Monday, September 28, 2015

A Memory of the Ink Stand Eddy

             I went back to Texas County last week for a class reunion at Houston High School.  I graduated from there and went off to School of the Ozarks college when I was only seventeen, but returned often to visit my parents and hunt and fish the Big Piney, where I had once guided fishermen in an old wooden johnboat.

            While there I stopped by to visit Joe and Katy Richardson.  When I was about twelve-years-old I took them on a day-long float trip which was my first professional guide trip.  A guide had to purchase a guide’s license, and I was so proud of that piece of paper that said I was a river guide, as my dad and grandfather and uncles had been.

            I got paid fifty cents an hour back then, and Joe gave me a good tip at the end of the float trip.  He had good reason to!  That day, in a long swift stretch of deep dark water, at a place along the river which all the rivermen called ‘The Ink Stand’, Mrs. Richardson caught a genuine, bona-fide six-pound smallmouth on a Heddon River Runt.  We had no net, and she couldn’t lift the big fish into the boat so I waded out into the current and grabbed it when it finally tired. 

            Do you know that I have guided hundreds of fishermen on at least a fifteen different Ozark streams on hundreds of float trips in Missouri and Arkansas in the fifty years since then, and have never see a smallmouth that big caught by anyone?  It was 24- inches long and nearly black in color.  


Mrs. Richardson with her six pound smallmouth, biggest one I've ever seen from an Ozark river.

           The Piney is a far cry from what it was when I was a boy. The Ink Stand isn’t deep and dark current any more. Like all Ozark rivers, the Piney is filled in and polluted from a dozen sources, and still, it has smallmouth and goggle-eye on the lower reaches of the river.  If you didn’t see it a half century ago, you wouldn’t know what has happened to it, and likely wouldn’t care. 
            Most folks who float it don’t seriously fish it any more and I am sure it has been at least 40 years since a wooden johnboat sat upon it’s waters.  While I was in Houston, a man by the name of Don Kern came by and gave me a gift that means a great deal to me.  His father had lived on the Piney decades back and he and my Uncle Norten fished together often.  Norten had given him a little sassafras boat paddle that my grandfather had made for him in 1932, when my uncle was a little nine-year old river-rat.  Don Kern gave it to me, knowing full well he could have sold it for a hundred dollars or more.  It is priceless to me, and it will go above my fireplace mantle soon.  

A miniature sassafras boat paddle given to me last week by a Big Piney resident.  It was made for my uncle by my grandfather in 1932.

             I got to share some memories with my cousin and visit with the Morton family that attended our church way back there.  Their son, Roy Wayne, was with them and he and I spent many a day and night on the Big Piney.  Roy Wayne was with me when I got struck by lightning one evening fleeing from a fast approaching storm, and he was in the boat with me when I nearly drowned in the middle of the night, running a trotline.  I got hooked and entangled in the weighted line and fell out of the boat.  That was a close one.  He was also with me one night in early summer when a tornado bore down on the Big Piney and we sought refuge at the house of an old, old man named Squire Lee.  He was asleep, and annoyed, but he told us just to take refuge in his barn.  Roy and I still remember exactly what he said that night.  “Don’t worry boys,” he told us, “if yer gonna die, yer gonna die… if ya ain’t, ya ain’t.”

            I am anxious to head for Canada this week. I will fish on Lake of the Woods, and fly to some wilderness lakes with my old friend, Tinker Helseth, an outfitter, pilot and guide.  Tinker is a third generation guide in the Nestor Falls area, one of the best outdoorsmen I ever knew.  I should come back with some great stories for my magazine, “The Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal” and this column.  Mostly it will be a fishing trip, but I also hope to hunt ducks and ruffed grouse.  If it weren’t for family, I wouldn’t ever come back.

