US Route 65 between Harrison and Springfield is what I call “a make-time road.” Though the stretch isn’t an Interstate, it’s a four-lane divided highway with a speed limit of 65mph. The Ozarks landscape it carves is breathtaking. Steep (10%+) grades and sweeping curves make it interesting for the driver.
Yesterday afternoon I swapped my clod-hoppers and old fedora for cowboy boots and the wool-felt Stetson I bought last year at Wall Drug. Deb and I hit US 65 at 4:15pm and arrived at the popular Southbound Bar & Grill around 5:30pm, ordering burgers and waiting for the evening’s live entertainment to begin.
Ray Scott is one of our favorite people, a guy whose music we’ve enjoyed at Squeek’s Bar & Grill many times, as well as at Country Jam and The Bluestone. He and sideman Joe Cook came in through the Southbound’s side door, greeted us and set up their kit. After a sound check, they opened their all-acoustic show with “It Ain’t Gonna Be You.”
It was our first trip to Southbound. The place accommodates 250 and features a big (band-size) stage, four pool tables and an enclosed patio. Good food. Last night’s crowd was small, however, and the vibe prompted Ray to chuck the set list and play what he and Joe wanted to play. He took requests, too, including two from me (“I Will” and “Ain’t Always Thirsty”) and one from Deb (“Those Jeans”).
Outstanding show. Afterward we said our goodbyes to Ray, Joe and manager Wes and stepped out into the cold Missouri night.
It was snowing like crazy.
Deb drove us the 70 miles back to Harrison. The White Stuff wasn’t sticking to the road and it wasn’t icy, but we took it easy anyway, running out of the mess around Branson. Had we been a half-hour later, we would’ve driven in wintry weather the whole way.
Still, it felt good to land safely. Turns out we’re not nearly the night drivers (or night owls) we once were. We switched on the furnaces and crawled into bed before midnight.
The plan for today was simple — get up at a reasonable hour, take care of the pups and sip coffee ’til we heard from our builder about when, exactly, materials would be delivered to The Mountain. We knew that it’d be a bit of a process, with the manufacturer’s trucks out of Pocahontas dropping another customer’s load in Harrison, then picking up our kit over here and backtracking to Yellville.
We played with the dogs. We looked out the windows of the bus at our snow-dusted campground. By late morning we were a little bored, honestly, so we drove down to the builder (a mile away and in the direction of The Mountain) to see what was up.
He made a couple of phone calls and sent a couple of texts. While he waited for a response, Deb and left to gas up the Silverado. I’d just climbed back into the truck when word came that delivery wouldn’t happen today — crossed wires, wrong equipment.
If you suspect that we’re frustrated, permit me to offer a little perspective.
We’d pulled up to the gas pumps behind a beat-up TrailBlazer. We could see two people in the front seat, doing something — and whatever it was, they were doing it for a long time. The driver’s door was open, and on the ground outside was a child’s winter boot. After about ten minutes I got out of our truck, picked up the boot and handed it to the woman in the driver’s seat.
I asked her if everything was ok.
“Oh, sir, I’m so sorry,” she said sweetly. “We’re just trying to find some change to buy gas. We’ll be out of your way before long.”
I walked back to our truck. The people in front of us did pump some gas — judging by how long it took, they may have found enough change to buy a gallon — and pulled away.
When we drove out we passed the TrailBlazer, parked and idling. They were trying to stay warm.
They were homeless.
Now let me tell you a couple of things. First of all, I’m a complete asshole for not buying them a tank of gas. The experience also reminded Deb and me that our frustrations are nothing — and I mean nothing — compared to the battles than many of our neighbors fight every day.
I’m willing to bet that many of you, dear readers, are at least as fortunate as Deb and I are. I took a lesson from today. I hope you will, too.
We continued on to Ranch House for a meal (sourdough French toast and cheese grits for me) and then returned to the campground. Our building materials will be delivered another day.
What we got out of this day — stark and unexpected perspective provided by a chance encounter at a gas station — was priceless. I won’t soon forget that.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.