Archive for the 'History' Category

Cast in stone

Monday, November 24th, 2008

I have round rocks by the hundreds at Roundrock, but I don’t pay much attention to the many fossils that are there as well.

This one stood out when I saw it. I’m not sure just what is fossilized here. Coral? Sponge? Some thickly veined leaf? Actually, it looks as though there are two fossils here: the latticed item on the left and the star-shaped item on the right.

This is not a facile fossil to research. I found a few online fossil identification sites, but it seems that you must know what kind of fossil you’re looking for, and then they will display an example of it for you. Good for them but not for me.

If you have any clue, I’d be glad to hear it. Otherwise, simply enjoy.

Missouri calendar:

  • The Missouri Natural Events Calendar is blank for today.

Today in Missouri history:

  • The King of Ragtime, Scott Joplin, was born on this date in 1868. One of his most famous tunes, The Maple Leaf Rag, was named for a nightclub where he performed in Sedalia, Missouri.
  • Positive thinker Dale Carnegie is born in Buffalo, Missouri on this date in 1888.


Saturday, April 28th, 2007


Unlike today, when I first started going to my forest at Roundrock, I didn’t know everything. When Libby and I would first come upon scenes like the one above, we’d comment to each other how it sure looked like the old snag had been burned. But then we’d look about the area, and nothing else would looked scorched, and we’d decide that we were mistaken.

So we wondered if what we were seeing was some sort of black fungus that was growing lustily on the dead wood of the snag.

Now, of course, we are so much wiser, and we see the world so much more clearly. You can find scorched snags like these just about everywhere in our forest. This one happens to be on the north-facing slope, but on the other side of the lake (where we seem to spend most of our Roundrock time) there are plenty of these. (We even have them at Fallen Timbers — that other little bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks we have.)

During our tenure, only one ground fire has come into our woods, and that was the result of a prescribed burn my neighbor lost control of. It cleared out some scrub and leaf litter and pretty much enriched the soil but otherwise had no great effect on the ongoing world of Roundrock. As I’ve said before, ground fires are a fact of life in the Ozarks, and especially at this time of the year when the winter winds have dried the remnant prairire grasses to tinder, we could go out to our woods and would not be surprised to find some area freshly burned (though we haven’t).

I have several long open areas in the western part of my forest. The trees have not reconquered these parallel patches and grasses weakly cover them. My latest surmise is that these places record where massive burn piles had been. Years ago, that part of the forest had been cleared to make more grazing area for cattle. My guess is that the large trees that were taken down were placed in long piles and then burned. And they burned with such intense heat that they scorched the ground sufficiently to prevent it from supporting plant life for decades.

I always wonder when I come across a burned snag like this one why it wasn’t wholly consumed. Were the flames just not feeling enthusiastic at the time? Or did a sudden shower come along and quench them? Did the quitting bell ring?

That’s the kind of thing that keeps bringing me back to the forest.

Missouri calendar:

  • The Big Dipper has tipped and spilled into the Little Dipper.
  • June bugs begin appearing.

Facile fossil

Monday, March 19th, 2007


Here is a nice little fossil I found right beside our shelter. I don’t know how I’ve managed to overlook such a lovely for so many years. I guess I only noticed it recently because I’m striving to pay more attention to small details at Roundrock.

I made a half-hearted attempt to identify what this might be a fossil of, but I gave up without even determining whether it was a plant or animal. Most of the fossils I find in my woods are of shellfish or crinoids. (Though there is this fossilized frustration.) As I would expect, I find them in the limestone that is in the low parts of my forest (rather than in the sandstone in the higher parts). Since the shelter overlooks the lake, I consider that in the lower area.

I am slowly accumulating a sort of mental map of the underground geology at Roundrock. I’m fortunate to have a little diversity. There is the limestone bedrock (through which, I suspect, the lake leaks away), then a layer of a sort of loose conglomerate (in which, I think, many thousands of round rocks lay hidden), and capped by a layer of sandstone (from which, I hope, building stone can be drawn). I’m not all that clear on where the shifts between the layers are, and I suppose there is no reason to believe that is even rather than undulating or distinct rather than amorphous, but I digress.

