- A floating leaf in the current, watch it, discover an unmatchable journey
- Listen…the sound of creek gurgle and babble, they play Nature’s music
- Learn the outdoors from the same place through all seasons…a mesmerizing experience that never ends.
By Larry Whiteley
I close the book I was reading, lean back and watch the autumn leaves flutter through the air before landing on the glassy surface of the creek.
My eyes pick out a single leaf still clinging to the tree above me. It moves with the gentle breeze until a gust of wind causes it to relax its grip and start its dance to the water. The water slightly ripples when it lands and it just sits there for a moment as if resting. Then the current grabs it and it floats away. I watch as long as I can then wonder how far it will travel until it reaches its final resting place.
With the leaf gone, my eyes turn to the beauty of the trees reflecting in the water. My ears listen to the soothing sounds of flowing water. My mind wanders back to all the memories that have been made at this special place on this special creek.
It’s called Bull Creek. It starts as a gurgling spring and winds its way for many miles through the hills and valleys of the Missouri Ozarks. It meanders along under rusted bridges, past limestone bluffs, old cemeteries, open fields, and a cabin on the bluff above the creek.
Near the cabin, rushing water had carved out a deep hole, perfect for fishing, swimming, and snorkeling. It is here I now sit, book in hand and staring at the water, thinking about all the memories.
Here is where one grandson and a granddaughter caught their first fish. Now they’re grown and it won’t be long before they are taking their kids to catch their first fish.
Spring rains would always flood the banks. The awesome power of spring runoff was something to behold and fear. Spring also meant dogwoods, redbuds and wildflowers reflecting in the blue water. I would always listen for sounds of peeper frogs and kingfishers announcing that spring was here.
As early summer arrived, it was time to take the annual first swim of the year in this cold, spring-fed creek. The grandkids tradition was to push their PaPaw in and then laugh as I came up screaming and gasping for air. They always thought I was kidding, but I wasn’t.
As summer continued, this special place played host to family, friends, and neighbors. Fishing continued, air mattresses dotted the water and lawn chairs lined the banks.
Saving tadpoles trapped in little pools of water and moving them safely to the creek was a favorite grandkid activity. Catching crawdads was enjoyed by young and old alike. Those “rotten” grandkids would laugh again when PaPaw would get pinched by an upset crawdad.
The clear waters of Bull Creek made snorkeling a popular thing to do for everyone who visited. The underwater world is fascinating!
Bluegill would swim right up to your face or nibble at you as you floated along in the water. Bass and hog suckers didn’t want any thing to do with these homosapiens that had invaded their home and would skitter along ahead. Sunfish usually guarded their nest or hid back under a rock ledge. A multitude of colorful baitfish would swim around in schools, continually battling the swift water.
I remember the time I snorkeled under the water and took some real lobster claws and placed them where they stuck out under a rock ledge so they would look like the granddaddy of all crawdads lurking under a rock. I then watched as my neighbor Bob snorkeled closer and closer to where I had hidden them. I still laugh when I think about the look on his face when he came up out of the water.
If you were really lucky or unlucky depending on your fear of snakes, you might even get the opportunity to swim along with a 4-foot long water snake. No, it wasn’t a fake snake and no, I am not scared of snakes. At least as long as I knew they weren’t poisonous.
I was a little nervous once though, when I dangled a crappie jig in front of this same snake and he struck at it and caught the hook in his mouth. I didn’t have much experience unhooking a writhing, very mad, water snake, and was sure thankful the line broke before I had to figure it out.
When it was hot outside and you had the creek all to yourself, there was nothing cooler or more relaxing than heading to the creek, sitting a lawn chair in the water under the shade of a big old tree and reading a good book. I could usually get through a couple of chapters before the rippling water lulled me to sleep.
As summer gave way to fall, I still enjoyed taking a book to the creek. If grandkids came down we fished or had rock-skipping contests. When our Wisconsin grandkids came, they liked to find rocks with holes in them, or “beautiful” rocks, on the gravel bar.
This was the time of year when you might surprise a pair of wood ducks as they paddled along in the water, catch a glimpse of a whitetail deer or wild turkey at the waters edge, or even see a beaver busily working on his winter home.
Trips became infrequent when winter arrived. Sometimes I would wrap up warm and go there to see the frozen water along the banks. I was always hopeful I would see an eagle perched in a tree or flying overhead. If the day was not too cold, I would sit down, enjoy the peaceful serenity and think about all the things that took place there.
As the grandkids got older they stopped coming. This special place had lost its magic to them. They would rather go boating on big lakes or do other things. Now they’re off to college.
Grandma and I got older too, so we eventually sold the cabin on the bluff to a young couple with twin 6-year old girls. Now they make their own memories. I still come back once in a while to enjoy this special place on the creek.
The leaves continue to fall and now cover the water like a multi-colored blanket. I stand, put my book under my arm, wipe the tears from my eyes and soak in the beauty one more time before turning to get in my truck and go back home to grandma.
Everyone needs a special place to go make memories.