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MUSEUM MUSINGS: Snakes alive! VanCamp was here

Written by David Holsted, published in the Harrison Daily Times on July 9, 2020

Albert VanCamp had some inside tips for bargain hunters.

Two chickens were worth one wife. A goat was worth two wives, while a dog was worth wives.

VanCamp’s matrimonial measuring stick pertained only to certain African chieftains, and it was part of program he presented to a Lions Club meeting at the Hotel Seville in July of 1937.

And speaking of lions, VanCamp added that when a hunter returned with three lions, he was given a feast by the chieftain that lasted for several days.

New York City native VanCamp was an explorer, big game hunter and lecturer who spent a week in Harrison and the area. An architect by trade, he had visited 42 countries and had spent about seven years hunting big game.

VanCamp was on his way to join an expedition in Mexico City. From there, he would embark on a six-month study of the interior tribes of South America. His main objective, according to a story in the Harrison Daily Times, was to locate some of the “head hunter tribes and gain possession of some of the shrunken heads that have been processed by South American tribes.”

VanCamp’s main objective while in Boone County was to continue his research on reptiles, particularly snakes. His collection consisted of between 800 and 900 snakes. VanCamp said that one of the biggest rattlesnakes he ever caught was at the Hunter community. The snake had 19 rattles, was between 25 and 28 years old and had terrorized the community for 15 years, he added.

According to VanCamp, Arkansas had the largest variety of snakes in the United States.

VanCamp had visited and explored Africa six times. Its wild beasts and strange tribes of people made for fascinating exploration, he said. He had once been bitten on the hand by an African brille snake. It took him three years to recover from the resulting illness, and he lost 70 pounds.

VanCamp came to Boone County at the invitation of Harrison school superintendent G. L. Brewer, who he had met previously.

In addition to the Lions, while in Harrison, VanCamp spoke before the Rotarians and made presentations to students at Woodland Heights and Eagle Heights schools.

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MUSEUM MUSINGS: Boy would sooner walk than leave dog

Written by David Holsted, published in the Harrison Daily Times on July 2, 2020

No sooner had he learned there would be no Sooner, Ray Nutting made his decision.

“No, I got to have my dog. I’ll just walk,” the 14-year-old from Panhandle, Texas, declared.

Nutting passed up a free train ticket home, because he refused to leave his dog, Sooner, behind.

Nutting and Sooner had arrived in Harrison on a July day in 1939. He slept in the courthouse park that evening.

“I found the boy wandering around the streets with his dog and carrying a small handbag containing his clothes late yesterday,” said Boone County sheriff Dan Hale, “so I took him home with me last night.”

According to an account in the Harrison Daily Times, Nutting appeared before Boone County judge Garner Fraser. Upon seeing the boy affectionately pat his dog on the head, those at the courthouse were immediately won over. It was then that Fraser told Nutting he would be furnished with a ticket back to Texas, but unfortunately, Sooner would have to stay behind.

Nutting told the judge that he had been visiting his uncle, Tom Johnson, who lived between Marshall and Yellville. Uncle Tom had wanted to keep him, but Nutting refused.

“I wanted to see my mother,” he explained.

The boy told Loren Watkins, Boone County welfare director, that his parents were separated, and there were seven other children in the family. His mother was on relief, obtaining only groceries.

“I came to Arkansas with another fellow,” Nutting said, “but he got a job and isn’t going back.”

A group of attorneys then took it upon themselves to make sure that both the boy and his dog got back home. W.S. Walker assisted Nutting in securing a crate in which to ship Sooner. Other attorneys went about the business of making sure there were sufficient funds for a train ticket.

“I’d like to have that boy,” declared M.O. Penix. “A boy who likes his dog that well would get along fine with me.”

Everyone then saw to it that Nutting and Sooner got on a Missouri and Arkansas passenger train bound for home.