An eighty-something couple from church invited us for a drive around the near section of Doniphan County yesterday. Within a mile or so, we’d left the last asphalt we would travel on for an hour. Autumn colors were barely past their peak as Dale and Betty drove us around and up and down the graveled hills and curves. A few miles along, Betty pointed down into the trees beside a creek and said, "That’s where the log house I was born in used to stand." A half-mile or so farther, we turned south near the old schoolhouse and headed toward the house where Dale used to live. Soon, the gravel turned to dirt.
The bare bank rose up high on both sides after we crossed the creek and started up the hill. "We’d take our old truck into town on Saturday evening and buy groceries. Us kids would ride in the back of the truck," Dale commented. "We’d get started up the hill and the truck wouldn’t be able to make it all the way. So, us kids would have to get out and walk the rest of the way so the truck could make it up the hill." Betty added, "Sometimes, the truck would get stuck and they’d have to carry the groceries, too."
At the top of the hill, Dale showed us the house off to the west, standing in what was now a field. "Some doctor in Kansas City bought the place," he explained. "Now, he just uses it for hunting." He paused for just a moment, looking at the house, then turned the minivan around and took us back down the hill.
As we continued on the tour, we passed the house where Betty’s father was born. Several times, she pointed out places where other houses used to stand. Coming down off the hills, we crossed the levee and passed into the Missouri River bottoms. They showed us the Burr Oak Baptist Church building. The dwindling church had long ago surrendered to the migration of its children away from Doniphan County, away from these hills of dust and gravel, these hills of oak and hickory, ash and elm with cottonwood lining the bottom of the bluff.
Dale and Betty stayed, the roots of land and timber, faith and family too deep for them to leave. They have stayed and continue to share the strength of those roots with those blessed enough for the acquaintance.