August 16, 2007

Life and Times of a Vagabond Refrigerator

Mouth of the Osage River Clean-up
July 28
text by Steve Schnarr, photos by Jen Courtney
Earlier in this blog I mentioned a very interesting piece of trash...a refrigerator that travelled this spring all the way from St. Joseph, MO, to very near the mouth of the Osage River.

At our July 28 clean-up, we finally got the thing off the river!!!

Here's the story...

Last summer, Missouri River Relief engaged in a very interesting journey. We mapped trash on the Missouri River all the way from Ponca State Park, NE, to the Mississippi River - 754 miles on both banks. We called it the MegaScout. (see our MegaScout blog for more stories:

Each river mile was given a 0-5 "trashiness" rating. Dumps, appliances, massive accumulations and large trash items were GPS-ed and photographed if possible. Large floatable objects (refrigerators, hot water heaters, 55 gallon barrels, etc.) were "tagged" - we spray-painted the river mile, date and our initials ("MRR") on the side.

This would give us the chance to know, when we pulled these things out of the river, that it was something we saw on the MegaScout AND just how far it had travelled in the interim.

When I was scouting with Soda Popp before the Bonnots Mill clean-up, we spotted one of these refrigerators in a rack pile of driftwood. It was "tagged" with the rivermile 460, from Mill Creek Bend just above St. Joseph, MO. It had travelled 326 miles during the spring flood!!!

We knew we absolutely had to get that thing out of there at the clean-up.

It wasn't easy!

Here's a photo journal of this crazy, vagabond refrigerator:

1. Melanie Cheney "tags" it up above St. Joseph in July, 2006, at river mile 460.

2. Soda Popp takes a picture of it with his cell phone in June, 2007, at river mile 134.

3. Clean-up volunteers use a log to lift the refrigerator up so Troy Gordon can attach a come-along.

4. Using two come-alongs and a chain, Tim Nigh lifts the fridge out of the rack pile as Big Muddy Wildlife Refuge Ranger Tim Haller looks on.

5. They roll it onto the boat, then haul it to shore.

The MegaScout project was turned into an interactive GIS map of the river by our GIS Specialist Dan Belshe. The "first draft" of the project is available in two forms:
1. MegaScout 1.1 - An Arc Reader version of the map. Includes the free software necessary to read the maps, it is a "read-only" document. It doesn't include aerial photos. On a single-layer DVD.
2. MegaScout 2.0 - An ArcInfo map dataset. Includes all of the MegaScout data along with aerial photos, a shapefile of the Missouri River, dike files, public land files, streamdata, roads and more. On a double-layer DVD, it requires that the user has ArcGIS software.

If you are interested in either of these products, contact Missouri River Relief at 573.443.0292 or

Anatomy of a trash get

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

Photos by Jen Courtney and Lindsay Tempinson
Text by Steve Schnarr

Coast Guard navigation buoys are a common trash item to find on Missouri River clean-ups. The buoys are used to mark the navigation channel for barges. As you boat
downstream, red buoys are on your left, green buoys on your right. As river levels come up and down, bringing rafts of drift along with them, buoys become unmoored and float downstream until they catch up on shore or in drift piles.

They are extremely heavy and a super pain to get out of there. Most scrappers won't take them, because they're filled with cyanide foam. The Coast Guard used to offer bounties for them, but now they won't even take them for free. We've decided, rather than leave them on the river, to pull them out anyway and stick them in a landfill.

At the July 28 clean-up at Bonnots Mill, we had a crew of diehards working a driftpile several miles up the Missouri. Watching their creativity and sweat in getting this buoy out of there is pretty impressive stuff:

1. Members of Friends of Big Muddy and the Sierra Club tie ropes to the buoy to pull it free of the drift pile.

2. It finally comes loose!

3. They then drag and carry it to the boat to haul to shore.

4. W.T. (his first clean-up) heaves the buoy up onto the bow of the boat.

5. It take four people to safely move the buoy into MDC bobcat driver Charlie Nelson's bucket.

6. John Brady and Troy Gordon chain the buoy down before Charlie hauls it away.


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!

August 2, 2007

In Memory of Beanie

A Heckuva River Dog
by John Breyfogle, photo by Tim Cheney
This weekend, our River Relief mascot, Beanie the river dog, went to his last clean-up at the mouth of the Osage River near Bonnots Mill, MO. Beanie's been all over the state, the most loyal dog ever. On Tuesday evening, he passed away. His fishing partner, John Breyfogle, wrote this little piece about his friend:

In Memory

Beanie passed away at the Animal Emergency Center on August 31st from complications of pancreatitis. He was 13 years old. He will be remembered most as our beloved River Relief Mascot, perched on the bow of a boat — ears waving in the wind.

He was an official volunteer for Stream Team 1876 — “Alligator Cove” and retrieved about 100 pounds of “floaters”during his career — styrafoam, plastic, and glass bottles and many tennis balls. His eyesight was uncanny, both at day and at night. He once formed his own little pile of trash on the river bank.

Beanie retired from retrieving trash in 2005 because of Arthritis and weak hips. We were on the river bank one day and he just sat there — looking over the water. His expression was — “I quit”, and it was both funny and sad. He continued to wade in the river but never swam again.
Because he couldn’t swim, I felt it was only appropriate to make him a River Relief Search and Rescue T-shirt.

Beanie loved to camp, fish and boat. He was able to retrieve a hooked fish on a line underwater in the murky Missouri River. It was the most incredible thing I’d ever seen. He never got tangled in the line and never got “poked”by a catfish. Once the fish was in his mouth it became motionless — another mystery. I remember hooking a 7 pound Carp and the major battle that took place. It was difficult for Beanie’s mouth to fit around the big fish. There was much thrashing and splashing and soon the cove was all muddied-up. He never quit though, until the fish was on the bank. With great effort he carried the fish up the steps from the river, placed it in the shade and laid next to it with the widest grin I’d ever seen.

I never told many people about Beanie’s fishing, in fear that he might be stolen.

Beanie was featured on a Hallmark card in his younger years, in the pet section of the major stores. He was paid $200.00 for 5 hours of work. I kept $!99.00 and gave him 1 dollar. He was happy. He saw me through times of adversity and had the incredible ability to “make everything OK.”

One day we were driving in my old pick-up and he was sitting very close. I wanted more space — so I turned and burped in his ear. He then turned and burped in my ear, a little muffled dog-burp. I began laughing so hard, that he finally moved over.
He touched the lives of hundreds of people he met along Missouri Streams and Rivers. He was quiet, gentle and perceptive, but most of all —
he was just Beanie.....

God bless my fishing buddy.