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Heather Gates - HG 1 - In the Beginning

Updated on March 27, 2018
Homeplace Series profile image

Dr. Bill's first passion is family history. His second is a passion for creating family saga, historical fiction stories that share it.

The setting for our stories

A valley in the Southern Missouri Ozarks
A valley in the Southern Missouri Ozarks

Introduction 1 of 5

Heather Gates was a child in “Back to the Homeplace,” the first novel in The Homeplace Saga, of which this series is another part. Heather was born on June 30, 1981, in Jackson, Mississippi. She first appeared in Oak Springs, Missouri, with her 8-year-old brother, Scott, and her parents, Paul and Beverly (Bevins) Gates, at age 5 1/2, in February 1987. The mother of Beverly, the widow, Mildred (McDonald) Bevins, had passed away the previous fall and left a very unusual video will (which is the premise at the heart of that first novel). The Bevins farm located a few miles to the east of Oak Springs, in the Oak Creek Valley of the Southern Missouri Ozark Mountains, now consisted of several hundred acres. It was a Century farm, having been in the McDonald family since first settlement of the valley in 1833. Mildred did not want to see the farm broken up among her descendants but kept together as one entity for generations into the future. The scheme, if one chose to call it that, and Beverly did, including requiring each of Bevins four children, Karen, Beverly, Bart and Peter, to commit to come “Back to the Homeplace” for at least two years in order for them (and/or their descendants) to be entitled to any inheritance related to the farm at all. The Bevins Trust was set up to facilitate that process.

To everyone’s surprised, each of the four children, now adults with lives of their own, took up the challenge and converged on The Homeplace for the two year commitment, in early February 1987, to begin “serving their time.” Further details of the impact of these decisions will be shared in upcoming Episodes here in the introductions to each. Based on her personal history and personality, within a few months, Beverly had managed to “arrange” a return to Jackson, a divorce and a new life away from the farm she had grown up on and “escaped” once before, right after high school graduation in Oak Springs. More on these details will be shared as these episodes progress. Paul, Heather and Scott, however, fell in love with the rural setting and made it their permanent home, as we will see. Under agreements worked out with The Bevins Trust, in order for Beverly’s children, Heather and Scott, to receive their inheritance, Paul and the children were allocated a piece of land that they were to work to demonstrate their commitment to the land and the family trust. [Sheila Gates, the young adult daughter of Paul Gates by a prior marriage, had also come to Oak Springs in early 1987 with the family. More on her in a later Introduction in this series.]

Oak Creek, a western (fictional) tributary of the Current River, entered the Oak Creek valley from the north near the eastern edge of the valley, cascaded over a falls on a ridge, turned east again from the falls pool, ran a couple of miles past the original McDonald settlement area, then turned south again exiting the valley. At the falls, for many of the early years of the valley settlement, there was a combined grist and saw mill. As a mechanical engineer, Paul Gates felt that he could revive the Mill and surrounding land into a viable tourist attraction. Rural tourism was a new industry nationally, and he felt this setting was ripe for development. The Bevins Trust, under the guidance of attorney, Carter Ogden, banker, Harry Flanders, and the Trustees

agreed to support the endeavor under the Trust guidelines. Finally, within a quarter mile of the old mill, to the west, on the ridge was an abandoned house, the old Carsten place. Within a year or so of arrival, Paul had made the Carsten Cottage, as they called it, livable for himself and his children.

Heather loved to work with the horses

This barn is on the back of each novel in "The Homeplace Saga" series of family saga, historical fiction stories
This barn is on the back of each novel in "The Homeplace Saga" series of family saga, historical fiction stories

Nine years passed by, and we pick up the story of Heather Gates at 15.

