Working class act
A natural disaster of epic proportions rained over my favorite place on Earth last April. You may not have heard about this flood; perhaps you’ve forgotten it. It was in Missouri. I don’t even think the President tweeted about it. I was on my way out of the state, driving to Arizona, when we hit the storm that would park over the southern Missouri Ozarks after it knocked out power in Oklahoma City and made us drive through wet snow on the high New Mexican desert. We proceeded to the Grand Canyon but the storm settled in over southern Missouri. Water poured over riverbanks, creeks, ditches and dams. It ran off the mountainsides in startling cascades. Cold blue springs, clear-as-glass rivers, trickling rocky creek beds became ugly, brown, and raging. The torrent ripped up centennial trees, scoured chunks of interstate highway, displaced families, obliterated bridges, uprooted communities, washed away historical structures and killed. The land here is so special that much of it is state park, natural area, conservation area, state forest, national forest, national park or designated wild and scenic. Scientific research, canoeing, hiking, conservation, camping, fishing, hunting and their attendant activities coexist. And there are also communities. National disaster designation did not come until June; inundated towns struggled alone and with local volunteers. They are to be commended and respected, and helped. My focus here, however, is on the natural areas. They were devastated. Unrecognizable. Pristine riverbanks were scoured, campgrounds ripped of facilities and buried beneath uprooted trees as if an EF-5 tornado had descended. Tranquil blue green float steams were clogged with the aforementioned trees – as well as washing machines and the sides of barns. So this blog entry is an acknowledgement of work. Muddy, dirty, sweaty work undertaken by local, state and national park service employees – often endeavoring under budget cuts – and the volunteers who have made remarkable progress in restoring the Missouri Ozarks. Much of that we love in our “natural” world now is preserved through hard work; work accomplished on the legislative, even the artistic level, but most importantly through men and women with strong backs and muddy boots-on-the-ground. I wish to thank them from the bottom of my heart.
This is a photograph of some of the National Park Service workers assembled for a hearty round of applause from the crowd gathered at Alley Mill in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways for the June 4, 2017 launch of a
new U.S. Mint quarter. What they had accomplished in the Riverways thus far was heroic. I call this photograph Heroes.