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Heather Gates, Ep. HG 33, Heather Saw Spring Activities Fly Past

Updated on November 13, 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.

Heather and her friends enjoyed the Annual Alumni Basketball Game

An Alumni Basketball Game in Progress
An Alumni Basketball Game in Progress

March Was Filled With Activities

Tuesday, March 18, 1997, the day after St. Patrick’s Day, Heather and Jennifer were working together in the stable early in the morning. They had checked the vital signs of both Shadow and Sunshine. Jennifer said both were doing fine, and Shadow was only a couple of weeks away from giving birth to her foal, in her opinion. They would both be watching her closely. As they talked, Heather asked about the Annual St. Patrick’s Day Party at the Oak Springs Country Club that she knew Jennifer and Brian had attended. Jennifer said it was the first time either of them had attended, of course, but from talking to friends, it had been a very special event. Harry and Sarah Flanders chaired the arrangements committee this years and had somehow managed to get an authentic Irish Pipe Band from Houston to perform as the featured entertainment. She added that it was, indeed, a very special event.


The Oak Creek Mill and Mill Market resumed a full seven-day a week schedule for the 1997 season beginning on Monday, March 24. Hours were set as 10 am to 6 pm each day. The admission price for the Mill tour was the same as the prior year. Admission to the Mill Market was free, of course. Paul Gates had announced that the first full week, from March 24 through 30, would be an Area Appreciation promotion, with admission to the Mill Tour to be half-price and with special pricing on selected activities as well. He added that he was hoping for good weather so many folks in the local area would take advantage of this time to visit.


Heather, Kari and Karla attended the Annual Alumni Basketball Exhibition Game on Saturday night, March 29, at the Oak Springs High School Gymnasium. This was an annual event that many folks in the community enjoyed attending. It marked the end of the basketball season and all the proceeds of the game went to the High School Athletic Equipment Fund. The game each year featured an Oak Springs Alumni Basketball team versus the Oak Springs High School Boys Team that competed the past season. It has often been a competitive game in recent years. This year, the current boys pulled away at the end as the alumni seemed to tire, 65-55. The girls joined many friends at the Ice Cream Parlor after the game to relive the highlights in their conversations.

Conversations about the Alumni Game were many at the Ice Cream Parlor

The typical Ice Cream Parlor
The typical Ice Cream Parlor

New Opportunities Presented Themselves

Big Thunder Lodge announced, through both print and television presentations, that the lake that had previously been built near the lodge on Oak Creek had been drained, gradually, over about 60 days. This had been subject of news reports several months earlier. The lake had been replaced by a new, floatable stream bed that was dredged to follow closely the original path of Oak Creek past the lodge. Stream bed maintenance consultants were now supervising placement of rock along the creek to create the best float experience possible, through the lodge property. Working in cooperation with the State Department of Natural Resources, the National Forest Service, and local businesses in Oak Creek Township, preparations were continuing south down Oak Creek to create an extended float experience in coming months. It was noted that further announcements would follow as facilities work was being completed and made ready for public access.


Following the Big Thunder Lodge presentations, Jonathon Offutt, General Manager of Oak Creek Outfitters, announced the opening of their canoe and kayaking adventures on Oak Creek for the new year. The 1997 season would open on Monday, April 7, from the “bend of the creek” south of the Mill Pond, down Oak Creek, to the Oak Creek Outfitter facilities at the south township line. These services would be comparable to those available in 1996. He added that with the new agreement between his firm, Big Thunder Lodge, and the Oak Creek Mill and Mill Market, later in the year, Oak Creek would be available to float from the Big Thunder Lodge, in Dent County, south to just north of the Oak Creek Mill. When opened, portage would be available, if desired, off the ridge to restart the floats at the “bend of the creek” to continue south down Oak Creek. Details of this expanded operation would be announced at a later date.


When Heather returned from school to the stable on Tuesday afternoon, April 8th, she discovered that Shadow had given birth to her foal, with Jennifer in attendance. Jennifer had completed all the paperwork and Cletus had helped with the delivery and cleaning the stall after. He and Jennifer shared with Heather all that they had done. Heather hated not being physically present, but knew it was possible, and thanked both of her co-workers for sharing the experience with her. As they talked, Heather mentioned that they had recently had a horse training segment in her FFA class. This led to several questions and discussion about how Jennifer preferred to handle new foals. Diane joined them at that point and they talked a bit about that situation. They said there are different approaches, but both Diane and Jennifer preferred the ‘hands-on’ approach. They would spend more time with Heather teaching this approach, as this female foal progressed, and also to be ready for Sunshine’s foal to arrive.

New Float Opportunities were Announced for the New Season

A typical float scene
A typical float scene

More Announcements Kept Locals Involved in Activities

The Oak Springs Enterprise announced that they would sponsor publication of the “lost manuscript” of the Founding of Oak Springs. This manuscript was determined to have been prepared for the 1876 American Centennial in Oak Springs but was never published. Information on pre-ordering copies would be available a bit later. Dick Nixon, Editor and Publisher stated that this ‘historical treasure’ must be made available to community members and a wide audience outside the community. Penny Nixon, Associate Editor, who was credited with discovering the manuscript said she was very pleased that the Oak Springs Historical and Genealogical Society had initiated the request for historical information that led to the discovery. She challenged other community members to continue to seek and share information in their own family archives. [You, my readers, can take part in this effort at www dot patreon dot com slash HomeplaceSagas. Join us Today.]


Julie Barnes, Activities Director at the Big Thunder Lodge, announced a Spring Weekend promotion for the Lodge. Special room rates were available, she said, for the weekends of April 5-6, 12-13, and 18-19. Big Thunder Lodge, she added, was encouraging visits by the general public this year whereas in past years they had been primarily known for catering to Sportsmen Only. New management encouraged area residents to take advantage of a ‘getaway’ weekend at the lodge.

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 have 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. The first thirty episodes ran in parallel with the timeline of the “Christmas at the Homeplace” novel. This episode represents stories following the end of the novel. These will run in parallel, starting with January 1997, with stories previously published on the home blog that run monthly into early 1999. This provides the opportunity for new insights of events to be shared.

Video Book Trailer

Video Book Trailer

Video Book Trailer

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    • Homeplace Series profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      3 weeks ago from Hollister, MO

      Paul was doing well at the Mill, for sure, Dora. Thanks for the visit and your comments. We have some attraction doing Area Appreciation here in the Branson area practically every day!! ;-)

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      3 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      Area appreciation is appropriate for a community that is always buzzing with positive activity and togetherness.

      Good call by Paul Gates!

    • Homeplace Series profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      3 weeks ago from Hollister, MO

      We had snow flurries yesterday. We need hope, an escape! ;-)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      You're being cruel, writing about spring. lol The wind is howling right now.

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