A real life naturalist is a man who has lived his life in the woods knows and sees and feels things that he knows the modern world will not understand Men who call themselves ‘Master Naturalists’ in this day and time are to be laughed at. There are lots of those.
But real naturalists from an early time, like Muir and Miner and Burroughs, seem to be those who will never be again. They were taken seriously once, but not now. The ones I knew are either very old or dead. Henry David Thoreau once wrote “In wildness was the saving of mankind.” He was right!
My grandfather was such a naturalist, a man who lived his life in the woods and the river. He told me in 1960 that things we saw then would cease to exist in 100 years, and that humans of that time would be gone, replaced by weaker, more intelligent humans who would make a world unlivable because of ambition and greed. Always wanting more.
How he could know that a full, flowing creek filled with fish and crawdads that we stood beside back then would be dry when he died, I cannot explain, but it was, to never hold water again!
He saw things coming that I thought at the time were a figment of a confused old man’s tormented mind. Of course I won’t see 2060 and I fear that the natural outdoor world may not either.
What bothers me most is seeing the most undesirable part of the woods and waters become so strong, existing in such high numbers. And we are not just looking at introduced and invasive species. Some were never introduced and still they have mushroomed in numbers, species which are detrimental to the land; insects, algae, plants, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, mammals…!
Here now we have great and increasing armadillos, black vultures, cormorants, carp, starlings, possums, raccoons, black snakes, crows and hawks, even eagles in numbers far above what they should be.
I could fill this whole page with numbers of detrimental species, and that includes insects by the dozens like the emerald ash borers that are now destroying the ash trees in the Midwest. There are introduced plants like kudzu, many of them growing and thriving in the wild. But even without the old-time ‘seng hunters, ginseng is disappearing from the Midwest, as are so many beneficial plants.
There are more species destined for extinction. Whipporwills and Chuck-wills-widows and woodcock are likely to become extinct in 20 to 30 years, and quail and turkey may follow. But the last two species can be propagated and brought back in domestication. I cannot see a way that the former three can. The subspecies of huge river redhorse, often between 12 and 16 pounds, which was seen in the fifties, is gone forever and soon the Ozark hellbender will be. I doubt there are more than a few dozen of the latter remaining in any Ozark stream. They are concentrated in a few places, not along any river they use to inhabit. Eels seem to be gone in the Ozark waters too.
But as my grandfather told me, the biggest change coming is in men. He said the type of man to come in this world will not need or want what we valued in 1960.
I heard him say much that I felt was just sillyness back then when we camped on gravel bars along the river, or in caves in the winter and on stormy nights of the summer, He told me more men had lived in a long ago time in those caves where we often slept, than in farms and towns throughout the Ozarks in the past 100 years. “The human of that time is nothing like the humans of today.” He told me one night as we camped in the old Mineral Springs cave. “We’ll be as different from them men to come as we are from them who lived in this cave in times gone,” he said, and I remember every word. He told me that the humans to come would be worse than any we could envision, and that God would not tolerate it long if he really existed and cared about what he had created on this earth. Grandpa told me that as men increased, the earth would decline and it would culminate in the death of perhaps 99 out of 100 men, so the earth could build back to what it was.
He also spoke about the horrible disease that had killed so many in the Ozarks in 1918. He said that in World War I more men had died from that Spanish disease than from bullets and mustard gas. But he said that before I died I would see a worse disease. He believed that someday planes would fly up with the stars and our enemies would use them to drop germs and bombs on our nation that would kill most of those in crowded cities. He said that in a far away time, survivors would live in caves along the river again.
He often talked of the war to come within our nation, brought in by our enemies who hated this country and it’s God-fearing ways.
I knew that my grandfather was uneducated and what we call bipolar today. He worshipped God one day and thought he might be an atheist another time. Maybe the war made him that way. He lapsed into horrible depression and sadness at times, and had days when he was the happiest man I ever saw. But he told me that the water would someday not flow much in the river and he said that big rocks below our boat, some the size of automobiles, would disappear in another time, I really thought Grandpa was going crazy. Nothing could move those rocks. Today I can show you where they were and no one will ever see them again. Sounds strange doesn’t it?
Today I see a lot of what he predicted coming to pass. It haunts me that I remember his words so well. But I have never talked of his predictions. It is much like he said… we will lose the good, and gain the bad. The carp will replace the redhorse, the vulture will be in great numbers, the quail nearly gone. You can read about his life and what he told me back then, about things that I have seen come true. 1960 photo of the greatest ozark naturalist I ever knew, my grandfather, Fred dablemont
And you can read about hellbenders and how smallmouth might be extinct. I see the change of smallmouth species beginning and I will tell you why. That will all be in my spring magazine, the Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal.
To contact me, write to P.O. Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613 or email me at lightninridge47@gmail.com.