Archive for the 'Community' Category

Our day at the City

On Tuesday, with thanks to Andrew for two complimentary passes, Jessica, Matthias and I went to Silver Dollar City. Since our family has had season passes for about twenty years, the City is full of all kinds of memories for us, and we three had a grand time. Actually, I think Jessica and I had a grand time, and Matthias was content to follow us around and do whatever we wanted, so we were really spoiled.

Between 10:30 and 3:00, we hit a number of rides, starting with Wildfire (once early – and that first drop did surprise Matthias! – and once later)…

and working successively through Thunderation (always a thrilling ride), NOT Time Traveler (because the line was about a hour long), the Great Shootout in the Flooded Mine (in its 50th year! and where a convict plunked himself down on the boat seat next to Jessica because “she’s cute!”), the train (still a fun, thoroughly corny, pun-ishing show despite a few P.C. changes to the program), the Swings (very enjoyable as always), the Raging Regatta (in which Matthias looked totally cool across the circle from us while Jessica found herself slammed firmly against me), the Lost River (where we were thrilled that there was no line at all on the bridge, but where we had to stand in line for at least half an hour because they were sending them back around – UGH!), Outlaw Run (which gave Jessica whiplash and a headache), and Grandfather’s Mansion (where water still defies gravity and flows back up into the faucet).

Pastor Barb had given Jessica and Matthias a generous stipend “to eat at Silver Dollar City,” so we all ate great food. Matthias thoroughly enjoyed his Twisted Tater Dog and root beer float, while Jessica and I did major damage to a large (sadly the only size now sold) bag of Kettle Corn – original flavor, thank you very much.  = )

And on our way out, we just happened to enter the taffy shop a mere three minutes before the afternoon taffy demonstration. Learning the details of how they make it (in 20-pound batches, no less!) was really interesting, watching those spinning arms pulling it for six minutes was mesmerizing, eating the warm strings of peanut butter taffy the demo lady pulled off and handed to each of us was scrumptious, and then the whole kuh-chunk, kuh-chunk, kuh-chunk process of that long snake of taffy moving through that ancient cutting and wrapping machine and the finished pieces dropping plink, plink, plink into the bucket at the end, well, that was – as always – just fascinating!

But the real highlights of the day for me involved two special people. Terry Wayne Sanders (a.k.a. “Terry the Tour Guide”) had greeted our tram in full Mad Hatter regalia. I told him then that he was wonderful and had been for quite a while, and he, of course, replied that I was wonderful too. Seeing that guy always makes me smile. Then much later in the day, we passed the Wax Man’s booth for the third time, and this time he was actually there! And, as Jessica said, he looked exactly as he always does. Some people never seem to age. He was making personal conversation every single person, making them feel quite special as he dipped their hands in wax. Jessica wasn’t going to buy a wax hand, but I wanted her to be able to talk with him, so since her knees were tired, I stood in line as her place holder for nearly 20 minutes, and when he saw her, it was such a sweet reunion!

He hugged her and said, “You’re in China, right?” That absolutely FLOORED me! Evidently they are Facebook friends, so he keeps up with her. He remembered that they first met when she was in white face. That’s a long time ago, and it was so touching to me that he, who sees thousands and THOUSANDS of people, recognized Jessica and remembered her.

And right after that, I saw a sidewalk painter (you know, dressed like Dick VanDyke in “Mary Poppins”) crouched down with a set of special paint markers, updating a sign on the pavement. I don’t remember exactly; maybe it was “Wildfire this way” with an arrow or something. It had faded and he was enhancing the colors with very firm, deliberate left-handed strokes. He had on a big hat, and I couldn’t see his face, but I wondered if it might possibly be Terry again. Jess and I couldn’t quite figure it out, so I bent down closer to him and said, “I’ve heard that all the greatest artists are left-handed.” To which he replied without looking up, “Oh yes, they are.” And I could tell by his voice who it was.  = ) He did look up then, and we had a conversation with him while he was kneeling on the street – about how much we appreciated all his amazing character work and about how many years we’d been seeing him at SDC. He told us about all the jobs he works each week – SDC, Shepherd of the Hills, a music show, another company; and that he’ll be married 30 years this year – happily because he and his wife don’t see each other much! And he was so honored to meet Matthias and congratulate them on their marriage. It was just a really sweet interaction.

Some things have changed over the years.

The 16 mph sign is gone.

The parking and tram stops are all different, and you can’t pick up your “Mothers-Day-Out” kids at the C turn-around because it no longer exists.

Some rides come (like Time Traveler) and some go (like the Wilderness Waterboggan). We later came across that same flirty “convict” manning the railroad crossing, and I asked him if he happened to know why the Wilderness Waterboggan had closed all those years ago. It turns out he did. “Safety issues. People who wouldn’t obey the rules. They kept trying to stand up and ride it down. I’m a grandpa and I fix all kinds of stuff, but I can’t fix stupid!”

Some rides get relocated, like the carousel and those eternally nauseating balloons.

