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.