Trail of Tears Swimming

Trail of Tears State Park c 1966Now that I’m back in Florida, I expect the weather to be warm everywhere. From the looks of the forecasted Cape lows for the next week, I might be rushing these photos.

The negative sleeve said Trail of Tears 1966, so I’m going to assume it’s right. I don’t recall seeing this many people at the lake, but it might have been a really hot day. Most of the bathing suits are pretty conservative by today’s standards, but I did spot a couple that probably caused the phone lines to burn up the next day. “Did you SEE what Mabel was wearing? Or, almost NOT wearing. It was scandalous. Wonder where she bought it?”

Photo gallery of warmer days

Stalking the Wild Persimmon

You know that Mother is a big fan of the persimmons growing at Tower Rock, but she keeps her eyes open for other ones, too. Right after I shot the photo of the rennovated dam at Trail of Tears State Park’s Lake Boutin, we cruised through the lake’s parking lot.

I had just about made the circle when I slammed on the brakes and put the car in whoa-back. For once I had spotted something before my co-pilot.

This tree had already dropped its leaves, leaving its fruit shining like miniature pumpkins against bright blue sky. The ground was orange with fallen persimmons. I gathered up a handful and took them to Mother for a rating. She said they weren’t bad, but that they didn’t compare to the Tower Rock ones.

Sleeting in Cape

I’m hearing reports that it’s sleeting around Cape this evening. Mother flew into St. Louis from visiting Brother David’s family in Tulsa over Thanksgiving. She said she made it back to Cape with only a few sprinkles on the windshield. I imagine she has a fire in the fireplace and her electric blanket turned on.

I guess I’d better run one more fall picture before folks get the gloomy gray day blahs.

Trail of Tears Quarry Rescue


Early the morning of November 15, 1965, I got a call from The Missourian to saddle up my pony and head to the quarry at Trail of Tears State Park to cover a rescue. It must have been too chilly or too early for them to roust Frony out of bed.

I know I saw the negatives from that morning somewhere recently, but I must have misplaced them. I’ll make do with a copy of the front page of that day’s Missourian. Someone other than me drew in the X and apparently “enhanced” the tops of the bluffs. Or, it might just be that the microfilm reproduction makes it look that way.

The Associated Press picked up the photo, probably because of the St. Louis connection. I think it might have been my first Wirephoto. I was excited about it in those days. I was less excited 20 years later when they were still paying a lousy five bucks per photo.

Student spent night trapped on bluff.

You can read the whole story in The Missourian,but you have to work for it. The Google index is messed up, so that link takes you to the November 12 edition. You’ll have to keep scrolling to the right until you get to the front page of the Monday paper. While you’re scrolling, you might want to pause to read the Nov. 13 account of the fire and sinking of the cruise ship Yarmouth Castle. Gordon Lightfoot immortalized it in Ballad of Yarmouth Castle on his Sunday Concert album, arguably his second most famous song after The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Here’s the short version: William A. Erfurth, 22, a SEMO junior from a St. Louis suburb was trying to scale a 300-foot bluff north of Trail of Tears State park on Sunday when his footing gave way. He managed to scramble to a rock about 60 feet from the top of the bluff where he was stuck for about 13-1/2 hours until he was rescued the next morning.

A buddy, Don Powers, 25, of Webster Groves, who didn’t make the climb, built a fire and kept talking to Erfurth though the night. It took longer to get help than it might have because Erfuth’s keys were lost in a comedy of errors. Erfurth had the keys with him up on the bluff. He threw a small rock down so that Powers would have an idea of where to look for the keys. He then wrapped the keys in a handkerchief and threw them down. “They haven’t been found yet,” Erfurth commented. That meant that Powers had to walk out for help.

Rescuers came from Mississippi County

A Mississippi County Rescue Squad eventually made it to a point where they could drop ropes to the stranded youth. The climbers included Joe Lankheit (or Lankhett), Mike Bryant, Dewey Bickford and Ralph Carr. Chief Sam Story said the ascent was made at “considerable hazard” to the four men.

Besides the Sheriff’s Patrol and the Mississippi County unit, members of the Highway Patrol and the Cape Girardeau Auxiliary Police were on scene during the night. Robert Eckelmann, auxiliary chief, said he and Frank Maevers tried to reach the top of the bluff by jeep, but the terrain was too rough. Erfurth was unharmed.

The cliff is located about 1-3/4 north of the end of the Moccasin Springs Road. Most of the rescuers rode to the scene by handcars of the Frisco Railroad. (I don’t remember if I got a ride on a handcar or if I had to hoof it.)

Quarry looks pretty from the air

I asked pilot Ernie Chiles to fly close to Trail of Tears on our way up to Perry County in April to see if I could spot the quarry. It was much bigger than I had imagined. That early morning in 1965 was the first (and last) time I had been there. I’m going to hazard a guess that some of you have been much closer to it than I’ve been.