August 16, 2007

Back at Soda Popp's

Mouth of the Osage River Clean-up
Bonnots Mill, MO
July 28, 2007

text by Steve Schnarr, photos by Lindsay Tempinson & Jen Courtney
(note: we're a little behind on postings...sorry!)

When we got to Soda Popp’s, Craig Holt had already been there for a day. Soda put him to work, digging a latrine, fashioning a privy out of tarps and t-posts, collecting and stacking firewood.

Craig is an old clean-up regular, although we hadn’t seen him since last year on the Osage. He arrives with his (newly rebuilt) pickup, throws up a tent camp and makes sure we have an overabundance of firewood. Often he shows up a day early to get ready. Like most of this crew, he looks for something that needs to be done and does it.

Soon, the crew began to arrive…boats storming down the Osage to tie up at Soda’s Gas Barge and rigs kicking up monster clouds of dust on God’s Country Road (Soda’s address is 1 God’s Country Road).

The box truck was emptied and the Flying Nun tent erected for a weekend as our collective kitchen. A badminton net was hung and pretty soon dogs were chasing birdies all over under the cottonwoods and pecans.

It rained when we scouted for trash on the river, it rained when Ruthie tried to paint MRR logos on our new lifejackets, and it rained as we gathered for our pre-clean-up pow-wow. Which knocked a few degrees off the temperature at least.

Beanie, our River Relief mascot, a tough old river dog from Alligator Cove, was having a tough time getting around. His fishing partner, John Breyfogle, stayed by his side as he stumbled down the gas barge ramp, getting his foot caught for a few minutes. He soon extracted himself and moved on, with Brey one step ahead or behind.

The crew was a mix of folks new to River Relief and a bunch of diehards. Rusty came back with my old friend Robert. They fried up catfish and boiled corn (Soda, the daily fisherman, snickered when he heard the catfish came from Moser’s). Jeanie and Dee worked up some veggies and we feasted before the rains came back.

We talked through the next day’s mission tucked dry under the Flying Nun. By the time we finished, the rain had stopped and the fire was kicking. We sang a few songs and crashed hard in our tent city along the Osage.
Clean-up morning
From our camp at Soda Popp’s, it’s a short boat ride across the Osage River to Bonnots Mill Ramp, clean-up headquarters. But the drive is about 45 minutes, winding your way out of the river hills, crossing the Osage by the Mari-Osa Delta, and winding your way back down to the beautiful rivertown of Bonnots Mill.

That’s what Racin’ Dave and Joe had to do, working Ol’ Yeller the box truck through the Osage hills.

The rest of us loaded gear, ice water and lifejackets into the boats, pored over the maps, gulped some coffee and cruised across to the ramp just as Dave pulled into view.

Folks from the Mouth of the Osage River area, from Jeff City, Columbia and Mokane, and even St. Charles started rolling in, signing up and getting their safety talks. A couple local boaters came up to get bags and t-shirts. Connie Berhorst, who has a cabin across the river, showed up with her three children Lexie, Tucker and Lanie (who had put 50 fliers up around the area for us).

Tim Haller (Big Muddy Wildlife Refuge) came in with a boatload of volunteers, and Patty Herman (lead technician for USFWS) led a group of biologists and teen volunteers in a couple of science boats. Jared Milligan from MDC came ready to haul folks on the rivers. Jamie Coe and Warren Taylor showed up in Jamie’s pontoon to take our sponsor Pat Jones, an amazing local conservationist, out on the river.

That’s when the thing we all got together to do happened. Folks started hauling trash out of the river and its banks.
If you got worries, just come out and help
Earlier in the week, the Osage River hit the local news. This time it wasn’t record fish or high waters, it was local tragedy. A fisherman pulled anchor near the mouth of the Maries River and caught a glimpse of a human hand before dropping his anchor, shocked. The river was dredged and divers searched, but nothing was found.

There was one mother who was especially interested. Peggy Florence’s daughter, Jasmine Haslag, had been missing for over a month. Peggy called our office before the clean-up, asking us to keep track of any suspicious sightings of personal items.

