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“Have A Green Christmas” by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

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Have

A

Green Christmas”

GREEN CHRISTMAS LEAD PHOTO_Nikon D 70 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

Have Yourself A Green Christmas !

If Christmas Day this year is “too close” to put the”green” in your stockings and brighten up the gifts under your Christmas Tree,then, a simple act of “saving” should be the shine on your Christmas tree and keep more bills in your wallet for next Christmas. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

 

I always got my “Letter to Santa Claus” request.

 

Regardless of the economic conditions at the North Pole and in “The Lone Star State”, Mom and Dad always made sure I had a “Merry Christmas.

As a child, I simply came to expect that I would have a wonderful Christmas. After all, both of my parents were workaholics.

 

My mother left “public work” to stay at home and “raise me.” I appreciate her decision. Throughout my childhood, my dad ALWAYS worked a second job. In 1960, momma and I moved to the farm in Missouri.

 

My mother was one of the few “Women Hog Farmers In The United States Of America”, especially in 1960. Momma raised hogs and used the money to provide for my every need from grade school through college.

 

Daddy stayed on the job in Houston, Texas to “maintain his seniority” and continue working toward a retirement plan.

 

Like most kids, I knew, the vast majority of my toys on Christmas morning came from the money in daddy’s wallet and the cash in momma’s purse.

 

The Big Picture

 

What I never saw was “The Big Picture” of earning a living on a daily basis.

 

The reason the wrapped, brightly colored boxes, sporting bright bows, under the Christmas Tree made my home look like Santa Claus’ North Pole Showroom and a Toys R Us store is because my mom and dad were “bound and determined” that I would have a better childhood than they had.

 

I did.

 

Dirt Poor Childhoods

 

Opal M. DeLong Warren, my mother, was born in a small house in Peach Tree Holler, near Reeds Springs, Missouri. Opal’s mother, Martha, and father, Charley, loaded their personal belongings and their son, Richard, into the covered wagon and moved from Versailles, Missouri to a place, near Reeds Spring in Stone County in 1907.

 

All the rest of the DeLong children were born in Stone County. Richard began farming as soon as he was big enough to do the farm chores. The other boys: Willie, Hobert and Joe didn’t go to school very long.

 

Opal DeLong liked school and graduated from the 8th Grade. Every year, Martha, her mother ordered three dresses a year for Opal out of the Sears and Roebuck catalog to wear to school. She rode a pinto-mix horse, named,”Shorty” to the Wilson’s Creek School in Bear Den Holler.

 

Samuel E. Warren, my father, went to school in Perryville in east Texas. Joseph Samuel Warren, his father, was a tenant farmer, which meant J. Frank Couch, owned the land that “Papa” Warren farmed.

 

Dirt Poor” is an accurate financial description of my parent’s childhood years.

 

To add insult to injury, Fate unleashed The Great Depression around the time of their teenager years.

 

Daddy’s Short Range Financial Plan

 

Daddy adopted the policy of “Live For Today ;Tomorrow Will Take Care Of Itself.” The major flaw in his long-range financial plan is “In Order To Spend Money – You Have To Earn Money. The More Money You Spend, The More Money You Need To Earn To Keep Your Comfortable Lifestyle Going.”

 

Green Christmas Photo 2 by Samuel E. Warren Jr.At the end of the day, Daddy’s financial plan meant, “He had to be a ‘workaholic’, in order to keep earning money to spend. The irony is you spend so much time working,you never have “any fun” spending your money.

 

I remember, Monday through Friday, he would arrive home from work at about 4:30 p.m. He would sit down for supper and talk about his day. He could only relax a few moments and then, he would have to start getting ready for his “night job” as a bartender or bouncer.

 

His gray pressed Cameron uniforms would hang in the wardrobe beside his double breasted suits and neckties. By about 6:30 or 7 p,m,, the pickup would ease down the narrow driveway to take him to his “part-time job.”

 

Sometimes momma would wake me up about 2:30 or 3 am, so I would be waiting for daddy to come home from work. The headlight beams would dance down the narrow driveway and in a few minutes I would smell the aroma from a box of a dozen Dunkin’ Donuts, which daddy usually would stop and pickup on the way home.

