Johnny Morris Wonders of Wildlife Awarded Best New Attraction

America’s Best New Attraction

Blue stairs lead to Great Barrier Reef Exhibit at Wonders of Wildlife
Crowd gathers to hear announcement at the Great Barrier Reef Exhibit

USA Today readers vote WOW America’s Best New Attraction 2017 – No Surprise There!

I was on the staircase, Jan. 5, 2018, all ears when Missouri Lt. Gov. Mike Parson announced USA Today readers voted Wonders of Wildlife, America’s Best New Attraction in 2017.

Quite the feat since WOW opened to the public on Sept. 22, 2017. Two months on the books, and it received more votes than any other new attraction 2017 AND in the history of USA Today in that category.

Of course, I hoped to spot Johnny Morris among the dignitaries at the announcement, but he was traveling, fishing for Goliath Groupers with pro-fisherman Bill Dance. Parsons read a letter from Johnny, who wrote of his gratitude for the award and his thanks to the public who voted for and embraced this work of conservation.

The award announcement came with a donuts-and-coffee-bar and great fanfare. A banner dropped the length of the 37-foot aquarium at the Great Barrier Reef Exhibit to announce We did it! Inside the tank, a diver held a sign, “America’s Best New Attraction,” while curious fish swam by, no doubt thinking, “We did it!” Continue reading Johnny Morris Wonders of Wildlife Awarded Best New Attraction

Volunteer at Legends of Golf Tournament Bass Pro

Bass Pro Legends play Top of Rock golf course with swans and waterfall in background
Idyllic Top of The Rock golf course

I like to Volunteer at Bass Pro Legends of Golf, and thought you might want to know why. Think green lawns, sandy bunkers, legendary pros, media, eclectic crowds, divine landscapes, swans, boats, ponds, and waterfalls — christened with rain — all that at the PGA TOUR® Champions Bass Pro Shops® Legends of Golf® at Big Cedar® Lodge, played on premier courses at Top of the Rock and Buffalo Ridge.

Why I Volunteer

Volunteer? Friends and family chuckle when I volunteer at the tournament because it cost $50 to volunteer and it takes 3-5 days of my personal time. Some think I am starstruck, but – no. Volunteering for me is the big picture of what this extraordinary event brings to me personally, to golfing, and to our area.

Kid Rock Swinging Golf Club
Kid Rock styling in camo for the Skins Shootout with Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and Lee Trevino
    • The tournament is held in April, my birthday month, and it’s a gift of entertainment to me.
    • It supports Missouri tourism and  conservation.
    • Love the color green, and the most beautiful greens in the Ozarks sprout in the spring.
    • Love hearing the birds, watching the swans, and walking the beautiful courses that host the tournament.
    • You never know what to expect. This year Kid Rock played in a Skins Shootout with Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and Lee Trevino. You had to be there. I’m banking on Mark Wahlberg next year.
Medallion for service given to veterans, military, civil servants at the Bass Pro Legends of Golf Tournament
“Service Beyond Self” Medallion presented at the gate to military and civil servants by sponsor H.E. Williams Electric
  • I volunteer to celebrate the conservation efforts of Johnny and Jeannie Morris to make golfing a premier event in the Ozarks. [Fun fact: Golf became an Olympic sport again at the 2016 Games in Rio.]
  • I like crowds and meeting interesting people.
  • Top of the Rock overlooks Table Rock Lake, an idyllic setting.
  • The tournament expands each year. (Johnny Morris recently announced his purchase of the Legends of Golf franchise for another four years.)
  • It’s meritorious to volunteer at this prestigious golf tournament that not only celebrates golf but also raises money for education at College of the Ozarks.
  • Finally, you get back much more than you give, thanks to the generous support of Johnny Morris and the tournament sponsors.

Continue reading Volunteer at Legends of Golf Tournament Bass Pro

Buffalo Roam In Their Ozark Home

Home, Home on the Range

Buffalo [AKA, bison] roaming the range in old western films is shear movie magic. I loved the pivotal movie moment when cowboys would ride over a mountain top and see herds of cattle or bison below with the soundtrack playing in the background…Oh, give me a home, where the buffalo roam….

