Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Sunday at Brown Hill

 


         I can’t guarantee you that God has ever told me anything with his voice.  But I think he has, in a voice that only I could hear.  That is kinda why I want to hold a church service at the Brown Hill Country Church, five miles east of Houston, next Sunday, the eleventh of December.  I don’t know that God told me to; it just may be another one of my screwball ideas I have that never goes anywhere.  But I walked through those church doors when I was only five or six with my Grandpa Bert McNew and Grandma Hilda, clutching her hand and scared to death. 

 

         It seems a shame that its doors are closed now on Sunday Mornings.  Maybe if some folks will help we can open them again, at least every other week.  That’s what I am aiming for, hoping for and maybe praying for a little bit.

         There will be no preaching on the 11th.  I have spoke at dozens of churches, helping some raise money for good local causes.  At a Mt. Grove church years ago we raised 981 dollars, which went to buying winter clothes for poor kids in the community.  A year or so later at a church in Columbus Kansas we raised hundreds more to buy shoes for Indian children at t he Rosebud reservation in Nebraska.

        At Brown Hill next Sunday we won’t pass a collection plate and I urge you to come as you are.  I won’t wear a tie if you won’t.  I think my tie is ruint anyway.  I used it as a tourniquet on my Labrador a couple of summers ago when he got snakebit.


         When I was a boy it seems like most of the men who came to Brown Hill church wore overalls.  Even Preacher Baker never wore a tie.  Remember Jess Baker anybody?  Boy what a voice he had.  Scared many a sinner into repenting right there in that church. Some of them are buried now in the cemetery behind it I imagine.


         No, I am not a preacher, because the Lord never called me to be one.  I am just a speaker, an Ozark storyteller and a writer… not really all that good at anything but paddling a boat.  And let me brag a little, at paddling a boat I am great! When it comes to story telling, anyone who has lived as long as I have in the Ozarks has some great stories to tell.  Boy, do I have some stories to tell about the old-time Brown Hill church and the people who lived in that area.  I’d also welcome some organ players or singers who can perform some gospel music that Sunday.  There use to be lots of those in the Ozarks.


         If you folks sitting in those pews aren’t smiling and laughing and feeling good when you leave, then I will have failed in what I want to do, and I don’t figure on failing.


         The church really isn’t a lot different than what it was when I was a growing youngster going there and sleeping on the back pews and attending Mrs. Alva Elliott’s Sunday school class.  But the old wood stove is gone. Pastor Gayer says he will have it all warmed up for us via electric heat when we arrive.


         So come and join me if you can.  The Bible says that where a half dozen or so are gathered, Jesus will be there also.  If we can get 20 regular folks there, then I will come back every other Sunday to bring various speakers and ministers to make that country church vibrate again with the music and the ways of the good old days at Brown Hill Church.


The Email me at lightninridge47@gmail.com or call me at 417 777 5227





Friday, December 2, 2022

Buffalo National River 1972-1975

 

Old newspaper clipping


    I have hundreds of photos of the Buffalo National River during its first few years, 72 through 75.  I was a naturalist in the first years Buffalo Point was a state park.  As Chief Naturalist for the state of Arkansas, I hired young men as summer naturalists for 5 state parks.  The trails you walk at Buffalo point today and the amphitheatre where programs are given are trails me and my naturalists built.  The amphitheatre is still where I laid it out and with my fellow naturalists, built log benches.  I offered the National Park Service more than 200 slides I took back in those early days and they refused them. It does indeed hurt that they will not recognize what we did there.  When I went to work for The National Park Service at Buffalo River I intended to make it a career.  Then I saw what they were all about.  Someday I will write about what I saw, even the pot and alcohol parties in park cabins put on by a park employee where Yellville kids as young as 16 were welcomed.  And two of the dumbest NPS men I have ever seen in charge of anything.  They thought the local people were in a class below them… I know… I was there!  Enjoy the photos, some are of Buffalo point as a state park, and some when it became a national park.