 

Daddy did make a lot of money. But, he met himself coming and going.

 

Daddy always had “a wad of bills” rolled tightly that looked like a short, fat, pill bottle, with a rubber band around them that he carried in his front jeans pocket. In addition, to the roll of bills in his front pocket, he always had several bills in his wallet.

 

The roll of bills was one of those “Games Of Life” that when you take it out to pay a bill, people notice and they just naturally assume you are some kind of financial genius.

 

The stated “Big Picture” was daddy and momma were working to build their “Dream Home” on land momma bought in 1938, near her mother and father.

 

The Coffee Service

 

Daddy told me he offered the coffee service in his shop “at the plant.”

 

From 1960 until his death in 1978, daddy always made two trips a year to Missouri. One vacation trip always came for the Fourth of July. The second vacation trip depended on the vacation schedule at Cameron’s, which meant his two weeks began either at Thanksgiving or Christmas.

 

Whenever he came to Missouri, he would stock up on three-pound cans of Folgers coffee. He said it was cheaper to buy the coffee in Missouri. About once a year, he would buy a huge coffee pot that could make about 50 cups of coffee. Daddy wasn’t a shopper. He went into a store, picked up what he needed and paid the cashier at the checkout register.

 

However, if Sammy walked past Craftsman tools, he would stop and browse slowly at all the tools. Daddy loved Craftsman tools and bought all kinds of Craftsman wrenches, vise grips and other tools.

 

One trip each year, daddy would “shop” for a new coffee pot to take “to the plant.” He would shop around at the different stores and compare the features of the coffee pots.

 

I have, no doubt, there are people who bought bass boats with less research than daddy put into buying the right coffee pot. Despite his dedicated “shopping around for the right coffee pot”, he always ended up with the same type. And, he would buy a huge cardboard box full of Styrofoam cups to take back to Texas.

 

I remember the huge coffee pots because their shiny silver cylindrical design made them look like huge vacuum tubes that went into the back of a radio.

 

I get to the plant in the morning and I make the coffee for the shop. I have a coffee can with a slit in the lid. The guys know that coffee is 25 cents a cup. They put a quarter in the can. If they don’t have a quarter, then, they put in some change. I don’t really worry about it because the guys are honest. At the end of the week, I take the coffee can of coins home. Monday morning I always bring in a new empty coffee can for that week’s coins,” said Daddy,

 

In 1978, daddy was suppose to leave at the end of June for his Fourth of July trip to Missouri. He never arrived. The Houston Police Department notified momma of daddy’s death at home.

 

A few days after daddy’s funeral, momma and I made the trip to Houston. We found Folgers coffee cans stored in rooms around the house. Each can was filled to the plastic lid with mixed change from pennies to half dollars and a few silver dollars. The cans all had coins and none of the coins had been wrapped.

 

Momma asked Wanda Brinkley, a next door neighbor for help in wrapping the coins. Wanda had momma take the coins next door to her mom and dad’s house, Mr. and Mrs. Pete Pippins. Momma ordered the pizzas.

 

All day until after midnight, Momma, Wanda, Mr and Mrs Pete and I wrapped coins. Wanda’s two daughters, Donna and Debbie also joined the coin wrapping adventure. At this point in US history, American banks did not accept coins unless they were wrapped in bank wrappers.

 

Using the bank coin wrappers that daddy had on hand and some of the wrappers that Wanda had, we all wrapped coins all day and until well past midnight, It was after 2 am, when we finished.

 

Bank Robbery ?

 

The next day, Wanda, Momma and I went to the drive thru lane of the local Reagan State Bank. Wanda would put about 10 rolls of coins at a time up to the drive thru teller’s window.

 

You have a lot of coins,” remarked the teller.

 

My husband, Sammy had the coffee concession where he worked. He died recently. We just discovered, he never wrapped any of the coins from the coffee fund,” explained Momma.

 

The teller nodded. A bank guard showed up with a dolly. The teller seemed to slow,at one point, in tallying the amount of coins. We sat in the car at the drive thru for a couple of hours.

