Day 267: Popular Buff?

Laetitia and her group drove through the Ozarks on the way to their destination, stopping to go tubing on the Current River and visiting the old red mill in Alley Spring State Park. They arrived in late afternoon at Poplar Bluff, Missouri. It’s a small city of about 17,000 inhabitants that bills itself as the “Gateway to the Ozarks.” Some gossip heard on the afternoon walkabout, about a local equestrian with an unusual riding habit, provided the grist for the limerick of the day.

A fine lass from the town Poplar Bluff
Liked to ride ‘round bareback in the buff
And while some neighbors stared
The others declared
“One Godiva is more than enough.”

Day 266: Cuba, No Castro

From 1926 until it was replaced by the Interstate Highway System in 1985, Route 66 was the primary route from the Midwest to southern California. It started in Chicago and passed through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, ending in Los Angeles. For teenagers growing up in the Midwest during much of the twentieth century, it was the road to the land of movie stars and swimming pools. Nat King Cole romanticized it with his 1946 recording of the song (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66, written by songwriter Bobby Troup, and in the early sixties there was a television show, Route 66, based on the freedom and mystique of the open road.

In the days before the mundane mediocrity of fast-food establishments and “cookie cutter” chain motels, the towns and businesses along the route showed a great deal of imagination. One such town was Cuba, Missouri, which created a series of twelve murals along the route. The Wagon Wheel Motel, a Route 66 fixture since the 1930s, is now on the National Register of Historic Places. In the nineteenth century the town was named after the island of Cuba. When Castro came to power in the 1950s, the townsfolk put up signs leading into town that read “Cuba—No Castro.”

Laetitia and her group went hiking in the Ozark hills of the Woods Memorial Conservation Area before returning to Cuba to visit the Crawford County History Museum. After viewing the murals, some in her group commented about how imaginative Cuba’s citizens were, a point supported later at happy hour by the bartender’s story about a young local couple named Billy and Grace.

The plan of young Billy from Cuba
To make love while playing a tuba
Was nixed by young Grace
Who said, “It’s too base.
Let’s try underwater with SCUBA.”

Day 265: Mack’s Creek Chic

Laetitia took her group to Ha Ha Tonka State Park. Around the turn of the twentieth century, Robert Snyder, a wealthy Kansas City businessman, purchased 2,500 acres in the Lake of the Ozarks area with the intent of building a home and resort. The project began in 1905 with its centerpiece, a European-style castle. The castle was named after the spring at the bottom of the bluff, originally called Gunter Spring after the previous landowner, but changed by Snyder to Ha Ha Tonka. The latter was allegedly the name that the Osage Indians had given the spring and translates as “laughing waters,” but this has never been verified. Snyder died in a car accident in 1906, but his sons completed the project in 1922. A fire that started from chimney sparks in 1942 gutted the castle, and only the shell remains.

The Lake of the Ozarks has been a tourist attraction for many years. During a happy hour at their motel bar, Laetitia heard a story about a young man named Bill from St. Louis who had planned to court a local farm girl named Lou from nearby Mack’s Creek. He had met her at a dance held by the resort where he and his family were staying. While they danced, she painted a wonderfully romantic vision of farm life. He was enchanted with the idea of a bucolic life with her until the day he arrived unannounced to ask her out and it happened to be at chore time. The story was the source of the limerick of the day.

Bill’s plan to woo Lou from Mack’s Creek
With a film and a dance cheek to cheek
Soon went to the dogs
When he saw her slop hogs
And decided she wasn’t so chic.

Day 264: Climax Springs Sings

Climax Springs is a village in central Missouri of some 80 residents that is now mostly a retirement community. It was named when a Mr. W. W. Hockman discovered a large spring when he was traveling through the area in 1880 and is reported to have said, enigmatically, “This caps the climax.” Laetitia’s group on this day contained a relatively large proportion of young men, who joined perhaps because the village’s name suggested that there might be young girls here with bacchanalian propensities, but they were sadly disappointed. There aren’t many young girls in a retirement community of 80 souls, and those they did meet were staid religious types, and not the kind of girls they sought.

That evening they drove over to Lake of the Ozarks, about 30 miles away, where they had dinner and Laetitia presented the limerick of the day.

Those young girls who live in Climax Springs
Our young men thought would go on wild flings
Of feral delight
But drear was their plight
For the girls only went on Psalm sings.