Mother Nature and Respect

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” – Walden Henry David Thoreau

The definition of nature is the material world, especially as surrounding humankind and existing independently of human activities. It is also defined as the phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations. One could say that nature is everything.

There is a saying “Stop and smell the roses.” Relax and take time to enjoy or appreciate the beauty of life. Stop stressing out, overthinking or complaining. My version is “Stop and drink of the beauty of nature.”

As spring draws near camping season comes into view. The weekend warriors who live in the cities and suburbs will begin their assault upon the campgrounds. They appear in the parks pulling their 30 foot campers loaded with all the amenities of home. I don’t think this is what Thoreau had in mind when he advocated that people leave their urban and industrialized areas to explore nature. He felt that “modern life” robbed people of their best selfs and that living in harmony with nature was essential. In today’s society the campgrounds are so overpopulated that they are nothing more than smaller communities of which they were trying to leave behind.

In Missouri the rivers and Ozark streams become heavily congested with weekend floaters occupying rafts, inner tubes, kayaks, and boats. Sadly the amount of litter left behind is mind boggling. Thoreau often wrote about the importance of preserving the wilderness and the importance of living in harmony with nature. His ideas are completely lost on the minds of the majority of weekend revelers. One can see the evidence if they float the rivers on Monday morning. Sandbars and gravel bars are littered with aluminum cans, trash, and an occasional tent. It doesn’t have to be this way. If you pack it in pack it out. It is that simple. My motto is is,”Leave it better than you found it.”

We as a whole need to learn to respect Mother Earth and what she has given us. Preserve the magnificent beauty of Mother Earth so that future generations can enjoy it. We don’t know what we have until it is gone.

“I love nature partly because she is not a man, but a retreat from him. None of his institutions control or pervade her. There a different kind of right prevails. In her midst I can be glad with an entire gladness. If this world were all man, I could not stretch myself, I should lose all hope. He is constraint, she is freedom to me. He makes me wish for another world. She makes me content with this.” – Henry David Thoreau’s Journal

MDC Once Again Under Attack!

The Missouri Conservation and Use Tax is once again under attack. ‘This money goes directly to support forest and wildlife conservation efforts. Out of every $8 of taxable goods one penny goes for conservation.

In the early 70s Missouri citizens petitioned to get the tax placed on the ballot. They succeeded, it passed and was implemented on July 1, 1977. Then in 1999 state officials attempted to divert the money collected to pay refunds to taxpayers to only have the Missouri Supreme Court rule that the money could only be used for conservation and not be considered part of the states total revenues.

When I was a child there were a lot of areas of Missouri where it was rare to see a deer or a turkey. I grew up fishing the Big River and bass fishing was mediocre.

In 1977 when the money was allocated to the MDC, things began to change. A little slow at first but soon things began to improve. Due to responsible conservation efforts game became more abundant. Hunters were allotted more tags to fill for deer and turkey. Bass fishing became more rewarding. Money started coming in from out of state hunters who wanted to take advantage of our good hunting. Out of state fisherman also traveled to Missouri to take advantage of our excellent fishing. New land was bought and more public hunting areas and river accesses were made available. New conservation areas were established. Other states began to take notice and implemented programs in their states that the MDC had created.

Now Republican Chris Dinkins of District 144 has introduced two constitutional amendments that could destroy the improvements that have been made. HJR 108 and HJR 112. She says it is in an effort to rein in the overgrown bureaucracy of the MDC and make the department more accountable to the people.

HJR 108 would give the voters the opportunity to change the Missouri Conservation Commission. Presently the commission has four members who are appointed by the governor. Her amendment would change that number to nine nonpartisan members. Voters would elect one member from the current MDC districts and the governor would appoint one member to the commission. I thought she wanted to rein in bureaucracy within the department but this would only add to it causing more bureaucratic red tape.

HJR 112, if passed by voters, would take two thirds of the money and pass it on to other areas in need. The Missouri Supreme Court has already ruled that the money could only be used for conservation and can not be considered part of the states total revenues. Lawsuits? I know the voters are voting on it but the voters passed it in the first place.

