The Ozarks Almanac

Thanks for supporting our advertisers!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Some hillbilly poetry

Back on May 21 here, I posted a story told by a co-worker in the employee breakroom.

Now I fancy myself a poet.

Although I have been a fan of cowboy poetry for many years, I am not a cowboy poet, for I am not a cowboy. I am just a good ole Georgia-born, Missouri-raised Ozarks boy, so I guess my poems could be called hillbilly poetry.

I got a little creative by taking the story told by my friend, Ron, and moving it out of the breakroom and into a deer camp, possibly in southern Phelps County around Edgar Springs. I've never been deer hunting with Ron, and I don't know if he drinks whiskey.  That is just embellishing and embroidering the story to have a little fun.

Well, here is the poem, dedicated to Ron Wilson and his father, Richard, a couple of mighty fine Ozarks storytellers who inspired this hillbilly poem.


We were sittin' around the campfire
after a day of huntin' deer.
When ole Ron took a pull on the whiskey bottle,
passed it to me and said, "Listen here,

"My dad was in Springfield the other day.
"He went to Bass Pro to look at a gun.
"And on the way back something happened
"that proved there can be a new thing under the sun.

"See, he got behind an ambulance
"coming back home on old Route 66
"when its back door blew open
"and a box flew out into a ditch among the sticks.

"The ambulance kept going,
"but dad, he stopped and got out.
"He retrieved the box from the weeds,
"opened it and gave a shout.

"For inside it was a toe!
"A human toe on ice!
"And it must have been a woman's toe for the nail,
"why it was bright red. It looked real nice."

Well, the boys all perked up at the mention of a woman,
even it was just one painted toe.
"What happened next?" gasped one of the fellers.
"Keep talking. I've got to know."

Said Ron, "Well, dad didn't know
"who to call or what to do this time.
"He did not want to call the cops,
"for there was no evidence of a crime.

"Or the fire department neither,
"for there was no flame.
"But he knew he had to do something
"or else he'd get the blame.

"So he did the next best thing he could think of
"to keep from passing the buck."
We listened intently, Ron leaned forward and said real serious,
"He went and found him a phone and called a dang toe truck!"

Monday, July 18, 2016

It's going to be a hot one

At 4:45 a.m. when I let the dogs out, the temperature was 77 degrees. The humidity was 77 percent. No stars were visible through the hazy sky. The air was completely still. It is going to be a hot one in South central Missouri.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Why we fought the American Civil War

I've been reading Civil War in the Ozarks by Phillip W. Steele and Steve Cottrell. It's interesting, and I recommend it. If you read it, think about the parallels between that time and this one.

For instance, pretend you are a Missourian in 1861. Southern states, fed up with the controlling ways of the feds in Washington, D.C., are seceding. In response, good ole Honest Abe is calling for troops to invade the South. Your state governor, Claiborne Fox Jackson, calls the president's actions "illegal, unconstitutional and revolutionary."

Gov. Jackson appoints Sterling Price, a former Missouri governor and a general in the Mexican War, as the commander of the Missouri State Guard. Missouri appears to be getting ready to stand up to the feds, and the feds don't like that one little bit.

Nevertheless, there are attempts to reach a truce.

At a negotiation meeting in the Planter's House Hotel in St. Louis, Jackson and Price and other state leaders hear Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon, representing the Federal government, stand up and say this:

"Rather than to concede to the state of Missouri for one single instant the
right to dictate to my government [the Federal government] in any matter however
unimportant, I would see you, and you, and you, and you, and you [pointing to
everyone in the room], and every man, woman, and child in the state dead and
buried." He then turned to Governor Jackson. "This means war. In an hour one of
my officers will call for you and conduct you out of my lines."

Well, so much for negotiations and truce-making on the part of the Federal government. The Federal military agent just hinted, rather obviously, that he'd rather kill everyone in Missouri than state government have any rights.

That's why the Civil War was fought. The states wanted to be true states, united but independent. The feds wanted the states to be provinces.