The fossil above is part of a larger rock, so I can’t collect it and carry it about in my pocket as I might wish, so I’ll just collect it in my Roundrock photo album, which I’ve been sharing with you find folks for nearly two years now.

Missouri calendar:

  • Canada geese begin nesting.
  • Young river otters are in dens near lakes and streams.

Lucky locks lately lost

Friday, September 22nd, 2006

Recent troubles in the land of Florida brought to mind a past security situation we had at Roundrock.

Roundrock, I’m sure you understand, is an 80+ acre parcel of land on a former cattle ranch. There are many other parcels that had been carved out of the ranchland. Some are smaller than Roundrock; many are much larger. We all share the same road leading into the center of the former ranch, and some of us then divert on easement roads to get to our respective properties. (Actually, the common road is an easement as well, but let’s not split hairs. I don’t think any lawyers read this blog. Not even my sister!)

Well, some years ago we had a small problem with vandals coming in and setting fires. It turned out to be some local youths having their particular idea of a good time (not some malicious evil doer with darker intent), and the malefactors were caught and dealt with. But one of our landowners, who is generally in charge of organizing the rest of us out of our lethargy (for things like getting the common road spread with a new layer of gravel every few years) thought we should have a locked gate along the common road to keep out interlopers. All of us beyond the gate would benefit from its security, yet we could pass through it since we knew the combination to the lock.

There is one point in the main valley where a gate from the glory days of the ranching empire had once stood. The gate was still there on the post, pushed back against the fence and nearly lost in the scrub and grass that had grown up through it. But our organizer, let’s call him Ron, was undaunted and soon had the gate swinging freely. For several months a note and many loose short lengths of chain hung in a plastic bag beside the gate post. We were each told to get ourselves a sturdy, weather-worthy lock to slip through the last link of the chain, adding another short length of chain beyond our lock. Eventually, it was understood, when all of the property owners beyond the gate had had the chance to add a lock, the gate would be closed and the chain put to use to keep it locked. Then as we came and went, we could simply open our own lock on this daisy chain, open the gate, and then close and lock the gate behind us.

The plan worked more or less just like that. In the months before the gate was locked, we put two locks on the daisy chain: one combination and one key lock. I can’t speak for the other landowers, but generally, when Libby and I were out at Roundrock just for the day, we would open the gate when we arrived and then leave it open all day. Only when we left would we close and lock it behind us. We figured that any other landowner who came during the day would appreciate finding the gate already open, and should he or she stay after we had closed it, he or she could still get through, knowing the combination of one of the locks. (And if someone who shouldn’t be there happened to be on the wrong side of the gate after it was locked, well, that would be a lesson, wouldn’t it?) I think there was only one time when we were leaving the gate open for the day that we came to it at the end of the day to find it locked.

This arrangement seemed to work fine, though I did hear some grousing from the person who had to get out of my truck to unlock and open the gate each time we arrived.

But then something changed. I’m not sure why it happened or who was responsible, but the gate was moved. The gate was taken off of the post where it had hung for decades, and a new post was set up on the common road nearer the paved road. This idea would greatly increase the number of landowners who would benefit from the security of the gate, but sometimes it’s best not to mess with a working solution.

The problem was not with the new location of the gate but with the hanging of it. There was no post in this new spot. In its stead was one of those wire baskets filled with our plentiful Ozark crop: rocks. Into this was slipped a length of wood, and into this wood were screwed the gate’s hinge pins. The plan was to hang the gate on these pins and then chain the gate closed to the second wire basket full of rocks on the other side of the common road.

Apparently there is an art to hanging a gate properly. This gate never worked. If the pins were pointing up, any interloper could simply lift the gate off its pins and speed on past. (I think even resourceful cattle could work out this solution.) So the bottom pin had to point up and the top pin had to point down, but the holes that had been drilled into the wood to hold the pin hadn’t taking this into account. And the assembly of the basket was difficult enuf to prevent anyone from going to the trouble of removing the length of wood to replace it with one with properly spaced hinge pin holes.

