Bob Mitchell: Launching in Roaring River

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A fun-loving Harold Shetley, one-time parts manager at Hailey Ford in Cassville, was a neighbor of ours in the Avon Apartments back in the early 1950s. He often completely embarrassed his wife, Mary Louise, with some of his antics.

One of the best he pulled was convincing Carter Koon and I to fish Bass Lake at Roaring River State Park on opening day. We were unaware that he had another motive on his mind that we were not to be told about until we started down the Highway 112 hill into the river valley. About half way down, he told Carter to turn left at the bottom of the hill instead of going right toward Bass Lake. He said he wanted to see how big the crowd was before the opening gun.

Pulled up toward falls

Carter was driving as Shetley told him to pull up by the falls, at which point he made his intentions known. He was going to launch the gigging boat we were pulling into the Roaring River stream, right in the middle of where the trout fishermen were lining the stream banks.

We went along with the ruse, getting out of the car and admonishing fly anglers to make way for us, as Harold backed the trailer out on the gravel bar in front of the Twin Falls.

This brought howls of anger from the trout folks who had claimed their spot in front of the falls, and were about to be displaced by a fishing boat in the location they intended to fish.

Here came the law

It didnít take very long after we backed onto the gravel bar than the law, of which there were plenty around for the opening, to virtually swarm to our location to ensure Harold that he was not going to put his boat in the water at this point.

It came as quite a surprise to Carter and I that the game wardens who responded to the incident didnít issue Harold a ticket, since we had long before abandoned him to suffer the consequences of his joke.

Once the rig was out of the way, those who had chosen their fishing spot below the falls returned stream-side and began to see the humor in the incident and provided some hoots and hollers as we pulled away.

Actually went to lake

The three of us did actually leave the area and proceed to Bass Lake, launch the boat, and make a couple of rounds seeking some of the large bass that were known to be in the reservoir.

We either didnít have the right lures or didnít handle them right as our fishing venture went for naught. This left us with nothing to do in the park except go to the old Park Center Restaurant and have breakfast.

Shetley insisted in parking the trailer and boat in front of Park Center so anglers who had completed their limits would see the vessel that nearly went in the water below the twin falls.

Our crew was surprised when we went inside of the number of folks who had seen our little action and came by our table to inquire about any successes we might have found. We were honest, telling them the bass-angling venture was completely unsuccessful.

Earlier days at park

In pre-teenage years, Roaring River was always a destination that boys sought in the days before they reached the employment age. Transportation was no problem in those years, even though none of us had wheels, other than bicycles, which we were not going to use, because of the hills involved.

Instead, we would grab our fishing equipment or ball gloves, and walk to Roaring River road and hitchhike a ride to the park. Our theory was that anyone with room in their vehicle would not pass up a youngster, either carrying fishing equipment or playing catch alongside the road. The approach worked, and we seldom waited long before a ride came along and we were on our way for a day-long outing.

Getting home was the reverse process, which we almost always started at the bottom of the hill, instead of walking up the steep incline of the road.

Purdomís concession

Chuck Purdom, a classmate, often asked for help running his dadís boat concession in the park. People actually rented the john boats for paddling around the lower lake.

We had a good business going, catching hard-shell Crawfish in the cold water below an old low-water bridge, and selling them to tourists who would use them fishing for bass.

They were never told no self-respecting bass would attack some of these large crawpapps, however hungry they might be. The supply of bait we kept at the boat rental spot most often paid for our lunch.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat.

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