Environment Photography

More on Taum Sauk, Johnson, and Black River

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Thanks to Lee Farber, who runs the Peola Valley Pottery in Lesterville (the town threatened with flooding after the Tauk Sauk Reservoir wall failed), I have links to additional resources on the flood and its impact.

political cartoon noting that AmerenUE operates more than reservoirs.

I hope to get permission to actually take photos of the Shut-Ins themselves. In the meantime, before and after photos of the area.

The issue was raised that what has fallen into the Black River is just dirt, and dirt can actually help a surrounding area. The concept of rich alluvial land in the floodplains of a river like the Mississippi is based on naturally occurring flooding. The reservoir break was anything but natural.

The Black River, one of the most pristine in the state and country, and environmentally vulnerable, was actually diverted the length of two football fields at one point by the force of the water from the dam breaking. We don’t yet know the impact of the dirt in the water, either on tourism (necessary for the area); or on wildlife dependent on the river.

People Photography Places

After the Flood

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I’m working on a very long essay on the recent dam break here in Missouri, the hurricane effects in New Orleans and other topics, and am out taking photos as annotation. The writing may be a long time in coming, but I thought I would post photos as I go along.

Monday I went to the Johnson Shut-Ins to see the effect of the Taum Sauk Reservoir dam break. It was…extraordinary. The trees and much of the scrub in the area where the campground and picnic areas are almost all gone, or damaged beyond salvaging.

There were several of us about, most local to the area. We were gathered in a group trying to figure out where the water came from, when one man mentioned that the water came from a direction in back and to our left. How can this be, I asked, because the trees were lying down towards the left. According to another man local to the area, the water had come down with such force that it hit the mountain to the right and bounced back. It was this bounced water that took out the ranger’s home, pushed the semi off the road, and knocked down the trees by the road.

The campground and shut-ins got the water directly. So much so that rebar from the dam was twisted in and around the granite pillars of the shut-ins. In the summer, during the day, all 57 campground spaces are filled, as well as the space for 110 day use cars, with vehicles lined up to get in for miles. During a peak time in the summer, an estimated 1000 or so people could have been in the impact zone of the flood–a probable 250 in the direct path of the water.

I’ve also added some Google map images to the photos, to demonstrate the water flow and where items I photographed were found.

As the following Google maps snapshot demonstrates, the water flowed down between mountains, and came out pointed directly at Johnson Shut-Ins. It flowed down Black river, in both directions at first, and bounced back from the mountain bordering the Shut-Ins across from the water path.

Keep Out

Path of Water down Mountain

Black River

Unusual color in Black River


It hit the mountain, bouncing back and taking the Ranger’s home. The following photo encompasses both the path of the flood and the home. The light colored foundation in the right side of the following photo is what’s left of the home.

Flood Path in Relation to Park Ranger Home


Knocking three cars and a semi carrying zinc into an empty field across from Highway N.

Location of Truck pushed off road

Debris, both from the dam (rebar and plastic liner) as well as from the ranger’s home was still scattered about in and among uprooted trees and the inches of mud and silt over everything. The following map shows a circle where the Ranger’s house was, and Xs marking where debris in the photos was located.


The front wheel from a child's bike

Lining from Reservoir was littered everywhere

Sign by Park Ranger's House

A Baby's Socks

Environment Events of note

Unnatural Acts

Reporters checked with the Missouri state park system and found out, yes, the flood yesterday did a massive amount of damage to the Johnson Shut-Ins, most likely part of the Ozark Trail, and surrounding area. The trees and landscape in the following photo are most like gone now.


It also sounds as if the park superintendent and his family who were hurt by the flood will recover, though the children are still in serious condition. All of us are thinking about what would have happened if this had been a peak weekend in the summer when the area gets anywhere from a thousand to two thousand people, on the trails and river, or in the campground.

Several people in the comment thread to the Topic of the Day discussion at St. Louis Today (the online site for the local newspaper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch), mentioned about how this was a ‘miracle’ that no one was hurt. Thank God, they would say, that this wasn’t in the summer when more would have surely been killed; thank God that the family was found while they were still alive.

I wrote last night in the thread that this wasn’t a miracle; do they see God as this capricious being that destroys the dam just so he can swoop the family to safety, after first almost drowning them?

As sad coincidence would have it, I’m currently re-reading, Acts of God: The Unnatural History of Natural Disaster in America by Ted Steinberg. He writes in the introductory chapter:

Once, the idea of invoking God in response to calamity was a strategy for eliciting moral responsibility. In the twentieth century, however, calling out God’s name amounted to an abdication of moral reason. With the religiously inclined less disposed than ever to take acts of God seriously, the opportunity has arisen over the last century for some public officials to employ God-fearing language as a way–thinly veiled though it might be–of denying their own culpability for calamity. In this sense, the act of God concept has become little more than a convenient evasion.

