Friday, December 22, 2023

The Borrowed Shotgun


Dad and I, 1958

       I turned eleven years old in October of 1958. When we floated the river in November that year I just sat in the front of the old johnboat, peering over the front of the blind, wishing I could hunt too. Dad said I was still to young and small of stature to carry a shotgun. But when we would float upon a group of mallards, watching those big beautiful greenheads swim out from the bank, uneasily suspicious of that floating blind that concealed us, I would pretend.

       My dad would get close, then turn the boat sideways, drop the paddle and grab his old pump-gun as the ducks would flush.  I knew he wouldn’t miss very often.  Soon we would be picking up two or three mallards to lie on the front of the boat before me, behind the blind, where I would smooth their feathers and marvel at their beauty. I would always wonder what it was like where they had come from... perhaps Canada, the magical far-away wilderness a world away from my beloved river.

       The greatest thing I had ever happened to me occurred just after Thanksgiving, when Dad brought me a borrowed shotgun that he said I could use for awhile.  It was small, loaned to me, he said, by my old friend Bill Stalder.  Ol’ Bill, one of the pool hall regulars, was a great riverman himself, my grandfather’s trapping partner.  I held it and pretended we were floating the river as I aimed it at make-believe flying ducks.  It was a magnificent little 16-gauge single-shot hammer gun, an Iver Johnson, with a shortened stock that just fit me.  It was used of course… a gun made years before I was even born.  But to me, the faded blueing and worn forearm made it even more wondrous. I wondered if someone, grown up by then, had once used it as a boy when it was new, to bring down ducks and quail and a squirrel or rabbit.

       Dad took me out that very day and let me shoot it at cans on a log.  I missed the first one, but hit the next two, and wanted to shoot at more, but shells were too expensive, about 20 cents apiece. When we went out to get a Christmas tree, Dad let me carry it before him with a shell in the barrel, broken down for safety. I got to shoot at a rabbit, but missed.  We hunted ducks each weekend that December, floating the river as we always did. But this time I sat in the front of the boat with my borrowed shotgun, breach closed, and when a flock of mallards jumped before us the recoil nearly pitched me backwards off my seat when I fired. As the flock winged on down the river, I had to ask Dad if I got one.  I hadn’t pulled a feather.

        Finally it came time to take the little Iver Johnson back to Ol’ Bill, a week before Christmas. But dad had told me that next year when my birthday came, he and I would go out and try to find one like it just for me.  That helped a little, but who was he kidding? We’d never find a little shotgun that fit me like that one had.  My dad was six foot three but my Mom and I were just a little over five feet.  I was sure I wasn’t gonna grow... Mom hadn’t!  I was the littlest kid in the seventh grade, such a runt that I didn’t have any friends, except for those aging men in the pool hall.

       There would be a big dinner with grandparents and relatives on Christmas day of 1958, with a ham and a turkey for us all. Dad had won both at the turkey shoot before Thanksgiving. On Christmas morning my sisters ran to the Christmas tree to anxiously grab their gifts.  One was a big doll that seemed to make them so happy.  My sisters were crazy like that… dolls! 

It wasn’t going to be much of a Christmas for me.  I picked up one package, and feeling it, I knew it was a shirt.  Mom and Grandma made all my shirts.  But there was a second wrapped package way back under the tree, probably store-bought jeans. I couldn’t reach it so Dad said for me to lie on my belly and crawl back and get it.  I did, and as I reached for it back behind the stump of that cedar tree, I saw the stock of a shotgun sitting behind it, out of sight.  It was Ol’ Bill’s 16 gauge, Iver Johnson break-open hammer-gun. I nearly upended that tree going after it!

       I don’t reckon there’s much more I need to say about the Christmas I remember from when I was eleven years old.  A thousand memories of great times in the outdoors began that day.  Many of them come back to me as I gaze upon Dads old ’97 Winchester pump gun, which hangs on the wall of my office; and I can see that little shotgun from my boyhood, hanging beneath it.  

       It causes me to thank God for this wonderful life He gave me as a Naturalist-Writer going forth from Christmas of 1958.  But as I do I remember the greater gift He gave us all… back nearly two thousand years ago.


