Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Purpose For Little Fish


       A grandfather who has lots of grandkids can put them to a great advantage if he loves to fish for catfish.  That’s because you need lots of bait for trotlines and limb-lines, and small sunfish are just about the best bait you can get. And kids love to catch ‘em. My grandfather only had one grandson living close and it was me.  And you will never see a kid more enthused about seining creeks for chubs or catching sunfish on a willow pole. 
       By the time I was 12 I held the record for the most green sunfish caught by a grade-schooler in the whole Midwest.  We ate some of them… the ones that got up to 8 inches or so in length.  But grandpa didn’t want those, he was most interested in ‘black perch’ which is what he called green sunfish, about three or four inches long.

       If you don’t know what a black perch is you ought to be ashamed of yourself. How are you going to teach your grandkids anything important?? In the Ozarks, black perch (or green sunfish) are no doubt the most numerous fish in any waters; lakes, rivers or ponds.  They have a mouth like a bass, larger by far than that of a bluegill or long-ear sunfish.  At times in the spring and early summer they are beautiful in the oddity of their markings and colors.  And in the worst looking little muddy farm pond, when nothing else will survive there, green sunfish may outnumber the tadpoles!  Put three or four in there this spring and next year you may have a hundred.

      At such small waterholes on most every Ozark farm, they get way too populated, and therefore are stunted.  If you toss out a little hook and worm underneath a bobber, you can catch dozens of them, and grandpa and I thinned the crop of them in many a farm pond.  But of course, they were abundant in the deeper holes of small creeks, and that was more fun.  There was also more shade, and cooler, cleaner water to swim in after the bait bucket was full.

       But when the sun was setting over some Piney River ridge, and night came upon the Ozarks, the green sunfish fulfilled its most important purpose.  We used them as bait for the trotlines set in a deep eddy where big flathead catfish lurked.  It wasn’t that there weren’t other good trotline baits, small bluegill and long-ears, (punkinseeds) were also good, but you could see why they weren’t as good as black perch.  The latter lived longer in a bucket, acted up more when they were placed on a big trotline hook, and thumbed their nose at a fat hefty flathead, which made the whiskered fish madder’n heck, so grandpa said.

       Truthfully, horny-head chubs or small suckers up to a foot long, were grandpa’s favorite, but we never could get enough.  There were big minnows we knew as ‘doughguts’, which were excellent but you had to work hard with a seine to get them. As I grow older I realize why grandpa started preferring catching the black perch, it was hard work to man that twelve-foot seine.  You can’t seine bait alone.

So here we are at the best time of year for trotlining, and when I say trotlining, I am not talking about blue cat or channel cat, I am thinking about those forty- or fifty-pound flatheads.  Their spawning period, later in the year than most any other fish, is over, and they are hungry.  And while dead bait and cut-up bait and commercial baits will catch blues and channel cat, flathead turn their nose up at such offerings.  They want live bait! 
       So I am going to have to find a whole bunch of green sunfish.  I can get them from my own pond up here on Lightnin’ Ridge or at one or two stock ponds on my neighbors farm.   But the best way is to go out on the lake, take a little ultra-lite outfit or a long fly rod, and fish around the shallow rocky banks where green sunfish like to hang out.  You can wade out waist deep and drag a bait bucket behind you and fill it up in a hurry with punkinseeds, bluegill and green sunfish.  If the trotlines are set and ready, and the night is dark and maybe there is a little rain coming, that’s all you need to bring home a flathead catfish as long as your leg.

       I have found that in July and August, if a summer storm comes through and just adds a little water to a river, and adds a little color to it, the chances of catching a flathead on your trotline increase just about 43 percent.  In a lake, a summer storm may not affect it much, but it still will make flathead roam around more, increasing the likelihood of catching one by about 31 percent.  Those figures come from a lifetime of trotline fishing and the certainty that no one can say absolutely that they aren’t accurate.  I like to write things that sound really authoritative and no one can really dispute!!

       If there were more room here I would have more to say about trotline fishing and flathead catfish, but you could write a book on that.  It all starts with the little black perch, as grandpa always called them, and the fact that if you can fill a stock tank with about a hundred of the feisty little fish, you have a big jump on landing a catfish that you will want a picture of.

       I intend to do just that.  I have a tank six foot across and 30 inches deep and an aerator to keep the water fresh and I will eventually fill it with bait.  Then I will write a summer column telling all about the monster flathead I caught sometime soon.

