Friday, April 21, 2017

A Malady Mis-Named

       They call it ‘ocular migraine’ but that is a poor name for something that is awful.  I know… I have lived with it for more than fifty years.  I am writing about it now because I know others have it and have no idea what it is.  I particularly want parents to know if the malady appears in their children.

       First, the word migraine is misleading.  Migraine headaches do not have a thing to do with it.  The first thing that happens is, without warning, there appears a very distinctive curving zig-zag line in your vision.  Quickly, just beneath and around it is a brightness like you are looking into a white light nearly like you would get from looking directly at the sun.  Within a minute, it becomes a complete blindness, except for what they refer to as peripheral vision, meaning you can see, to some extent, those things to your far left or far right, or at your feet.

       As this blindness takes over, a numbness begins to come from the tips of your fingers up your arm.  With me it is always my left arm.  The numbness is severe enough that you cannot feel a pin stuck in your arm, and it comes with about the speed of an insect crawling up your arm, into your shoulder, neck, and quickly into the left side of the face, right down the middle of your forehead, nose and mouth.  The other side of your body is unaffected.  With that numbness, you will lose the ability to speak coherently, so you learn that you had better tell someone quickly that you are going to be okay and to leave you alone and not take you to the hospital. 
       Going to the hospital is useless.  They do not know what is wrong, and the last time I went, a big hefty, gruff nurse told me I was putting on an act.  “You can see me just fine, and you could talk if you want to,” she derided me.  I wish to God I could have seen her face or remember who she was because if I did I would let that hospital know that anyone in any kind of stress should not be ridiculed.

       What is difficult to deal with is the terror you experience, a foggy awareness of all that is going on, and an unreasonable, unexplainable fear.  No matter how many times it happens to you, the fear, the terror, the panic always is a part of it.  In one to two hours usually, you recover the ability to speak fairly coherently and then the blindness subsides fairly quickly.  In the aftermath, you are confused for hours, and you may become extremely irritated and angry.  You will lash out at those who love you and are trying to help you.  But the confusion, the inability to make your legs and arms work like you want them to, and the inability to think of the words you want to use, may last up to a day.  Surprisingly, I have never had a headache through all that.

       The best thing anyone could do for me when I have one is to give me something to help me sleep and leave me alone.  I now deal with the onset of this by doing these things…    If I am alone, I stay away from anyone, and find seclusion. Perhaps I will pull my pick-up into a remote parking lot, lay the seat back and close my eyes and take a pill to relax me if I have one.  Afterward I ask directions from someone on how to get where I am going.  But believe it or not, it may take awhile to remember just where I am going. This might make a lot of folks laugh, but years ago I started saying something over and over that helps mightily.  I continually repeat, “Come unto me, all ye who are weak and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  Through all the years of medicine to help this condition, nothing ever works, but that bible verse does.  It is something I recommend often to those who have any problem, especially depression or panic attacks.

       And yes, I know what brings these “Ocular Migraines” on.  Three things,---extreme fatigue, extreme stress or extreme anger.  And the degree of the severity and long-lastingness is strange.  I have had these things last only a couple of hours and return quickly to normal.  But sometimes I have experienced a bad affect for up to two days.
Once out on the lake, I got through it by lying down in a pile of leaves against the trunk of a large tree.  I eventually slept quite a while and it was late in the evening when I awakened.  There on the shore was my boat, but I had no idea what lake I was on or how to get back to my truck.  Thank goodness some folks on the lake helped me. I was amazed how I could be so short-tempered and angry with people so kind and helping.

       What I wouldn’t give to go find them and explain things.

       I have tremendous embarrassment from what I have done at times immediately in the aftermath of the blindness.  There is a doctor I think the world of, who was trying to help me, and Gloria tells me that I talked to him like he was my greatest enemy.  I would like to go talk to him, but I just don’t know what to say.  For the rest of his life, that man will think I am a worthless jerk.

       The first of these “spells” occurred when I was 13, and when I was 19 at the University of Missouri, they had me in the hospital for two days.  That was the worst of the occurrences, because I couldn’t describe my parents.  When I finally came up with their names I couldn’t for the life of me remember what they looked like.

       In my thirties and forties, I would go for years and have no problems and get to thinking I had outgrown the awful things.  But in the last two years, the severity has increased, and now they overwhelm me by coming every few weeks.

       For anyone who might recognize these symptoms, the one thing we all have in common is the zig-zag line and temporary blindness.  From there, everyone with ocular migraine seems to have different problems in the aftermath.

