Bob Mitchell: Has spring finally arrived?

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Today, March 20, is the first day of spring, and hopefully, despite all early indicators, it will truly be the first of the arrival of decent weather.

As somewhat of a warning to those who would want to be the first to put seeds or plants in the ground as early gardeners, take heed that it thundered in February and that in these parts the groundhog did in fact see his shadow.

There have been many garden planters who jumped the gun in getting a head start on planting who found themselves going back to the store to purchase replacements for various plants, which were nipped by a cold snap.

So far as the Almanac is concerned, there are indicators that cold weather could be coming out of the Rocky Mountains and might be headed our way. There is some information along these lines that this cold wave might veer north and miss the Ozarks, but that is not a certainty.

Roaring River memories linger

With the opening of Roaring River State Park behind us, there is still talk around that sparks memories of Missouri’s most outstanding facility.

One of these who appears to hold a goodly number of thoughts about the park is Dale Terry, a resident of the East Purdy community with whom I had a conversation recently. Dale had many fond memories of some days at Roaring River, where his father was employed for a lengthy period of time.

His dad’s favorite fishing area was in the lower section of the stream, which was reached by a utility road that was across from the old horseback stables, which could be another story about the park. The riding concession operators, in past years were Shade Johnson and Jim Stacy.

Terry’s thoughts, some coming from his father’s experiences, went back to the times when there were successive lakes in the park. The upper one falling subject of a washout in the early 1930s that was never replaced, leaving the upper stream area as it is above Dry Hollow. Built in the Civilian Conservation Corps days, and later named the Bass Lake, it became silt filled from nearly annual flooding, and was eliminated, providing more Rainbow Trout fishing in the lower end of the park.

Really had bass

Despite the cold water, Bass Lake did contain some pretty big largemouth bass. One experience, tied to a late trickster, Harold Shetley, nearly got Carter Koon and myself in difficulty one opening morning.

Our intentions were to fish Bass Lake in an effort to land one of the lunkers. The idea was to use Koon’s gigging rig to circle the lower lake. So we headed to the park early on March 1, but instead of turning right at the bottom of the hill, Harold turned left and headed toward the Twin Falls area.

To our amazement, he pulled onto the gravel bar and began backing the boat toward the stream. This obviously provoked shouts of disgust from the early arrivals at streamside, with Carter and I sliding down in our seats, wanting to have no part of what circumstances that might result.

We were probably quite fortunate there were not as many game wardens around as there are today or we might have been in deep trouble having disturbed the process of pre-opening positions.

Finally pulling away from that area and proceeding to the lake, the trip included a couple of tours around the lake, and it might be added, without success.

Earlier successes

In earlier days, there were some of us boys who discovered a way, at least occasionally, to catch some pretty good fish, some bass and frequently a trout, in the falls area of the dam.

Our scheme was to have three or four at a time, set in a level of the falls with our legs spread out and scoot across that level until reaching the bluff side at which fish would be cornered and could be caught by hand.

This might have been highly illegal, noodling in the park, but can be revealed at this time, since it’s obvious the statutes of limitations have long ago expired.

Close to many

Picnicking, fishing, hiking or just driving through the park has been available to Cassville residents for over 100 years. All the facilities of the park, from milling days to this modern era, have had a close association with this community.

In theory, my best guess is that once “bitten by Roaring River State Park” that feeling will be long lasting and be of value for generations to come, and is a situation that is deserving in any life experience.

Our son-in-law, Dennis Bartkoski, experienced his initial opening this year. His comment was “that completes one thing on my “bucket list,” since he had been hearing of the park opening experience for a number of years. He might even want to go back sometime in the future.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State University’s Regional Media Hall of Fame.