                        I have had a lot of questions from readers who saw the column I wrote about the underprivileged kids-fatherless boys-wilderness retreat I am trying to establish on a creek about 40 miles north of Springfield.  Yes, the cabins and all facilities there will be free for any counselors who want to bring kids there, and it is ready now for this fall.  I intend to make it available to anyone who wants to bring a group of kids to spend a day or several days.  And yes, we have much work to do to prepare trails, create a sports field, set up a shooting range and an archery range. 
            Anyone or any group of people who wants to come to help build trails or work on the sports field is welcome.  I will set up a couple of work days when I know there are no threats from copperheads, and when the ticks are all froze.  I will say again, no one is going to make any money out of this, but once a year we will have a fish fry there on the grounds to help raise money to pay for the annual electricity and insurance bill. We do need a lawyer we are willing to pay.  I just want a lawyer who has a great deal of interest in this type of project and who wants to help underprivileged children.  If you know one like that, tell me who it is.

            Over time, we are going to make a difference in the lives of a lot of boys.  I want to change some of them from young men whose destiny is alcohol, drugs and prison to young men who believe in themselves and their future, and become good citizens, husbands and fathers.  This wilderness retreat, with a creek and about 90 acres, a large house, barn and two cabins, can’t be a complete answer for all, but it can be a strong influence for some boys or girls who need help.

            One of the darndest things…it has a cold flowing artesian spring.  What a trout fishing pool that can make for kids! That’s something we’ll need lots of help with this winter, but I hope to have it working by fall.

            You can write me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email me at  My office number is 417 777 5227

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

For Fatherless Boys


Two past owners says this old corner post and a three strand fence has stood since the 1930's accepted as the boundary of the land we have acquired for a boys ranch... which a neighbor now wants to change, in order to gain a fraction of an acre of land.

This is the ten year old house that a neighbor wants to destroy after doing a secret land survey which he says gives him possession of the end of it…possibly as little as 10 feet.  If we can save it, the ranch for fatherless boys will have a headquarters and a three-year plan will be fulfilled

         I hadn’t done much of anything important in my life until the summer of my twentieth year.  That summer I needed a job before returning to the University of Missouri for the final semester. A man name Gilbert Rader, with the University’s Extension Service, asked me if I would like to come back to Texas County, where I was born and raised, and work with young troubled boys who were already getting into trouble at the age of 12 or 13. It was a great summer and I knew then I would like to do as much of that as I could, because I saw the summer’s work change lives.

         About five years ago I met an elderly man and his wife because my daughter was his doctor.  He wanted me and my little grandsons to come and see his place.  His name was Dan Besser, and in he was a war veteran with one of the most remarkable life stories I have ever heard.  In the summer 2014 issue of the Journal of the Ozarks magazine, one of our writers interviewed him and told the story of much of his life. 
         Dan was a good person at heart, and I really liked him.  His wife Phyllis passed away in the winter of 2013 and he just fell apart.  His health was poor and I began to take him to the hospital in Springfield every couple of weeks. After one of those trips he told me he had a dream of keeping his 50 acres along Brush Creek as it was for others to enjoy.  He had built two cabins on knolls in the woods overlooking the creek and bought my grandsons a kayak because they and a half-dozen boys were celebrating a birthday there one weekend.

         I think right then that God had a plan which Dan and I were to become partners in.  Neither of us could really see what it was until he told me how his father had died before he turned six years old and he recognized how it had affected his life to not have a father.  He started hanging out in a Wheatland tavern, and they gave him all the beer he could drink. Because they thought he was funny when drunk, they turned him into an alcoholic for life!

         But something made Dan build one of those cabins with lofts, which he told me he envisioned providing weekend retreats for youngsters.  He wondered if I would help. An outdoor writer may not have the money to pull such a thing off but with the help of my daughters we used money left to us by their grandfather, who loved the outdoors as much as anyone.  Using that money we bought the land with the agreement that Dan could live there until his death.

         A couple of months later, Dan came to me and said our neighbor to the west was an evil man who lived for money.  He had recently been caught and charged with hunting over bait barrels and according to Dan he and his cohorts killed turkeys out of season while they hunted deer. Dan said the man, who I have never met, had become angry because Dan didn’t sell him the land, and I suppose he figured having neighboring land being used for dozens of under-privileged children in the fall might ruin his hunting.

