As I have been doing for a while, I will start things off with the master naturalist quiz. Of the several species of hawks found in the Ozarks, which one is known to nest the earliest in the spring?

By the way, any master naturalists who bring their master naturalist certificate from the MDC to our swap meet this coming Saturday at Brighton can get a free spring issue of my outdoor magazine,

And another piece of good news… for anyone who might have outdoor stuff to sell, we still have three tables available free of charge. If you have only one or two items to sell, maybe an old shotgun, a tackle box full of old lures, a minnow bucket, a hunting knife, whatever… bring them and find me and I will put those items out and sell them for you. If you have a boat or canoe for sale you can set those up in the parking lot. We already have a 50 hp Evinrude and a 22 foot antique river johnboat to sell.

I am often asked if I have any of my late Uncle Norten’s handmade sassafras paddles for sale, and I am going to bring one this Saturday to put on a silent auction. It is one he made and signed about 10 years ago. I am going to use the money for our Panther Creek Kid’s place, and I know he would like that. I have told vendors who are coming from a good distance that they can stay overnight at our Panther Creek place at no charge. Anyone who needs a room needs to call me so I can save one for them.

I am tickled that Chuck Duren is coming. He is a great woodcarver from Stockton who has quite a past. He played basketball at the University of Missouri in the fifties. One of his teammates was Norm Stewart, and Chuck was the starting center there for two years. Chuck played four games against another center for Kansas by the name of Wilt Chamberlain, then went on to sign a baseball contract with the Milwaukee Braves, playing on a minor league team with Tommy Aaron, Hank Aaron’s brother.

I am hoping it rains Saturday, to ensure a greater turnout. The rain makes it so that folks aren’t out fishing or tending to their garden and they are more apt to spend the day with us. But of course the main reason I am hoping for rain is because we have a terribly bad short-term drought going on in much of the Ozarks. Our creeks and rivers are drastically low and fish need a good rise to give flowing shoals enough water for a successful spawn.

It is ironic that a lot of rain at the right time can really hurt the spawn of crappie and bass in our lakes if they rise too quickly and too much. But our streams are in bad shape, becoming choked with algae and slime that was never seen in Ozark waters 50 years ago.

Spring floods often clean out our streams for a while, so we need them now worse than ever. But you know the slime and pollution is going to be a problem in the dead of summer. With the low water we have, it is worse than I have ever seen it in early spring.

There is little use talking about changing things. Populations and progress take the forests and the waters away in great chunks now, and the fact that we are going to increase our numbers by the hundreds of thousands in coming years seals the fate of our wild places. For a billion people to survive here, 40 or 50 years in the future, you cannot preserve big trees and clear waters filled with fish. And certainly, kayakers and canoeists don’t really need clean water, they just need fast water. Seems like we are heading toward a time when droughts or floods are all you can have. That has been the story in past years. I have seen our Ozarks rivers at the lowest point they have ever been and then at the highest level they have ever been, in the same year, several times since the late ‘90’s.

The Ozarks, once a sponge for the heavy rain, now has become a brick. The hills hold far less storm water as forestland shrinks, and we increase pavement and concrete and make heavily grazed hard pasture on once-timbered slopes that soaked up rain.

With modern technology that makes entertainment so diverse and easy to obtain, people that treasure wild things and wild places will be scarce in future years. What those few of us find so wonderful in the unmarred creation of God will not be necessary at all to people who come after us. Find a youngster today who would give up their little technology boxes for the chance to hunt squirrels or learn to fly-fish. See what I mean?

I look at the world today and realize that indeed there is a steep cliff ahead of our racing civilization that no one can see. Men have grown into something different that they were created to be, casting aside things like common sense, faith in God and a belief in honesty and integrity. Find that stuff in Los Angeles or New York or Chicago.

If indeed there is a God, some say, why would watch the evil that is taking over and just let it pass. Wouldn’t it bother Him to see the wonder of his creation destroyed so easily and so quickly? The future will tell, and none of us will see the awfulness of it unless that little fat moron who runs North Korea gets impatient with his bombs. Then who will worry about clean rivers or forests, unless we can find caves in them?

I guess what you have to do is enjoy one day at a time, try to get as far as you can away from it all by retreating to the wildest corners of the earth where it still seems like God is watching, and there is still some of that in the Ozarks. We need to be thankful for what is there, and the fact that the concrete and the pavement and the worship of money, and most of the problems it creates are a good distance away.

It is a good way to find happiness and peace and contentment. If only there weren’t any ticks,

You can see photos Center on my website. of the 30 kids who came to spend the weekend at our Panther Creek Youth Retreat and Outdoor Education. To find out more about our swap meet on Saturday you can call me at 417 777 5227. Or you can send an email to my executive secretary, Ms. Wiggins, at and have her send you a map on how to get there. Remember, it is free to the public. Biscuits and gravy from 8 to 9 and then lunch at 11. Come and visit with me there and you will find some bargains, I am sure.

Answer to the quiz… the earliest nesting hawk in the Ozarks, as a rule, is the red-shouldered hawk. They are similar to the red-tailed hawk, but they have a scream that has two distinct notes, while a red-tails scream is just one long note.