Spring Rain

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Published on: Apr. 2, 2005

Last revision: Nov. 17, 2010

local historian Sandy Chapin, made us toss and turn some stormy nights as we learned of deluges that swept away small holdings and grist mills along the valley bottoms.

"For generation after generation," Chapin wrote, "the people of Booger County have suffered nightmarish hardships. Floods, epidemics ... are some of the tribulations people here have endured."

Our friend Daniel Woodrell wrote a novel that was made into the film "Ride With the Devil" about the Civil War here. Desperate folk may have hidden in the caves in the rocky bluffs overhanging Spring Creek to escape soldiers from both sides that marauded these remote communities.

There used to be a village called Roosevelt in the part of the valley where only our house is now. The remains of a grist mill--a single cog--pokes out of the creek bank, not far from a ladder of old timbers where wagons and vehicles crossed the creek before the road bridge was built.

After the flood we found an unusual amount of horseshoes, as well as iron files and old machine parts, in the roadside ditches. Maybe there was a blacksmith's shop here, too. Just a few minutes walk away at Big Spring was a courthouse and an old school that some of our neighbors attended. Hardly a trace is left of any of these buildings. We put the horseshoes we found over our house and shed doors for better luck.

The grass grew inches after the rain, and the dandelions went to seed. The soil is rich stream sediment with hardly a rock in it. We often find the sharp-edged rocks that native peoples carved for arrowheads. There is plenty of scope for growing things in such soil. We don't want to use herbicides, especially since we are close to the water, so the wild plants are thriving. Maybe we'll keep one patch of lawn cultivated and gradually turn the rest into garden and prairie meadow.

We have such a wonderful variety of native trees, shrubs and wild flowers here that there really is no need to introduce a lot of cultivated garden species. We've started making trails throughout the woodland so we can enjoy all that comes up from season to season.

Although we do have some "formal" garden around the house, my favorite garden is the woodland. We try to enhance what is already there. For example, we prune the wild hydrangea so it forms attractive round bushes, and we clear around a maidenhair fern on the path's edge so that it can flourish in full view. As spring moves into summer, we can hardly keep up with the Missouri jungle.

After the rains, the spring-fed pond in our woodland is a hive of amphibian activity. It's home to salamanders and newts and frogs aplenty, and we don't want to disturb their habitat. In midsummer we'll clean out the old leaves when the creatures are neither breeding nor hibernating. Meanwhile, it's a delight to walk around there and hear the frogs or see a something slink away under the foliage.

The creek and the many seeps running down the hillside after the rains bring sound to this watery picture. What a delightful picture it is! It's a reminder of how precious and life-giving water is.

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