Survival on the banks of the Eleven Point River

Staying home during the COVID-19 outbreak in the name of “survival” brought to mind another time we voluntarily decided to “quarantine” ourselves in the mid 1970s. For a very different reason. We were traveling full-time in the ministry, with a toddler in a 28-foot Airstream travel trailer, and felt we needed a little vacation. From both.

Since my family lived in the deep boonies of southeast Missouri, we decided to head there and use the services of grandparents as babysitters, who were only too happy to spend time with a granddaughter they rarely got to see. And to take advantage of the offer of the free use of an Uncle’s cabin on the Eleven Point River which is famous among fisherman as a wild trout river. It was late July / early August, and the hot, lazy days of summer would be perfect spent on a cold-water trout waterway! So we packed up our fishing licenses with trout stamps, fishing gear, and what FEW food supplies we felt we needed since we would be living on fresh trout all week. Survival!


Uncle took us in his pickup down the roughest, bumpiest, hole-iest dirt trail from the main road into the deepest part of the woods we had ever been to in that part of the state. That “road” would make the potholes in the private road to our favorite Gerbes supermarket where we live now look like a superhighway by comparison. But we were on an adventure! And since Uncle dropped us off and told us “See you in a week” with no phone or any other way to communicate to the outside world, there we were! For better or worse. When I think back now about Uncle’s other statement he made right before driving away, “Watch out for copperheads and water moccasins and rattlesnakes, they’re everywhere!” I see how God must have called in some special forces of angels to protect us that week!

The cabin was one-room with a bed, but no kitchen. The cooking area was a grate over an open fire pit outside. There were a few cooking utensils we could use, and a dishpan and access to river water for cleaning.

Now, Uncle had a boat at the cabin that he said we were welcome to use in our fishing forays. The first day we headed out in the boat, we quickly realized we were no match for the swift current of that river. OK, truth be told, we were lucky to make it back to our cabin alive. It only took one time of being mis-navigated into a clump of low, over-hanging tree branches where a whole family of hairy spiders dropped off onto me and I was ready to  park that boat permanently!

Safely back at harbor, we decided to fish from the bank. We used all the tricks, bait, and tips Uncle shared with us because he is a renowned fisherman in those parts.

Nothing. Not even a nibble.

Now what?

Well, hubby being raised pretty much in the woods himself and knew how to hunt and fish like Grizzly Adams, had always considered using live bait as a last resort, but decided we needed to catch some live bait at this point. Now, we had seen minnows everywhere in the shallow water where we were fishing, and we did have a minnow “trap” made out of a quart jar with a lid designed with a tiny opening to let them IN, but not back OUT again. So  to lure the minnows in, we put a few cracker crumbs in the jar, and dropped it down into a little DEEP pool of still water between some big rocks to keep it from washing away. We didn’t want that July sun cooking our minnows in the shallows before we could put them to work for us. Then I went hunting for wild blackberries, which I found. After all, we had to eat SOMETHING. I found some because, it WAS southeast Missouri, and it WAS blackberry season.

By evening, we went out to see if we had caught some minnows, and when we pulled our trap up, to our utter shock, we didn’t have one single minnow…but we had a whole JAR FULL of “CRAWDADS” (to us from southeast Missouri–known by other names in other places) which had gone into the trap to get the minnows! Those carb-addicted minnows had been eaten by the Keto crawdads! HAHA! Hubby and I looked at them, looked at each other and both said, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Apparently we were. Those crawdads are really just freshwater miniature lobsters, so we decided we were going to have seafood after all!

First I dropped them into a pot of boiling water for about a minute and they immediately turned lobster bright red. Then I set about peeling each one, and pulling out the REALLY small piece of meat from each tail (hubby may have been raised a hunter and fisherman, but I was raised to cook whatever I could find to stay fed on whatever I could find). I beat an egg to dip them in first, then rolled them in flour (yes, we did bring a few food staples that we were planning to use on all those trout, but you know…drop back and punt). Then deep fried them in oil. The most delicious fried lobster we had ever had! Plus blackberries for dessert!

The rest of the week we pretty much survived on our “lobster” feasts and had no complaints! We learned that if we started trapping first thing in the morning, and putting the trap back out several times a day, by the end of the day, we had a “mess” (southeast Missouri terminology for really big pile) of our “lobsters” for dinner.

Oh yes, and we did try using some of the crawdads as trout bait. No takers. So we had to settle for lobster instead of trout. It was a sacrifice we were willing to make.