 

Amphitheater photos are from ‘71









Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Searching for Treasure

 

Photo of my treasures from last week shows the 5 lures… each of which sell for $12 to $16  new.  The 7-foot Penn graph rod and Shakespear Microcast reel costs about  $125 new. To a man who uses a sassafras hand-made boat paddle, the aluminum paddle is fairly worthless

I am a beachcomber, I reckon.  Didn’t know what that was until I saw it in a magazine the other day.  About 4 or 5 years ago I was in Canada on Lake of the Woods fishing for Walleye, Bass, Pike, Crappie and Yellow Perch.  I’m like that in Canada; the fishing is up and down beneath the boat… no casting.  You just find 25 to 30 feet of water and bob a jig or a minnow up and down off the bottom until something grabs it and then you put whatever you can net into the live well and put on a new minnow.  

It might not suit a lunker-buster to fish that way, but it suits me just fine. I usually intend to eat what I catch, that night back in the cabin that my friend and lodge owner, Tinker Helseth lets me stay in.  But if you go out on that huge lake all day and feed the eagles and catch a bunch of fish and take a couple of naps in your boat, you get the urge to try something else. So what I do is, I get out on one of the many sandbars where there are drifts behind the sand beach, and I look for wolf tracks or moose tracks, and real beautiful driftwood and granite stones that are really pretty.  And that one day amongst the drifts, I came across a big musky lure that was nearly a foot long.  After that, I started looking for musky lures at various beaches and found about a dozen.  

I took them to a bait and tackle shop at Nestor Falls and the owner’s eyes lit up.  Three of them were antiques.  The rest sold in his shop for $20 to $30 each.  He gave me $100 for the 3 antique lures and offered me $15 each for 8 others.  Why the heck I refused his offer I don’t know!  Today they hang on the wall with a thousand other lures in my basement, and I don’t know what to do with them except take them back to Canada and use them to fish for muskies, or maybe here in the Ozarks for stripers and hybrids.  Actually, next September I might use them to try to catch one of those muskies stocked in Pomme de Terre Lake.  

But if I had been smart enough to accept his offer I would have made $220 in two hours of beach-combing.  I am looking forward to going back and visiting Tinker again this spring and finding new beaches.  To heck with the walleye, I have caught a million of them!

The muskie lures I found in Canada… the two on the right side may be quite valuable.  The first is a jointed Rapala, made in Finland, with a silver metal lip- said to be a sea-surf fishing lure.  Can’t even be found on internet.  The second from left is a bucher depth-raider. Likely one of the first made, with a lip not found on newer made Bucher lures and again not found on the internet. The remaining ones here are more modern-day lures which sell for $25 to $30 in Canada

 


Now lets skip to the day before Thanksgiving when I took my boat and traveled to one of my favorite lakes about an hour away.  There is a taxidermist in South Dakota who told me he would buy a whole truckload of driftwood from me if I would bring it to him when I go up to Nebraska in December hunting ducks.  That’s what I was going after that day, and I found a bunch of what he wanted. But I also found everything in the first photo above... five lures averaging $14 new, the 7ft. Penn graph rod and reel about $125 new and an aluminum paddle who I guess to some is worth something. But I use sassafras.

Dozens of found usable lures are on my wall in a basement workshop. Among these are about 40 antiques.  The most valuable are wooden, with glass eyes.  Some of them I have never seen before






When I lived in Arkansas years ago, I would fish on Bull Shoals for hours, and then comb the banks for fishing lures.  In time I found many antique lures and several hundred other lures that had been lost by fishermen and floated up to the high water line.  


        Today I have boxes of those lures, most needing new hooks.  So I do that still, and the day before Thanksgiving I found five nearly new lures, one of which was an original ‘whopper plopper’ which sells in tackle stores for ten bucks or more.  I easily had $50 worth of lures when I came across an aluminum boat paddle, one of those with a yellow blade, worth 30 dollars or so.   Next I found a good life jacket on the other side of the cove, and an hour later a brand spanking new rod and reel that I would figure to be worth $75.  

I know it is hard to believe this, but in 1982, when I was living down in north Arkansas,  Jack Leslin, a top notch professional woodcarver from Rockford, Illinois, told me he would give me a thousand dollars for a pickup load of cedar driftwood off of Bull Shoals Lake.  I spent a couple of days getting just what he wanted and found a place where there were beautiful rocks along the shoreline.  On a whim, I loaded the bed of my pickup with those rocks.  It only took about 3 hours to take them from my boat to my pickup. Then I loaded Jack Leslin’s driftwood on top of the rocks.  After I unloaded the driftwood in northern Illinois, I drove to Davenport Iowa where there was an aquarium wholesaler and told him I would sell him those rocks, perfect for aquariums.  We haggled over his offer for a while, then met in the middle.  He bought those rocks, about 200 of them, for $800!!

