Weekly NewsCast

Water temperature: creek arms 72 degrees; main channel 74 degrees

Water clarity: gin clear

Catch ratings by species: black bass, 4; white bass, 5; crappie, 3; catfish, 7


A family affair!

It all started 62 years ago when LB Cook and his son Bill arrived at a place called Theodosia to start a fishing camp to be operated by the Cook family. This was dad's dream, and my mother Pauline was OK with the idea, but looking back, had any of us known what was ahead we would have run the other direction in a hurry. 

Dad was the outdoorsy-type from an early age, even though his father was nothing like that. Dad had friends who taught him to hunt and fish, and it became obvious to all that my Grandad thought it was a waste of time, because it took dad away from the store. The store was Cook Mercantile on 15th and Main in Joplin and had been in business well over 50 years when it was sold in 1951. The store was Dad's work place unless he could sneak out to go hunting or fishing, and he did that often, especially when Grandad was away from the store. 

What you need to understand is my grandfather was 50-years-old when my dad was born and near 80 when I was born, so Dad had plenty of opportunity to tell the help to take over, because my grandmother was in very poor health starting in the 1930s, and she died in 1947.

Now you understand why a fishing camp on a new lake in the Ozarks was Dad's dream, knowing he could fish all the time. The one thing that didn't cross his mind, though, was that somebody had to work. He was smart and could always come up with a plan to achieve his goal, like entertaining newspaper and radio folks. Of course he always had to go along to show them where and how it was done. Mother and my sister Barbara moved from Joplin just before school started, and the next spring the camp was a reality. Barb graduated from Gainesville High School in 1955 and started college at MU in Columbia, so my mother and I became the labor force while Dad did his part promoting the new business. In 1958 Nadine Bushong became Nadine Cook, and our workforce had a new recruit. 

Fast forward 50 years to April 2002, and that's when Dad died and eight days later Mother suffered a massive stroke. So Nadine and I became the seniors in the Cook family. I had a wake-up call at Dad's memorial when I said a few words and stated that I had worked alongside my dad all of my life, and we were together everyday, making Dad's dream a reality. 

In the mid 1980s when Dad was about the age I am now, I started to notice something was wrong when he was working his shifts at the marina. He was quick to argue with customers, and he became harder to work with the older he got, unlike his carefree attitude of the past. 

Our family now includes our three kids and their spouses, who had helped out around the resort during their school years, but after marriage they all moved away. Our daughter Becky and her husband James Wilson worked in the grocery business away. Our son Ben lived in Springfield and worked at Bass Pro, where his wife Angie King Cook was a cosmetologist. Our son Bret and his wife Melanie Eacret Cook had moved to Oklahoma where Bret worked in the glass business and Mel worked in a nursing home. I knew I had to make a change, and my first call was to Ben, our oldest son, to offer him a job at the resort. He said he and Angie were doing OK and would stay in Springfield for the time being. My next call was to Bret and Mel, and with that call I didn't have to ask twice. They packed up and were on their way.

Bret became our fishing expert and won some tournaments, but his main job was maintenance around the resort, and after we switched from steel and foam docks, he was our contractor in charge of building.

In 1988 Ben and Angie returned so Ben could help me with boat sales and take over our service department. Nadine and I thought we could make this family thing work, so we bought the supermarket in town and  moved Becky and James back from Arkansas to run it. Midway through our 25 years at Cash Saver, we had to make a change at the market and Nadine took the reigns. It's still going strong with the help of Ben's second wife Vikki, who is the manager now at the market. Family business is tough, and most don't make it!

P.S: The Memorial holiday weekend was about perfect in regard to weather here at the lake. In spite of rain all around, we stayed dry. The lake level is new its new normal level of 659 feet above sea level and holding for now. Make plans to join up for the fireworks on Saturday, June 28. 

Weekly NewsCast

Water temperature: creek arms, 76 degrees; main channel, 74degrees

Water clarity: gin clear

catch ratings by species:

Black bass, 5; white bass, 3

Crappie, 2: Catfish, 4



The Strange Life Around the Resort

In the early 1950's my main job was washing boats and helping customers with their tackle and in most cases their outboards. This was when the Theodosia boat dock consisted of a small office dock, a main dock plus a slip dock on either side of the office dock where we stored some of our more than 50 14 foot Loan Star aluminum retail boats. All of the docks combined could only hold about 40 boats so that left nearly 20 which we stored on shore until they were needed and that was every weekend in the Spring and early summer so every Friday starting in mid to late March through early June we would turn the stored boats over and carry them to the water, float them to the dock and tie them in front of the slip docks ready for the rush early Saturday morning.

