Writing projects not yet completed or published yet

A Weldon Springs tale of woe and mystery?

Let the imagination fly.

The difficult work is the re-write and editing.

Then, after an editor points out all the mistakes, suddenly, on a beautiful day when you should be fishing, you are making more corrections.


NOTEs:

This manuscript is in the formation stage and could change 100% as the story evolves.

This is fiction; all characters are 100% made up.

I have not decided upon a name for the main character yet and am using my name for now.

The tale of woe will be professionally edited when I complete the story.


Test title name: LAKE 33 KILLING RELIC

jar

Not my photo to use, just a temp sample

LAKE 33 KILLING RELIC (Not really happy with the name)

Open to suggestions for name change, but the title refers to both a Native American artifact and hidden radioactive drums that did not make it to the Westgate landfill or the Weldon Springs quarry.

Attempting to blend those two items with one name. 

--May have to give up the blend.



The spillway at Lake 33. 

spillway

Chapter 1: 

Eastern Missouri, August A Busch Memorial Conservation Area, Lake 33

Out of lockup, enjoying freedom, luxuriating in the breeze off the lake and the spillway noise, I closed my eyes at the glory of being out of prison but was too nervous to go to the family home on Highway DD. 

My parents, Kim and Ray? How would they receive me after three years in prison?

The familiar lightheadedness washed across my brain—not dizziness, but that disorientation felt when getting off a carnival ride. The feeling, the ever-so-brief warning, and the percussor to approaching short circuitry, the premonition that the gods were about to whisper to you again while gripped helplessly in their power.

I opened my eyes later, confused, my back aching and my tongue hurting. I could smell fish, decayed fish? Near my face lay a dead crappie on the rocks. Yellow jacket hornets crawled across its glass eyes and buzzed around it.

Had I bitten my tongue? 

Another seizure? I could feel the sunburn on my face. How long had I lain shaking on the grass?

I spat blood, mesmerized by the blue expanse, as if seeing the lake for the first time again.

The first time, I was seven or eight years old, wandering down the dirt road and coming up on the levy for this same scene. The redbud trees had just come out; magical.

When I got home carrying the bullfrog trophy I had captured, there had been a belt whipping. My parents worried and scared I was lost in the wildlife area. The belt did not stop my explorations of Busch.


My muscles ached from the seizure as if I had just gotten another whipping, and I struggled to sit up.

"Don't sting me," I mumbled to the hornets who buzzed alarm.

 There would be no standing upright for a while, and I watched a conservation agent work his way down the levy, asking questions and inspecting fishing licenses. 

Even here in the wind and the sun, it was just like in prison: random inspections by uniformed guards.

I closed my eyes briefly, imagining the uniformed man was one of Roosevelt's soldiers who had chased the farmers off this land.

"How's it going, Bossman," asked the fisherman to the conservation agent.

"That feather in your hat?" asked the Agent, "Hawk?"

"Cool, ain't it? Hawk or owl? It was on the ground down by Dardenne Creek."

"It is against the law to possess raptor feathers," said the Agent. "I have to confiscate the feather and issue you a ticket."

"Your fucking kidding me, right?"

"Let me see your fishing license and day permit, sir. It is your responsibility to know the law." 

The Agent looked at the license. "Mr. Travis, possession of a raptor feather has a fine of two hundred fifty dollars. You have the right to protest this fine in federal court."

"I didn't eat the damn hawk! The feather was on the ground by the old bridge ruins."

The Conservation agent handed the license and a yellow ticket to the fisherman.

"The Feather, please, Mr. Travis." 

"I'm never coming back to Busch," said the hawk feather guy.

The Agent looked at me but stopped at the next fisherman, an old black man fishing with three poles in the water.

"Fishing license and day permit, sir. Any luck today?"

The Agent was still looking at me while talking to the old man.

The man held up a stringer of crappie and bluegills with one bass.

"I have to measure the bass, sir," said the Agent.

"The bass is a quarter inch too short, sir. You should have released this fish. I will have to issue you a ticket, sir, and you must release the fish."

 The conservation agent used his phone to take a photo of the bass lying next to a tape measure.

I noticed the old man did not object. So he was aware the bass was too short. A gamble not to get caught.

"I don't have that kind of money," the elder fisherman said, looking at his ticket.

The conservation agent walked to where I had sat up in the grass. His shirt patch read Missouri Department of Conservation. 

"Are you fishing, sir?"

"No."

"Been drinking, sir?"

"No, I was just thinking about how I grew up around here. One summer, my brother and I shimmied down a log and saved a coot trapped in that spillway. Just stupid kids."

It was difficult to talk with my tongue bleeding.

"Grew up here, on this lake? Maybe you knew my father, Conservation Agent Douglas?"

