Saturday, December 21, 2013

Icy Day

Hi, folks! Today, we’re experiencing one of the lesser-celebrated forms of wintry precipitation here in Central Missouri: an ice storm!

Fortunately, it’s not exactly stormy. Fortunately, “ice storm” is just the generic term for this kind of freezing rain. It’s rained mostly all day, and so far, here in Jefferson City, only elevated objects (tree branches and twigs, porch railings, and power lines) seem to have acquired a glaze.

But it’s after 3 pm, now, and temperatures will be falling. In the time it’s taken me to write this, the icicles have lengthened! Our yew trees are getting all splayed out from the weight of the ice.

It’s supposed to change over into snow at some point, though most of the precipitation is supposed to be north and west of us.

Even though we’re safe inside, we’re a bit on edge about the possibility of breaking branches and downed power lines. But it’s also very beautiful. I’d rather focus on that.

I feel sorry for people who have to travel through this today. Even if you manage to stay on the road and reach your destination, it’s not going to be very fun.

Here’s a view from our front windows, looking south on Broadway. (Here are some older posts with pictures of the same overall view, both from the big snowstorm in January 2011: here and here.)

So it’s a good day to stay inside! We have so much food around here I didn’t even go to the store to get the requisite “milk and bread.” For lunch, I had leftovers from Jefferson City’s new Indian (and Nepalese, and Korean) restaurant. I’ve got the lights on the Christmas tree turned on, and our little electric fake fireplace space heater is on, too.

I’m all warm and cozy. Soon I’ll make myself a nice hot cup of masala chai—thanks to my brother for sending us some boxes of easy-peasy instant chai packets, I don’t have to do anything but heat up water, dump in some powder, and stir! (Click here to learn more about this instant chai.)

Maybe I’ll even have some lebkuchen or springerles with it!

As you can guess, this ice storm is feeling like a really nice thing!

Let’s hope the power doesn’t go out! And if you’re planning to travel on these icy roads? . . . Stop it! Find a way to just stay home, be safe, and enjoy a quiet evening!

Take care, my friends!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Get Out the Decorations!

I’m not usually one of those people who have Christmas all “put up” the day after Thanksgiving. I grew up listening to things like “When we were kids, we didn’t get to see the tree until Christmas Eve!” (That was back when the trees had candles on ’em, and you had to keep an eye on the thing while they were burning!)

But I am a little ahead of my usual schedule, because this year my brother’s coming for a Christmas visit—early. He’ll be here tomorrow! It’ll be an “early” Christmas. I’m excited because he’ll be able to help set up the family Christmas tree—Grandma’s Christmas tree—which he hasn’t done since . . . when? Undergraduate days? I hope he remembers the German lyrics to “O Tannenbaum”!

And I’ll make sauerbraten and red cabbage while he’s here, and hopefully we’ll just have a really fun time.

Meanwhile, I’ve been baking cookies, so I’ll have a respectable tray to pass around with eggnog or sherry, and we’ve been getting the outside decorations squared away. Don’t get too excited about this, but look! I put extra lights up in our front dormer window (in addition to Grandpa Thomas’s star).

I also put a string of lights in the top side window, facing Broadway Street. (It looks better in person. My camera is not the greatest!)

The picture at the top of this post shows what our front dormer window looks like from inside. I love the way multicolored Christmas lights (the “old” kind) make the entire room glow warm orange and pink at night.

Our Christmas lights are lame, lame, lame, compared to some of our neighbors. We have two good ones across the street—on both sides! (We live on a corner.) It’s really fun to look out the windows and see pretty decorations. Yay!

Meanwhile, across town, the people who have the huge light display programmed to flash in synch with rock and pop Christmas music are “at it” again. They won one of the citywide decorating contests last year—they’ll probably get a prize again.

Here’s part of their display from last year.

To see a sample of their 2013 display and learn about where and when to see it in person, look at the Facebook page for “Holtmeyer Christmas Lights.”