       But what I need right now is a couple of somebody’s grandkids that would like to catch some sunfish with me.  Drop them off at my place and I will try to have them home in time for supper.
       You can call me if you want to get my summer magazine, as we have a few left over.  If you are a subscriber and haven’t gotten your copy yet, you should let us know.  In some places, they are delivered in about 3 days, but in Arkansas and Oklahoma it may be three weeks.  If your magazine goes through a large city in route to you, it may go home with someone who works for the U.S. Postal Service!  That is really costly for us because it costs nearly 3 dollars to mail out a magazine after that first shipment is sent.  The percentage though, of books and magazines we mail out that never arrive, is way too high.   Last month I mailed out 40 free books to a group of kids in Neosho Missouri, and the postage was just under 20 dollars.   They were lost en route, and the USPS says there is nothing they can do about it, even though they were suppose to have tracking ability on them, since they were sent via something called media mail.  I have learned over the years in my business that the main problem with the postal service is… they just don’t give a darn.

       Our office number is 417 777 5227.  Email me at or write me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Advice for a Lunker Seeker

 In the middle of a dark summer night, another hefty brownie falls victim to a jitterbug.
       In this very column I am fixin’ to tell all you fishermen how to catch a five-pound smallmouth and three or four seven-pound largemouth on the same fishing trip, so if that interests you, keep reading.

       This is prompted by a phone call I got last spring. A fellow from a group calling itself ‘the smallmouth alliance’ called me recently and asked me if I was still guiding float fishermen on Ozark rivers.  I do that on a limited basis, and a friend of mine, Dennis Whiteside, guides river fishermen on a weekly basis, all over Missouri and Arkansas.

“I want to catch a smallmouth between four and five pounds, just once,” he said, “and I have been told you are the one who can help me do it.”

       Most readers know I come from a river family, and began guiding float fishermen who were mainly after smallmouth bass, when I was only 12 years old.  I was following in the footsteps of my grandfather, father and uncles on the Big Piney River.  Dad and Grandpa made the wooden johnboats and I put them to good use at a young age.

       On Ozarks streams in my lifetime I have caught lots of four-pound smallmouth.  In those years gone by I have only landed two bona-fide five-pound brownies myself, one from Crooked Creek in Arkansas and one from the Niangua.  They were just a couple ounces over five pounds.

I think I had one on the Kings River in Arkansas once that would have weighed five pounds that I released in the early 1980’s.

       But when I was about thirteen, I paddled Joe and Katy Richardson down the Big Piney, and in a long stretch of shaded swift water that local folks referred to as the Ink Stand, Mrs. Richardson hooked into biggest Ozark river smallmouth I have ever seen. We had no net but I got out in knee-deep water and got ahold of its lower lip. I don’t know which of the three of us was more excited.  That was the only bona-fide six-pound smallmouth I have ever seen taken from an Ozark river by rod and reel.

       Grandpa and I caught one nearly that large one late summer night at a place called the Peaked Rock eddy, on a trotline.  Completely against his nature, Grandpa talked me into letting it go, thinking it was bad luck to keep a bass on a trotline if you were after 30 or 40 pound flatheads.  Years later, I wrote an article about that night and the big smallmouth I released.  Outdoor Life magazine published it, in 1974 I think.

       But that doesn’t answer the question of how to catch a four to five pound brownie in the Ozarks.  It can be done, but the odds are against it.  Our rivers are a shell of what they were 30 or 40 years ago when I regularly saw big bass taken during the day.  Those deep holes are filled in so much, and fishing pressure is so great that four pound smallmouth, say in a river like the Niangua or Crooked Creek, are probably five percent or less of the number found in 1974.  I know… I was there!   I probably saw those rivers, floated and fished them,  before smallmouth alliance members or today’s fisheries biologists were born.

      But I am sure that this week or next, even into August, I can catch a five-pound smallmouth or a few seven-pound largemouth.  I would do it on some little isolated lake up in the Lake of the Woods area of Northwestern Ontario.  I would take my tent and fishing gear and camping supplies and have my friend Tinker Helseth, a bush pilot from Nestor Falls, fly me in to those places where there are no lodges and no cabins and no fishermen.  He has one such nameless lake where he flew a small boat in, strapped to his airplane’s pontoon.  One day on that lake a friend and I caught about fifty largemouth that were all less than 2 pounds.  That night in the darkness we fished with a jitterbug and caught lunkers one after another.  None exceeded seven pounds by much, because up there, largemouth bass don’t get any bigger than that.  In Canada, largemouth and smallmouth seldom thrive together in the same lakes.  Smallmouth, which are an introduced species, take over and crowd out the native largemouth.