       About ten years ago, driving through Macon or Moberly Missouri, I can’t remember which, I was quickly hit by the onset of a particularly bad episode.  I was near a hospital and somehow ended up in a dark room for four hours under the 10-minute attention of an emergency room doctor who didn’t know what was wrong because I couldn’t tell him.  That day, after 40 years of living with this, I found out what it was! A nurse came in and spent about a half hour with me.  She said she had the same thing, and described the numbness, the blindness and the zig-zag line to perfection.  I broke down and actually cried with relief when she told me that the problem would never have a lasting effect.  She knew because she too had lived with it since childhood.  She put her arms around me and assured me that we would both be just fine.  I hugged her and just turned loose all of my emotions.  I didn’t want to let go of her.

       There have been a bunch of MRI’s and cat scans that say there is nothing in my brain they can find. I doubt if many people have had their brain looked at that often. But the United States Army found what others did not.  When I was 20 I wanted to join an Officer Candidate School and in St. Louis at a place called Jefferson Barracks they put me in a dark room and hooked up about a dozen or so wires to my head.  I slept for three hours and afterward I was told my brain waves showed some kind of problem which rendered me ineligible for the armed services except for a possible stateside desk service. I had plenty of questions, but they had no answers.

       So there you have it.  I have bared my soul about something I have seldom spoken of, even to my family.  But recently I was talking to a youngster who I immediately knew was a victim of ocular migraine.  It makes me think something needs to be said about this.  Who knows how many people have it, and live in the dark as to what it is.  If you are a parent and experience a problem with a child who is sometimes incoherent, or can’t see, or has a numbness in their face, you may be able to help him a great deal, even though medical science cannot do much.

       And no matter who you are or what you might be living with, remember that Bible verse.  It is something of the recipe for small, unheralded miracles.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Just Another Gobbler


       It was back in a time when I was able to leap small mountains in only two or three bounds, and climb up rock hillsides with a shotgun on my back.  There we were, just out of our tent drinking coffee, out in the middle of the Ozark National Forestland of Arkansas, in the wilds of Newton County.  And you could hear two gobblers sounding off on the roost a good mile down the valley… maybe more.  Up the valley a few hundred yards, a much closer gobbler answered them.

       “I ain’t messin’ around with that one,” my partner said fairly emphatically!

       It seemed to me that closer one was the best idea, so I asked why he seemed so certain it wasn’t.

       “That gobbler there, he’s been called at and fooled with, maybe even shot at for all we know,” he answered.

       “Heck, this is the first day of turkey season,” I questioned. “And we’re the only camp within 5 miles.”

       My partner threw out the last of his coffee and gulped down his last swallow as he did so.  “I know these folks in Newton County,” he said, “ I growed up here amongst ‘em.  An’ you can believe me… he’s been hunted since it got to be March!”

       I didn’t argue much.  Down that Ozark canyon before us where those two distant gobblers were, a small creek flowed into another, and there were no logging roads back in there.  That meant the two gobblers we could hear were likely unharassed, unhunted and unaware that a hen turkey’s sweet call might not be a hen turkey.  Oh of course they weren’t the only toms there in that long hollow beneath the pine-studded ridge-tops.  There were others, hesitant to gobble perhaps, with the other two threatening to flog and spur any competition.

       So with nothing more than our calls, a light pack of essentials and a shotgun, we pitched off into the deep gorge before us.  We would ease along the creek bottom until we could pretty well tell where the two gobblers were.

       Getting to the bottom was easy; you just had to use your elbows as brakes and try to get your feet planted on rock outcroppings.  You sort of walked and slid and bounced.  In the bottom of the big canyon, the flowing water made it very hard to hear the gobblers, down the creek and up on the ridge to our right.

       Wild Gobblers are heavy, and unlike young turkeys, they don’t like to fly up into the trees to roost.  They like to pitch off a hilltop and drop down to a big tree where their roost is well above ground but still below them late in the evening.  Then at first light, they fly out onto the flat ridgetop where the hens gather, to mate.  And that’s where those gobblers were.  In that creek valley floor, you could hear them faintly.

       We finally got to the area below them, and my partner wanted to work down a little farther along the creek.  I began the long hard climb up that steep incline strewn with big pines and boulders.  When I gained the top, my heart up in the 150-beats-a- minute rate, I just lay back against a tree and checked to be sure my gun barrel had no mud in it and my little homemade box call was still in one piece.  I hoped I hadn’t spooked those gobblers.  As hard as I was breathing it should have been discernible at a good distance.  And then the two both gobbled nearly in unison, about a hundred yards away, back up that high, flat ridge.

       There is no use dragging the story out.  I called for thirty minutes or so, they gobbled a lot.  I sat there in anticipation and the gobblers eased down into the valley from whence I had just come.