A Conversation With The Chief




I was there in 1962 when Missouri Conservation Commission (not Missouri Department of Conservation back then)... biologists and game wardens were working with hunters, and landowners to stock wild turkeys on their land.  I was 14 years old, witnessed some of it and couldn't wait to become a game warden like my old friend Bland Wilson.

Today these people landowners and hunters.... are victims...targets for what they call 'Conservation Agents'.


      I continue to talk to Enforcement Chief Randy Doman of the Missouri Department of Conservation and try to pass on what he wants hunters and fishermen to know.   I stress to many who doubt what I report, that Doman is the supervisor of all conservation agents in the state and is the last word in rules and regulations and laws those agents enforce.  

      Before him was Larry Yamnitz who, before he retired, seemed to hint to me, when I was in his office talking about the problems some agents were creating, that he just felt he had no control over some of them, and just wanted to retire soon without problems.

I have written about those interviews with Larry Yamnitz, whom I sincerely believe was trying to do the right thing in his job.  He actually did make an important change in what agents could do.  There isn’t room here to go into that, but I urge you to read about that on my website, www.larrydablemontoutdoors.  You can read about how Yamnitz had to deal with an agent who darn near killed an old man.

      Doman reiterated again that no law or regulation requires anyone to take an agent to a place where they have hunted or killed a deer or turkey or squirrel or any thing else, legally or illegally taken.  He says, and I quote, “A search warrant is needed for an agent to enter your home, automobile, barn or outbuilding, but even a search warrant does not require you to take an agent to show him where you have killed game of any kind.”

       Every year, I hear some very uninformed, or downright ignorant, people telling me some of the most ridiculous rules they think agents can enforce.  They believe conservation agents exceed the power of any law enforcement agents, even the FBI! You can’t believe the silliness I  have been told because no one takes the trouble to know the truth.

      Steelville hunter Jeff Ramori was wiser, and when he killed a wild turkey on October the first, he called it in as required and an agent showed up within a couple of hours demanding that he refused to take an agent to the spot where he had hunted.  

      “He had no search warrant,” Ramori said, “so I wouldn’t let him in my home, and he got mad.  He stayed outside in my lawn for most of two hours.  Then later he came back to my door and said he wanted to see the turkey, so I took it out of the freezer and took it outside to show it to him and he took it, refusing to give it back to me.”

        What that amounts to is theft of property! Ramori should go to the local sheriff and file charges against the agent for theft. Then before he left, the agent wrote Ramori a ticket for   “refusing to allow inspection”.  The regulation or ‘MDC rule’ he cited allowing him to do that consisted of more than 40 numbers and letters.   Jeff gave me those numbers and such a rule does not exist. He said that the ticket has still not been filed. What happens now?

      I gave Doman all the information and he says he is initiating an investigation. He even thanked me for bringing the situation to his attention.  Smile when you read that. I have been there before!  

      BUT… no one anywhere, including your local newspaper, nor me, nor the governor, can find out what the investigation includes or comes to find out.  Doman says personnel matters are kept within his office and if the agent is reprimanded or absolved of his actions, NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW!!!  He sure as heck cannot be fired!!!!

      I assume that the only way anyone or any news source can find out about an agent breaking the law or violating a citizens rights is if he kills someone.  I am not sure that will even produce any info from the MDC.

Randy Doman tells me he is eager to hear from anyone who feels that an agent has broken the law or violated someone’s rights.  You can talk to him by dialing 573-751-4115.  You will   get a voice giving several numbers.  After listening to that recording, dial 7 and you will get a lady wanting to know how she can help you.  Tell her you need to speak to Chief Randy Doman.  Leave a message and your number and if he doesn’t call you back, call me… 417-777-5227 and I will see to it you get to talk to him.

      Hundreds of hunters have been forced to take an agent to the spot where they have killed a deer or turkey.  Every one has received a citation!  A year or so ago a man here in Polk County took a female agent to the place where he killed a deer and wound up paying a 200 fine for nothing.  He and his wife had 2 small children and they had to give up the Christmas money for their kids to pay the fine.  If you will look for the website I just gave you can read about others, many others

      Anyone who has had that happen can find a lawyer and file a lawsuit against the MDC.

Many tell me that the government agency cannot be sued and that is part of the ignorance so many have, which allows them to be a target of unscrupulous agents who feel they are untouchable.  The MDC, a few years ago was sued for a million dollars and lost.  They paid it, and didn’t even appeal.