       There are many more small wilderness lakes today where you can find the smallmouth, and likewise, in the heat of July and August you most likely won’t catch any really big ones.  But if you will pitch a tent on a windy, barren rock point where the mosquitoes get carried off on any breeze, you sleep until after sundown, then paddle along the shores fishing that jitterbug.  If you can handle that kind of fishing until first light, which comes a little after three a.m., you have a better than 50-50 chance to catch that five pound, or maybe six-pound smallmouth.  To tell the truth, I would give my left ear to be up there in early August.  My left ear is of little value, since my hair covers it anyway!

       You have to use strong line and a steel leader, because sometimes a 30- or 40-pound muskie will target your jitterbug.  That happened to my dad once when I took him to Canada on a night-fishing jitterbug outing.  He said that when the musky clobbered the jitterbug along the shore in the twilight, he thought briefly that Canada might have alligators!  Dad didn’t land that muskie but he did catch smallmouth bigger than any he had landed on the Big Piney.

       In my summer issue of the Lightnin’ Ridge outdoor magazine, you can read all about fishing the jitterbug in the Ozarks at night, but it isn’t easy to do unless you are an experienced ‘casting-gear’ angler. Forget doing that with spinning gear.  It takes an effort most of today’s fishermen won’t make.  There are lots of things to hang up on in the dark, and some snakes and bugs, etc.  And big smallmouth at night concentrate in a certain kind of water you have to know how to find.

       So I told the fellow who called, to get back to me in the dead of summer and we’d go to Canada and fulfill his dream, if he can handle the discomfort of it all, and the cost.  If not we will camp on an Ozark river gravel bar somewhere, fish all night and pray for a miracle!

You may call our office to get one of my books or the new magazine… 417-777=5227. Or email me at  Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, MO. 65163.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Learning More About Wild Birds

       It is time for more nature stuff for all the master naturalists out there.  If you haven’t paid your money and don’t hold an officially authorized Missouri Department of Conservation Master Naturalist certificate, you can play along here anyway just as an amateur naturalist.  Or you can come and sit on my back porch with me and learn a whole lot and get by with only 50 cents a cup for the coffee.

       Because it is there in the mornings or evenings, as I drink coffee and watch the life go on in and below some 250-year-old oaks, that I learn a little each day.  For instance, just off my back porch a bright red bird spends a lot of time after bugs for his little ones in a nearby nest. He is not a cardinal, and his mate is an entirely different color. Since he is not a cardinal, there is only one other bird he can be.  What is he and what color is his mate.  Answer at the end of this column.

       One of the most plentiful birds here on Lightnin’ Ridge is one of the largest insect eating birds to nest high in the trees, and you almost never can see him.  We know him as the rain crow here in the Ozarks, but his scientific name describes the color of his bill. What is it? Now that ought to be an easy one to figure out.  A rain crow’s loud clucking, which gets faster as it continues, has long been said to be a warning of rain to come, and it is the most reliable of all weather predictions, because I have never heard one, ever, that I did not see rain to follow.  But once it didn’t happen for about three weeks!

       Which is larger, a whip-poor-will or chuck-wills-widow.  Why do they have the hairy looking bristles sticking out of the sides of their open mouths?  And did you know that neither of the birds build a nest.  They just lay eggs on the leafy forest floor, and their eggs are very susceptible to skunks and coons and possums and armadillo’s, four rotten no accounts that eat every egg they can find.  I truly believe that the decline I have seen over the past ten years or so in the numbers of these birds is due to a great increase in the egg-eaters. But a whip-poor-will can move its eggs easily. Any card-carrying master naturalist knows how they do that.  If you don’t see the end of this column.

       It is in late June and early July that you can so easily call up rooster quail if you can whistle like a bobwhite.  I hear one or two every morning around my place, and when I have the inclination I whistle one up to within a few feet of the porch.  I had one so frustrated once that he flew up on the roof and whistled back at me for an hour or so.  Usually though, a comical little rooster will run around in the back yard and finally fly up on a low oak limb, whistling away until I have to leave the porch and go do something else. But he will sit there on that limb while my Labrador runs around in the yard trying to find him. Do you know why a rooster quail will come to your call so readily as summer progresses?  Any top-flight naturalist knows the answer! 
       Back in the depression days their readiness to come running to a call got lots of rooster quail killed.  There were likely four or five times more quail back then, and folks lived off the land in hard times, always hungry.  My grandfather called up the bobwhites back then and shot their heads off with his .22 rifle, sometimes getting a dozen or so in a morning for his family.  Because they were all roosters, and there were so many of them, I doubt that impacted reproduction at all.  Male quail were always able of taking care of a number of hens, just like turkey gobblers, or leghorn roosters.

