Bob Mitchell: Opening Day memories

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

After 49 years straight of covering the opening of Roaring River State Park Trout Season, there are some memories of the March 1 that bring me back to the river valley for the opening gun.

Two of those memories would have to be accompanying the late Jim Kirkpatrick to his appointed duty as secretary of state, sometimes either by himself or with a governor, to the park to officially open trout season. It’s no secret among those who have read this column for any length of time that this man was one of the best friends this area ever had in Jefferson City.

Surprisingly, the second most enjoyable might have been how good the cup of Phil Hutchens’ brewed coffee tasted in the pre-dawn hours. The warming drink, brewed “river style” was just the tonic needed to warm my innards.

Opening day crowd

The opening crowd numbers depend entirely upon the weather. There have been blizzards, downpours of rain, temperatures so low guides in fishing rods would freeze solid until they were dipped into the water and then there have been some temperate openings. The temperature this morning at the time of the sounding gun was in the 40s.

Researching the Cassville Democrat’s past editions produced some information over the past couple of years that might be somewhat of an interesting comparison.

In 2015, anglers found snow in the park for a Monday opening, which had 869 tags sold for the opening signal crowd at the stream. The next year, 2016, for a Tuesday opening, there were 1,200 anglers buying daily tags to bring home their limits of rainbows. Ironically, rain and thunder showers that had been in the area during the wee hours of the morning, stopped just before fishing activity got underway.

9 decades of openings

This year marks nine decades of openings at the park following the state of Missouri taking over the original facility via a gift from the famous St. Louis soap maker, Dr. Thomas Sayman.

As stories go, he was once saved from a confrontation with the former owner, Mr. Bruner, by being locked in one of the vaults of the Barry County Courthouse.

Later in his Cassville career, he donated a balcony at the former community building on the west side of the square (one-time Hall Theater). At an unveiling, it was learned he had used the name of his soap as the donor, which indicator was quickly covered and later removed by an irate group of citizens.

Looking into March

Unsettled weather conditions are predicted for the middle of the nation from the first couple of weeks in March through the end of the month. According to Almanac readings there will be some question about early garden plantings, due to the possibility of cold snaps, or even heavy rains that could wash plantings out of the ground.

Good news in the fishing department, with the best days being March 6-7 and 15, and then good days on March 10-12, 16 and 22-26.

Chilly weather is predicted to come out of Texas for the most part of the final couple of weeks of the month. But, there is nothing noted as far as freezing conditions being in the forecast.

Spring sports

The arrival of spring in past years has signaled the beginning of spring sports that aren’t even heard of in our modern times. Actually, once school was moved off the Water Tower Hill on west Seventh Street, most of them disappeared.

A Shinny game was always in progress during recesses, with age groups scattered over the old campus. Many a bloody shin was patched-up in the mezzanine office of the building. A stick with a bend at the bottom and a can that had been mashed to about the size of a baseball were the only equipment requirements.

Marbles, or duggies, went out with our generation, as did Mumble Peg, since most participants got tired of eating dirt to get the peg out of the ground once a match was won.

The latter probably would not be permitted, under the security guidelines of these days, since it would require those enjoying the game to carry a pretty sizable pocket knife.

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

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