Remembering a Childhood Friend

Some people come into our lives and leave footprints on our hearts and we are never, ever the same.” – Unkown


My maternal grandparents owned a farm in Patton, MO when I was a young un. My grandpa farmed, raised sheep and had some dairy cows.

Across the holler from him lived a brother and sister by the name of Bob and Bert Hinson. Now Bob was a colorful ole gentleman. It was said he made some of the best moonshine that ever crossed your lips. I never grew tired of his stories and he never hesitated to entertain me.

On a ridge that overlooked his farm was a large grove of pines. Bob loved to sit in the middle of the grove, roll him a smoke and listen to the singing of the wind as it swirled through the pines.

I remember during one of my visits Bob asked me if I would like to join him in a visit to the ridge among the pines.

We made our way across the pasture and started our climb to the top of the ridge. Even though he was in his 70s you couldn’t tell it. He climbed the steep ridge with ease.

Once we reached the top we made our way to the center. The sound of the wind singing in the grove filled me with peace. Bob sat in his usual place on a fallen tree in the grove. Once settled in he pulled a rolling paper from his shirt pocket and a can of Prince Albert and filled it with his tobacco of choice.

He opened the Prince Albert can and carefully poured the tobacco into the paper and rolled him a smoke. He lit it and took a long drag. We sat there not speaking a word. We just sat there drinking in our surroundings and the symphony being played by the wind upon the pines. There was a great calm and life was good.

Bob finally took his last drag on his smoke and carefully put it out. He turned to me and said remember this boy, when you are one with nature you have everything you need to enjoy life. He then arose from his perch and we headed back to the house.

That was my last visit with my friend. He passed away shortly thereafter in his sleep. I often wonder what was on his mind that day. Did he know that his visit on earth was coming to a close? I am forever honored that he shared that time in the grove with me on that day. As far as I know that was his last visit to the pine grove. RIP my friend. You are still in my heart.

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

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”.

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?

Camping In Missouri

“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach of us more than we can learn from books.” – John Lubbock

Camping has become very popular for many Missourians. Camping venues, state and private, fill up rapidly on the weekends and some places are booked weeks in advance. They bring everything from RVs loaded with all the conveniences of home to the simple tent. Whatever makes them happy.

At the age of 66 I still prefer tent camping. I have been known to just roll out a pad and sleep on it. The simpler the better. I have a one man tent and a 3 man. I use the one man for one nighters and the 3 man for extended nights in one place.

3 man tent
Food taste better when cooked at camp.

There are so many choices for campers in Missouri. There are 41 state parks with over 3600 campsites. From lakes, rivers to trout parks there is a campsite waiting for you. Fun for the whole family. mdc.mo.gov

You can also find an abundance of privately owned parks throughout the state. Campers have so much to choose from in the state of Missouri.

Kayaking on Bismark Lake

A Welcome Memory

“I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority. ” E.B. White / Letters of E. B. White

At 66 years of age I still prefer primitive camping in my one man tent. I prefer to leave the conveniences of the modern day world at home. Right, wrong or indifferent if I am going to take a camper filled with the luxuries of home then I would rather stay home or just stay in a motel.

I set up camp on my property in Frank Clay, Missouri. It is 12.65 acres filled with oak, hickory, and walnut with patches of sassafras and cedar sprinkled in. There is abundant wildlife, deer, squirrels and turkey.

It is so quiet and peaceful you can hear yourself think. It is my safe place when I can’t go to the river. It is another place I can go to rid my mind of all the negative energy that I let in. Only positive thinking allowed.

The sun is starting to sink in the west so I get busy setting up camp. Once done I start a fire so I can get started preparing supper.

Sweet taters, corn on the cob and Cornish hens. No finer eating than food prepared in Dutch ovens. Once done cleaning up it is time to sit and relax around the campfire.

As I sit in my chair reflecting on my day I hear the lonesome bawl of a hound in the distance. There is a chance of rain in the forecast. There is a cloud bank in the west. I can just make out the sound of distant thunder. Lightning is visible as it dances among the clouds illuminating the night sky. What a glorious light show to see. Absolutely breathtaking.

