Monday, May 21, 2018

The Mr. Wilson of My Boyhood


           
           In January, I came in to load my boat after dark and was surprised by a man standing there in the darkness.  He identified himself as a Missouri Conservation agent.  “Now what?” I thought to myself!
  
            He was young, he was alone, and his vehicle was nowhere to be seen.  And everything he did was exactly what he should have done to do his job.  If I had been a violator, he would have caught one. That is something today’s MDC enforcement agents seldom do-- catch actual violators.

            The young man wasn’t belligerent at all, but there to be sure I had my appropriate federal stamp, a hunting license, steel shot, a plugged shotgun and a legal limit only.  I couldn’t believe it; he thanked me and proceeded to talk to me as one man would talk to another, with respect.  I’ll bet he wasn’t 25 yet.

            I thought of the time when an old-time agent by the name of Bland Wilson showed me again and again how a ‘game-warden’ should do his job.  I was about 11 or 12 and he was one of my idols.  I went with him on occasion because I wanted to be in the outdoors all I could, and wanted to be a game warden someday myself.  My grandfather was his friend and adversary.  Grandpa never knew about the times I paddled Mr. Wilson down the river in one of his hand-made johnboats.

            Bland Wilson told me that my grandfather was the best riverman, trapper and outdoorsman he knew.  Grandpa grudgingly admitted that Bland Wilson was his equal, when it came to knowledge and ability in the outdoors.  “He’s like a %@#& Indian,” Grandpa said, “and he’s liable to be anywhere!”

            Grandpa was a conservationist too, in a different way.  He took what his family needed, in a day before I was born.  And when I was young, and we hunted ducks, we stopped when we had all the ducks he felt was needed.  But we picked the feathers up to the base of the skull and to the feet and to the first joint of the wings.  That whole duck was eaten and the downy feathers saved for mattresses or pillows.  But if we hunted ducks and the limit was six apiece and we only got five apiece, grandpa figured we should get that extra duck on our next hunt.   With Bland Wilson out there, it became a contest that grandpa looked forward to.  If he got a couple of ducks too many, he would stash them along the river and come back in the middle of the night, walk in to where he left them, and bring them home, figuring Bland was asleep.

            I remember once when we were floating down the lower Piney River and grandpa stopped on a gravel bar to count our squirrels and ducks.  He looked up toward a towering bluff and said, “That ______ Bland Wilson is probably up there on that bluff watching me right now with his lookin’ glass.”  His respect for Bland Wilson was great, his thinking bordered on paranoia.  But never, ever, did grandpa or dad ever waste anything.  Thinking about it today, I remember grandpa butchering hogs for neighbors just for the head and hide.

Bland told me about several times when he could have arrested my grandfather for little things, and my Uncle Norten was constantly telling the story about how Bland Wilson showed up on the river bank asking for a ride downstream when he and his pop had an illegal bass, by only one day, in the live-well.  If you haven’t heard that story, you can read it all in the book about Uncle Norten’s life, entitled “Ridge-Runner… From the Big Piney to the Battle of the Bulge”.

            Bland retired when I was still young and replaced by the best conservation agent I ever knew… a man by the name of Ron Roellig.  I related a story about him and the kind of man he was in my book, “The Prince of Pt. Lookout”.  Roellig was what every agent should be, he worked alone, and he was after one kind of person, intentional violators of hunting and fishing laws.  I will write more about him in the future.

            The Big Piney, after Roellig, was plagued by a couple of rogue agents.  They broke the law big time, because they made money by doing it.  Law Enforcement Chief Larry Yamnitz told be that as a young agent in Cabool Missouri, he rode with one of them when he conducted a private business in a state vehicle in his uniform on state time.
Yamnitz apparently went along with it because he feared that if he reported it he would be fired.  About 10 or 12 years ago, agent Kyle Carroll reported two other agents who broke the law while on duty, and sure enough, Carroll was fired while the other two kept their jobs.  It all backfired on the MDC though, as Kyle hired a lawyer, it all came out in court and the MDC had to pay him a million dollars when the truth came out.


I hope to finish several books in the next couple of years. One is entitled, “The Demise of Conservation… the truth about the Missouri Department of Conservation”  The other is the story of my boyhood entitled, “The Life and Times of the Pool Hall Kid”.  Another that is nearly ready to publish is “Recollections of an Old Fashioned Angler” and after that…“Memoirs From the Big Piney”.  I have ten books finished and for sale now…. I hope I live long enough to finish ten or twenty more. Call my office if you need to talk with me…. 417-777-5227. Our new summer issue of my magazine is available now.  Email lightninridge47@gmail.com or write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

MDC's Sara Pauley at Panther Creek Youth Retreat


      I have had a number of readers ask me about my underprivileged kids ranch… Panther Creek.  Recently a church from Owensville Missouri reserved the place for a weekend in June and will be bringing more than 20 kids.  Panther Creek amounts to a 60-acre outdoor education center with a lodge and 2 cabins, absolutely free to any group wanting to use it.

