Hunting in Madeira helped support families

By Regina Villiers.  Originally published March 26 in The Suburban Life, added March 13, 2016.

Dick Valentiner, Dallas Burton, and Thomas "Grandpa" Elliott meet every morning at the Madeira Ameristop store to start their day with coffee, stories and friendship.

Dick Valentiner, Dallas Burton, and Thomas “Grandpa” Elliott meet every morning at the Madeira Ameristop store to start their day with coffee, stories and friendship.

Did you ever start out with a destination in mind and end up somewhere else?  That’s exactly what I did with this story.

I started out to write about Dick Valentiner.  Dick, I was told, has lived in Madeira all his life.  He knows how it was and how it came to be.

I’d heard that Dick could be found every morning, manning the coffee urn at the AmeriStop store and presiding over a popular kaffeklatsch, as he has done for years and years, since the store first started.

People gather there every morning for a cup of coffee before they go to work, and some retirees just sit around and spin yarns.   It’s daily camaraderie for them.

Doug Oppenheimer, who stops there for a cup of coffee every morning before going to work, told me about this.

“You could pick up some good stories,” he said.

One cold morning back in January, Doug picked me up and took me down there to introduce me to the gang.  I think we arrived before 7 a.m. I know it was early, and I think it was dark, though my eyes were still closed.

But the coffee was already going.  Dick was there.  So was Dallas Burton, and others were coming and going.

My plan was to have Dick take me on an imaginary walk through Madeira, starting at Sellman School, and telling me what was there and how it looked in earlier years.

Even as he told me about the saloon that used to be across from the old Camargo School, I knew I was in trouble and going down a side road.

And somewhere around Brinkroger’s Hardware Store, which burned in 1942, and stood at the corner where Madeira Cleaners is now located, Thomas (“Grandpa”) Elliot arrived.

“Grandpa,” who told me he’s 86, was another story and took me down another road, with stories of raising sheep and hogs on Shawnee Run.  He installed himself on his regular stool, and leaning on his cane, he reminded me of Floyd, the Mayberry barber in the old “Andy Griffith Show” episodes.

Like Floyd, Grandpa interjected comments from time to time, all the while indicating that he had a greater grasp, and older grasp, on history.  He was in his eighties, he said, while Dick was in his seventies, and Dallas, a mere youngster, was only in his sixties.  So what did he know?

These were the three regulars who stayed for the entire session.  Others stayed while downing their coffee.  Walter Becker, upon seeing my notebook, and me immediately backed out the door.  “I’m not any part of this,” he insisted.

We took time out for a few war stories.  Both Dick and Dallas served in World War II.  Dick had been in the Air Corps, and Dallas in the Navy.  He served aboard the USS San Jacinto, along with former President George Bush.

To me, this was much more interesting than talking about the icehouse that used to be in the area just up from Kroger.

But I valiantly tried to stay with the historical theme.  We got down as far as the open field on the corner of Miami and Dawson, now the location of Revco and other businesses.  Dick told me how the Bartone Medicine Show came there every summer, and how their feature show was “Ten Night in a Barroom.”

Long about here, someone mentioned hunting, and Dallas Burton said he used to live on Juler Avenue and go hunting every night.

Serendipity! Now, I knew I was totally off my original story.  And I didn’t want to get back on.  Juler  Avenue is my street, and I can’t imagine anyone hunting in the area.  But you could, Dallas told me, because the area back then was all fields and woods.  The Hosbrook farm was in the back of him, and there was only one house on Hosbrook Road.

Dallas grew up on a farm in Cozzaddale, up above Loveland.  He had started to hunt there, as a youngster.  When his family moved to Madeira, he would hunt in the Hosbrook woods, from Miss Nelle’s place at Miami and Euclid up to Kugler Mill Road.  “It was all legal, and I’d get permission to do it,” he said.

This was just after the Depression.  Times were tough, and there were not jobs anywhere, especially for teen-agers.

Hunting was recreation and kept them out of trouble.  Besides, they could sell the furs and make a little money.

“It was a way we could help out our families, and families worked together,” Dallas said.  He would sell the furs to a Mr. Spencer in South Lebanon.

Dallas gave me a lesson in stretching the hide on a board to cure it.  A skunk with a star marking, and the rest all black, would bring three or four dollars, he said.  And if you got a mink, especially a darker one the money was good.  “Cotton minks,” with white hair tips, did not bring as much.

Dallas would go out at night with his raccoon dogs.  He calls them “night dogs.”  They’d take the dogs 500 feet from the road and turn them loose.

Then Dallas gave me a lesson on dogs.  Raccoon dogs are smarter than fox dogs.  They won’t chase a fox, who’ll run them in circles.  A fox can’t out-smart a coon dog.  It’s a training thing.  You take a puppy out with a good coon dog, and the dog will train it.

He also told me about what his grandfather called “Trigg” dogs, down in central Kentucky.  He has never learned what a “Trigg” dog is, but would like to know.  There were also mink dogs.  “A mink dog would never bark on a trail,” he said.

Dallas likes to talk about his background, and how his family coped in a simpler time.  He likens it to life in one of his favorite books, “Freckles,” by Gene Stratton Porter.  And I like to listen to his stories.  I came away a more informed person for hearing these stories that morning.  They were more interesting than buildings or locations.

Maybe I’ll do the historical walk story later.

But right now, I’m thinking I’ll invite myself back to the kaffeklatsch.  It seems to be a stag thing.  But maybe I can worm my way into the gang and go swap stories with them every morning.  Or at least, maybe they’ll let me come once in a while.