In our post on the remarkable Y Bridge that brought tourists across the James River into Galena, Missouri, we mentioned that Dewey Short spoke at the dedication in 1927. The year after he was elected to the United States House of Representatives. During his twenty-four years in Congress Short became nationally known for his colorful speeches, which drew inspiration equally from Shakespeare, the Bible, and vernacular hill speak.
Though Short had degrees from American colleges and had studied at Oxford and Heidelberg universities he mixed his quotes from the classics with down home witticisms. In Dewey Short: Orator of the Ozarks, Vol. 1 Robert S. Wiley quotes an example of Short’s folky injections given at a Republican banquet and reported in a 1928 Sedalia Capital :
He compared the g.o.p. elephant with the Democratic mule, which he termed a jackass.
“Compare the two,” he said. “The elephant is really an intelligent animal. It can perform in circuses and has been used as a domestic animal – but on the other hand the jackass, can do nothing but bray and kick. It is without ancestry, or posterity.”
Looking through this very readable account of the first half of Congressman Short’s career, when researching the Y Bridge, we came upon the following passage:
Often in later speeches he would reminisce about driving his team of jennies (female donkeys) as a youngster. He would meet salesmen at the train and help them haul their wares and eh would make long hauls of ice from the ice house on James River where winter ice from the James had been packed in sawdust to await summer’s demand for that rare commodity.
By 1911, when he was 12 years of age, Dewey had established a checking account with the bank of Galena. His diary of 1912 discloses that he was busy that summer catering to tourists making float fishing trips on the James River and buying and selling ice.
We remembered the stellar Hall photograph we used in our book on the development of Ozark tourism. Could the nice looking young man driving the donkey cart be young Dewey Short? How many donkey cart operations could one Ozark village support?
Short authority, Robert S. Wiley, still practices law in Crane, Missouri. We sent him a copy of See the Ozarks and asked his opinion. He wrote back:
Thanks for the beautiful book, well written and informative. Thanks for directing my attention to the Hall photo on page 7. From other photos in my collection, I believe your photo is one of Dewey with his wagon and team of donkeys.
Wiley explained in a phone conversation that he has a photo of young Short driving a four-wheel, two-donkey cart, the rig he likely used when hawking ice. The enterprising youngster, Wiley noted, saved his money for college. He was not only a fiscal conservative at an early age, in high school he gave a hawkish speech on “Our National Defense” delivered on the eve of World War I. His picture was on a tourist postcard when he was twelve and at seventeen his oratory was printed on the front page of the Stone County Oracle.
The crisp image by Hall was one of our favorites already. But that it is an image of the renowned Orator of the Ozarks Dewey Short was a pleasant surprise.