Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Value of a Quarter


         Today of course, there are few 14-year old kids worrying about family finances, but I really stressed over those hard times when Dad was worried about paying the electric bill from our pool hall.  I offered my ideas on saving money.  One was the elimination of my regular haircuts.  About every three weeks Dad would come to the pool hall before main street businesses closed and send me across the street to the barber shop, in a day when Mr. Holder, the barber, thought that if there was any hair within 3 inches of your ear, it ought to be whacked off.
       I’d go back to the pool hall and the old men would all have some kind of smart aleck remark about how much lower my ears were growing all of a sudden, or how good I smelled or whether or not my cap would fit any more.

       So I told Dad that I figured he was spending about 20 dollars a year on my haircuts, which was one whole good day’s profits in the pool hall, and an absolute waste of money. He thought I was on to something there, and suggested I begin using my own money for haircuts!

       Eventually I convinced Mr. Holder, the barber, who liked to play golf, that if he would cut my hair free, I would keep him well supplied with almost new golf balls I found scouring the weeds around the golf course, which sat up above the McKinney hole on the Piney river, only a little ways from our home.

       Other golfer-pool players, like Shorty Evans, found out about that and I began to make some pretty good money finding lost golf balls. I got a quarter for the good ones. When you combine that with the money I made in the summer guiding fishermen on the Piney River, you can understand how I could sometimes accumulate a pretty good sockful of quarters.

       But I never did think that float trip arrangement was it was fair. I paddled the old wooden johnboat all day for fishermen who gave me a handful of quarters and Dad got three dollars just for renting out his boat!
       One of the old timers at the pool hall said that when he was a kid, his dad gave him a quarter to go without supper, then snuck in and stole it out of his overalls pocket while he was asleep, and wouldn’t let him have any breakfast because he had lost it!

He didn’t seem to have any lasting effect from that kind of childhood, as he was fairly rotund and happy.  But you could make an argument that he suffered psychologically, since he showed up at every church picnic and ate some of everything and all of some things.

       As I think about it today, I come to the realization that what was wrong with me and Dad and those old timers back in those days was the rarity of quarters.  I am absolutely sure that for every quarter there was when I was 13 there are a million today. There are so many that no one any more has to trade used golf balls for a haircut.

       Bartering was part of the Ozarks once and it worked really well. My Grandpa McNew traded a pig for a 1949 Chevrolet pickup once, then traded a bushel of potatoes and a dozen eggs to have some neighbor fix it so it would run.  Grandpa Dablemont never had a hog in his whole life, but he sure did trade a lot of catfish and handmade sassafras paddles for different stuff.

       Maybe that kind of thing wouldn’t work today in the city, but I have a boat I would trade for a small boat trailer. And I have a lawn mower too, that I would trade for about anything.  Do you realize the futility of mowing a lawn when you live out in the country? Mowing the variety of weeds like the ones that make up my ‘lawn’ up here on this wooded ridgetop might kill a baby rabbit or two, or mash some whippoorwill eggs or ruin a patch of wild flowers about to bloom.  And what good will it do you?... the whole thing grows back in a couple of weeks just like it was!

       I know I had something I was wanting to tell you in this column that was really important but now I can’t remember what it was.  If I remember it, I might write about it next time.  Meanwhile I will leave those of you who enjoy poetry with this verse I wrote a while back as spring left us. As a poet I do not write under my regular name.  My poetry is oft published under Lawrence Arthur Dableaumonte’ as I have noticed that poets ascribe to great long poetic names, like Harry David Thoreau or Elizabeth Barnett Browning. 

I call this poem, “Inevitability”.

---I am glad to see the spring come, I hope it lasts awhile.
The hatching birds and flowers, always makes me smile.
The breeze is warm, the fish will bite, and wildlife will be lively.
But then before you turn around, summer will arrively.
And there’ll be snakes and ticks and heat that hangs on like the plague. “Cause spring’s a fleeting young beauty, and summer’s a mean old hag.---

On August 9, at 1 p.m. at the St. Marks Church in Houston Missouri I am going to speak to some folks about the old days on the Big Piney River going all the way back to the time men lived in caves.  I will bring lots of old, old artifacts, some from a hundred years ago and some from perhaps thousands of years ago. I might even recite some poetry! It is a free event open to the public if you would like to come.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Crawdads--Bait And Breakfast

       The crawdad is an unusual creature, always looking back where he has been, and going where his isn’t looking.  Quite often where he has been appears quite safe and there looms a bass or walleye or catfish where he is going and he winds up not going as far as he thought he would. That’s why the crawdad, or crayfish if you prefer, spends most of his time under rocks. You may be standing in the knee-deep water of a small stream or good-sized creek and not see a crawdad anywhere while there are dozens of them around you. Turn over the rocks and they start scooting off backwards.

