A Bunny and a Goat and a Dog, Oh My! Plus a Butterfly!!
The day we arrived in Branson, Mo. the forecast for the week was bleak. Unless you are a duck. There was an 80% chance of rain every day. Up until Day 5, if it rained it rained at night when we were asleep except for one time. It came a pretty good shower when I was sitting in the hot tub with a couple from Pennsylvania.
We ignored it. If you are in a hot tub you can only get so wet and we had already reached the saturation point. So we solved the world’s problems as a steady rain fell.
Day 5 was the exception. It was raining when we got up and show no signs of stopping. That was the day my wife’s motto kicked in: “When the going gets tough the tough go shopping.” I tagged along.
I had been looking for some cargo pants. I found three pair I liked and purchased them. That was before a lady in our neighborhood posted this meme on Facebook:
Good thing my self-esteem is strong. I will wear my “purse pants” proudly. A few years ago we visited Silver Dollar City and I rode the Outlaw Run roller coaster. It features an 18 story drop almost straight down to get started. Then after multiple vertebrae rattling turns it does not one, but TWO consecutive 360 loops. A while later I reached in my pocket and my key fob was gone. Luckily, my wife had hers. I filed a report with the Silver Dollar City lost and found. We had barely arrived home when they called to report it had been found. They mailed it to me for five bucks. Since then I require pockets that button, even if ridicule is a part of the equation.
After we hit a large strip mall, the rain stopped. At my wife’s behest, we then headed towards the mecca of Branson shoppers, the Branson Landing. In addition to a lot of nice stores & restaurants, it also has a nice boardwalk that parallels Lake Taneycomo for bored husbands that want to get a little exercise. But not before I hit Bass Pro and took some pictures of people walking their pets.
Branson Landing is pretty upscale, but it is still in the Ozarks.
Here is the first pet I saw.
Yep. That’s a Goat.
The second pet I encountered was a very photogenic, good-natured dog who happily posed for me.
Finally, on my walk, I encountered some Branson wildlife
So . . .it wasn’t a total rainout! I don’t recall who once observed that “weather forecasters are wrong often enough that you can’t count on them, but right often enough that you can’t ignore them.”
If no one else claims that observation maybe I said it. As my wife will attest, It wouldn’t be the first time I totally forgot something I once said.
Fifty-Four Years of Entertaining the World (and each other)
Presley’s Country Music Jubilee in Branson, Missouri celebrates its 54th Anniversary next month. My wife and I rarely miss an opportunity to see the Presley’s Show. In 1967, I attended the show with my parents. Later with my wife, and then my wife and son, and later with my wife, my son, his wife and our grandkids. On this visit, my wife and I attended with our neighbors, Tom & Linda Block.
I think that qualifies as a family tradition.
2017 marked the Golden Anniversary for Presley’s Country Jubilee. It was also Gary & Patty’s 50th wedding anniversary.
As they said in their advertising that year, “Now that’s a pretty good start!”
Gary and Pat also received a very special honor in 2017. They became the first husband and wife to be inducted into the Springfield, Mo. Public Schools Hall of Fame. I had the distinct honor of introducing them at that ceremony.
Here is a synopsis of what was said about them in the program and a short video featuring fellow Hillcrest students and celebrities alike
Branson’s first music theater opened 50 years ago and with it Gary and Patricia Presley launched a business and a partnership that would establish their family as a cornerstone of Branson’s entertainment and tourism industry.
Although Presleys’ Country Jubilee opened its doors in 1967 to entertain guests with a mix of comedy, bluegrass and gospel performances, Gary Presley, better known as the comedic Herkimer on stage, says it might never have happened had it not been for one fateful fire drill at Hillcrest High School where he ended up standing next to Patricia Adams.
The couple married a few months before the Presley family opened their theater along Highway 76—the glittering strip now crowded with theaters, restaurants and arenas. It was nothing more than a big metal box with folding chairs for 360 people. The show eventually gained national attention from television shows like “60 Minutes” and “Good Morning America” and today the theater seats 1,600 people and features three generations of Presleys. Gary and his brother Steve, who joined the show when he was 10, are the only original members still in the show. Patricia runs the front of house, managing anything and everything from customer inquiries to securing new costumes, which for the past 30 years have been made in Hollywood.
The Presleys put on 230 live shows a year at the theatre plus 26 TV shows broadcast on RFD-TV to a weekly audience of 400,000 nationwide.
I am proud to have been a friend and admirer of the Presley’s since they started this amazing journey. What they have accomplished is mind-boggling.
On this trip I got to visit the theater twice.