So the moved gate now hangs at an odd angle from its makeshift post, resting on some rocks and parallel to the road. We speed past it when we arrive, and I suppose any interlopers do as well, though we haven’t had any troubles recently. (Apparently those hunting interlopers I had some months ago are actually landowners beyond the gate. They just don’t hunt their own land.)

As for the chain of locks, I haven’t seen that in years. I suppose someone has it, ready to re-attach it when the gate is finally fixed. I still carry the key for one of my locks on the ring in my pocket and a spare key for it in the catch-all compartment between the seats of the truck. Some day when Libby and I arrive at Roundrock we will find the gate closed and locked and I’ll be glad I have that key since I’ve forgotten the combination to the other lock.

Missouri calendar:

  • First day of all/autumnal equinox: day and night are equal in length.

9.5.1999 – In the Secret Forest

Tuesday, September 5th, 2006


Nope, that’s not a mistake in the title of this post, Gentle Reader. In the days before I kept this blog, I used to keep a hand-written journal on something called paper. I have several dozen spiral notebooks of old journals, and though they tend to be disappointing when I go back and read what seemed important to me at the time, I’m never disappointed when I read the accounts I kept of our visits to our woods.

On September 5, 1999, Libby and I made our first trip as actual landowners to the woods we now call Roundrock. We had visited the land once before with the realtor, but this time we were landed folk.

The first surprise I came upon when I returned to this journal entry was that we had originally given a different name to our land. It was to be called the Secret Forest. It was a secret because we already owned the land we call Fallen Timbers, and we didn’t want our kids to know we’d spent more money on land when we could have spent it on them.

I’m amazed at how much has changed since we first started going to Roundrock. The four-lane highway we enjoy for the first 99 miles of our drive was not completed back then, and the last forty miles or so were on old two-lane roads. It’s hard to recall that now.

Our first task on this visit was to make our presence known. The road across my neighbor’s meadow leading to our property held a string of wooden survey stakes marking our easement. In a rare moment of foresight, I thought these should be replaced with steel fence posts, so we paused beside each of these to pound the steel into the pliant soil of the meadow. (In a subsequent year, a ground fire consumed most of the wooden stakes.)

Then — and it seems amazing now — we parked the truck at the treeline where our property actually begins and prepared to hike in. Today we can drive straight into our trees and on all the way to the lake and pecan plantation, but then, there was no road and no idea of where one might go.

Our destination for the day was the same as it was for many subsequent visits: the pond. This was our first body of water, and it was a novelty to us. The idea was to cut a permanent trail from our “entrance” to the pond, and had I thought to bring enuf water for all of us (we had two dogs along as well: Max and Whimsey), we might have done so. We did spend several hours cutting a trail to the pond, but when we tried to retrace our steps — on the trail we had just cut — we couldn’t find our way. We’d come across an occasional branch that we had cut only an hour before, but nothing like a trail appeared before our feet.

We managed to find our way back to the truck, still parked in our neighbor’s meadow, and there we found an old bottle of water under the seat that we shared four ways. I had also brought along a number of private property signs that I had nailed to several trees along what we took to be our property line. I think I came close, though one of those trees has since fallen, and I don’t recall what became of the sign that was on it.

It seems that I tried to soak in as much detail as I could then. It was all new to me then, and now it seems second nature to pay attention to the weather report, note the temperature, and even know that it is easier to saw through a cedar branch than an oak branch.

But we were in love with Roundrock, though we didn’t know that was its name at the time. I’m having a good time going through my old journals looking for these posts, so you may see more recountings in the future.

Missouri calendar:

  • Freshwater jellyfish may be abundant in reservoirs.

Common as Crinoids

Monday, April 24th, 2006


There is nothing special about a rock full of crinoid fossils except that I find it very cool, and since this is my blog, I get to declare such things. Maybe it has to do with the fact that crinoid segments were the first real fossils I had found on my own as a pup. Even then I knew instantly that I was gazing across millions of years to a world unlike my own.

