A Master Sculptor

By Larry Dablemont, Contributing Columnist
Posted 2/9/22

Last week I wrote about my dream to create a museum along Highway 63 between Houston and Licking, dedicated to the early history of the old-time Ozarks and the Big Piney River where I grew up. I was …

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A Master Sculptor

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Last week I wrote about my dream to create a museum along Highway 63 between Houston and Licking, dedicated to the early history of the old-time Ozarks and the Big Piney River where I grew up. I was in Nebraska in October and on the way home I stopped at a restaurant in Lincoln. A man walked up to me and said he remembered me from 1978 when he was a taxidermist in Lincoln. 

It’s a long story but back then I was guiding hunters and fishermen in North Arkansas and I had a fisherman out of Omaha who came to go fishing with me on Bull Shoals. He was a taxidermist by the name of Gary Bade. On that fishing trip he caught a five and a half-pound white bass. Bade was so intrigued with that lake back then that he moved to Branson to be close to it.

A couple months later I came to Nebraska and brought him some Ozark driftwood to use as bases for his fish. I brought enough for a couple of other taxidermist friends of his. One of them was a fellow by the name of Fred Hoppe. That was in 1978. I can’t believe he remembered me when we met again at that restaurant. 

We had a lot to talk about. He became a successful museum owner and nationally-known sculptor. You need to go on Fred Hoppe’s website to see his bronze statue work as it will amaze you. I spent the afternoon at his gigantic warehouse where he has everything you can imagine for museums, including rows of antique automobiles, too much to even begin to list. 

Hoppe owns two museums in Branson and two others in other states. The one most folks are familiar with is the military museum in Branson, where there are bronze statues of World War II soldiers, full-sized… about 30 of them… each with different facial features.

Hoppe will be at our meeting in Houston on the evening of March 4, and we are going to float the Big Piney on March 5th. He is available as an adviser and a help in setting up that museum.

Wherever we build this museum of the Big Piney and the Ozark people of Texas County, I believe it will, in a couple of years, draw several thousand people into the area and actually benefit many of the businesses in Licking, Houston and Cabool.

Our meeting, Friday, March 4,will be from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Savor Restaurant, across the Highway from the Texas County Hospital just south of the junction of Highway 17 and Highway 63.

The Big Piney-Ozark Museum, once finished will be free to all visitors, and it will be a structure of log and rock that will add beauty along the Highway wherever it is built.

I think there are many who have historic material about ancestors that would like to share. If you are one of those people or even if you are not, please come to our meeting. Fred and I will be eating dinner at the Savor Restaurant at 5:00 if you would like to join us.

I am also coming to Houston this coming Friday to the little mini-museum display we have set up at the Chamber of Commerce building on Highway 63 just south of Bushy Creek. 

If you would like more information, call me at 417-777-5227. See my website if you know how to manipulate a computer. It is www.larrydablemont.com and my email is lightninridge47@gmail.com

Next week’s column will begin the fishing season for me, and I will write about early spring (and I mean February) fishing.

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