Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Go to Branson

If you've never been to Branson, Missouri, you should go. It's a great place for family entertainment -- great for seniors, great for children, and great for couples -- maybe even for dogs!. Wholesome and patriotic. It's a beautiful area, nestled in the picturesque Ozarks. Prices are generally reasonable. My folks and I spent a few days in Branson, before going to the Katahdin Hair Sheep International Annual Gathering in Jefferson City, Missouri.

We did three main activities during our 2-day stay: went to Mickey Gilley's Show, took a paddleboat cruise on Table Rock Lake, and rode a "Duck" around Branson. We also visited the trout hatchery that supplies Table Rock Lake and Lake Taneycomo.

The Mickey Gilley Show was great. I've always been a big fan of Mickey Gilley and his bluesy style of singing and rambunctious piano playing. He is joined in his show by musician and comedian Joey Riley, who has a face made out of rubber. If we'd stayed a day longer in Branson, we would definitely have gone to Riley's show. He was hilarious. Good, clean humor. Mickey Gilley did a good job playing his straightman. We gained a new perspective on the phrase, "Think outside of box." (you had to be there!).

We took a lunch cruise on the Branson Belle, an old time showboat/paddleboat. Lunch was good and the variety show was quite enjoyable. It included singing, Dixie-style music, acrobats, and comedy. The cruise wasn't really expensive when you considered all that you got for your admission price. The Branson Belle was built above Table Rock Lake and slid down into the lake on bananas! The company hadn't wanted to pollute the pristine lake.

We rode the Ducks. Ducks come from DUKW, a military acronym: D Stands for the year it was designated, 1942; U for its amphibious nature; K for its all-wheel drive; and W for its dual rear axles. D-Day brought a force of 2,000 DUKWs to the Normany Coasts.

We were all given "quackers" and instructed to blow our quackers at other Ducks we saw as well as when we passed a golf course. It was all in fun. My dad took his quacker to the KHSI meeting and told me he was going to quack me every time I told a bad joke. Fortunely, all of my jokes are good. Either that or he was asleep during my presentations.

We rode our Duck around Branson and onto Table Rock Lake, skirting "Gilligan's Island." We all got a little (maybe, a lot) wet when our duck plunged into the lake. We learned the history of Table Rock Lake, a man-made lake with over 800 miles of shoreline. Our Duck also climbed a "mountain (barely!)" and we saw several military-style vehicles from different wars.

I didn't know that I had ridden a Duck before, but apparently when I was young, I had ridden a Duck in Wisconsin Dells, the first place where Ducks were used as "recreational" vehicles. There are also Ducks in Baltimore and Washington DC. I didn't know. I didn't even know what a Duck was before I went to Branson.

The trout hatchery proved to be an interesting side trip. Over a million trout are produced in this "Shepherd of the Hills" hatchery. We had a chance to see eggs being harvested from female trout. No fish hanky panky here. "Baby fish" are made by mixing the eggs and sperm in a "bowl." The hatchery gave a new meaning to the word, "factory farming." But, I didn't see any fish complaining, and survival is much higher in the hatchery than the wild.

One of the things that I liked best about Branson is its appreciation for veterans. Many veterans travel to Branson for reunions. Each show or activity recognizes them, as well as other tour groups and individuals celebrating birthdays or anniveraries. Recently, a special event was held for Vietnam veterans. Our Duck driver was a Korean War vet. I join Branson in thanking our veterans for preserving our freedoms and way of life.

I sure hope I get to go back to Branson, sometime soon!

"When God looked upon the work of his hands and called it good, he was sure alookin at this here Ozark Country…" Harold Bell Wright

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