Apr 262017

We’re consolidating our blogs into one platform on Lens & Pen Press (the parent platform if you will) where we will continue to discuss our books–the Beautiful and Enduring Ozarks, the James Fork of the White (coming 2017), Mystery of the Irish Wilderness and See the Ozarks–and many other favorite topics like the Ozarks and water resources. Please join us there!

Damming the Osage blog archive remains available right here! http://www.dammingtheosage.com/the-blog/

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COMING IN 2017: JAMES FORK OF THE WHITE: Transformation of an Ozark River.

Sample pages from this new book can be seen at www.beautifulozarks.com

Our earlier ‘river book,’ DAMMING THE OSAGE, can be seen at www.dammingtheosage.com

Aug 052016

Recently we finished researching the proposed and controversial Army Corps of Engineers County Line Dam for our upcoming book on the James River. This 1970s dam would have created a 14,000 acre multipurpose reservoir on the James, ten miles east of Springfield.  The entire lake would have been in Webster County, but one end of the dam would have been just a few hundred yards from the Greene County line. One of its multi-purposes was to supply the city with water. A combination of landowner ire, environmentalist objections, and a poor benefit/cost ratio killed the project. During the turmoil the city made other plans for future water needs.

A recent Sunday afternoon, we set out to Webster County to survey the countryside that would have been inundated by that project. The upper James is quite an attractive stream but there is virtually no public access. The creeks that flow into it are typically chert-floored, crystal clear Ozarkian streams. Some have access where roads cross them. DSC_2393-v2 blog

On the second bridge up from the James on Panther Creek, we encountered Patrick Mureithi and his family enjoying an afternoon of wading, swimming and hanging out on the gravel bar.  We chatted in the waning light of early evening, learning that Patrick, a native of Kenya, had lived in Springfield for many years and is a quite well known documentary filmmaker and musician. (http://www.patrickmureithi.com ) We told him of our ‘river books’ (Damming the Osage and work-in-progress James Fork of the White).  He told us he had just written and recorded a song named Riverbed. Coincidence? Or merely our good fortune? Riverbed is a haunting, lyrical song with a ukelele accompaniment, recorded  not in a studio, but in a backyard, with amazing clarity. The lyrics seem so appropriate to our Ozarks hills and streams. You can watch it on YouTube:


Hold this firm from evening to morning
Though may tribulation come your way
In the hills is where you’ll find your power
Among the trees and riverbed I say

We agreed that these restorative little creeks are ideal places for family outings. We told him where they could access Panther Creek closer to the James, with a little deeper water. If County Line Dam had been built, both these appealing spots would have been deep under the water of the lake

DSC_2381-v2 blog

You can see sample pages of James Fork of the White on our website www.beautifulozarks.com

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Jul 032016


Flashlight Scene at Camp Yocum, James River, Galena, Mo.
Real Photo postcard. #626 Hall Photo Co.
(Note – by ‘flashlight,’ Hall means he used a flash bulb)

George Hall was among the most talented producers of real photo postcards in American history. His images are not only well composed and well exposed but beautifully developed and printed. Where he acquired his technical proficiency, we don’t know. He was just a natural as far as understanding lighting and how to frame landscapes, architecture and – as in this shot – people. Since there’s a gun in the scene, we’re guessing they may have been out frogging. This was probably taken in the early 1920s.

Tom Yocum ran a fishing camp a couple of miles above Galena on the James River in the early 1900s. He was a renowned float trip guide. Clear into the 1950s, Yocum guided for Jim Owen. He was in a LIFE magazine feature in the 1940s.

Our next book, James Fork of the White: Transformation of an Ozark Watershed, has taken us down some intriguing research paths. One whole chapter is devoted to the legendary Galena-to-Branson float, a highly successful commercial endeavor of the early decades of the 1900s.  You can see sample pages of the book at our website: http://www.beautifulozarks.com

Jun 202016


All Busy in Camp on White River, Real photo postcard, by George E. Hall. 385 Hall Photo Co.

We think this uncommon George Hall postcard shows a portrait of Hall (on the left) holding a very fine postcard camera. Most of his river photographs were of the James River around Galena. But he did obviously make the classic float from Galena on the James to Branson on the White.

We may use this image in our upcoming book on the James River (coming out next year).

This image is reproduced, but not credited to Hall, in a 1920 Ozark Playgrounds Association Annual. The Playgrounds Association was organized in Joplin in 1919, so the issue is either the first or second annual edition they put out. That makes it one of the earliest publications of the tourism cooperative that promoted the region as a vacation destination. Their motto, “Land of a Million Smiles,” was ‘borrowed’ by numerous businesses and civic organizations.

George Hall’s photographs are an invaluable record of life in the Branson-Galena area during the early decades of the 1900s. In an article on the Hall Photo Collection for the Winter 1995 White River Valley Historical Quarterly, historians Linda Myers-Phinney and Lynn Morrow said of Hall: “… photographer George Edward Hall created perhaps the single most important body of historic images documenting the beginnings of southwest Missouri’s commercial tourism.”

Read the full article here: http://thelibrary.org/lochist/periodicals/wrv/v34/n3/w95g.html George hall photo collection