First to enjoy the show, and then the next day to attend worship services of the Freedom Fellowship Church which are held in the Presley’s Theater at 10 am every Sunday morning. Pastor Scott Presley delivered the inspiring sermon. I have never heard a better sermon while sitting in a more comfortable seat.
Congratulations to the Presley family on their astonishing accomplishments over the past 54 years and thanks for always, as Tim McGraw might say, staying humble & kind.
And now, in closing, here are some pictures of Patty & Gary from their years at Hillcrest High School in Springfield.
Revisiting Famous Inlaws Who May Have Been Outlaws
Though my wife and I and our son and his family now live west of Jefferson City, Mo., we grew up in and around Springfield. Most of our relatives are buried in southwest Missouri – including a couple who achieved great notoriety during their lives.
On Day 3 of our trip we decided to visit the graves of our best known kinfolk.
A distant relative by marriage of my wife’s family was recently portrayed in a new movie produced by Branson resident Michael Johnson. It was released in 2019 and titled Baldknobber. Nathaniel Kinney, known as “Captain Kinney” by his fellow Baldknobbers, was featured prominently.
After the Civil War ended, southwest Missouri was a dangerous, lawless place. Forsyth, Mo., not far from Branson, was one of the most dangerous. According to the Missouri State Historical Society, The Chariton Courier reported in 1892 that “the town of Forsyth is 50 years old, but does not contain a single church and never did.” According to Google, there are 18 churches in Forsyth today so there has been progress.
After the formation of the Baldknobbers, which were predominantly in favor of the Union, another group was formed known as the “Anti-Baldknobbers”. They were predominantly Confederate supporters according to a Doctoral dissertation by Matthew James Hernando titled “The Baldknobbers of Southwest Missouri, 1885-1889: A Study of Vigilante Justice in the Ozarks.”
At the height of the vigilante justice, Nate Kinney was gunned down in his own store in Forysth, Mo. He is buried in the Forsyth Cemetery, which was our first stop of the day.
We had only minor difficulty finding Mr. Kinney’s grave. His wife Maggie is buried beside him in a small, peaceful cemetery on the outskirts of Forsyth. My wife’s family used to vacation in nearby Rockaway Beach with distant relatives of Capt. Kinney when my wife was a kid. That was in the days when the water in Lake Taneycomo was still warm enough to swim in before the Table Rock dam was constructed.
If you would like to see a movie that shows the good side and the bad side of the Baldknobbers, the movie Baldknobber is available to rent or purchase on Amazon Prime at the following link:
As I often do, I wandered among the other graves to see what else I could find. Off by itself, I found the large, moss covered crypt of Ernest Crist. Ernest died January 8, 1923 at the age of 14. I did some research but was unable to find a cause of death or any other information about Ernest, but his crypt was unique so I suspect his family was well-to-do.
Near the entrance to the cemetery I found the headstone for James C. Johnson, MD, who died in 1906 at the age of 66. Buried next to him was his wife, Sarah E. Johnson, Nurse, who died in 1934 at the age of 93. It is very possible that James and Sarah treated many of the Baldknobbers and their victims, possibly even Nate Kinney himself.
What I found most interesting about the Johnson’s headstone was the inscription below the names and dates on the headstone. It read:
Remember Stranger As You Pass by,
As You Are Now So Once Was I
As I Am Now Soon You Will Be
Prepare For Death And Follow Me
This is not the first time I have heard of this epitaph, but it is the first time I have actually witnessed it. When I first heard about it, it was because someone had taped a note below it which read:
To Follow You I’m Not Content
Until I Know Which Way You Went
That is one of my favorite epitaphs, rivaled only by one I found in the Cemetery in Anutt, Mo. It was on the grave of a girl who died young. It read:
Here Lies Debbie
Who Didn’t Give a Doo-Dah
All Decked Out in Her Purple Baracuda
I would love to know the story behind that.
Our Day 3 cemetery tour ended at Bonniebrook, the home of one of my distant relatives by marriage, Rose O’Neill. Rose is best known as the creator of the kewpie doll, though she had many other achievements in her life, including some that were quite controversial for her day. Bonniebrook is 10 miles north of Branson in the woods on Bear Creek. When Rose O’Neill first moved there around the turn of the 20th century, it was a two-day wagon ride to get from Bonniebrook to Springfield.
I’ve read Rose’s autobiography. At one time she was one of the richest women in America. She got some of her artistic ideas from gazing into the forest around Bonniebrook where she used her imagination to conjure up the images of “sweet monsters” in the foilage of the densely wooded property.