I tried to focus, but my brain circuits were still fried.

"Been drinking, sir?" asked the Agent.

I shook my head. "Not drinking. That name, your father? I have not heard that name in ages. Yes, I knew Agent Dougy. Ah, that is what we called him when I was a kid."

"My father kept a detailed journal of all the kids he met at the lake and on Dardenne Creek. Think you are in this book?"

I thought about that conservation agent from when I was a kid, playing at the game to outsmart Agent Dougy, raccoon hunting in the conservation area, fishing off-season, camping; he was on our ass all the time.

"Yep, I suppose I'm in that book."

"What's your name?" asked the son of agent Douglas

Another time I would've said none of your fucking business, but just out of prison, the conditioning was to answer anyone in a uniform.

"Bruce Ryba. You'll also find my father's name in that book. Agent Dougy and my old man sort of hated each other."

"Ryba? The horse farm over on Highway DD? You the son of Kim Ryba?"

I turned my head and spat blood. 

"Grew up there. Yes, Kim is my mother, but I was disowned by the family when I went to prison."

The Agent involuntarily stiffened his body, the same reaction everyone had when I explained that I had just completed my sentence.

"Why were you in prison?" asked the Agent.

"Meth."

"Possession or dealing?"

"Possession, I was only released on Monday."

My father wanted to kill Agent Douglas. That was an old memory.

"How is your father, Agent Douglas, retired? I asked. He was such a dick.

"My father passed away five years past from cancer," said the Agent, but turned to watch a vehicle drive down the levy, three teens in a red Honda.

"Keep clean; get help if you need it. If you plan to fish, please purchase a license and a day permit."

Agent Douglas reached for his radio, "Morales, come in," he said into the radio.

"What you got, Dougy," came the voice over the handheld.

"Three teens, red Honda, please stop them on the way out of Busch. They just littered, and they have no manners."

The Agent looked at me, a final search for alcohol.

"Only one way out of Busch Wildlife area since the flood of 93 took out the Dardenne Bridge," said Agent Douglas.

My brain was still fried from the seizure. They had let me out of prison with no medication. 

"I heard about that flood," I mumbled. "Sorry about my speech, an Air Force injury. I was JTac."

Agent Douglas whistled softy.

"Army myself, Rangers, JTac pulled our ass out of fire many times directing close air support and airstrikes," said Agent Douglas as he turned and made for his truck.

"Rangers have to slow down some," I mumbled.

The comment caused the conservation agent to briefly turn his head and brought a smile from the otherwise dour agent.

"And you JTacs weren't living too close to the fire?" said Douglas. When he turned for the comment, he caught the old black man holding two middle fingers at the him, the ticket crumpled on the ground.

"Like being back in Iraq," said Douglas and we both laughed.

My tongue hurt, and the world unsteady when finally got to my feet. Seizures were such weird electrical storms.

A journal or diary? The conservation agent said there was a journal from when I was a kid. What had Dougy Senior written in his journal? There were old secrets, secrets that should remain secrets.

My phone vibrated as I shuffled to the car borrowed from Calvin. The same message again, "Dude, come see me-your old Pal, Buck."

No, Buck, I am going to stay on the straight and narrow. No returning to jail or prison. Buck would only want to party—Jack or something stronger.

A chuckle escaped me. Buck would be in that old journal. 

Jesus, we all would be in that diary. We're all in it, we have to be goddamnit. That would be some priceless reading aloud sitting around a winter fire drinking frozen beer.

I turned the phone off.




dome

The Weldon Springs version of Cahokia Mound

EPA Superfund Weldon Springs

Chapter 2:

The Dome

Three young men were handcuffed outside of their Honda when I drove past the flashing blue lights where Agent Douglas and a thin Hispanic agent filled out paperwork. A bolt action rifle lay across the roof.

"You guys shouldn't have littered around Dougy's son," I said, then winced as the Camaro shuddered.

"Please don't backfire now," I pleaded with Calvin's car and pulled onto Highway D.

Passing one of the conservation fishing lakes, two ladies stood in front of the blue-green water holding a banner with yellow and black radiation symbols. 

"Do not eat these fish," I read out loud and waved to the women.

Things had changed somewhat since my prison term. 

People were complaining?

Everyone knew the radiation contamination was elevated around the old Weldon Springs Ordnance Works, but no one complained before, or had they? 

In the background of the lake was Francis Howell High School. How dangerous could it be if there was a school there?

There were jokes about the radiation in the springs, but the government, DOE, or the EPA regularly explained that the radiation levels were lower than those from an average sunburn. 

"Damn ladies, if anything, the signs to not eat the fish should be on the Missouri River; the catfish are feasting on all the gang-bangers tossed in the river at Kansas City," I said, making myself laugh.