       During the winter before, on a snow-flurried day out on Bull Shoals Lake, I had decided I wanted to become a Christian… a real one, not just a religious follower of some sect or denomination.  Baptized at the age of 13, I never really had a concept of what Christianity meant.  But even at a young age, I spent enough time in the woods and on the river alone to know God was real.  I wasn’t sure about anything else.  Finally over the years into my mid-twenties, I began to get the picture, and I just told God that day out on the Lake that I wanted to change for the better and do what He wanted me to do with my life, following as best I could the teachings and guidance of Jesus as I had read of Him in the Bible.

       I expected things to be easier.  I counted on things getting better.  And now here I had worked so hard to get there with those gobblers, and God was letting them get away, leaving me there two miles from camp, half exhausted.

       I almost didn’t follow the turkeys.  They went up the opposite hillside, gobbling on occasion to let me know where they were, and began to strut and mate and carry on over on that other ridge.  I told God that I was awful disappointed in Him.  I had done my part by climbing that mountain, and he had allowed the gobblers to elude me by crossing over to a place I would have to be super human to get too.  I wasn’t going to do it.

       About nine o’clock that morning they quit gobbling.  They quit gobbling about the time I started climbing up to that ridge where they went.  I got up there, knees and elbows and tail-bone bruised, and found myself a nice big pine to lean against, trying to reduce my heart rate.  There were the beautiful dogwoods, birds singing, squirrels scurrying, but no gobbling.  And it was that way for at least an hour.  I dozed off and said to heck with it.  God wasn’t going to help me, and I was mad at Him, as I have been a thousand times since when things haven’t gone so well for me, even with all the faith I have displayed.

       I woke up and drank some water from my canteen and ate some crackers and cheese and decided I would head back camp and make myself a baloney sandwich.  It was getting up toward noon.  And then I heard a gobble, strong and lusty and close, maybe a hundred yards before me.  There’s little use in dragging it out, the way us outdoor writers do…  my trembling hands managed a couple of poor hen imitations on my box-call and then I saw him easing toward me through the timber. He was strutting before me at 40 yards when I pulled the trigger, and standing over him I said something like, “Thank you God!” Then added, saying it to myself so He couldn’t hear me.  “It’s about time, I worked hard enough to get here.”

       It was then that I heard a rumble of thunder back to the south!  Knowing God is aware of how much I am afraid of Lightning, I think that might have been a stern response. Since that long ago time, there have been lots of gobblers.  Sometimes when one gets away I still argue with God about whether or not I don’t deserve to be treated better.

       But when I see a genuine miracle while roaming the woods or floating a river, I realize that He hasn’t given up on any of us yet. I still don’t understand much, but perhaps knowing the answers to all the questions I have isn’t really that important. I think maybe Easter holds the answer to that.

       To inquire about one of my books or my outdoor magazine, email or just call the Lightnin’ Ridge office… 417 777 5227. Mailing address is Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Big Piney River Cave Exploration

Saturday, my daughter Christy and I went to the Big Piney where I grew up to try to find some remote caves my grandfather took me to when I was a boy.  Here are some photos from the trip.  We explored three different caves, found pottery and arrowheads, and saw several orange salamanders deep inside the darkness.   

A jack-in-the-pulpit flower and a Cardinal flower found at the opening of a cave

Cave No 1
Cave No. 2
Cave No.3

 Formations from inside
the caves

a formation that looks just like a jawbone full of teeth. Don't know how that could be formed perpendicular to the cave floor. never saw anything comparable to this in a cave.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Mushroom Seeds and Chippy the Chipmunk



       It is mushroom time in the Ozarks. Just last night my daughter found six up here on Lightnin’ Ridge. The best of the mushroom hunting will be between April 14 and April 20th in the northern Ozarks and a week earlier in the south Ozarks.  On the first of April they were finding a good number in north Arkansas. 

       Southern Iowa woodlands will have good mushroom hunting in early May, and when I am in Canada in early June, I figure I will find at least a dozen or so along the lake where I fish. Those Canadian morels are monstrous. They average twice the size of the ones I will find in the next week or so.  But the Canadian bush country where I fish, is so thick that you can’t get out there and walk a mile or so looking for them. You have to look along lakeshore timber.

       I am not going to try to sell mushroom seeds as I have in the past. Too many people complained that they didn’t get enough seeds for a dollar. The thing is, mushroom seeds are tiny, and if you put 500 or so in an envelope, it may seem like only a few.  

       I always told the folks who bought them to go out in the woods where they have found wild mushrooms before and scatter a few pinches here and there and within a couple or three years, maybe four or five, or six…there will be mushrooms growing… and maybe some lettuce and carrots!