Just as the last boat took off, Peggy arrived at registration. She explained her situation- a week full of dread mixed with hope on top of a month full of worries - then asked what she could do to help. As the first boat came in, she became the “Tally”, keeping track of the refuse we dragged from the river shores. As she went from stranger to intimately involved, she regained her smile and strut.

The first boatload was a dump from a creek bank just downstream, what Soda referred to as the Bonnots Community Dump. Dumps often contain the most fascinating items, and this was no exception. A rabbit hutch fashioned from chicken wire, 2x4s and roofing tin; some tires; a weight machine. Old magazines, old farm implement pieces and a bunch of scrap metal. Gutters, angle iron and fence posts.

As folks came back, a wonderful handmade lunch was served and folks reclined in the shade.

All told, we cleaned up the point dividing the Osage and Missouri, a monster pile of trash lodged in driftwood upstream (near the historic mouth of the Osage), a bunch of “floater trash” scattered throughout the woods, and stuff washed along the banks of the Osage. Folks that have cabins along the Osage keep things pretty clean, so most of our efforts were on overgrown and public land.

As Charlie Nelson from MDC (a veteran of the first Missouri River Relief clean-up in Easley) hauled the last bucketload of tires to the pile with his bobcat, we crashed in the shade then headed across the Osage for a swim.

Another view of the river:
As we sat down to another wonderful meal put together by Jeanie Kuntz, Dee Kinnard and Krissy Heitcamp, we had a couple surprises. Soda Popp arranged for an MU grad student who had been studying paddlefish on the Osage to come talk about his project. He did a great job fielding all our river rat questions and we all learned a ton about this amazing prehistoric creature and its spawning habits.

We also got a visit from the MR340 canoe race crew, on their way back up river to Kansas City. Scott Manser talked to us about the race and some of the memorable stories from the week. Our own MR340 racer, Jeff Barrow, arrived at camp just then, still reeling from his hot week on the river. Perfect timing!

Special Thanks:
These things would be nowhere near as efficient or memorable without the help of agency boat drivers like Colby Wrasse, Patty Herman, Tim Haller and Chris McLeland of USFWS or Jared Milligan of MDC. Muchas gracias! And a super-duper river rat holler out to our old friend Charlie Nelson for driving the ramp bobcat.

Our thanks to Allied Waste and Galamba Metal for their donations of rolloffs for landfill trash and scrap metal. Jim Salmons came all the way from Fulton to haul off our 53 tires, and gave us a good deal. River Ratz club let us use their water hose.

Missouri Stream Teams, as always, donated first aid kits, t-shirts, gloves and their huge, heavy duty trash bags. Troy and Jeanine Gordon set up a booth for Friends of Big Muddy, and brought their beautiful daughters.

Our board president and “designated adult” John Brady donated $500 for food. Our bellies thank you John.

Pat Jones, who lives just north of Bonnots Mill, up on the prairie border in Callaway County, donated generously to our program, allowing us to purchase a new (used) boat with a mid-Missouri Solid Waste Management District Grant.

Jeanie Kuntz, our head “food angel”, Dee Kinnard, Krissy Heitcamp, Rusty Baker, Robert Riesenmey and Su Sarengense (with her amazing cakes and cookies) kept us well fed all weekend.

Most of all, thanks to Soda Popp, for putting up with our craziness for yet another weekend – and inviting us back! Ask about Mardi Gras beads at his Gas Barge next time you fill up there!


Big Buckin Fabin Boss said...

Thanks for the update! Lexie, Tucker, Lanie and I had a great time (ohh and Grandma Linda too)!

This was such a good opportunity for us to give back to the River that provides our family with so much enjoyment AND a very valuable learning experience (eye opener)for the kids!'re the bomb! If you hadn't shared the flier with us, we would not have had the opportunity to participate in this event.

Thanks to all!

Peggy said...

I'd just like to thank you all for allowing me to help and be apart of something postive. You all were a great group, and I do hope to to get out and met up with you all again.
Bless you
peggy sue looking for jasmine sue