Lines of cars accumulate politely on the street outside 3023 Mercedes Lane as people tune their radios to the appropriate frequency and listen to the music the yard flashes to. It’s not quite what touches me, Christmas-wise, though I have to admit it’s quite “festive”!

(Hey! Maybe we can go see that audio-visual extravaganza when Paul’s here!)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

French Hunter’s Dinner—Retro Recipe

This post follows up on my previous one. It’s a recipe from Leota Busch’s personal cookbook, and she got it from my dear friend, the late Maryfrances (Schwartz) Ridgeway. I had to make it—for personal reasons. Because, I suppose, it connects me in a tiny way with someone who’s gone. Someone I miss.

The recipe itself? Well, at a glance you might think it’s one of those midcentury “culinary atrocities,” with the chop suey vegetables and such.

Somewhere, this recipe got pretty far away from anything French. (Unless French hunters shoot cattle and mix it with Italian spaghetti and American Campbell’s tomato soup!) It is what it is. As they say, boney patoots! (—Or something.)

But you know what? It’s pretty darned good! It’s kind of like a pre–Hamburger Helper hamburger helper. Unlike the prepackaged stuff, you control the sodium and fat. And it tastes much better.

It’s hearty, tasty, and good! Perfect for this time of year, as the weather gets cold and colder, and we get busy and busier. It makes a lot, and the leftovers are even tastier the next day.

I give you two versions: first, the original as it appeared in Mrs. Busch’s recipe book. Then, my interpretation. (No, I didn’t change it too much.)

French Hunter’s Dinner
(Original Version)


Garlic buds
1# hamburger (twice ground)
Suet (about a cup, diced)
1 medium onion
Chili powder
1 box spaghetti*
1 can lima beans (medium)
(Seaside brand at Piggly-Wiggly)
1 can tomato soup
1 can mushrooms (Sutton, or sliced; may be omitted if desired) (20¢)


Boil & blanch one box of spaghetti, while hamburger is being prepared. Rub bottom of skillet with 1 or 2 garlic buds. Render suet & remove “cracklings.” Brown hamburger, & stir constantly to keep particles segregated. Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of chile powder in. Add salt & pepper (about teaspoon of each). Dice onion, & stir into browned hamburger. Stir into this the spaghetti. Then the can of tomato soup. Let cook for a while. Add lima beans. Mushrooms.

* One can of spaghetti in tomato sauce may be used in place of “fresh” spaghetti.

This serves 5 or 6.

One can of “vegetables for Chop Suey” makes it extra good and increases the portions. these vegetables have to be sliced or diced, as they are large-sized in the can (Delmonico).

Serve with hot rolls, relish, coffee, and dessert.

Prepare in advance, & re-heat for serving, for best results.

--Maryfrances Schwartz

My mom is always quick to correct people when they say they’ve used “So-and-So’s” recipe but then admit that they’ve changed things. To Mom’s thinking, if you changed it one tiny bit from the original, it’s no longer “So-and-So’s” recipe.

But who’s so anal to follow instructions to the letter, especially when casserole-like dishes are concerned? Also, since apparently all of the brands specified in the recipe are defunct, there’s already no way to follow the directions completely.

Plus, prices and packaging have changed, so quantities must be interpreted. And if you’re gonna go that far, might as well make a few other changes for modern cooking methods. Like, get rid of the lard, and use the whole two cloves of garlic, pressed.

So, here’s my rendition. Because otherwise, I wouldn’t have made it. And what’s closer to the original recipe: tweaking it for 2013, in my kitchen, or never cooking it at all?

