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Brammers' Mountain Menagerie
In the Boston Mountain foothills of the Ozarks', local residents just called the place Brammer’s Farm. Outsiders would have called it Brammer’s Menagerie. On his sprawling ranch in Lancaster Township of Crawford County Arkansas, were domestic as well as exotic animals.
Apparently Old Man Brammer had a penchant for collecting animals. He had a Brahma bull, black bear, buffalo, peacocks, alpacas and all types of caged chickens and rabbits. These were in addition to his cattle and horses with representatives of numerous kinds. There were also a few boa constrictors, a black panther and a wild cat. These he also kept caged.
Scenic Mountain Valley
My grandparents, who for some reason, considered Harlan Brammer a good friend, lived about a half mile down the old country dirt road from his place. I spent part of my childhood growing up on that scenic mountain overlooking a valley and creek with Harlan’s cattle grazing in his pastures below. It was a painting reminiscent of a “Norman Rockwell” creation.
Unfortunately, today the peaceful scene has been marred with construction of interstate overpasses. Community residents didn’t want them there, but in the name of progress they were built anyway.
A Real Penny Pincher
But I digress. Adults in the community didn’t seem to know why Harlan wanted to keep so many different species of animals unless he was trying to build a zoo. But I, my brothers and other youngsters in the area did. The man was a penny pincher. He’d do anything to make a dollar. Harlan always had some entrepreneurial scheme in the works. If he couldn’t get rich with one big enterprise, he’d do it with a lot of smaller ones.
It was mostly children who were interested in his menagerie, although it did attract some tourist traffic by word of mouth. People who came to see his animals were charged 50 cents each. Back in those days that was a lot to a kid. But we broke open our piggy banks and gave him his admission fee anyway. The 50 cents came nowhere near covering the cost of caring for the animals but Harlan figured every little bit helped.
I never knew Old Man Brammer to be poor. He was simply cheap. Most of his money was earned from his cattle and crops, but he had other things in the fire. He rented out his big red barn on weekends to local square dancing clubs and charged admission to boot. Of, course refreshments such as popcorn and sodas cost extra. Regardless, the dancers still had a good time as I watched many times. Yes, he tried to charge my brothers and me too, but grandpa reminded him we were his guests and merely spectators.
He also rented out some of his horses for horseback riding around the countryside. The fee was another 50 cents each per hour. Sometimes we felt cheated because his horses and pony’s had become lazy. It was a major project to get them to leave the luxury of their shaded barn and green pastures.
It wasn’t until after I had grown up I learned more things about Harlan’s greedy nature. I was told things about him by people who knew him well. For instance, apparently he taught agricultural courses somewhere in nearby Fort Smith and received some kind of government compensation for them. However, his students were never informed of that and were charged tuition fees.
Harlan had a few adult hired hands to help with all the chores on his place. But he also employed some of the older state foster children which kind local elderly couples had taken in...at reduced wages of course.
Although Harlan had faults, his menagerie and other farm attractions gave us many fond childhood memories. And those are worth a lot more than the 50 cents we invested.