      Everything is there a group might need.  All that needs to be brought to the place is food and clothing.  I’ve worked on it for 4 years now, and we have trap-shooting, kayaking and canoeing, a swimming hole, a gravel bar bonfire site, a historic bridge made in 1882, a softball-soccer field, pool table (which kids seem to be drawn to like a magnet) and a couple of miles of trails and photography platforms.  Our food plots ensure a lot of wildlife to be seen. We also have conservation projects kids can help us with while they are there.

      If you want to help with a charitable donation, I would welcome it.  The cost of operating the project is about 6 or 7 thousand per year.  But I want no one thinking we are making one penny out of our place. If you want to send a small check, you should make it out to our debtors, perhaps the St. Clair County Collector, Sac Osage Electric Company, the Hickory County Insurance Company or Doke Propane.  Those are our biggest costs.  I don’t want anyone making a check out to me.  If you have questions about the place, would like to visit and perhaps spend a night there, just call me at 417-777-5227.  We have never had newspaper or television publicity.  I am a conservative writer who they do not like much.  But this column and my magazine have been getting the word out well.  Still, we have a lot of open dates each year.

      As most of you know, the director of the Missouri Department of Conservation, Mrs. Sara Pauley, spent several hours with me a couple of weeks ago at our Panther Creek Retreat.  We talked about many of the things I write that the MDC does not want known, and we talked about some conservation projects to benefit ordinary Missouri outdoorsmen, which we could work together on.

      I blindsided Mrs. Pauley with a request to have help with our outdoor education center there on Panther Creek.  There is so much the MDC could do that would help hundreds of underprivileged children learn so much about the outdoors at our place.

      I told her I knew about the millions of dollars her agency has given to Johnny Morris and Bass Pro Shops…. Why not give us some help too.  I don’t think Mrs. Pauley knows that the MDC pays the annual property tax for a number of influential people, seemingly all lawyers and judges.  A western Missouri judge was given 235,000 dollars to invest into a PRIVATE waterfowl hunting marsh where MDC officials went to hunt ducks with some of Kansas City’s prominent athletes.  Each year the conservation department pays that family’s property taxes--nearly 1000 dollars to be paid “in perpetuity”.  That means forever.

      So I proposed that the MDC pay the Panther Creek property taxes… less than 500 dollars.  And in turn I would give the equal amount each year to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.  Mrs. Pauley smiled, but never answered.  When I brought it up again, she turned away and acted as if she didn’t hear me. Can you imagine why they would not do something so minimal in cost, and be so eager to give lawyers, judges and the richest man in Missouri, millions of dollars?

      I doubt that Mrs. Pauley can do much, but somebody in the MDC could make that happen easily.  No matter, I will give some of what I have to St. Jude’s anyway.

      I urge you to read more about the conservation projects I hope to get the MDC to help me with, in my Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Magazines summer issue being printed next week. If you want to get a copy, call that office number given above.

Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613 or email me at lightninridge47@gmail.com.

A Turkey Hunter's Poem



I was fishing on the river with my shotgun in my boat, just in case I heard a turkey on my peaceful river float.

Stopped above a gentle current to cast my jolly-wobbler, when across the stream a good half mile I heard a turkey gobbler.

So I grabbed my old pump shotgun and behind a tree I hid, and started making hen talk with my cedar box and lid.

That old tom got excited and come struttin’ t’ward the stream, just like dozens more before him, hot and bothered, buildin’ steam

He visualized a sweet young hen, ‘cause my callin’ was so good, he was fooled so bad he hurried, didn’t see me where I stood.

He just jumped into the river, with his mating urges strong.  His beard was like a well rope and his bright red waddle… long.

His spurs looked like two switch-blades, as he gobbled loud and clear, in the middle of the river, thinkin’ romance was so near.

Well I lowered my old shotgun, cause I’d been that way before, and I felt a little sorry for that old wet paramour

So I wasn’t gonna shoot him, ‘til he looked down in the water, and saw a big ol’ smallmouth, and stabbed at it and got ‘er.

