Mill Creek School Reunion
the original pine and oak forests were logged. After the turn of the century, around 1905, George Peck set up a cattle and hog ranch. During World War I, Peck sold the timber rights to one-fourth of the ranch to Midcontinent Iron Co., which clear-cut the trees to make charcoal.
With an iron smelter came an influx of workers. More than 3,000 people built cabins in the remote area, then named Midco after the company that employed them. Most left when the plant shut down abruptly after the war. The plant closed without paying Peck for all the timber. He moved back to Chicago and hired Charley Randolph, Eunice's, Bonnie's and Holly's father, to live on the ranch to keep an eye out for timber thieves. Peck allowed other people who had worked for him to live off the land and to build houses, provided they didn't sell the remaining timber.
Even with rent-free land, it wasn't an easy life in the remote Ozarks, where none of the approximately 50 families had electricity. The stories of hard work are passed down at the annual reunion, but so are lasting friendships.
To earn a living during the economically depressed times of the '20s and '30s, most of the people raised cattle and hogs on the open range. "With a good acorn crop, there was no limit to the hogs you could have," says Robert Hart, who moved to the Peck Ranch area in 1917. He is 92 years old. "All you needed to do was take them out some salt." He had better luck if the hogs were wild because they stayed out of people's yards.
A good "catch" dog was essential, according to Tom Kent, who grew up in Silo Hollow on Peck Ranch. "A dog would grab the hog by an ear and run it around until the owner could grab the hog by the leg."
Free-ranging cattle fed on native grasses that sprung up on the ridges after timber had been harvested. "It was a job getting cattle out of the woods if you didn't have a dog," says Crandell Clark who raised cattle for 17 years. "A dog could bring them out of brush thickets where you couldn't get a mule." With his English shepherd, Julie, and his little black mule, Susie, Crandell had the perfect team. After Julie brought the cow out, he would tie it to Susie's saddle and the