         Dan told me that for a half century, the boundary of his land had been marked by two old 3-strand barbed wire fences but he had caught this neighbor to the west, with his son, tearing down the boundary fence, trying to hide any evidence of it.  But he had left much of it, including the old corner post. Dan said the neighbor had a new secret survey done which took in small sections of the road and about 10 feet or so of the cabin.   He and his lawyer demanded a hefty sum of money AND the closing of the road, and insisted on demolishment of the ten or fifteen feet of the 30-foot home Dan had built ten years before.

          Dan said not to worry, the road and barn it led to had been there for twenty years and something called “adverse possession law” would not allow the man and his lawyer to take that fraction of an acre or destroy the home which we were going to use in the wilderness retreat for boys without fathers.  He said he and his lawyer would take care of it in court.

         Before he could, Dan became very ill. For months, dementia took him away. He died last July.  Suddenly the whole thing fell on my shoulders.  I called a previous owner, Gary Rowland, who told me the fence that had been removed had been the boundary that five landowners had always agreed on for thirty or forty years and when he sold it to Dan, the boundary was indeed that fence.  He said the road and barn had been there for about twenty years, and the home had been there ten years.  Rowland said he suspected that before they had the secret survey done, the man and his lawyer may have manipulated the land boundary description.  Like me, he couldn’t imagine why a man would be so adamant about destroying a home when he could gain nothing but a few yards of brushland; especially someone who already owns more than 100 acres.

         I am convicted to make this place Dan Besser loved so much into a place where boys without fathers can come for a weekend or a week, guided by good counselors.  With the two cabins, and Dan’s three bedroom home there could be room for as many as 20 children at a time and four or five counselors.  I have already begun work on nature trails through the woods and believe I can easily have 2 miles of trails finished by mid-winter.  There is a big flat field there for softball or soccer, a beautiful gravel bar and swimming hole and I think I can soon have a dozen kayaks and canoes for the creek.    A nearby flowing spring can give us a fishing hole of cold flowing water stocked with trout for kids to catch and eat.

         I don’t have a lawyer and the case is to be decided by a judge who has the same name as a judge in western Missouri I once wrote about.  He took high officials from Conservation Department hunting on his special private reserve and talked them into giving him a quarter million dollars to improve it.  Today, that family has their property taxes paid by the MDC and they despise me for letting the world know about what they’ve done. I doubt that judge will render any impartial decisions if he is indeed part of that family.  We need a lawyer to make this dream that Dan and I had, a reality. Not one who is interested in making lots of money, but one who has an interested in seeing this project for under-priveleged children come to fruition.

         No one is going to make money out of this plan, I want this to be free for deserving kids.  But if this neighbor has his way and can indeed claim the fraction of an acre his new boundary gives him and bulldoze a few feet of the home, the whole thing is hopeless.  I hope somewhere out the among this column’s readers I can find some help.  I don’t know anything about courts and land dispute issues and adverse possession laws but I know what evil is.  We are going to need help dealing with it.
         Meanwhile if you want to see what I am talking about, and see the great potential of using this land and the structures for a type of free boys retreat, come and let me show it to you.

Write to me at Box 22,Bolivar, Mo 65613 or email me at lightninridge@  The phone number is 417 777 5227.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What It Takes To Be Crazy

        I saw a couple of unusual things in the woods this week as cool weather came and fall flowers seemed to be blooming everywhere.  For one thing, the migration of butterflies is beginning and it seems you can find some different-looking ones every year.
I opened the door to an old shed last week and a beautiful creature had a home inside. His name really hurts him. Folks know him as a woodrat, but he is nothing like a Norway rat or house-rat which is not even native to the Ozarks. The woodrat deserves a different name because he isn’t dirty and doesn’t carry fleas, which caused the plague in Europe centuries ago. Again, it is the house-rat which did that.      