Some shops move around, like Love My Country and the taffy shop.

Some new shops open, like the baseball one, Casey’s Dugout, where Love My Country used to be.

Some prices go up, like taffy ($9/pound) and Kettle Corn ($8/bag) and lockers ($5).

But some things also stay the same, like godly values, and lovely grounds, and personable staff, and lots of trees, and Thunderation, and wonderful family memories, and Terry greeting the tram.

Thank you, God, for all that’s special to me about Silver Dollar City.


Road raise

I walked partway down the creek road this afternoon, and I was really surprised. It seems that Unit #60 has really been hard at work. It’s actually been several MONTHS since I was down there (very sad, my bad), and the work Taney County Road and Bridge has done is truly impressive. “The dip” behind Bill and LaShell’s is a dip no more! They have raised the road some five feet, so that it it is just flat all the way. I was shocked and slightly embarrassed. I also saw a really big bird perched on an upsticking branch, and I want to figure out what it was.

Happy New (fiscal) Year

We think Taney County Road and Bridge’s fiscal year must coincide with the calendar year. In 2016, they spent many weeks hauling in, dumping, and smoothing untold numbers of truckloads of dirt onto Blansit Road along Bull Creek in order to, as one employee told me, “raise the road so it won’t wash out again.”

Now having lived here for twenty years, and having watched approximately 7.6 zillion tons of trucked-in gravel wash out each time the creek floods the road, I could have told them that (A) whatever you put on that road – gravel, dirt, chat, miscellaneous litter – is ALL going to wash out because (B) unless you dam the creek to create a means of flood control, it is going to rain, and from time to time the creek is going to rise out of its banks.

But the county didn’t ask for my wise and considered input.

Instead, they spent portions of several months “improving” the creek road, starting from the far end. Each night, they parked “Unit #60,” the small front end loader, at the near end of the road, where I walked past it eight times every morning. This move-in-the-morning and return-to-the-parking-place pattern was repeated for many weeks, and then at some point, faithful Unit #60 was simply abandoned. She was parked there for quite a long time – for something like four months! The weeds grew up around her, and I feared that eventually a few saplings might grow right through her and they’d never be able to move her. Something akin to Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel, you know.

Then eventually, (maybe sometime in November?), with no warning or even so much as a cheerful goodbye, Unit #60 was removed. I don’t know how she went or where she went, but she was gone.

And then last week, she suddenly reappeared, parked in her customary spot. And for the past week or so, a very friendly Taney County Road and Bridge gentleman has shown up at about 7:15 each morning in a white TCR&B pick-up (Unit #243) and tenderly ministered to Unit #60. One day he filled her tank from a pumping system in the back of his pick-up. Every morning, he starts Unit #60 and then sits in his truck for a while. I suppose he’s waiting for her to warm up. This can take a while for most females. Sometimes he comes alone, but on some mornings he brings a colleague, whom – and after getting Unit #60 running – he then drives down Blansit. I don’t know where they go or what they do, because neither of them reappears before I finish my walk. Last Thursday morning, when it was something like 7 bitterly cold degrees and we had both a dusting of snow on the ground and real live snow flurries coming down, the TCR&B gentleman was hard at it as usual, and when I asked if they were planning to move dirt in that weather, he smiled and said, “We sure are!”

If I were going to put 400 dump truck loads of dirt on a road that will wash out if not this season, then surely next, I wouldn’t leave my equipment sitting on site unused for four months and then haul it away, only to bring it back and resume the project in the coldest and most challenging weather conditions of the entire year! But when I mentioned this line of reasoning and my attendant consternation to Scott, he said that it made perfect sense: They must have run out of money to complete the project last year, but their fiscal year probably started January 1, and now they have money to keep going. Hmm. . . He’s so smart! I guess that’s just one more reason Scott’s My Hero. = )


Stop and frisk in the Shade?

Well. . . no. But it sure looked like it might have been.

Our family policy is that Andrew has to meet me face-to-face before he leaves for school in the morning, but most days, I am out walking when he leaves, so he pulls out of the driveway and drives over to wherever I am, and we chat for just a moment before he leaves. It’s usually about things like what in particular is going on that day, when he’ll be home, some word of encouragement, and a cheerful “I love you!”

Usually, it times out that I’m over by Walker’s massive paved driveway, or Altom Construction’s driveway, and he can just pull in, talk, turn around, and leave, but one day last week, I was smack in the middle of the bridge. The bridge is two-lane with fairly wide shoulders and concrete walls. I was heading west, and he was coming east, so he just pulled over onto the eastbound shoulder, and I stood on the westbound shoulder and we hollered back and forth, pausing whenever a car passed between us.

One of those cars happened to be a sheriff’s deputy, westbound. I waved as he passed us and didn’t really think too much of it, but then the deputy turned around in Altom’s. Uh-oh. He was headed back eastbound, slowly. In a split second, a lot of thoughts and images raced through my head.

~ There’s been an awful lot of horrific violence related to law enforcement in our nation in the past few months.

