Nature Is Calling Me

Camp

Why do I love nature so much? I am going to do my best to put into words why. I wish I was a better writer so you could maybe experience the passion I have for nature. Well here we go. The following is about a night on the river back in September.

I arrived at the river just as the sun peeked over the eastern ridge shedding its light on the colorful hues of autumn. The leaves glistened with the reflection of the sun’s light upon the orange, red and yellow hues scattered around the hillside. A beautiful sight to behold. It gave my heart joy to see Mother Nature’s paintings before my eyes.

I busy myself preparing my kayak for my river excursion. As I slid my yak into the water I caught a glimpse of movement to my right. I turned my full attention to what had captured my eye. It was a momma racoon with 4 of her offspring. One in particular had taken a deep interest in what I was doing. Slowly it began to inch its way in my direction to get a closer look. As it inched closer momma became agitated and positioned herself between me and her offspring. She began chattering loudly as if she were scolding the young one. After a couple of minutes she began steering her clan away from me. They moved down the bank of the river then disappeared over the rise.

I began my trek up river to the place I would make camp for the night. I had camped here many times before. It had a clear western view where I could watch the sun set. The area was well protected from any artificial light pollution giving me a clear view of the night sky.

Beaver pic from a another day on the river

As I rounded a bend in the river I noticed a beaver standing in the river near the bank watching me with great curiosity. Suddenly it disappeared under the water. It surfaced about 20 yards from me and slapped its tail on the surface of the water warning the others that there was an intruder in their territory.

It was a beautiful day to be on the river. It was a week day so I pretty much had the river to myself. Temps were in the 60s with a slight southerly wind. Movement ahead of me. About 50 yards up river 4 deer were making their way across a shallow part of the river. They were moving with purpose and soon disappeared into the woods on the other side.

Smallmouth bass

I was making good time so I decided to do a little fishing. For about an hour and a half the fish bit good and all of a sudden they seemed to get lockjaw. Fortunately I had enough action to be able to relive the battles sitting in front of the campfire.

Hawk

I made it to my campsite around 4:30 p.m. As I pulled my yak up on the gravel bar a hawk soared overhead. I went to work setting up camp and gathered some firewood for the night. With camp set I threw a couple of lines into the water in hopes that I would catch supper. Unfortunately it didn’t happen but I had brought along some Mountain House freeze dried beef stew. I filtered some water from the river then got the fire started. I brought the water to a rolling boil for about 4 minutes then poured it into the stew pouch. In ten minutes supper would be served. For a MRE it was quite tasty.

This is my favorite part of camping. Sitting in front of the fire watching the flames dancing within the fire is so relaxing. In the background I can hear the music of the insects and Mother Nature’s night creatures. It is so peaceful sitting there alone listening to the river critters going about their business searching for food. A star falls from the sky. Then another and another. Then it ends as abruptly as it began. Now I am ready for sleep.

It’s hard for me to put into words the peace I feel within me. My friend Gary Fultz I am sure knows the feeling I am talking about. He too has a great respect for Nature and Mother Earth. My spirit seems to float to the heavens. I feel no sadness or anxiety. My soul is cleansed by the tranquility surrounding me. I feel so alive and all my senses are intensified causing me to be more appreciable of my surroundings and what is in my heart. Reading back I am disappointed. I didn’t do a very good job of putting what I feel into words. The best way for you to understand is to just go camping.

Big River

Sunrise or Sunset?

“The grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere, the dew is never dried all at once, a shower is forever falling; vapor ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on seas and continents and islands, each in turn, as the round earth rolls.” – John of the Mountains: The unpublished journals of John Muir

Just as life must come full circle so must the day. No matter how good or bad our lives may be, the sun is going to rise and set in the west. With each new day we are given a new lease on life. What we do with this opportunity is totally up to us as to what we want to undertake that day.

I prefer to start my day by thinking about all the things I have to to be grateful for. It’s is important to start our day with positive thoughts. Negative thoughts bring us down and attack our minds. This leads to depression that poisons our lives robbing us of happiness.

One day I was asked, “Do you prefer to watch a sunset or a sunrise?” I was speechless and for those of you who know me know that doesn’t happen very often. I had really never thought about it. I love them both. I didn’t have an answer.

It can be said that the sunrise is representative of the beginning. The birth of a new day. A time to finish what one didn’t get done the day before and to begin new projects. A chance to reflect on the things one completed and turn your attention to what one still needs to accomplish and set new goals.