You can see why I have such a hard time sitting at my desk writing.  The lakes beckon me.  I fish them, hunt ducks and deer and turkeys on them, and find the peace and solitude I seek in the woods above the water.  I am a writer, a fisherman, a hunter, a naturalist, and a beachcomber!!!




Friday, November 25, 2022

Thankfulness

           We can’t help but be thankful that it was such a mild fall, but I refuse to be happy about the cold that has whacked us in November. But then, I am happy to see a good number of ducks arriving from up north as of yet. I can’t see how anyone would not be happy about that!!

On Thanksgiving Day we all gather to give thanks for our health and happiness, and there is an awful lot to be thankful about. But few people are thankful for flocks of ducks, like I am. If we just had more water in the Ozarks right now I would just be as tickled as a coon dog with a panful of burnt biscuits!

  

But we need to concentrate on occasion about the things we aren’t so thankful for. I reckon it wouldn’t hurt to let God know that these doggone Japanese beetles have become a problem.  There is a bunch of them in my basement workshop, fleeing the cold.


     But I don’t want anyone thinking I am ungrateful. I have been thanking God for the more important things, like a freezer full of of venison and fish to last the whole winter.

  

     But if you want to know the truth, what makes any man’s life happier and better is the help and assistance he gives to others… to those less fortunate. Even help to worthless people, God meant for us to help and love them that we can’t like, because He doesn’t consider them worthless.   Complicated ain’t it?

  

     That’s what the first Thanksgiving dinners were about, celebrating the abundance of the harvest, and sharing it with others. I am sure those folks on Plymouth Rock didn’t like each one of them Indians.  But they invited them anyway. I wonder sometimes if a community Thanksgiving of that type, where all the area’s Indians are invited too, wouldn’t be a better way of giving thanks than just keeping it all in the family.

  

     Churches do that, and maybe it would put a smile on God’s face to see that somewhere in each little town and community, people brought their families together by the dozens and brought in those of the area who are not so well off, to have a true Thanksgiving feast.


I am tremendously thankful to all you folks out there who read this column and my books and magazines and send letters. I hope and pray that you and your family have a great Thanksgiving, and lots of ducks light on your pond for a couple of months.

         

Speaking of ladybugs, It turns out my naturalist daughter was right about this invasion of Asian ladybug beetles which almost all of us are experiencing.  They were indeed released in California by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1916 and again in the mid-sixties, with the belief that they would prey on aphids which do damage to gardens and domestic plants.  And then apparently a whole shipload of them arrived on a freighter from Asia, which docked in New Orleans in 1988.  Now they have spread throughout the country and are mushrooming in number, coming into Ozark homes to winter by the thousands.


There is an awful bunch of them in my basement.  They are here in gosh-awful conflagrations, thousands of them.  If they continue to increase, next year or the next, I’ll be up to my knees in the darn things.  I read somewhere that light attracts them, so I have thought about opening my basement door at night and plugging in a bright light outside, to see if I can get them out.  But if I do that, I could wind up with a basement full of possums and deer mice.

  

      It makes me think of the plagues of insects and such things in biblical times.  Of course those people back then were wicked and sinful and had it coming to them. Us folks here in the Ozarks aren’t like that.  I could understand it if these beetles were clogging things up in Hollywood or New York, but why my basement?  I ain’t done nothin’ to deserve this… honest! 

  

But then, I haven’t deserved much of the blessings God has given me either, and I figure a lot of folks feel the same way. I just wish that all the blessings of a Thanksgiving dinner could fall upon hungry families in the Ozarks.  I  could do without a few meals if families that have little could eat like I do. 


And another thing, aren’t some of you getting tired of ham and turkey?  Now and at Christmas time too!   We ought to have Thanksgiving meatloaf or sirloin steaks.  I am more thankful for pie and cake than baked turkey.  


If the folks at Plymouth Rock could have had buffalo steaks instead of turkey, our traditions would be a lot better.  Well happy Thanksgiving anyway.  And does anyone know how to keep Japanese beetles from being so thankful for my basement?