       I point this out because this is the time of year that bass fishing can be very good if you have a bucket of crawdads and a gentle wind. Drift a crawdad over a point in 15 or 20 feet of water…sometimes a little shallower and sometimes a little deeper, depending on the lake…and you may find out that summer bass are easy to catch. Smallmouth and Kentucky bass are especially fond of crawdads, and they’ll take them any time of day. If you can stand the heat, you can catch bass on crawdads.  But truthfully, I recommend late evening if the heat and humidity are high.

       There are things you have to know first. Maybe this is a type of fishing better suited to spinning gear than the traditional bait-casting outfits us big time bass-mastering, lunker-busting, hog-hustlers would ordinarily use, compete with 12 or 14 pound line. Crawdad fishing is finesse fishing, and I like 6 or 8 pound line with medium action spinning gear and a fairly solid rod. You’ve got to set a hook and put some pressure on a good bass from time to time. You want to get the bait down there on the bottom, and move it. A still crawdad is usually a crawdad which gets under a rock and stays there, so if you aren’t drifting over the points, keep the crawdad moving a little so he can’t hide. You hook the crawdad, or crayfish, through the middle of the tail, from the underside of course.

       Everything eats crawdads, bullfrogs and coons and snakes and fish and wading birds and even humans. They are crustaceans, just like lobsters except different…the main difference being the size. But out in deep water in most of our Ozark rivers and lakes there are some big ones, and they can be caught in specially made crawdad traps baited with raw chicken necks or hot-dogs. And those crawdad tails are delicious. My old friend and fellow outdoor writer, Jim Spencer, who once wrote for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, came up here to the Ozarks a few years ago to fish all night with me on my pontoon boat, and be brought with him about 10 pounds of Louisiana crawdads. During the afternoon he set up a big pot out on my back deck underneath a big oak tree and boiled those crawdads with seasoning, whole potatoes, whole onions and whole roastin’-ears.

       When they were done, he drained all the water and put it all in a big plastic cooler, which in that case of course became a big plastic heater, and I ate so well that night I nearly forgot to fish. It has to be fairly simple to make crawdads delicious, because if you knew Jim you’d swear he couldn’t make a good baloney sandwich.

Crawdads have to be boiled live, and if they aren’t curled when you peel the tail, don’t eat them. Straight-tailed crawdads, according to Spencer, aren’t good for you.

I caught a nice bass just last week late in the evening using an artificial crawdad and a Carolina rigging, fishing slowly out from a gravel bank which sloped off fairly rapidly. The big one, about 5 pounds, picked it up when I stopped it, and fought hard. He was in 10 or 12 feet of water I suppose, out 30 feet from the bank. But he may have followed it, because we caught several smaller bass in only six or eight feet of water. It’s a great time to fish those plastic lizards and worms and crawdads late in the evening and into the night. But you have to fish very, very slowly, on the bottom, with some scooting or hopping action to the lure.

       In case you are wondering, a Carolina rig is swivel tied in, about 2 to 3 feet above your plastic lure, with a sliding bullet or barrel-type led weight of an eights to a quarter ounce in size above the swivel which won’t slide down past it, and never gets close to your lure. When a bass picks up the lure, he doesn’t feel the weight, because the line slides.

       If you don’t have live crawdads, they have some on the market now which look and feel so alive they will work nearly as good as real ones.

       I am looking for writers who might contribute to my magazines.  Stories about the Ozarks, Ozark history, nature and culture fit the Journal of the Ozarks, and writers who can write good outdoor stories will be of interest to my Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal. Right now we are looking for stories for both fall and winter issues. Send them by mail to Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613, or via email, lightninridge47@gmail.com.  For more information, just call my office, 417-777-5227.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Amazing! I’ve never seen one like it!