Sometimes when I talk to a group about nature they have a hard time believing the stories about fish jumping in the boat! Is that story about flying fish landing in a boat just a big tale to fool gullible folks or is it true?

       Well almost every summer, when we float the rivers at night and bang through the shallows with boat paddles splashing and headlamps on, we see it happen. Usually the bass are small, but some are up to 2 pounds or better, and they can leap from the water several feet in the air, distances of more than 10 feet and three feet above the surface. And yes, when I was young and we would go along a small river in a johnboat grabbing frogs with a headlight, we always seemed to take home a bass or two that jumped in the boat before the night was over.

       As for the rooster quail, by this time a good part of the mating season is over and many hens are nesting.  Like wild gobblers, his call is to attract a mate.  It stakes out where he is and that he is unafraid and available. That helps mark a special territory that is his, and any interlopers should expect a fight.  He comes to my call because he figures to whip that rooster he hears and run him off.

       The whip-poor-will often moves its eggs by holding them between her thighs while she flies from one place to another, and those bristles that stick out from the side of the birds beak is for feeding on insects in flight.  If they miss a bug in the air, the bristles may catch it and channel it into the wide, open mouth. The chuck-wills-widow looks very much like the whip-poor-will, but it is a little larger.

    The rain-crow is also known as a yellow-billed-cuckoo and if you get a good look at that bashful tree top dweller, you are fortunate.  It is a beautiful bird, as is the red bird I so often see that isn’t a cardinal.  It is a summer tanager, and while the male is bright red, the female is a subdued yellow color.

       Now you have all the answers, except to how you might get our brand new summer issue of the Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal magazine.  Concerning that, you may call me at 417 777 5227 and we can get you on our subscription list.   Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email me..

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Hooky Monster


       Imagine that you are floating down a peaceful river and there is a 40-pound raccoon in a tree limb above the water.  As you pass he loses his balance and falls into the water, 20 feet below.  Imagine, if you can, what that would sound like.

       I was floating down the river just like that and I cast my topwater lure over against the bank to my left and retrieved it, ruffling the surface as topwater lures of that kind are suppose to do.  The slight current carried me forward a little and when the lure was halfway back to me, I stopped it in a shady swirling spot where the current slowed, then reached for a drink of cold water from my canteen.  Now the lure is behind me somewhat.  I jerk it a time or two, fixing to retrieve it and make another cast.

       That’s when the coon fell out of the tree… right on that lure.  Only it wasn’t a coon.   It was a fish, and a gosh-awful big one.  Imagine that splash that I heard back behind me to my left, knowing it sounded like a falling coon would sound.  Maybe in my lifetime I have heard ten thousand fish splashes, including those made by huge muskies in Canadian waters.  But in the Ozarks, I have never heard one like that!  Out of thousands of splashes, representing huge and not so huge basses mad as heck at some topwater lure, out of hundreds of splashes representing hungry bass after frogs or bugs or baby ducks, there has been nothing to equal that splash I heard that early June afternoon.

       If you have read my writings at any spell during the last fifty years or so, you know how rarely I exaggerate when it comes to telling fish stories.  So you’ve got to believe that if I figure that splash equal to one made by a 10 pound bass, it was a reg’lar hawg what done it.

    In that stretch of river I once caught a largemouth over 8
pounds on a topwater lure and he made a dandy splash. But it didn't equal that splash I heard behind me that day. I have caught a few four-pound smallmouth there on topwater lures over the past 25 years and on a scale of 1to 10 there were some bona fide splashes of six or seven on a scale of ten. But compared to that splash they were sunfish... which technically I guess, all bass are, so forget I said that. But what I am trying to get across here is that the splash that day was a 14 or 15 easily, an eruption of foaming, exploding surface water, made by something in the category of a small, no... a medium-sized alligator.