French Hunter’s Dinner

1/2 of a 16-oz. package of spaghetti
1 lb. ground chuck or ground round (beef; get the lean kind)
1-2 tsp. chili powder (to taste)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed, crushed, or minced
1 16-oz. can lima beans (frozen and thawed would be fresher-seeming)
1 10-oz. can condensed tomato soup
1 4-oz. can mushrooms (drained)
1 14-oz. can chop suey vegetables (“Fancy Mixed Vegetables” or “Stir-Fry Vegetables”) (drained)

Start the spaghetti and prepare according to package instructions. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan with a lid, start browning the meat (if using lean beef, you might use a little vegetable oil). Sprinkle in the chili powder and add salt and pepper (about 1 tsp. of both; to taste). As meat begins to brown, stir in onions and garlic. When the meat and onions are cooked, stir in the can of tomato soup. Then add the (drained) spaghetti and stir gently to combine. Cook, half-covered, to meld flavors. Then add lima beans, mushrooms, and (if using) chop suey vegetables. Cook a little longer to heat through.

Oh yeah! And serving with hot rolls and relish, and ending with coffee and dessert, as instructed, is pretty darn good!

(—Boney patoots!)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Personal Recipe Book of Leota Busch

I’ve recently been looking through the personal recipe book of one of Jefferson City’s (and Munichburg’s) notable residents. It belonged to Leota Busch. Leota was the wife of Arthur Busch, and the two ran Busch’s Florist from the early 1940s until his death in 1990. She continued to own and run the florist until 1996, when she sold the business. She kept working, though, doing flower arrangements for another eight years.

Busch’s Florist is just about two blocks away from my house, and it’s still gloriously in business, a true anchor for our neighborhood.

Busch’s is where my dad and his brothers used to buy my grandma flats of pansies for her birthday each March.

If you read Leota Busch’s obituary, you’ll see that she was a pretty neat lady, who lived a long and full life.

She and her husband didn’t have children, however, and when she passed away in 2011, she remembered the Old Munichburg Association in her will. When officers of the Old Munichburg Association met with Mrs. Busch’s bank, they were told that her survivors had declined to take some items that had belonged to Mrs. Busch, and her personal recipe book was one of these items.

I don’t suppose it has any real “value,” in any monetary sense. But then, I’m a collector of old church-ladies cookbooks, and I’m intrigued about anyone’s personal recipe collection.

As I’ve noted before, in prior generations, a lady’s ability to cook was a big part of her “job,” and her recipes reflected her and her family’s tastes. They reflected her triumphs, and they give insights into her creativity, her thought processes, and to some extent, her interactions with her family. It’s almost like a diary. I like reading “between the lines” in recipes. The things not said, because they are so well known, shows areas of special culinary prowess. The recipes splotched and stained with food spills were probably special favorites.

This little recipe book was meticulously prepared. Each recipe was typed (yes, on an old-fashioned manual typewriter!) with an admirable degree of stylistic consistency. She used asterisks as a stylistic way of denoting the ends and beginnings of sections.

It is neatly bound in a quarter-page-size, six-hole looseleaf notebook. There are thumb tabs for the different sections: meat, salad, vegetable, dessert, cake, candy, cookies, and “misc.”

(Yes, there are four entire sections for what amounts to desserts and sweets! Ha ha, take that, you ol’ “food pyramid”! Leota Busch lived to be ninety-nine!)

Anyway, there’s a lot in the recipe book that looks like a vintage church-ladies cookbook. Stuff we’d laugh at today, or cringe at, thinking about cholesterol and sodium and such. There’s a recipe for “Liver Cakes.”

Of course, times and tastes change. As expected, there are plenty of “ethnic” recipes done per mid-twentieth-century, midwestern style, and we’re all familiar with recipes like Leota’s “Spanish Steak,” which is “Spanish” by virtue of its having tomatoes, green and red pepper, onion, and optional “pimentos.”

Likewise, there is the de rigueur midcentury heartland recipe for “Chop-Suey” (from Clara Weber, Leota noted): “Have butcher cut meat into small pieces; put on stove to cook with just a little lard, salt & pepper.” In addition to onions, canned mushrooms, and celery, the recipe also calls for sorghum, a bottle of chop suey sauce, and “1 Can (Chinese) Chop Suey Vegetables.”

