Mill Creek School Reunion
Even though the eldest Randolph daughter was old enough to attend Mill Creek School in 1923, her father wouldn't let her. "He thought I was too little to go by myself," says Holly Randolph Harron. "I had to wait until an older cousin moved into the area so we could walk together."
Keeping an eager-to-learn six-year-old from attending school doesn't seem so cruel once you've trod the path Holly took to the one-room schoolhouse. The hour-long hike over rocky terrain could be tedious for a short-legged child and sometimes dangerous.
"Once when I was walking home, an ice storm hit," recalls Holly's youngest sister, Bonnie Randolph Marshall. With large branches snapping off and falling all around her, she took refuge at a neighbor's house.
Bonnie and the middle sister, Eunice Randolph Pennington, had other classmates to walk with so they were able to attend school as soon as they were old enough. Even so, Eunice's first day was more memorable than most. "Daddy said to keep my shoes on, but I didn't," Eunice says. "A little pygmy rattler bit me on the toe. I still have a brown spot there that hurts every spring."
In spite of the dangers of getting to school, absenteeism wasn't a concern. "School was fun," Holly says. "It got us away from the house. If we stayed home we had to work." School work was easy compared to cleaning the chicken house, weeding the garden or helping plow a field with a team of mules.
Now seven decades later, these three sisters join their former classmates and their families each June under the tall oak trees where the school once stood. Long gone is the school building, the general store and the houses that dotted the hollows and gaps in what used to be the Mill Creek community. Now the trees shade the grounds surrounding the headquarters of Peck Ranch Conservation Area.
The 22,948-acre Peck Ranch Conservation Area in the northwest corner of Carter County was used to help restore wild turkeys to Missouri, and today wildlife of all types abound. Restored natural areas dot the landscape, providing habitat for a variety of species from black bears to collared lizards to purple cone flowers. With up to 50 deer per acre, it's a good place to catch sight of a newly born fawn in early June.
But it wasn't always so. In the late 1800s, long before the Randolphs moved into the area,