She points out that the MDC has a savings account balance of almost 100 million dollars. Sounds to me like they are being pretty responsible. Representative Dinkins that’s let me point out that a savings account is usually used for emergencies. How much of that money was contributed from the Conservation Sales and Use Tax and how much from the sale of licenses, tags, ammo, etc.? If the economy tanks the MDC could go through that money pretty quickly in an effort to keep its programs afloat. Did you ever think of that are better yet do you even care? She says the MDC continues to attack the civil liberties of this state but cites no references. If you are going to throw the sportsmen of this state under the bus at least tell us why? Since you represent Reynolds county I would be suspect it has something to do with the battle between feral hog hunters and the MDC. So your solution is to punish all sportsman of the state of Missouri?

I hope the sportsmen in this state takes a long hard look at what is going on here and the impact these two amendments will have on bird hunting, deer hunting, turkey hunting, fishing and all the other programs offered by the MDC. Are we going to stand by and let this destroy all the accomplishments the MDC has made since 1977. I for one hope not.

Is It Old Age?

The country is more of a wilderness, more of a wild solitude, in the winter than in the summer. The wild comes out. The urban, the cultivated, is hidden or negatived.” – John Burroughs

I am a lover of the winter. The beauty of Mother Earth covered in fresh snow causes the spirit within me to move and feel alive.

I turn 66 in a couple of months. My body is occupied by arthritis caused by years of abuse. The cold wind cuts through me like it never has before. It magnifies the pain within my joints and makes everyday life more difficult. I guess it was just a matter of time.

For the first time in my life I am actually looking forward to the spring temperatures that will usher my old friend winter out and let the warming air of spring begin to blow across Mother Earth.

It is partially fueled by my love of the river and searching for that elusive record bass. Camping on a gravel bar partaking of the delicious scents of the river. Engrossed in the tranquility and peace that soothes my soul and enriches my spirit. Gazing into the beauty of the night sky hoping to see a falling star. Listening to the nocturnal creatures that are found along the banks of the river as they go about foraging for food and warning others of the intruder among them.

Floating down the river in my yak experiencing the transformation to spring. Marveling at the beauty of the river influenced by the changing season. The redbud and the dogwood begin to paint the countryside with their blooms manifesting on the branches that were bare in the winter months. The warmth of the sun soothes my arthritic joints as I wonder who had been here before me.

Yes it is hard for me to imagine but I am actually looking forward to the coming of spring and saying goodbye to my old friend winter.

A Little Trip Down Memory Lane

During my teenage years my family would vacation every summer for a week at a campground in Mammoth Spring, Arkansas called Many Islands. It was located on the Spring River and offered premier trout fishing.

Our first year we camped for a week in a tent. It didn’t take long to realize that this was not the best of ideas. The following years we rented a cabin with all the comforts of home.

Spring River had several springs that flowed into it. The water temperature was cold and colder. Remember this little bit of information. The shock of hitting the water would take your breath away.

Generally we would wade the water to trout fish. On this one particular morning my dad informed me he was renting a boat and trolling motor so he and I could get where the big trout hung out.

There was a concrete slab where one could pull the boat up to and tie it off. My dad had pulled the boat up to the slab and informed me he was going to show me how to tie the boat up properly.

I was thirteen and excited about my dad sharing his knowledge with me. I watched attentively as he explained the proper knot to use as he tied it off. He then instructed me to retrieve our tackle boxes and rods and reels. He began loading the boat with our gear. He took one load aboard and came back to get another load.

On this trip he set his foot on the front seat of the John boat and still had one foot on the slab. At this point the boat began to drift away from the slab. Little did I know my vocabulary was going to expand with words that if I had ever used would have ended with me getting my mouth washed out with soap.

Now you have to picture my dad with one foot in the boat and the other planted on the slab and the boat slowly backing away. The gap between the boat and slab has widened. At this point I began to wonder if at the age of thirty four if my dad could physically do the splits.

My dad is trying frantically to pull the boat back to the slab with his leg. I stood there in disbelief as I watched the knot my dad had tied begin to unravel and the boat was now free and it occurred to me my dad was now at the point of no return.

All of a sudden I was overcome with the urge to laugh. I immediately started biting my tongue and realized how much I enjoyed life. I didn’t want to be standing in front of the pearly gates at such a young age so with great determination I was able to suppress my laughter.

I watched in horror, but laughing on the inside, as the gap became too wide for my dad to maintain his balance. SPLASH!!! Did I mention how cold the water is? He rises out of the water and onto the slab with the agility of a teenager. Like the Phoenix rising from the ashes!! My vocabulary was expanding with the speed of light. His language would have made a sailor proud!

