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Welcome to Granby
US 60 Part 7
David McLane (davemclane)     Print Article 
Published 2009-12-07 11:02 (KST)   
Leaving Kentucky on US 60 you cross over the Ohio River, cross 0.92 miles of Illinois, cross over the Mississippi River and you're in Missouri. Nothing photogenic, especially when it셲 blowing fog and rain. We made the crossing in less than five minutes including time to jump out and get a shot of the signboard saying that Lewis and Clark spent a week there in November 1803. I hope they had better weather.

Information plaque, confluence of Ohio and Mississippi Rivers
©2009 D. McLane

It was still raining when we came on a much bigger memorial 30 miles (48 km) into Missouri at Sikeston. It included a huge metal map showing the route Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery took across the Louisiana Purchase to the Pacific Ocean.

Map of Lewis and Clark's route across the Louisana Purchase, Sikeston, Mo.
©2009 D. McLane

Lewis started on the Monongahela River which flows north out of West Virginia to meet the Ohio River at Pittsburgh, Pa. He traveled west on the Ohio and met up with Clark at Clarksville, Ind. across the river from Louisville, Kentucky -- Clarksville is named for Clark's older brother, George Rogers Clark, a General in the American Revolutionary War. Then the two of them plus the other members of the Corps went up the Mississippi, up the Missouri, over the Rocky Mountains and along the Columbia to the Pacific. A journey of journeys.

TRAVELING WEST FROM SIKESON on US 60, the flat-as-a-pancake land is covered with fields of cotton, corn, wheat, soybeans and vegetables. But when the first settlers followed Lewis and Clark to the region, cypress swamps, marshes and bayous covered the ground and it was known as the "Big Prairie." In the 20th century the Little River Drainage District was formed to reclaim the land and is the largest drainage district in the nation. The richness of those fields comes from those once-upon-a-time rivers and swamps.

Up ahead, we saw one of the groups of three crosses like we'd seen before further east, so we turned around to look.

Three flags at Church on the Rock Christian Academy, Sikeston, Mo.
©2009 D. McLane

One of the most common places for a church is "on a rock," which comes from Jesus who says "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18 KJV). There are many churches in the with this kind of name (Searching for "Church on the Rock" on Google results in 40 million hits).

There isn't any rock big enough to hold an outhouse, much less a church, out there in that flat farmland so the obvious solution was to put the sign on a pile of rocks. Message sent and received.

I didn't think much more about it until I went to add the caption and realized I didn't know if we were still in Sikeston or someplace else, so I Googled and found a place of that name with its address but when I looked with Google Earth, it was a farm yard. Then I remembered flipping the U and there was no place nearby so I slid west along the highway until I came to the first place to turn around, went back a bit and there it was!

But what was it? The building didn't exactly look like a church so I sent Pastor Jason Lands my photo in an e-mail and asked him. He said the campus houses a worship center, outreaches, and the Christian Academy. And added, "Next time you are in the Sikeston, MO area, feel free to be our guest in service." Never can tell, I might be passing through there again sometime.

FURTHER WEST, US 60 BEGINS TO GAIN A BIT OF ALTITUDE as it enters the Mark Twain National Forest. Not much though. Sikeston is less than 400 feet (121 m) and Ellsinore, which felt like a high point, was less than 800 feet (242 m).

It was a nice drive with almost no traffic and the rain had finally stopped when we got to Van Buren, a small town, less than 1,000, but a major destination for floating and fishing on the nearby Current River in the Ozark National Scenic Riverway. We decided to have lunch, wash clothes, buy propane and have a look around.

The National Park service administers the Riverway and its headquarters are right in town so we went over to find out what we could. The ranger on duty said there'd been basically no less people this year than before although the season was about finished so there weren't so many people there now.

The Riverway stretches a long way with the main river going north and a fork going west. The geological foundation is karst, irregular limestone in which erosion has produced fissures, sinkholes, underground streams, springs and caves. The largest spring in Missouri, Big Spring, pulls its water from as far away as 40 miles (64 km) was just a few miles from Van Buren, so we went.

Big Springs, Ozark National Scenic Riverways
©2009 D. McLane

I'd seen springs before but not like this with something like 286 million gallons of water a day pouring out at the bottom of a cliff and forming a good-sized river.

The campground looked like it would be great in summer but it was deserted and getting cold so we decided to drive a bit further, to Mountain View where there was a McDonald's so we could get on the internet.

THE MCDONALD'S IN MOUNTAIN VIEW is part of a small shopping center with a Wal-Mart. It was getting on so we camped in the Wal-Mart parking lot and went over to McDonald's the next morning.

Wal-Mart parking lot, Mountain View, Mo.
©2009 D. McLane

Usually, most of the people in McDonald's first thing in the morning are what I call the "Breakfast Club," local men who come for coffee and conversation. But the place was filled with teenagers, evidently going on some kind of field trip, and just about all the seats were taken. There was one empty spot on a kind of counter and I sat there and one thing led to another and I wound up talking to the guy next to me for half the morning.

John Latecki at McDonald's, Mountain View, Mo.
©2009 D. McLane

His name was John Latecki, who'd retired as an investigator for the Ohio Division of Wildlife. We talked about life in California and Florida where there's no state income tax, but there are rumors it's going to change, so he decided against it.

