Tag Archives: Lewis and Clark

A true story: Stay out of the river, Part 1

Join me for a four-part story about the summer my best friend and I realized our lifelong dream (I was not yet 15) to follow the creek behind his house to the Gasconade River.

A perfect assortment of driftwood practically begged to become a make-shift raft, and a few minutes and several feet of rope later, we had a raft. My best friend, Mike, and I weren’t exactly Tom and Huck – only one could ride on the rough, roughly four-foot-square river vessel, while the other held on to the side, floating and guiding our creation – but our sense of adventure knew no bounds.

So much for the one edict from our moms: “Just stay out of the river.”

Just stay out of the water? Right. After all, Mike and I were making our long-dreamed hike from a creek off Highway 89 in Osage County to the Rollins Ferry Access about 10 miles away – as a crow flies – on the banks of the Gasconade River. Our mothers, finally worn down from two straight summers of pleading, finally relented and reluctantly agreed to give us three days to have a hike and a campout at the river.

“Just stay out of the river.”

July 27, 1978 – From the Black Book of Great Adventures (a.k.a. the personal diary I kept as a kid) … “Our hike to the river was a success. Sort of. I’ll explain later.”

The next entry didn’t come until Aug. 30, 1978, and it referenced a separate essay, “What I did on my summer vacation,” which detailed one of the most terrifying experiences of my life.

Mike and I hiked every inch of the thick woods behind his house about a mile north of Belle, Mo., off Highway 89. One of the coolest hikes we ever took – until that trek to the river – was a route south from his house, through the woods, across a county road (and countless private properties, no doubt), to a little slice of childhood paradise we called Horseshoe Falls, on the northern border of my hometown. Horseshoe Falls was so named from the creek that spilled out from under a pile of boulders, then forked into separate arcs that formed a horseshoe.

I’m not sure who named it Horseshoe Falls. There was a tiny waterfall, a thin stream that poured off the side of a boulder before splashing onto rocks about four feet below. And I suppose the creek formed a horseshoe. I was told – again, can’t recall by whom – that aerial photos showed a horseshoe shape in the woods behind the elementary school.

I didn’t see the aerial view for myself until several years later – and still can’t swear it’s a horseshoe – but by then a lot had changed. Several locals called the creek a wet-weather stream, and yes, it was much slower and much lower during dry spells, but I knew Horseshoe Falls. I knew that it was spring-fed and I knew when a nearby farmer suddenly had a pond when he dammed the creek way upstream. There were small fish in the creek: shiner minnows, small sunfish, crawfish, tadpoles and frogs, mean water snakes and a wonderful assortment of bugs that, years later, I identified as excellent indicators of good water quality.

Horseshoe Falls was not a dry stream. At least not until the spring was dammed.

Lewis and Clark followed the Missouri River. Jodie and Mike followed the creek. How could we get lost? A U.S. Geological Survey map and microfilm details of the area – just the things a nerdy 14-year-old managed to get from the USGS office in Rolla ‑ showed that the creek that spilled through Horseshoe Falls was the same creek that ran at the bottom of a valley behind Mike’s house, about two miles from Horseshoe Falls. The stream also seemed to be connected to the larger, wider Turkey Creek that flowed under a bridge on Highway 89.

Turkey Creek snaked and meandered back toward the highway and then northeast until finally uniting with the Gasconade River.

Our creek exploring/hiking trips almost always included a pause for pondering the yearning of our hearts: Someday we should follow this creek all the way to the river.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of “Stay out of the river”

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What I want to be when I grow up …

Memoir-in-Progress

Before I take you back to March 1, 1979, for a peak at my “dreamlist” of future occupations, I refer you to the current and newest job of “Grandpa.”

During the great “Countdown to Kianna,” I speculated about what it would be like to make eye contact with our baby granddaughter.

I can’t describe it.

But I am absolutely certain that when Kianna has all the words to say it, she’ll ask her mom and dad, “What’s wrong with Grandpa’s eyes? Every time he looks at me they get all watery?”

Every. Single. Time.

The chronicles of me

My habitual note-taking, record-keeping and character-sketching isn’t something that hit me in my adult years. No, those traits go back much farther.

Sometime during 1974 — before my 11th birthday — I began jotting down my observations of hikes, fishing trips and similar adventures. I refer now to my Black Book of Great Adventures, no less important to me than the journals of Lewis and Clark.

March 1, 1975 – My turtle died. His name was Snaps. Had him since June 16, 1974. It died at 2:00 p.m. this afternoon. Found it dead in aquarium. Same day: Went fishing with Volund R. I caught 1. We discected it.

My note: Hey, even Lewis and Clark misspelled a few words. Great explorers can’t be bothered with trivial things like spelling, punctuation, etc. By the way, on March 2-3, 1975, there was this entry: “Blizzard conditions. 13 inches. missed School.”

Wednesday, March 1, 1978 – John G. had a problem and wouldn’t tell me because he was afraid I’d laugh. I assured him I’d listen and wouldn’t laugh. He tells me flatly, “My dad (stepdad) tried to kill my mom last night.” Now what kind of person would laugh at that? … His mom was unhurt. … Also, I’ve been evaluating my relationship with a girl I love very much, Kelly Drewel.

Note: Four years and three months later, I married that girl. Today I call her “Grammy.”

My March 1978 “life list” (professions I aspired to) …

1. Writer, 2. Major League baseball player, 3. Radio broadcaster, 4. Herpetologist, 5. Research biologist and chemist, 6. Woodsman, 7. Teacher-lecturer, 8. Preacher, 9. Zoologist, 10. Police officer.

March 1, 1979, “Dreamlist”

1. Writer, 2. Naturalist, 3. Major League baseball player, 4. Herpetologist, 5. Chemist/Researcher, 6. Conservation agent, 7. Microbiologist, 8. Director of Environmental Protection Agency, 9. Politician, 10. Entomologist.

March 1, 2012 – Here I am, a writer/reporter/journalist since forever. Just doing my job sometimes makes people angry. But director of the EPA? Politician? What was I thinking? That would have assured public hatred.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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