An Ozark Life

Though I love the manicured lawns and tranquil museums of the city, there’s just something special about living in the country. I’m grateful for the long stretches of green, knowing the hills I’ve passed might belong all to one person, or no one at all, or a few contented cows.

Even though I live on a highway, it doesn’t stop my retired neighbor from driving his golf cart a half mile to see his buddy up the road. There isn’t a golf course for 20 miles.

Then there’s the guy 3 houses down who used to ride his horse to the biker bar at the junction so he could drink all he wanted and still get home. The horse knew the way.

One morning I was about to pull out of the driveway when I saw my father parked across the road in his van. He was sitting in front of the little white church where maybe 4 cars arrive each Sunday. The bell still rings at 10am that day. Dad wasn’t alone. Our neighbor to the west was visiting through the van window, one hand wrapped in a rope attached on the other end to a very large bull with horns that curved up past the driver’s side window.

“Hey!” he waved as I slowed to get a closer look. “Just out walkin’ the baby.”

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What do you love about where you live?

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Outdoor Poems

Nothing inspires quite like nature. Admittedly, I’m usually inspired to slather on sunscreen and run from the bugs, but on those rare occasions when I can wander a cultivated garden it is pure bliss.

The Botanical Gardens nearest my home are a wonderful sample of what Paradise could be. Within a few minutes among the roses, hostas, and iris, the tension subsides, making room for creativity to flow. I may not be much good as an outdoors-woman, but I’m excellent at appreciating its beauty!

Here is a haiku triplet I wrote on one such visit:

A water’s whisper

bids me stay, and learn how

to still the rushing.

 

The path that winds back

upon itself lets each one meet

again, but newly.

 

Raindrops make ripples;

softened pebbles from the sky,

their presence soon forgot.

 

How are you inspired by nature?

Uh-oh, I’ve said too much

I don’t see myself as an expert in anything. Heck, I Youtube how to do half my life. But when you write a book, people naturally see you as an expert in that field. (I am thankful every day I don’t write romance…)

While I’m no expert, I have lived in the Ozarks for 25 years, and in Missouri my entire life. I am a travel nut, so I’ve been to every possible historical, cultural, adventurous, museum-ish place I could reach. And as a teacher and homeschool parent, the urge to collect experiences is twice as strong.

Lake Taneycomo

(Photo courtesy of Branson Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Completely by accident, I have become a vault of useless knowledge about vacationing in Branson. It started with a few years at the Convention and Visitors Bureau, organizing tours for big groups and assisting travel agents (remember those?). Then I worked for tour businesses and bus companies, booking shows and restaurants for legions of Shriners and church ladies and retirees who, thank God, had decided to let someone else do the driving. As a step-on guide (that’s someone who “steps on” the bus and is your tour guide for the city) I dressed up like Ellie Clampett from the Beverly Hillbillies and spun stories that passed the time in traffic – a skill which has served me well in front of a classroom in my present life.

In the years I traded full-time work for a family, I was busy catering to children, then teenagers, and back to adults again. I’ve seen Branson boom and watched the lakes rise and fall, entertainers come and go, hotels change names, and decided for myself what was the best of the best. I don’t know a tenth of what the old-timers do about this area, but that’s what makes it fun to keep learning. I consider my new book – 100 Things To Do In Branson Before You Die – to be like dipping a toe in Table Rock Lake. You’ll get the feel of the water without plunging all the way in.

It’s funny to be pointed at as an “expert” at book signings and events, but that is part of the deal until the next thing comes along. At least you can always ask me for directions and where to get the best ice cream! (Andy’s Frozen Custard…you’ll love it!)