Week 4: Student Story from Jim McClenahan

by Memoir Mentor on November 7, 2008

This week’s story will make you smile. It was written by Jim McClenahan, one of my first students. He and his wife, Jo, loyally attended my class for many years and became my friends. They drop in now and then to see all of us, and it’s always a treat, like seeing dear long-lost cousins or something. Jim has kept busy in the last year compiling a lovely, artistically designed scrapbook of his Korean War service in the U.S. Navy. I challenged him recently to write one more story before Christmas. This is what he wrote.

Jim has always been good at evoking small town life in his hometown of Bonne Terre, Missouri. Notice here how well he describes people, and how good he is at writing dialogue that sounds real and natural. Enjoy.

By Jim McClenahan

The McClenahan-Steinmetz feud of Bonne Terre never approached the scale of the famous Hatfield-McCoy feud, and paled in comparison to the local Harris-Dooley feud from 1900 to 1909, when the Harrises killed off all the Dooley males in St. Francois County. Ironically, my paternal great-grandparents were John and Anna Mary Steinmetz, but they were in no way imaginable related to the Steinmetzes who caused our McClenahan family so much distress.

The feuding Steinmetzes happened to be our next-door neighbors, Harry and Addie, and their three worthless sons, Ike, Lester, and Harold, and Bernice, a daughter of questionable reputation. All the sons had been arrested numerous times for fighting and being drunk and disorderly.

We moved into our house right after I was born in 1933. As far back as I can remember, the Steinmetz house was a run-down dump. At one time the house must have been white. There were still small bits of faded white paint on the bare, weathered, wooden sides, and they were flaking off. Dark patches of tar-paper checkered the roof where shingles were gone. The stone block foundation had a couple of blocks missing and the pitch-black darkness under their house suggested all sorts of evil drooling things lurking just out of sight. Their front porch was as dilapidated as the rest of the house. The floor, missing a board here and there, was warped and buckled and resembled a scrub board. If “Ol’ Lady Steinmetz’s” house was her castle, then the front porch was her throne room. Weather permitting, she would sit in an old rocking chair watching everything that went on in the neighborhood, yelling at anyone who had the audacity to walk on her sidewalk and glaring at everyone else.

(To finish the story, click HERE.)

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: