Truck Stops and CB Radio

Bertrand truck stop 12-03-2015I was headed toward Charleston on I-57 working on my Bootheel project when I spotted this abandoned truck stop at the Bertrand exit. As always, you can click on the photos to make them larger.

I’ve always had a soft spot for truck stops, going back to the old CB radio days when you’d while away hundreds of miles giving and receiving Smokey reports and sharing road stories. Eventually, somebody would say they were going to stop for fuel, food or facilities, and all of us with time to spare would peel off to put faces with handles.

“Hey, Sweet Thang, got your ears on?”

Bertrand truck stop 12-03-2015Long before Facebook came along, you’d develop rolling friendships with the men and women who fought sleep and boredom by reaching for their microphones. In the dark of the night, somewhere in the Carolinas, I’d been chewing the fat with my front door, an 18-wheeler whose name I’ve long since forgotten, when he said, “Watch out for that four-wheeler. He’s weaving all over the road. Don’t know if he’s drunk or sleepy. Whoa! It ain’t a ‘he,’ it’s a couple girls. ‘Hey, sweet thang, you got your ears on?'”

He quickly established that it was a couple of college girls coming back from break and they were, indeed sleepy, and they had their ears on.

“Sweet thang, pull that vehicle over on the shoulder. I’m going to drive for awhile before you kill yourself or somebody else. I’d let my partner do it, but he’s young and horny, and I’m a grandfather.”

Sure enough, the car pulled over, the driver hopped in, and we went back to rolling for another hour or so until we all wheeled into a truck stop for a cup of 100-weight and a slab of pie.

“Beware of rattlesnakes”

Bertrand truck stop 12-03-2015I thought I had told this story before, but I couldn’t find it in the archives. In 1990, we took the Great Family Vacation Out West. We were driving though the part of Texas where the rest areas had warnings, “Beware of Rattlesnakes,” and signs saying, “Next Services – 120 Miles.” We fought the nighttime boredom by talking to Crazy Eights, the 18-wheeler in front of us, and having the Sons Matt and Adam count the deer eyes shining back at us along the sides of the road (they spotted more than 200 – deer, not eyes).

Finally, Wife Lila said, “I’ve had it. Stop at the next place that has lights.”

I spotted the only break in the darkness, a small motel that had seen much better days (assuming it had EVER had better days), said our goodbyes to Crazy Eights, and let my headlights sweep the motel. Wife Lila said, “Don’t even slow down, Keep on going.”

“Them boys ever been in a big truck?”

Bertrand truck stop 12-03-2015About two miles up the road, Crazy Eights was idling on the shoulder. “I knew you’d be coming along shortly. Have them boys ever been in a big truck?”

After we allowed as how there had been a gap in their education, he offered to let him ride with him.

Wife Lila hesitated, but I argued that this might be the high point of their vacation, and that one of two things would happen: (a) when we got to civilization, he’d give ’em back, or (b) he wouldn’t. At that point in the trip, either would work for me.

I miss the old truck stops

Bertrand truck stop 12-03-2015In the old days, the legend was that you could find a good place to eat by seeing how many trucks were parked around it. That wasn’t necessarily true; they might be there because there was plenty of parking for the big rigs; the fuel could be cheaper than up the road, the waitresses could be friendly and pretty, or the food could actually be good, plentiful and cheap.

Nowadays, alas, you are just as likely to see a national chain restaurant like Popeye’s, McDonalds, or the like serving up the same old food you can get anywhere. (I loved the strawberry pie at the 76 truck stop at Wildwood.)

I bet even Mavis at the Old Home Filler Up and Keep On Truckin’ Cafe is riding a rocking chair in an old folks home.

Road Warriorette Reactions

NN north of Bertrand 12-03-2015All of my road warriorettes display different reactions to my driving. Foodie Jan is prone to scream “We’re all going to die!!!!” at the least provocation. She’s also the one most likely to question my food and lodging choices.

Curator Jessica is so young she still thinks she’s immortal, so she takes my driving quietly.

You haven’t heard much about Warriorette Anne lately because she abandoned me for Texas. She kept quiet even when she had good reason to scream. It was on that occasion that Mother, the original Warriorette, said she didn’t scream because she was biting down too hard on a pillow to keep from doing it.

(You can click on the photos to make them larger.)

Now that I think of it

Suspension pipeline from Grand Tower IL 07-17-2011I only knew of one time when Mother expressed any kind of shock.

I was trying to get a good photo of the world’s longest suspension pipeline that links Wittenberg, Mo., with Grand Tower, Ill. I had been there about an hour earlier and got some nice pictures, but after heading north along the river and not finding a good angle, I decided to race the sun back for this shot. I made it with about five minutes to spare. When I went airborne over the top of a levee, Mother yelled, “Whoa!

I knew there was a road on the other side of the levee, but she, evidently, didn’t.

At the time, I wrote, “She never yells, ‘Whoa!’ She yells, ‘Gun it!’ She must be getting old.”

Getting to the point of the picture

NN north of Bertrand 12-03-2015Getting back to the original subject of the tree photo at the top of the page: Warriorette Shari, my old high school girlfriend (briefly, by her choice), and I were hammer down on NN north of where I took the silo picture when I smoked the brakes and did a sliding U-turn. Shari didn’t say a word, even when I pulled off on the side of the road and jumped out.

I had spotted a farm pond that was perfectly smooth and picking up the reflection of trees backlit by the setting sun. It captured the feel of The Bootheel for me: the endless flat ground, the green crops, the trees and buildings way off in the distance.

When I crawled back in the car, I tried to explain my philosophy of “Shoot It When You See It” because I was losing the reflections of the trees in the three or four minutes it took me to get turned around and start making exposures.

This old tree standing sentinel in the field has the same feel as the pond photo, but I like the reflections better in the first shot.