The woodrat, native to this country, 
 is nothing similar to the non-native house rat.                       
                                                                                    house rat
        The woodrat I found jumped up to a beam along the wall of the shed and sat there looking at me.  It’s face, with big black eyes and large, round ears, reminded me of some little Australian marsupial I have seen photos of.  But its fur was a brown and golden color, with a white underneath.  The tail is not bare, but with a short silky coat of fur, which tells you he is just as close to other native rodents as the squirrel and chipmunk as he is a rat or mouse.
If I had named him I think I would have spared him the name of rat.   

        The muskrat ought to be called something else too, because his name mistakenly identifies him as something he is not.   Muskrats are fairly good to eat.  In the old days in the Midwest, lots of families along rivers and wetlands ate muskrats.  There’s nothing dirty about them, and there is nothing dirty about a woodrat.  The one I watched for so long had a beautiful coat, and if you knew his diet, you’d agree with me that he is nothing similar to those house-rats or house-mice we all despise.  Those two creatures, like starlings and carp, are not native to our country.
         Then I sat down against a big tree and had to remove a flat rock to make my spot a little more level.  Beneath it was a small dark-brown scorpion, a little less than three inches in length.  Not many folks have ever been stung by scorpions, but I have, and its sting is about twice as painful as anything else I have ever stung by.

         Thirty some years ago I had taken my family over to Bull Shoals in the summer to swim and I had on a pair of tennis shoes that got good and wet.  I left them in the boat that night, with a couple of really pretty pieces of driftwood I had picked up for Gloria Jean’s flower garden.  The next day I went out and retrieved the old tennis shoes because I intended to go fish Crooked Creek that afternoon.
         Without any socks, I slipped the shoes on and my right foot began to burn on top, just like someone had placed a hot, burning charcoal chip on top of it.  It took me little time to get that shoe off and there was a fairly large, nearly white, scorpion inside it.  It burned like that for most of the day, and I didn’t go fishing… I sat around hurting and moaning.  Nothing I could apply to that sting alleviated the pain!

         When I was a young park naturalist, a camper from the city came to me, absolutely scared to death.   His little boy had a scorpion crawling up his leg.  That fellow was a great father because he thought scorpions in Missouri were poison, and yet he grabbed it and was stung, trying to protect the little boy.  He came to me to ask how long I thought he might live if he couldn’t get to a hospital in time.

         I told him that our scorpions weren’t poison, that only the ones down in southern Mexico and Central America were poison.  But he wouldn’t believe me until I dug out a guide-book which told him in print that he wasn’t in danger.  I have never seen a man so relieved.  His wife and kids were scared to death and crying, until I convinced them, and then it was like I had pulled them all from a burning tent. I was a hero, for a short time!

         I am not admired greatly by a lady who read my column a couple of weeks ago, which stated in jest that I thought people who bow-hunt for deer in September were crazy. She took it seriously and got very mad, leaving me a message saying that I was “full of crap” and didn’t know what I was talking about. 
         Sure I do, m’am.  I have been there and done that.  But you shouldn’t be so upset.  Just go out there in the weeds and mosquitoes and heat and hunt all you want while I relax down on the river and catch fish in the shade and cool water.  And don’t be so sensitive about being called ‘crazy’.  I’ve been called crazy for years for a lot of what I have written.

         When I head off out into the duck marsh when it is 20 degrees and I have to break ice to set out decoys, people say, “Man you’re crazy!”  When I spend the night sleeping on a gravel bar in a tent you can’t stand up in, people tell me I am crazy.  When I get up at three o’clock in the morning just to get to a place a hundred miles away where I can hear turkeys gobble at daylight just like they are doing the same morning down behind my house, folks think I am crazy. 
         I get called crazy all the time for a lot of things… eating some mushroom I never tried before or trying to fish Ontario’s Lake of the Woods in a thirty mile and hour wind, or paying fifty dollars for a young setter that is scared to death of the sight of a shotgun.  It never has bothered me.  But one thing I won’t do.   I won’t gut a deer when it is 85 degrees and the flies have to be shooed away while I am doing it.
         I’ll hunt deer in December when it’s too cold to be fishing.  At such a time, when the snow is blowing and the temperature dropping and ice pellets sting your face, it makes perfect sense to be huddled high in a tree stand, shivering and waiting.  And lady, if you go fishing in that kind of weather, you’re crazy.