These crinoids are also in a world unlike my own — or they would be if the lake held its water. The rocks most abundant with the fossils are down in the bottom of the lakebed, and in a perfect world, they would be under ten feet of water. In a sense, then, these critters would be at home. Crinoids were a marine animal — not a plant though their growth habit and appearance would suggest that — that flourished in the Mississipian period hundreds of millions of years ago when the limestone that underlies Roundrock was laid down. Crinoids were thriving in this part of the world long before the meteor struck nearby. Their relatives are alive today in the form of sea stars, sea urchins, and the like. One geologist I met said that if he could travel through time he would not want to see the dinosaurs but rather would like to have a nice scuba set with him so he could prowl the warm-water seas and look at the colorful and diverse underwater life that flourished in this era.

Just like the round rocks, these crinoid segments call out to be collected. Perhaps I could accumulate enuf of these to put on a string and adorn the neck of my love.

Missouri Calendar:

  • Cedar apple rust appears.
  • Coyotes bear young through May.

Fossil Frustration

Monday, March 20th, 2006


Lacking the research skills and the patience to look for this on my own, I plead with both of my readers to help me determine what kind of fossil this is: animal or vegetable? A far greater mind than mine recently hosted a Fossil Week on her justly famous blog, so I’m hoping she’ll accidently click on a link to my blog and be intrigued before she has the chance to hit her back button.

I found this thumb-sized fossil (above and below) on our most recent trip to Roundrock. It was sitting in loose gravel below a bit of the broken ledge on what would be the waterline of the lake if it were full. It was the only stone of its kind there, but I intend to return and explore. At first I thought it was the top of a mushroom, and then I figured it must be a bit of wood. But a whole fossil like this surprised me.

I confess that my paleontology knowledge is lacking. I have no idea how to identify this, and though I’ve visited a number of online resources containing several handy researching tools, I’ve not had the luck (or patience) to nail it down. The idea that what I’ve found is a first-of-its-kind discovery has a certain appeal, but I’m willing to be disappointed if someone can give me at least the start of an explanation of what this is.

The ledge this came from is full of fossils of sea creatures (shellfish, crinoids) from the past. This makes sense since this area was under an inland sea hundreds of millions of years ago. Thus I suspect this fossil was from some sort of sea creature. The second photo is an out-of-focus, top-down view, but you can see how the ribbing continues on the top. Seems stem-like to me.

The rock below is not from my Ozarks woods. My son brought it home to me from college one day. He’d found it among the gravel of parking pad behind the house where he was living in his college town. It is made of sandstone, and I am tempted to say that it is a fossilized egg. I showed it to two geologists (though not paleontologists) and they quickly dismissed my fossil fantasy. It is the same size as the fossil in the top two photos. I doubt that I’ll ever get any kind of definitive answer about this one, but when you come to visit me at Roundrock, it will be with all of the other things on the curiosity shelf, and we can speculate together what it might be.

Programming Note: I’ve recently added two blogs to my blogroll at right. Edifice Rex is a new blog that I came to via the queen of all blogs: Rurality. This woman is living my dream by building her rural house. She’s also talented, so there’s that to envy as well.

A second blog I am enjoying is Ranch Ramblins, which I’ve included in my Missouri blogroll. This is not quite accurate since the ranch is is Arkansas (a place I’ve confirmed actually exists), but he is only a few miles south of the Missouri border, and his tone is very Ozarkian. Anyway, I’m enjoying these blogs, and I hope you will give them a visit to see if you might enjoy them as well.

The ongoing Blogger crisis leads me to note that I am not ignoring my Blogger friends. When I visit many of your sites, I often find myself at one of your past posts (as though you haven’t posted anything new in the last week). Sometimes I can get around this blockade by clicking on your current month archive to refresh whatever it is that is goofed, but this doesn’t always work. Anyway, if it seems to you that I’m not leaving comments, it may be that I’m actually not seeing your more recent posts

Finally, my spam blocker has thwarted nearly 3,000 comments in the two weeks I have had it. The spam is slowly changing over time. I still get plenty of invitations to buy this or that drug, but the porn solicitations are dropping away, and some dental office somewhere seems to be letting up on the hammering.