As I become engrossed in the show Mother Nature has so graciously provided for my entertainment I lose track of all time. A breeze begins to move down the ridge into the valley and arouses me from my thoughts. The lightning and sound of thunder is closer. I can smell the scent of rain carried in by the breeze. Rain is close.

The wind begins to blow hard across the woodlands I quickly go to work putting my fire out and securing anything that might blow away. J wind is blowing hard enough my tent looks like it is dancing.

I can feel the mist from the rain against my face. I crawl into my tent and settle in not knowing what to expect from the approaching storm. The first raindrop lands on my tent and is soon followed II many more. My tent is being pelted by the rain that is now a downpour but the wind has slowed. I can only hope that it stays dry inside the tent. I love to listen to the sound of the rain upon my tent. I don’t know how long I lay there listening to the rain before Mr Sandman came to visit.

A Night of Solitude on the River

It’s 2 am and I am alone on the river. There is no moon and the night sky is black as ink. I hear the crackle of the campfire and the sound of the river as it makes its way across the rocks in the shallow rapids before finding its way into deeper water. Bam! A beaver slaps its tail on the water warning others that there is an intruder in their domain.

Yip! Yip! Yip! I can hear the coyotes on the other side of the river making their way along the river bank. The lightning bugs illuminate the darkness with their blinking tails. As a child they reminded me of airplanes against the night sky with their blinking lights.

The bull frogs had been eerily quiet tonight but the deep bass croak of a bullfrog begins to resonate throughout the river valley followed by the scream of a screech owl.

With the soothing sound of Mother Nature’s symphony I begin to relax and I let my mind wander. I wonder if there was someone camped on this very spot 250 years ago. Perhaps a Native American or a settler. Were they fishing or just passing through? Were they in search of a place to settle or were they making their way to the mighty Mississippi? How much different it must have been. No litter or tires along it’s banks. How clear the water must have been. Were they as mesmerized by the beauty of the river as I am? Did they enjoy the peace and solitude? Were they alone too?

I am brought back to the present by a ruckus behind me. I turn around and in the darkness I could discern five figures in the darkness. It appears to be a mother raccoon and her offspring. She seems to be scolding one of the youngsters. Maybe it had ventured too close to me and she was worried about its safety. They soon moved on in search of food.

I readied my bedroll and crawled inside it as the desire for sleep won over the marvels of the nighttime. I lay looking into the night sky watching for a shooting star but there would be none tonight. The smells of the river were crisp tonight. The smell of the river and the campfire were the most prominent and complimented each other. I begin drifting off playing the days events back in my mind. At the same time I wondered what tomorrow would bring. Would I catch my personal best smallmouth or would it just be a day of photography? As sleep began to overtake me I was one with the river rooted in my safe place. A place of peace and tranquility. A place to recharge my soul and mind and cleanse my spirit. Life is good. I am on the river.

Bennett Spring State Park

Bennett Spring State Park is located in Lebanon, MO. It is comprised of 3216 acres and the spring pumps out 100,000,000 gallons of water daily. A trout hatchery is located within the park providing the rainbow trout that are stocked each night. The number of trout stocked depends on the number of people fishing the day before. There is a dining lodge that serves delicious meals daily, cabins and there are 5 campgrounds that range from primitive to full RV hookups.

I arrived on the evening of June 28 and spent time familiarizing myself with the park. I did a little fishing but to no avail. They blow the siren at 6:30 a.m. and anglers begin their quest for rainbow trout.

The next morning I was ready to go but found the banks and water filled with anglers. I fished the fly and lure zone. I hung one that got off about 5 feet from me. By the end of the day I was the king of catch and release. I caught them and they released themselves before I could get them on the stringer.

I talked to a gentleman that had limited out in 45 minutes. Daily limit is 4 rainbows. He was using what they call glow balls. So off to the store I went to buy some.

The next morning I was ready for them. I started at 6:45 a.m. and had caught my limit by 8 a.m. The glow ball had worked its magic.