      I will report in the future what has happened with Jeff Ramori and the agent by the name of Ryan Catron, who targeted him.  I would report Catron’s side of the story, but he is not allowed to talk to me about it.  The power of the MDC forbids the news media from getting any  information they do not approve of. 


The story about working with retired chief Larry Yamnitz and the abuse by agents at the time will be added here this weekend.




Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Letter to Joe


Dear Joe,

    I’m sure you remember old Ed Bradbury and

 Maggie, you haven’t been gone that long.

 Years ago we hunted ducks on the slough

 over on the back of Ed’s farm, where you go

 to floundering around in the mud and nearly

 got in over your hip boots. Well, Ed was in the

 pool hall last Saturday most of the afternoon

 and returneto find Maggie lying dead on the

 living room couch. If you don’t remember Ed,

 I’m sure you remember Maggie. In her

 younger days there wasn’t a man in these

 parts who didn’t envy old Ed. Everyone use to

 wonder how in the dickens he wound up with

 her. Anyway she’s gone! Doc Harris told

 Preacher Bishop this morning that he figured it

 was her heart, but no one will ever know. Ed is

 taking it pretty hard, but that’s to be expected,

 as close as they were.


     I talked to him just last week in town when

 he was in getting her some medicine and he

 said at the time she just didn’t feel like getting

 out  of the pick-up. That’s not at all like

 Maggie, you know how outgoing she was. I

 spoke to her that evening, but she didn’t pay

 much attention, she was just sitting there

 looking out the window as if she didn’t even

 know who I was. I didn’t realize how old she

 was getting, but if you think about it, Ed

 brought her to this country nigh onto 15 years

 ago. I remember she didn’t like it at first, and

 Ed though about taking her back to the city,

 but Maggie was quick to make friends and in

 no time at all it was like she’d been here all

 her life.

     The two of them were inseparable, every

 Saturday when Ed came in town to buy feed,

 she’d ride along, sitting right over next to him

 as if she were afraid he was going to get away

 from her. They’d drop by the filling station on

 the way home and he’d buy her a candy bar

 while he had a bottle of pop. Of course she

 was a beauty back then, back before she put

 on so much weight. I’m sure that getting so

 heavy was hard on her health, but Maggie just

 loved to eat, and Ed bought her nothing but

 the best!


    They had her funeral on Sunday afternoon,

 but not too many of Ed’s friends were there

 and I guess Ed’s pretty upset about that too.

 But shucks it was all so fast most of us were

 gone or didn’t know about it until Monday or

 Tuesday. I’d have been there if I hadn’t been

 hunting ducks. I thought the world of her. In

 fact, I never told anyone this, but she came

 over to my place once when Ed made that trip

 to the city and spent most of the day. We went

 for a swim down at the creek. But she was a

 smart one…she was back home an hour

 before Ed was. She was partial to me and one

 of Ed’s neighbors, old Horace Glitch. She’d

 get a little peeved cause she couldn’t go in the

 pool hall with Ed, and she’d sneak off down to

 the river where Horace was bank-fishing and

 drinking beer, and not come in ‘til after dark.

 Ed never did know where she’d been, and still

 don’t I reckon. That Maggie loved beer and

 pretzels even more than candy bars.

      Some of his friends think it’s ridiculous for

 Ed to be carrying on this way, but they don’t

 know how much he thought of Maggie. And

 Ed doesn’t have anyone else, his wife left him

 8 or 10 years ago. She told him to choose

 between them and he chose Maggie. Who

 could blame him, that wife of his never shut

 up, and she spent money like it grew on trees.

 And she constantly found fault with old Ed.

 Maggie never did…anything Ed did was all 

 right with her. Well to all those who say it’s

 silly for a man that age to grieve so over a

 dog, I say they don’t know what it’s like to lose

 a good Labrador! That Maggie was a


 Well, I’d best sign off Joe. I want to take my 'ol

 dog Magnum out in the morning and see if we

 can work some ducks before Christmas gets

 here. The mallards and the green-wings are in

 pretty good, and the wood ducks are long

 gone. Can’t wait to see you and the family at



The Lightnin’ Ridge Magazine’s Christmas

 issue is almost 100 pages of great reading.

 You can get one mailed to you by calling

 Gloria at 417 777 5227