       I can’t help it if no one has any patience and can’t follow directions anymore! So I am phasing out my mushroom seed business and since I only have a few envelopes left I am going to reduce the price of each envelope filled with hundreds of seeds, to fifty cents, plus shipping and handling, which comes to five dollars!

       Mushroom seeds must be sown from late March, to mid-April and it is best to cover them with dead leaves so they won’t be eaten by ground weasels and hickory rats. Don’t harvest small mushrooms, give them a couple of days or so to grow taller!

       Well I have come up with a great idea. But you will have to act upon it before school is out. Years back my first wife, Gloria Jean, was involved in teaching young boys who were having trouble learning to read. She said they just didn’t have an interest in what the school had for them to read. So she took a book I had written about 10 or 12 years ago and gave it to some of them to try. It was a book of outdoor short stories, mostly about boys, entitled, “Dogs, Ducks and Hatrack Bucks”. She said it changed the way they looked at reading, wanting to read the stories to conclusion and understand each.

       It came to me, as parents began to tell me how much one of their boys had enjoyed the book, that I might oughta make it easy for kids to get it, so I am going to make copies available free of charge, to boys and girls who want it. It is best suited for kids from 9 or 10 years old to 13 or 14 years old, maybe even older.

       If you are interested in getting a copy, notify your school or school library and send to this site (Larry Dablemont Outdoors). I will bring them a number of books to give away to kids who want it. It is too expensive to just mail one book at a time, but I can send several to a school without a great deal of postage.

       In grade school, I remember being able to buy books through a publication they gave kids called, “The Weekly Reader”. The books were only a quarter or so, but my parents were poor and couldn’t buy many for me. So I started selling mushroom seeds to raise enough quarters so I could buy those books, and I remember how much brighter the sun would shine for me when one of those little books arrived in school. Those books did something to me as a kid that is hard to put in words.

       Mrs. Frost, my first and third grade teacher, actually put together a little booklet of my poems with a blue cover, which I have today, since my mom saved it. Then in the fourth grade I wrote a book entitled, “The Adventures of Chippy the Chipmunk”. I have that too, stored away in stuff Mom saved. I read it once and won’t do so again. Nor will anyone ever read it! Chippy was a real ne’er do well.

       As I got to the sixth and seventh my teachers would have class writing assignments where we all hand-wrote stories on Big Chief tablets. The teachers would always pick a couple of the best stories to read to the class, and I would go to school with great anticipation on those days hoping that they would read my stories. They never did. I remember that the stories they selected were really boring and mostly by girls who made good grades. There were none you could sell to Sports Afield or Outdoor Life, where great literature was published in the 1960’s.

       I remember one teacher reading something Nolan Don Akins wrote called “Our Family Shangri la”.  Me and Virgil Postlewaite and Butch McNew had no idea what a ‘shangri la’ even was.  I knew Nolan Don would never make a writer. He had to settle for becoming a United Airlines pilot! What a disappointment that must have been, flying all over the world while I was floating the Piney trapping muskrats and catching black perch.

       In the eighth grade I tried so hard to write something the teacher would read in class. I spent hours working on the story of a female bird-dog who fell in love with a big lobo coyote, and their life together until he was shot through the guts by a cattleman and she was so brokenhearted she drowned herself in the river and all her pups starved to death in a dark cave. I was sent to the principal’s office for that one. The teacher didn’t like my graphic portrayal of woodland reproductive acts, and you were not allowed to use the word ‘bitch’ back then in describing a female dog. In the eighth grade, entrails are not referred to as ‘guts’ either!

       My writing career nearly ended. I never ever wrote a story or essay in grade school, high school or college that was read in class. Life isn’t fair. But I think I sensed that, when I wrote about the life of Chippy the Chipmunk, long, long ago. Nothing ever went right for him neither.

       If you have an interest in receiving my magazine or reading any of the nine books I published, or want to get that book for a youngster just call my first wife, Gloria Jean at 417 777 5227.  Email me at

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


A white bass trip from 1983 on Bull Shoals with my daughters. On the far left, Lori is now a doctor and Christy, the one in the middle, is a high school science/biology/physics teacher

   I went back to an old play-ground last week for a couple of days, staying at the little resort and cafĂ© at Diamond City, Arkansas, on Bull Shoals Lake. When I moved to Arkansas just out of college more than forty years ago the same little cafe and resort was there just north of Lead Hill. 
    When my two oldest daughters were only 12 and 13 years old, I took them fishing out of that boat ramp and around a big island. It was mid summer and the white bass were schooling all around that island. The two of them caught fish one after another. Their little sister was only five years old, and I would cast for her, then hand her the rod and let her reel in some two-pound and larger white bass. Finally, with the ice cooler filled with fish, she said, “Daddy, can’t we find something else to do that is almost this much fun, I’m just about wore out.”