   This is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen! It was photographed by my naturalist daughter, Christy, on a trail she was biking. I never, ever saw a copperhead with such amazing striped markings. What I wouldn't give for it's skin. I think it would be worth a lot for a museum. Christy should have put it in her pocket and brought it home.

     The experts at the MDC say, "they seldom bite, they never kill." The guy who died two years ago from a copperhead bite must have believed them! I would bet this has never been seen, and likely won't again. If anyone has seen one marked like this, please let me know.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019



• FACEBOOK READER TO ME… Well Larry, you and the others you talk about seem to believe that there is a real problem with the way Conservation law is enforced in Missouri! If you truly want to make a difference you will need to gather those folks together with their evidence and contact the Conservation Commission! Numbers are on their website. It doesn’t do any good to just point to a perceived problem without follow through! Good luck!
Delete or hide this

MY ANSWER--- my gosh man, do you know how many times i have sat in the office of those enforcement chiefs, how many times i have met with directors and regional agents. i have done all that many times. again, people like you do not know what is happening. but all you suggest, we have done many many times.... i have had some success but not much. when agents break the law and can get away with it, you can't do much. HOWEVER, THE MDC WAS SUED FOR ONE MILLION DOLLARS WHEN 3 AGENTS BROKE THE LAW AND THE MDC LOST THE SUIT. Paid OUT THE MILLION BUCKS AND DIDN'T APPEAL IT. DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT THAT, DID YOU?

A Bobber and Still Water

         If I were ever asked to list the ten things I have enjoyed the most in my life in the outdoors, not too far down the line I would list, “watching a bobber”.  It was one of life’ greatest pleasures in my youth. You too have likely done that if you grew up in the country.  If you have been there and done that, you know what I mean.

         When I was five or six, Grandma McNew and I watched bobbers on my Uncle Roy’s pond, which he allowed no one else to fish except my cousins and me and Grandma and Grandpa.

        Back then, summer ponds weren’t all filled with the scum and algae you see today.  The water there in the shade of the big oak tree was dark and deep, full of bluegill and bass and catfish. And in the summer, Grandma and I often sat there in the shade watching a bobber sit stone-still on a smooth surface, knowing that any moment it might dance a little, throwing out little ringlets on the water, then dive out of sight in flash, the braided line cutting through the depths.
         It only took a jerk on the cane pole to know what you had.  But no matter, it would be dinner the following day; not filets in a skillet but whole fried bass or bluegill with the fins left on, just scaled and gutted with the heads cut off.

         Usually that disappearing bobber meant only a hand-sized bluegill, but sometimes a bass 12 or 14 inches long would pull it under.  Once or twice in every few hours of fishing, it would be a catfish, and if you weren’t careful you might break the end off the old cane pole by jerking too hard. You landed a bigger fish by walking backwards and dragging it up the bank.

         As I grew a little bit older, I had another reason for using a bobber.  Dad and Grandpa Dablemont loved to set trotlines on the Big Piney River for whopper-sized flathead catfish that would weigh from 20 to 40 pounds.  While other species of catfish can be caught on stink-bait or small minnows or any kind of dead bait, a flathead doesn’t get caught often on anything but large, live bait.  Green sunfish, which we always called ‘black perch’ were pretty high on a flatheads menu.
         Across the fence behind our house was a neighbor’s pond, an old one, built to water an old milk cow or two.  It wasn’t pretty, muddy most of the time.  But that pond was filled with black perch from 3 to 5 inches in length and I could catch enough in 30 minutes to bait a trotline.  By that time I had and old fiberglass rod and a Shakespeare casting reel and a red and white bobber.  I would sit there on that orange clay bank sweltering in the heat, with a bucket and a can of worms. I’d fling the baited hook out 6 or 8 feet from the bank and watch that bobber like a cat watches the pendulum on a clock.  It was almost always dancing around, and when it did I would give it a jerk, so the little sunfish wouldn’t swallow the hook.  I have pictures of big flathead catfish Dad and Grandpa and I would bring home just because of my ability with a hook and bobber in the pond across the fence.

         It was only 8 or 10 years later, the first summer I worked as the Outdoor Editor for the Arkansas Democrat, that I met a fellow by the name of Yarbrough, who was a guide on Dardanelle lake, about 40 miles west of Little Rock. There was a small arm on the north side of that lake known as Spadra Creek, and Mr. Yarbrough showed me where there was a hump coming up in the middle of that long deep tributary, where I could catch crappie on minnows early in the summer.