And the spellings—well, I shouldn’t talk. I’m an editor, and if it weren’t for the difficulties of writing in our language, I wouldn’t have a job. But I did almost snicker when I saw Leota’s big heading on one page: “Schrimp Salad.” She noted she got the recipe from a Mrs. Kimmel.

But no matter who decided to spell “shrimp” with a “c,” I have to bow to her and say, I can’t blame you, if you lived among German-types all your life!

And who wouldn’t spell it “Orange Sherbert” and “Pineapple Sherbert”? Isn’t that how you say it? (Well, against all reason, that’s how we say it around here!) And we’re not going to laugh at “Angle Food Cake,” because people still make that mistake nowadays, even people who “know better,” because we rely too much on our spell-checkers. And Mrs. Busch was a busy woman!

But I did finally laugh out loud when I saw the following recipe. I haven’t tried it yet, and I certainly wouldn’t serve it to any actual Arabs:

Arabian Stew

6 Pork chops placed in casserole after being seared.
1 slice onion on each chop
1 slice tomato on each,
1 ring green pepper on each,
1 tablespoon rice in pepper ring.
Salt and pepper.
3 cups hot water and bake.

Use raw rice.

Yes! Pork chops! It’s Arabian stew with pork chops! I hope you’re laughing, now, too!

Meanwhile, there are some awesome-looking recipes, too, no matter how they’re spelled or whose ethnicity they stumble over: “Carmel ice cream” must’ve been a favorite, as there are two versions of it.

. . . There was one recipe, though, that I had to try. According to the note at the end of the recipe, it had been given to her by Maryfrances Schwartz. Imagine my surprise, when it registered that that is the maiden name of a woman who was my closest friend my grandparents’ age.

Mrs. Ridgeway—Maryfrances Ridgeway—lived in my Columbia neighborhood when I grew up, and soon after her husband passed away, we became friends.

She owned a large tract of land. She rented the fields to others to grow soybeans, corn, and sorghum. (Or was it millet?) The forested areas were the magical green places of my childhood. The places I would go to think, to explore outside and in.

Her property was basically where the Columbia Menard’s is, and her lake—Lake Ridgeway—was bulldozed and remade into Bass Pro Shop’s “test drive your boat” lake.

Mrs. Ridgeway’s long gone, and I miss being able to ride my bike down the gravel lane to her house and talk to her. We used to talk for hours.

She’d grown up in Jefferson City, here in this Munichburg neighborhood, only a few blocks from where I’m typing this right now. She must’ve been friends with Leota Busch before marrying George Ridgeway and moving to Columbia.

. . . And so I had to make the recipe.

My next post will tell you how it turned out.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Bonnots Mill; Fall Supper Time Is Here!

It’s that time again—when all the local parishes are having their fall suppers. To find out what’s when, you can either look at the gigantic Coke Building sign on Jefferson Street and the Expressway, or you can look at the schedule on the Catholic Missourian’s website.

Sunday was Bonnots Mill. St. Louis of France parish always gets the award (in my opinion) for most scenic parish hall space. It’s up on a bluff overlooking the Osage River, with only oaks and ash trees between you and the deep blue sky. (For more pictures of this, see one of my earlier posts about Bonnots Mill.)

We got there in midafternoon, so we missed the lunchtime and dinnertime rushes. It was ham cooked with pineapple, and German pot roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, sauerkraut, coleslaw, homemade pickled beets and bread-and-butter pickles, applesauce, a platter of sliced yellow and red heirloom tomatoes, and homemade bread.

Plus, as always, your choice of desserts from the glorious dessert table.

The “country market” had a nice selection of bake sale items, canned salsa and preserves, as well as some great-looking garden-fresh vegetables, including sweet corn, some beautiful eggplants, and tremendous, puckery, deep pinkish-red heirloom tomatoes and yellow tomatoes. (Oh, we will miss them in January!)

