At the age of five years old, I made a life changing discovery. My dad took me fishing for the first time.

I realized I love the outdoors, more than anything in the world. Someone asked me what I want to do when I grow up and I told them I want to be a marine biologist or something in the conversation field.

The person asked why, so I explained that I love the outdoors, hunting, fishing, and I want to spend my life outdoors, preserving the world around us.

I took the love of the outdoors and joined the Boy Scouts. It taught me how to survive in the wilderness and general subjects such as reading a map and compass, first aid, fire building, and cooking.

I also started going on canoeing trips with my uncle, floating on rivers not too far from where I live. I never could have imagined the scenery along some of Missouri’s rivers. nolan-photo

Bluffs tower high over the river with trees miraculously growing outward. A bald eagle soars gracefully above the water following us down the river, keeping a watchful eye over us. Waterfalls pouring over jagged cliffs, draining to the river below.

My uncle leads the Southeast Missouri Smallmouth Bass Alliance and organizes a “river cleanup” every spring. With the help of a state organization in Missouri called the Missouri Stream Team, we get everything from shirts to first aid kits with the Stream Team logo on them.

Many people come to support the cleanup, usually at the Castor River. My uncle assigns four to five people to a leg of the river. That group floats their assigned portion and picks up any trash along the river, stopping periodically to clean up river banks and wooded areas near rivers.

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