         To make a long story short and happy, I took some minnows and a bobber, and caught my limit there in just a few hours of the evening, on several occasions.  I got to watching that bobber with such concentration, I scarcely noticed the metal fishing boats that would pass, staring at that old wooden boat I had brought from back home on the Piney, and had paddled out there to watch a bobber and fill my stringer with crappie.

         It is a different time.  Modern day outdoor writers who thrive in suburbs do not write about bobbers; maybe they never use them to catch panfish.

But there is one writer who still leans back and watches a bobber every now and then, just to bring back a taste of the good old days… and I am him!

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

A Bomber in Arkansas

Floyd Mabry and me with our catch from Lake Millwood in Arkansas

         I left the University of Missouri in January of 1970 with a degree in wildlife management from the school of agriculture. A few days later I took a trip down into Arkansas on a whim, not knowing exactly what I wanted to do, just hoping someone down there might want to hire a naturalist.

         I got side-tracked a little, but I landed a job. By March of 1970 I was learning all about Arkansas, as the outdoor editor of the state’s largest newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat in Little Rock. I was only 22, but I was fishing with guides and anglers from all regions of the state and learning more in that first year than I had learned from all five years of college.
         By mid-summer I had been into some great trout fishing on the White and the Little Red and had fished for walleye in Greer’s Ferry, and white bass in the Arkansas River.  I had seen the Buffalo and Crooked Creek and one of the most beautiful lakes I have ever been on… Lake Ouachita.  I had gone on my first Arkansas turkey hunt and had caught a ten-pound bass from Beaver Lake in the first days of spring.
         The other day I was looking through saved photo files and articles I wrote back then and I found some old black and white pictures I took with a big blocky camera the photo department loaned me, which I carried around everywhere I went.  I found a couple of pictures from mid-July of 1970 that brought back some great memories of a lake right in the southwest corner of Arkansas known as Millwood.
          I got a call in mid July from a fellow by the name of Floyd Mabry who said he was a representative of the Bomber Lure Company and he wanted to give me some lures his company made.  But he wanted me to come and meet him down at Millwood Lake so he could show me how to use them.

         I drove down there that night and the next day he had his own fishing boat ready and I saw a lake like nothing I had ever imagined.  Millwood was a jungle filled with water. They had cut boat lanes through much of it and flooded timber was everywhere.  Mabry was quite a guy.  He wore khaki pants and shirt, with none of the colorful patches I was constantly seeing on anglers who wanted to be pro’s. He was short and tanned like an Indian and very instructive and talkable.  Who wouldn’t have loved fishing and learning with Mr. Mabry?

         We went back into a remote region of the lake and stopped in a small opening surrounded by flooded trees.  He gave me a Bomber topwater lure that I cannot remember the name of, and told me that I didn’t have to cast it too far.  I couldn’t have, there wasn’t any room for long casts.  The water was about 6 to 8 feet deep and very murky.  And Mabry allowed me the first couple of casts, telling me just how to work that lure.

         A two-pound bass sucked it under and I tightened the drag on my old ambassadeur reel as I fought his efforts to free himself of that hook.  You didn’t want to give a bass his head in that brushy water.  I had 14-pound line, and nothing there was going to break it.  But what a place it was for a strong bass to get around a limb or fallen tree. A couple did, as I remember, but I landed the best one that nailed my topwater lure.  It was a four or five pounder that I wanted to keep to take home and eat.  But that wasn’t yet the time of catch and release.
Floyd Mabry catching a lunker before releasing it back to Millwood
         Mabry had some folks at the dock to take fish to, but he only kept the ones under two pounds.  I took home my limit of ten, but I didn’t get any big ones like he landed and released. Mabry made sense.  He said the lake was full of bass, plenty of the eating size, but he released any above three pounds that he caught, because he believed in time there could be some 10 to 12 pound bass there if all lunkers were released.

