River Favorite Resort for Menfolk
I was a boy the favorite resort for both men and boys was Salt
River, the Middle Fork of which flows through our town. It was where
we would fish in the spring, where we would swim in the summer,
where we would hunt and gather paws-paws in the fall, and where we
would skate in the winter.
May, when locust trees were in bloom, the redhorse would riffle,
meaning the time when that large variety of fish would cross shoals
which separated long stretches of water; just why, nobody seemed to
know. Boys with clubs and men with guns would gather for the fun of
trying to kill or cripple a redhorse as it dashed into the shallow
water we called a riffle. It was no easy thing to do, partly because
the fish was so dexterous and partly because the water would so
deflect shot and so soften a club's blow that little damage could be
one occasion, however, I saw a huge redhorse rendered helpless by a
blast which took off its tail. It was too close to the surface when
the trigger was pulled. Without a tail a fish can do nothing but
flounder around in one spot until picked up.
rural Missouri the reason for redhorse riffling when locusts are in
bloom is just as much of a mystery as that the weather is always too
cool for comfort during that period.
of the present day will be surprised to know that Missouri's first
fish commissioner, Col. John T. Crisp of Independence, undertook to
stock every farm pond and every stream with carp, a fish that has no
attraction for a sportsman, and which has not a single merit for a
place in the frying pan. Col. Crisp looked upon it as a thing that
would plug a large hole, that of food, in the household economy.
a train trip with him one day, I heard nothing but carp, carp, carp.
Every farm pond and stream was pointed to as a place from which
there would come an abundant supply of food when the state planted
it with carp. He really sent out hundreds of cans of fingerlings. In
spite of all efforts to eliminate him from the scheme of things, the
carp continues to hold his own and remain as a monument to a
Paris put in a system of waterworks, Salt River was an unfailing
source of supply for citizens when their wells would go dry during a
long drought. A local citizen made a large tank for that purpose,
mounting it on the running gear of his wagon. A docile team would
back the wagon into deep water, from which it would be filled by a
process of dipping with a bucket.
favorite swimming place at Paris was called "The Old Log"
so named because for 20 years the trunk of a huge tree that had been
felled by a storm lay well out into the stream, furnishing footing
for diving operations.
this swimming hole one afternoon some of the boys suddenly noticed
that Frank Rose, one of their number, was missing. After all efforts
to locate him failed an alarm was sent out. Scores of men hastened
from town to the scene. They waded here and there in the shallower
water, and dived in the deepest places. The boy could not be found.
Later in the afternoon a line of men, clapping hands and reaching
across the stream, waded back and forth for a quarter of a mile.
Meantime, an anvil was fired several times on the bank nearest to
where the boy was last seen, the theory being that the concussion
would loosen the body from whatever might be holding it down. This,
too, failed of results.
response to another theory, taken from an almanac, the homefolk
hurriedly baked a large loaf of bread that was impregnated with
something or other--I believe it was quicksilver--that would cause
the loaf to stand still if it should be floated over a dead body. It
failed miserably, as the father and mother watched anxiously from
along toward sundown, an over-grown boy decided to make one more try
where the boy was last seen. He was scared almost into convulsions
when his foot caught under the arm of the dead boy and brought him
to the surface. In spite of this tragedy, however, the Old Log
remained a favorite swimming hole until high waters carried the old
tree trunk out several years later.
to tradition, Salt River was so named because of an incident at its
mouth when a Frenchman, one of the first settlers, undertook to open
up commerce with St. Louis. He had developed a salt lick or spring
down in Ralls county. The only market for salt was in St. Louis, far
down the Mississippi, into which Salt River empties near Louisiana,
Mo. With a well-loaded boat he set out. At the mouth of the river a
sudden squall overturned his boat and destroyed all his cargo,
whereupon he and other settlers began calling it Salt River.
prongs of Salt River, including the North Fork, Middle Fork, and
South Fork join into one stream near Florida, Mark Twain's
birthplace. The villagers had bright visions of trade and
development if the stream were made navigable, with Florida as the
head of navigation. They sold the County Courthouse the idea to the
extent of an appropriation of $500 for that purpose. Two loads of
flour from a local watermill actually went out from the village
dock. The difficulties proved insurmountable and another dream
failed to come true.