It is windy and cold on the lake today, too cold to fish and too windy to fly but a perfect day to catch up on my reading. I picked up a national publication that enjoys a very good reputation and began reading about the 10 best places to live in America. As happens all too often, Missouri failed to make the list…..not even honorable mention for any of our cities, towns or regions. Let’s talk about their extreme short sightedness.
To be sure, St. Louis isn’t going to make many such lists. The crime rate will only qualify it for other, less prestigious lists. This in spite of being a beautiful old city with a terrific baseball heritage and home to some of the finest Italian dining available anywhere outside of Brooklyn. Kansas City, the real gateway to the west, offers up a decidedly western appeal. Tremendous bar-b-cue factories, great (these days) baseball and football traditions and a city that is relatively easy to drive around in. The crime rate is typical of any city this size and it offers an abundance of architectural and educational opportunities. Having recognized these two cities for what they are, let’s discuss the real appeal of Missouri……the countryside.
Missouri IS a melting pot. There is a strong German influence, particularly in central regions, and our people are friendly, practical and tremendously diversified. Our standard of living reflects our hard working, middle class heritage. Our summers will scald the hair off your arms and winters frost your very soul. Our landscape is western plains to the north transitioning to Ozarkian timberland to the south with a little southern, bootheel charm thrown in for good measure. We are home to many of the nation’s prettiest lakes and are blessed with drop dead gorgeous float streams. Missouri walnut is a prized export and our oak covers floors all over the world……floors that have endured the indignity of fine bourbons aged in in casks crafted from the same oak forests being sloshed upon them. We know a thing or two about building cars, motorcycles and boats…..and raising pigs, cattle and grain. Our wines are winning awards every day and we brew alot of beer. We could care less about Rodeo Drive and Broadway….preferring fairs, country and western concerts and great family entertainment venues like those clustered around Branson. I paid a lot to fish the San Juan River in northern New Mexico and afterwards, offered to show the guide some really good trout fishing in Missouri……..The scenery in the Badlands of South Dakota is remarkable but not as remarkable as wood fire smoke silently curling above an Ozark cabin on a cold winter evening along the Big Piney River. Our springs invite you to sit down awhile and thank the Lord for the privilege of being able to sit there. No doubt the Master created Missouri to be the crossroads it is, where east meets west and north meets south.
Why not Missouri? I would like to invite the writers who drool incessantly over the great San Juan River, the Texas Hill Country and Boise, Idaho’s bike trails to spend a little time among our folks up and down Route 66. Rent a canoe, it won’t cost much, and drift silently through the eddies and shoals on the Gasconade or Niangua River. Missouri hasn’t changed much in the last hundred or so years……..not out in the country where our folks are friendly, skeptical and damned real. Drop in one of our taverns, enjoy a cold beer, burger and conversation with any one of our “locals”. I guarantee it will beat the hell out of a bean sprout and spinach salad on Rodeo Drive…….