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Mark Twain National Forest

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mark Twain National Forest

My step-father, Paul H. was a Conservation worker for more than 40 years. Our home was a small white house under the Roby Fire Tower in Texas County, Missouri. Mother Nature scattered her beauty there in the Mark Twain National Forest for all to see.

We all had great fun in those days. The tower was open to all who wished to climb the nine flights to the small tower room at the top. It was from there I would peer out over the ever-changing Mark Twain Forest. Fall time transformed the trees into the most beautiful treasures of yellow, gold, and red. My step-dad would say that it was God using his palette to paint his creations.
Not very far from the tower is a place that only the locals knew about – Tan Trough. Our High School Science class made trips there to see the location where the Osage Indians had tanned hides along a creek. It was on private property and permission had to be obtained to go there. Up on the cliffs facing the creek, you could see Indian paintings on the cliff face. By the mid-1970’s, there had been some defacement of the paintings, but it was still very beautiful and fascinating to us. It was there where you could actually touch the stones on which the Indians had stretched their hides for tanning.

Patty Creek was just a few short miles away from the Fire Tower. Along Patty Creek, you could easily follow the rambling walking trails and climb along the many huge boulders and cliffs. My step-dad once showed us a cave there. At the front entrance to the cave, he helped us dig pieces of Osage Indian pottery, which I still have to this day.
There were also many cool , clear springs that bubbled up out of the ground nearby. Forget a swimming pool! We had our own little pools of very cool water that sufficed for a hot summer afternoon retreat. Often, we would pick watercress to clean for our supper salad.

Georgee H. Hash wrote about the early years of living along the Patty Creek area in her book, “Those Hills Still Stand.” Unfortunately, the book was published only twice — the first paid for by Georgee, herself, with all profits going to a charity. It was a harsh life back then, but she described the beauty of the surrounding simple countryside the best . I re-read her book occasionally to remind me of the simple pleasures that can be gained by looking at nature. – Connie Henson Smith

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