Renaissance at Snake Ridge
chicks from escaping from predators.
Quail have returned to Snake Ridge Farm to forage in summer and to take shelter from snow in winter.
Throughout the property the Myers have built trails. Each is named for one of their six grandchildren, who range in age from 9 to 19.
"We wanted to create an environment that would fascinate and educate the grandchildren, and it does," Dick said.
The Myers also imparted land management lessons to the many students who tour the property.
Dick and Esther Myers first became attached to the Ozarks when Dick was stationed with the Army at Fort Leonard Wood. His doctoral dissertation was on the ecology of bats on the Ozark Plateau. He taught biology at two Missouri universities and served for 18 years as the director of the National Weather Service Training Center in Kansas City.
Esther, with a master's degree in public administration, has long monitored clean water activities on behalf of the League of Women Voters. An important consideration in buying Snake Ridge Farm was their desire to help protect the watershed of the Tumbling Creek Cave National Natural Landmark.
In August 2002, the cavesnail was placed on the Federal endangered species list. Its habitat on neighboring property likely was degraded by sedimentation filling crevices in the underground creek's gravel beds.
To control erosion from their upstream property, the Myers recently completed an ambitious project with help of the Department of Conservation.
When the Myers moved to the farm, there was a hollow they could drive across. Years of run-off, resulting from bulldozing on higher property, gradually created an impassable, 6-foot deep gully in the hollow.
After getting federal Fish and Wildlife funding through the Department of Conservation, as well as permits from the U.S. Corps of Engineers and the Department of Natural Resources, Dick and Esther cut 20- to 30-foot tall cedar trees and dragged them to the site with a tractor.
On a cold, wet morning in March, they were joined by Greg Cassell, the Taney County resource forester, and staff from the Conservation Department's divisions of private lands, fisheries and forestry. Using the same kind of anchors that hold mobile homes to the ground, the crew strapped the cedars to the washed-out sides of the slope. With only a short break for some of Esther's applesauce cake, they completed 120 feet of revetment that day, thwarting further erosion. Eventually, the hollow will heal.
"It's so amazing how willingly these people worked so hard, and they weren't working because they were making big bucks," Dick said, "but because they believed in what they were doing, in the conservation ethic."
Since the Myers's land first entered private ownership in 1899, it has been timbered, plowed and grazed down to bare rocks. Hogs last ran on the property about 1946. The oldest remaining trees are about 120 years old, but most are about 80 years old and of poor quality.
Dick sets a worn axe head on the dining room table. It is among the tools and mule shoes they have found during their toil, remnants left by pioneers who had little luck on this fragile, marginal land. They found the axe, dulled from hitting rocks and cracked in half, abandoned where the farmer last swung it.
"They tried to farm this land," Dick said. "They'd get a good spring with the rain. Then their crops would drought out in the summer."
Lightly touching the battered axe head, Esther says, "They were seeking the American dream."
Likewise, Dick and Esther Myers are fulfilling their own version of the American dream, helping their beautiful piece of property regain its regal splendor.