It seemed that he came all that way a gobblin’ and a struttin’, ‘cause likely for the last two days or so he hadn’t eaten nuthin’

When he seen that big fish there so close, he figured he’d have dinner, then find that sexy hen he’d heard and be a double winner.

But that bass, she was a fat one, two pounds or so I figger.  And it riled me something awful, cause I hadn’t caught one bigger.

And while I had a soft spot for that tom’s, romance wishes, the one thing I can’t tolerate is killin’ smallmouth fishes

Cause a smallmouth is the best of fish, if you all are askin’ me.  The pride of Ozark rivers, they should always be set free.

So across that river valley you could hear my shotgun roar, as I blasted that old gobbler, so he wouldn’t fish no more.

Now in my basement freezer I have ducks and squirrel and jerky, and some crappie and some walleye, and a smallmouth-poachin’ turkey

The moral of this story is, all poems ought to rhyme, and one thing about poets is… you can’t believe them half the time.


Monday, April 30, 2018

Was that Really April? plus MDC update about Jeremy Henshaw





         Quite a few readers have commented on this ‘spring that isn’t spring’.  I can’t come up with answers as to why the mushrooms have been so scarce but I can’t say that it is over yet.  After the storms to come this week, there may be a few to be found in May.  In north Missouri and southern Iowa, morels are usually found in May, and in Northwest Ontario, I have found them in June.  There are factors that make morels come out, and all those things have to come together when the soil temperature is perfect, and this year, soil temperature hasn’t ever been quite right when other things were.
 
         The biggest disappointment has been the wild gobblers.  Even now, as May comes on, they are gobbling on the roost and doing very little when they hit the ground.  For a fact, there are fewer 2 and 3 year-old gobblers than I have seen in a good while… a product of some really wet springs which kill off large numbers of poults. Even an expert caller like me, who once called a gobbler through a forest fire a half mile away, can’t enjoy turkey hunting much when a tom doesn’t want to gobble.  I am not going to become one of those field edge hunters who put out decoys and hunt out of store-bought blind.   I want to hunt gobblers the old-fashioned way, hiding behind a brushpile in the deep woods calling in a lovesick tom that gobbles 25 times and comes in slow as cold molasses.  And this year, they seem to be hesitant to answer the most perfect calls I can muster.  It might be a good time to sit out in a field disguised as a steer!


         If you got to see the column I wrote about Jeremy Hanshaw, which many newspapers would not print, I have much more to reveal about all this that the MDC does not want you to know.  Jeremy was the victim of Conservation Department agents who wanted, and took, without a search warrant, eight of his and his wife’s deer heads because they said the land they own and hunted on with landowner tags is two-tenths of an acre less than the five acres they thought they had, I have been assured by the enforcement chief and the director of the MDC they would talk with Jeremy in person.
 
         His story will be in our summer issue of the Lightnin’ Ridge magazine in detail, and you will not believe what has happened.  Apparently the judge was about to be lenient with the young man, so somehow a new judge was called in by the agents and prosecutor to tell the court that allowing Jeremy and his wife to keep the deer heads would be ‘like allowing someone to keep an illegal sawed-off shotgun’.  Apparently the two agents were even at odds over whether all the heads should be taken. It may take awhile to get to the bottom of this, but I am going to show, before it is all over, that these confiscations of legally taken deer heads have been done all over the state, and they are then sold or given away. I have the proof of that.

         Director Sara Pauley has met with me and promised to work with me on some conservation projects.  But it will take awhile, I suppose, as this week she emailed me to say she is hunting turkeys.  Please read on my website….larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com much more about Jeremy Hanshaw and what is happening to him.  It can happen to you, as it has happened to many, many others.

I am hoping that many of the hunter’s and fishermen out there will contact me about the things agents and biologists, and the forestry division of the MDC has done which can be proven.  The book I hope to publish this year about them, will use many reader letters which the news media of the state will never allow to be known. Meanwhile here is a letter I received from a young college student this week... one of more than 200 received recently.  I hope in time to publish them all.