         There are about three-dozen newspapers in three states using this column.  From time to time I write something an editor doesn’t approve of and it is omitted.  Occasionally papers have a space problem and they have to cut some of it.  Some papers never have room for photos.  In order to see this column and the pictures with it in it’s entirety, you can see it each week on my website, .   That is if you are a computer-savvy person, which I am not.
         If you think computers are something you can trust and depend on you should try to find the Wikipedia thing which tells about me in a very humorous but insulting way.  I think it was put in there by someone in the state conservation department!  It states that I married Tonya Harding.   Don’t I wish…I always thought she was gorgeous and I always wanted to learn how to skate.  Please don’t tell Gloria Jean.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Landowner Tags

Gloria Jean, with her gobbler, killed at a distance which classifies her shot as a world record.

Since I am Gloria Jean Dablemont and am in charge of putting Larry’s columns on this blogspot, I get to place a disclaimer on this next column, which I have done at its conclusion.

      I got my landowner permits yesterday, the darndest roll of yellow tags you ever saw.  I actually have some land in three counties, but the total of those places comes to just under 80 acres.
       That makes me one of those people that really upsets the Conservation Department.  Remember not too many years back, they decided that they would give landowner permits only to those who owned 80 acres or more?  A near revolt on the part of Ozark landowners put a quick end to that.

       They could surely have made a million dollars more if they could have pulled that off.  I once contributed a lot with archery tags, gun deer tags, and turkey tags, but now all three are on that long line of yellow plastic.  I caution you though, check them thoroughly.
       Last year I found that my fall turkey tags consisted of five or six archery tags and no gun tags.  I killed a turkey on my place and had no tags for it.  If you remember I wrote about how I figured I had little recourse but to let a father and his daughter take the turkey and tag it with their tag.  That sure upset the MDC.
       In all last fall, four agents spent about six hours at my home trying to find a way to write me a citation for two articles I wrote. They wasted their time, but vowed to find some technicality soon they can get me on so I have to be careful what I write.  I can do pretty much what I want to in the woods because they seldom go there, I just have to be careful of what they can nail me on while standing on my porch.

       Gloria Jean will have no part of landowner tags. She don’t want any!  She will go out and watch and enjoy it all, but she is what is known as a non-consumptive hunter.  That goes back to the only turkey she ever shot.
       I called up a nice pair of gobblers and Gloria Jean cut down on them with my three-inch magnum twelve-gauge and dropped one in his tracks at 80 or 90 yards.  Or so it seemed.  Maybe it wasn’t that far but it certainly was too far for anything but a miracle and I told her that.  Of course, like she always does when I try to offer constructive criticism, she got all huffy and said it was the last time she was ever going to shoot at anything.

       The thing about women is, they so often do just what they say.  A hundred times I have said, after missing a turkey in the fall, or shooting one that doesn’t weigh much more than store-bought chicken, that I was through hunting fall turkeys.  But Gloria Jean has stuck with it.
       I point out to her that if she would get her landowner tags we could have four wild turkeys in the freezer for the coming winter instead of just two, but she remembers that time years ago when she swears I yelled at her for shooting at a gobbler I mistakenly thought was too far away.

       I didn’t actually yell at her, just as I haven’t ever yelled at her when she casts one of my best lures into a tree high above the water, or scares away a flock of ducks by refusing to wear face paint.  She gets huffy… at any suggestion about how she might do better as a fisherwoman or hunter.
       And tell me why it is that a woman will spend an hour putting all kinds of makeup on their face just to go to church, but they won’t dab on a little camouflage face paint that takes only a minute before climbing up in a tree stand with their husband?

