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No bejeebers left

Yesterday was a perfectly lovely day here in the Shade – about 65 and sunny – and I got to go down to the creek and spend some special time with God. I was sitting there on my bench right at the water’s edge, listening, writing, and thoroughly enjoying the steady sound of the creek, the warmth of the sun, and the deep blueness of the sky when my reverie was shattered by a DOG barking loudly just a few feet away from me! Of course, I about jumped out of my skin and spun around very fast, reaching for my walking stick and thinking I might have to try to beat off a vicious attack dog before it bit me.

But no.

There were actually three dogs behind me, all on leashes securely held by various members of the Lane contingent. Loudly and hilariously laughing members of the Lane contingent! The Lanes (Steve and Shelly, their 18-ish year-old son, Brandon, and their 11-ish year-old daughter, Caitlyn – how can she be that old? Sweet Georgia Peaches, I remember when Shelly was pregnant with her!!!) live near the end of Coffee Road, and they, along with Brandon’s girlfriend, Josie, were out taking the dogs for their daily constitutional. People tend to be doing more of that these coronavirus days; slower, analog, neighborly things like getting out for walks, playing in yards, sitting on porches, and just generally spending a bit more time outside. It all feels just a bit more Mayberry-ish.

The Lanes’ property goes down to the creek right about at the place where my bench is – come to think of it, they may well own “my” bench… hmm… – and I guess they had come down through their back yard to walk along the creek road. When they saw me sitting there, they (maybe just Shelly?) thought it would be great fun to see if they could get really close and then try to scare the bejeebers out of me. They succeeded!!! But it ended up being good to see them, get better acquainted with their dogs Lilly and Cocoa, who like to bark intimidatingly at me when I walk past their house in the mornings, and spend some time talking with Shelly.

I did give it a little thought, but since God said, “Vengeance is mine,” I decided I’d better not concoct a scheme to get back at them.  = )

Greater than and less than (a.k.a. “less is more”?)

Various aspects of life have changed in recent weeks. We are now using/doing more of certain things and less of others.

Soap: more. We used to go through a bar of Irish Spring about every ten days when Scott’s home, every 15 days when he’s away. Right now, he’s here, and we’re whipping out a new bar on average every six days, thanks to all the extra showering caused by his playing tennis three or four times a week instead of two. = )

Walmart runs: less. I had been doing one large, one small, and – I’m embarrassed to admit – one tiny trip per week. (In my defense, I did have to drive past Walmart coming home from the gym six times a week.) With the advisory to stay at home AMAP, I have determined to only go to WM once a week on Wednesdays. Bonus points to me for holding out for eight days, complements of last week’s run having been on a Tuesday.

Neighbors greeted: more. Three of our neighbor ladies who work full-time outside the home are now working from home, so we often see each other out walking or driving and stop to chat. Without their commute times, I think they get to sleep in a bit and have more time to visit.

Gas: less. Much less. In my former life, I drove the Durango a minimum of 20 miles a day and often much more, but with the gym closed,* it now sits parked in the driveway (sideways and with the door open to sun-dry the carpet; we’ve had a lot of rain lately) for days at a time. Instead of my customary 19-gallon fill-up every six days, yesterday I filled up with a mere 13 gallons, and I hadn’t been to Gateway in eight days.

Yes, times have changed.

 

*  At the gym, I work out for 25 minutes on a seated elliptical, then do about 10 minutes of upper body work with weight machines before coming home and walking .7 mile round trip to the gate and back. I’m still doing my walk each morning, but it’s been rather challenging to achieve 25 minutes of no-impact cardio. Necessity being the mother of invention, here’s my current work-around.

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”)!

Jeopardy question: What is 192?

Answer: The approximate number of dump truck loads of dirt that have been hauled down Blansit Road by Taney County Road and Bridge so far this week.

Today is Thursday. Over the weekend, I had noted a small front end loader parked in the grass just this side of the bridge. Shortly before 7:00 AM on Monday, I saw a large, new, yellow dump truck, marked “Taney County Road and Bridge” turn down Blansit Road. Its cover was pulled, so it was obviously full, though full of what I couldn’t tell. I assumed gravel.

There’s a bit of recent history concerning gravel and the creek road.

In 2015, the creek flooded – as in raging, chocolate brown, out of its banks with whole trees floating by – at least seven times. I’m pretty sure it was eight times, but it was so often that I lost count, so since I don’t want to be guilty of (too much) exaggeration, for purposes of this blog, I’ll go with seven.