 

After about an hour, the bank guard emerged from a side door with the rolls of coins in the familiar purple bank sacks stacked neatly on the dolly. He pushed the dolly slowly across the several lanes of the drive thru into the rear entrance of the main bank.

 

The bank guard made about four more trips with his dolly from the drive thru to the bank.

 

A couple of days later Wanda spoke to a friend, who worked at the bank. The friend had heard about all those sacks of coins that came through the drive thru. The friend laughed and told Wanda it was not uncommon for people to drop of rolls of coins at the drive thru and she told Wanda the rest of the story.

 

Then, Wanda Brinkley, telephoned momma.

 

When we dropped those coins off at the bank. The bank got worried and called the local office of the FBI. They told the FBI why they were calling and asked the bureau to check for recent bank robberies because they could not believe that anyone would save that amount of coins.  

 

      FBI LOGO_resizedWhile we were waiting in the drive thru lane and the teller seemed to be taking the time tallying up the coins, they were waiting for a call back from the FBI to tell them if there were any reports of bank robberies where a large amount of coins had been taken,” Wanda explained and laughed.

 

We wrapped about 20 three-pound coffee cans of coins to take to the bank. Momma also brought about 10 cans of unwrapped coins with her back to Missouri. It was two or three years before I ever wanted to wrap rolls of pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters,half dollars and silver dollars.

 

My father died at age 52. The Harris County, Texas Corner’s Report listed the cause of death as a “possible ‘double heart attack.’” Daddy had literally “worked himself to death” through the years.

 

Momma’s Big Picture Financial Reality

 

 

Momma would never be a “Victim Of A Global Financial Crisis.” She had a poor childhood and realized ”Money Has To Be Managed.”

 

Momma always put aside a few dollars to have when she needed it. “Save” wasn’t a word, it was a philosophy and a way of life.

 

People would tease my mother that she probably had the “First Dollar” she ever earned. Momma would smile and shrug off the comment.

 

Opal M. DeLong Warren was “never broke.” Maybe, she didn’t have a lot of money in her wallet or handbag, but, Momma was “never broke” financially.       

 

Momma loved to remind me “I bought the first car, your daddy and I ever owned. And, I paid cash for it. I bought the first home, your daddy and I ever owned. I bought the land in Missouri, under my own name with my own money, before I ever met your daddy.”     

 

All the claims were true statements. Momma’s message was not that she was a Green Christmas Photo 3 by Samuel E. Warren Jr.suffragette or a women’s libber, but that she knew “How To Spend And Save Her Money.”

 

Opal M. DeLong Warren is the woman, who went to the Reagan State Bank in Houston and arranged for the money to “buy the home in Houston at 313 East 26th Street.”

 

Stubborn Sammy

 

During World War II, US Army doctors had told daddy that he had contracted “malaria in the Philippines.” In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the Veterans’ Administration wasn’t always able to convince Congress to provide medical care and decent pensions to veterans.

 

In the early 1950s, momma found out that daddy was eligible for VA medical care payments thanks to the hard-nosed efforts of Texas Congressman and Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Sam Rayburn.

 

Daddy told Momma, Uncle Sam had sent him into World War II and, “I don’t want nothing else to do with the ‘Damn Government.’”

 

Momma reminded Daddy that some days it seemed difficult for him to get out of bed to go to work. Grudgingly, Daddy did the paperwork and accepted “Uncle Sam’s Official Help”, which didn’t last that long. By then, daddy’s health had improved and he did go to work everyday.

 

Momma The Family Banker

 

Martha Lou Marcum DeLong, my grandmother, kept her coins in a coin purse and her dollar bills in a sugar bowl in a plain white dish cabinet in the living room.

 

Everyone knew Grandma DeLong had worked hard all her life, but, Missouri’s “old age pension” provided her the money to live out her senior citizen years.

 

Opal M. DeLong Warren had the reputation in the DeLong Family, Stone County, Missouri, Upshur County, Texas and among neighbors in Harris County – Houston, Texas of “Saving For A Rainy Day.”