       I am sure that occasional huffiness something other men have experienced.  Wives are bad about confusing actual yelling with constructive criticism and they get huffy.  And then they won’t get their landowner permits or make cornbread when you want it. 
       Gloria Jean says there is an upside to it.  She won’t have to stand on the porch and argue with a pair of game wardens this fall who want to see if she can actually shoot a gun!

       Sometime in a future column this fall I will let all you readers know about those six hours of arguing with game wardens on my porch.  You don’t have to oblige them.  You can leave them standing there if they are without search warrants.  But truthfully, I learned a great deal which I am glad I can pass on.

On another much more serious subject, just the other day I went into Walmart to buy a new battery for my trolling motor and I was going to pay for it in the automotive section.  I had to wait quite some time because two women were in front of me with shopping carts filled with groceries.
       The cashier said there was nothing he could do, he had to check out whatever they brought and in both cases it was groceries.  These two looked a little stupid there in the automotive section with a hundred dollars worth of groceries, but they didn’t want to wait in the regular checkout line behind four or five other customers.
       It shows what is bad about Walmart stores, and what kind of people give it a bad name.  The man who is suppose to be taking care of brake jobs, oil changes and tire purchases has to stand there and check out bread and milk.

       “Sometimes,” he said, “Someone who wants to get a pair of tires has to wait for 15 minutes while I check out some lady with groceries.  But store policy dictates I have to do it and now everything comes back here, groceries, jewelry appliances clothes, you name it.  It gets worse and worse every week.”

       I went over to the sporting goods section to get my landowner licenses and there was a lady paying for a cartload of cleaning supplies!  When you see those kinds of people, taking advantage of the situation to try to save themselves ten minutes in line, you realize you are looking at someone who will inconvenience others just for their own benefit.  Someday it could take us men an hour to buy a box of shells, waiting for some old lady to check out her cat food and make-up.

       Well, Walmart could change it with some simple rules, but they won’t, until maybe some big time store official has to buy a quart of oil and has to stand in line at the automotive counter waiting for some lady to check out a hundred dollars worth of groceries!

       It really doesn’t point to so much of a flaw in Walmart as it points out a flaw in people…. Like I said, a minority of people who think only of themselves is still way too many.
       Gloria Jean helps me with some facebook thing, but I don’t understand it.  She says about 300 people said they liked me last week.  She says if any of them knew me like she does, they probably wouldn’t!

       You can write me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. or email me at lightninridge@windstream.
            First off, Larry is NOT as bad as his columns suggest, especially toward women. He has lived with three daughters (no sons) and a St.Louis-raised wife, who often give HIM a hard time.  He writes to make people chuckle and often takes liberty, with that in mind, to twist the truth using his outrageous imagination. He gets so outrageous at times, that he is sure everyone knows he is joking, especially when it comes to me or Mrs.Wiggins. 
            However, his writing about Walmart and the MDC in this column is his true feelings.

            Now, for my disclaimer…I DID get my first turkey at a distance that, at the time, he said was almost unheard of… which means... he never got one at that distance because he always missed, so he has learned to wait and call them in closer. 

            I must admit I do get a LITTLE huffy at his so-called constructive (?) criticism, but not to the point of never hunting again. Since that time, I have had listen to him whisper, “Not yet, not yet, not yet…OK shoot!”
            I also have to admit that I have missed turkey more than actually getting one over the years (which have been very few and too much shot in the meat, therefore, much constructive criticism).  I have come to realize that I will never be a master turkey hunter.  So I really did tell him that I didn’t want landowner tags. I would much rather watch them come in to his call than shoot AT them. Since our daughter, Christy, hunts and gets her turkey, we always have enough turkey in our freezer anyway (By the way, if any MDC agents are reading this, they ARE properly marked with her name and tag number).