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Wilderness Vacation

May/June 2005

        After being back in the Wilderness in October 2004 with my girlfriends, I had the bug to return again.  Dave and I have been married almost 5 years.  We both missed out on meeting each other's grandparents, but I desperately wanted Dave to go to the Wilderness with me for our vacation. 

        The week of Memorial Day was a good week for us to make the trip.  We drove "home" to Hillsboro Memorial Day weekend and visited with my parents.  On Monday, Memorial Day, we left for the 3 hour drive to Wilderness.  The cemetery at Wilderness has "Decoration Day" on the first Sunday in June, so I had timed the trip to include Decoration and had talked Mom into driving down for that weekend.  Although I love being down there and attending church at Wilderness Free Will Baptist and enjoying the big Decoration Day potluck, I'm not good enough with names to remember all the folks that remember me.  I needed Mom's help!

        For the week prior to Decoration, I had planned more into the week than could possibly fit.  I wanted to show Dave all the great family vacation spots I had visited throughout my childhood, Big Springs, Alley Springs, Turner's Mill, and more, but visit at least one site I found on the Internet that I didn't know existed in Oregon County, Grand Gulf State Park outside of Thayer.  And of course there was all that genealogical research I was going to try to complete in Oregon County and the neighboring counties of Carter and Shannon.

        I was reminded once we got there, however, that my husband's interpretation of a vacation includes this thing called "resting".  For some strange reason, he does not feel that every waking moment needs to be spent on the road with planned activities.  In the end, we compromised, and we both got more out of the week than either of us planned.

Unplanned Pleasures:

  • Rockin' Randall.  With no television watching for a week we rediscovered the joy of listening to the radio.  Other than when the Cardinal games were on, we found ourselves listening to KSPQ in West Plains, a classic rock station.  We particularly enjoyed listening to Rockin' Randall who was working extra hours due to the holiday week I think.  We also learned that week that Alice Cooper has a radio show that started on KSPQ right there in southern Missouri.  Too Cool!!

  • Mammoth Springs.  I had always heard of it, but had never been there.  When Dave and I were in Thayer, he asked me how far away Arkansas was.  He had never been to Arkansas, so we took the short drive down the highway and stopped at Mammoth Springs.  It was a beautiful spot off the road and has a wonderful gift shop.  We took some great pictures.

  • Pussy Willow.  Although my grandparents house has been empty for years, we pulled in to park and there was a young cat on the front porch waiting for us.  We figured she wondered down from the neighbor's house where we saw a lot of cats and kittens.  We dubbed her Pussy Willow and she kept us company.  She also joined me on my walk around the homestead and through the woods as I took pictures.

  • Father Dowling.  When Dave insisted on resting a day, I search through the books that had been left down there and found a Father Dowling mystery.  I remember the TV show, but had never read one of the books.  In fact, I don't read much at all - even though I do seem to enjoy it when I get around to doing it.  Sitting in that old house with Dave in one recliner reading his magazines and me in the other with my book felt really good.  It felt like home.

Planned Pleasures:

  • Fort Davidson.  This was a Civil War fort and it served as a Prisoner of War camp.  My gggg-grandfather Peter Rine Simpson was released from there after swearing his loyalty to the union.  This fort is located along the highway we take from my parents to the Wilderness, but I had never been there.

  • Elephant Rocks.  Now this was frequent stop for us on our trips to the country.  I wanted Dave to experience this state park.  He did.  He climbed on the rocks like a kid.

  • Big Springs.  The most beautiful spring, period.  I had to make sure Dave saw it and enjoyed it.

  • Jolly Burger.  If you've ever been in Van Buren, you've had to have been to Jolly Burger.  We didn't have a Jolly Burger, which is a sloppy joe kind of thing, but we did make sure we had a Jolly Cone.  This place has been there for 50 plus years and is still going strong.

  • Turner's Mill.  Just a stop in the road, but it is close to my grandparents and a place I've been several times.  Dave had fun climbing around on the rocks there too.

  • Oregon County Courthouse.  We stopped there, but found that the material we wanted was at the library.  It was a great library and I used my digital camera to document a lot of what they had.

  • Grand Gulf State Park.  In all my years of going to the Wilderness and hearing about the town of Thayer, I had NEVER been there.  From my genealogical research, I knew that Thayer was the most populous town in Oregon County.  From growing up, I knew there was a Walmart there and that is a big deal.  From my research on the Internet, I found that there was a state park there that I had never heard of, Grand Gulf State Park.  So we went there.

  • Wilderness Cemetery Decoration Day.  Even though there wasn't a lot of family that I knew there, I enjoyed being at the church and fellowshipping with people afterwards.  For the life of me, I can't understand why folks come to the potluck and don't go to church that morning.  Going to church is my favorite part.  I love it there.

2005  Denise Woodside - Storyteller and Webmaster - My Simpson Family