Rural Missouri - March 2012 - (Page 40)
N E I G H B O R S
the comical curator
At his museum, Donald ‘Debo’ McKinney serves up local history with a sense of humor
here’s nothing much left of Turley. Drive down the gravel road of the same name in northwest Texas County, and the only remnant of this town you’ll still ﬁnd standing is Liberty Church, built in 1848. More than a century ago, however, it was a different story. Turley was a bustling community on the banks of Roubidoux Creek. There was a threestory gristmill, three store buildings, a drug store, a school and even a lodge hall. “You can’t believe how thriving the place was,” says Donald “Debo” McKinney. “But now, except for the church, Turley is either here or it’s not.” The “here” to which Debo refers is a storehouse of history the Intercounty Electric member has built on his property a few miles downstream from Turley. Turley In this makeshift museum, Debo has collected an array of items that reﬂect his love of a town forgotten, his past as a storekeeper and his off-the-wall sense of humor. Those who’ve lived in and around south-central Missouri for any amount of time may know Debo’s name, even if they’ve never met him. For nearly 30 years, he ran Debo’s Hardware and Supply in downtown Houston. Many will remember the team of ﬁberglass Clydesdales pulling a wagon that took up residence on the store’s front porch. Debo has lived most of his life in Texas County. He grew up on the Big Piney River where his father, who also went by the nickname “Debo,” ran a saw mill and farmed. The younger McKinney left for a time to work for the Lily-Tulip Cup Corp. in Springﬁeld but returned to Houston to manage the local Western Auto Supply. He’d work there 10 years until the hardware store owner next door offered him the chance to buy his business. He’d operate the store from 1979 until 2005. The hardware store was the original repository for Debo’s collections of curiosities ranging from the historical to the hysterical. When he sold it, he moved the whole lot to his 44 acres of riverfront property where he lives with wife, Kathy. Debo had envied this stretch of the Roubidoux since the 1970s when he would ﬁsh its waters.
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After ﬁnally acquiring it in the mid-1990s, he told himself that when he retired, he’d begin each day by catching and releasing a few bass. Then he’d put down his rod and reel, grab his chainsaw and get to work. “This was the best ﬁshing stream in the state of Missouri,” recalls the 73-year-old. “Then they turned them otters loose, and now it’s the worst ﬁshing in the state.” Debo’s disdain for otters is well known. In his museum, as he did in his store, he displays his 6-foot-long “otter gun,” and a Donald “Debo” McKinney rests against a counter from the old Turley store. .22-caliber “otter It’s one of many artifacts from the forgotten Texas County community that rod,” fashioned he’s preserved inside his museum of curiosities both historical and hysterical. from a Zebco If you do decide to visit Debo, be prepared. No 202 and complete with instructions: one is safe from his practical jokes, which begin “Cast game ﬁsh in dirction of otter; allow otter to as you make the trip down his seemingly endless grab it. Reel him into range of gun. Shoot.” driveway. Be sure to stop and read his “hysterical” Other items made the journey from the hardmarker, and don’t forget to slow down and look ware store as well. One entire corner of the museboth ways when crossing the railroad tracks. um is dedicated to Debo’s collection of nearly 300 “When you live this far off the highway, hornets’ nests of various shapes and sizes. They you’ve got to be creative, or you’ll get bored,” include unusual examples such as one built in a Debo says. “We’ve always had fun.” birdhouse and another inside an electric meter. His jocularity aside, Debo does have a serious Remnants of Turley can be found inside and side and a message of Christian faith to share outside the museum. Stonework from the gristwith visitors. Away from the museum, closer to mill, the store and the school are all incorporated the creek, is a path that leads past a stone carved in the front porch, as are timbers from the mill. with the Ten Commandments, a year-round Inside, you’ll ﬁnd a section of the Turley store’s nativity scene, three crosses representing the crucounter, shelves, balcony and even the tin storeciﬁxion and a tomb with the stone rolled away to front bearing the name of the original owner, J.M. signal the resurrection. Gladden. On the counter, you’ll see the store’s “This is the reason for everything else, really,” ledger, the names of those who borrowed on he says as he traces the First Commandment with credit still visible. a ﬁnger. “But I don’t push it. If they get to walkLife-sized and larger-than-life-sized ﬁberglass ing around, maybe they’ll see that down there, animals dot the yard, including the Clydesdale and then maybe we’ll get to visitin’ about it. It’s team. Other conversation pieces also abound. worth it if they do that.” Among the more obscure is a hollow log that convicted killer Neldon Neal used as a shelter while Those wishing to tour Debo’s museum may contact hiding out from authorities for 62 days inside the him by calling 417-217-1092. nearby Mark Twain National Forest in 2007. Debo’s museum features a wide array of curiosities.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - March 2012
Rural Missouri - March 2012
Stickin’ to it
Out of the Way Eats
Spending to save
Guarding the honeybee
Hearth and Home
Callaway’s kingdom dinner
The comical curator
Rural Missouri - March 2012
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