I have had a love affair with Ozark streams for 75 years.
My first float on an Ozark stream — at least the first one I can remember — was in the summer of 1945. I was almost five years old at the time.
Despite the passage of time, my memories of that trip and the many other trips we took on the Current River when I was a kid are still clear in my mind.
My parents, my brother and I routinely stayed at the Alton Club, a corporate retreat owned by Alton Box Board Company on the north bank of the Current River between Pulltite Spring and Round Spring in Shannon County, Missouri.
During the 1940s and 1950s, we floated that stretch of the Current River often.
In those days, the Alton Club provided wooden “jon” boats for its guests — boats that were big enough to hold a guide or paddler in the rear of the boat plus three adults, a kid or two, and coolers, inner tubes, towels and life preservers.
The routine was to float after lunch from either a put-in a half-mile above Pulltite Spring down to the Alton Club, or to float from the Alton Club down to the Highway 19 Bridge on the Current River.
We usually floated in the afternoons because we obviously did not have air conditioning at the club and this was a great way to cool off in the heat of the day.
As best I can recall, there were hardly any other boats on the river so we usually had it all to ourselves.
We did share the river, however, with families who lived along the river and with an occasional cow; in those days, there was open range in that part of the Ozarks.
The cows, as I recall, all wore — you guessed it — cow bells as they roamed the hills and valleys along the river.
My first visit to Pulltite Spring was particularly memorable. Back then, Pulltite Spring was privately owned but as I understand it, the Alton Club had permission to walk up the spring branch to the cabin and the spring.
I remember that the cabin had windows and was actively used as a retreat by the folks who owned it, although it seemed as though they were never there when we were.
The spring, cabin and surroundings looked so magical and lush in those days that it seemed like a dream.
But it wasn’t just the setting that made Pulltite Spring so memorable for me on that first trip.
As we were walking up the branch toward the spring, I decided, as a typical four-year old, to strike out on my own so I waded across the branch to the other side.
When I got to the other side and was still standing in the water, I saw my first rattlesnake. It was a pygmy rattlesnake, coiled and looking at me from a distance of three feet.
I do not recall that it was rattling. If it was rattling, I probably would not have heard it over the sounds of the rushing water anyway, but for whatever reason, things did not seem quite right so I backed away from the snake and crossed back across the stream without attempting to pick it up.
About a half-mile below Pulltite Spring, where Boyd’s Creek empties into the Current River from the west, there used to be a railroad trestle that spanned the river at that point.
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