Bob Mitchell: Rocks and clear-water streams

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Staying on the same subject as last week’s column, whatever advantages rocks in our soil might provide makes me remember back a number of years to when Kate and Maggie and I would roam various locations to the west of Cassville.

There wasn’t anything scandalous about this (unlike some of today’s goings-on) we were in pursuit of the bob whites that have become practically absent from this area.

Kate and Maggie were a couple of English Setters that came into this world near Tonitown, Ark., through a doctor friend of Gary Chaney’s.

But, that’s getting away from the original intent of this column, which happened to be clear water. In those days of traveling, meeting new people was part of the game. For the most part, when they learned of where we were from, their comment might be something like, “You are from the land of clear water!” They used this term simply because there was no such thing around in their neck of the woods, and that was the reason they were somewhat familiar with our area. Their time off or excursions were often in our direction to enjoy our clear, cool running streams and lakes.

A blessing from rocks

So, not only for our own benefit, branches, creeks, rivers and lakes that provide us the clear, cool water, must be considered a blessing for our own enjoyment and being attractive for others to make the trips here to enhance our economy. It seems like a human trend to want to get away from the muddy water of some areas and into conditions where streams run cooler and certainly much clearer.

This advantage of ours has seen an upswing of people discovering clear water, as has the mode of taking advantage of this enjoyment. First, it was the wooden john boat, often crafted right here in this area. Then came different types of aluminum craft, resembling the john boat, and then the canoe, which many thought was easier to handle the streams.

Then, when big waters arrived, the runabout was the vessel to own, followed for the most part by the bass boat models that have evolved over the years.

Today’s traffic shows an obvious switch in vessel demand much of it going to the pontoons or kaiaks limiting passenger numbers to one or two. Several of these can be transported in many of today’s vehicles.

Early day adventures

Some who have enjoyed the Kings, White and James rivers before impoundments came along have a saying in conversations about these waters that they like to think they “might have cut their teeth on a wooden boat paddle.” This too has moved to the modern era, with some paddles now being made of metal.

The most enjoyable of those days was the overnighter on a stream with adequate water, which meant finding a suitable gravel bar on which camp could be established. The late Bill Sellers, county sanitarian at that time, was a prime companion on these trips. His aluminum float boat had wooden cases fitted in the bottom, which held all equipment necessary for this stop. His favorite menu the first night out was steak and strawberry short cake.

On one such trip, on upper Kings in Arkansas, we got caught in a big river rise; thankfully, we were rescued at the Highway 62 Bridge by some phone company employees, one of them was Vern Petty.

The late Chan Griffin always favored a float on the James from the Lester Loftin place to the mouth of the river. This required transportation help usually provided by Ray Correll. He would launch us, then go to the river’s mouth and bait fish from the bank until we arrived. That trip required a couple of extra spare tires due to the flint rock in the gravel road.

Steps, about halfway in the trip, were one attraction; They have long been covered by Table Rock.

More recent trips

Elk River in McDonald County became the trip of choice in later years. Floaters usually were John Starchman, Greg Turner, Bill Easley, Gary Chaney, Dennis Ledgerwood, Steve Burch, Mike Gibson, Jim Bower and my son Bruce.

All these trips provided adventures that have lived a virtual lifetime. The trips from Pineville for a full day downstream often came under various conditions and existence of weather that was sometimes beyond good judgment. People problems existed for several years before the area realized their attractiveness was being harmed by some activities before state and local authorities made changes for improvement.

Keeping clear status

An Army engineer project of the past was to measure clearness of water in Table Rock by dropping mirrors into the lake and measuring what depth they could be observed. Whether this is continuing isn’t known. If you ever see a pontoon helicopter land on the waters this, sampling for purity might be in progress.

As is true with many of today’s situations, constant guarding of our steams is important, because our rocks can’t do it all.

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.