Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mini Trip and a Memory

Baby Rainbow Trout swim at Neosho National Fish Hatchery

With the sudden hot weather DH has had to start getting up early to work on painting the house. He is now down to the last side which is a southern exposure without a lick of shade. By 10:00 or 11:00 he is done with standing in the sun, not to mention the heat makes the paint spread poorly. So today after a sandwich lunch, we took off for a little buzz of a trip.  

We drove to Neosho which is roughly 20 miles south of us. Neosho at one time was a bustling little town, a doorway to the hilly Ozarks. Houses are built on steep grades in the sides of hills or at the bottom of sharp inclines. Many are stately old Grand Dames with wrap around porches, filigree woodwork on the roof corners, many painted in pastel shades of an earlier era. Like many small towns in America, Neosho is fading. Many homes border on shabby, the square has empty store fronts, and well, the town has seen better days.

One of the original spots in Neosho that is still as beautiful as ever is Big Spring Park. Tucked right under an Ozark cliff, the spring gushes out burbling water. The town keeps the park done up in flowers, keeps the pergola painted, the lawn landscaped. The spring surges out the hillside and races under the street and down the rocky waterway. Here a hotel once stood famous for its dining room that cooked fresh trout. Patrons could go outside and choose their dinner from the cold spring fed fish pond, and it would be cooked for them. Children and adults alike lingered over the pools watching darting rainbows and browns.

About 50 years ago, my paternal relatives had a family reunion in this park. I don’t know why this area was chosen since it was a hundred miles from where everyone lived. It was a pretty place and certainly memorable since it is one of the first memories I have from childhood. I remember large hampers and coolers, many people, and my grandmother’s half sister’s family who came from I can’t remember where. But they came a long way, Utah maybe, and the sister had two children. One was a boy slightly older than I was. I remember his eating a banana and dropping the skin on this bridge, then slipping on the peel. I remember adults barking at us to get back to where we belonged and to settle down! I was to see this distance relation only one other time in my life. Amazing…glad I had this fun day as a long ago memory.

Neosho also has a National Fish Hatchery that is over 120 years old, the oldest operating fish hatchery in the United States. A new visitors’ center was built to replicate the original structure complete with onion dome and witch’s hat roof features in metal roofing. The building uses solar panels, lighting sensors, and environmentally efficient construction materials to make the facility as green as possible. While rainbow trout are raised in the holding tanks, there are also operations for raising pallid sturgeon. The pallid sturgeon, a prehistoric fish that evolved when dinosaurs were around, is now endangered. They look like a small shark.

                                           Baby Pallid Sturgeon

The visitor’s center has a small gift shop and most of the things there are made by local hands. Pottery and weavings by skilled hands; paintings and art work by area artists. Some of the woven pieces are neck scarves made in earth tones and shades. One scarf was extraordinary as the weaver had replicated the exact colors and shadings of a rainbow trout. It was gorgeous.

Only a few miles but we felt like we had been adventuresome and I had the comfort of recalling a long ago memory.

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