       My daughter Christy can vouch for all this.  She was sitting in the bow of my johnboat, and she said she thought, when she heard that splash behind us, that it was a good thing we weren’t over there where it was, ‘cause she figured it was a big sycamore limb falling in the water.  So we come to the question.. what the heck was it if it wasn’t a falling limb or a coon?  Well, I was hoping you’d ask.  ‘Cause I have a theory! 

       A few years back, there was a beautiful private lake near that stretch of river that didn’t survive the days of hard rain that come upon us. The earthen dam broke an emptied the lake’s fish into the river below.  Only a few months before, my Uncle Norten and I were fishing that very lake at night when he caught a huge bass, nine pounds or better.

       Uncle Norten, a fishing guide on Ozark lakes since his return from World War II, had once caught a twelve-pound largemouth in the fifties and four others in Ozark lakes back in the sixties that weighed from ten to eleven pounds.  That night an hour or so after we turned that nine-pound bass back, he hooked into one that pulled our boat around for 15 minutes before burrowing down into a brushpile in deep water and escaping. Norten said that he had never been ahold of such a bass.  He said he would come back and catch him again, nick-naming him ‘the hooky monster’, for the number of hooks he had to have engulfed over the years.  Then came the deluge and the dam broke.

       It was only a year or so later that I caught the eight-pounder from the river, and my uncle was sure it was a bass from that washed out lake.  He said somewhere in some deep hole where a rock bluff sheltered dark water, the hooky monster lay quietly enjoying his old age, with hooks hanging from his monstrous jaw, slurping up shimmering schools of shiners and shads and frantic, fleeing frogs from the protection of rock ledges where fishing lures couldn’t reach him.
     I figure, though it has been five years or so, that the fish which we heard humiliating my topwater lure has to be about twelve pounds or so, most likely that same bass Uncle Norten nicknamed, ‘the hooky monster’.  I know now where he lives and on some quiet dark summer night, I will slip into that river eddy in my johnboat and cast a big jitterbug into the middle of it.  Thinking that fishermen only operate in daylight hours, the monster will swim out from beneath that bluff, sure that the lure bloop-bloop-blooping along the surface is a baby muskrat.  And then it will be just me and him and 14- pound line and number 4 treble hooks…  man against beast.  And we will see who gets the last splash then.

***     Remember that we have a 50-acre ranch for underprivileged children available this summer that is free for any smaller churches which cannot afford the commercial Christian camps.  We have cabins and lodge which can accommodate two dozen kids, a sports field for softball, baseball or soccer, a swimming beach, canoeing and kayaking, hiking, fishing and trap shooting.  This is available near Collins Missouri, on Panther Creek, and can be used by small groups, with counselors, etc. at no cost.

 ***    To learn more about it, and see pictures of this “Panther Creek Youth Retreat” be sure and see our summer magazine.  Get information on both by calling our office, 417 777 5227.   We can now take credit cards.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Black Ended Catfish Ain’t Black

       On my way back from a Canadian fishing trip, I stopped in Iowa to call my cousin-in-law, Becky McNew, and asked her where I could find a good camera. The reason I need to update my camera gear is because I am going to become a fully engaged part-time river fishing guide and photographer. Taking others fishing brings back memories of those times so many years ago as a kid on the Big Piney, and again in the 70s and 80s in north Arkansas.

        I know the floatfishing isn’t what it was, but when you are as good at it as I am, I consider anyone who floats a river with me to be one lucky fisherman!  That sounds very conceited but everyone is good at something, and that is what I am good at.  If I try to do much of anything else, it is a disaster.  I can’t do anything mechanical.
       The only thing I know to do with a spark plug is use it for a duck-decoy weight.  I tried to change my trailer bearings once and had to buy a whole new axle.  My wife wont even tell me if there is something broken around the house because she knows if I try to fix it, it will be broker than it was. 
       But you should be with me floating down the river because I can definitely paddle a boat.  If there were a boat-paddling hall of fame I would be in it. And I can tell you right where a big smallmouth lurks just from all the years of catching lunkers on my own.  But I am about to quit fishing and begin seeing to it that others catch lunkers.
       I am also going to quit killing monstrous bucks and great big gobblers and help others do it.  From now on when I sit in a deer stand I will be sitting there with a camera, and when I sneak through the woods in the snow next winter, the only barrel I will have will be a short telephoto camera lens.  When mallards drop into decoys, I will shoot the whole bunch with my camera, and when I see a classy little English setter frozen before a covey rise, not one quail will escape my wide-angle lens.