It took a lot of killing, but the feds got their way. Missouri, which wanted to be a sovereign state, became a province of the central government in Washington. And it remains so today.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

An Ozarks storyteller

At my day job, I work with a young (compared to me) fellow named Ronald Wilson. He is from Richland, and he is quite the storyteller. The other day in the breakroom while a bunch of us were in there visiting, he told us the wildest story.
"My dad was in Springfield yesterday, and he was behind an ambulance combing home. They were going along at a pretty good clip, and the back doors of that ambulance blew open, and a box flew out and landed on the side of the street," he said.
"Well, that ambulance went on. It didn't stop, so dad pulled over and got out and picked up the box and took it back to the car," Ron said. "There was no writing on the outside of the box to tell where to take it, so he opened it up to see if there was any information.
"What there was in there was a toe!" he said. "A human toe! On ice!
"Well, dad didn't know what to do. He thought about calling the police, but there wasn't a crime. He thought about calling the fire department, but there wasn't a fire.
"So he did the next best thing," Ron declared. "He called a toe truck."
We all sat there a second, then we laughed uproariouslhy, and I can't help it, I laugh every time he retells that story. Heck, I laughed again while I typed it for you to read.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

"Give the turtles a brake"

We were driving down a rural road last summer when suddenly my wife hit the brakes. As there was no traffic, I was alarmed.

"What's the matter?" I asked. "Is something wrong with the truck?"

"No," she said, a hint of exasperation in her voice. "There's a turtle in the road."

And she hopped out and walked over to where the critter was, picked him up and carried him to the roadside where she placed him on the ground.

"Now I feel better," she said.

"He'll just walk back out in the road," I said.

"I hope not," she said. "I faced him away from it."

"Oh, good grief," I said.

Turns out she did the right thing, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.

"The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) encourages motorists to give turtles crossing roads a brake," according to a news release we received here at the office yesterday. "Turtles are struck by cars throughout warmer months, but are at special risk this time of year because they are on the move. Young males make up most of the travelers as they search for territories of their own and for female turtles. Comfort is also a factor. Like other reptiles, turtles are cold-blooded so basking on warm asphalt feels good on cool spring days."

According to the conservationists, my wife did exactly the right thing.

"MDC encourages motorists to slow down when they see a turtle in the road and check to be sure they can safely steer around it. If helping a turtle cross a road, keep human safety as the number-one concern. Check for traffic and move the turtle across the road in the direction it is traveling," the news release said.

Continuing, the notice said: "The three-toed box turtle is a species often seen crossing roads in Missouri. Primarily a woodland species, it is found everywhere but the extreme northern part of the state. The ornate box turtle is also a common traveler and is found in all but the southeastern corner of the state. It is more adapted to grasslands and is most common in western Missouri. For more information on Missouri turtles, visit our online Filed Guide at [ ]."

So, once again, I was wrong, she was right. The story of my life.

Watch out for turtles.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Wildflowers have multiple benefits

My wife was feeling a bit blue a couple of weeks ago or so. There were pictures showing up on her Facebook page of the bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes in bloom back in her home state of Texas. Beautiful pictures they were, too, of vast fields of blue or orange or a mix.

I've never been down there with her at this time of year. Maybe next spring we can manage schedules to get down in time to see the wildflowers all along the roadsides and up the hillsides and across the flatlands.

We don't have anything like that in Missouri. We could have, but we don't have the will or the desire. People here demand that the roadsides be clear, so the county highway departments and the state transportation department start mowing early.  We could have just as beautiful a spring as Texas does, for we have lots of native flowers. If we were willing to let them grow, we could have beautiful flowers all summer.

Missourians prefer a clean look to the rights-of-way. A few years ago, my wife and I drove back home from Springfield on the old Mother Road, Historic Route 66. As we drove through one county, the roadsides looked burned. That county's highway department had sprayed herbicide all along the highway, some of it reaching up into the lower branches of trees. It gave the county a clean, devastated look.

I thought of all that this past weekend when we went to the Downtown Farmers Market where the Master Naturalists, Master Gardeners and the Audubon Society were having a native plant sale, offering milkweed for Monarch caterpillars and wildflowers for the nectar-eating adults. There has been a big push by those groups and others to build up the habitat for the Monarch butterflies. A Master Naturalist even spoke to the city council last week about the need to plant the milkweed and wildflowers in our yards. She said a minimum of nine milkweed plants of at least two varities is necessary. Plus we need more wildflowers.

