Liver and Onions and Tower Rock

K Robinson canteenThursday was a pretty productive day. Back in 2013, I wrote about finding Keith Robinson’s Boy Scout canteen. Mother kept bugging me, “When is that boy going to come by and pick it up?”

Keith, my go-to guy for all things railroading emailed he was going to be escaping Kansas City for a few days to come to Cape. FINALLY, a chance to get rid of this crazy canteen.

We made arrangements to meet at the Jackson at the Cape County History Center. It turned out that he and his dad knew some of the people mentioned in the museum’s exhibits.

Journey to the Land of Liver & Onions

Tower Rock at dusk 10-22-2015Museum director Carla Jordan shares my love of liver and onions, so she said she’d buy dinner at the Mississippi Mud in Altenburg if I’d drive. I rhapsodized about how good the Mud’s L&O were on September 11. Well, they were even better Thursday night. The meat was so tender you could cut it with a fork; the onions were grilled just right, and my two sides of cheesy mashed potatoes and corn couldn’t be beat.

Carla and I shared our table with Gerard Fiehler and Lynn Degenhardt; two more museum folks filled in the table next to us. Lips were smacked and plates were cleaned. I can see myself making a pilgrimage to Altenburg every Thursday night until I get my fill of Innards and Onions.

I can’t go to East Perry county without dipping down to Tower Rock. Carla and Gerard piled into the van and we got to The Rock at the crack of dusk. Our timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Click on the photo to make it larger.

Here’s why I don’t wade

Tower Rock 10-19-2015The river’s going to have to fall about another three feet before you’ll be able to walk out to Tower Rock.

I was up there two days earlier hoping the leaves had turned, but they still needed a few more days of cold weather. This catfish was sitting on the rock where Mother used to scoop up some of the best persimmons to ever hang on a tree.

My thought was, “If the fisherman didn’t keep this guy because he was ‘too small,’ I don’t want to stick my feet into any water that would hold his big brother.”

Reinhold “Dixie” Degenhardt 1915-2013

Reinhold "Dixie" Degenhardt, Altenburg, B 09-25-1915, 11-08-2011I’m starting to work on a project in Perry County tentatively called “The Last Generation,” about the members of the early pioneer families who were the last to speak German as their primary language. My subjects range in age from their 60s to one who is over 100.

I’ve had the pleasure to photograph three members of the Degenhardt family, including Reinhold Degenhardt. I didn’t know his real name was Reinhold until I saw it in his obituary today because everybody always called him “Dixie.”

Reinhold A. Degenhardt’s obituary

Reinhold A. “Dixie” Degenhardt, 97, of Altenburg, MO died March 5, 2013 at Perry County Memorial Hospital in Perryville.  He was born on September 25, 1915 in Wittenberg, Mo., son of August G. and Mathilde S. (Poppitz) Degenhardt. He married Thekla Koch on April 21, 1940. She preceded him in death on October 31, 1975. He married Margie Engert Johnson in May 1978. She survives in Altenburg, MO.

Reinhold "Dixie" Degenhardt, Altenburg, B 09-25-1915, 11-08-2011Initially Dixie farmed and was later employed as a meat cutter in Jackson, MO. He held various leadership positions (President, Elder, Treasurer, Trustee) at both Trinity Lutheran and Immanuel Lutheran churches in Altenburg. He held various leadership positions with the local chapter of MFA Oil Co. He was active in the Lutheran Layman’s League. He served numerous years as committee man for the Perry County Republican Party. Dixie played baseball for the Altenburg Aces in the 1940’s, softball for the Trinity Lutheran team in the 1950’s, and Dartball for the Trinity Lutheran Layman’s League. He sent food and clothing to the Degenhardt relatives in East Germany following World War II. In 1960, he brought second cousin and East German refugee Heidi Schultz-Netzer to America, providing a home for her, and sent her to high school. Heidi married Albert Boettcher, Jr. Dixie worked at East Perry Lumber Co. from 1967 through 1980. He continued beef cattle farming until 1990.

 Survivors include four sons, Larry L. and Pearline Degenhardt of St. Louis, MO, Dewey D. and Marilyn Degenhardt of Jefferson City, MO, Lynn J. Degenhardt of Altenburg, Dean A. and Marguerite Degenhardt of Lisle, IL, one daughter, Connie S. Degenhardt Levy (Griff Gresham) of Columbia; two stepsons, Wayne and Lillette Johnson of St. Charles, MO, Kenneth Johnson of St. Louis; one sister, Paula Holt of Perryville; one brother, Wilmar W. Degenhardt of St. Louis; grandchildren, Grant and Christy, Ryan Degenhardt and Jeanne Aubuchon, Tyler and Sherlyn, Clay and Dori, Jennifer, Dawn, Monica, and David Degenhardt, Carly, Carrie, and Casie Levy, Marvin, Reina, and Tiffany Johnson; and seven great-grandchildren.

Wilmar Degenhardt

Wilmar Degenhardt 11-17-2010I have to credit Wilmar with showing me how important old photos are. I scanned the first batch of Wittenburg photos from 1966, had a stack of Walmart 4×6″ prints made, and showed up at the Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum in Altenburg to see if anyone there could help me identify the people and places. Director Carla Jordan said I should talk with Wilmar.

When we flipped through the aerial photographs, he suddenly exclaimed, “Ohhhhh. This is a rare find. This is the house where I was born.” You can hear him in this video.

Wilmar talks about Seelitz


This was the first inkling I had that my photographs had captured things that perhaps nobody else had. Or, maybe that nobody else had held onto for all these years. Seeing his reaction fueled my interest in doing projects like this.

Lynn Degenhardt

Lynn Degenhardt in Seelitz 10-28-2011Lynn showed me Wilmar’s birthplace, which, along with most of the other buildings in the aerial, is still standing. He’s an expert on Seelitz, one of the early German settlements. He explained that the communities in the lowlands like Seelitz and Wittenberg didn’t survive as well as the ridge communities like Altenburg and Frohna. Floods and disease took their toll on the settlements closer to the river.