Friendly Finley River Way

Saturday, we went to the Christian County Library in Ozark. To get there from Nixa one needs to drive by Finley Park down by its namesake river. I had read somewhere that a Riverfest would be taking place at that park with concerts later that evening.  There would be different but continuous bands until 11:00.

So without even trying the only way I knew to get to the library I told Stephanie, “We’ll find a back-way-in to avoid the traffic.”

I hadn’t met any heavier traffic than usual, however; I could picture in my mind a policeman directing the way and pointing toward a detour. I could just picture that.  Riverfest at Ozark… at 1:30 in the afternoon there were no crowds.  There was no heavy traffic, no traffic jams. Still, I won’t go that way and get trapped in the horde that I was certain was lurking somewhere.

I was thinking of Riverfest in St. Paul, Minnesota, which is where I am from.  My remembrances of the event were slowed driving, it wasn’t driving; it was only creeping. The car would move three feet, then a foot, move an inch, and then, stop. That was how we sped along Kellogg Blvd. with a policeman directing traffic at the corner of Wabasha Street.  Then we would inch our way across the Wabasha Street Bridge to Harriet Island, where the concert was being held.

Pedestrians crossing the streets willy-nilly but turtle-like. The throngs had no particular place to be.  Driving the downtown streets during Riverfest was in a class with holiday parking at Walmart. I didn’t want to subject us to a quagmire like that. I knew that it would anger me and ruin our peaceful and comfortable day.

We began scoping out the nearby neighborhoods. Those side streets always returned us to a main artery that carried us farther out in the country.  Turning the other way, would only take us to Finley Park and I needed to avoid the throngs that I was certain were piling up by now.

I liked the way old homes remained with the new and how some were closer to the street than others. The property lines were not so uniform or in line with the neighbors.  That was a welcome site for me.  I hate constant sameness and I admire neat differences.

One home – an older one – was even set way back from the road and up on a hill with newer homes seemingly placed in its front yard and nearer the road.  I didn’t understand how property lines could be like that but I appreciated the differences.  After all, the Ozark’s were a new country to us. Some things were bound to be different.

We took a narrow road and a little way in the sign said – “No Outlet.” We were feeling, or at least I was feeling, adventurous. We stayed on that road and when the pavement stopped we kept going, more slowly. The road narrowed even more but we continued a the requested, 5 MPH.  Even our 10 MPH seemed too quick for the loose, sharp gravel and shale road. Luckily, we were the only automobile around so we went exploring from the comfort of the car.

The homemade wooden signs warned of being on private property. They also said, “Welcome, but please obey the rules,” and some rules were listed. They seemed simple and easy enough. Mainly, just go slowly and don’t litter.

“You guys better be careful, you’re lucky you didn’t get shot. Some of these ‘backwoods hill people’ would shoot just as soon as look at ya,” our friend Liz told us at church the next day.

We drove ahead a li’l further to the turnabout in front of a small equipment shed. Stephanie remarked about seeing an ol’ John Deere Tractor inside and that’s where the road (path really) came to an end. We used the turnaround and rolled along at 5 mph slowly departing the area that time forgot.

Just before the road veered left up a modest hill I noticed a man sitting in a chair on a sandbar in the mostly dried up creek. He was painting a picture at his easel. Stephanie looked back and explained that he was painting a picture of a bridge with short arches and the nature surrounding it. Liz also said there are many artists in the area.

That road to nowhere was an interesting little diversion from the day to day heat of this blessed area.

Our day wasn’t done because we then went to the, “Walk-a-bout Coffee House,” back in Nixa.  It was clean, quaint and relaxing, and…you guessed it, Australian themed.
Their staff consisted of a college-age guy and a girl. Both were plenty polite and the duo answered our few questions.

However the chocolate tea (I think that was Steph’s idea) was undrinkable by Stephanie, but true to their word that, “If you don’t like it we’ll make you a different one,” they made her a new one at no charge.

Steph used to order them with pearls (those small round chewy things) and it was delicious. The difference being she used to order them at a tea house called The Steepery – in Minnesota where we used to live.

When it came time to leave we walked up to the cash register with our empty dishes and I asked a final question, “Does a guy by the name of Kevin play banjo here on Thursday nights?” Kevin plays a mean banjo; I heard him twang the strings at our church, Riverdale Baptist.

They both immediately shot back, “Yeah and he’s really good! His wife plays with him on the string bass.”

“I know,” I replied.

“We’ll be returning on Thursday night to listen to Kevin play his banjo and his wife accompanying on bass.

We are so lucky to be living in this area!
Finley River, Ozark City Park
Sports & Recreation · Ozark
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Steve Richie

Hi folks, Two lives in one lifetime. The first me, lived to age thirty-four. That Steve was overly confident and oozing with pride. Then, on a record heat-setting day (107º) here in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota and western Wisconsin, a one car near-fatal wreck left me in a two-month long coma. I emerged much as I was before minus certain physical capabilities, but my mind seemed mostly in tact. The crash and its effects did not change me (I emerged a happy individual) but the deeds perpetrated against me in the ensuing months from my wife of sixteen years scared and humbled me as I was dragged down with nothing left by my wife who now had guardianship over all of our accounts. And neither would she allow me to see our kids. She took everything out of, "Our" names and changed them to her name only; then would not allow me to our home and divorced me. I was angry, but no more. I spent half of 1988 and more than half of 1989 in hospitals, nursing homes and a three month stint at a head-injury rehab center where I was being taught how to re-enter society as this different person, that I didn't know. I was not able to return to my previous line of work, a self-employed decorator, you know, painting and paperhanging. It was a physical job which required much dexterity, finesse, and a good grasp of numbers. I returned to the beginning, school, but on a community college level. One of the instructor's liked my writing and I began focusing my attention on that. I attended classes at, "The Loft," A Place for Writers in Minneapolis. While there, a classmate of mine was having her friend from New York, a CBS executive, to her home for the holidays and asked me if she could do a critique on a couple chapters of a book I was writing, "A Day I'll Never Remember" and I obliged. When she returned to class the following Monday she told me that the exec wanted a ten-page synopsis of the book for a possible movie; I was excited. After obliging for that also, I never saw or heard from her or the guy from CBS. Next thing I knew I was watching a movie called, "Regarding Henry" starring Harrison Ford and the scenes of therapy were exactly like what I went through and had written about. Regarding Henry - could've been my story except that, "Henry" got his head injury from a gunshot and his wife stayed with him throughout the ordeal. Coincidence I'm sure, though, the therapy scenes entailed what I described in the book so I always wondered..... My hope, my dream is to bolster our income for my daughter and for myself. I am and have been raising this beautiful, talented little girl who was diagnosed with autism at age two, since 2006 singlehandedly. I divorced her mother the same year following complaints that I spent too much time with our daughter. However, Stephanie began school with no need for special education. She has been reading since age four and understanding what she'd read. Stephanie maintains straight "A's" on her report card, has published two books (through school) and has been selected as an, "Honors" student for seventh grade English. My ex moved to New York to be closer to her sister and has been remarried now for a number of years. Well, that's only a snippet of my sixty-one years and I would like to thank you for reading, thank you.

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