Another popular lure was a rooster tail.

On this particular day the rainbows weren’t fond of the rooster tail. They had Zone 1 where you could only use flies. In Zone 2 you could use flies and lures. Zone 3 was soft plastic and natural bait.

However I did limit out this morning.

Bennett Spring

The park was well kept. The only real complaint I had was that Zone 3 the plastic bait/ natural bait area was 90% shallow fast moving water which made it extremely hard to fish. That area was definitely short changed. Zone 1 flies only was the best of the 3 zones. Ample space for fishermen. Zone 2 is nice but every morning fishermen are parked in the water about every 4 feet.

If you are going to go to Bennett Spring I would recommend that you learn to fly fish and get you a good fly fishing rig. If you want to start fly fishing they rent fly rods and reels and even waders.

Abounding Excitement

“Camping: The art of getting closer to nature while getting farther away from the nearest cold beverage, hot shower and flush toilet.” Anonymous

I awoke at 5:00 a.m.excited that I was finally afforded the opportunity to go camping for the first time this year. Finally a weekend without rain.

I was headed to my property in Frank Clay, MO. I arrived a little after 10 a.m. I began the task of setting up camp. I soon found out that the seed ticks survived the winter. It was far worse than in years past.

I decided to take a break and parked myself in a chair. The woods were quiet except for the sweet sound of song birds. A donkey began braying in the distance and some Bluejays began fussing at one another.

When camping, time seems to move at breakneck speed. I dug out the lantern and readied it to bring light to the darkness of the coming nightfall. I gathered wood and started a fire.

“The fire is the main comfort of camp, whether in summer or winter.” – Henry David Thoreau

I settled into my chair and turned my attention into enjoying the glow of the fire. I pulled out my journal and began recording the day’s events. A donkey began to bray just east of camp. It was such a sad sounding bray. A whip-poor-will began sharing its song. To the north of camp a pack of coyotes began yipping playfully and the woodland insects began their nightly symphony. As I sat watching the flames of the fire dancing around, my eyes signaled it was time to turn in for the night.

Morning came early for me. I awoke at 4:00 a.m. and even though still half asleep managed to find my way out of the tent. I was met by temperatures in the low 50s. I added some kindling to the fire to rekindle it’s flames. I grabbed the coffee pot, added water and Cameron’s Highland Grog coffee grounds. I placed the pot on the fire and sat back and waited for the finished product. Caffeine! I need caffeine.

I don’t know if you have ever experienced the taste of camp coffee and if you haven’t I am here to tell you the flavor is in a league of its own. My childhood friend David Tripp has always been fascinated with the flavor of my camp coffee to the point he has mastered the technique and become a master at brewing camp coffee.

Finally the coffee was done and I poured myself a cup and sat back in my chair watching the fingers of light from the rising sun overtake the night sky bringing dawn to the woodlands. I was awoken from my trance by the barking of a squirrel. I finally located him. It was a gray squirrel moving erratically on the limb of a white oak. He seemed upset to find this human invading its territory. After about 10 minutes he lost interest and moved on. Two geese flew just above the treetops honking noisily as they went. The songbirds began filling the air with their music. My stomach began to growl and I heated up the Dutch Oven so I could begin the preparation of breakfast.

I loaded the oven with bacon and the morning air was filled with the aroma of cooking bacon. I then fried some eggs over easy but because some dummy forgot the biscuits breakfast would only consist of bacon and eggs. Food always seems to taste better when cooked over a campfire.

After breakfast I sat back and reflected on the weekends events and finished my last cup of coffee. It was time to break camp, clean up and head back home.

As a side note I had a phone conversation with my childhood friend and fellow blogger David Tripp telling him about my camping trip. David is doing a story about Hank (me) and Randy (David) on his blog and is doing his own illustrations. I urge you to check his blog out and follow the adventures of Hank an Randy. https://davidtripp.wordpress.com/. and check out his website Recollections 54 The Art Of David Tripp http://www.davidtrippart.com.