Dear Mr. Dablemont
     
     I am a student at ____________where I am majoring in wildlife management. My home is in Reynolds County, south of Ellington, Missouri. I have enjoyed your articles in the newspaper since early in high school. My dad, grandmother and I look forward to what you have to say every week. My friend and relative,______ knows you well and he tells stories about you occasionally when I see him. Those stories, and others I have been told from my dad, grandpa, and local old-timers, have always made me curious about natural history in the Ozarks and elsewhere. They also make me regret that I will probably never enjoy the same opportunities all of you had back then. I regret that the disdain for the environment has degraded our resources from an already fragile state to the point of complete loss of some species, and near loss of many others. It worries me that, as you mentioned in your last article, the rivers and creeks are filling in with gravel and sediment because of careless forestry practice. It bothers me when I see a stream bank eroding away because the trees have been cut or have fallen without being replaced, and cattle wading in the stream contaminating every water source downstream in the watershed.
     Concerning the Conservation Department, I am as disappointed as you in their priorities. I question many of their methods, specifically regarding their treatment of timber. I have witnessed the destruction of vast open timber. The woods I grew up in that border my family's property have been reduced to a wasteland. This is public land the MDC owns and manages. As one of our neighbors described it, "they went in and cut everything but ridin' switches". In the place of timber now resides a dense thicket of briers and brush that is nearly inaccessible. I watched from the front porch of my grandma's house as the log trucks left with all the logs they could carry, and returned for more until there was nothing remaining. In a span of a few years I went from wanting to work for MDC to despising the thought of it. The policy of the department toward forests seems to have been to exploit rather than to preserve. They claim to want rid of feral hogs in Missouri, yet create a safe haven for them with every clear cut they make. I hope to see the day where forests on public lands are preserved and maintained, rather than razed until valuable and then harvested with no concern for the many parts of the ecosystem that depend on them-- both living and nonliving. 
     As for your writing, if you can be persuaded to continue I would appreciate it very much. And I wouldn't hope for your subject to change to appease anyone who cannot relate to it. Instead, it should inform everyone of what once was, what caused its demise, and what can be done to restore it. Thank you for your years of concern and dedication to informing the public.  You may use this letter but please do not use my name as I hope to work someday in the field of conservation and wildlife, and I am afraid they would see to it I have difficulty getting a job in this state if the MDC finds out my name.

Ask yourself why this young man’s letter cannot be published in a large percentage of this state’s newspapers.

         To write to me or call our publishing office…. 417 777 5227, Box 22 Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email lightninridge47@gmail.com
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Saturday, April 28, 2018

Take your camera in the woods....

do you know what species of trees these photos show. I love to see just what i can come across with my camera. will answer the question tomorrow.



Needs "EVIDENCE OF INNOCENCE"???

Mdc director sara pauley has recently assured me that we will be getting together soon trying to actually tackle some conservation problems, but this week she will be turkey hunting. I want to get Jeremy Hanshaw into her office soon. he is the one that two agents victimized, stealing eight of his deer heads.
Mrs Pauley wants me to bring her 'EVIDENCE OF HIS INNOCENCE'. i am anxious to do just that. In the meantime i spent yesterday exploring the woods on truman lake and it was a wonderful peaceful day. never saw a soul nor heard a thing that wasn't natural. on much of that corps land, the wooded hills are filled with giant trees of all species. They won't be there long because MDC 'manages' much of it for the corps. That management will allow them to turn loose private logging companies to butcher it someday. I wonder if we all gave them enough money if they might let them stand. because everyone knows they function to make more money. our license fees and that 1/8 cent tax we give them isn't nearly enough. they just can't operate on 200 million a year!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Response to A Newspaper Editor Concerning My Criticism of MDC


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         For the fourth year now, our Panther Creek Youth Ranch is ready to provide a free outdoor environment for underprivileged kids. This is a fifty-acre retreat on a beautiful little creek with a lodge and two cabins, kayaks, canoes, a sports field, a trap range, trails and a rec room.  Smaller churches that do not have the money to take kids to expensive summer camps may use ours for no charge, for a weekend or a week.  I write about it because the only publicity it has ever had has been through this column. I need readers to help spread the word. No television or large newspaper in the Ozarks has ever mentioned it, and I don’t understand why.  Lots of kids have come there, but it needs to be used much more.  We have accommodated 30 kids before, who swam and hiked and fished and enjoyed an abundance of wildlife.  Help me spread the word to churches or organizations that work with kids who seldom see the greatest of God’s creation in the outdoors. And while we have accomplished a great deal there, our old tractor has gone under, and we need to buy a small, older model tractor to pull a disc and a mower.  It has to fit into our budget, so we need one that is economical.  It doesn’t have to be very big.  If you have one for sale, the phone number is at the end of this column.


         Recently the editor of one of the newspapers using this outdoor column said that several of his readers have said they do not like this column because I criticize the Missouri Department of Conservation too much.  So I asked readers to let me know if it offends them when I truthfully state what is going on inside that agency, and with agents abusing their power.  I now have more than 100 letters and emails from readers of about 40 of those newspapers, and more keep coming in.  Only one of those dozens of letters is critical of the columns I write about the MDC.
 