          I talked to Mr. Mabry again several times on the phone but I don’t think I ever fished with him again. One thing I remember though, he kept mailing me lures and I went from a tackle box with a half dozen “plugs” from my boyhood on the Big Piney to a whole tackle box full of lures.  I learned so much about fishing that year that I couldn’t help but have good stories in the Democrat’s Sunday Outdoor Page.  I met and fished with some great people, but none I liked better than Mr. Mabry.  And I couldn’t believe I was making such a good living having the time of my life.
         Right now I am looking for folks who want to write about the outdoors or the Ozarks, as I have been doing all my life.  I need good articles for my 2 magazines.  You can email me articles at lightninridge47@gmail.com or mail them to Lightnin’ Ridge Publishing, Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613.  If you have questions, you can often reach me by calling our office--417 777 5227.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Foxes and Day Lilies


         The red fox is a strange animal, maybe a good example of a real slow evolution… not in any physical way, but in habits.  When I was growing up, farm families hated red foxes because they were both bold and cunning when it came to making off with a barnyard chicken.  They would sometimes strike in broad daylight; especially during that time they were raising and feeding their young.

         But that was a time when rabbits were plentiful and so were barnyard chickens. Red fox pelts were also valuable at that time.  What I don’t remember ever seeing back then, or reading about, were red foxes denning and raising young beneath sheds, old buildings or barns.  It is beginning to happen quite often now.  Neighbor Mike Jarman, who lives several miles to my west, was amazed to see a vixen red fox and a brood of three young ones beneath one of his outbuildings on his farm only a few yards from his back door a couple of years back. They were likely born in March and about this time of year, due to all the attention they were getting, she moved them into the nearby woods.

         Mike didn’t have any chickens… but 40 or 50 years ago she and her brood would have likely had their hides tacked to the wall of the shed, at the insistence of a farmer’s wife who depended on chickens for eggs and poults for Sunday dinner.

         This week I drove through a little community in the Ozarks where several old boarded up buildings which appeared to have been built close to a hundred years ago, were set along the highway.  A red fox crossed in front of me, in no particular hurry, heading for one of those old buildings with a half dozen holes beneath the porch. A few miles away I saw the same thing, young foxes appearing from beneath a barn a hundred yards from a modern home.

A lady who once worked for my magazine, living a few miles north of Mansfield Missouri, had a family of foxes born underneath an old house less than 30 yards from her mother’s front door, and they returned to den there again a year later.

         Here in the Midwest, red and grey foxes are perhaps as plentiful as they have ever been, although seeing them at high levels in population doesn’t go well with the long-held idea that healthy coyote populations means that foxes will not be doing well.  Coyotes seem to hate foxes and will kill any they can catch.

         Foxes also are very susceptible to mange and flea problems and even distemper. They are neither canine nor feline in nature, and though they love to steal chickens, they also love fruit of any kind. Once I saw one feeding on a dead fish along the river as I floated by. I hear, on occasion, some would-be naturalist or outdoor writer talk about how easily grey foxes can climb trees, yet they believe the red fox cannot.  That is nonsense.  Sure, the red fox can get up into fruit trees rather easily but I saw one go up a straight oak to a limb fifteen feet above the ground, and walk out on a narrow limb very easily, where he jumped to a rock outcropping and was gone.  Red foxes may not want to climb as readily as a grey fox, but when they want to, they can.

         Grey foxes are very very wild and secluded and nocturnal, but red foxes are becoming, it seems to me, less afraid of people and while I am sure they do most of their hunting and feeding at night, it is not at all unusual to see a red fox in the summer roaming about in mid-day.  And if you drive in the Ozarks this month, you will sometimes see two or three half-grown littermates out together, and often peeking out from under a shed or barn not far from someone’s home.

The edible buds of day lilies… poor man’s asparagus

         While I mention this every summer, I will say again that the most plentiful flower in the Ozarks this time of year is the orange day-lily. They grow in ditches and fields and in lawns where folks sometimes have a hard time getting rid of them. The buds of that flower, before they bloom has been called ‘poor man’s asparagus’… very good to eat.  They can be prepared just like asparagus spears, even canned for winter use.  It is said they are very high in certain vitamins and nutrients.  I eat them every summer, but I think those buds are best when fried like you would prepare spring morels.  Try them if you don’t believe it, and get a surprise.
         We have a hundred or so of our two summer magazines left over from our distributors.  One is an outdoor magazine, and the other is an Ozark old-time history and people magazine.  We’ll send one to you if you will pay the postage.  Call us at 417 777 5227 to get one.
We also need writers who can contribute good articles to either magazine. E-mail articles to me at lightninridge47@gmail.com or via mail to Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613