We bought some plants and brought them home. I got to thinking about the loss of habitat. Part of that loss is because of all the mowing and herbicide applying that goes on each year. I don't know if the Texas highway department is putting out milkweed annually, but there are plenty of wildflowers there for the adult butterflies.

It would make a lot of sense to let some of these roadsides go without mowing. For the money we would save on mowing, the counties and state could affort to spread out some wildflower seed.

Texas has been doing that for so many years that their wildflowers have become tourist attractions. I read on a state website that they figure the wildflowers boost the economy by several millions of dollars.

That would be one benefit. Another would be the pollination done by the Monarchs. The Master Naturalist told the city council that every third bite of food we eat is the result of pollination. We need to promote habitat for bees and butterflies.

Maybe the counties and cities could help by laying off the mowing for awhile.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Dinner time in Southern Missouri

It's dinner time here in South Central Missouri.
Yes, it's 11 a.m., and I said dinner time. I grew up calling the noon meal dinner and the evening meal supper. Everybody else in school did the same thing, for we were all hillbillies.
It wasn't until I got to the university that I discerned calling the noon meal lunch and the evening meal dinner wasn't just something they did in novels. All those city folks I was around called dinner lunch and laughed at me for calling it what it was, which was dinner.
Eventually, I succumbed, and began calling dinner lunch and supper dinner.
Every now and again, though, I fall into my old ways.
Like today.
It's a beautiful day in the South of Missouri, just like every day, no matter the weather.
I hope you're enjoying the day.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Easy, inexpensive way to label your garden rows

The couple at the local home improvement store were talking about labeling their garden rows, and I couldn't help but overhear them.
"I wish they had something better than these little pieces of plastic," the woman said. I glanced into the cart as I walked by and saw that she was talking about a little package of plastic strips to mark her vegetable garden.
I stopped.
"I couldn't help overhearing," I said. "I have a suggestion. Instead of these little pieces of plastic, why not do what my wife does? Buy a package of shims and a permanent marker."
They were an older couple, even older than I (and that's old).
"These are hard to write on," she said, as if she did not hear me. "There isn't much room, and they're plastic, so the writing rubs off easily."
I tried again.
Those little wooden shims make good row markers.
"You won't find that with a packet of shims and a permanent marker," I said. "My wife writes in big bold letters and there's plenty of room. And the marker ink soaks into the wood fiber of the shim, so it won't wash off, not even in a heavy Ozarks rain."
She ignored me again, saying, "These things are so expensive, $3.95 for this package."
I said, "Shims are much less expensive, about $1.87 a bundle, I think. And they weather, but you can reuse them. I've got a bucket with last year's shim markers, so I won't have to buy another bundle this year."
Her husband, who had been quiet the whole time, said, "Let's get some shims."
His wife said, "Oh, I guess I'll go ahead and get these things."
She wasn't listening to me or to her husband, so I left.
"OK, have a good day," I said.
A few minutes later, when I passed by that aisle again, I saw the husband walking toward their cart with a little package of shims in his hand.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Waiting for "blackberry winter"

The other day I was at the hardware store and an old boy I've known for years asked me, "When's it going to be blackberry winter? I want to plant my garden, but i ain't going to do it until after blackberry winter."

I told him I expected "blackberry winter" any day, but that its non-arrival had not stopped me from gardening.

"We've already harvested one crop and eaten fresh pickin's this spring," I said.

"What have you got out now?" he said.

"Oh, turnip greens, chard, kale and peas that we planted in the middle of February. Taters that we planted in the middle of March," I said.

"Oh, salad," he said, rather disparagingly. "I want to plant tomatoes."

"Well, you'll have to wait until after Mother's Day for that," I said.

"As soon as we get a blackberry winter, I'm planting," he said.