Bonniebrook was closed when we visited, but the gate was open so we strolled the beautiful trail from the home and museum down to the small family cemetery in the woods just across a small bridge over Bear Creek. Rose died of pneumonia on April 6, 1944 in the Springfield home of my grandfather’s sister and her husband, Rose O’Neill’s nephew. She was 69.
Though there is no epitaph on her grave, in her autobiography Rose said her personal philosophy was “Do good deeds in a funny way. The world needs to laugh or at least smile more than it does.”
On our way back to the car, we noticed a relatively large dog eyeing us suspiciously at the gated entrance we had breached.
“Maybe that’s the guard dog” I told my wife.
While I am not scared of dogs, I did get a little nervous when it came running toward us. When it reached us, it laid down, rolled over, and put its feet up in the air. It wasn’t playing dead, though that would have been appropriate based on our days activity.
Turns out with the museum closed it was just looking for someone to rub it’s stomach.
In December of 2019, I purchased season tickets for Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo., for my wife and me for 2020. After the coronavirus hit in early 2020, Silver Dollar City announced policy changes which included mask wearing indoors and out, social distancing, and attendance control measures which mandated reservations to visit the Park.
When I balked at these restrictions, Silver Dollar City personnel were very accommodating. If I did not visit the Park in 2020, my season tickets would automatically roll over to 2021. I chose to do that in the hope that the restrictions would be unnecessary by 2021. The good news is that the restrictions were lifted on May 15, 2021. The bad news is that we visited the Park on May 14, 2021 when social distancing mandates required long waits to get into theaters.
By 2 pm, we were discouraged at our inability to see any shows that in most years we might have been able to see multiple times in the same day.
Though we didn’t get to see Bluegrass headliners Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver like we planned, after leaving Silver Dollar City early, we did get to see JESUS. No, He did not come to Branson in the flesh, but the amazing story of Jesus’ 33 years on earth told in the New Testament comes to life twice a day at the palatial Sight & Sound Theater in Branson.
While schedule flexibility has its benefits, getting good last minute show tickets is not one of them. We ended up with seats near where the angel later began its descent from heaven to roll the stone away from the tomb of Jesus.
The theater has 2000 seats, but even from where we sat the view was excellent, perhaps better than those closer to the stage because of the massive dimensions of the theater.
As the lights dimmed and on stage the story started with the future disciples of Jesus bemoaning the poor results from a long day fishing, the two people with tickets for the empty seats directly behind my wife and I arrived. In the darkness behind us was jostling & seat-bumping as our new neighbors settled into their seats and tried to get comfortable. Shortly thereafter the crackling of cellophane food wrappers from the seats behind us began to compete with the dialogue on the stage. I began to struggle with the words of Jesus to “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”.
Eventually, after Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount and fed the 5000 with a few loaves & fishes, the people behind us also got full. The only noise I heard from that point to intermission was their applause mingling with my applause at inspiring times throughout the performance.
As the lights came on for intermission, the man behind us leaned over tapped my wife on the shoulder.
“I would like to apologize to you”, he said. “I accidentally kicked your chair when I sat down. I have not been able to straighten my right knee since I was 18 years old”, which I estimated had been sometime in the latter years of the Eisenhower Administration. My wife’s mobility is also somewhat limited due to two titanium hips, two titanium knees, and a couple of bunion surgeries thrown in for good measure. My wife and the guy began to commiserate on the challenges of living with bad joints.
The earlier wrapper crackling incident was soon forgotten amidst the camaraderie engendered by shared surgical experiences.
When the elderly couple learned where we lived, mutual acquaintances were discovered. While we didn’t make dinner arrangements together, a respect and bond began to form which supplanted my earlier irritation.
Ok, just as a refresher course, here are the lessons I was given on the first two days of our vacation:
Day one – It is more blessed to give than receive (even if the recipient has expensive taste in coffee).
Day two – Love your neighbor as you love yourself, even if they cracklecellophane food wrappers behind you in a darkened theater.
Branson already has a reputation for wholesome, family entertainment. Sight & Sound Theater, bringing stories from the Old Testament and the New Testament to life with amazing depictions of JESUS, MOSES, SAMSON, NOAH, and QUEEN ESTHER can only help bolster that reputation.
A couple of nights after we attended JESUS, I met a military couple from Pa. who had been to see JESUS the same night my wife and I attended. Their seats were 6 rows from the stage (but they had to sit through a time-share presentation to get them). Even from the upper reaches of the balcony we experienced the same amazing sights and sounds as they. But If you order early (or sit through a time-share presentation) and get seats on the floor like the Pennsylvanian’s did, instead of 40% of your five senses (sight and sound) being stimulated, you get one additional sense stimulated (smell) at no additional cost. The profusion of well-trained camels, Roman soldiers on horseback, sheep, & pigs roaming the stage and aisles also stimulates your sense of smell according to my new friends who live not far from the other Sight & Sound Theater in Lancaster, Pa.