Someone at the parish has created a bunch of nice postcards of the St. Louis of France church (with its distinctive “Star of David” on the steeple) and of the town of Bonnots Mill—several of the postcards were reprints of historic photos—and all these were for sale. (Ten cents a piece!)

Our m.o. is to go for a walk after the picnic—it helps after such a great meal! So we drove to the town of Bonnots Mill (as opposed to hiking straight down the side of the bluff between parish hall and church). Sue likes to take pictures of antique buildings and the railway. (And so do I—but I don’t do nearly as well as her!)

There’s some really cool stuff in Bonnots Mill. Here’s the historic Dauphine Hotel, which opened for business in 1875. Now it’s a bed and breakfast. (Oh, and that’s the post office, to the right.)

While we were walking around, a fellow in a pickup stopped and told Sue that the church was open this afternoon, if we wanted to go up there and take pictures of the inside.

Oh, boy! We love seeing the interiors of these churches, and we’d never seen the inside of this one before. What a treat!

But even more of a treat: There were people inside! We met a friendly lady named Jeanne Knollmeyer, who chatted with us about the history of the church. Much of our discussion revolved around music, since the church had a guest organist that day, a talented fellow from Clinton, Missouri, named Sam. (Is it Sam Lucas? I can’t recall his last name, but the Internet reveals that a fellow with that name is the organist at the Clinton United Methodist Church.) Anyway—he was up in the choir loft playing, beautifully, the church’s hundred-year-old organ.

It sounded great—the acoustics in the church are superior, and the organ had a nice sound and seemed perfectly in tune. Beautiful music, the first time we’d been in that beautiful, historic church. What a treat!

Next Sunday (Sept. 22) is Frankenstein—Our Lady Help of Christians parish is having its supper. This is a special year for them, as the church is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. It’s definitely going to be a party there this year! And they always have such good homemade whole-hog sausage . . .

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Neoscona crucifera, Our Little Friend in the Doorway

Yes, it’s “another one of our little friends,” a Neoscona crucifera. Allow me to introduce you. This sturdy, fuzzy, orb-weaving spider constructs her bug-snaring traps (a.k.a. “webs”) around dusk. Then she takes down the whole shebang each morning—consuming her threads, so as not to waste material.

Therefore, it’s too dark for me to get a picture of her in her web at night!

She’s almost certainly a descendant, or at least a relative, of the neosconas we’ve had around the house as long as we’ve lived here. I’m glad for this species’ habit of recycling webs every morning, since otherwise I’d be walking through them all the time. One year, a neoscona built her web each night across our back porch steps.

But this year, this neoscona habitually builds her web right in the way of our front door each night. Yes, I have to keep in mind she does, in case I ever have to dash outdoors some evening!

A word about the name. As you know, I prefer to use scientific names, when I can determine them, because they’re far more precise. And respectful, I think. The common name for this remarkable animal is “barn spider,” and it’s problematic, because other spiders are called “barn spider,” too. (Plus, I resent any comparison of our house to a dusty, cavernous structure for holding horses, tractors, cows, and chickens!)

Anyway, we call other organisms by their genus names (such as iris and asparagus)—what’s to keep me from continuing the trend?

Besides—it’s kind of a cute name. Although “crucifera” must refer to some cross-shaped something on her body (her spinnerets, maybe?), I haven’t been able to learn what “Neoscona” means. The “neo-” surely means “new”; but I don’t know what “scona” means. Meanwhile, I’ll think of those sweet little biscuits the British have with tea: “Neoscona”? . . . Newbiscuit. (Hey, it works for me!)

By day, Ms. Neoscona hides like this in the upper corner of our doorway, making herself as little as possible. Surely you won’t notice me here. She’s almost covering up her little eyes.

At night, she builds her magnificently detailed, wheel-shaped web and makes a fine living off the many insects that flutter toward our dusk-to-dawn porch light.