The sunset signals the day is coming to an end. The fingers of darkness closes in upon the light of the day until Mother Earth is engulfed in total darkness. Time now to give thanks for being granted another day in our book of life. An opportunity to evaluate what wasn’t accomplished. Instead give thanks for what was finished. Rome wasn’t built in a day. The sun will rise again and one will be given the opportunity to tend to unfinished business. Soon sleep will begin to invade the body. Sleep is needed to give your body time to heal any damage that one has done to their body during the course of the day. One’s eyes grow heavy and soon sleep overtakes us.

The day has come full circle. The day has come to an end until the rising sun brings a new day and the cycle begins anew. Once again the sun will rise in the east and set in the west. Unfinished business will be awaiting and decisions about new projects will have to be made. I have a great love of both and it is impossible for me to say which one I prefer. I am just grateful I was afforded the opportunity to enjoy the grand show.

Recreational Fishing

Smallmouth Bass

“If Fishing is a religion, fly fishing is high church.” – Tom Brokaw

Recreational fishing is the nation’s second most popular outdoor activity after jogging. Each year nearly 1 in 7 Americans grab their rods and reels and head to the water giving chase to different species of fish.

From 2011 to 2019, freshwater fishing population grew 11%. Anglers 16 or older spent $48 billion a year on equipment, licenses, trips and other fishing related items. This in turn supported 828,000 jobs in this country. Recreational fishing in some rural areas helped support entire communities. In 2010 $1.45 billion was generated by anglers for fisheries conservation efforts. Fishing is also responsible for putting smiles on the faces of children. That is something you can’t put a price tag on.

Rainbow Trout

Speaking from my own experience, fishing is therapeutic and cheaper than a psychiatrist. The peace and joy I get while fishing is priceless. It recharges the spirit and calms the soul.

I fly fish, tight line fish and fish with limb lines. I enjoy them all but fly fishing, I think, is the most rewarding.

I enjoy catching all the species of fish but trout and bass fishing are my favorite. Even if you get skunked and catch nothing it isn’t a wasted day. The solitude you find from fishing is a reward in itself.

Pumpkinseed

If you have never got to experience fishing I encourage you to do so. Most state’s conservation departments have programs that teach the basics and help beginners to get started. For the seasoned angler I encourage you to take a child and introduce them to the world of recreational fishing.

Gone Fishing!!!!

Silly Me

Well how do I say this? We had night time temperatures of 10 and highs of 30. Now if someone would stop and use the gray matter between their ears they would think, Damn the lake has to be froze over. 

Everyone but me that is. Oh no. I spent Saturday installing a new mirror on the passenger side of my truck. Well when I finally finished I decided I was going to reward myself with a little trout fishing.

Now if you look closely at the lake pictures you can see an area of disturbance from the wind and the smooth areas are ice covered. When I first pulled up my heart sank then I saw that spot of unfrozen water in the Northeast corner of the lake. 

Luck was with me. No one was there. I guess others had used the gray matter between their ears. I felt better when two more anglers showed up. 

Little did I know that the ice wouldn’t be my only obstacle. The wind was blowing 10 to 15 mph with 25 mph gusts. Fly fishing was out so I broke out the ole spin cast. Now what you have to understand is that there is a Disc Golf course around this lake. 

Here I am sitting there minding my own business trying to catch a trout when “swoosh” right above my head. Incoming! Hit the deck! Well the frisbee managed to land on the ice and not in the water. It slid all the way to the bank and they were able to retrieve it. They apologized, blamed it on the wind and moved on. I saw 3 more hit the ice.

I was able to catch 4 trout. My foot I had surgery on was beginning to really hurt so it was time to go. Do you know what it does to a fisherman when they have to leave and the fish are biting? I can tell you this much, it ain’t “purty”.

Facing Fear

He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

At the end of Liberty Hollow, near the town named Fear, was a modest homestead occupied by a humble two room shack. Void of all the modern conveniences, electricity and running water. It backed up to a gentle slope of Freedom Mountain. Within the walls of this shack lived a mountain of a man, strong as an ox but as gentle as the falling snow.

He stayed to himself and lived a simple life. Lived off the land and never took more than what he needed to sustain his way of life.

Once a month he would venture into town to get supplies he couldn’t produce himself i.e., flour, lard, coffee and a plug or two of Days Work. Standing at 6’4” with his salt and pepper beard cascading to the middle of his chest, jet black hair resting on his shoulders and his chiseled physique made him quite intimidating to the towns people.