[As found in the novel, “The Homeplace Revisited,” early August 1996…] Paul, Heather, and Scott Gates continue to live in the Carsten Cottage on the ridge in the eastern Oak Creek valley, near the Oak Creek Mill & Mill Market, which they still refer to, to each other, as “the mill.” That “mill,” now fully restored and a regional tourist attraction, consisted of two full stories plus activity areas on the grounds surrounding the property. The “Mill Market” was set up in half of the lower floor of the building. Many of the local products for sale on display were consignment items created by local farmers and crafters in the area in addition to the purchased stock. The various tour options available each ended at the Mill Market, of course, where the restrooms were also strategically located. The area around the mill now included ponds, nature trails, an orchard, bird-watching stations and more. Each led conveniently back through the Mill Market where snacks and souvenirs were always available. Heather and Scott, of course, had grown up with the mill operation, along side their father, Paul, so it was like home to them. They continued to work there part-time, help out as useful, along with their school and other activities. Heather would be a sophomore at Oak Springs High School in the fall.

In addition to becoming a community leader, and now a Trustee of The Bevins Trust, Paul was also a local pioneer in the use of a web site to draw customers to his business from around the region, for hundreds of miles. Fewer than ten businesses in the whole area were making use of the World Wide Web in their businesses, but those who were had recently been talking about the need for better Internet access in the community.

Scott had graduated from Oak Springs High School in May of 1995. He had then attended the Farm Operations program at Ozarks Community College during the 1995-1996 school year. The College was located northwest of Oak Springs on the ridge near the west end of the valley, so he had been able to continue to live at home. He had become a dedicated farmer, working closely with his uncle, Bart Bevins, on The Bevins Trust extensive farm land. He also worked closely with Paul in developing the orchards and grounds near the mill that had become a part of the attraction for visitors. They planned to continue to develop that asset for the mill into the future.

Another view of a valley in the Southern Missouri Ozarks

A valley much like the Oak Creek valley
A valley much like the Oak Creek valley

Heather became an active young woman

Heather had a normal, wholesome childhood for being part of a broken family home. Paul was a caring, a loving father. Paul and Beverly maintained a close, friendly relationship though divorced and separated by several states. Beverly could simply not bring herself to live in the environment in which she was born and raised. Back in Jackson, she had remarried after a few years. Both Heather and Scott had visited her there regularly over the years. The only time Beverly had returned to Oak Springs was to attend the high school graduation of her son, Scott, in 1995. She had only stayed two days and returned to Jackson.

Heather enjoyed working in the mill part-time. She had expressed interest in learning the business side of the operation in addition to the retail side which came natural to her as she grew up with it. Heather was a good student in school. However, she really enjoyed being outdoors, around the mill, and around other of the Bevins properties in the valley. She had discovered the previous summer what was really becoming her favorite activity - being around the horses at the Bevins Stables and Trail Rides facilities run by her aunt, Diane (Spencer) Bevins (wife of Bart). (continued in Episode HG2)

Author’s Note

This series of stories in the life of Heather Gates, a fictional character in The Homeplace Saga series of family saga, historical fiction stories (home blog found at thehomeplaceseries dot blogspot dot com), is being created as a way to use a minor character in the early writings to expand those stories and share details omitted in those earlier writings within the original overarching themes. These newly included details may have been left out of the earlier stories through editing or they may seemed unrelated to central themes at the time. With the expansion of the entire Saga, over the years, it has become obvious that filling in some of the gaps in the story for overall better understanding of the individuals, their families, and their interactions would be useful to The Homeplace Saga body of work in total.

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    • Homeplace Series profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      16 months ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you for your visit and comment, Larry. Always nice to have you stop by. ;-)

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      16 months ago from Oklahoma

      Always interesting.

    • Homeplace Series profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      16 months ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you, Dora. The Homeplace Saga stories have expanded far beyond what I ever expected, but I am very proud of the overall family stories included therein. Novels, novellas, and hundreds of short stories. Who knew?! And, there are still more stories to tell! ;-)

    • CaribTales profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      16 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for another pleasant read. The author's note is especially interesting to me, because it states the purpose of this new story: "created as a way to use a minor character in the early writings to expand those stories." I can learn from this.

    • Homeplace Series profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      16 months ago from Hollister, MO

      You are too kind. Thank you. I do enjoy sharing my 'well-organized' stories. ;-)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Your series is wonderful writing, but I marvel at your organization skills. To keep track of it all is amazing...I bow in your direction!


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