Monday, August 26, 2013

Hometown Monday - Oak Creek Mill

Hometown Monday
Oak Creek Mill

This is the fifth of an expected irregular series of posts of excerpts from the novels, novellas, and short stories of "The Homeplace Series" Family Saga story-telling, to provide an insight into the story lines that may not be clear from other promotional pieces about "The Homeplace Series." These will also be coordinated with the content of the developmental Wiki, "Beyond the Books" - to expand the information available there, as well.

Today, our excerpt is from 1996 when young lawyer, Christopher Ogden, to gather information for a Ten-Year Report for the Bevins Trust, visits Paul Gates at the Oak Creek Mill and Mill Market (learn more on Wiki Wednesday, as well): 

An excerpt from "The Homeplace Revisited" from Monday, August 19, 1996:

“I have really been impressed how you have developed this mill site, Paul. A family can easily spend a half-day or even a full day, right here on site.” Christopher arrived mid-morning and there were nine or ten cars, vans and trucks in the parking area. The mill site on the Bevins Trust Homeplace property had been developed slowly, but steadily since the spring of 1987, a little over nine years ago. Paul Gates saw the old mill and the surrounding ponds, ridge and forest as a wonderful opportunity for his engineering and people skills. His ex-wife, the former Beverly Bevins, was only interested in receiving an inheritance for her and her children with Paul, Scott and Heather. After initially returning back to the Homeplace, Beverly found herself unable to cope with the farm environment, which had been a psychological problem for her throughout her adult lifetime. 

Beverly had left Oak Springs for Jackson, MS, right out of high school. Her relatively few visits back to the farm had been contentious times; she hated being there, physically, but did not want to jeopardize what she felt strongly would be an eventual inheritance from the work of her parents and their forbearers. She had eventually married Paul and appeared to have ‘settled down.’ When the will required Beverly and her family to return to live at the farm for two years to qualify for an inheritance, she initially was violently opposed to it, wanting to ‘break the will.’ Once she realized this was not going to happen, she did her best (though it was not very good) to meet the requirements. 

Beverly’s husband, Paul, and their children, Scott, now 19, and Heather, now 14, had fallen in love with the rural setting, the mill and surrounding environment, and the nearby town of Oak Springs in the southern Missouri Ozark hills. They soon considered it home and each pitched in to help however they could. Beverly had returned to Jackson, MS, and was surprisingly cooperative with Paul and the Bevins Trust attorneys, primarily Carter Ogden, in working out a divorce settlement, child custody, and support arrangements. Paul and the children had been able to settle in, work hard and contribute to the family businesses within the Trust.

“Yes, it has been a labor of love, Christopher, there is no doubt about that. I am amazed, as well, how far we have been able to come and what a wide and loyal audience and clientele we have been able to develop. We‘ve had tremendous support and cooperation from our extended family and many, many other people in the community, as well, to get where we are today.” Paul was standing in the retail “Mill Market” set up in half of the lower floor of the two-floor Mill. Most of the products on display Christopher recognized as consignment items from other farmers and crafters in the area rather than purchased stock.

“You’ve used the mill as the draw, but it is the other ancillary activities that really create the memorable experience, that makes people want to come back, correct?” Christopher was looking at the well-placed signs around the room pointing out some of the other activities that various family members might want to do after they had seen the mill and visited the Mill Market.

“We hope they will see the mill, yes, and visit the Mill Market, but we want to have a number of activities to extend their stay, that is correct. If they stay and do more activities, whether at one of the ponds, along the nature trails, in the orchard, or bird-watching, they will likely come back in to the restrooms in the back of the Mill Market, and possibly pick up some more snacks or souvenirs.  And, the more variety of experiences, the more memories; and the more likely they will return for another visit.” Paul was always pleased to talk about the experiences visitors had at the mill. “And, as you know, we have seasonal activities well posted, on our web site, and in the brochures we hand out liberally, so they all know why they should come back next week or in a few weeks.”

“You are a real leader in having a web site, Paul. Do you think it is making a difference?” Christopher knew that Internet access issues were being discussed in Chamber of Commerce meetings. Many local businesses were very reluctant to take on the additional costs that would be required for each of them to have a web site. There were probably less than ten businesses in the whole area that had taken the plunge, so far.

“Yes. We are bringing in business, especially among college folks up in Rolla, from Springfield, and from the St. Louis area; even an increasing number from Arkansas. Not a lot yet, but I see it growing every week. I try to ask a good sample of our guests, every week, how they heard about us. More and more guests are mentioning the web site. And, those tend to be guests who are spending more money here, as well. I wouldn’t want to do without it! I feel there is strong growth potential to draw in more guests from further away.” 

"May each of us have a Homeplace to hold onto, if only in our minds."

Bill  ;-)

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