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The Kings of Oak Springs - Episode 48 - Kent King’s 16th Birthday Celebration/Tragedy

Updated on November 18, 2017
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Dr. Bill's first passion is family history. His second is a passion for creating family saga, historical fiction stories that share it.

The creek was running over its banks

Fast moving water in the creek
Fast moving water in the creek

They enjoyed the Birthday Cake

Kent's had his 16th Birthday
Kent's had his 16th Birthday

Kent King had his 16th Birthday Celebration

Kent continued his tradition of inviting the other boys, young men now, in his sophomore school class for a Saturday afternoon of fun and games to celebrate his 16th birthday. His birthday was actually on April 11, but this year they got together to celebrate on Saturday, April 8. It had stopped raining late Friday afternoon, so they hoped the Saturday affair would still go well. Kent’s guests were to be David Wingfield, Jimmie Truesdale, Junior Yokum, and Carl Die. Junior had ridden a mule down the hill, around the west end of the King farm, down the road and across the bridge to get to the gathering at the King farm house. He said this had been scary enough, because the water in the creek was right up close under the bridge, way out of it’s banks on both sides. He couldn’t just come down the hill and cut across the creek, like he usually did… it was running too high.

When the boys had played a couple of indoor games, and eaten some birthday cake, they were ready to go outside and enjoy the spring day on the farm. It was about 45 degrees, and the sun was shining. Naturally, they were drawn to look at the creek running too high, down beyond the barn, as Junior Yokum had pointed out. Junior had seen it enough, so he held back a bit. David and Carl were curious and wanted to see, but were very careful where they walked, where they stood, just like Kent. They just wanted to see, they didn’t want to be involved with the running water in the creek, where tree branches could be seen, bopping up and down, rushing with the muddy water.

Jimmie, on the other hand, wanted to see the fast running water up close. Even though Kent said to stay back, Jimmie wouldn’t listen. He wanted to run along the edge of the water, seeing how fast it was moving. He ran along the water, stopped, returned up stream, and did it again. Each time, Kent could see Jimmie was getting closer, actually splashing in the lapping water at the edge of the running stream. The third time, Kent was about to yell, “Jimmie, don’t!” when Jimmie tripped on something, tumbling headfirst into the rushing stream. He may have hit his head on something, because he didn’t immediate pop back out of the war. Kent said he saw Jimmie’s blue jacket surface, just briefly, as he was swept downstream.

It was a nice spring day

It was springtime on the Oak Creek valley
It was springtime on the Oak Creek valley

Pandemonium broke out

All of the boys were shouting, and Karl joined them shortly. Carl had run down stream, in the field, almost immediately. Karl followed him a couple of hundred feet, where they stopped, realizing Jimmie was gone. Karl trotted back up to the rest of the boys. “David, get on your horse and ride into town, to Orchard’s store. Let Mr. Orchard and Mr. Williams know what happened. We’ll all walk back down the river, hoping we can do something. They can start at Mr. William’s ice house and work back toward us.” David did as he was told. Karl hitched up the buggy and sent Katherine to notify Jimmie’s parents immediately. Then, he and the other boys started back down the edge of the creek, carefully watching for any sign of Jimmie. They each carried a rope that might be useful, if they came across something.

Karl knew that the creek bed widened naturally near the ice house, even when overflowing, and that a body was unlikely to float beyond there without catching on something. He dreaded finding the body, but knew the work had to be done, and done as quickly as possible. They were very methodical as they moved downstream. Karl was somewhat surprised that where North Creek joined Center Creek that North Creek was not out of its banks. They were able to cross it and continue to where the ice house was in view. This was about where Junior Yokum yelled out, “Mr. King, is that Jimmie’s blue jacket?”

The area along this part of the stream they had approached was not actively farmed, and had much more vegetation growing in the water, and the creek bed had begun to widen considerably already. There, about 20 feet out, among some reeds, appeared to be the body wearing the blue jacket Jimmie had been wearing. It was face down. It was hung up by some undergrowth.

The rain stopped, but the creek was still high

The water had been wide and deep
The water had been wide and deep

The whole town was in shock and disbelief

About this time, Mr. Williams and three other men approached coming upstream from the ice house. They joined Karl in recovering the body and taking it in to town to be properly cared for. They were met by the grieving parents and many friends and neighbors, including Marshall Fetter and Judge Coffee.

The funeral was held at The Methodist Church building several days later with what seemed to be everyone in the valley in attendance. The death of the elderly was a natural part of life. The death of a teenager seemed like an unnatural event that was nothing short of a tragedy. In earlier days, these happened from time to time. In this ‘modern day’ it was not supposed to happen. Each family was drawn closer together as they were reminded how fragile life really was. Each person, and each family, found a different way to deal with the loss that affected the entire community.

The King family took the death, coming at the event they were hosting, especially hard. They gathered around their family table and consoled each other for an extended period of time. They knew that their lives had been changed forever, but all they could really do was move forward, one day at a time.

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    • Homeplace Series profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      I lost a great-uncle as a young man, around 1900, just back from college... I'm sure it inspired this story to some degree. Yes, he was talked about in the family well into mid-century as I was growing up. You've certainly put your finger on the key elements to come out of the tragic story. Thank you, so much for each of your insightful comments!! ;-)

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      3 years ago from Central Florida

      So sad to lose a young boy who was just being curious. Such a devastating loss for the parents and the entire community. I'm sure this tragic event will overshadow Kent's birthday for the rest of his life.

    • Homeplace Series profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you, Dora. Each of your comments is very important to me! ;-)

      It is so important to remember that they thought of their time as "modern times."

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      3 years ago from The Caribbean

      "The death of a teenager . . . was nothing short of a tragedy. In earlier days, these happened from time to time. In this ‘modern day’ it was not supposed to happen." A kind of revelation concerning the changing attitude toward the human view of life and death. I like commentary like this one.

    • Homeplace Series profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you, Larry. Life must go on. I appreciate you comments! ;-)

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      3 years ago from Oklahoma

      So sad, but a wonderful chronicaling.

    • Homeplace Series profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Yes, you can. I write very few, but they are necessary to tell authentic stories, of course. I really struggle with them... Thanks for your comments!! ;-)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Struck down far too early in life. I've seen a great deal of death over the years and by far the deaths that hit me the hardest are those of a child or young teen.

      Anyway, I enjoyed this rather dark chapter....can I say that? :)

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