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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

The answer man: still learning, still teaching

Thursday, July 17, 2008

(Photo)
Dwight Holmes was a Small Farms Assistant for the Oregon County University Extension Office for many years. He said you can grow a good garden in a small area if you take care of it. Photo by Jan Thompson
SMYNRA -- Dwight Holmes, 77, sleeps in the same bedroom he was born in the Smynra community north of Alton. His parents were John R. and Velma Muse Holmes. His dad taught school for 38 years. Holmes said before his dad's teaching career ended he had accumulated 63 college hours. Both parents ran a small general store in the Smynra community.

"We sold a little feed, had a cracker barrel and dad probably gave away more candy (orange slices and chocolate drops) than he sold. In the winter we bought cream, rabbits and eggs. The store is where I learned to make change. A $10 bill was the biggest money I had ever seen. The big bills were kept on the top and the $5 beneath them and the $1 on the bottom. Dad was very strict about that," Holmes said.

Holmes graduated from Alton High School in 1949. Shortly after that he and Sammy Harrison went to work at Kansas City, Kan., where they lived with some of Harrison's family. Holmes went to Knickers Manufacturing, a place where they made hot patches and tire reliners. After three days working there, the company went on strike and Holmes found him another job at the Box Company. "The big flood came to Kansas City in 1951. I could hear Oregon County calling me and I came home," he said.

Coming back to Alton, Holmes went to work at a dry goods store in town owned by Nappy Franks. "He knew I could make change from working at my dad's store. He sold dry goods and material. Lawrence Porter would come by the store selling candy and such and I would sell his goods in the store," Holmes said.

From there Holmes enlisted in the Air Force. He did his basic training in San Antonio, Texas. "They found out I could type and they sent me to Waco, Texas, and made me a corporal. I can remember my non-commissioned officer in charge, Sgt. Meridith, saying 'Holmes you will never get off this base.' The Korean War was going strong at that point," Holmes said.

He said he came home to Alton for a 10-day leave and was given orders to go to the most northern base in Korea. He was still there when the war ended. Holmes handled top secret information in the Air Force. When the war ended he was sent to Waco, Texas. In all Holmes was in the Air Force four years.

From there Holmes found himself working for O.A. Sutton in the air conditioner and refrigerator business in Wichita, Kan. The store sold out and he came back home to Alton in 1958.

He worked a while for his brother-in-law at the Northside DX Station. Then he went to Thayer and went to work for C.E. Walker selling auto parts.

"It was the first auto parts store in Thayer. Walker told me he liked my attitude and he would try me for a month. He said after a month if I didn't get a raise, I was making $175 a month, I would know things were not working out. The job came pretty easy to me and after a month he gave me a raise to $200 a month. I worked there for 10 years until he sold out," Holmes said. The next 10 years Holmes worked for G.S. Pace at Ram Auto Parts also at Thayer. He said he sold auto parts all over the area from Calico Rock, Willow Springs, Cherokee Village, West Plains and Salem.

In 1978, Holmes ran for Oregon County Collector and was elected. "It was a four-year term. I didn't like the collector's office much. I thought all you did was collect money and turn it over to the treasurer. I decided if anybody else filed I wouldn't file for a second term. I waited till the last minute and no one filed so I did," he said.

Two years into his second term as collector, Holmes wrote his letter of resignation and turned it into the governor and Hardin Franks who was presiding commissioner at that time. "When Hardin saw the letter on his desk I could hear him from across the hall, 'Dwight Holmes get in here. The governor will appoint some Republican to take your place.' We had a Republican governor at the time and he appointed Mike Crawford to fill out my term," Holmes said.

Holmes said he didn't know what he was going to do then for a job. "I ran into Mike Dethrow in March and he suggested I put in for a job at the University Extension Office. There was 20-some applications and I was hired at minimum wage as the Small Farm Education Assistant in 1985. The office received very little funding. Joe Horner was the first specialist in the office and he did a good job," Holmes said.

Holmes said they got the office up and running. "I was like a blind dog in a meat house. I knew there was a lot of information people needed to know in that office. Mike Dethrow and I went to work and got a sales tax passed to help fund the Extension office. Horner took another job so we needed another specialist. One very cold winter day a young man, Stacy Hambleton, with his wife Brenda and their newborn son Aaron came into the office and he was hired as the office specialist," Holmes said. In all he worked for University Extension 21 years.

"In 21 years I've answered a lot of questions from a lot of people about a lot of different things. Some questions I could not answer. No one likes someone that knows everything," he said.

Holmes said he has taught people how to casterate pigs, cut their tails off, de-worm animals, prune trees and make gardens, just to name a few of the areas he has worked.

"I learned you can grow a lot of stuff in a small space if you take care of it. I am bad to plant and go by the signs in the Almanac. There are a lot of old time ways that need to be kept up with," he said.

In 1985, Dwight married Tammy. They have two sons, Travis and J.C.

He also worked for Dethrow for 20 years selling pigs. The pig business in the county shut down and that ended that operation.

"A week ago we completed cutting 7,126 square bales of hay on our farm. Not a week goes by that I don't have someone call or come by with a question about animals or gardening. I still answer a lot of questions. A man called recently with sick pigs. I told him they had pneumonia and gave him some medicine for them. They snapped right out of it and are going strong. Just a few days ago a fellow called about trouble with his tamed blackberries. I told him what to spray them with and now they're doing fine," he said.

Holmes along with Leroy Chronister, Donald and Judy Holman and Kathlene Crigler have sang at more than 500 funerals in the area.

"I've learned a lot and am still learning from the people I've worked with as they have learned from me," he said.

Holmes said his wife and his sons are the best part of his personal life.



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