T 

 

Sunday, November 13, 2022

The Staple of Deer Camps

 


I use a camera nowadays instead of a gun.  It is no big problem to shoot these bucks with my camera.  I can get photos of a half dozen bigger than this one this winter.  This poor buck was killed just a day later.
 

         One of the things I hate most about deer season is the combination of long-range rifles and alcohol.  In the night before the season opener, liquor stores do business with hunters that exceeds any night of the year.  Deer camps seldom are found in the Ozarks without an abundance of alcohol stashed in tents or campers.


         I was only 13 or 14 when Dad and I floated down the Big Piney on the opening day of deer season.  We were hunting ducks and squirrels and in that time there were plenty of ducks on the river in mid-November.  Just a ways below Slabtown I sat in the front of our wooden johnboat peering over the front of our bough-blind when a bullet whined over my head only a few feet above me, followed by the report of a rifle.  Another buzzing, whining rifle slug followed before my dad started to yell that we were in a line of fire.

 

         Just downstream were three men from St. Louis shooting at a whiskey bottle floating in the river. Dad was mad and as he floated past he let them know what he thought of them for endangering lives with drunken ignorance.  They didn’t say much, but dad said they were too stupid (and drunk) to know that a rifle bullet ricochets off the water.

  

           That year or the year before a young man I knew from Houston, Mo was killed by a deer hunter.  The victim, Larry Brown, was just out of high school and well known and respected in the area.  That was before the days of blaze orange, but the hunters on the front bench of our pool hall were learning to wear red caps and red shirts.


          Alcohol use during deer season is more prevalent than ever and if you talk to the liquor store-owners you won’t question that.  Now in the future, deer camps will add marijuana to the feel-good bottles and cans found there now.


         I know a great man whose life was ruined by alcohol. He said it started in a deer camp in the 70’s.  He was never without a bottle since, although he lost his wife and kids because of it.  He is one of only two Dablemonts who drank alcohol. The other one got drunk enough once to kill 3 people and himself one Saturday night.  Those men were of Canadian French-Indian ancestry and it is known that Indian descendants can’t process alcohol properly.  But my daughter, a doctor, once told me that some other people become alcoholics with their first night of drinking. I have been in lots of hunting camps, but I won’t be in any of them where alcohol is present.

 

         I would beg any man who wants his son or daughter to join him at hunting camp to think about what might happen to them when they grow older if they are being introduced to alcohol there.

 

         In some future column I will tell the story about two of my favorite cousins whom I dearly loved when we were children and hunted with most of my life.  Both died at the age of 59, because of alcohol and drugs.  It took months of suffering before they passed away. Marijuana and beer controlled those two before they were 25  years old.  And in time, both booze and drugs were a part of every hunting and fishing trip we made, though they honored my request to wait until after the hunt to go to what controlled their everyday life.

  

         I will be ridiculed for saying this, but we all should spread the word to young people we know, that life is better without drugs and alcohol.  We need addicts who are controlled by marijuana and beer to travel around to our high schools telling young people that there is a much better way to live than they themselves chose.


          I wasn’t going to hunt deer this year, because it holds little challenge now, and I think I would just as soon eat a goat as the meat of a rut crazed buck.  But I will likely kill a couple of deer for some people who are unable to put venison in the freezer but through me. I will only kill does for them most likely. I have plenty of antlers, including 10, 12 and 13-point bucks from 54 years of deer-hunting in the Ozarks.  After a few days of the season if you want some antlers, float the rivers and you will find several bucks in the river, the result of being shot and crippled by someone who wasn’t a very good shot or an incompetent hunter unable to find and follow a blood trail.  As you read this, the bulk of the deer hunting carnival is over… thank goodness.


         Cold weather like we had on opening weekend keeps lots of hunters indoors and keeps deer from moving as much.  Plenty of acorns keep deer from moving as much in the extreme cold too.  But a buck with doe scent on his mind ignores the cold and becomes a real idiot.  Later deer will begin to cover more territory in extreme cold.  Everything moves more when it is cold because food requirements increase.  BUT… deer become increasingly nocturnal after a few days of blaze orange in the woods.