He was never violent, showed nothing but kindness and appeared happy, but the inhabitants of Fear were afraid of him. Was it the unknown that they feared? No one really knew anything about him. No one attempted to befriend him or get to know him. They would cross the street to avoid him. Fear was in control.

He was surrounded by mystery. He talked to the woodland creatures and doctored them when they were hurt. The “Keeper” of Mother Nature’s woodland creatures? They had no fear of him.

The inhabitants of the town of Fear thought he was possessed and added to their fear of him. This behavior wasn’t normal. It’s sad how when folks don’t understand something or somebody they are governed by fear.

Years went by with no change. One day he didn’t show up in town to pick up his supplies. Another month came and went and he was a no show. Town folk just assumed he died but their fear of him kept them from investigating.

Fear breeds rumors and it wasn’t long until rumors started circulating around town. Some said he died from a lonely heart, others said he went mad and took his own life and one rumor was that what possessed him transformed him into a coyote and is running wild in the wilderness to this day.

Some town folks recall one odd night when the coyotes became restless and their mournful howls could be heard throughout Liberty Hollow. It was as if they were mourning. The other woodland creatures seemed to go into hiding for a week. Had the “Keeper” of Mother Nature’s woodland creatures been called home? Fear kept the town’s people from ever knowing.

Never let fear rule your life. Always face your fears and put them behind you. You will be a better person for it. Facing fear not only changes your life it also encourages those around you to do the same. When we let fear control our lives we rob ourselves of peace, love, happiness and quality of life. Fear can be defeated but we have to do it ourselves, no one can do it for us. If just one person would have faced their fear of this man it could have turned the whole town around and there could have been a happy ending. After all the animals had no fear of him. They saw the good in him.

A Cold Day of Trout Fishing

Rainbow Trout caught at Giessing Lake

Fishing provides that connection with the whole living world. It gives you the opportunity of being totally immersed, turning back into yourself in a good way. A form of meditation, some form of communion with levels of yourself that are deeper than the ordinary self.” – Ted Hughes

My childhood friend David Tripp drove in from Texas for a visit. Now that only meant one thing; fishing trip. We decided to invade Engler Park in Farmington, MO and try our luck at fishing for trout in Giessing Lake.

Temp was supposed to be near 50. It would have been nice if someone would have told Mother Nature. David opted for a fly rod and I grabbed my spin cast. I tied a yellow Glo-ball/bait with a quarter ounce split shod and a bobber about 2 feet above the Glo-ball.

It started out really slow with no bites. I had been sitting there for what seemed like 3 months and couldn’t capture the interest of not one trout. Wow! I have never been skunked on this lake before. My reputation is at stake! After about 20 minutes of sitting there freezing my arse off, BAM! Trout on. The fight was on. This fish was having no part of this. I finally landed him.

First trout of the day.

I released him back into the lake, and cast my line back out. I had got my hands wet while freeing the trout back into the water. Yeah I know not real smart. It wasn’t long until I couldn’t feel my fingers and kept checking to make sure they hadn’t fell off. BAM! Number 2 was now on the end of the line and about 40 minutes later I landed number 3.

Second of the day!

As I sat on my stool the wind was showing no mercy. I had begun shivering and they could hear my teeth chattering three counties away. Earthquake! False alarm. It was just the ground moving from my shivering body. Reminded me of that song “I feel the earth move under my feet….”. My dad always said I didn’t have the sense God gave a turnip and at this point I was beginning to think he was right. Finally after what seemed like an eternity I was able to land number four.

Third one of the day!

My friend David caught three and got them to the bank where they managed to slip the hook. Good for him he didn’t have to get his hands wet releasing them.

All in all, even though I felt like I was a popsicle, it was a good day. I love to watch David work a fly rod. As I sat there in the cold my Mom’s words from when I was a young un came back to haunt me, “Now make sure you dress warm.” Why didn’t I think of that?

Chasing the Elusive Trout

The Missouri Department of Conservation just launched their 2020 winter trout program in Southeast Missouri lakes located in Farmington, Jackson and Perryville. They along with Perry County Sportsman Club and the MDC purchase the trout that are used to stock these lakes.

Farmington stocks Giessing Lake located in Engler Park. Giessing was stocked with approximately 1200 trout and several lunkers were added in the mix to make it interesting. Catch and release is implemented until February 1 at which time an angler can keep 4 a day.

