Part II, Finding the Rivers, by Marji Smock Stewart: Bagnell Dam MO
Somehow Monroe Smock managed to get the boat from Green River to the little Osage River to the site that was becoming Bagnell Dam and The Lake of the Ozarks. Did he have a skeleton crew with him; another pilot, an engineer and at least two deckhands?
Bagnell Dam construction
The lake was a construction site initially, a beehive of humanity. The building of a dam is an immense project, even the small one later named Bagnell Dam. It was a project of the Union Electric Light and Power Co. (UELPC) in Missouri, cooperatively with the US government. There was an effort in late 1928 to the 1930s to bring electricity to the remote areas of the country. And remote it was.
The area near Eldon, Missouri had been a small army post; complete with accommodations, club house, a small airport and other amenities to attract workers. I recall hearing that even Lindbergh landed there once and Daddy was in the crowd.
Daddy settled first in a tent. The tent was floored with wooden planks and had wooden walls up about 3-4 feet. In the summer it was comfortable but in the winter quite another matter.
How Mother reacted to taking her girls to live in a tent I’ll never know. I do know that wherever Daddy was, Mother wanted to be. And after all, kids are quite adaptable.
It was summer when we arrived. Mother arranged with Zoll Denton (Leora Smock’s husband) to drive us and our tiny bit of furniture to Missouri. Uncle Zoll probably drove non-stop. He stayed a few days and learned a bit about the Ozarks, then he went home on the bus or train.
Tent to “three rooms”
Mother had a lot to do making the tent livable. Daddy worked long hours piloting the Sarah Mac all over that big hole that was to become the lake. The area was quite hilly with sharp rocks, so nobody went barefoot. Betty busied herself just being a quiet helper to her mother. All of us made friends with the few scattered neighbours in tents among the trees. Today, lovely expensive homes are in the area; a prime real estate development.
Before long, we were promoted to the “three rooms” housing. A mansion compared to the tent. A one floor house but built on a hill so the back was two stories with stairs to the sloping rocky back yard.
This was when I learned to paint. I found the small can of expensive green enamel that Mother had bought to paint her second-hand table and chairs. Mother was ill and took a rare nap. So I thought it would be a nice surprise to paint the rough weathered back steps. I thought I did a beautiful job on them. But Mother didn’t appreciate my artistic talents. It took a long time to get the bright enamel off me, and my little dress was ruined. I ended up promising NEVER to paint again!
Worked together, played together
Mother and Daddy slowly became integrated into the group that worked and lived at the lake. That experience was a great equalizer. A small group, probably less than fifty families, was almost like a commune. They worked together and played together. Many nights were spent down on the lake side, having open fires on the rocky beach and toasting marshmallows, or hamburgers or fish over the fires.
Some of the men were engineers or administrators; many were college graduates. Yet others, like my folks, fit in and were accepted because they were just good people who worked hard. It was a magic life compared to the Great Depression the rest of the country was experiencing. This was about 1931.
Lake of the Ozarks
At some point Bagnell Dam was finished and operational. Tourists were drawn to the area for obvious reasons. It was a natural paradise. Daddy piloted one of the excursion boats in the summer as well as being the private pilot for Mr. Eagan, an UELPC executive from St. Louis.
We swam a lot when he had a day off. Both my parents learned to play bridge and loved it. Mother also played once a week with the women. They rotated between different homes. A small white Irish linen card table cloth and napkins are all we have left of those days. Mother longed to have “nice” china and silver like the other women had. Nobody noticed but her. Served with her superb goodies and coffee, who cared?
Five rooms and two cedar trees
We weren’t in the three room house long until we were able to move to the “five rooms”. The company had planted two small cedar trees in the front of each house. Thirty years later, in the early 1960s, Mother, Daddy and I took a trip back. It was a sweet trip but had lost the magnetism of the early years. Thomas Wolfe might have been right; you can’t go home again. Those little cedar trees, however, seemed to reach to the sky.
Then in 1978 I took a brief sabbatical from the University of Kentucky and drove through the lake region. Much of the dam area as we loved it was totally commercial. It looked like a second rate carnival had come to town and stayed. I was glad the folks weren’t with me. Let their memories live on. Those really were glory years for all of us.