 

The Burial And The Banker

 

When daddy died in Texas, I asked momma if we could bring his body back to Missouri for burial. I went to the bank with momma. She told the banker, “I need money to bring my husband’s body back to Missouri for burial. I don’t know, when or how I will pay you. But, you will get your money back.” I watched momma tell the banker those words.

 

In the 21st Century, most bankers would find a polite way to show the widow to the door out of their office.

 

In 1978, the banker nodded, “Okay, Opal. When you know how much you need for sure, let me know. You’ll get the money,” I heard the banker tell momma.

 

I was already a college student, so I was impressed that a banker would listen to a widow without demanding various forms of collateral.

 

The banker was not going out on a limb. He knew momma owned her “80 acres” of land and owned the other “10 acres” of land that she lived on. He knew she still “owned her home in Houston, Texas.”

 

The banker wasn’t gambling; he was investing.

 

The worst case scenario would be the bank would end up with Missouri real estate and maybe Texas real estate. Real estate in a city is usually more valuable than farm real estate,

 

In the late 1970s and early 1980s there was an active real estate market in Missouri and Texas.

 

But, everyone from Stone County, Missouri throughout southwest Missouri knew “Opal Warren always pays her bills.”

 

Samuel E. Warren was laid to rest in Yocum Pond Cemetery, near Reeds Spring Missouri. The financial cost of moving daddy’s body from Texas to Missouri was $7,000. The bank let momma borrow the money. Momma paid the bank off ahead of time.

 

Momma used money she already had saved for the associated funeral expenses and the double headstone. Uncle Sam provided the “foot marker” that was placed at daddy’s grave.

 

Save And Manage Your Money

 

Through the years, relatives would have financial issues come up in their lives. When they had no one to turn to, they would turn to “Opal.”

 

If a relative was out to buy a big screen TV, then, they were on their own.

 

But, if it was a valid emergency like a mortgage, insurance, food for their kids or medical bills then momma would “loan” the money. A few of my relatives paid Momma back. The majority did not.

 

Momma had a better financial plan than daddy. Momma never invested in the stock market. I had the debate with her several times and she always told me, “Son, I hang on to my money.”

 

Momma quit farming around 1982. The only “risky investment,” momma ever made, other than her son, was in Land.

 

Land That Pays For Itself

 

But, she always said, “Invest in Land, that will pay for itself.” Her Land did pay for itself because she “rented the pasture to other farmers for their cattle to graze on” and “loggers would cut some trees off the Land every three or four years for lumber.”

 

The Other Land

Through the years, momma would tell me that people had called her and tried to sell her land in Galena or elsewhere in southwest Missouri. I asked momma why she passed on the offers.

 

I have the land I want. The land I have been offered isn’t land I would want to buy at any price,” Momma would answer. Momma lived on one parcel of land. She could open her front door and look across the road to see the land that she had bought back in the 1930s.

 

Momma is one of the few people in the world, I know of, where bankers would call her and try to persuade her to move her money to their bank. She would smile, “The Bank Of Crane has always done right by me. Until something changes, I will stay with my bank.”

 

At age 84, momma left “The Real World” in 2004. She had a double wide home that had central heating and air conditioning. She never went hungry and there was always food in the ice box and the pantry. She always had her coffee and cigarettes. When she went to the doctor or the hospital, she could always pay her medical bills.

 

Momma’s Financial Secret, “She Learned To Save Money And Manage Her Money.”

 

Momma and daddy made sure I always had a wonderful Christmas. I got enough toys to outfit a museum.

 

I was an “Only Child”, which meant I had to play by myself most of the time, but, I had a huge wooden toy box in the garage full of toys to choose from each day.

 

In Missouri, every other weekend or so, my Cousin Donna would be at Grandma DeLong’s and Uncle Richard’s. I would of brought toys with me or we would go off in the woods to play. In Missouri, the toys were in a big cardboard box in the garage.

 

Samuel E. Warren Jr., the senior citizen, realizes now, Momma’s ability to always put “The Green In My Christmas” came from her daily financial sense of saving and managing her money. Thanks to my mother, “My Merry Christmas” was always “A Green Christmas.”

