Pleasant Hill, Missouri            Wednesday,  September 24, 2014                ©2014 Pleasant Hill Times

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Scarecrows pop up in Pleasant Hill

April Smith makes friends with a scarecrow and his blackbirds (above) at Glory B's Restaurant in downtown Pleasant Hill last week. The popular Hope Harvest Festival "scarecrow contest" encourages Pleasant Hill businesses to display decorate and display scarecrow's inside or outside their store. The public is invited to vote with their dollars for their favorite scarecrow now through Saturday, Oct. 4. The scarecrow contest is just one of the activities planned for the annual Hope Harvest Fest on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 3-4. Sponsored by the Pleasant Hill Lay Clergy Council, the fundraiser is a time for people to come together and raise funds for those in need in the Pleasant Hill, East Lynne and Strasburg communities. The scarecrows will be moved to Depot Park in downtown Pleasant Hill on Saturday, Oct. 4, where voting will continue all day till 5 p.m. when the winner will be announced. There will be vendors, live entertainment and lots of other activities going on all day for all ages. For more information on how to get involved with Hope Harvest Fest, go to or call Trenna Wilt at 816-500-0152.

Pleasant Hill Council
Order #11 depicted in post office mural

...A starkly gray mural in the lobby of the Pleasant Hill Post Office shows a family that has returned to its Cass County farm following the Civil War only to find the house burned to the ground, the fences torn down and the fields grown up in weeds.
...All that remains of the family's home are charred rubble and the lone brick chimney.
...Painted by nationally renowned American artist and author Tom Lea during the Great Depression, the mural has come to symbolize the devastation in Missouri's "Burnt District" that followed Order #11 issued by General Thomas Ewing during the Civil War.
...The painting "Back Home, April 1865" has been reproduced in encyclopedias and history books to illustrate the August 25, 1863, Union army directive that forced the evacuation of rural areas in four western Missouri counties.
...Under that order, civilians who could prove their loyalty to the Union were permitted to stay in area, but had to leave their farms and move to communities near military outposts.
...Those who would not swear their allegiance to the Union had to leave the area altogether.
...The mural was painted on canvas and mounted on the wall above the door to the postmaster's office in May of 1939.
..."It seemed to me there is a lesson from every war for all of us," Lea told reporter Robert L. McBee shortly before his death in 2001. "I tried to paint that lesson into 'Back Home, April, 1865.'" A native of El Paso, Texas, Tom Lea was a noted American muralist, illustrator, artist, war correspondent, novelist and historian.
...The bulk of his art and literary works were about Texas, north-central Mexico, and his World War II experience in the South Pacific and Asia.
...Two of his most popular novels, The Brave Bulls and the The Wonderful Country, are widely considered to be classics of southwestern American literature.
...Lea graduated from El Paso High School in 1924 and from 1924 to 1926 he attended the Art Institute of Chicago. He then apprenticed and assisted Chicago Muralist John W. Norton from 1927 to 1932.
...During the Great Depression, Lea found work through the Federal Art Project that was part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration
(WPA)that hired artists to paint murals in government buildings.
...Lea also won a U.S. Treasury Department competition for a mural commission in the U.S. Post Office Department Building in Washington, D.C.
...His other WPA murals include paintings in post offices in Odessa, Texas; Seymour, Texas as well as the one in Pleasant Hill.
...In 1937, Lea started doing illustration work and partnered with author J. Frank Dobie, who wrote about the rough life of settling the Texas frontier. Lea's illustrations for Dobie are mostly of cowboys and the wild Texas landscapes.
...The following year, he began a lifelong partnership with El Paso book designer and typographer Carl Hertzog.
...In the early days of World War II, Lea received a telegram from LIFEmagazine asking him to go to sea with the U.S. Navy on a North Atlantic patrol.
...He traveled all over the world with the military during the war and painted battle scenes from China, Great Britain, Italy, India, North Africa, the North Atlantic, the Middle East and the Western Pacific.
...Lea went on deployment with the aircraft carrier USS Hornet in the Pacific in 1942 and met the famous Army Air Corps pilot Jimmy Doolittle. Lea was on board the Hornet on September 15, 1942, when the USS Wasp was sunk by torpedoes from a Japanese submarine and he painted several pictures of the sinking of the aircraft carrier.
...During his visit to China in 1943, he painted the portraits of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and his wife, Soong May-ling and "Flying Tigers" General Claire Lee Chennault.
...But it was his time in the western Pacific in 1944 as an "embedded" reporter with the 1st Marine Division during the invasion of the tiny island of Peleliu that he would really make a name for himself among the readers of LIFE.
..."My work there consisted of trying to keep from getting killed and trying to memorize what I saw and felt," Lea said.
...His vivid, realistic, images of the beach landing, and Battle of Peleliu would impact both readers and himself.
...After World War II, he turned to writing. When Lea finished his last novel, The Hands of Cantu in 1964, he met with his publishers at Little, Brown & Company and told them that he wasn't interested in writing another novel. They suggested a book about his pictures and his 1968 work, A Picture Gallery, was his "autobiography" of why and when he did his paintings. Working on A Picture Gallery led him to once again focus on painting and turn away from working on literature.
...Right before finishing that work, Baylor University paid tribute to his writing by presenting him and his long-time friend Carl Hertzog with an honorary doctorate's in literature.
...Tom Lea died in El Paso, Texas, on January 29, 2001, at the age of 93.

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