Saturday, July 17, 2010

Adventures on Fox Knob in Ozark County

The Origin of Fox Knob
While growing up in Ozark County, I was always entranced by the old stories I heard about gold, silver, and lead mines in the area. It just so happened, one was within a stone's throw of my home in Mammoth. There's a story of Mr. Walrath having a dream of a particular geographical location in which he was to find, move his family, and mine its’ riches. The location was at the confluence of Lick Creek & Possum Walk Creek in Mammoth. Upon finding the lay of the land to his prognostication, he began his endeavors. The location of the mine was on top of a hill called Fox Knob.

Old Newspaper Stories
I happened to come across some articles recently, and it brought back memories of stories I once heard.  The authors of these articles never disclose the exact location or owner of the mines. But, I would like to think he was talking about Fox Knob.

Dreams hardly ever come true. A few weeks ago an Ozark county man dreamed he found a gold mine on the hills of his farm. The dreamer had little faith in visions and tried to forget the incident but without avail. At last, just to prove there was nothing in the dream, he took pick and shovel and started to work about 100 yards from his home. His doubts were confirmed for all he found was a rich load of zinc which promises to make him one of the richest men in the county.
End of Article

                            End of Article

While I was looking into mining in Ozark County, I also came across this little snippet. Even though the newspaper is worn and faded, it packed a huge word...Gold.

Gold has been found in paying quantities on Pond Creek in Ozark county, Missouri
End of Article

Though I know these articles were not about Mr. Walrath, it tells of a time when the mining rush was on in the Ozarks. In the past Ozarks' history, mining was a viable way to eke out a living.  A couple of years ago I did a survey on the old mines in Baxter County, Arkansas,  in 1901, which is linked HERE. Baxter County had a total of 154 registered within its’ county borders in 10 districts.

Though the Ozarks never yielded its’ precious hopes of great mining wealth, it is one of many threads that weave our Ozarks’ History.

Back to Fox Knob
The interesting thing about Fox Knob is it stood across from my house. Beside the old mine shaft stood a tall and solitary white pine tree towering over the other hardwoods on the hill. This tree was one of the focal points from our front porch. As a child, I remember dreaming about being old enough to climb to the top of Fox Knob and discovering the treasure that had once eluded its’ former caretaker.


The view from my childhood home on the front porch with Fox Knob in July, 1980.
Double click on the photograph to enlarge, then fine one of my favorite lone pines.

The view from Fox Knob in March, 1985.
Notice the second ridge behind my house, it's the Arkansas State line. 

Fox Knob is located above a well known swimming hole on Lick Creek called, “The Big Rock.” When I was 14 years old, I rode my motorcycle to the creek, and climbed Fox Knob’s steep grade. I had a camera in hand to document my adventure and a 50 foot garden hose. Why a garden hose? I didn’t have a rope. I know I looked ridiculous, but at that time, I didn’t care. Believe it or not, I was convinced that I was Daniel Boon. Upon reaching my destination, I tied the garden hose off on a small tree, wrapped the other end around my waist, and lowered myself down about 10 feet. The sides of the shaft were a mixture of chert & clay. At that moment, my fear or reality set in, and I pulled myself out of the small abyss. Afterward, I snapped a picture. 

In doing the math, I be 45 years old in September; this experience took place December 27, 1979. 

The Vertical Mine Shaft of Fox Knob

Warning: Rabbit Trail
That was a great garden hose. This hose came from a relative who worked a Baxter Lab. It was a clear thick hose entwined around a spool. For some reason it was a reject, and it ended up at my house. This is the same garden hose I would tie to a tree on the banks on Lick Creek, put the other end in my mouth, grab a big rock to eliminate buoyancy, and sit on the creek bed to watch the perch & sunfish swim around me. If I was fortunate enough, I might see a beaver, muskrat, or snake swim overhead. I got this idea from the book 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne,and the old TV show The Man From Atlantis, starring Patrick Duffy. Others may call it foolishness; I call it Redneck Scuba Diving.

Back to the Story
Exiting this steep hill was relativity easy. Halfway down, I would sit on my bottom and slide down the hill. If I would go too fast, I would simply grab hold of a tree sapling or dig my heels in and slow down. Even though this would wear the seat out of my jeans, I knew there wasn’t a pair of jeans Granny Anderson couldn’t mend. I will say this is also a great place to start a small avalanche, if one were inclined to do so. It was rumored at one time a few teenage boys attempted such a feat. But, my sources tell me..."We're not talking.


The steep access to Fox Knob from Lick Creek 

I’ve ventured to Fox Knob at other times, but my first experience was a lasting one. There is an old song my dad will sing in church every so often. The words are hauntingly familiar to that time of my life and many other of life's circumstances. 
  He brought me out of the miry clay,
He set my feet on the Rock to stay;
He puts a song in my soul today,
A song of praise, hallelujah!

Climbing out of that clay covered abyss has ingrained a few lessons of life for me. 

#1. Don't do stupid stuff by myself.

#2. Know my Deliverer.

#3. Listen to His Voice.

As I left Fox Knob the first time, I could look back in the snow and not only see my foot prints in the snow, but my clay covered boots left its' stain as a reminder of my deliverance. I remember taking a stick and trying to completely clean off all the clay on my boots in Lick Creek to no avail. To my surprise, I discovered this clay coating kept my boots waterproof in the chilly waters; it's another lesson of God's wisdom. The mire of sin & error is not easily cleansed, but redemption brings its' deliverance.

Some people have journeyed to this area through the promise of a dream, hope for an adventure, or a longing to create family memories. Though I no longer live in Mammoth, in my heart, it is still called home. For me, it will continually contain a part of my dreams, adventures, memories, and lessons of my...Ozarks' History.
Work Cited:
“Discovery of Famous Silver Mine.” Wheeling Register 27.211 (11 Feb., 1890) 7. Access Newspaper Archive. Baxter County Library, Mountain Home, AR. 1 Nov. 2009.
 “News from All Over Imperial Missouri.” St. Joseph Observer 9.20 (19 Feb., 1916) 3. Access Newspaper Archive. Baxter County Library, Mountain Home, AR. 1 Nov. 2009.
“Telegraph Tips.” Houston Daily Post 9.294(25 Jan., 1894) 6. Chronicling America. Library of Congress, Washington D. C. 1 Nov. 2009.
Zelley, Henry J. 1898. "He Brought Me Out." Gospel Publishing House, Full Gospel Songs (47).

No comments: