Dora, Missouri May 2,3, & 4, 2010
Entering the Ozark Mountains is something that is hard to describe. The rolling hills, the trees, flowers and Mother Nature are in full bloom this time of year. We drove in from Memphis, heading north to West Plains, MO where we took a beautiful country road, CC Hwy. If you’ve been there, then you know how gorgeous a drive it is. After about an hour, we came upon Hwy 181 and headed south to Dora, MO. At an old country store, we veered off the main road and started on what looked like a driveway. At first, you’re on pavement, but that soon ends and you’re driving the dirt roads of rural Missouri. On April 30, 2010, Dora had suffered a devastating tornado where houses were torn apart and trees everywhere were toppled. The local farmers had banded together and cleared the hundreds of trees from blocking the road. It resembled something like a World War II battlefield. The trees remaining hung over the road like a large umbrella and the light was streaming through like swords from heaven. As we progressed down this one car path, we started seeing signs for River of Life Farms and then, on the left we noticed this structure labeled, “Hillbilly Phone Booth!” Apparently, this is the one and only spot that you are able to get cellular signals. We tried it out and they are right!
Soon, we were heading down a very steep grade and the small signs on the side of the road were announcing the “Tree Top Cabins” that we were going to be staying in. Soon after, we were rounding a sharp left turn at the bottom of the hill and were assaulted by the most beautiful valley I’ve seen in years! River of Life Farms encompasses about 300 acres of the Ozark Mountains and lies right on the North Fork of the White River. A blue ribbon trout river, where the water runs slow and the fish bite hard!!
I was expecting a modest turn out of about 10 Veterans, but was surprised by a gathering of about 150 people, mostly from the local area to show support of our American Troops and injured Veterans. They had decorated a lawnmower to look just like a flying eagle and while driving it around, the wings were flapping in the wind like a patriotic bird. We could hear some blue grass music coming from inside the lodge and got a drift of the familiar smells of bar-b-que and hamburgers. As we approached the crowd, we were greeted with warm smiles, tight handshakes and lots of love. The people of Dora, Missouri are generous, warm and wonderful Christians.
We sat talking for about an hour or so swapping stories and sharing fishing memories (or lies depending who was listening). We made new friends, got reacquainted with old friends and then retired for the evening to our Tree Top Cabin. As you approach the cabin, it looks like any other country house. But when you enter, it explodes into a 5-Star suite, with full kitchen, leather sofas and soft beds. When we walked out onto the back deck, we had a view of the valley below that took your breath away. You could see a section of the river called “The Falls.” There was a constant sound, like a waterfall, and you could almost smell the mist.
The following morning, we woke up and had a light breakfast. A crew from The Outdoor Channel was there to film this weekend’s PHWFFI trip. I was chosen as one of the Veterans to be filmed. We got hooked up with our guides, got the film crew on board and headed out for a full day on the river.
The day was perfect for weather, a light jacket in the morning and short sleeves that afternoon. The peace and serenity of the river is something that can only be experienced. For the first in several months, I was able to relax and just enjoy myself. Right off the bat, I caught the largest, heaviest, most fighting 4” fish I’ve ever seen! My next was a beautiful Rainbow Trout with bright colors and lots of vigor. One of the other Veterans, Chris Cobb, was king for the day for catching the most fish.
At noon, we stopped on an island and broke out the sandwiches and soda. It was a great time for all our fish “stories” that came up that day. The air was filled with laughter, lies and flies. Soon after lunch, we were on our way again. The fishing was a little slow, and the river was running faster than normal due to all the flooding and storms in the past month, however, we all caught our share of Rainbow Trout and had a great time doing so.
At 3:00 pm, we headed back to the lodge, had a wonderful dinner prepared by the ROLF chef and retired for the evening.
Myron McKee, the owner and operator, has invited Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc. back anytime we would like and is planning a few events that will benefit the Volunteers, Soldiers, Disabled Veterans and their families.
The Heartland Region Coordinator
Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc.
7042 Naples Drive
Cordova, TN 38018