Next time: Gladewater, Texas
In 1936 Daddy and Mother decided it was time to pull up stakes again. We moved to East Texas so Daddy could work in the oil fields. A mammoth oil source had been discovered there.
Also see Part I, Monroe Smock, Kentucky
Last week, the Humane Society of the US released its 7th annual list of the 100 worst puppy mills in the USA. For the 7th year, Missouri took first place. From April 17 2011, here’s what I wrote in the St. Thomas Dog Blog about state legislators overturning Proposition B. It was a law providing regulatory standards for one of the biggest industries in Missouri – dog breeding.
Missouri Puppy Mills – Business as usual? (2011)
Proposition B, setting rules for animal care by commercial dog breeders, last week was repealed by the Republican majority Missouri state government. Despite being voted into legislation in the last election, it now will be kept in place only if the Governor vetoes the state legislature action. (Also see my 2016 Prop B)
Breeding puppies for sale doesn’t have to be a cruel business. Many breeders breed dogs responsibly. They don’t breed females in every heat. Nor do they keep dogs in wire-bottomed stacked cages. They assess their breeding stock and use pedigrees to avoid congenital problems. They don’t flood the puppy market just because a movie created demand for a particular type of dog.
There’s nothing wrong with making a living from dogs, whether it’s in training, dog clothes manufacture or breeding. What’s wrong is not treating those animals – your capital investment – properly. What’s wrong is breeding without ensuring to the best of your ability that physical and temperamental problems are not passed on.
Responsible breeders should be able to do their business without harassment. If the animals are treated properly, as living, breathing sentient creatures, regulations about space, exercise, food and water shouldn’t be a burden for them. If providing decent housing and care is a burden, then there’s something wrong with the people’s business operation and ethos.
Several other states were watching to see what happened in Missouri, puppy mill capital of the US. If the repeal of Prop B occurs, you can bet your last puppy that they will be reluctant to introduce legislation designed to improve the lives of breeding dogs.
Also in Canada
Canada has puppy mills too. We have people in the breeding business who do not want government controls. We also have people trying to stop large- and small-scale puppy mills. Our governments are watching Missouri as well.
But there’s more than one way to skin a cat, so to speak. If government won’t regulate dog breeding and puppy mills, we can. Puppy mill operators won’t make money if people stop buying from them. That’s why most pet stores have stopped selling puppies – they come from backyard breeders or puppy mills. If no one buys them, the pet store is stuck with them. Not a position the store wants to be in.
However, letting rescue groups use that cage space to showcase available pets is a good corporate citizen act. It also has other benefits for the pet store. Animals are still there – a big drawing card to bring people in. Adopted pets will need food and supplies – available right there on the shelves. And the animals go back to the rescue group if they’re not adopted. Win-win-win.
Without pet stores, online venues like Kijiji and Craigslist have become the place to sell your “pure-bred” litter of Lab-Husky-onlymomknows pups. Please don’t buy them. Switch Kevin Costner’s Field of Dreams mantra around: if you don’t buy them, they won’t breed them.
Yes, the puppies above are adorable. I hope they don’t end up unwanted in a pound. Both pictures are from Kijiji ads. The one on the left is a “lab/sheppard/collie/husky mix”. Those pups are selling for $200 and $250. On the right are “Boxer/Mastiff” pups selling for $400. Not cheap. Maybe these puppies are the result of one-off ‘accidents’. But if the mothers were spayed there would be no ‘accidents’. The picture at the top is from a Canadian Wheaten Terrier breeder site. They give advice about good and bad breeders (pdf p 11). The middle picture I took myself nearby in SW Ontario. I can see this cage, with rat terriers and many other breeds of pups, every week.
On November 2, 2010, Americans voted in mid-term elections. One of the things voted on in Missouri was Proposition B, proposed legislation that would regulate dog-breeding kennels. It was passed by a small margin of mainly urban votes [update below]. The ASPCA, Humane Society and state- and community-level animal rescue groups supported it.
The American Kennel Club, at the national and state level, opposed it, as did groups representing puppy mill operators in the state. It was also opposed by a Tea Party-affiliated group called Alliance for Truth, who argued that it was an invasion of individual rights by “big government”. They went further, saying it would take away Americans’ right to own pets and farm animals.
