Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Donald and Nora Pauline (Barke) Hair – Down on the Farm

“Don and Nora”, as they were frequently and affectionately called, were my adopted paternal grandparents. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my direct family lines consist of the Pounds and Slack surnames, however my Mother remarried and took the “Hair” name when I was four years old. I was legally adopted at age ten and have been a Hair ever since.

Donald Hair (b. Jun 23, 1911, d. Feb 23, 2002) and Nora Pauline Barke (b. Feb 26, 1915, d. 26 May 1993) were born, raised and lived their entire lives in the rural township of Billings, Missouri located in the western Christian County. Don was the son of Evert Lee Hair (b. Jul 13, 1889, d. Aug 8, 1987) and Bessie Pearle Steele (b. Sep 5, 1888, d. Jan 2, 1921). Nora was the daughter of Fredrick Otto Barke (b. Aug 27, 1874, d. Feb 27 1953) and Emma Schultz (b. Sep 14, 1877, d. Aug 21 1960).

Don and Nora were married on January 14, 1935 and spent their lives raising their family and farming 420 acres of land south of Billings. Their house (see photo above) was built by Nora’s father, Fredrick Barke sometime before their marriage, and was expanded at some point following 1935. The house was originally built as quarters for Frederick’s farm hands.

Don was a tall, slender, fun-loving person who didn’t typically say much, but when he did, a joke or one-liner usually followed. I have been told by my Dad that he was also a pretty good pitcher on his “town ball” team in his youth. With the right coaching and an opportunity, he could have become a professional baseball player. He also loved to play pinochle, dominoes and checkers. When asked what he was up to, he would invariably reply with “oh, just runnin’ up and down the road”. That was Don.

Nora was a quiet and patient person as well as a great cook. I recall her homemade rhubarb, blackberry and peach cobblers (or whatever was in season) and homemade cornbread with fondness. In fact, she used to make cornbread every night in cast iron molds shaped like ears of corn. I have always associated a meal on “the farm” with those cob-shaped pieces of corn bread. I was also fascinated by the “root cellar” under the house. That’s where Nora stored all the canned items she prepared for the winter to include pickled beets, blackberries, green beans, corn, and suckers--a bottom feeding fish common in the streams and lakes of the Ozarks.

My earliest memory of Don and Nora was driving up to their farm house one warm summer day in what I believe was 1965. I would have been 4 years old at the time, but I clearly remember the occasion, because it involved a bottle of Coca-Cola. Don was trying to fix a piece of farm machinery outside their house while Nora looked on, holding a cold bottle of Coke. For whatever reason, the machine had a stubborn component that was stuck and wouldn’t budge. My Dad and Don oiled and banged on it to no avail until Nora decided to pour the contents of her coke over the immovable piece. That seemed to do the trick as the farm implement sprang to life. Everyone was happy at the outcome, but I couldn’t comprehend why anyone would waste a perfectly good Coca-Cola!

Growing up, I recall many adventures “down on the farm” to include baling hay in the summer, hunting rabbits and squirrels, exploring the woods on their property and riding Don’s tractors including the 1949-era Oliver Model Row Crop “66” (shown above) that still runs.  I wasn’t much of a farmer, but spending time with Don and Nora gave me a solid appreciation for the rich and challenging lives of the small farmer of Southwest Missouri.

Unfortunately, I have been unable to find an obituary for Nora, but Don’s obituary from the Springfield News-Leader, February 25, 2002 adds more background on their lives and family: 

Donald Hair, 90, Billings, Mo., passed away Friday, February 22, 2002, in his home. Donald was a long-standing member of St. Peter’s Church in Billings. He resided in the Billings area his entire life, where he made his living as a farmer. He served as Road Commissioner and on the Billings School Board. He was also involved in various farming organizations. Donald’s fellowship will be missed by family and friends alike. He loved to fish, play games and spend time with his family. He was preceded in death by his wife, Nora (Barke) Hair; a son, William; parents Evert and Bessie (Steele) Hair; and two brothers, Richard and Howard Hair. Donald is survived by his two sons, James D. Hair and Jerry W. Hair, both of Springfield, Mo.; a sister, Emma Lou Barnett; and a brother, Evert Lee Hair, both of Billings. He is also survived by five grandchildren and four great-grand- children. Funeral services will be at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 27, 2002, in Meadors Funeral Homes, Billings, with Pastor Doug Burwick officiating. Burial will be in St. Peter’s Cemetery, Billings. The Billings Chapel will be open Tuesday, with visitation from 7 to 8 p.m.

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