Murray Bishoff: The call of Roaring River

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Thereís something to be said about adversity for providing satisfaction for overcoming an obstacle.

Whatís the fun in climbing a mountain that hardly has an incline? You can float down White River and have the satisfaction of getting from Point A to Point B, but the experience is more satisfying when the rapids are behind you.

Those who go to Roaring River State Park on any day other than the opening of trout season never experience the frenzy or the pageantry of the March 1 ritual. Those who go after sunrise can only imagine the spectacle of shadowy figures navigating in the murky pre-dawn gloom, finding your footing by the flashing headlights of passing vehicles, the faceless forms blending together.

Add to that the frequently biting cold, the multiple layers of clothing and the hilarity of viewing the uninitiated who go down into that valley wearing only a summer jacket, and you have a little closer idea of what the Opening Day experience is like. Taking any of that away robs the adventurer of the adventure.

Outrageously warm weather this week threatens to put the essential Opening Day experience in jeopardy. Fortunately, the National Weather Service is anticipating an overnight low of 45 degrees in Cassville on Feb. 28, which means it ought to be under 40 in the Roaring River valley. Add a snappy wind of 17 miles per hour and it could be downright miserable at the gunshot ó perfect weather for the occasion. Overcoming is all part of the fun.

Opening Day veterans armored in coveralls and stocking caps donít want to overheat. Then again, a trip back to the pickup to strip off an extra sweatshirt is not that different from a trip back to warm up from bone-chilling cold. If you go to fish all day, and some do, throwing back the smallest ones or simply staying just because, it doesnít matter what the weather is.

There are those who plan to catch their limit in the first hour and leave, saying theyíd done Opening Day. There are those who come after sunrise, avoiding the spook show in the dark and the ritual around the fire barrels along the riverbank. Some come with their children to share a triumph over the elements and Natureís finny offspring. Some just come to watch. The show goes on all day.

You donít have to mingle long to figure out why they do it. Watch the faces. Youíll see determination, amazement, frustration, defeat and triumph ó sometimes all within a matter of minutes. In the early going, you mostly see a game face, the fierce competitor. After a while, with a few fish on the line, itís not life and death any more, except for the fish.

Mostly, I suspect, itís the sheer joy of being there that brings people back year after year. The place could be a thousand miles from civilization, for down in the valley, time stands still. Out of sight of the TV cameras and the vehicles, from junkers to the classiest rides, culture disappears, technology vanishes and nature alone dominates the landscape. Everything is much simpler. Can that be the secret, getting away from it all, sharing that experience with a child, the joy of being transported literally to another world, where the cares of life donít matter?

How irresistible. Itís a wonder that people just donít stay, except for the opportunity to return, to escape again, to again walk in Godís garden.

The day of days is coming. The pageant awaits on Wednesday.

Will you heed its call?

Murray Bishoff has served readers of The Monett Times since 1988. He can be reached at, or 417-235-3135.

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