~ I’m a single (and in this area, need I add “white?”) woman walking alone on the shoulder of the highway.

~ An officer right here in Taney County was shot (but not killed) in the line of duty less than three weeks ago.

~ A young man in a nice car is stopped on the shoulder of the bridge and is exchanging words with the woman.

~ The young man is black.

~ Oh, boy.

As the officer slowed to a stop, I asked Andrew if he had his driver’s license, which of course he did. He reached for his wallet.

The officer stopped between us, right there in the eastbound lane, and asked what was going on. Andrew answered that he was talking with his mom. The officer looked at me, and I said, “He’s leaving for school, and I’m giving him some instructions about the day.”

“Oh,” replied the officer. “OK.” And he rolled up his window, slowly drove to the end of the bridge, turned around at Walker’s, and continued on his westbound way.

Andrew followed suit, and I was left alone again to walk and and think.

What does racial profiling look like and feel like when you’re not just watching some piece about it on the news; when it happens to a member of your own family? I’m quite sure it wasn’t intuitive to the deputy – and wouldn’t have been to anyone else who doesn’t know us personally – that Andrew and are related in any way, much less that I am his mom. A young black man stopped on a bridge to talk with a lone white woman at 7:05 A.M. probably does (and should) give pause. I’d much rather someone – law enforcement or otherwise – risk stopping to make sure everything is OK when it really is, than risk “passing by on the other side” when maybe it really isn’t.

Actually, I am pretty sure that the officer would have stopped no matter what color skin either of us was wearing, because even though I in my neon yellow vest am pretty much an early morning fixture on that particular stretch of shoulder, stopped cars are not. But I’m also guessing that Andrew’s race did play into it, and to me that is at once both awfully sad and totally logical. As the officer turned around to come back and check on us, I was instantly torn between “Should I be glad he cares enough to stop?” and “Should I be indignant that he’s suspecting a problem just because this young man is black?”

I’m still torn.

A little excitement in the ‘hood

This evening we looked out the back window to see a police car pulling in to the house behind us. I say “police,” but it’s really “sheriff” since we live outside the city limits. Well, our “city” doesn’t have any limits. . . ’cause it’s not a city, but I digress.

Over the next few minutes, another police car arrived, a man in a tank top appeared to be handcuffed (but later he wasn’t, so maybe I was wrong on that), an ambulance came very slowly and quietly onto the scene, and a third police car appeared.

I didn’t want to text my friend who lives there while all that was going on, so I just watched and prayed.

In a little while, the ambulance left (silently, with no flashing lights), and then one by one the police cars left in reverse order of arrival. At that point I texted my friend who said yes, she was OK, that someone had had a stroke, and that that person was OK.

Now all is quiet again in our little corner of the world.

Jeopardy question: What is 17 + 2?

Answer: The number of bank accounts for which we (and/or our children) currently have responsibility. That would be 17 at our old standby favorite bank, and two a different bank, about which bank the only thing I like is the cookies. They are, admittedly, VERY good cookies. But because we dislike everything but the cookies about that different bank, we will soon be closing one of our accounts there, and that will drop us back down to a mere 18, total. For folks who have had well over 30 credit cards, 18 bank accounts is probably a good fit.

I actually think Branson has entirely too many banks. Along a one-and a half mile stretch of Hwy 248, there are no fewer than SIX banks, which I can name off the top of my head.

~ Ozark Mountain Bank, (now called Central Bank of Branson), where we have 17 accounts

~ Branson Bank, where we have two accounts

~ The Bank of Missouri

~ First Community Bank of the Ozarks

~ Great Southern Bank

~ Hawthorn Bank

Downtown, we have:

~ Regions Bank

And looking online, I see several more scattered about our fair tourist destination:

~ Arvest Bank

~ Liberty Bank

~ US Bank

~ Academy Bank

~ Commerce Bank

We have banks for Branson, for the Ozarks, for Missouri, for the region(s), and for the United States!

We evidently have banks for freedom, for education, and for business.

We have a bank for a tree and a bank for who-knows-what. (What does Arvest mean, anyway?)

In short, we have a plethora of banks, but I am partial to Ozark Mountain, where they know me by name (and by vehicle), where they gave my kids suckers for years and years, where their drive-thru can easily handle my five or six transactions at a time (including giving me my cash back in any form I request AND writing the account name on each receipt!), where with advance notice, they will collect brand-new 100s to cash my check for overseas trips, where they’ll transfer money between accounts for me over the phone, where the tellers and personal bankers are cheerful and actually glad to see me, where they sincerely value our business and treat me like a valued friend. I like that in my bank! And that’s worth much more to me than a soft chewy chocolate chip cookie with a lot of stress.

Because inquiring minds need to know

It’s Wednesday. It rained Monday morning, so nothing was done Monday, but from 7:00 AM to 4:00 PM Tuesday and since 7:00 this morning, Taney County Road and Bridge has been steadily hauling in dirt to build up the highest part of the creek road (“so it won’t wash out”)!