 

Merry Christmas, Momma .”

GREEN CHRISTMAS LEAD PHOTO_Nikon D 70 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Written by samwarren55

December 20, 2012 at 1:53 AM

Posted in Bloggers, Blogs, Business, Current Events, Ecology, Family, Holidays, Money, Observances, Stone County History

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Uncle Richard’s Mission: Memorial Day

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Uncle Richard’s Mission :

Memorial Day

by Junior Warren

Richard Branford DeLong, a Stone County, Missouri farmer worked hard all his life trying to raise cattle, hogs, chickens, wool goats and hair goats on the rocky southwest Missouri soil.

Mother Nature never seemed to have any second thoughts about manipulation of weather to do “the exact opposite” of what local farmers needed to survive year after year.

Born January 10, at the beginning of the 20th Century, astrologers would be inclined to classify his life the embodiment of “The Stereotypical Capricorn,” because his struggle to survive on the land seems to have begun almost as soon as e left the womb.

Covered Wagon to Stone County

He entered this life in Versailles, Missouri. By the age of seven, his father Charles “Charley” Hermann DeLong, loaded his wife in a covered wagon and made the trip to southern Stone County. The first homestead was set up in the hills and hollers around Reeds Spring, Missouri.

The mythic Capricorn “curse” (or blessing) of “earth” would ensure that Richard would always be involved in “agriculture” and trying to work the “real estate” – to make a living. As a young man, he and his mother, Martha Lou DeLong would at times sit upon a buckboard and go into the woods. Grandma DeLong had told me as a child, at times, “Richard and I would spend two weeks in the woods cutting down trees for ties to sell to the Union Pacific railroad for a few dollars.”

Richard DeLong had one girlfriend in youth, and the “family story” always remarked, “she ran off and married another man.” He never had another girlfriend, but he worked the land. Somewhere in his youth, he accepted a unique responsibility.

Richard B. DeLong became a grave digger.

Grave Digger

In the days, before the invention and common use of the backhoe, local men and boys would from time to time find it necessary to help out neighbors by digging graves. Yocum Pond Cemetery, in pictures from the era, was simply farm pasture on a hill above Reeds Spring that families used to bury their loved ones. The responsibility for the care and maintenance of the graves of loved ones belonged to the individual families.

Around the 1930s, the DeLong family moved to northern Stone County and homesteaded a piece of land about three miles from Galena, the county seat. Richard farmed the 160 acres that his mother and father owned and he brought 80 acres that joined their land to farm.

Richard’s brother, Willie had a reputation as an outdoors man, who hunted, trapped and fished for a living. His brother, Hobert , also a farmer, had a reputation as a marksman and successful local hunter. And, Richard’s sister, Opal went from being a World War II shipyard welder to being a local farmer.

Richard stayed the course and farmed the family farm. His idea of entertainment started with going to the Ozark Sale Barn on Mondays about once a month. He enjoyed watching wrestling on the small black and white television. And, on some Thursday evenings, he would go to Play Nights at the Coon Ridge Saddle Club Arena to watch local horsemen and horsewomen train for upcoming rodeos and horse shows. Uncle Richard always made time for the meticulous care of the family graves.

Yocum Pond Passion

If we all have a mission in life, then, Richard DeLong took up the banner to make Memorial Day his life’s mission. His campaign was to make sure the family graves were always immaculate and to teach nieces and nephews respect, and protocol to be observed in the cemetery and to pass on the Memorial Day tradition.

Earl DeLong's headstone - When he died in the 1930's, the story told in the family is, Springfield relatives claimed to be unable to pay for his burial in the city or Greene County. They asked relatives in Stone County to bury "Uncle Earl" in Yocum Pond. Photo by Junior Warren

Once or twice a year he would take the “pig trails” of country roads like Bass Hollow to drive the old black 1952 GMC along the back roads to Yocum Pond. At the pole and woven wire gate, he would stop and shovel “fresh dirt” into the pickup bed and then drive out to the family graves. Any grave that had “settled,” meant that it was “sunken in” and required fresh shovels full of topsoil to restore the peaceful appearance of an earthen blanket to the grave.