Blackberry winter, or blackberry squall as my Mama has called it for as long as I can remember, is a cold snap in spring after some nice weather. We had great weather last weekend for gardening and it was pretty nice at the first of the week. We then got some rain and by Friday it was cold enough that I needed to put on a sweater.

This morning, it was cold enough that when I got up to put the dogs out at 7 and start my weekend, it was cold, or felot cold. It was about 60 degrees outside, so wasn't real cold, Nevertheless, it was cold enough to kick the furnace on and keep it running awhile.

So is this blackberry winter? I don't know. I doubt it. There wasn't a frost, and I think it likely there will be one more of those before Mother's Day. I hope I'm wrong. I hope this is Blackberry Winter weekend, and the rest of the season will be warm and sunny for my garden, because I'm putting out tomato plants next Saturday.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Mixing politics and poetry

In honor of this being the next to last day of National
Poetry Month, I have written a poem about the current campaigns for
the political parties' nominations for president. Usually I like to
write humorous poems, but this one is deadly serious.


The other day while talking,
a fellow said to me,
“You're a Trump man, aren't you?
You'll back him over Hillary.”

And I said in reply to him, “Let me tell you
what goes into the way I have to think
when I go into the booth to pick someone:
I pick the one that has the less stink.

Whenever it comes time to mark my ballot,
I find some candidates come up short.
I'm talking about one issue: Do they cherish
life in the womb or is it OK to abort?

Now, I'm not sure I trust the Donald,
though he claims to be pro-life.
But I know for sure Clinton's unbothered
about severing fetus limbs with a knife.

So, with your assessment of me
as a Trump man, I can't really concur.
It's not that I'm so much pro-him
as I am just anti-her.”—RDH

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Tasty broccoli raab

Curious about that broccoli raab we picked out of the garden yesterday and fixed for Sunday dinner today, I looked it up on the internet.

It is an unfamiliar plant to me. I have never heard of any other Ozarks gardener raising a crop of it. Even my wife, a professional horticulturist, had not grown it or heard of anyone here or back at her home in Texas growing it. She had heard about it, though, on cooking shows. All the big-deal chefs are in love with the stuff apparently.

Turns out, according to my research, that it is also known as rapini. It is green cruciferous vegetable, meaning it s a cole crop. Cole crop is the colloquial name for cruciferous, which means they are in the brassica family along with cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, bok choy, horseradish, mustard, kale, collard, broccoli and turnips.

Raab or rapini is associated with Italian and Portuguese cuisines. Since few Ozarkers come from those backgrounds, that explains why rapini is not in most gardens. My resarch indicates that it descended frm a wild herb related to the turnip that grew in China. (It seems like everything is made in China nowadays.) It is similar to a Chinese cultivar called kai-lan.

Rapini grows throughout the world now.

It is a little bitter but tasty. The leaves, stems and buds are edible, and the buds are similar to broccoli. The leaves are said to be equivalent to turnip greens. Rapini is a great source of vitamins A, C and K, potassium, calcim and iron.

In Italy, it is said to be a side dish for pork. That is what Delaine did today for Sunday dinner. She chopped it up and mixed it in with orecchiette pasta and a sauce she made up. Orecchiette is italian for "little ear," describing the pasta shape. She served that pasta and rapini side dish with pork chops.

It was fine, mighty fine, and I will likely be eating it again this week for my lunch at work. Maybe a couple of lunches.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

First crop pulled from our 2016 spring garden

We planted our spring garden back on Saturday, Feb. 20, and only the two varieties of lettuce we sowed failed to make a crop. Everything else came up and thrived, and today we picked all the broccoli raab.

I pulled the little plants out by the roots, and Delaine cut off the roots, washed the remaing leafed stems and then blanched them. Blanching means dipping the plants into boiled, salted water for about a minute and then putting the plants on ice. She then bagged and froze them, saving out some for Sunday dinner.

There's other stuff just about ready for picking, and the pea plants look great. I need to get up a tresslis between the rows. The potatoes in the bags are doing well. The spinach in the pots looks great.

