After nearly every holiday, one or both of my kids will call and ask “how many people died this time, Dad.”

After nearly every holiday, one or both of my kids will call and ask “how many people died this time, Dad.”

Sure, it’s an odd or possibly even macabre question to ask, but it’s a slice of reality we must endure. The count was “only” one this holiday weekend, but it’s a tragedy nonetheless. A young man’s life ended in a flash; his family left to grieve and wonder why.

The reasons the Lake of the Ozarks is considered by too many to be Party Central can be debated for months, even years: Our lake is privately owned and managed, while others in our state are Corps of Engineers lakes. We have no size limitations for boats; there isn’t a daytime speed limit; we can scatter our homes and condos virtually wherever we want; and, of course, there are few restrictions on the consumption of alcohol.

And — possibly most importantly — a couple of dozen Water Patrol officers cannot adequately patrol 54,000 acres of surface area. I hear officers had a heavy presence at Party Cove where the Colorado man drowned over the weekend. It’s virtually impossible to regulate stupidity.

One irony is that despite bad publicity about the lake perpetrated by the Kansas City Star, people of all ilk continue to come here by the throngs.

The Star seems to have it in for us. The Party Cove, E. coli, land use restrictions, etc., etc., etc., captivate the obviously ill-informed reporters and editors there. One caller Monday morning to a local radio station said he thinks the Kansas City and St. Louis papers want their residents to stay home and spend their money there rather than share it with us.

Generations of community leaders on all sides of the lake have created what many of consider a slice of paradise, and what others consider to be a monster. Or, apt for the Farm Belt, it’s awfully hard to get the cow back in the barn after you’ve left the gate open.

Our lake is a monster, of sorts, with tentacles stretching everywhere and an underbelly that is 93 miles long and in some places more than 100 feet deep. Hence, the Land of the Magic Dragon.

The lake does have its ugly side, but to those of us who have grown to appreciate it, the lake is only rabid if you abuse it.

We can debate the ugly side of the lake, but there are no simple answers. Truely, the cow has been let out of the barn. It’s best to try to manage what we have wrought with what resources we have.

The boat accidents, the drownings, the highway fatalities, the traffic jams, and the occasional mayhem will continue.

There’s an old saying that you can’t legislate morality. Well, boys and girls, we can’t legislate away the problems that do sometimes make our lake a monster. We can cajole, we can lecture, we can preach, we can scold. In the end, it is what it is.

The only way to stop the monster is to starve it, and with that our way of life would starve as well.

That decision was made a long, long time ago.