While he always made the periodic maintenance visits, his personal protocol meant a week before “Memorial Day,” Richard DeLong would be at the cemetery making sure the graves reflected the love and care of the family grave sites

In the years before the invention of weed eaters, Richard DeLong would get on his knees next to a headstone and use his pocket knife to remove weeds from around the stones. Then, whether it was the cylindrical S blade push mower or the gasoline powered push lawn mower, he would mow around each of the tombstones.

When he was done you would have to read the date on the tombstones to know how long the graves had been there. On one trip, with Uncle Richard to the cemetery, we even used dirt to “fill in” some nearby neighbor’s graves because “they have no living kin to look after their graves,” Uncle Richard explained to me.

Sister, Opal M. DeLong Warren had acquired the responsibility for providing “the flowers for the stones” for Memorial Day.

Memorial Day for Richard DeLong was never put flowers on the stones and leave. For Richard DeLong, it was the World Series, the Super Bowl and Christmas Day rolled into one major event.

Cemetery Command

After breakfast, the old GMC pickup, with the worn out shock absorbers, would bounce up and down the gravel county back roads to Yocum Pond. When Richard DeLong was “on scene” at the Yocum Pond Cemetery, he was in charge. All the nieces and nephews knew the rules of Uncle Richard’s Cemetery Command. He had drill the proper protocol into us from the earliest of ages.

Dressed in his new overalls, he would conduct his own final “white glove inspection” of the family graves to make sure they were all ship shape. Any of the nieces or nephews, who ever went with Uncle Richard to the cemetery knew that he didn’t want anyone to find fault or make any negative comments about the appearance of any of the DeLong graves. Like a “First Shirt,” he would make sure by Memorial Day the graves were immaculate in their appearance.

Pass In Review

The morning of Memorial Day, Richard DeLong would rush through his daily livestock chores to be “on scene” at the cemetery as the sun rose over the horizon.

Richard DeLong always loved to “visit” with his neighbors. In the 1960s, Yocum Pond Cemetery families did not “rush” through placing wreaths and flowers on the graves. People would place the flowers and step back and look at the stones. They would step back look at the dates and glance at the stones around the headstone they were looking at. People would converse about their buried family members, recall or ask about the “day of the funeral.” Visitors would try to remember or decide if nearby graves were those of distant relatives or friends.

Memorial Day festivities at Yocum Pond in the 1960s was more like those of air show attendees. People would comment on the colors and styles of the headstones. They would look at the headstones and make comments about any graphics on the stones like a Masonic emblem. People would read the inscriptions on the stones. Some headstones were literally stones with dates carved in them because the families simply could not afford more expensive headstones. Richard DeLong was aware how closely people looked at the individual graves because he did the same thing. Thus, for a visitor to do a “pass in review” of any of the DeLong graves; those graves were expected to show the care and concern of the living for the deceased.

The Library of Congress in overalls

Richard DeLong was “The Library of Congress in overalls,” because of the wealth of information that he had gained through the years of being one of the grave diggers. People who had questions about graves actively sought out Uncle Richard. Richard having been involved in so many of the burials is why family members would look for him at the cemetery

When it came to the details of a grave, the funeral and the burial, Richard DeLong was the “walking, talking graves registration office.” Like a mortician, he could recall details from the days of the funeral and sometimes even the weather of the day. Graves with missing markers, headstones or that had never had a headstone would be a complete mystery to family members who would arrive for Memorial Day from another state. Richard DeLong had an infallible memory on “who was buried in what grave.”

It had not been uncommon in childhood to witness “strangers” and “visitors” from other states who would drive up the gravel driveway to Grandma and Uncle Richard’s house a few days before Memorial Day. Whether the visitors sit out “on the porch” or “sat at the kitchen table,” Richard DeLong would answer their questions about the graves and recount what he had remembered about the burials. Few were the instances, when Uncle Richard didn’t have any information about a grave at Yocum Pond Cemetery

Usually a day or two, before Memorial Day, Uncle Richard would spend a few hours at the cemetery, in case, loved ones from another state showed up to inquire about “forgotten” or “lost graves.” To Richard DeLong there was no reason for an “unknown” grave in Yocum Pond.

