We have so far enjoyed a wonderful first week in our now traditional autumn working vacation in Branson, Missouri. We got a late start last Saturday (packing, last minute Vital Signs matters, dropping off a couple of copies of THE CHRISTMAS ROOM) but we managed to still get into Branson not too long after dark. The trip down was relaxing – good conversations, good times of prayer, listening to college football games and old radio programs of Sherlock Holmes, Claire getting in a little nap – and we were delighted with the time-share condo awaiting us at Palace View on the southwest end of town.
The next morning (Sunday) we were up early for a drive up north to Aurora, Missouri where we attended the worship service at New Hope Fellowship. My cousin David Ellsworth is the pastor there (he also has an important job at Silver Dollar City as a construction engineer) and we had a great time. We were then the lunch guests of David and Heather at a neat little restaurant in the old downtown of Aurora where we discussed the sermon, got caught up on the stories of our lives, and had a very nice time.
The next stop in our Sunday was in Crane, Missouri where my Aunt Farris lives with my cousin Belinda. Spending time with them has become a highlight of our trips to the area and we had our usual time of encouraging, uplifting visiting. Sharing in a deep love for Jesus, our conversation always has a two-directional aspect; that is, we look back and we talk a lot about family history but we also look forward in our anticipations of spending eternity with our born-again family members and our Savior in the New Jerusalem. Neat fellowship. Getting back into Branson in the early evening, we did some grocery shopping in town, some reading back at the condo, and some much sought after sleeping!
Early the next morning, in fact, before the sun made it up, I took off for a walk around the area. I plotted out a 5.5 mile course that I ended up using several days this week. Monday also included some reading, some resting, and an obligatory session with the time-share salesman, which was not nearly as bad as we feared it would be. Tuesday was a really great day. We had breakfast out at a place nearby called Jackie B. Goode's Uptown Cafe. Then later on that rainy morning, I took off for Panera’s where I had coffee and inscribed several copies of The Christmas Room to friends who had read the manuscript and made helpful suggestions. Claire met me a bit later and we boxed up the books for mailing. At the downtown post office, we were attended to Harold, a good ‘ol boy who was a treasure with helpful advice, interesting conversation, and a memorable joke or two. Next we went to Dove Oil at Branson Landing to fill our depleted stock of infused olive oil and vinegar. (Our Paleo lifestyle features a continual use of great salad dressing.) While at Branson Landing, we also did some successful clothes shopping for both Claire and me at Belk's Department Store.
Heading back to the car we came across an older couple (Tom and Barb) who were having car trouble. I pulled the Equinox over to give them a jump start which got their battery recharged but still their engine wouldn't turn over. We hit it off well. They were from Lebanon, Missouri and didn’t have much of a local connection. Tom had been in construction most of his 86 years and was now deeply involved in a new project for the pro-life pregnancy center in his town. We offered them a ride, even a place to stay if they needed it. And they promised they’d take us up on our offer if it came to that. Claire gave them our card, our cell number, and made them promise to keep us informed. And they did. It turned out the engine had been flooded and, with the battery recharged, it started about 10 minutes after we had left them. What a sweet answer to our prayers and what a neat couple to befriend.
It was getting pretty late by the time we got back to the condo but I did get my walk in before dinner. The rest of Tuesday night was taken up with watching Game One of the World Series.
On Wednesday Claire was feeling a bit under the weather and so she took it easy, had a couple of hot baths in the delightfully deep tub our condo offers, and enjoyed a long nap. For my part, I got in my walk early, did the grocery shopping, finished the Richard Tregaskis classic, Guadalcanal Diary , and watched Game Two of the World Series that night.
Claire was much better by Thursday. In fact, she was healthy and rarin’ to go. She fixed breakfast and we drove down to our favorite college (and our favorite place in the whole area), the College of the Ozarks. The purpose of that particular trip was to meet Nick, Dick Wilson’s grandson, and to pass along a package that Dick and Linda had prepared for him. Because I knew the package included what Dick had described as “a little walkin’ around money,” we wanted to make sure Nick got it before the weekend. (Note: Dick became first acquainted with the college from our trips here, our Christmas presents of jellies and apple butter made by the students, and our high praise for the place they call “Hard Work U.” Those seeds led to Dick's encouraging his daughter to investigate the college as a possibility for Nick. Eventually, Nick did apply, was accepted, and is now nearly finished with his freshman year. How neat is that?)
Later on Thursday I decided to mix things up in my exercise regimen by hiking in the Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area. Claire was so much better that she joined me. Indeed, she was with me for most of that hike including the lengthy loop which the rangers had labeled "Difficult." Way to go, babe! I then tacked on to the day another trail which goes all the way down the mountain to the Taneycomo River. That path includes 315 stone steps that were cut out of the rock in 1937-1938 by Lyle Owen. (See photo above.) The scenery was splendid and the hike quite exhilarating, especially for a fellow affected by vertigo as I am. And, I can certainly testify, those 315 steps down were quite a different challenge when they became 315 steps UP! Thank the Lord, I made it in surprisingly fine shape. I even managed to leg it down to a used book store while Claire finished grocery shopping where I found a nice hardbound copy of James Hilton’s So Well Remembered for me for only $3.
Late Thursday evening, Keith and Carol Moran arrived in town. They moved in to the other section of our condo complete with a separate entrance and its own kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and living room. They had been in New Mexico and had little time at home before driving here for a long overdue reunion with Carol’s cousin so we let them turn in early. We did too.
My next report? I'll post the next stage tomorrow.