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Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • Edwin Bush knows about every step of Monroe County

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  • There are few Monroe Countians that are as familiar with the layout of the area’s farms and land as Edwin Bush.
    The Stoutsville native couldn’t begin to calculate the number of miles he has walked the county’s fields and pastures, but after nearly a quarter century of working for what was then the Soil Conservation Service (SCS is now the Natural Resources Conservation Service NRCS), it’s in the hundreds.
    Monroe County is 670-square miles and there are 300,000-plus acres of farm land. Edwin estimates he has walked a majority of it.
    “There are very few farms I haven’t been on,” he states.”We used to stake-out waterways and for every mile we thought we walked five miles. One year I staked-out 65 miles all by myself.”
    Edwin, 88, who says because his birthday’s September 25, he’s closer to 89, joined SCS as the agency’s first part-time employee in 1965. He became a full time employee in 1967 and retired in 1989.
    SCS was born out of the natural disasters of the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s, when dust storms started in the plains and affected the east coast. During that time drought and deep plowing of the prairie displaced native grasses and the earth took to flight during high winds.
    Edwin remembers the dust storms well.
    “Oh, they were awful,” he says while shaking his head. “I was just a kid, but I remember the sky as dark as night, dirt got into everything.”
    During his career Edwin helped see to it future generations never again experienceD the soil eroding-storms he experienced.
    Bush assisted landowners design, layout,  construct and checkout terraces, waterways, reservoirs and other structural erosion control practices.
    He also served as a teacher for new SCS employees and trainees.
    “Sometime in the early 1970s Monroe County was designated as a Trainee County,” Edwin says. “We had college students every summer and we worked with them, teaching everything we knew about measuring and staking out the ground.”
    Many went on to become SCS and other United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) directors in several Missouri counties and across the country.
    One trainee, David White, trained under Edwin in 1976 and 33 years later, in 2009, President Bill Clinton named Mr. White Chief of the USDA’s NRCS.
    “I was so proud of him,” Bush says of White’s appointment. “I called him, congratulated him and asked if he remembered me. He said he did and thanked me for his initial training.”
    Born five miles east of Stoutsville, in 1929, on his parents’ 182-acre farm, Edwin was the only son of Arthur and Ethel Greening Bush.
    Page 2 of 4 - Edwin’s great-grandfather Bush migrated to Monroe County from Kentucky in the 1830s and his mother’s relatives also arrived here in the 19th century. His parents were born and raised two and a half miles apart.
    A Stoutsville High School class of 1943 graduate, next to the institution’s last senior class, Edwin went to work on the family farm and didn’t leave for 20 years. He said they farmed with horses, not getting a tractor until 1948.
    Bush remembers when Stoutsville, while not a booming village, was still a busy meeting place. He says there were three stores, along with a garage, barber shop, restaurant, tavern and blacksmith shop, and thinks many of the town’s unique white lime stone buildings were constructed by Johnny Conley, great-grandfather of Edwin’s son-in-law, Bob Conley.
     Today, when Mark Twain Lake is at high levels, what was Stoutsville is underwater.
    Edwin Bush married Hazel DeOrnellas, in 1949, after the couple met on a blind date.
    “Mary Ann Greening, my cousin, got me my first date with Hazel. She and Hazel worked together at Henderson’s Produce in Monroe City,” he explains.
    “Mary Ann wanted to go out with my neighbor, Gene Ryan. I told her to get me a date and I’d get her a date with Gene. I thought Mary Ann said she was going to get me a date with Dorothy DeOrnellas not Hazel DeOrnellas, but I didn’t know either one, so it didn’t make any difference,” Edwin laughingly says.
     Hazel’s family was on the same mail route as Edwin’s, but he’d never met her.
    Was it love at first sight?
     “I guess it was something,” Edwin laughs. “We went to a dance at the old Pine Springs (north of Paris), on April 12, married August 24 and our first child born 11 months later.”
     The Bushes lived on the farm where he grew up for a decade before relocating a quarter mile up the road. A fire destroyed that house and the couple built a new home in 1962.
     The federal government purchased their property at $425 an acre in 1969 – top price 45 years ago – for the Mark Twain Lake and the Bushes built another new home south of Paris in 1971.
    “Before we were married, I told Hazel, since I was an only child, I wanted us to have more than one child – didn’t want one to grow up alone like I had – but not a houseful of kids like she was used to (Hazel had 12 brothers and sisters). She said she’d like to have at least three. After the girls were born we were hoping for a boy, but not expecting two.”
    Page 3 of 4 - Karen was born in 1950, Charlisa, 1951, and the twins, Jack and John, in 1954. Karen Conley lives in rural Paris, Charlisa Buckman, rural Mexico, Jack, rural Paris, and John in Moberly.
    The boys came close to being born in the Bushes car on the way to the hospital.
    “When the boys came, I almost didn’t get Hazel to the hospital in time,” Edwin ruefully admits. “The girls were born at home, but Dr. Barnett wanted to deliver the boys at the Moberly hospital. I’d never been there, so when she announced it was time to go, when we got to Moberly a train was blocking traffic. I had to find a different way to a hospital I’d never been to. It took a little while. Anyway, by the time we got where we were supposed to go, the boys were born 10 minutes later. Hazel almost tore off my arm before I got her to the hospital.”
    The boys were born on Tuesday, June 1. Not knowing what sex the twins were going to be, Edwin and Hazel hadn’t selected names beforehand. Bush says they couldn’t decide the day after, but Hazel told him they’d pick names on Thursday. For some reason he can’t remember, Edwin didn’t make it to Moberly on Thursday; when he did arrive on Friday, he does remember Hazel being a bit upset and announced she’d named the boys for a country & western duo, Johnnie Wright and Jack Anglin. He said it wasn’t his choice, but agreed to it to soothe her ruffled feathers.
    Edwin credits daughter Karen for reintroducing him to horses.
    Growing up using horses to farm and travel – Edwin rode a pony to grade school – but his interest in equines waned as an adult. Karen and her husband Bob joined the Monroe County Saddle Club and Edwin and Hazel began to attend meetings. They were soon horse owners and going on trail rides. When he was 76, Edwin thought he was getting too old to ride a horse and sold his last one.
    Hazel DeOrnellas Bush died in 2001.
    “We got to celebrate our 50th anniversary and see the change of the millennium,” Edwin says. “We were blessed. None of our kids or grand kids were ever in trouble. Everybody’s healthy.”
    Edwin has eight grandchildren, four boys and four girls, and 14 great-grandchildren, seven boys and seven girls; all live locally, except one in Kansas City. The great-grandchildren range in age from eight-months to 10-years.
    One of Edwin’s grandchildren has followed in his footsteps. Robert E. Conley serves as a Resource Conservationist, in Clark County, for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
    Page 4 of 4 -  Arthritic knees and hips haves limited Edwin’s mobility. He rehabbed at Monroe Manor two different times after joint surgeries and became a full time resident last year.
     “It’s home to me now,” Edwin says of the nursing home.
     One of the many trainees Edwin Bush worked with was Tony Francis, who is the Director of the USDA’s Farm Service Agency in Monroe County.
     Francis says Edwin was a great teacher.
     “I spent two summers with Edwin,” Tony says. “He was a great teacher. He showed you how to do something and then let you do it. He’d check your work, but allowed you the opportunity to get the training. He also taught me how to walk with a three-foot stride that helped measuring land, and he also knew where every shade tree was in Monroe County, where we could stop and eat lunch.”

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