Minimum Standards for Dog Care
Minimum standards for food, water, shelter and exercise, rest between breeding cycles and a limit of 50 breeding dogs in a kennel, enforceable by state Department of Agriculture, is all that is included in Prop B. The legislation does not apply to breeders with less than 10 dogs.
It can not, unfortunately, completely close down large-scale breeding operations of dogs for sale. However, it is aimed at puppy mills, commercial operations where breeding is done for profit alone. But it would apply to all dog-breeders, including show dog kennels.
More red tape for all kennels
I read the AKC website to see why they were opposed to Prop B. I understand their fear that legitimate breeders will be penalized by legislation aimed at puppy mills. That might happen; kennels might be inspected more often and some might have their size of operation reduced. It would be good for the dogs, and other breeders, though if “reputable” breeders who do not maintain basic levels of care were made to provide adequate conditions for their animals. It would be unfortunate for the conscientious breeders who work out of love for their dogs and the breed and take good care of both.
There is validity in the AKC’s fear that increased government standards and inspection may cause greater expense and paperwork for breeders who are already working on a slim profit margin. Every small business owner knows that a government inspector coming in the door is never good news for your operating costs.
However, every small business owner knows that someone setting up shop doing what you do and undercutting your prices is also not good for your business. Maybe they figure they’ll take a loss in the short term in order to drive you out of business, maybe they’re using cheaper labour, taking short-cuts, making a shoddier product but selling it to people who care primarily about the cheaper price. Either way, it’s bad news for you. It seems to me that breeding dogs for sale isn’t that much different.
Pups for quality or pups for cash
Reputable breeders show their dogs in competition in order to raise the prestige of their dogs and their kennel. That takes time and money. They breed discriminately, checking for genetic problems and researching blood lines in order to raise the quality of their dogs and the breed as a whole. Time and money.
Good breeders do not breed females in their first heat or every heat thereafter. That means “downtime” where the dogs cost the same in food and care, but aren’t generating money in pups. Antenatal and postnatal care – special foods, vet costs, shots. Lots of money. Finding the right home for the pups, checking prospective buyers. Time. Taking back the pup or grown dog if things don’t work out. Time and money. (And reputable breeders make it a condition of purchase that the dog will be returned if the new owner cannot keep it.) Also making sure registration with the CKC or AKC is done properly and that “pet stock” pups are not used for breeding. Time, money.
So, say the breeder is you. You sell your pups for $1000 and that’s not making a huge profit. Then, down the road from you, a new kennel opens. They advertise the same kind of pups as yours and charge $800 each. People say, “Why should I pay you $200 more?” Meanwhile, you’ve seen the cages stacked on top of each other with dogs unable to turn around in them. You’ve seen there is no exercise yard. You see an endless supply of puppies going out the door. Immediate sales, no contracts signed, no assessment of buyers, no return of dogs. You’ve got yourself a puppy mill beside you. How are you going to compete?
This is why, in the end, I couldn’t understand the opposition of reputable breeders to Prop B. At the very least, it might remove ‘fly-by-night’ competitors, whether they be puppy mills or accredited breeders who cut too many corners.
Puppy mills are a major industry in Missouri. 40% of all pet store dogs sold in the US come from Missouri. Prop B opponents talked about the economy relying on puppy mills and therefore anything that hurt them would hurt the state. That may be the case.
In the pre-Civil War American South, it was argued that slavery was needed in order to keep the cotton-based economy alive. It was true then, and may be true in Missouri today with puppy mills. But that’s not a reason to keep an inhumane and evil socio-economic system alive. The South survived, Missouri will too.
2016: How’s the “Missouri Solution” doing?
I wrote this post on Nov. 16, 2010 on my St. Thomas Dog Blog. In 2011 the governor repealed Prop B and instead brought in a “Missouri Solution”. It removed most of the teeth of the original legislation. The time limit for puppy mill operators to comply with the changes was extended from one year to five. That therefore took it to 2016. I could find very little about whether there has been any improvement in conditions in Missouri puppy mills now. For more, see Wikipedia’s Puppy Mill (Legislative Response: US) and for details on specific puppy mills, state by state, see Humane Society US “Horrible Hundred” of 2016. There are eleven pages of entries for Missouri.
It’s another election year; the five years for implementation of the Missouri solution have passed. So how’s it worked out for the dogs?