Old Tree Stand

Friday, March 3rd, 2006

old stand.JPG

Not much is left of this old tree stand — even less than when I first came upon it many years ago. This is in the same part of the forest at Fallen Timbers as I wrote about here. Much of this old wooden construct has rotted and fallen to the ground, as you can see in the photo below. I remember it being a much more elaborate arrangement in my first encounter.

Of course, when I first became lord of Fallen Timbers, I was going to let the world know that there was a new boss on the ground. My intent was to pull this stand down to show any hunters that they wouldn’t be using this particular set up any longer.

I began my demolition foolishly, of course. I grabbed the bottom run of the ladder that was nailed to the tree trunk and yanked it free. As soon as I did that I realized that my approach was exactly backward. If I’d continued in this manner, I would have reached the point where the bulk of the stand would still be up in the tree, but I would have no means to reach it to knock it all down.

I decided to postpone my housecleaning until a later visit when I could bring a couple of tools (and perhaps a wiry son I could persuade to go up the tree). But this part of our forest is a bit remote, and it was a while before my feet lead me here again. When they did, I’d forgotten my plan of tools and labor. So the job was postponed a second time.

Years have passed. The weather has done most of my demo work, and as rickety as the stand has proven to be, it was unlikely that anyone was ever going to use it anyway. My lordly manner has mellowed. And the tree looks likely to fall soon as well. So why worry?

Ridgetop Ring

Saturday, February 18th, 2006

fire ring.JPG

This is the main camp at Fallen Timbers. What you see emerging from the leaf litter is the original fire ring we built when we first started coming here. There is a nice log-cabin fire laid within the ring, just waiting for a friendly match to get things going. The logs have been waiting there for years, though, and if I did light them, they would probably evaporate in the flames quickly since they are so dry and rotted.

We have had campfires here, and we’ve cooked foil dinners and ‘smores here. The family has gathered round this fire several times, and once I had a pack of Boy Scouts camp and cook around this ring.

As far as I can tell, this was the main operating area for the logging crew that had worked this part of the forest some years before we purchased the land. I surmise this from all of the trash they had left behind. The old ridge road runs from left to right directly behind where I stood when I took this picture. A worn cattle trail is just down the hill from this ring. Through the decades, I suppose this had been a relatively busy section of the Ozark woods. Now, though, a better road has been cut to the south and all of the property has changed hands enuf times to steer the old timers to other places for this or that.

Unfortunately, this has proven to be a less-than-ideal location for a fire ring. As I said, it is on the ridgetop, and wind courses over this area much of the year. Fires must be carefully tended here, and without a body of water nearby, we must bring along whatever we will use to quench the embers.

One of my neighbors, perhaps the man to the south who has built a small cabin, seems to visit this ring on occasion. We’ve found a few beer bottles here when we visit. I’m not sure why he would come to our ring when he has a nice one of his own just down the road. And if it isn’t this neighbor, I can’t imagine who would trudge this far into the forest just to sit at a ridgetop fire ring. I don’t really mind. It just makes me wonder.

Post Script: Coincidentally, Hal over at Ranch Ramblins has a post about a recent wildfire he encountered in his Ozark hill country. His ranch is in some placed called “Arkansas” and from what I can tell, that is not in the great state of Missouri.


Sunday, February 12th, 2006

bent tree.JPG

Even I won’t make the claim. You know what I mean.

By the way, I’ve come to call these “sign trees” since the gentle ridicule of an eminent blogger. But I won’t call this a sign tree either. (Or should I? Maybe I should get one of those core drillers and settle the age matter of a few of these beauties once and for all!)

There was a similar much-too-small-and-young bent tree standing over the three-season seep spring at Fallen Timbers. For a while I allowed myself the fantasy that this tree marked a water source for the local Fox and Osage who once coursed over these Ozark hills.

If you take a close look at the photo above, though, you can see something that argues against even this fantasy. Granted, the Ozarks are not as verdant and congested as the wilds of the Sunshine State, but you may be able to see all of the branches of the scrubby growth in the forest around this tree. Now imagine those in full leaf during the spring, summer, and fall. They would obscure any smallish sign tree, and what good would that be? So — big admission — Pablo grants that some bent trees in the forest are produced naturally, without the aid of leather thongs or undergarments of any kind.

Still . . .