So far, so good with our 2016 garden. It's early, though.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Lyrid meteor show blocked from view

Tonight is supposed to be the main night of the Lyrid meteor shower. The sources I've read say that the best show will be in the pre-dawn hours.
Those sources also noted that this year the show will be less visible thanks to the full moon.
Well, not only that, but here in south central Missouri we also have some cloud cover.
It is not overcast, but there are clouds moving across the sky. Or there were when I took the dogs out for their evening romp in the backyard.
Between the clouds and that blow-torch of a moon, it's going to be impossible to see any meteors, I think.
I'll be back up at 4 a.m., and I'll be checking again.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Indigo Buntings only look blue

Back in May 2010, I saw a couple of Indigo Buntings playing around by the back deck.
Well, the next day, my wife spotted the same birds and got a couple of photographs.
According to
  • Indigo Buntings are actually black; the diffraction of light through their feathers makes them look blue. This explains why males can appear many shades from turquoise to black.
  • They are more common now than when the pilgrims first landed. This is due to an increase in their favorite habitat of woodland edges, such as power line clearings and along roads.
  • They migrate at night, using the pattern of stars nearest the North Star to guide them. In captivity, these birds will become disoriented if they can’t see the stars in April/May and September/October.
  • A group of buntings are collectively known as a "decoration", "mural", and "sacrifice" of buntings.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

If ..... you may live in Missouri

This essay is all over the internet, and it is said to be from Jeff Foxworthy. I don't know if that is true or not, but these are funny and they fit Missouri.
Missouri according to Jeff Foxworthy:
If someone in a Home Depot store offers you assistance and they don't even work there, you may live in Missouri.

If you've worn shorts and a jacket at the same time, you may live in Missouri.

If you've had a lengthy telephone conversation with someone who dialed a wrong number, you may live in Missouri.

If you know several people who have hit a deer more than once, you may live in Missouri.

If you have switched from 'heat' to 'A/C' and back again in the same day, you may live in Missouri.

If you can drive 75 mph through 2 feet of snow during a raging blizzard without flinching, you may live in Missouri.

If driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow, you may live in Missouri.

If you install security lights on your house and garage, but leave both doors unlocked, you may live in Missouri.

If you carry jumpers in your car and your wife knows how to use them, you may live in Missouri.

If everyone in your family has been on a "float trip." you may live in Missouri.

If the phrase I'm going to the Lake this weekend has only one meaning, and everyone knows what you're talking about, you may live in Missouri.

If "Down South" means Arkansas and you know where Idiots Out Wandering Around are located, you might be from Missouri.

If "Vacation" means driving to Silver Dollar City, Worlds of Fun or Six Flags, you might be from Missouri.

If you ever rode a school bus over an hour each way, you might be from Missouri.

If you failed World Geography in school because you thought Cuba, Versailles, California, Nevada, Houston, Cabool, Louisiana, Springfield, and Mexico were cities in Missouri (And they are mind you!), you might be from Missouri.

If you had school classes canceled because of cold, You're probably from Missouri. If you had school classes canceled because of heat, You're probably from Missouri.

If you can recognize whether another Missourian is from the Boot Heel, Ozarks, Eastern, Middle or Western Missouri soon as they open their mouth, You're probably from Missouri.

If you know that Harry S. Truman, Walt Disney, George Washington Carver and Mark Twain are all from Missouri, Well... you guessed it.

If you know what "Home of the Throwed Roll" means! You're probably from Missouri. If you pronounce Missouri with an ah at the end. You're probably from Missouri.

If you think of deer season is a national holiday. You're probably from Missouri.

If you've ever said (or heard) its not the heat, its the humidity. You're probably from Missouri.

If you've seen people wear bib overalls to funerals. You're probably from Missouri.

If your idea of a traffic jam is ten cars waiting to pass a tractor. You're probably from Missouri.

If you've seen farmers stop work and remove their hat as a funeral passes by. You're probably from Missouri.

If you actually understand these jokes, send this so all of your Missouri friends and others can see. You definitely do live - or have lived - in Missouri God Bless Ya'll!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Website tells how to find, care for birds

The other evening my wife and  I were eating supper at a local eatery when another couple walked past our table, and the man stopped and greeted me.

For the life of me, I did not recognize him and couldn't place him.