       For that you need a great camera, and I had one for many years, but it might be outdated now.  Besides that, I have spent great sums on batteries to run it, and now the door on the battery compartment won’t latch.

       Becky took me to a couple of places in the huge mess of a city called Des Moines.  I think that is a Spanish name meaning something in Spanish.  But there are some stores there big enough to play football in, and one of them had a Nikon camera with two lenses that never needs a battery, normally more than 800 dollars, on sale for one more day for 500 dollars.  They only had one left, and now it is mine.

       With my sudden increase in happiness, I volunteered to take Becky to a real fancy place for dinner and she opted for a restaurant named for some kind of colored lobster. A lobster of course a giant crawdad, apparently found in various Iowa lakes, a northern subspecies not found in the lower Midwest.  It is normal for creatures in Iowa to be extra large.  Take an Iowa raccoon for instance.  They pig out in those cornfields and before they are half grown they are big enough to cause grill damage if you hit one on a back road somewhere.

       Iowa is really proud of those giant colored crawdads, price wise. To eat one of them, you need to have a good-sized bank account, and my camera purchase had nearly eliminated mine. Becky said if I would order a black-end catfish, it was fairly economical!   So I ordered it.  Now I have caught and eaten white catfish and blue catfish, yellow perch, green sunfish, black bass, brown bass and even a red snapper once when they had some on sale at Aldis grocery store.      

       But I never even heard of a black-end catfish! When I got it, there were some little biscuits and mashed potatoes to go with it and NO GRAVY!  I asked the lady who brought it to us if I could get some gravy or if they were just out of it that afternoon, and Becky acted like I had asked for a midwinter watermelon!  “He’s from the Ozarks,” she said apologetically.

       Apparently folks in Iowa don’t eat much gravy!  And that black-end catfish I had was not at all black. It was sort of brown, and would have been SO much better with gravy! Of course, I do not know what he looked like before he was caught.  Maybe one end was black, but I would like to know what color the rest of him was.

       Well this week I intend to bring in some great outdoor photographs with my new camera. 
     Although this is known as a website, that name is deceiving. It has nothing to do with a real spider web, of which I have a photo. I also have a photo of a web with a really pretty black and yellow spider right in the middle of it, but it is hiding somewhere in the midst of my photo files.

        I am pretty proud of my photography, because I am fairly good at it.  But I am better at paddling a boat, and if you want to be paddled down the river and photographed catching big fish, you ought to call me.  Or I might could take you turkey hunting or deer hunting this fall, or quail hunting or duck hunting or whatever. I might even take a few folks mushroom hunting next spring, but Ill insist on blindfolding you until we get there.

       Another thing you ought to do is, you really ought to call my office before July the first to receive a copy of our 96 page full color Lightnin Ridge Outdoor Magazine summer issue.  We will run out in a hurry. Our executive office number is 417-777-5227. We can now take credit cards. Tell my executive secretary, Ms. Wiggins that you want to talk to me.  Or you can write to me on the computer at

Monday, June 12, 2017

A Far-Away World

Next Issue of The Lightnin' Ridge Outdoor Journal will be mailed out July 1st. Anyone wanting a copy will need to have payment (by check or credit card) BEFORE that time. Info following column.

        You might not expect a naturalist, an outdoorsman and a lover of the good old days like me to brag on television.  It is a two-headed creature, one head the ugly epitome of evil, and the other a beautiful invention showing us the creation of God that my ancestors could never see nor comprehend from just a spoken or printed word.  I ignore most of what television offers, but I often sit glued to a screen when it takes me where I could never go, and teaches me about what I could never have imagined.
       For that reason, I think television can be a great thing for those who want to learn about the boundless numbers of living things found in far-away places. And it can be wonderful for kids who never see much of anything but the creation of man, trapped inside a concrete world, crowded with people and automobiles.

       The channels where you find those awesome films are varied, British Broadcasting, Animal Planet, National Geographic, the Discovery Channel and others. One I found not long ago is a channel produced by Brigham Young University.  I encourage you to watch them when you are inside for any reason.  All the master naturalists out there need to see this unbelievable modern day miracle of photography from some of the best camera-naturalists ever.  It makes me wish that when I was young I would have gone that direction with my love of the outdoors.

       I also get a kick out of seeing old television shows from my boyhood, like Gunsmoke and Bonanza and the old westerns.  Are there any modern television shows which even make you want to watch them, filled with the debauchery of modern times, and the sex oriented situations which television people think is great viewing?  Are there any modern-day stars which compare to Jack Benny and Jackie Gleason or Bob Hope?