       I drove over to the east a few miles last week to see another part of the lake I love, the place where the old White River ferry still crosses the lake. In 1976 I put my boat in at the ferry, and took someone fishing. We saw a huge storm forming to the west so we came back and tied the boat in a protected area on the bank, and took shelter in my pick-up. I got the bright idea of going up the hill and down the other side of the peninsula to the Highway 125 boat dock, owned at the time by Jim Carr.

       Jim himself was quite a story. The two of us went fishing at night on occasion, fishing large spinner baits by dropping them down over the ledges of steep bluffs where the water was deep. 
The tornado was small, but it roared mightily as it 
passed my pickup and slammed into the Hwy 125
boat dock on bull shoals
  That day in 1976, he was in the boat dock as I stopped up at the top of the hill and watched a tornado rip down the hillside about 100 yards south of me, clobbering the boat dock full bore. It just seemed to explode before my eyes, and seconds later in the calm that followed, there were pieces of the
dock everywhere, in the parking lot and on the water. But what I re- member most is seeing boats by the dozens strewn across the open water to the northeast, some upright, some upside down. I don’t know how Jim came out of that little boxed in office alive, but he was unhurt. I took a whole roll of film of the aftermath of that storm.

       Jim wasn’t so lucky later in life. He sold the dock and became a Marion County sheriff’s deputy, and one night he walked into a remote marijuana patch that had been booby trapped with a shotgun set up with a trip wire. Jim lost most of the use of his right arm, and was lucky to have survived the blast.

       Keith Hyde is a friend of mine who has lived all his life near the little Bull Shoals community of Peel, a few miles south of the ferry. He knew an old guide named Manfred Long, whose family lived near what is now known as the Long Bottoms, a name retained from the days when the White River flowed free. Today it is still known as such, across the lake from what is known as the Jones Point wildlife management area.

       Many years ago, when Keith was young, the old man likely wanted to get something off his mind, so he told him a grisly story.  Right there a few miles below the old ferry, a family feud developed between the Longs and the Wallaces, over some free-range hogs that both families claimed. Manfred Long and his brother were swimming across the river when rifle fire from a nearby bluff took the life of his brother. He told Keith that there was no proof that the Wallace boys had done the shooting, but he knew who it was, so a few months later he waited at a river crossing hiding behind a big tree, and waited for hours for them to come by. When they did, Manfred took careful aim with a 30-30 rifle and killed the one he was sure had killed his brother.

       Thinking about those free-range hogs, I recalled the time in the eighties when my Labrador and I were hunting mushrooms above the Long Bottoms and came across an old wild sow with little pigs.  She would likely have caught me before I reached my boat, but my Lab seemed to be her main intent and she couldn’t catch him. I had the boat running when he jumped in, and twenty feet away, grunting and growling, the old hog stopped at the waters edge. I wonder if she was a descendant of the hogs that got two men killed.

       Keith Hyde is much like me, and talking with him is sort of a living history lesson about that beautiful wild area of Bull Shoals that I love more than any Ozark lake, because it remains so natural. It will not remain so forever. The Corps land will someday be surrendered to the loggers and the developers who want to make money from the shores of that crystal clear haven that has remained much like all lakes should have been. In places like Diamond City, houses and cabins and mobile homes were set up in the boom that took place in the 60’s and 70’s after the lake was built. Today that generation is old and dying off, and the real estate signs offering a little home on a lot just a mile or so from the lake are everywhere.

       A new resident has moved into Bull Shoals. Everywhere, you can find hordes of zebra mussels, about the size of a dime coating rocks and submerged willows. Keith tells me that when he crushes up a few and throws them into the water, bass and sunfish swarm on them.  “I think someday the bass will figure out how to smash them and they will grow fat from zebra mussels.” He says. “That has happened in the Great Lakes already.” 

       In a month, Keith and I plan to take my pontoon boat-camper out to the Long bottoms and fish beneath lights like we did back years ago.  I was thinking it might be a good idea to fill a bucket with zebra mussels and mash them up about midnight and see if we can create a fish feast beneath the lights, something like the swarming threadfin shad will do. But that will be another story to tell, sometime in the middle of May.

We can now accept credit cards if you would like to purchase our spring issue of my outdoor magazine, a subscription, or one of my nine books.  Just call me at 417-777-5227.

My email…   Mailing address is Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613.