There was a time when I would have squished her unceremoniously with a broom or sprayed her mercilessly with a garden hose. Thankfully, those days are long past, because I realize that each time I kill a creature, some part of me suffers, as well. So despite my distaste for occasionally stepping into their webs, I give spiders a break. They are fellow Earthlings; they do us vastly more good than harm; and when all’s said and done, they just want to spend their brief lives eating insects, quietly fulfilling their humble destinies. It’s our choice to fear them or to marvel at them. Trust me, it’s much more fun to do the latter!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

So Many Miscellaneous Mushrooms

Hi, folks! With our nice, moist spring and this coolish summer, it has been a great year for mushrooms!

As you might remember, Sue and I enjoy going "mushroom-watching." We like to take picture of them on our hikes, even though we're not very careful about getting identifications "just right." As I explained in a previous post, we usually aren't looking for mushrooms to eat.

Nope, we're not into picking them at all, really--well, except for morels (which we can't resist)--since mushrooms are the fungus's spore-bearing structures, picking them represents a dent in their ability to reproduce. If you don't pick wildflowers because you understand wildflowers create seed, then why pick mushrooms willy-nilly? And so we photograph them.

Sue, with her nice camera, takes excellent photos at various angles, while I concentrate on getting ground-level shots and photos of the undersides, which her big camera can't do (remember, my little camera swivels so I can hold it on the ground, beneath the cap, to photograph gills and pores without disturbing the mushroom).

We recently went hiking on some of the nature trails at Columbia's Cosmos Park--near the Bear Creek Trail. I haven't been hiking out there in ages, though I used to hang out at the beaver pond there a lot during college . . .

Anyway, we decided it'd be fun to check out the place again. My, how it's changed!

And yes, there were a lot of mushrooms popping out--various species--what fun!

Here's some type of bolete we saw.

Here's a more artsy picture of the cap of another type of bolete. (If I do say so myself.) I think it might be a two-colored bolete (Boletus bicolor), but again: I'm not too anal about getting them id'd "just so." I'm content to exclaim, "Wow, look at this beautiful bolete!"

Maybe, when it comes to mushrooms, I'm just easily amused.

Here's one I'm fairly confident about identifying: It's an "old man of the woods" (Strobilomyces floccopus). There was a patch of them at one place along the trail. They were kind of camouflaged against the dirt and leaf litter, but once we saw a few of them, they seemed to be all over (in that area).

This was the first time I'd ever seen this type of mushroom "in person." I've seen pictures of them and thought, "That's a cool-looking thing. Wonder if I'll ever seen one." And there they were!

Since they are usually out in July, August, September, and October, I guess it's not surprising I haven't seen them--midsummer, with the skeeters, other bugs, and humidity, isn't my favorite time for hiking in Missouri. But with the unusual cool weather, we got outside and made discoveries!

Well, these few pictures are just a small sample of what we saw, which was itself just a small sample of all that's out there right now. I mean . . . we weren't even looking for them.

If you're interested in mushrooms and want to get more regular updates on what fungi are popping out here in Central Missouri, check out Lisa K. Suits's blog, Mycologista. She takes lovely photos of mushrooms, and she goes the extra mile to identify them correctly. As she says, she's "crazy for wild mushrooms." But if you ever thought mushrooms were boring, you should scroll through her posts for an attitude adjustment.

It's funny how you can go into the woods, say, with binoculars and a bird guide, and plan on seeing a bunch of birds; or you bring old sneakers, a few nets, and containers and a magnifying lens for looking at aquatic invertebrates--but you end up having a "mushroom trip" instead. Or maybe it's the butterflies that are somehow everywhere that day, or daisies. Nature outings, "field trips," can be like that.

. . . And it's always fun!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Remembering Clair Kucera, His Grasses, His Gayfeathers

Sue and I drove to Tucker Prairie, just west of the Kingdom City exit off I-70 on Sunday, July 28, and spent the afternoon wandering around in that plot of never-broken prairie soil, examining plants, watching insects, and enjoying the abrupt, intense flights of an eastern kingbird. At one point, a covey of northern bobwhites erupted before us and flew away. Prairie cicadas droned . . .