A person who wrote that they were an employee of Ameren, wrote in comments to the Topic of the Day thread:


Yes, a miracle.

(Photos from St. Louis Today)



This is an environment composed almost exclusively of words. They may be written, they may be spoken, and they might even be converted into images or code and thus need to be interpreted, but ultimately this is about words.

Some of the words I like, others I don’t. Some of the words may incite me to anger and despair, while others inspire and entertain. I have changed my mind based on words; I may have even changed minds with words of my own.

There are people who can wield words like a master painter his brush, or play words like a concert pianist her piano. The rest of us, we’re usually happy if we can write a post without someone pointing out spelling errors. Oh, and don’t get me started on punctuation and something or other dangling.

I have written words that have sparked a frenzy of feeding and I think wistfully of Amazonian rivers and small, busy fish with very sharp teeth. Other times, the words lay there on the page, not even a quiver of regret to mark their passing. (And one is never so glad, at times like these, to see the reverse chronology in action. I have been known, a time or two, to hasten the end of such words–a mercy killing, if you will.)

I’ve also had my words thrown in my face, slapped across my cheeks like a glove beckoning me to a duel. Sometimes I’ve picked up the sharpest of my words and have cried, “Have at ye!” Other times, though, I wander, confused, through the jumble of scratches on the page and think at it, “What did you do? What the hell did you do?”

My favorite words are the the ones we skip across the page like a rock across a pond; only exposing our selves when the word is in the air. Ha! Try reading these words through an aggregator.

I never tire of working with words. I never tire of reading others work with words. I do weary, though, of reading, “Oh, but I didn’t mean that…” when one is challenged, because its easier to orphan the words than acknowledge or stand by them.


It’s a raging squid!

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I watched the Japanese movie The Calamari Wrestler and it meets or exceeds all expectations when you consider the premise: wrestler dies and re-incarnates as a giant squid and goes on to challenge all comers in the ring.

There is no pretense about the creature–it is obviously a man in a squid suit, with eyes that move about (though they sometimes stick, which is a bit unnerving to see). He has his arms inserted into two of the tentacles and then waves them madly about. All emotional expression is managed with body movements, and the exaggerated nature of mannerisms typical in these types of movies works rather well.

Favorite quotes and scenes from the movie:

“I have no giant squid friends!”

The giant squid seated in zen meditation. The giant squid getting out of an elevator. The giant squid making love (what was all of that in the background?) The giant squid wrestling. The giant squid.

“Joint locks don’t work on an invertebrate. They’re too slippery.”

The giant squid has a wet dream, and it literally becomes a wet dream. Nothing like a sweaty squid.

The giant squid trying to be incognito by wearing sunglasses.

“You want me to date a giant squid? But he has been banned from wrestling–how could he support me?” (Not exact wording but close.)

The scene where the romantically rejected squid is dejectedly walking home, tentacles waving about, back-lit by the setting sun was a kicker. But not as much as watching the squid skip about with the woman of his dreams.

Is it a ‘good’ movie? Define ‘good’. From what Cinema Strikes Back writes:

Right up front, I have to say Calamari Wrestler is not a “good” movie. The budget is miniscule, the acting is broad, the plot meanders, and, obviously, the whole movie is completely ridiculous. However, none of that stops this from being a great piece of entertainment.

The writer went on to compliment the costumes of the creatures, and I agree: they weren’t real, but they were art (something lost in today’s hunt for ‘realism’ in fictional works.)

The Calamari Wrestler is both spoof and a commentary on the Japanese Professional Wrestling association, and from a wrestler featured in the movie and other scenes, must be as truthful and believable as our own American form of the sport. It is a silly movie, but played straight; increasing the entertainment value and the humor in my opinion.

However, there are some other aspects of the movie that seemed quite serious and I wondered how much of it reflects underlying Japanese perceptions and attitudes. For instance, Japanese professional wrestling is seen in the movie as the wind behind the wings of spirit (if I remember the term correctly) that gave heart to the Japanese when they were occupied by the US. No, the ‘hated’ US was the term used.

The movie also had, I thought, overtones of race and class differences–subtle, and not so subtle–such as the health of the giant squid being a measure of the ‘whiteness’ of its skin. I wish I was more familiar with Japanese culture and history because this movie is (for all its Saturday matinee cheesy monsters) subtly nuanced. I think the director targetted more than just Japanese professional wrestling with Calamari.

Do I recommend it? Yes! But only for those people who get to the end of this post and think to themselves, “I have to rent this!” If you do, don’t suspend belief with this movie; you’ll enjoy it so much more if you accept it completely at face value.