December 6, I finally was afforded an opportunity to try my luck at hooking a few of these beauties. I was chomping at the bit to try my new fly rod and reel out.

It is only a 2 acre lake but there is plenty of action for the trout angler. I started the day with my fly rod and reel. I found that my walking boot really interfered with my casting. I was definitely not on my game but then again I had just got off my crutches 2 days before. I threw everything I could think of at them and just watched them swim by the fly showing no interest at all. I worked until the wind made it impossible to cast and decided to go to plan B.

I opted for my spin cast and a yellow glo-ball. On my very first cast I hooked one. The fight was on. If you have never hooked into one you are missing the fight of your life. I ended up catching four. It was windy and cold but still a good day to be at the lake.

The Road to Recovery

Fly Fishing Therapy

One bad habit we seem to have is taking life for granted. Take my mobility away from me and I become lost. I panicked and I didn’t function right. So you can only imagine how excited I was when the doctor told me I could mothball the crutches. Woohoo! Yes! I am close to recovering my full mobility! One step at a time.

I decided to celebrate by visiting Lakeview Lake located in the Bonne Terre City Park. I arrived at 8 am and I am here to tell you it was the beginning of a beautiful day. The temp had already climbed into the 40s. I had purchased a new Orvis Encounter fly fishing combo and I was itching to try it out.

As I was working the fly outfit I realized I was still pain free. Life is good unfortunately the fishing wasn’t. There are benches that were installed around the park so I decided to park my fat arse on one of the benches and become a nature watcher. I had some ducks and geese who were eager to entertain me. They put on a performance worthy of an Emmy. I watched them for a good 45 minutes until the geese decided to take flight and terminate the performance.

I grabbed the Orvis and began fishing again but to no avail. The fish obviously weren’t willing to cooperate.

One reason I chose Lakeview for my first outing was because there is a paved walking track around it. It provides easier walking than the perimeter of the lake and I didn’t know if I would still have a hitch in my git along or if it would be a good day.

After 40 years of chronic pain I wasn’t really sure what to expect on my first outing. In the back of my mind every time I took a step I was sure I was going to be overtaken by a painful step but it never happened. Not one bad step. A little faith goes a long way when you believe.

I didn’t catch any fish but it was a very enjoyable day. I know I have a long way to go before I am completely healed but I am off to a damn good start.

Eight Weeks and Still Healing

My ankle on December 4, 2020

I had a doctor’s appointment on November 20 and my doctor was sick and had to cancel. I made a new appointment for November 23.

I went in anticipating that I would lose the crutches. Wrong! I would have to suffer through another 2 weeks of crutches. I was so disappointed.

Had doctor’s appointment today. Had to get another x-ray. The doctor said he was very happy with my progress. I am at 8 weeks and ready to ditch the crutches. He finally told me I could get rid of the crutches but have to use the boot for 3 more weeks. I was ecstatic when he told me.

When he attached my new ankle to my medial malleolus, I think that’s what he said, splintered and he had to put another screw in and the x-ray showed it was healing really well. That was some really good news.

The first three days I had a lot of pain. Now that that is behind me I can honestly say I don’t have any more pain. I wake up in the mornings and my ankle isn’t hurting I lie there thinking am I awake or am I dreaming.

All things considered would I go through everything again? Yes I would. For the first time in 40 years I can take a step without pain.

Ankle on 10/16/2020

Slight Setback

New Walking Boot

Had my second post op doctor visit on 10/30. It was 23 days after the surgery. I was hoping to get the cast off and to be able to walk but it wasn’t going to happen this visit.

I got to the doctors office (4th floor) to only find out I was supposed to have the x-ray done first so it was off to the lobby again. Once the x-Rays were done it was back off to the fourth floor.

As far as my recovery there was very little pain in this two week cycle. What pain I had was bearable. The worse pain I experienced was definitely in the 3 days after surgery.

Once there they rolled me into the cast room and removed my cast. YES!!! Damn I needed that. Then the doctor removed the 25 stitches. The doctor had to place a screw horizontally to attach the replacement ankle to my leg and he doesn’t want me putting weight on it yet. However he did remove the cast and put me in a walking boot. I guess you can say I am half way where I wanted to be. So far the worse pain was the 3 days following surgery. The boredom really sucks but all in all the experience hasn’t been too bad but that is still dependent on how well the surgery worked to end my constant pain. Time will tell.