Tree House Brown

Steve Brewer | Huzzah Creek, near Steelville, MO

There was a legendary river man-some say: river rat-who lived along the crystal clear, spring-fed Huzzah Creek in the Ozark Plateau in central Missouri. Ralph ran a canoe outfitting business at least as far back as the early 1960’s.-late 1950’s. I had the good fortune of meeting this river man when I was in my teens in the mid1960’s. Ralph was revered by many since he was one of the few Outfitters that carried 19 foot Grumman aluminum canoes as well as 17 footers. Ralph was eccentric to say the least, he always had a 1/2 pint of whiskey in a back pocket. To my betterment I got to know Ralph well enough to sit on a log and nip from his bottle while he regaled me with river stories. Out of one of these conversations Ralph mentioned that he and his brother who lived up the hill used to compete in national canoe poling championships. Being young and ignorant of poling I questioned Ralph regarding how one did this. Ralph jumped up, picked up a 19 foot Grumman and carried it overhead down to the Huzzah where he had a long stout pole. He placed the canoe in the water, grabbed the 15 foot pole and jumped in the boat. Standing, he started poling his way up this pristine Ozarkian stream at a fast clip. After poling at least a quarter mile Ralph reversed course and piled back to where I was standing in awe. When he beached the Grumman I stated that I had no idea that no one ever did that. In his own crazed manner he stated: well, it’s better when you do it at night under a full moon. Ralph was such a legend that a documentary was made about him…look it up: “Tree House Brown”. May he ever Rest In Peace and with 5be sound of fast, rushing water surrounding him.

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