 

 


 

 

Monday, November 7, 2022

Dreading Deer Season

 



         On Saturday there will be an army of people in the woods with high-powered rifles after white-tail deer.  For some reason, I can never relax during deer season.  I live in the woods and it can be dangerous.  Two Kansas City greenhorns have leased a neighbors land.  


         Some of my apprehension has to do with those long-range rifles capable of killing a water buffalo a half-mile away.  Some of it has to do with knowing there are so many of them out there in the woods who are shooters, not hunters; adorned in blaze orange and with a lot of ammo. Most country people are not crazy about opening weekend of the deer season. It is a good weekend to lose a goat or a calf.


         Few experienced outdoorsmen really think that deer hunting is really ‘hunting’.  It's something far from that...blaze orange takes the hunting aspect away.  That and the fact that perhaps half of those in the woods this weekend will be there only once a year.  It's sort of like referring to yourself as a farmer because you set out some tomato plants in the spring and own a half dozen chickens.


         There isn't too much to killing a deer.  If you can hit a basketball at 50 yards with a rifle, and if you can walk back in the woods a few hundred yards and sit in one place for a few hours, you've got a very good chance of getting something. Nobody has to walk far now because a large number of today’s deer hunters use ATV's in place of legs.


         I dread most, that time close to noon when so many of the deer hunters who haven't killed a deer start shooting cans or signs or stumps.  I always hunted from a tree stand for many reasons, one of them being, I don't want a rifle bullet I fire to go anywhere other than into the ground should I miss.  When I hear about deer drives, it makes me cringe.  So many running deer, and bullets fired at horizons, is a scary thing. 

                 

         A growing number of hunters are out there to kill a trophy buck.  I hate that word, ‘trophy’. What kind of man needs a trophy? Scoring a set of antlers is suddenly a big thing.  What nonsense that seems to be to me!  Today there are lots of deer hunters who are there only for a set of big antlers. Many of those trophy hunters will take only the loins and leave the rest of a buck in the woods but the antlers. The Share Your Harvest program was instigated only to give trophy hunters something to do with bucks they kill after they take the cape and antlers. That program keeps them legal. Now they don’t have to feel guilty about what they do.

 

         But there are also all those who will do it right, who will be safe and sober and intent on hunting.... those who intend to keep their deer, take care of the meat and give little thought to trophies. I have always been one of them, and I know many who feel likewise. 

 

         I am fortunate in that I will soon see the woods completely devoid of anyone once again.  In a few days most of the city hunters have gone, and us country folks can relax a bit.    

       

         Just the other evening, well before the deer season, I was in the woods squirrel hunting and I sat on a hillside watching the sunset through a canopy of quickly changing leaves, gold and yellow and orange and green.  It was a spectacular thing to see and listen to and experience, miles from civilization where there was no manmade sounds at all.  

       

         The Department of Conservation always sends me and my daughter a half dozen free deer tags, wanting us to kill and have tested, deer from our land, to see if there are CWD individuals. What a joke that is… they won’t let us have the landowner tags because I refused to register my land with them!  So they send me free tags, and if I asked for a dozen I would get them. I am allowed to use bait to get deer with those free tags, and if I want to give some of the tags to a friend, that is okay with them.  And those free tags are good until sometime in March.

 

But if I kill a deer it is because I have some elderly folks who want some venison and they are leery of eating meat from the “Share Your Harvest” program.  If you are going to hunt on opening weekend, and do not have a tree stand, I advise you to find a big tree to sit against and face into the wind. The fact that so many hunters begin to move around after the first hour or so makes it easier for a still hunter to see deer, because many are being pushed from one area to another by wandering hunters.


         Baiting deer is commonplace nowadays. Large concentrations of ‘deer corn’ in 40- pound bags now adorn the aisles of local sporting goods stores a month before deer season, and they are usually sold out by opening day. That doesn't seem to bother anyone, least of all the conservation departments. And agents won’t get very far from their pickups, so bait placed way back in the woods is never something they will see.

 

         A neighbor told me once, "What difference does it make..... if you kill the number of deer you have legal tags for, who should care what brought them into your sights?"  He points out that the Department of Conservation wants deer numbers reduced, and they want to sell as many tags as possible.         

