Well, it’s been hard to get back in the harness to write this column since I wrote a month’s worth in advance in May so I could have some “time off” for fun and travel. But the vacation is over and I’ve procrastinated as long as I can. So, here goes:
My old buddy from New Mexico, Albie Kirky, came for a few days of fishing, and that turned out to be a flop as he had to return early, plus the weather wuz windy enuf to blow your hair out by the roots. But Albie’s son, Quirky Kirky, and his son from Leander, Texas, came fishing and we had modest success, but nothing to write home about. We still had a lot of fun and I sent Albie’s grandson home with a container of dust and ant lions so he could learn about and watch those fascinating insects build their inverted dust cones and catch unsuspecting insects
As soon as the fishermen left, ol’ Nevah and I headed for Pigeon Forge, Tenn., for a granddaughter’s high school graduation. It seems that every year we make the trek to seen another grandchild graduate from high school or elementary school. This wuz the fourth year in a row, so we took the shortest route which wuz through southern Missouri, across the Mississippi River bridge into one mile of Illinois, and then across the Ohio River bridge into Kentucky, then east to Paducah, Kentucky, and on through Nashville, Tennessee, to Knoxville, and down to Pigeon Forge.
Our first stops were in Mt. Vernon, Mo., to visit with my 93-year-old uncle, El Wynn, who is living in the Missouri Veterans’ home and hospital. He is a purple-heart survivor of WWII’s Battle of the Bulge. We hadn’t seen him for more than two years. We had a good visit with him and my cousin who had come up from Springfield, Mo., to see his dad.
After we left, we headed for my good buddy Willie Jay and his wife Connie who farm close to Mt. Vernon. We laughed together and lied to each other for more than two hours. Before I left, Willie loaded us up with 4 big bags of kettle corn and a quart of homemade apple wine.
We overnighted in Springfield with my cousin and his wife and made it just east of Nashville for the next night. A four-hour drive the next day got us to Pigeon Forge and our daughter’s home and family.
Every year in this column I have to mention the rapid spread of armadillos across the nation. I’ll bet we saw more than 200 dead armadillos on the road on our 2,000-mile round trip. Plus, probably half that many dead possums. The highway carnage also included at least a half-dozen deer, probably 30 raccoons, two coyotes, a red fox, several snapping turtles, and an assortment of dogs and cats. If that many critters get killed on highways, it makes me wonder how many there are out in the boonies.
As far as the armadillos, I haven’t seen one at Damphewmore Acres yet, but I will soon as I’ve seen a couple of dead one within a few miles of us. In 1990 when we moved from Parsons, Kan., to Iowa, the armadillos had just started showing up in Kansas along the Oklahoma border. It’s taken them just 27 years to expand their range into central Kansas and the Flint Hills. When they arrive, the great Armadillo War will be waged at Damphewmore Acres. I also didn’t see any east of Paducah, Kentucky.
We spent five days in Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg. One afternoon we toured the aftermath of the huge wildfire that almost consumed both towns last November. The homes and biznesses were burnt to the ground in places right up to the banks of the Pigeon River which runs through Gatlinburg. It wuz plumb scary for me to imagine how it must have been for the residents and fire fighters during that conflagration. The area has begun to recover, but much of the carnage remains and it will be a long time before the effects of the fire are gone.
On our way home, we detoured north of Nashville to stop in Franklin, Kentucky, at the Kentucky Downs horse race track and casino. Live horse racing isn’t until fall, but the simulcast betting was going full bore. I had better luck than usual and came within a few dollars of breaking even. Nevah dropped a few shekels in the slot machines whilst I wuz playing the ponies. But it wuz a good stop for a few hours of cheap fun.
We overnighted in Paducah after a harrowing drive for a half hour through a deluge so heavy we had to pull over to the side of the road becuz we couldn’t see the road. The next day as we traveled through the Boot Heel of Missouri, it looked like a million-acre lake two-inches deep. It will be quite a while before all the crops are planted because of the rainfall.
The next day we stopped to see old Bea Wilder U. college friends — Warner “The Bull” and Mary Ann Locke, in Springfield. Hadn’t seen them for a few years and we ate lunch and spent a few hours catching up on family and mutual friends. We overnighted at Bolivar, Mo., and had an uneventful trip home the next day.
We arrived to what looked like an abandoned farmstead. The grass and weeds had about taken over during the 10 days we were gone. It’s taken all this week and we’re still not caught up with the work. That’s the one problem with spring vacations.
Hope this travelogue didn’t bore you to death. I’ll try to get back to some humor next week. Until next week, remember these words of wisdom. If you are ever facing two evils, pick the one you’ve never done before. Have a good ‘un.