Adult Ticket prices were $62.50 with a 10% discount for veterans.
Steep, but after I saw the performance, I thought it was worth it.
And as everyone knows who read yesterday’s account of the first day of our trip, I’m not one to hand out money like it grows on trees.
My wife and I were barely 20 minutes into our first vacation since the good old “pre-corona” days. The morning was cool. Our spirits were high. We were headed to Branson, Mo. to enjoy a week of vacation that had originally been scheduled for May of 2020. That week was cancelled when I received an email from the hotel suggesting we not come due to the uncertainties, closures, and untested restrictions that had been implemented in response to the then newly declared pandemic.
So – this was not to be a “blazing new trails” trip. It was an “ease your toe back into the water” trip visiting long-familiar places in and on the way to Branson, Mo. Having grown up only 40 miles from there, my wife and I had been enjoying Branson since our parents had taken us there to enjoy the Christmas parade when we were just kids.
Our first stop was to join a moderately long line at a Scooters Drive-thru in Jefferson City for a burst of caffeine. I rarely sleep well the night before we leave on vacation. This vacation was no exception. Rarely, also, do I face a question more difficult than “room for cream? (NO!) when I order my usual large, dark roast coffee.
Today would be different.
We advanced slowly toward our goal of two dark roast coffees, large for me, medium for my wife, no sugar, no cream. Just delicious, tasty, dark roast non-prescription caffeine to clear our heads and invigorate our souls.
As we waited, I observed the car behind us from my side mirror. An older guy was behind the wheel, unsmiling, with a short, gray-haired lady in the passenger seat. Maybe they were married. Maybe it was an older son caring for his octogenarian mom. He seemed stressed.
As I pulled up to the drive-up window expecting “That will be $5.67” and adding a buck in the tip jar, the cashier said something unexpected.
“I’m sorry. Could you repeat that?” I asked.
“The car in front of you paid for your coffee. You don’t owe anything”.
That had happened to me once before when I got in line behind an old man in an old pickup truck with a dog of undetermined age by his side. It had seemed to take forever for him to get thru the line. When he finally pulled away, I pulled up to the cashier, ready to pay and glad to be on my way.
“That guy just paid for your coffee,” said the cashier. That pleasant surprise was diminished by the embarrassment I felt from the realization that only moments before I was wishing he would just hurry up and get on his way. The cashier said they were at fifty-something people in a row who had “paid it forward”. I did the same to add 1 to their record.
Back to the present.
I know the thing to do when someone pays $5.67 for your coffee is to then pay for the coffee of the person behind you.
“How much do the people behind me owe” I asked, holding a ten-dollar bill and ready to happily pay it forward.
“Their bill is $16.71” the cashier replied.
$16.71? My eagerness to pay it forward suddenly evaporated. I am a man of simple tastes, a man satisfied with a good dark roast coffee, no cream, unaccustomed to paying for designer lattes. No wonder the guy was stressed., I thought to myself. At $15 a day he was shelling out $450 a month to Scooters.
I wish I had had the opportunity to drink my large cup of Scooters coffee while I pondered this dilemma. My usual decision-making rationale of “I’ll sleep on it!” seemed inappropriate. Drivers behind me were beginning to get restless. In fact, drivers in a drive-thru coffee line are restless when they enter the line. I have long advocated for an express lane for customers at a coffee drive-thru whose order involves two ingredients or less.
“Uh”, I think I will pass” I said as the cashier waited patiently to see if I would continue to “pay it forward”. I had fully intended to pay it forward if I had not been stricken with sticker shock. And in retrospect, I wish I had.
Large coffee in hand I drove away with a full day ahead of me to second guess my decision. Forking over $16.71 (plus tip) is better than the “cheapskate” guilt I experienced in response to my refusal to let a stop to purchase two cups of coffee set me back the better part of twenty dollars less than twenty minutes into our vacation.
From now on, the cashier will receive no blank stare from me when informing me the car in front of me has paid for my coffee. I have already charted my course of action should this situation reoccur.
I plan to pay it forward up to a $20.00 maximum, including tip.
And if the tab for the car behind me exceeds that amount, I will resolve the situation with one simple question: “How much for the car behind the car behind me?”
We had been on the road for about 30 minutes and our vacation was already off to a memorable start.