         "You put a tag on that deer that you paid for," my friend insists, and you can hit him with a car, electrocute him, or kill him with a hand grenade, and who cares...they got the money, you got the deer."

         


         I have the fall issue of the Lightnin' Ridge magazines now and they have been mailed to subscribers. If you'd like to get a copy, call our office, 417 777 5227 and we’ll get one to you.  This issue has 120 pages, the largest ever.  You can see it, and my books, on the website, www.larrydablemont.com.  E-mail me at lightninridge47@gmail.com, or write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo, 65613.

         

 

 

 

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

 



      A man who lives in the country ought to have a good squirrel dog and I don’t have one.  The old-timers I knew back home in the hills would not understand that!  Problems, problems, problems!  Maybe squirrel dog prices will come down after next week’s election.


      The nearest grocery store is many miles away and I can’t afford the gas to get there. Can’t afford baloney and biscuits neither if you factor in the cost of gas to get to the store. So I decided I would go get tonight’s supper through outdoor adventure.

 

      One of my neighbors has a rather large, secluded lake where he has stocked crappie. My own pond has no crappie, just bass, catfish and bluegill. No body wants to eat fish from their own pond anyhow. You need to save them for hard times.

 

      So I drove my old pickup down through the neighbor’s gate with my .22 rifle and fishing rod one afternoon and in a little while I caught several, ten- to eleven-inch crappie and then went squirrel hunting down in the woods behind the lake.

 

      It was beautiful, still and perfect. This time of year you can forget looking for squirrels in the trees. Just walk slowly along and they will go running toward you, past you or away from you and jump up in a tree and look at you if you, imitate one with a bark or scold. Four gray squirrels did that. Two just went, and gave me no shot, but two did give me an opportunity to have squirrel for supper. I missed one twice and he went in a hole. Even a good squirrel dog doesn’t help when there is a hole in the tree. But when I missed that one squirrel twice, another went to barking at me and I got him in only 3 shots.

 


      Well, five .22 shells are cheaper than baloney and biscuits. My rifle is a dandy, light and accurate and a perfect squirrel gun.  On the barrel is printed..”made in the 200th year of American liberty” I’ve been trying to figure out how old it is. The sights must be off on my rifle. I should only have to shoot 2 shells for 2 squirrels.  I am a little ashamed of that shooting. I fancy myself as a good shot. I once shot flying wasps with that little .22!!!  Well I never got some of them, but I never did as poorly as I did that evening!   But just because someone fancies themselves as a good shot don’t mean they are. I shouldn’t use that word ‘fancies’ any more. It don’t fit a grizzled old veteran outdoorsman like me. But you can bet that this evening I will improve my squirrel to bullet ratio. I’ve got to get a couple of squirrels for some elderly neighbors down the road.

    

      Anyway, I scaled the crappie for supper that evening, removed head, fins and entrails and fried them whole in a skilletful full of lard, after I fried the squirrel of course. Had turnip greens with it, making it what you call a three-course meal. 


      The woods is full of young squirrels. The one I got was a mature male that was harder to skin than an old banker. He wasn’t too smart, sitting there in plain sight barking at me. He may be so old he was trying to commit “suicide by hunter”.  The tree I shot him out of is a big tri-trunk red oak I built a tree stand in back in ’93. Up high in the fork of it, I carved my initials and a date of 11-20-’93. Sometime I am going to climb up there and see if it still shows. The only thing left of the stand is one old bent board with nails sticking out of one end. It is a place where I spent many hours in the nineties dreaming and wishing and writing.  I can still see myself sitting there waiting for a deer, but it is only a fading picture. I had no idea then that someday 1993 would be so many years behind me.


      All old time squirrel hunters of another time named their muzzle-loader rifles. Mine is named 'Ol' Roger the Ruger'. You can see a photo of it on my blogspot… larrydablemontoutdoors.  It is pictured there with that 11- or 12-year old gray squirrel I gnawed on until I just gave up and ate the crappie, which were delicious.

 

      I am going back into the woods every day ‘til the snow flies if things work out like I want. May float a river or two and cuss the low water in some of them.  As for now, I am going back to the woods. These days should not be wasted away indoors.


Email me at lightninridge47@gmail.com.  I have a few of my fall magazines left, and you can get one by calling me at 417 777 5227.