         He says….”one thing that bothers me about your blog and articles is the constant criticism of the department.  I have been a volunteer and the Springfield Nature Center for over 26 years and now volunteer at the WOW museum also.  During this time I have gotten to know many, many Conservation Department people and have found them to be nothing but concerned and professional.  On various hunting and fishing trips I have had contact with enforcement people and never found them to be anything but friendly and helpful.  I feel like your constant harping on the Department has really diminished the conservation message of your writings.  Luther Smith.

I only wish I could show Mr. Smith what is being done on wildlife management areas, I wish I could take him to talk with hundreds of innocent people targeted by agents, and I wish he could see the corruption I have documented with hours of investigation and interviews with biologists and employees of the MDC, one of whom told me…”If things continue like this, you might as well rename this agency and take the word ‘conservation’ out of it.”

I have never lied about anything concerning the MDC… not ever, not once.  I have told them many times that I would meet with them in a public debate, allow them to print their objections in my magazines, or interview any agent who felt I had described his actions.  There has never been even one response to those offers.

When I spend the day Friday with the Director of the MDC, Sara Pauley we aren’t going to just talk, I am going to take her to see the destruction of what they call ‘wildlife management areas’, through tenant farming and logging.   I am going to repeat those offers to her.   Let me meet with MDC people in public debates, answer the charges I and others have made against them in my magazine, and investigate the worst of them. And I will print her response in this column.

         Mr. Smith is a partner with the MDC and his eyes are open to any good thing he sees and closed to what is happening that isn’t so good.  He will never ever see or accept what I am writing about.

And I wish he could know the truth.   The book I hope to finish soon will document much that he couldn’t possibly accept, and he and those like him will never read it.  The large-scale news media in our state will never let the truth be told through them.

While some editors do not want these columns to appear in their newspapers, the majority of them do want them and they have let me know. As a result of my columns, over several years, the department has reversed charges against folks who were falsely accused.  And  more than two hundred acres of big beautiful timber near Lake of the Ozarks, given to the MDC by an old man who was dying, was to be secretly sold to a real estate company after his death.  I wrote about it, and due to the uproar it created, and resulting threats of lawsuits, they canceled the sale.

         An article I wrote about a lady who had an eight-year-old pet raccoon in southern Missouri was carried all over the world after I wrote about how two agents forced their way into her home by threatening to arrest her, and took her pet raccoon out and shot it.
 
         I wrote about the MDC giving 235,000 dollars to a judge who let department officials hunt on his private waterfowl marsh.  Today his family also has their property taxes paid by the MDC.   The words ‘in perpituity’ is in that agreement.  That means taxpayers in Missouri will pay that family’s taxes forever. Should I have kept quiet about that?  Maybe I should never have written about finding out, through MDC employees who ask that I do not use their name, that deer heads confiscated by agents are not destroyed, as they want you to believe.  My book will detail how many have been sold by MDC employees for large amounts of money, and how many of those heads confiscated now adorn the walls of MDC agents themselves, and their friends.  I could go on and on.  I haven’t written about much of the worst of it. Maybe that should be kept under wraps too.

         One of those Springfield area enforcement people that Mr. Smith thinks is concerned and professional was reported by other agents as having spent many of his work hours at the home of the wife of one of his best friends, with his state vehicle hidden behind her bar. She decided to divorce her husband to marry that MDC agent.  He declined because he too was married and had children.  If that affair was on his own time it would have been his business, and no one elses On paid MDC time it was the business of all Missourians who pay his salary.

          Although the MDC officials in Jefferson city was told about all this by the woman’s husband, they kept quiet and that agent was promoted, still working today, perhaps visiting more women on state time in his state vehicle
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         Oh, I know… some readers stick their head in the sand and will believe none of it.  Many of them think the MDC is still stocking deer and turkeys, a great project that ended decades ago. Most of those biologists who did that work are dead now.  When someone starts citing those decades-old accomplishments and attributing that to today’s MDC employees, I wonder how anyone could be that stupid.

         I will say again, I have a biology degree and when I was young I wrote dozens of columns about the great things being done by an MDC of another age.  Back then they gave me conservation awards for what I wrote.  I want to see the truth come out, because the media is not going to let it happen.

         I will see to it many, maybe all, of those reader letters are read too.  We will set up a website soon where they will all be printed, from all sides.  And many will be used in the Lightnin’ Ridge magazine’s summer issue.

 
         To let your feelings be heard, pro or con, write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email me at lightninridge47@gmail.com.  My office phone is 417 777 5227.