May 6, 2006

Bonnot's Mill Clean-Up: Units of Measurement

by Michael Richmond

On Saturday, May 6th, 2006, Missouri River Relief hosted a river clean-up at Bonnots Mill on the Osage River, approximately two miles from the confluence of the Osage and Missouri Rivers. While this clean-up will not go down as one of our largest of 2006, it will be remembered for the amount of trash the mere 69 Volunteers and Crew were able to pull off the river.

Most of these events are measured by “numbers.” In recapping a clean-up we always refer to these “numbers”, such as the “number” of volunteers, boats used for the event, bags of trash, tires, stoves, refrigerators, the miles of shore we cleaned, and the tonnage of scrap. While this event had its “numbers,” I will remember its success by using a different “unit of measurement”. My unit of measurement will be in “moments.”

The “moments” I refer to are the people, situations, and words that will stay with me for a very long time. These are the true reasons to volunteer for these events. It is enough to simply participate in an event such as this, to know you have done your part to make our natural resources a little cleaner. But the real payback is in these “moments” that one has when they participate in a clean-up from start to finish. Trash is trash, but it is the friendships, hard work amongst strangers --both young and old-- and stories around a campfire, that stay with you for a very long time.

Have you ever seen the pride on a volunteer’s face when they help pull a 150lb. buoy a quarter of a mile, through two-foot thick debris and timber left by high water? What about the look on a small girl’s face when she sits on the floor of the big plate boat and heads off across “Big Muddy” for her first clean-up? The uncertainty often seen in her eyes changes by the time she heads back for lunch. Pride and confidence are now apparent in both her eyes and gait.

It is not uncommon to see a child experience the river for the first time, or find what they consider a “treasure” that they drag back to camp. How could a bowling ball ever be a “treasure,” unless YOU found it on a river bank, and were certain that you had found a CANNON BALL?

Things were clearly in perspective early Saturday morning as we prepared for the day by having our first cup of coffee by the campfire. Not too far from us, two ducks and their ducklings were venturing out across the Osage river for their own training. This sight, seen by just a few, was captured forever, both in our minds and on film. Thanks for preserving the moment Tim Cheney!

Or how about the deliverance of the porta-potty to the sign-in station, with Quartermaster Brady squatting inside to insure it did not tip over. One’s commitment to a clean-up is often not seen in normal terms, but rather in these “moments.”

You should have seen that one foshee** that took flight above the fire, magically weaving through the branches of the giant cottonwood tree, then continuing its glowing flight above the Osage. It then burned out only to have its life gently fall downward like glowing feathers. Who was the pilot of this craft other than the pure spirit of the individual that had folded it?

We must also give thanks to our camp host, Soda Popp. Soda has lived on the banks of the Osage for the past 25 years. He is a local sportsman and environmentalist that, as you guessed, has a sister, Lolly. His stories, told in the boats and by the campfire, were priceless and gave us many “moments” to remember.

It makes no difference to anyone on our crew, or among volunteers, what one does for a living. Out on the river, we are all the same and thus, these “moments” have no boundaries or restrictions as to who can have them.

Next time you get an opportunity to participate in a Missouri River Relief clean-up, plan on camping alongside the river with us, and creating your own “moments.”

Oh, by the way, we collected approximately 118 bags of trash, 1 refrigerator, 1 capsized and abandoned fiberglass boat, 22 large chunks of Styrofoam from boat docks, 49 tires and 2 navigation buoys. And one bowling ball who always wished he had been shot out of a cannon.

See you at the next clean-up!!!

**Editor’s note: “What is a ‘foshee’” you ask? I’ve heard it called “Ozark Origami” & “Hillbilly Fireworks” and I’ve seen it spelled at least four different ways, but if you need more information than that, I reckon you’ll have to keep watching this “River Notes” space for “The Mystical Secrets of the Foshi Revealed (Or Not)”.

And for you number-crunchers and list-perusers in the crowd.......

Volunteers: 69
River Miles: 10
Tons of Trash/Debris: 3.5 tons
Number of boats: 6 (3 Missouri Dept. of Conservation, 3 Missouri River Relief)

Trash List): 115 large red bags of trash * 3 green mesh bags of trash * 49 tires * 1 50-gallon drum of flammable goo * 1 entire toilet, Charmin not included * 1 set of metal stairs * 1 metal step (a gangplank??) * 1 boat trailer jack * 1 ATV axle with 1 wheel still attached * 1 rear portion (approx. 37 percent) of a Big Wheel that suffered the wrath of a daredevil child * 1 half of a drum filled with styrofoam * 1 extremely racey message in a bottle * 1 mundane message in a bottle * 1 enormous plastic flower pot * 2 metal buckets * 3 plastic buckets * 1 plastic mat * 22 large chunks of styrofoam from boat docks * 3 coolers * 1 water heater * 2 metal tanks * 5 plastic barrels * 1 small refrigerator * 2 red buoys * 1 bundle of large-gauge wire * 1 boat chair * 1 metal pipe * 1 faulty blow-up raft * 1 bundle of electric cord * 1 LARGE boat, capsized and abandoned * 1 bowling ball dreaming of that wonderous tournament back in '73 * 1 plastic pirate sword, still useful for scaring away landlubbers * 1 large refrigerator