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Branson, Missouri part 2

Hubby has replaced our tattered flag with a brand new one for this Fourth of July. We will have to send our old flag to the Boy Scouts so that they may dispose of it properly. Hubby also put up our red, white, and blue star-shaped windspin on the porch. A friend gave me a lovely plant of red, white, and blue (really purple) petunias. To jazz up the plant for the Fourth, he put in red, white, and blue star-shaped, metallic floral picks that look great shining in the sun. The plant looked a little pot-bound so I repotted it into a larger pot with fresh potting soil. I hope it thrives and looks great, especially on the Fourth.

I know that I focus too much on the beautiful roses in our yard. There are so many bushes that the sight of all these roses is overwhelming. We have an equally pretty flowering bush, a purple clematis, whose vine is wound around our patio light and is in full bloom. Each flower is as big as the palm of my hand. We have heard that we can cut the bush almost to the roots and it will come back beautifully next year. We are afraid, however, that we will kill the bush by doing that so we only cut it back about half each fall. We have another clematis bush, climbing up a trellis, next to the walkway to the back yard. Its buds have not yet opened. It must be a different type of clematis that opens later in the season. That bush, which is also purple, will look magnificent in the full sun. I saw that there were even red clematis plants in one of the garden catalogs. They must be spectacular.

Here is more on our trip to Branson, Missouri. After we had dinner at the Hometown Buffet in Columbus, Ohio, we had another three-hour ride until we reached our motel, the Drury Inn in Indianapolis. What a gorgeous hotel this was! We felt like we were in the lap of luxury. We all agreed that we would recommend the Drury Inn chain to fellow travelers.

On Monday we ate breakfast early because this was the day that we would finally arrive in Branson. During our travels that day, we saw a huge cross, probably 30-feet high. We definitely knew we were in the Bible Belt. We had lunch at a Steak and Shake Restaurant. Tour organizer Eileen told us that we should set our watches back one hour. Almost all the cell phones on our bus adjusted the time automatically. We finally came to the Cracker Barrel Restaurant in Springfield, Missouri. We were given a limited menu but that was more than adequate because Cracker Barrel offers so many choices of foods.

After Cracker Barrel, we boarded the bus for the one-hour trip to our motel in Branson. The place is now called the Settle Inn. It consists of three separate buildings and we were housed in the middle building. We found out that the inn had previously been called Stone Castle. That is why there were statues of knights all over the property. The entrance of the property made us think we were entering a castle. (I looked for a moat.) There was even a painting of Guinevere in the lobby. After we received our luggage, our large suitcases, thank goodness, and settled ourselves in our rooms, some of us went down to the lobby to chat for about an hour. We were all so relieved to be in Branson at last.

The next morning, we had breakfast at the inn. We were serenaded each morning while we were there by Denny Yeary and Tucker, two wonderful singers, who came around to the various tables to chat and sing. Denny also had a daily show at the Branson Mall Theatre each day and he invited us to see that show. (Denny also had sung bass with the Blackwood Quartet for 27 years.) One of the mornings, he discovered that our longtime friend Sarah Ashe was celebrating her birthday. Denny not only sang to her on her birthday but he also sang to her on the following day. Sarah was on the trip with her husband Gregory and her brother John Doherty and his wife Lois. (I was delighted to meet John and Lois.) I was also pleased that my friend Mary Keeley, from St. Gregory’s Seniors, was on the trip with her pal Barbara Sullivan. There were five Marys in our little group: Clougherty, Keeley, Murray, Scarborough, and Sullivan (Eileen’s sister). There was also a Marie, a McDonough, but not our relative, who was with her friend Pete Peters. There was only one Norma, our pal Norma Conley, who kept the people in the front of the bus laughing with her tales. There was also only one Della, our friend Della Melchionda.

We were delighted that our friends Mike and Judy Morad were also on this trip. We had traveled with them on a wonderful Castle Island Association trip to Canada some years back. Another of our group, Laura, had a death in her family and had to remain at home at the very beginning of our trip. Because she had taken out the trip insurance (a very wise move), the tour company flew her to Branson where she awaited the rest of us. Her friends Ed and Mary Clougherty and Tina Gualtieri were delighted that she arrived safe and sound. We discovered that our bus driver, Luis Escobar, lived in Miami and would not be returning home until the middle of June. Our friend from church, Jean Every, was sitting across the aisle from us during the trip so we had a chance to chat with her throughout the trip.

On Tuesday, we began our whirlwind tour of Branson. We were taken to the Americana Theatre where we saw a wonderful musical review, “Red, Hot, and Blue.” There were probably seven or eight performers that could sing and dance beautifully. They took us on a musical journey through the decades, beginning with Ragtime in the early 1900s. Then it was on to the Roaring 1920s, Broadway in the 1930s, the Swing Band Era of the 1940s, the Happy Days of the 1950s, the Mod 1960s, and the Disco Era of the 1970s. From what we heard, the cast didn’t even have dressers to help them change their costumes from song to song, era to era. They were wonderful. I highly recommend their show.

Then, on a beautiful day, with temps in the lower 80s, we were brought to Branson Landing, along the waterfront of Lake Taneycomo. There are 111 stores in the Landing area. Hubby went off to explore along the waterfront while I sat and watched the water show. The water spectacular is much like Water Fire in Providence where the streams of water rise and fall with the music. There were beautiful flowers all along the waterfront. I was standing near one of the lovely floral areas and began chatting with a worker who was planting new flowers in one of the beds. She told me that they have a long growing season in Branson. The only problem is that they do have ice storms during the winter. She told me that she loves her job and is delighted to be working outdoors.

We met our bus at 2:45 p.m. and drove to the area where the Branson Belle Paddle Show Boat leaves from her dock. We were one of the first buses to arrive and had a group photo taken. The photo came out great so I bought it. When we boarded the boat, we went to our assigned seats. Hubby and I were pleased to be sitting with John and Mary Sullivan. The dinner was wonderful, from salad to dessert. Then we sat back for a wonderful musical show, with a great group of dancers.

Then we were treated the most terrific act. It was Todd Oliver and his dogs. Todd came out on the stage and chatted with the audience for a few minutes. Then a man brought out Todd’s first dog. I saw the dog walk out so I knew he was a real dog. Well, Todd made the dog talk. “He must be a ventriloquist,” I thought to myself. Todd would say something and his dog, which he had sitting on a small table next to him, would move his mouth and give a hilarious answer. I wondered if he pinched the dog or pulled his coat to make him open his mouth at the correct time. It was amazing to see this dog talk. Then the aide brought out another dog and finally a third dog. Each dog had us roaring with laughter as each dog’s mouth moved to the words. It was an amazing act. It was not until later that we heard that Todd has each dog fitted with a wooden piece that is placed under his lower jaw. We never noticed these pieces and we were in the front few rows, nearest the stage. We also heard that Todd was not a ventriloquist. The man who brought out the dogs was the one saying the dogs’ words over another microphone and pulling the dog’s mouth down at the correct times. It was an amazing act. Do not visit Branson without going on the Branson Belle for dinner and the dynamite show while cruising on a paddle-wheel boat on Lake Taneycomo. There will be more about Branson next week.

With the Fourth of July next week, I found this appropriate, humorous saying: “It’s amazing how they got this country started in 1776 without matching federal funds.” (anon)


Why was my earlier comment deleted? This column should be called "CHEAP ESCAPES"