"I'm sorry. I can't place how I know you," I said. "If I see people out of context, I sometimes have trouble."

He shook his head, incredulous. "Mike Doyen," he said.

"Oh, for crying out loud," I said; "I can't believe myself."

"I can't believe it either," he said, laughing.

Mike Doyen is the leading birder around these parts. I've know him for years, and I've written stories about him for the Rolla Daily News and The Ozarks Chronicle. To give you and idea how important he is to birding, take a look at this press release from the Missouri Department of Conservation.

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) encourages beginner and seasoned birders to discover nature by exploring the best of the best places to birdwatch around Missouri. Finding them is as easy as going online to the new website, Great Missouri Birding Trail, at

The website includes maps of the best birding sites around the Show-Me State, along with information on various aspects of bird conservation. Pages include birding tips, beginner basics, landscaping for birds, and how to get involved with local bird organizations.

The best-birding locations include mostly public land, such as conservation areas and state parks, and cover various types of bird habitats, such grasslands, woodlands, forests, glades, and savannas. Each type of natural community hosts a different suite of bird species to identify.

The Great Missouri Birding Trail project was started by Mike Doyen of Rolla, president of the Missouri Bird Conservation Foundation. The Trail is now a partnership between the Foundation and MDC, with support from other state and federal agencies and birding organizations.

Nothing is more critical to birds than habitat, Doyen said. If the habitat is right, the birds will be there. Visit some of the more than two hundred sites along the Trail and become familiar with the diversity of habitat that birds call home. Then ask yourself, what can I do in my backyard to improve habitat for birds?

The St. Louis and Kansas City sections of the Great Missouri Birding Trail website are complete. Work continues on four remaining sections, including: northeast, central, southwest, and southeast, which will be completed in the next year.

In the restaurant, we all talked a bit about feeding, watering and providing habitat for birds.  I asked him if he had a problem with grackels, big and aggressive birds that swoop in and eat all the feed and seed .

"Yes," he said. "They're like Republicans. They're everywhere." Then he laughed. See, Mike and I are polar opposites politically, but we get along fine because we both recognize friendship transcends politics.

"What do you do about them?" I asked.

"I feed them. They'll leave eventually,," he said.

We told what all we have done out our place to make it bird-friendly, and I hope you will sing onto the new website to find out what you can do, too.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Space ship battle in Germany on this date?

The Old Farmer's Almanac (the one with the yellow cover and the hole in the corner so you can hang it on a nail on the outhouse wall so you always have something to read) reports that on this date in 1541 in Nuremburg, Germany, the "sky (was) full of unknown moving objects."
That piqued my interest enough to "google" the date and place. What I got back was a list of websites about a UFO battle in the sky on April 14, 1561, not 1541. Maybe it  happened twice. I don't know. But one sensible website debunked the theory of a UFO battle, pointing out that the event was likely a "sun dog."
Also called a "parhelion," the phenomenon occurs when there is ice in the upper atmosphere that refacts sunlight. Those lights turned into spaceships in people's minds.
It's more fun to think that there was a Star Wars battle, but, sorry, there wasn't.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Beautiful signs of Ozarks spring

Eastern redbud.
Flowering dogwood.
 In April, the Ozarks hills turn white, not with snow (usually, but sometimes), but with the white blossoms of the flowering dogwood.
It's been our state tree since June of 1955.
The botanical name is Cornus florida, and it is native to Missouri. The four white petals are actually bracts. The true flowers are the little green doodads that are grouped in clusters.
These trees are beautiful signs of spring.
Another sign of spring, one with overlapping blooming period with the flowering dogwood, is the Eastern redbud.
It also is a natural Missouri tree, and it has its own beauty. A drive through an Ozarks forest with hillsides full of the dogwood and redbud blooming before the full leafing of the oak and hickory trees is a great way to pass a Sunday afternoon.
Cercis canadensis is the botanical name. Magenta flowers appear in clusters on the branches before the leaves.
It's a beauty, too, and it grows easily. We have two volunteers in our yard.

Map of Missouri counties

Map Courtesy of Digital Map Store