Four years in FFA in the early 1960s left me with many priceless memories, such as an overnight trip to St. Louis to tour Purina Farms — my first experience in Missouri’s Gateway to the West — and another overnighter my senior year to the American Royal and National FFA Convention in Kansas City.

No memory of just a few hours, though, lingers more warmly than that of my first FFA-FHA barnwarming. I don’t remember if it was my sophomore or junior year — if I was just 14 or 15 — but it really doesn’t matter. It was a long time ago and I was as bashful a bumpkin who ever stepped off the farm.

Of course, among that gathering of mostly farm-bred boys and girls, I wasn’t much different from the rest — maybe a little, but not so much you’d have noticed.

Nope, for the first half-hour or more the FFA boys and FHA girls clustered on either side of the vo-ag shop festooned with bales of straw and crepe paper streamers, few from either camp daring to cross that barren no man’s land between us. What the girls were doing, I can’t be sure, but we guys were gorging ourselves on glazed donuts and drowning our adolescent angst in sweet apple cider, all the while reveling in “Thunder Road” and other popular car songs of the era.

Then for some reason I’ve never quite understood, the music changed to something more to the girls’ liking — Elvis ballads, Connie Francis, Leslie Gore, and such — the shop lights grew slightly dimmer, and FHA girls began moving in our direction. I wasn’t quite sure what was happening — in retrospect I imagine our FFA and FHA sponsors had something to do with it — but the next thing I knew, this pretty girl I’d admired from afar from the start of school asked me to dance.

Her name was Dorothy. I knew she was a cousin of one of my friends, and she had moved to Missouri from another state — California, I think.

I looked around the room. Everybody was dancing, as if they knew how, but I knew my buddies didn’t know any more than I did.

But, I could tell nobody was watching me not know how to dance, and all I was really looking at was Dorothy. Gosh, she was pretty, with that little bow in her hair.

Now, I don’t remember much else from the moment she crossed the room and warmly took my hand in hers. It was mostly small talk, but that was as far as it went. I never asked her out on a date — I wasn’t yet driving and I was too chicken, anyway — or ever danced with her again. As best I recall, we just exchanged friendly greetings when we passed it the hall, but even that was a rush for the country bumpkin I would long remain.

I don’t know what became of Dorothy. I don’t think she came back to Fair Grove the next year, and if I ever went to another barnwarming, I don’t recall.

Yet, these many years later I still cherish those moments we danced across the vo-ag shop, and I wonder at times, “Whatever happened to Dorothy?”

Diamond dotted polyester film

Jim Hamilton, columnist and former editor of the Buffalo Reflex, is among several Ozarks writers featured in issue nine of “Elder Mountain: Journal of Ozarks Studies,” published in September by Missouri State University-West Plains and edited by Dr. Phillip Howerton, professor of English. The collection includes varied works by 21 writers, including seven editorial columns by Hamilton. A juried journal, “Elder Mountain” features Ozarks-focused manuscripts from all disciplinary perspectives (particularly anthropology, economics, folklore, geography, geology, history, literature, music and political science) as well as interdisciplinary approaches. Contact him at

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