Needless to say that pretty much ended our day in the boat exploring Spring River and a trophy Trout was spared. When we got back to the cabin we had a real good laugh. Ahh the memories of growing up.

Ozark Rivers of the Past

“Only going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.” – John Muir

If I could ever spend time with a person of the past it would be John Muir. He explored the wilderness in the 1800s. The majority of the time he was alone. Him and the creatures that inhabited the area.

His love for the mountains was comparable to my love for the Ozark rivers of Missouri. His books and essays were influential in my admiration and respect for nature.

I can only imagine what kind of experience it would have been to explore the Ozark rivers in the 1800s.

Many times when I am camped on a gravel bar sitting in front of a fire, I find myself fantasizing about what it would have been like back then.

I imagine what the water would have been like free of pollutants. River banks and gravel bars void of litter and unmolested by ATVs. A place not yet touched by the hand of man and his idea of progress.

Without the infringement of artificial light, created by near by towns and dusk to dawn lights, the stars had to have the appearance of magnificent diamonds in the night sky.

It boggles my mind to think one would probably not see another human for days or weeks. One would experience the true feeling of being alone. Lost in the magnificence of Mother Earth and Her beauty. I can only imagine.

The Ozark rivers of Missouri gives one an avenue to seek and find one’s inner being. A place to observe the true beauty of Mother Earth. A place to heal their spirit and cleanse their soul. To enjoy it one must clear their mind and become one with the river. Then and only then can you understand my love for the Ozark rivers.

November Day On The River

The weather in Southeast Missouri was exceptional today. It was in the sixties!!! When I heard today’s forecast on Thursday I started planning for today.

When I got to the Leadwood Access on the Big River the air temperature was 35 degrees. I started down river around 8:45 a.m.. I am guessing water temp was in the low forties. Water was clear and dropping.

I had decided I was going to use the Rapala floating minnow, Rebel medium Wee Craw and a jig with a crawfish trailer.

Started out wind was calm but picked up about 10 am. Beautiful blue sky with some cloud puffs. Lots of sunshine and the temp began to rise.

My float started at the Leadwood Access on the Big River located in Missouri. The fishing started out slow and pretty much stayed that way. I did manage to catch 4 but only got pics of three.

I caught a spotted bass that went 10 inches but when I put it on the board to measure him he slipped out of my hands and back into the water before I could get a pic.

Caught this spotted bass fishing the Eaton Branch of the Big River.

Caught this small mouth near the Eaton Branch of the Big River.

The beautiful fall colors of the Missouri countryside had fallen to the ground for the most part. I was a little disappointed. Maybe next year.

I caught two before lunch. Missouri streams can be tough fishing in late fall when water temps have become frigid and clear enough to see a crawfish on the bottom in 4 foot of water. It’s a shallow river for the most part. The stretch I floated probably had an average water depth of 4 foot.

Lunch on a gravel bar on the Big River. After lunch I couldn’t buy a hit. I had several small bass and perch follow the lure all the way to the boat but didn’t take the bait.

The last two bass I caught at the end of my float. I caught them in Owl Creek. It dumps into the Big River at the Bone Hole Access where my float ended.

If you are ever up for some good small mouth fishing I recommend the Big River.

Lazy Day on the Big River

I finally got to float the Big River. First time this year. My school buddy Mark Nelson and I met st the Huddle House in DeSoto for breakfast at 7 a.m.. after a hearty breakfast we headed for the river.

We left Mark’s truck at Merrill Horse conservation area and drove to Mammoth CA. We got the yaks in the water about 8:30 and headed down river to the Merrill Horse Access.

There hadn’t been enough rain to cause the river to rise but the water was stained and not as clear as usual. The water was cooler than I thought it would be with all the hot weather we have had.

Mark chillin’ on the Big River

The fish weren’t cooperating and had apparently ate before we got there. We didn’t really care because it was a beautiful day to be on the river.

Finally the fish got their appetite back. The first four escaped the hook and swam for freedom. I was 0 for 4. Patience finally paid off. I caught a small largemouth.

Then I finally caught a small smallmouth.

I caught a spotted bass then we had to head for the boat ramp.

I fished this stretch a lot last year. It is approximately 5.4 miles. Last year I saw a Bald Eagle 4 times. I was disappointed I didn’t see it this time.

Mark caught about a 10 inch bass and a perch.