It seemed to me that it always rained while the boats were tied up in the open and it was my job to bail them out when that happened so I was always looking for empty bleach jugs to use as a dipper because you could cut out the bottom and one side leaving the handle and you had the perfect tool to bail with. I was paid 10 cents per boat to clean them after each rental but it didn't take me long to learn that carrying the customers motors paid a lot more than that in tips and a dollar each trip was not unusual. In those days fishing guides were paid $10 a day an on a good weekend I could make $25 to $30 but I'm talking about outboards weighing 50 to 80 pounds each so it was a real job.

Most of our customers were from St. Louis and would drive ll night to be waiting at the dock well before daylight Saturday morning to rent a boat so our day started before 6am and would end well after dark. Our clientele was a cross section of humanity from corporate heads to carpenters and everything in between including radio and newspaper celebrities. Bull Shoals was the hot new lake and fishing was so good we had no idea it couldn't last forever so all that was required was open the doors and business was there.

One of the strangest things I saw was a customer who drove up in a new pink Pontiac convertible on a cool morning in the Spring with the top down. I helped him with his motor and commented it was a little cool to drive al the way from St. Louis with the top down and he informed me he put it down shortly after buying it and never planned to put it up again. I asked him about the rain and he raised the floor mat to show me where he had drilled holes in the floor for the water to drain out.

Another good customer was a railroad employee who would come 2 to 3 times each year and stay a week each time with his lady friend who was a married lady but not to him. He came after the Spring rush and trotline fishing was his thing but his part was only baiting the trotline then paying some of the young guys who worked at the dock (me included) to run the line each morning. He then went back to the cottage they rented from us to have cocktails and we wouldn't see them again until the next afternoon when they came to the dock to clean the fish taken off the trotline that morning and bait it for the night.

Another customer was a window washer from Chicago who would bring his pop-up camper and stay 2 weeks each summer mostly to get away from Chicago and his job. What we knew him best for was his stories about his window washing job that he hated but was all paid for and couldn't give up and shortly after his arrival he would start drinking and stop only when i twas time to sober up and go home. He was the only window washer on his building and I don't remember how many stories it was but it took him about 6 months to wash all the windows and then start all over again and it was very monotonous except on the top floor where there were condos and in one condo was a young lady who liked to be seen as he would say and with more details but not in this newscast and he said that condo had the cleanest window in the entire building. The best advice I ever got was what I thought was a joke many years ago from a customer who was a doctor and I saw maybe once a year the most recent being about 5 years ago when he told me the same thing and that was keep your bowls open and your mouth shut. 

PS: Don't miss customer appreciation day at Cash Saver Pantry uptown donations for fireworks accepted. 

Weekly NewsCast

Water temperature: creek arms and main channel, 67 degrees.

Water clarity: gin clear

Catch ratings by species:

Black bass, 7; White bass, 5;

Crappie, 7; Catfish, 4.



Working with your best friend

When you reach a certain age, like I have, you realize that, over your lifetime, you can count your very close friends on one hand. Working around the farm, I really enjoy having a good friend around. The best part about my current friend is that he doesn’t talk much, but we do understand each other quite well. Like most of my close friends in the past, he has four legs and a tail and is always ready to start a new day, no matter the weather. 

Boscoe is a hound-cross, all black, and looks like a labrador. But other than the color, there is nothing lab about him. He doesn’t like the water, and after having several labs over the years, I’ve found that training Boscoe is more like coming to an understanding. Not that I’m saying he’s not the brightest bulb in the room, but most labs are easy to train because they want to do what you want them to do – such as duck hunting, pheasant and quail hunting, or playing with a stick for as long as you can throw it on land or in the water. 

With a hound-cross, I’m still not sure what I’ve wanted him to do. It’s been a five-year process, and there’s not been anything much accomplished other than treeing squirrels, chasing armadillos and sleeping, none of which has required any training from me; he’s known these things from birth. But that’s the real story ... his birth.

One morning in 2007 I stopped to feed cattle, as I do every morning, and I heard puppies crying under one of my concrete feeders, but I couldn’t see them. Nadine is a little shorter and a lot more flexible than me, so she took a look and reported that there were four pups. They were too young to be without a mother, so we got word to all the neighbors and thought someone would claim them.

Several days later, Nadine said there was only one pup, and it was starving. So each day Nadine would bring something from the store and put it under the feeder. The food did its job, and the pup grew to the point that it had to move to a better hiding spot. It found a small hole under the foundation of my machine shed, and it would dig itself more room as it grew. With Nadine’s help, it grew fast. 