Driving around the bend on Highway 94, I was again in awe of the white dome.

"Better than Newgrange or Stone Mountain, bigger than Cahokia mounds, we have outdone the elder races," I said.

The car shuddered some more, and I pulled into the parking lot of the giant dome and museum, weaving around yellow school buses to find a parking spot.

I studied the dome again. 

Jodi Defisher and I had stood on top of that dome during a bitter winter storm, peering at the brass sign pointing at where the towns had stood before Roosevelt's soldiers had run all the farmers away to make the Ordnance factory.

The United States wasn't even at war when the government used eminent domain to confiscate 17,000 acres in the middle of winter.

It had been freezing on the dome, and Jodi's warmth was a welcome shelter. I shuddered like Calvin's car and banished her kisses from my memory. 

On my first day out of prison, Calvin explained to me, "She is married, with twin girls no less."

"I hadn't expected her to wait for me to get out," I told Calvin. That was not quite a lie but an acceptance of life moving on when you are locked up.

Surrounded by yellow school buses, I had the urge to walk up the dome stairs for a quick look and a brief memory of that cold day with Jodi. 

We had barely noticed that we had stood atop an 18-acre collection of radioactive material capped by a rocky dome. When we could no longer endure the biting Missouri wind, we giggled as we navigated the icy stairs to find the museum open!

"Hey, isn't there a Government shutdown going on? No mail, parks closed," I asked the lady while Jodi gripped me like a remora.

"We're not part of the Government shutdown," said the lady who greeted us at the welcome desk. "We are DOE, Department of Energy."

I had wanted to debate with the lady: Aren't you part of the government? However, Jodi pulled me into the empty museum, where we could kiss out of sight of the spinster-looking lady and out of the winter wind.

"No!" I said when she tried to light a joint in an out-of-the-way corner under a giant picture that said "Yellow Cake."

 "What the fuck! Do you want to go to jail? Put that away, I hissed" and pulled her in tight. We were still freezing.

Jodi pointed at a photo of the old Yellow Cake factory, "Look, that building! That was our party spot!"


I stepped out of Calvin's car, still sore from my seizure, and spat more blood into an endless field of winter-killed sunflowers.

The giant dome had not been here when I was a kid or the first time I met Jodi at a beer party in the old factory, a favorite party spot where the firewood burned blue and green.

Nor when I had hunted on the Army land near the high school because my military identification card allowed me in the gate. That had been the peppermint schnapps hunting trip. 

"Oh, god-damn it, Tommy, that was the night I wrecked my truck. No more schnapps."

It had been on a return trip from Florida that I had asked, "What is that big white thing?" that I had learned of the massive cleanup of the factory and the shit dumped there from the Manhattan Project covered by a new Missouri mountain.

A group of ladies was trying to hand out flyers on the trail to the dome stairs; the kids ran around them, and the bus drivers ignored the ladies while smoking cigarettes. 

"Thank you," I said while accepting one of the flyers out of politeness; the paper with another radiation symbol read, "Town Hall meeting about the Cancer epidemic in St. Charles County."

Suddenly, a back door to the museum opened and slammed shut.

A woman yelled, "Don't touch me again, you pervert; I quit!"

The woman swung a mop and connected on middle-aged man who followed after her.

"Bitch you're fired!"

The adults, teachers, and bus drivers scowled at the man for his language.

"Sorry," said the man, "Accident."

"Any chance you are looking to hire?" I asked. "She has a good swing. She's a Cardinal fan, maybe?"

"I guess so," said the man as he watched the woman who had just quit squeal tires on the way out of the parking lot.

"I need someone today. It'll be a test, no pay, a test to get her job. I have a contract with the DOE to clean the toilets, mop the floors, and pick up trash on top of that rock mountain that the kids drop—little slobs. There is no money today, but I'll hire you full-time if you do well. Have you ever been a janitor?"

"I spent three years in prison sweeping and mopping. Was only just released," I said.

"Oh, I don't know, the kids and all," said the man awkwardly holding the mop.

"I was in the Air Force before jail," I said. "I need a job, or my parole agent will send me back to prison."

"Oh, you're a vet? I'll take a chance. I was in the Marines, the Mediterranean boat tour. Call me Butch. Like Butch Cassidy, not the other Butch?"

Later, I picked up trash on the stairs to the top of the dome—eighteen acres of rock and clay covering radioactive material from the yellow cake factory and the quarries.

The kids were slobs.

On top of the dome, a brochure lay folded and abandoned near the brass plaque pointed to the location of the eminent domain confiscated towns—ghost Towns now of Poison Ivy and Virgina Creeper.

