July 23, 2020
It had “cooled down” to the mid-90s today so I decided to try my hand at fishing. I had fished Natural Dam once before, but the water was low and other than a couple of bluegills, I had no luck. When I arrived today, I found the previously empty lot half filled with vehicles. I could not believe there were that many people fishing, and I was right. It turned out everyone was there for swimming. There were about fifteen people scattered above the dam, so I walked down stream. The water was low again, and every hole for a half a mile had a family playing in the water. Even the “holes” were only about two feet deep. I did get some strikes and finally hooked a small bass. At least it was a nice walk.
When I worked as an Historian part of what I did was catalog Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) sites for our data base. That meant I spent time reading about the different locations, checking to see what was left, and documenting how well they were preserved. Since these sites were on my radar, I was surprised to find a cement slab with a hole in the middle on the family farm. It seems granddad had been targeted to receive one of the new outhouses the CCC was digging in rural Kansas. When I asked, my father recalled how mad granddad got when they built it. He had asked them to use the old wood pile (he never threw anything away, just in case), but they had used his new wood instead. They were trying to make it look better, and he knew it was just an outhouse.
Since it was still early afternoon, I took a left on the way home to see if I could find more river. The sign said Lee River (a town as well as the river’s name) was only 8 miles. The road wound up and down the steep hills of the Ozark National Forest. I never did see Lee River, but I ended up at Devil’s Den State Park. The site stands as one of the most intact CCC sites in the U.S. An impressive rock dam spans Lee Creek forming the 8-acre Lake Devil. The park’s hiking, backpacking, mountain bike, and horseback riding trails lead to the surrounding Ozark National Forest. You are not allowed to swim in the Lake, but there were about 30 people at the swimming pool. I am glad I got to see the site, even if it was by accident.
THOUGHTS: I could not help but see the irony as I drove the road leading to Devil’s Den. The main task of the CCC was to put America back to work following the Crash and unemployment of the Depression. While recovery did not happen until the industrial ramp up of World War II, a large portion of CCC work dealt with creating infrastructure. There had to be at least six sections of road where the shoulder and a portion of the lane had collapsed down the hill and several more where earlier washouts had temporary patches. Before the pandemic congress tried to pass a bill to fund infrastructure improvements. I guess clean water, bridges and road repair are not as important as politics. Change is coming and it starts with you