       The old time movies and television shows needed a few good naturalists as advisors.  I saw John Wayne shooting pheasants once, supposedly in a time when those birds didn’t exist in this country.  Some show about Billy the Kid showed pheasants flushing where there should have been prairie grouse, and once I saw a grizzly bear in a movie set in Kentucky. 

       Fess Parker made a great Daniel Boone, but I would have loved to tell them that having him packing around tanned furs didn’t look convincing at all.  Furs taken by ol’ Daniel would have been bloody and stiff, thrown over his shoulder.  And there wouldn’t have been any arctic fox hides amongst them, as I often saw. 
       In the westerns of that time, you could be shot in the shoulder by a Colt .45 or a 30-30 Winchester and be up and around in just no time at all, ready to fight the bad guys again.  The bad guys fell stone dead in just a second and you often didn’t see any blood at all. That just wasn’t the way it was.  When Matt Dillon took a bullet in vital areas, somehow Doc and Kitty were able to save him! 

       But mostly I object to the fact that in the old movies, they got the natural world really goofed up.  Not today though, with those nature films that show places like Alaska and New Zealand and the Australian outback, or the depths and coral reefs of the Atlantic Ocean.  The jungles and wild creatures of Africa or South America, I can see and learn about. 

       My grandfather never knew about them except from the stale black and white photos in magazines and books he read by lantern light in his little cabin.  Would he have ever been awe-stricken if he could have seen those films!

       So I urge you to find those channels and watch them with your kids and grandkids, and stay away from CNN and NBC and CBS and channels like those that are out to deform the minds of those who watch.  Satan never found a better way to destroy our nation! 

       I am pretty much uninterested in television except for the old westerns and baseball games, and anything with Red Skelton or Bob Hope or those old time people from my boyhood.  Direct T.V. and Dish Network are about the only ways you can see those handful of channels that I watch when I am not able to be out in the woods or on the river. 
       You and I and everyone else knows they are very dishonest and deceitful businesses that are going to try their best to get much more money from you after a brief period than they first promised they would charge.  But in today’s world, you can’t fight them.  If you get big enough, you can lie, steal and cheat with little consequence. Maybe that goes along a little with modern times.  But if I was in that business, I think maybe I would just worry about getting people those nature channels. 
       I hope you find them and watch.  There is another world far beyond the Ozarks that we will never get to see and appreciate any other way, and those places and those living things are awesome.

       Can you remember the first movie you ever saw? When I was about five, my Grandma took me to see the Saturday afternoon matinee at the Melba theatre in Houston Missouri.  The movie was titled, “The Creature From the Black Lagoon”.  It scared me so bad I swore I would never be in a dark place again without a blanket over my head.  I slept that way for quite a spell, and for a good year or so I wouldn’t ever go out that long path to the outhouse after dark.

       But as we went to other Saturday afternoon matinees, I watched Tex Ritter and Lash Larue and Gene Autry always get the bad guys.   I guess I have turned out so bad because I got my own gun and holster set and rode around our little place on Indian Creek on an imaginary horse, shooting dozens of bad guys, quite a few Indians and a bear or two.  When I went to get my little grandson a gun and holster years ago, they didn’t have any.  Couldn’t even find a solitary cap pistol!  I kind of wonder if that attitude which we have developed today about what it takes to raise a boy has made the world better.

       When Roy Rogers was every kids hero, we had the best of times, and we lived in a society that was simpler and safer and yet greater than any we will ever see again.  Today there just aren’t any good guys left!

       If you would like to inquire about getting our new summer magazine or one of my books, just call my executive secretary, Ms. Wiggins, at our executive office on our executive phone.  The phone number is 417 777 5227.  Or you can write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613, or email me at

Monday, June 5, 2017

Why Is It Cooler in the Woods?



 Snow in the spring makes some folks scoff at the idea of a man-made climate change. They must have their head in the sand!

      Today I am going to write about putting together four words not usually associated with each other… ‘global warming’ and ‘common sense’.  Those who go around saying that climate change is a farce show their ignorance.  Certainly it is happening and you can see it if you take your head out of the sand. 

         BUT… those who are wringing their hands about what it is going to do to the earth may be dumber yet.  Because, there isn’t anything we can do about it.  We have made our beds and we will indeed lie in them.