The brochure had a drawing of a sunflower on the left side and another radioactive symbol on the other side.

"Has anyone in your family had cancer?" Come to the town hall meeting Saturday. Our political representatives will address the cancer spike in St. Charles County.

A photograph of the Dardenne Cemetery lined the bottom of the flyer.

A woman walked up the long stairs and tried to hand me another of the brochures.

"I have one," I said awkwardly. Talking with women was not one of the skills you practiced in prison.

"When I was a kid, I remember the springs around here were radioactive," I said.

"Yes, I have some of those newspaper stories clipped out. Did you attend Francis Howell High?" the lady asked.

"No, I grew up on the other side of the Dardenne Creek," and pointed north to a blur of green. "Over on DD."

"We cannot let the government get away with killing us, even slowly. This Dome? They made it into a tourist attraction. Can you believe that? said the woman who shuffled her brochures. 

I saw the wedding ring.

"Like they are celebrating this giant tomb," she said.

From the dome top, I looked north again to the green spot where the family home was. Housing developments had encroached on our green spot since my last visit to this dome. Jodi married with two children? Can you ever go home?

"It was sad what they did to the farmers in 38 was straight up Hitler or Stalin tactics," I said.

"Come to the meeting next week; we need full community support."

She had pretty, pleading eyes that were somehow haunted. A loss?

When I made it back to the museum with a bag of trash, Butch found me; he was holding a handful of crumpled fliers.

"I'm not docking you, man, because you are not on the payroll yet. But I'm not paying for you to jib-jab with the tourists. I need the toilets cleaned; those little bastards can never hit the target. If you want the job I need you to clean today, I'll fill out the paperwork to hire you, but I'm not paying you to talk." 


Chapter 3: The New Melle Meeting (Draft #1) Plus a link to the real meeting

Chapter 3.5: The Director of the Weldon Springs Interpretive Center

Chapter 4: Buck  What did he find In Busch Wildlife Area?

Chapter 5: Hide Hole: Where to hide hot artifacts?

Chapter 6: Parole Agent

Chapter 7: The Meeting and public facades

Chapter 8: Horse Thief

Chapter 9: Bucks Funeral

Chapter 9.5 Wasted

Chapter 10:  Mike and the Licence Plate

Chapter 10.5  Return to Dardenne Creek

Chapter 11 God of Fire

Chapter 12  West Lake Landfill

Chapter 13,

Chapter 14.......15, 16, 17...


And.......Then.........(in review)


Although my story is fiction, there are Citizens groups fighting the terrible radiation contamination in St. Louis Missouri from the Manhattan Project.



Meanwhile down on Kennedy Space Center:

Some of my YouTube shorts:

Daily alligator lunch walk

SpaceX sonic booms of the boosters landing

The last Delta Heavy rocket launch---sound only because of the clouds.

Recent flint knives I made

Gray arrowhead, Gray turkey

Grand Turk Boating accident

Antigua Diving Accident

Ascension Island volcano cable ride

Ascension Island USAF flight and the failed art of Zen




Return Home from Writing projects not yet completed page

moon




For pet lovers around the globe, "It's a Matter of Luck" is a collection of heart warming stories of horse rescues from the slaughterhouse. 

Available on Amazon: 

Kim ryba

It's a Matter of Luck: Inspirational, Heartfelt Stories of Horses Given a Second Chance.

by Kim Ryba & Lina T. Lindgren

Warning: This book may cause your eyes to water in a good way. (speaking from experience after reading it)

Please give Kim and Lina a heartfelt review on Amazon!



Author Bruce Ryba

Author Bruce Ryba at Kennedy Space Center Launch Pad 39B & Artemis 1. "We are going to the Moon!"

Author's discussion (that's me) on You Tube of a book review on Amazon


For the video versions of information, please check out my YouTube Channel (Turkeys, Flintknapping, dive stories etc.)


My fictional series/stories on Florida history:

Freedoms Quest (book one)
Struggle for the northern frontier and other lost tales of old Florida. 

Available on Amazon

End of Empire

Desperate times call for bold action.
In a desperate move to retain Florida and protect the treasure-laden galleons on their dangerous return journey to Europe, the King of Spain issues a royal decree offering refuge to all English slaves who escape Florida and pick up a musket to defend the coquina walls of Saint Augustine.
In another bold gamble, the King offers refuge to the dissatisfied Indian nations of the southeast who will take up arms against the English.
Clans, traumatized by war and disease, cross the Spanish Frontier to settle the cattle-rich land and burned missions of Florida.

Follow the descendants of the conquistador Louis Castillo in remote Spanish Florida, a wild and swept by diseases, hurricanes, and northern invasions.

 Book Two: Available on Amazon!