Whenever I or Cousin Donna went with Uncle Richard to Yocum Pond, you could seldom walk past a grave that he did not have a story to share about the person or their grave.

The Charles Herman and Martha Lou DeLong family in Stone County had always observed “Decoration Day.” When Earl DeLong died in Springfield, Missouri, the story was that relatives could not afford to bury him, so he was buried in Yocum Pond to be looked after by the DeLongs in Stone County. “Uncle Earl” still sleeps among his Stone County relatives.

May 30 Is Memorial Day – Always

The DeLong family held to the passionate belief of the “Traditional Memorial Day of May 30.”

Memorial Day at Yocum Pond Cemetery always arrived like a ticker tape parade through the streets of New York City. Once family members arrived, Uncle Richard would pass among the stones like a general on a formal inspection tour.

Operational Readiness Inspection

Strategic Air Command’s Operational Readiness Inspection meant the base and personnel had to be ready to support the B-52 Stratofortresses and the KC-135 Stratotankers to ensure the aircraft could carry out the mission. Of course, SAC Intercontinental Ballistic Missle bases had to be sure their ICBMs would reach their targets to pass a SAC ORI. Richard DeLong would have been an excellent inspector.

At the cemetery, on Memorial Day, he would look carefully at the headstones and the graves. No detail went unnoticed. His smile or a nod of his head meant that Uncle Richard was pleased with the floral arrangements.

Once Uncle Richard was pleased with the DeLong graves, he would move on to look at the graves and flowers placed on the headstones of friends. He would spend the entire day walking around the graves on both sides and in the back of the cemetery No detail ever seemed to go unnoticed.

The Traditional Memorial Day Debrief

Upon leaving Yocum Pond, momma and I would always stop at Pop’s Dari Dell in Reeds Spring, Missouri. I’d get a thick, juicy hamburger and momma loved their foot long hot dogs and their thick vanilla malts. Before going home, we would stop at Grandma and Uncle Richard’s. Uncle Richard would of spent the whole day at the cemetery He would have comments about various headstones, graves and the flowers. His observations always made for a detailed situation report of the day’s activities.

The Richard DeLong Cemetery Code Of Conduct

Going to the cemetery with Uncle Richard before Memorial Day was like being the executive officer on the staff of a four star general – everything had to be meticulous and correct. If you weren’t a nervous wreck before going to the cemetery you would be a babbling bundle of nerves afterward.

A lifetime of care and respect for family graves had given Uncle Richard a Code Of Conduct and a sense of protocol that would make a Department of State foreign service career diplomat nervous and a United States Ambassador anxious in Uncle Richard’s company.

  1. Children never ever ran in the cemetery – especially if their last name was DeLong or Warren.
  2. Always watch were you step. Uncle Richard repeated this rule to Cousin Donna and I, so many times through the years, that in 2011 – as a senior citizen myself – I still look down at my feet to watch where I step. To say I am careful, where I step is an understatement. I walk around graves like a nervous private in a minefield.
  3. Proper, respectful conduct in the cemetery was never demanded – it was simply expected Nieces and nephews had been drilled in Uncle Richard’s version of boot camp from an early age, so by our teenage years, we had earned our “stripes” and knew what was expected..

Richard DeLong never served in the military. His draft card showed that he did not pass the physical requirements. But, he had a sense of order, discipline and devotion worthy of a military commander. And, his ability to instill the Memorial Day tradition in his nieces and nephews were equal to those of any professional military historian.

Uncle Richard, the farmer, passed on a legacy of respect, protocol, and admiration for those who have lived before. His passionate devotion to the maintenance of the graves were a testament of respect to the sacrifices of civilians and veterans, who are remembered in the sheen of the flowers on the monuments and the subtle movements of the small American flags waving upon the graves.

Like General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, when the career of earthly campaigns ended – Richard DeLong faded away.

Richard B. DeLong's monument in Yocum Pond

“Farewell”

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