t Mr. Scott a school teacher?” Once again Larry knew full well that he taught classes at the Noel School. “Larry, why are you talking so silly today; you know very well that A. Dean Scott teaches school.” Larry considered that to be a sufficient amount of conversation and the remainder of the fifteen-minute drive to the Scott house was made in relative silence save only the sound of that 120 horsepower eight cylinder Buick engine.
As the Buick drove past the Hatfield home the conversation between the two occupants of the Buick resumed. “Do you know Darlene Hatfield, you know Martha’s daughter?” “She’s in a higher grade than I am, but I know who she is,” Larry answered. “I’ve heard that Mr. Scott lets some of the kids in his classes spend the night at his house. One of the older kids told me that the girls sleep on the upper level while the boys sleep in the barn. “Is that so,” replied Larry’s mom as the car came to a stop in front of the stone house that was home to the Scotts.
Larry waited in the car and watched as Mrs. Scott opened the front door and ushered his mother inside. Larry couldn’t see what lay behind the stone structure but he knew there was a small body of water, a pond, not far from the house. Just beyond the pond, the woods offered shade to any angler who cast his favorite spinner into the calm water with the hope of catching a large smallmouth bass.
After the passage of several minutes, the front door to the house swung open and although he couldn’t hear the words spoken by the two women he imagined that cordial goodbyes were being exchanged. The close friends often spoke and it wasn’t the first time Larry’s mom would go to the old stone house for butter; nor would it be the last.
As Larry’s mother walked toward the driver’s side of the car he could see that both hands were holding a large object. At first, he thought it might be bread as he knew that Mrs. Scott’s reputation for baking six loaves at a time of the best homemade white yeast bread around was well known but as his mother came closer he saw that the object was a large bowl; a very large bowl.
Larry’s mother held the bowl against her chest with one hand while the other opened the door. The door had not fully opened when she said, “Open your hands and take this bowl.” The bowl was passed to the curious youngster and as he grasped it he asked, “What’s in the bowl;” “Butter, home-made butter.”
As the boy looked at the hardened substance in the bowl his mother, and with a slight grin on her face said, “Mattie makes the butter in a washing machine.” “A real washing machine,” Larry asked.” “Yes, a real washing machine. She has a Maytag wringer washer on the lower level. Mattie pours the cream and salt into the Maytag, turns it on and after a little while, voila, you have butter; and a whole lot of butter at that.” It took some time for Larry’s family to finish off that bowl of homemade butter, but the vision of the bowl’s bottom eventually came into view.
A few uneventful and humdrum weeks passed in Blankenship hollow. The oak lumber was cut and transformed into flooring and Larry’s father spent the cool evenings washing and gazing at the Buick Super. Larry hadn’t given Mrs. Scott much thought that is until an afternoon when Larry answered the ringing living room telephone. “Hello,” he said. “Larry, this is Mattie Scott, is your mother around, “Sure, just a minute.” Larry called for his mother but he hovered near the phone as he was curious about the reason for the call. After a brief conversation Larry’s mother ended the call, “OK Mattie, Larry and I will be over tomorrow afternoon.”
Larry could wait no longer and even before the receiver was returned to the phone’s base he blurted out, “Why are we going back to Mrs. Scott’s?” “Well, it seems as though she knows where there are some blackberries and we’re going to pick some. Mattie thinks they would be just perfect for preserves.” Larry didn’t voice his question but he couldn’t help wondering what type of container Mrs. Scott would use to hold the mixture of sugar, lemon juice and blackberries.
Nothing remains the same and people don’t live forever. It’s been more than six decades since Larry held that bowl of butter on his lap and only the memory remains. His parents have long since passed away, the Buick is gone and the sawmill stands no more. Only a few of the old-timers know where the area between Noel and Pineville once known as Blankenship Hollow is located.
Mattie Scott’s stone house on Highway 90 is still there as is the barn and the small pond but Mattie passed away in December of 1980. She and Amandus Dean Scott, who died in January of 1974, lived in the stone built home for 31 years. Larry’s father, Robert J. Burkholder, R.J. to his friends, passed away in 1997 while his lovely wife, Margaret Eloise Burkholder, died in 1984. Larry and his wife Nancy continue to enjoy the Ozark life and live on the outskirts of Noel. Betty Darlene Hatfield, known to everyone as Darlene, acquired the last name of Mitchell and if asked about Mattie she will talk about a cool Ozark summer evening, a cold glass of ice tea and a slice of Mattie’s homemade buttered white yeast bread.