Even though we were feeding the dog daily, we never were able to touch it or get close to it. In a couple of months, it moved out into the open and started staying around the cattle, eating the feed they dropped. About this time, we realized she was a female. We did our best to tame her, but nothing worked. Just about the time she was around 1 year old, we saw a neighbor dog come to visit, but nothing happened. So we didn’t think we had anything to worry about, pup-wise. We named her Streak, because that was what you saw if you tried to touch her. 

When she was about 3 years old, Floyd Graham’s Stephens cur hound came to visit, and I thought things would be OK, but a few months later it was obvious she was going to have pups. 

On a late April morning five years ago, when I went to feed the cattle, Streak didn’t show up. So I checked the hay barn and heard pups crying. We got her food pan and a bucket of water and put them at the door of the barn and went off to work. Nadine got home before dark that night and saw Streak moving the pups into the field with the cattle. 

Obviously things weren’t  working well. It was raining, so Nadine got her four-wheeler and tried to gather the pups, as it was obvious they would die if nothing was done. She only found two that night, and early the next morning I found the only male and another female. 

We became the caregivers for the mostly black hound-cross pups. Shortly after we started around-the-clock feeding, the pups developed a skin disease caused by a viral infection. Two of the females died, but, with the around-the-clock care provided by Nadine, one female and the one male survived. Nadine became the only mother they would ever know. Now, five years later, Boscoe and Beebee think they are human, and they are treated as such. 

Weekly NewsCast

Water temperature: creek arms and main channel, 67 degrees

Water clarity: gin clear

Catch ratings by species:

Black bass, 7; White bass, 5;

Crappie, 7; Catfish, 4


Still growing

When you start anything new, your goal is to be successful, but with success it is important to make some decisions as to your goal. This is now the time for those of us involved in the White River Valley Tournament to stop, take a breath and do just that. This all started in 2005 when Chris Hamon asked me what White River could do in the east part of our territory because the west side has more population and makes lots of requests of the co-op to support things such as golf tournaments and many other projects important to its members in the area.

Pat Funk and I talked about what could work in our area, and it was obvious to us with Bull Shoals Lake right at our doorstep, a fishing tournament was our first choice. We held the first tournament in 2005 in the month of April thinking we would hit some good spring fishing. We did, but we also had a cold, wet and windy day our first try.

That year we had about 30 boats entered and thought that was a good start with hopes of reaching 50 boats in the next year or so. The next couple of years our numbers climbed, and we thought we had a winner, but in the late winter of 2008, it started raining and didn't stop. 

I still remember the day, about a month before the 2008 tournament when Cindy Rains came through putting up posters form Branson to Gainesville. We were all working hard moving docks, trying to stay ahead of the rising water, and Cindy was shocked at what she saw. Her first question was where the launching ramp was, and what about parking for all the folks fishing the tournament. I said the ramp is about 25 feet under water, and there is no parking. Cindy already had several prepaid entry fees, and we knew it was time to stop and think about our next move. We both knew what we should do, but this was only our fourth year, and both of us hated to say so. The decision was made to cancel the tournament for that year, and return the prepaid money. We moved the tournament to May hoping for better weather, and all went well for the next two years. 

The year 2011 started out fine until Easter weekend, and it rained a bunch. In fact, it rained almost 20 inches over a very few days, and you guessed it... no tournament that year. 

In 2012, we had 20 or more boats, and we were off and running again. Then in 2013, with the tournament scheduled in May for better weather, we had snow, sleet wind and highs in the forties. Despite the weather we still had 88 boats entered that year, so we hoped for 100 boats this year. We made it with 35 to spare! Once we saw what was about to happen, we had real concerns about parking for that many trucks and trailers, but we give credit where credit is due. These guys know how to unload and move out of the way. A special thanks to Cindy Rains and the entire White River Co-op staff for a great job. 

P.S. - On a personal note, I was very happy when Charlie Campbell accepted my invitation to join us this year and greet a good number of the fishermen who had been students of his at Forsyth High School many years ago and others who only knew him from TV and from being with Bass Pro from the beginning. We had lunch at Cookies before the weigh-in and were joined by Charlie's wife Wanda, Nadine, my oldest son Ben and his wife Vikki.

Ben worked with Charlie at Bass Pro while he was a student at MSU and for a few years after his college days. We were also joined by Mo House, house member Lyle Rowland and past house member Maynard Wallace, who is also my neighbor in Thornfield. Lyle was a student of Charlie's at Forsyth and Maynard was a young teacher and coach. He and Charlie have been friends forever.