He said California had everywhere beat in terms of superior knowledge, education and money, and if that's what you want in life, then that's the place for you. But each place has its own culture, that you make your own little world, and he likes it in Missouri, especially Mountain View as people are fiscally responsible, pro-life, and the taxes are low.

PUSHING WEST WE CAME ON SOMETHING HAPPENING, NOT SURE WHAT, with many vehicles, mostly pickups, parked along the road. It turned out to be an auction of farm equipment with a ring of prospective buyers followed the auctioneer -- from Rick Dixon Auction Service, "Preferred Auction Service Since 1980" -- as he moved from one piece to another.

Farm equipment auction, near Mountain View, Mo.
©2009 D. McLane

What was interesting was the buyers who looked like the kind of guys who show up at places like McDonald's for the Breakfast Club dressed in blue jeans, pullovers, slightly muddy boots and more often than not, a baseball cap. Pretty much like me. But these guys were buying five figure stuff and they hadn't gotten to the tractors yet which are in the six figure range. Somehow when you read about agribusiness it's all about big companies, but these guys were anything but.

WE MADE IT AROUND SPRINGFIELD ON THE JAMES RIVER PARKWAY, and saw a sign for Wilson's Creek National Battlefield. We hadn't found anybody to talk with since Mountain View so we gave it a try.

As with the Riverway back near Van Buren, the Battlefield is administered by the National Park service. The ranger on duty said the Battle for Wilson's Creek marked the beginning of the Civil War in Missouri which became the third most fought-over state in the nation. The battle went on for two days over a large area and ended with the Federal forces withdrawing to Springfield with heavy losses on both sides: 1,317 for the Federals and 1,222 for the Confederates.

The auto tour route of the Battlefield is a 4.9-mile (7.8 km) loop road with eight stopping points. The most touching was the Ray House because it involved not only Federal and Confederate forces but ordinary people.

Ray House, Wilson's Creek National Battlefield, Mo.
©2009 D. McLane

The house is on the route of the Old Wire Road which ran from St. Louis to Springfield and then on to Fort Smith, Arkansas (it later became US Route 66 and still later Interstate 44). Postmaster and farmer John Ray built the house in 1850. When the battle began, there were twelve people living there, John and his wife Roxanne, their nine children and Julius Short, a hired farm hand. Their slave, "Aunt Rhoda," and her children lived in a small cabin at the back of the house.

At 6:30 in the morning on August 10, 1861, soldiers appeared in his corn field across the road. Ray remained on the porch and witnessed the fighting in his cornfield and across a small valley on Bloody Hill. Roxanna, the children, Aunt Rhoda, her children and Julius Short took shelter in the cellar. They came out hours later to find their house littered with wounded and dying Southerners.

We were the only people there that afternoon. It wasn't quite fall but the leaves were starting to turn and I could well imagine how peaceful the place was the morning of August 10, 1861 when John Ray saw the soldiers in his corn field. I can even imagine the soldiers. But it's hard to conjure up the wounded and dying in the house. Maybe that's why some people report seeing ghosts around there (see this for more information).

THE NEXT AND LAST PLACE WE STOPPED IN MISSOURI WAS GRANBY. The main street isn't along US 60 but at right angles to it and we'd already passed before we thought of stopping. But we turned around and found a story of boom, bust, and recovery. The first hint that it had made a successful transition to the 21st century was the well-preserved brick buildings and a well done mural showing the history of the town.

Mining mural, Grandby, Mo.
©2009 D. McLane

Researching the place later on, I found that Granby was occupied by the Osage (Native Americans) up until the time of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 after which the early settlers arrived. Rich deposits of lead were discovered and the economic base shifted from farming to mining; by 1850 3,000 pounds (1,360 kg) were being produced each day.

As you can imagine, lead was important during the Civil War and both North and South came to Granby for ammunition so Granby lead flew both ways. In October of 1862, the Battle of Granby gave the Union control of the mines but the town was left pretty much in ruins. During the rebuilding people began to realize that it was a place to live, not just to work, and began to put down roots.

The mines continued to operate during the first and second World Wars when the ore deposits began to run out. Nowadays Granby is a good place to live and a tourist destination (see a very well done 11-minute video, Welcome to Granby, for details).

At the time though, not many places were open as it was Sunday. The place that looked the most home spun was Lucy's Cafe which looked more cozy from the outside than it was on the inside, a huge place with a high ceiling and rather large tables for four with stainless steel napkin boxes in the center on top of which were small, plastic, pumpkins. A plastic banner looking like the kind they put up at crime scenes saying "Happy Halloween" over and over hung on the wall. The waiter was a tall, thin last-year-of-elementary-school boy whose mother was the cook. The mother brought the menus, the boy took the orders.

We did our best to start a conversation but there was no eye contact and our questions didn't lead to anything. The food was OK and we ate pretty much in silence until four people showed up one by one and sat at another table and had lunch. So small-town America, I thought I was in a movie.

Friends eat lunch at Lucy's Café, Grandby, Mo.
©2009 D. McLane

I will also be posting this story to Open.Salon a few days after it I've sent it to OMNI and will then send a newsalert containing links to both websites to my mailing list.
©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter David McLane

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