The creek road (Blansit) runs right along the “west” side of the creek which flows (very roughly speaking; it is, after all, a curvy creek that really doesn’t care anything about directions) north to south for about a mile from the low water bridge to the 160 bridge. In some places, the creek road is up to eight feet above the normal water level and/or is separated from the creek by a ten to 80 foot strip of trees, rush, brush, dirt, rock, or gravel, but in other places, notably at the dip behind LaShell’s, the road bed is exactly at the normal water level and there ain’t no separating “strip” at all.

Each time the creek flooded last year, the overflowing deluge poured down Blansit Road, washing away whatever gravel may have been on it, and scouring it down to bedrock to the point that it couldn’t even be traversed with a 4WD. And within two weeks after each flood event, Taney County was hard at it, hauling in gravel to repair the road. Gravel that washed away a few weeks or months later. Seven times.

So Monday afternoon around 4:00 PM, I took a walk along the creek and talked with one of the Road and Bridge guys who was sitting in his dirt-filled truck waiting for an empty truck to come out. It’s a one-lane road, and there aren’t many places along it where two massive dump trucks could pass each other.

Me: So. . . are you guys hauling gravel down there again? Seems to me you could just take some of this (waving my arm toward the heaps of washed-down gravel piled up several feet deep against the trees by the “parking area” at the bridge) and move it back up again!

Road Guy (RG): No, this time it’s not gravel; it’s dirt. We’re filling in the road so it doesn’t wash out.

Me: Well, that’s an interesting idea. I just know that last year I saw you guys hauling gravel in here about seven times.

RG: (grinning) Yes, it was a LOT of gravel!

Me: And it keeps washing down every time we have a big rain.

RG: Building up the road should help with that.

And I continued on my walk.

On Tuesday afternoon, Josiah and I walked to the low water bridge and back, and get this. There was NO fill dirt at the dip behind LaShell’s. There was nothing done about the seriously deep and loose gravel just past my place. In fact, there was no fill dirt anywhere along the road until we got to the highest part, shortly before you get to the low water bridge! Now why on EARTH would they be building up the road in the one place that is the least likely to flood?!?!? This simply defies all logic.

Josiah and I examined the fresh-packed dirt there on the rise, and I told him that I’d been hearing dump trucks go by all day. I figured they’d brought in at least twenty loads of dirt.

Thursday afternoon, I went walking again, and it was almost a traffic jam on Blansit Road. I again talked with a Road Guy who was idling near the bridge, and I asked him how many loads of dirt they had hauled in. Now bear in mind that this was nearly quitting time on Thursday, and they had been going hard at it all day Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. He said, “Well, I’ve hauled 12 loads today.” We can do the math. I know for a fact (because I had noted the various “unit numbers” on the different trucks) that at least four different trucks had been bringing in dirt.

4 trucks x 12 loads per day x 4 days = 192 loads of dirt.

This AFTER having seven times in the past year re-graveled and re-graded a one-mile, dead-end road that provides access to exactly one property, on which no one lives, but where there is a large hay field.

The friendly road guy also said, “I know some folks get upset” (I think he thought I was upset, but I wasn’t), “but it’s tax money, and we need jobs, to0.” Now, I understand that people need jobs, but I would think that in our fair county – as opposed to “in our county fair” – the government could find something productive for these guys to do, rather than what appears to me to be busy work. I didn’t say that to this guy because I know he’s just an employee. He doesn’t make the policies or do the engineering. He just hauls dirt where and when he’s told to.

[Note: The procedure was actually quite interesting.

Guys #1 & #2 arrive in the morning in a white pick-up.

Guy #1 gets out and drives the track loader (which was parked in the grass near the bridge) down Blansit to the scene of the dumping (nearly at the low water bridge), while Guy #2 follows along in the white pick-up.

Guy #3 drives a dump truck load of dirt about halfway down the road, turns around in a wide-ish place right the start of the deep, loose gravel, and backs up for the the remaining half mile! He dumps his dirt and Guy #2 begins to spread it.

Meanwhile, Guy #4 has arrived with his load of dirt. He drives down to the wide-ish place, turns around and waits.

Guy #5 arrives with his load of dirt, drives to a point just before the dip and idles on the side of the road.

Guy #6 has also arrived with his load of dirt, but he waits at the bend in the road up at the bridge.

Guy #3 drives out, and when he passes Guy #4, Guy #4 does the back-up-for-half-a-mile-and-dump-it routine, while Guy #5 pulls forward to the wide-ish place to turn around, and Guy #6 moves from the bridge to the spot before the dip.

And so it goes, all day for four days straight! Pretty impressive. = )

Stay tuned to hear if the Taney County Road and Bridge guys bring in any more dirt, if they smooth the ruts out of what they’ve already hauled, if they add chat, if they relocate “upstream” any of the many tons of washed-down gravel, if they put any of their dirt in any logical places, or if we have another frog-strangling rain.


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