The Ozarks’ very own “grizzled old outdoorsman” journalist is hosting a special event this weekend.
Former Houston resident Larry Dablemont writes a weekly column called “Outdoors in the Ozarks” that runs in 30 newspapers in Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri (including the Houston Herald). He also publishes “Lightnin’ Ridge Journal” magazine, has written several books and is an advocate for conservation issues.
In turn, Dablemont travels the country for speaking engagements, makes appearances at various events to meet and greet his readers and goes on fishing and hunting outings in dozens of locations across the United States, and sometimes even in Canada. But for the past six years, there’s one thing he has looked forward to more than any other: the day he hosts the Grizzled Old Outdoorsman’s Swap Meet.
“There isn’t anything I do all year long that I enjoy more than this,” Dablemont said.
This year’s version of the event will take place Saturday at the Brighton Assembly of God Church, 16 miles north of Springfield, just off of Highway 13. Dablemont expects at least 40 vendors from several states will be on hand, displaying and selling various crafts and items related to the outdoors.
Among the highlights will be the handmade wares of several of the Ozarks’ most talented grizzled outdoorsmen, including Jim Barr and his wooden fishing lures, Dave Olsen and his wooden cutting boards and cedar jewelry boxes and Larry Eggers and his hand-painted turkey calls.
The event will also feature free turkey hunting clinics taught by Dablemont and fellow outdoor writers Jim Spencer of Calico Rock, Ark., and Monte Burch of Humansville, who has written for national publications including Outdoor Life and Field and Stream magazines.
“There’s going to be a lot more than just a swap meet,” Dablemont said. “And if you’re interested in turkey hunting, you’ll certainly be able to learn something. These guys are a couple of the best turkey hunters in the country.”
Dablemont said at least one Houston resident typically attends the yearly grizzled get-together: Joe Richardson. “Old Joe” is well-known in Texas County and beyond for his elaborate collection of items related to hunting and fishing that includes hundreds of turkey calls, gigging forks, fishing lures and more.
Dablemont has written several times about a story involving Richardson, his wife, Kate, and a whopper bass.
“I have guided all my life in rivers all over Arkansas and Missouri,” Dablemont said, “and the very first float trip I ever took was on the Big Piney River with Joe and his wife when I was 12 years old. She caught the biggest smallmouth bass I have ever seen caught in all the years I’ve guided. I’ll bet I’ve taken 500 float trips where I’ve guided people from all over the country, and I’ve never seen a smallmouth caught that was as big as that one she caught.
“There I was thinking ‘I’m going to make a living doing this – this is easy.’”
The swap meet will get under way at 8 a.m., and will continue – as Dablemont said – “all day long.” Admission is free, but donations will be collected which Brighton Assembly will use to purchase clothing and other items for needy children. Last year, the event raised more than $700 for the same cause.
“That’s not a tremendous amount of money,” Dablemont said, “but when you stop and think about 40 or 50 kids who end up getting a coat who wouldn’t otherwise have one, then that’s pretty significant.”
Food will be available (including biscuits and gravy in the morning and barbecued pork at noon), and the church has a coffee shop that offers specialty coffee. There will be drawings at 3 p.m. for numerous prizes, including a bone-handled hunting knife, a package of several handmade fishing lures, and a framed wildlife painting valued at $200.
“There’s a lot of stuff we’ll be giving away that’s worth 50 dollars or better, so there’s going to be people getting some nice things to take home with them,” Dablemont said. “But it’s going to be a fun day for everyone who shows up – especially for people who like fishing and hunting.”
Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar has donated tables for use by vendors, and Brighton Assembly of God members will provide the food.
“Of all the things I do all year long, I enjoy this the most,” Dablemont said. “There will be so many things there that are so unique, and there are so many people who do so much to help out. The end result is a really great event – and we also raise some money to help out some kids.”
Dablemont’s weekly column can be read each week in the Houston Herald’s Messenger section. To contact him, email email@example.com. For directions to the swap meet, long onto www.larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com.