Notes From Hunter Creek 7.26.2016

Fireworks and RIV-ETT

With hot weather comes fireworks –– and with fireworks I am reminded of future activities of night-fishing, crawdad gathering, and frogging.

First of all, kudos to all of the good people of the community who encourage and those who actually administer the fireworks programs in our area.

Congratulations to Tonya and her staff, and all of the supportive vendors who sponsor the tremendous show provided by the Heart of the Ozarks facility.   The folks at Spurlock Store and the Squires Volunteer Fire Department usually pull off an awesome show also.

About 15 years ago, I was introducing a candidate for statewide office at the Squires picnic.  All he could say is, “I can’t believe there are 5000 people out here in the middle of nowhere.”

I remember attending the first fireworks display held on the edge of the parking lot of Spurlock’s store in 1982. The following years the event grew larger, and judiciously moved across the road, a fair distance from the store’s gasoline tanks.

There are of course several other smaller, but almost equally good celebrations, such as Sweden Church, Lake at Theodosia, and one of my favorites, customer sponsored fireworks at Rockbridge Trout Resort. On that night, gunpowder smoke drifts largely in Spring Creek Valley, wafting in the silent moonlit night for a couple of hours, depend-ing on any winds in the area.

These celebrations bring back memories. I can remember like it was yesterday, taking my future wife on a “date” to experience the fireworks, and then later with the kids, and then campaigning, and now with the grandkids.  Great times – and great memories.

But the point is this; it is now time for more adventures and nighttime fun on the lakes, rivers, and ponds.

It’s a great time to fish for large, flathead catfish on the lakes, or for channel cats on the lower, slower reaches of local rivers. And, there’s nothing like dragging a top-water lure across the river, hearing a big splash, and immediately feel the nice tug on your line.

Or, for a different adventure, travel to any low water bridge when a full moon is showing.  Bring your pail and you can usually find a good mess of crawdads scurrying around on the bridge, or on top of metal culverts.

The last time I performed this activity was one night at the Monastery Bridge, accompanied by my children.  While on my hands and knees, filling my pail up with these succulent goodies, I came face-to-face with a banded water snake that crept out of a narrow space between the concrete and tin culvert. It was probably 4-inches from my nose and its tongue was spitting at me.   I don’t know how, but I immediately levitated my entire body up and away from the culvert in about a half-second.

This event, about 20-plus years ago, concluded my lifetime duties as a nighttime gatherer of crawdads.

However, I will still prepare them, and can eat a mess of them.

Here’s my recipe: wash and rinse at least three times to remove all the grit and gravel.  Let them soak in salted water for at least an hour or so. Boil and blanche for 2-4 minutes. After they are cool enough to handle, fry or sauté in a skillet over medium heat, with a few spicy peppers, garlic powder, etc., then suck the heads, skin the tails – and enjoy.

And finally, there are Missouri’s noisy but delicious bullfrogs. You have been hearing them for a couple of months now, but at dark on June 30, they are yours for the taking. Be sure and read the conservation regulations because daily limits, and possession limits, are construed differently from fishing limits.

As with crawdad gathering, you will need to possess a fishing license when gigging or netting for bullfrogs. And, if using a pellet gun or 22 cal. weapon, you will need to possess a hunting license.

When frogging, you’ll also need to be “snake-conscious.” Within the daily limits, take all of the frogs you can reasonably use, and leave the rest for next year’s crop.  Do NOT clean out a pond or large creek area.

As for eating them. The legs are easy to detach and skin.  You can batter them and fry them in hot oil for a few minutes, like most people do.

Or, if you are trying to avoid fried foods, consider this – lightly salt and pepper the frog legs, add a skiff of garlic powder. Drizzle with olive oil and bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, with or without any batter. Turn once and do NOT overcook. Delicious!

Note:  Thomas Jefferson and the Fourth of July

Fireworks season got me to thinking about Independence Day, and the great document that embodies it, the Declaration of Independence.

It took a young Thomas Jefferson several weeks to author and refine the document in Philadelphia during 1776. When he penned the famous line about “all men are created equal…. And entitled to life, liberty, and happiness,” Jefferson realized this clause would naturally exclude all slaves, as they were considered property, not men.   He also realized the slavery issue would dog U.S. polities for decades. He had no good compromise to the problem, nor did anyone else.

Although he had agreed in his will to release all of his personal slaves to freedom upon his death, even this plan did not work.  Because Jefferson was basically insolvent at the time of his death 50 years later, most of his slaves were sold as “property” to pay the debts of his estate.

One other interesting note about Thomas Jefferson: although he was a heck of a writer, Jefferson was not much of a public speaker.  He possessed a high-pitched, spindly weak voice.  Jefferson basically made three brief public speeches during his lifetime. Once when he became Governor of war-torn Virginia in 1779. And, then again, Jefferson gave a fairly forgettable inaugural addresses on his elections as a two-term president of the USA.

After drafting the poignantly-worded Declaration of Indepen-dence, he asked his good friend at the time, John Adams of Massachusetts to read his Declaration to the Second Continental Congress on July 2, 1776. It was actually voted on and approved by the Congress on July 3, 1776, but it was not published until the now famous date of July 4, 1776.

Now, get up and go enjoy our beautiful Ozark outdoors!