         If indeed the ice caps continue to melt, if the oceans continues to rise, if the polar bears and arctic wildlife disappear and if Los Angeles citizens eventually have to wade in flooded streets, and New Yorkers have to wear masks to filter poison air, it won’t make much difference to those of us living in the Ozarks. And if the average temperature rises 5 or 6 degrees in the summer and winter alike, it won’t affect many of us. Folks will use more electricity to run air conditioners in the summer, and then less to keep homes warm in the winter.  As for me and a few folks like me, tucked back in these woods far from civilization, we won’t need either.

         That climate change that anyone older than fifty can easily see, will in fact have an effect on Ozark plants, fish and wildlife in time, but today’s population is so tuned into modern civilization, city life and technology that few will even know what happened, unless it affects cattle, chickens and hogs, and a slow ‘global warming’ won’t… much.

         Before global warming can hit the world’s populations too hard, it is likely that a meteor of some kind will, or a hail of nuclear weapons will.  For sure, floods will get worse, but we can live with that.  Droughts will be worse, but we can live with that too.  Carbon Dioxide in some cities will make the sun’s rays hard to see and feel, but what is warming our planet has much to do with something no one will talk about; population, increasing pavement and concrete… and the removal of forests and natural vegetation worldwide.

         There are increasingly new subspecies of human.  One subspecies is becoming extinct, that is the one that has lived on the land in small numbers, and with it to some extent, a part of the earth with little effect on it.  There were once quite a lot of them, but they are being replaced by a really strange sub-species now found in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York and places like that. They are very intelligent in many ways but they do not understand things that involve common sense.  This new sub-species thinks that one lifeboat will hold and infinite number of people, or that a strong oak limb will hold a million people and never break.

         That subspecies does not know that today’s world, as great burgeoning numbers of their kind keep pouring millions of acres of cement and spreading millions of acres of pavement, might be creating global warming that has nothing to do with CO2 or methane or hot water vapor. 
         I noticed that once when I had a pair of thermometers, that a big rock out in the woods up here on Lightnin’ Ridge was a full 15 degrees cooler than the paved parking lot at Walmart shopping center in town.  That is strange, isn’t it?  We went float-fishing on the Niangua river one summer when the temperature in Springfield Missouri topped 106 degrees.  On a river gravel bar beneath some big sycamores it was only 92.  Go figure.  Why?

         I am thinking that 200 years ago, the temperature in the woods where Springfield now sits, was likely the same temperature as the banks of the river.  That is a theory only, one I call the cement versus gravel bar theory.  And I want everyone to know that there has never been a day that you could fry an egg on that flat rock in the woods up here on Lightnin’ Ridge.

         Maybe you can see what I am trying to say.  If you can’t, I must sound awfully foolish, but I am betting that on the hottest day in mid-July of this year, I can lay down in the woods in the shade of big oaks, and you can lay down in the parking lot of some city business where no trees stand, and one of us will not get up at days end.

         I also will bet that where these big trees now stand, there will be none in a hundred years or so. They will be gone, and who knows, maybe concrete will have taken their place. What might the temperature be then, where cool soil might be covered with hot asphalt? Do you get a new perspective on global warming now?  What do you think the chances are that it will get cooler when the population and the amount of cement and pavement both increase on the surface of our nation by two?

         There is no chance of changing things here on earth, and those politicians who think we can most likely are those who think some Russian talked me into changing my vote last November.  That new sub-species of human beings and what they want have already swamped those of us who still cling to common sense.  As the old sub-species dies out completely, woods and rivers and wildlife and some far away glacier will be of no importance.

         But there is something to remember.  If there is a meteor, or if a great number of earthquakes and volcanoes erupt, or God forbid, if nuclear weapons start being used, the clouds created for months and months by any of those things will block the sun’s energy and really cool the earth, perhaps to a point of wiping out all life but cockroaches…and maybe a few folks who belong to the old sub-species of humans.

         So the thing is, those of us Ozarkians who do not gravitate to a world of concrete and pavement should stop worrying about global warming.  We can enjoy a much warmer winter in the future!

         My executive secretary, Ms Wiggins, has been so worried about global warming that she keeps putting ice cubes in the fish bowl and shaving her cat.  But if you call her you can find out how to acquire the summer issue of my magazine, “the Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal” or one of my books over the phone. Just call her at our executive offices up here in the woods, 417 777 5227.

         You may write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email me at  You will notice there is no ‘g’ on the end of lightnin’.  In the pool hall back home, nobody put a ‘g’ on the end of anything.