I always find myself filled with wonder on a prairie. From a distance, it looks scruffy, and up close, you see that it’s a dizzying variety of plants that gives it that texture. The insects, birds, and other wildlife are similarly diverse.

Hardly any of it lives in forests, or subdivisions, or weedy roadsides. As you wade into the grasses, every few steps there is something to peer at, some new marvel.

I felt a different kind of wonder a few days later, when I learned that Dr. Clair Kucera, the ecologist credited for saving this spot of virgin prairie, had passed away the day before our visit. I felt sorrow of course, for I count him as a friend . . . but I felt wonder, too.

I heard Clair Kucera’s name a lot when I was growing up. Because I was young, I didn’t know who he was—someone my dad knew. He was a colleague of my dad’s at the University of Missouri, and they both were doing research on prairies; they were also both active in the Missouri Prairie Foundation. My dad, as I said in an earlier post, is a professional geographer who, using thousands of historical survey records as data points, mapped the presettlement prairie of Missouri.

Among Clair’s trailblazing contributions are his studies on the role of fire in maintaining prairie as prairie. He was an ecologist at a time when ecology was flowering as a discipline, and the ideas of biological succession and climax communities are core ecological concepts.

A vexing question about prairies was, What keeps them from being colonized by trees, and eventually turning into forest? We know that forests—oak-hickory being the predominant type around here—are the climax community, not tallgrass prairie.

As we know today, it was fire—started by random lightning strikes, or started by Native Americans—that kept the trees from taking over, maintaining the prairie as prairie.

Clair did much of his research at Tucker Prairie, using controlled burns, to figure out what frequencies of burning, in what times of year, are best for the prairie. How often, and when, should prairies burn, in order to keep out trees and shrubs, or kill off invasive plants like fescue, or invigorate the tallgrasses, or enhance the diversity of wildflowers and other forbs? As you can guess, these questions are critical for wise management of what few prairies remain in North America.

I don’t need to go into his life story or professional accomplishments. The Columbia Missourian did a nice job of describing those things in his obituary.

But I wanted to share a little about how I think about him. In 1995, I was living in Montana and looking for a new publishing job. When I learned of an opening here in my home state, at the University of Missouri Press, I applied for a number of reasons, but I wasn’t sure it would be a good “fit”—looking at their catalog, I noted that they published a lot of political philosophy and postmodern lit crit, which I didn’t think would interest me much. As an editor, I specialize in biology and natural history. During a phone interview, I asked if the press ever published much of that kind of stuff.

When the managing editor, who was speaking with me, mentioned that Clair Kucera’s manual The Grasses of Missouri would be coming out in a revised edition in the next few years, and I might get to work on it, my opinion of the job prospect improved tremendously. The first edition had been published in 1961, and this would be not only a chance to work in my preferred area, but also an opportunity to work with someone I had long admired.

And it was a pleasure and an honor to work with him. Even after the book came out, he sometimes called me just to chat. One time, he brought me some Liatris pycnostachya corms—surplus gayfeathers from his farm—to plant at the apartment where I lived then. So naturally, whenever I see blazing stars, I think of him.

And, of course, I think of him whenever I see prairie grasses, too. He wrote the book on them.

One more thing. Next time you’re on I-70 heading east out of Columbia, not long before the Kingdom City exit, turn your head and look at the scrubby-looking green grassland to the south. There’s a sign that says “Tucker Prairie,” in case you’re not sure.

The humble green building there is the Clair Kucera Research Station. Since the last time I wrote about Tucker Prairie, it’s been repainted and the windows repaired. It may not look like much, but for ecologists, for lovers of the prairie, and for friends of Clair Kucera, this research station, and this 160 acres, is cherished ground.