“The River is constantly turning and bending and you never know where it’s going to go and where you’ll wind up. Following the bend in the river and staying on your own path means that you are on the right track. Don’t let anyone deter you from that. – Eartha Kitt

My Hiding Place

The river is my sanctuary. When I am sitting on a gravel bar at 3 in the morning, looking up at the stars I sometimes feel like I am the only person on earth.

As I sit there I listen to the soothing song of the crickets, tree frogs, and bull frogs and begin to meditate. I clear my mind of negativity. I feel a calmness around me. I don’t have much but I have this special place to come to and heal my mind, spirit and soul. A recharge of sorts.

As I sit there looking into the fire my mind begins to wander. I wonder if anyone else has camped here? Did they appreciate it? Did they relish the silence, or did the silence scare them?

Did anyone sit here and drink in the night sky filled with stars and are they as elated as I am when I see a star fall from the heavens?

The river is a mystical place for me. It’s a place where I can become one with Mother Nature.

There is so much life on the river.

The important part is I feel safe here. Even alone on a sandbar in the wee hours of the morning, in the dark, I am in my element, my safe place. Everyone should have a place like this to go to. It boosts your mental state and improves your peace of mind.

It can be a studio you do your art work in, a den where you put your inner thoughts on paper. It may be your quilting room or in a flower or vegetable garden. It may be on the back of your favorite equine. It is a safe place where you can have peace of mind and healing. It should be a calming place where you shed all the negativity that you have been carrying. Your place.

Feel free to tell us about your safe place in the “comments” section. It will be interesting to see the variety of hiding places used to get right with yourself and deal with the negativity of the world. A place to fill your heart, soul, spirit, and mind with love.

River Adventure

It’s 2 am in the morning and you’re camped on the river situated on a gravel bar. It’s a new moon and the stars are shining brightly. Mother Nature is providing the concert tonight as the crickets, tree frogs, and locusts are joined by a bullfrog.

In the distance you hear the “yip”, “yip” of the coyotes. “Bam”! Your heart beats faster and the hair raises up on the back of your neck. You look intensely into the darkness of the river. You shine your flashlight and you see it! A beaver. Bam, he hits the water with his tail to warn the other beavers that they have an intruder.

Suddenly there is something splashing in the direction of your limb line. You shine the area and you see what appears to be a big catfish has hooked itself. Your adrenaline kicks in and you climb into the kayak and eagerly paddle to your line. It breaks the water and you realize it is over 8 pounds. It truly is a great night on the river!

You get back to the gravel bar and make sure your catch is safely restrained in the water. You suddenly have a craving for fish so you decide to try and catch one to cook. You rig a pole to do some tight line fishing from the gravel bar. After 40 minutes without a bite you begin to think you are going to have an MRE for breakfast. Then tap, tap. Something is biting your bait. You wait and then set the hook and real in a nice drum (also known as a stone perch). It is now 4:15 am. You prepare the drum to cook. With nothing to cook it in you go McGyver and make a spit from green tree limbs. Ten minutes on each side and breakfast is served.

As you sit there reflecting on the night you notice the fingers of light start invading the darkness. You feel good. You are at peace with yourself. Yes, life is good.

Safety First!

I live in southeast Missouri and kayaking has become very popular. On the weekends the area rivers become very crowded with kayakers. I see so many that aren’t wearing life jackets. I myself used to be one of them. One day I just happened to put it on and ended up dumped in class II water and if it wasn’t for my life jacket I would have drowned.

For those of you who don’t know the water classes:

A – Lake water; still

Class I – Easy smooth water, light ruffles, clear passages, occasional sand banks and gentle curves

Class II – Moderate

Class Iii – moderate difficult

Class IV – Difficult

Class V – extremely difficult

Class VI – extraordinarily difficult

Safety devices have a purpose in life and are there to keep you safe.

I know they are cumbersome and can get in the way but they can save your life. There are those in your life that would appreciate you using one.

I have been boating and kayaking for 50 years. Never came close to drowning until that one dreadful day. It wasn’t the first time I had been dumped. Unfortunately when learning something new unplanned things happen due to the lack of experience.

Just keep in mind when you get in that kayak or boat that the decision as to jacket or not could be a life saving decision.

In closing I would like to remind everyone that if you pack it to the river take it home with you. Please don’t leave your trash on the river or lake. Keep our water ways clean.

Spread the love and be kind to one another. “