As the old saying goes – ugly lake, ugly souvenirs. The Harry S. Truman Dam, built by the Army Corps of Engineers on the Osage River, is one of the least economically justified, most ecologically destructive of many useless federal public works projects. It created a banal, windswept, turbid reservoir.
Truman Lake is decent crappie fishing, but it destroyed the most productive spawning grounds in the world of the giant, valuable paddlefish. Now Missouri’s sports paddlefishery must depend on expensive hatchery-raised stockings. This was a tragedy, doubly so as a lawsuit by the Environmental Defense Fund and others predicted these problems. Nevertheless the town fathers of Warsaw, Clinton and Osceola railed against the lawsuit. After several years of litigation, a federal judge refused to stop or modify the dam. The project has been a mixed blessing and former supporters have expressed their disappointment.
In the history of tourist memorabilia, is there anything as god-awful as this Truman Lake souvenir? The color combination splashed on this indifferent, awkward hunk of driftwood exceeds the Fauvist assault on traditional tonality.
Souvenirs encompass a wide variety of artistic merit. On the high end are Canaletto paintings of Venice’s Grand Canal and Van Gogh landscapes of southern France. On the low end, there are displeasing artifacts that are redeemed by the nostalgic, sentimental, or vague way they recall the place visited. In that sense, the unholy Truman Lake rootwad does resonate with the unsightly reservoir it commemorates. It is, we reluctantly admit, a successful if ugly souvenir.