Editor's Note: In place of Ray Speckman's monthly "Ozark Daze" column, The Lake Today is celebrating the local historian and author's newest book, An Ozark Painting: A History of Lake of the Ozarks, and his upcoming book signing as part of a local author event Saturday at Stonecrest Book & Toy. Look for the return of "Ozark Daze" in the Oct. 2 issue.
For Ray Speckman, man is one fragment of the geological clock of time that makes up the world, as humans know it.
"We are just passing through (as humans). With the rest of mass that we live on, we don't know what it is going to become of it," he said.
For that, Speckman's longtime fascination with not only the gentle geology of the area that spans eons of evolution but also the continual historical evolution of Lake of the Ozarks is one he has mentally documented and researched over 30-plus years as a resident.
In regularly relaying this nuggets of the Lake's rich history through his The Lake Today's monthly column, "Ozark Daze," and countless other past television specials, radio programs and newspaper and magazine articles, Speckman has now collected these stories in a newly published book, An Ozark Painting: A History of Lake of the Ozarks.
On sale at multiple venues throughout the area, Speckman will be a guest during a local book authors' signing event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Stonecrest Book & Toy in Osage Beach, also where is book is currently sold.
Speckman will also be joined during this time by Lora Colter, who sign her book, The Concierge, and local author Raul Delgado will be available during this event from 2-5 p.m. at the bookstore to sign and promote his book, Ghost of 1968. Other authors are tentatively scheduled to make appearances and discuss and sign their books, including a Camdenton-based author who has previously published three books and soon to be fourth on his experiences serving in the military and during the Vietnam War.
For Speckman, his own evolution has taken him on a whirlwind journey of entrepreneurship, discovered historian, husband, father, friend and community-involved citizen of mid-Missouri, particularly Lake of the Ozarks.
Growing up in Hannibal, Mo. on a pig farm on the outskirts of town, Speckman's fascination with history began with Mark Twain. Exploring the man behind the notable author, Speckman's developed inquisitive nature allowed him to research and mentally record stories of Missouri's unique attributes during his various local residences, travels and even in journeys in and beyond America's borders through the years.
His heightened sense of curiosity and intrigue for history and humanity made him quite the storyteller, and his personable nature and writing talents landed him many opportunities to tell these tales to others through a variety of local and national avenues.
Speckman has relayed his gathered stories of the Lake's people, places and things on KOMU-TV, the pages of Vacation News and airways of KFRU radio station. He also has helped build historical documentaries for PBS, the Travel Channel and other nationally known networks. Outside of his "Ozark Daze" column in The Lake Today, Speckman also hosts "This Week in Versailles," a weekly local radio spot that interviews Versailles-based business owners, dignitaries and others in the community.
In addition, Speckman owned Camp Bagnell for a number of years, taught at Columbia College's Lake campus and has been involved in many philanthropic and community activities, aside from traveling to numerous places with his partner and Emme's Attic in Versailles owner, Joyce Mitchell, and previously with his late wife, Marti.
"(In doing all these things) I developed a big interest in telling the narrow focus of area history ... doing all these things and seeing all these things, I was able to meet all these people that I would have never met in a normal life; it's been very rewarding," he said.
Speckman also put his wealth of knowledge and love of writing to good use before An Ozark Painting: A History of Lake of the Ozarks was published roughly a month ago. He has published several e-books including, Meanderings, which is a collection of places Speckman has traveled over the past several decades from a light-hearted and informed "incurable vagabond," and Stranger in the Mirror.
Selling close to 20,000 copies, Stranger in the Mirror is the profile of a Speckman's late wife's brave yet unsuccessful fight against breast cancer, which could have been prevented.
"It is a short, but true story about the last year of the life of my wife, Marti," he said. "The purpose of this book is important for women to get their mammograms; she didn't and she (passed away)."
Speckman has also previously published Mennonites in Missouri: Volume 1, which is a first in a nonfiction series exploring the customs, beliefs and lives of Mennonites in Missouri, told by an "Englishman" and admirer, according to Smashwords.com. Speckman also has recently released two fiction e-book pieces, one most recently in June called, Joseph Smith and His Legions. According to Smashwords.com, this first-person account of Joseph Smith told by the descendant of the prophet and Fanny Adler, his first plural wife who was 16 at the time of their marriage.
Speckman's second fictional account, Zenith, tells the tale of greed, immorality and deception as men and women, politicians and the Mormon Church struggle with and against each other, according to Smashwords.com.
"It was published this (spring) and has sold about 15,000 copies over the last six month," he said. "Zenith is a novel about corruption, immorality and greed in the development in a huge recreational facility in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah. It talks about those items in the banking, legal and Mormon Church."
As for An Ozark Painting: A History of Lake of the Ozarks, Speckman is excited for readers to explore the geological history behind Lake of the Ozarks, its "age of discovery," the creation of Bagnell Dam, increased development and the leaders behind those modes of progression, among many other points of interest.
He said he wishes he could have injected more about some of the Lake's major developers and influential dignitaries such as Koplar and Duenke. Yet, he also said it could be the premise of another book in the future.
He is grateful to the local publishers, B-W Graphics, who he said showed the expertise and capabilities of what a local printer can truly accomplish. He said he could not have had a more "pleasurable relationship through the whole process with any other foreign printer and their work was a true testament to do business locally."
Speckman said An Ozark Painting: A History of Lake of the Ozarks' name embraces what the book represents - a beautiful canvas where its inhabitants keep adding to it. Even though the book is not a complete, definitive collection of history and most comes from Speckman's own recollection of stories, its details are from those notable individuals, friends and residents that felt the need to share their own gems of Lake Area history. For Speckman, these tales are what create a true "Ozark painting" and keep the Lake's rich history alive for generations to come.
"Whether we like it or not, just like the trees and buildings, we all have a shelf life. We don't know how long it is going to be, there are so many people that are gone that could have told so many good stories. However, there are people left that can relate those stories and they are stories that need to be told and be preserved," he said.
An Ozark Painting: A History of Lake of the Ozarks is for sale at Emme's Attic and JJ's Country Market in Versailles, Country Pickers in Eldon, Rock Island Line Bar & Grill in Lake Ozark, and Lake Patio and Pool Tables and Stonecrest Book & Toy in Osage Beach. Speckman said if someone would like to purchase a book and bring it to him to sign, he would give him or her a dollar back.