I almost always use a circular polarizing filter on my lens to protect it, reduce reflections and make skies more dramatic. Depending on the angle of the light, sometimes it doesn’t work at all or, like here, it causes part of the sky to be a different shade, which bothers me.

Why Does Silo Have Holes?

Silo north of Bertrand on NN 0 W Granite Rd 12-05-2015Road Warriorette Shari and I cruised Scott and Mississippi counties looking for photos to illustrate my Bootheel project. Late in the afternoon, when everything took on a golden glow, we spotted this silo on CR NN near West Granite Road north or Bertrand.

The recent cold nights must have killed whatever foliage had attached itself to the structure.

My silo ignorance is showing

Silo north of Bertrand on NN 0 W Granite Rd 12-05-2015One of the problems with documenting an agricultural area is that I know practically nothing about farming.

Would someone explain why this silo (and  couple others we saw in the same area) have holes running up the side? Click on the photos to make them larger.

Principal Pritchard and Cooter

Cooter 11-24-2015From time to time you are going to see posts about places with funny names that you’ve probably never heard of. I’m trying to document the Missouri Bootheel, and it’s a real challenge because photography is all about “somethings,” and many of the “somethings” south of the Benton Hills have turned into “nothings.”

Many places on old maps have ceased to exist except as maybe a crossroads with a falling-down building marking where a general store once was. In a lot of cases, the water tower is the most visible sign of public life. This is Cooter, just north of the Arkansas border in Pemiscot County. As always, click on the photos to make them larger.

How Cooter got its name (maybe)

Cooter 11-24-2015There are several explanations for how Cooter got its name. The State Historical Society of Missouri gives this explanation:

The date of the first settlement is unknown, but evidence from a monument in Upper Cooter Cemetery shows that a settlement was made here before 1854. In 1856 this was a flourishing village. It was first settled as a hunting and fishing camp on Pemiscot or Cagle Lake. Among the game shipped were the coots, members of the duck family, and it is from them that the town is said to have received its name.

H.E. Doerner, of Steele, disagrees with this theory on the ground that an old map of the county, drawn by George W. Carleton between 1883-1890 gives the spelling Couter. He maintains that the town was named from an old family of that name, or that the township received its name first from the French word “coutre” or “couter” which he says means to cut, indicating that this township was cut from others. The French word couter, however, does not mean to cut but to cost and the significance Mr. Doerner attached to the word is lost. It is true that the township was first spelled Coutre or Couter in the county court records from 1883-1890, and the name of the town was so spelled by Goodspeed in 1888. Portell Coutre, a Frenchman, was a resident of New Madrid in 1795, and it is possible that he moved to this vicinity and the settlement was named for him. In 1924 the post office department changed the name to Coutre to avoid confusion with Cooper in Gentry County, but after a year’s trial the spelling Cooter was resumed.

Genealogist weighs in

Cooter 11-24-2015The Pemiscot County Gen Web leans to the Portell theory:

Houck’s History of Missouri, Volume 2, page 151, lists PORTELL COUTRE as a settler of New Madrid, MO. in 1795. The Encyclopedia of Missouri, page 218 of the Missouri Gazetter, says the town of ‘Cooter was named in 1854 for the Coutre family of New Madrid, one of whom was a merchant there in 1795.’

PORTELL COUTRE is the only Coutre family member identified by Houck as a resident of New Madrid in 1795 so therefore is the head of the family Cooter
was named for.

Cooter High School

Cooter 11-24-2015One bright spot is the well-kept Cooter High School, Home of The Wildcats. I was curious who Mr. Pritchard was, so I turned to David Kelley, the man who turned me on to this project. He remembered Delmar Pritchard as a former pro boxer who was built like a fireplug. When he served as a teacher in principal in Cooter and Steele, “he didn’t have any discipline problems,” Mr. Kelley said.

His obituary in The Steele Enterprise said he was born in Carroll County, Tenn., on November 30, 1909, and died May 6, 1984, at the Chickasawba Hospital in Blytheville. He moved with his parents from Tennessee to Pemiscot County in 1915.

He attended the Number Eight School and the Caruthersville High School, graduating in 1931. He graduated from college in Jonesboro, Ark.

Delmar “Kid” Pritchard taught school in Caruthersville, Micola, Hayti, Steele and Cooter. He also was principal and coached in Cooter High School. He retired from teaching in 1975. Mr. Pritchard was a self-employed farmer.

His students loved him

Cooter 11-24-2015I usually stay away from topix because it’s mostly filled with illiterate rants from people with more idle time than class or good judgement. I was pleasantly surprised when my Google search turned up these comments:

  • Love to hear some comments on the best Principal Cooter ever had. He was one of the sweetist and strictist person I knew. I loved him dearly and was glad to see the sign out in front of the school with his name on it. Now he was Mr. C.H.S.
  • I respected Mr Pritchard and all the teachers back when I was in school, 40 years ago, Only time I every got a lick from his Famous Paddle was when all of us Seniors got out on the Fire escape which was really dangerous, because it wasn’t very stable. He just tapped the girls, but when it came to the boys he let them have it. The way things are in school today, I think of my school day as being very memorable.
  • Mr. Pritchard was the best. He loved the kids and wasn’t afraid of the politics in the school system when it came to fairness and students getting what they deserved. It didn’t matter to him who you were or if you had a “name” or “money”. If you were the best and deserved whatever you got it and Mr. Pritchard was right there to fight for your rights. I will never forget him. He was a daddy to all the kids and loved them dearly.

He reminds me of assistant principal Wayne Goddard – Mr. G – at Central High School.

[By the way, Wife Lila pointed out that there were a lot of spelling and other errors in the post. I told her it was all cut and paste. For once, the mistakes aren’t mine.]