Many of you who have read my columns for awhile know that I own a fifty acre tract out in the wilds in the Southeast corner of St. Clair County near Humansville, Missouri, which we call the Panther Creek Youth retreat. I have set it up as a place where smaller churches can bring groups of underprivileged kids for any amount of time free of charge.

With a big lodge and cabins, it can sleep about 30 kids and counselors and it has used now for about three years. It has a beautiful little creek spanned by a high iron bridge about 140 years old. Kids can use canoes and kayaks; visit a nice swimming hole, a rec room, trails and treetop photography platforms, a big sports field for softball or soccer, trap-shooting and an artesian well. Wild game and birds are plentiful and the ridge-top forest and creek bottom has some big timber with trails winding through it.

I tried over the winter to sell it to some churches who can run the place better than I can but it all fell through so at least for 2018 it is again available and while I want to see it be used by churches, (especially for boys without fathers), it is available for a day or several days, at no charge to any gathering wanting to use it.

We have paid for insurance, equipment, electricity and taxes through donations from a lot of folks, but right now the bank account is about empty, so this year I am going to try to raise money for that effort through the following activities…

First of all, we are having a big outdoorsman’s swap meet at Brighton on Saturday, March 24, in the gymnasium at Brighton Assembly of God Church. It will begin at 8 a.m. and end at 2 p.m.

The youth of the church will provide a hot breakfast of some sort, like biscuits and gravy, coffee, donuts etc. Then at mid-day they provide a lunch of hot pork sandwiches and other items and pie and cake for dessert.

We will have about 50 tables available for anyone who has outdoor oriented items for sale. Before mid March you may see a list of what will be sold on my website… larrydablemontoutdoors. I am sure there will be a bunch of stuff, including sporting guns, old lures, etc. The best thing is, anyone who calls me in advance can secure a table free of charge and visitors may attend… free of charge.

We have done this for many years and I don’t think any other swap meet in the Ozarks is free for vendors and visitors alike. At that swap meet, I will have 10 or 12 of my outdoor books for sale and we will sell subscriptions to my Lightnin’ Ridge Magazine and also sell back issues. I will fill a whole room with antiques and items of interest which came from the Panther Creek Ranch and hunting and fishing gear I used as far back as my boyhood. That includes an old Fox Sterling double barrel that my grandfather acquired in 1911. We also have a Parker Brothers double barrel that was made for stagecoach drivers in the 1800’s. Money raised from all that and the sale of books, magazines and other items will go into the Panther Creek account for the expenses incurred in 2018.

But that’s not all. If the weather is good in late February and early March, I will gather about 15 people on a Friday evening to have dinner at our main lodge, then we will spend the night there and have a big breakfast, then travel to Truman lake about 20 miles away.

There we will get on a big pontoon boat and travel down the Pomme De Terre arm of the lake to a wilderness area that I believe looks today much like it did 200 years ago. We will hike up into the woodland where you will see some monstrous trees, an ancient home-place remains likely built more than 100 years ago.

At mid-day we will return to the pontoon boat and have a fish-fry and then hike into another area to try to find some eagles. On the water that time of year I expect to see lots of migrating waterfowl, eagles and other birds. Then we will return to Panther Creek lodge and cabins to spend the night and visitors can explore the place on Sunday at their leisure.

We have done this each spring for more than 10 years, but this year there will be no charge. If you want to go we ask that you just make a donation to be used at the Youth Retreat for underprivileged children.

Then we will do the exact same thing in mid April when morel mushrooms are out, teaching people how to find them. We will have the same fish-fry at mid-day, this time with fried morels to go along with the meal.

I will put a bunch of pictures on my website showing some of those trips and our youth retreat on Panther Creek. Go to to see many of those.

There is no scheduled weekend for those trips we take to Truman Lake because we can’t predict the weather. You may call us and give us your name and phone number and when we see the right weather forecast we will call everyone about a week ahead of time. If more than 15 people want to go, we will schedule more than one weekend, so no one will be left out.

One of the antiques we will try to sell this year is a huge iron safe made in 1870 by the Mosely Safe Company in Hamilton, OH. I was told by the old man who sold me the place that it was in a western Missouri bank that the James-Younger gang had robbed.

Other items we will sell at the swap-meet is a 9-foot Billiard table made by the St. Louis company, Brunswick, a hundred years ago. It is the best table I have ever played on. We will also sell and old time wooden river johnboat and the very first aluminum johnboat ever made for Ozark streams, in 1954. It has a serial number…. 0001. All that, plus 17-foot and 19-foot square-sterned Grumman canoes, can be acquired at our March 24 swap meet.

To sign up for our trips to Truman Lake, or to reserve a table at our swap meet just call our office, 417/777-5227. The mailing address is Box 22, Bolivar, MO 65613 and the email address is If you live a long way from here, you can call me and I will help you with overnight accommodations so you don’t have to drive the whole way in one day.

Don’t hesitate to call me if you have questions about any of this.

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