I found those films fascinating in my childhood. Beloved cowboys Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and Hopalong Cassidy named their horses, carried a guitar strapped to their saddle, made grand entrances into a saloon, and rode down trails amidst rolling sage brush.

Flash forward to the Ozarks today. Thanks to brilliant conservation, you can ride or drive to a mountain top in Missouri and Arkansas and see  a herd of bison below in a nature preserve like Dogwood Canyon or spot them grazing along a ridge, like Buffalo Ridge Golf Course.

Famous Sculptor Designs Most Famous Buffalo

End of the Trail, James Earl Fraser
James Earl Fraser, “End of the Trail,” at Top of the Rock, Branson, MO.

Renowned sculptor James Earl Fraser, artist of the famous End of the Trail bronze, also designed the buffalo on the collectible Buffalo Nickle (minted between 1913 and 1938). The Fraser buffalo on the nickle is the most famous buffalo of all.

Of course, there are the beloved Buffalo wings, Buffalo Bills, and Buffalo, NY.

Bison roaming Ozark mountains and nature preserves remind us to conserve nature and to celebrate our pathfinders, cowboys and Native Americans who once slept beneath the stars.

Little known facts about the American bison

  • American bison is the formal name for the American buffalo.
  • The bison is the national mammal of the U.S.
  • In addition to being a major food mainstay. the American Indians found a use for nearly every part of the bison: buffalo robes, tools, utensils, and implements for hunting and war; hides for canoes and various styles of portable huts and teepees.
  • American bison are gregarious. It was not uncommon for herds to grow to 1,000 bison and for herds to migrate together and form a herd of two- to three-thousand.
  • Known as herbivores, they snack on grass every two hours, moving between snacks to greener grass, throwing in a nap along the way.
  • The American bison have distant relatives in Europe.
  • Mason and Dixon journal about spotting bison when they surveyed the Mason-Dixon line.
  • Bison share international lineage with the Asian water buffalo and the African buffalo.
  • The average bison weighs over a 1,000 pounds.
  • They are protective of their space. Stay out of it, or you may find a 1,000 pound buffalo charging at you.
  • The average lifespan of the American bison is between 15 and 25 years.

 

Rufus the Red Nose Mule

Rudolph’s Distant Cousin

Rufus and his Family Tree

“Rufus” insists on wearing his favorite Christmas ornaments for you. As far as lineage is concerned, Rufus, the mule, is a distant cousin to “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.”

Rufus is not your traditional mule. He’s from the Ozarks. He’s a powerhouse and a trend setter who prefers argyle sweaters to bib overalls and a life of eating sorghum to pulling the treading pole of the sorghum press.

Birth of Rufus

Santa Claus original by Peter Engler of Santa with bird, bunny, and tree
St. Nicholas, Santa Claus, original by Peter Engler

Rufus was born in an art studio. Darrell’s [Wiskur] imagination was in Christmas mode as he sketched and carved patterns and characters with Peter Engler,  a famous wood-carver and friend.

Peter designed Santa carvings after the style of St. Nicholas or Father Christmas. His Santa’s were coveted by tourists to his woodcarving shop in Branson, Mo. He was always carving, but no Santa of his ever sat on the shelf with a For Sale tag. Rather, they were sold by special requests from a long waiting list of tourists who became friends and collectors of his delightful characters.

The mule is noble in Missouri, so Darrell whittled twigs for antlers and added a bulbous nose and a Santa hat. It wasn’t long before Rufus the mule  emerged as Rufus the red nose reindeer!

Rufus carving
Rufus in his furry Santa hat to wish all a Merry Christmas!

Home in the Ozarks

Twinkling lights (over four million at Silver Dollar City, Mo., alone) outnumber neon lights in the Ozarks during the holidays.  Here, deer wander into our yards and nibble on shrubs and rose bushes; buffalo graze on ridges at our premier golf course (Buffalo Ridge, Branson, Mo.); and mules hold a place of distinction on  farms and at theme parks, pulling plows and grinding sorghum. It’s a perfect home for Rufus.

It’s Christmas Eve, and I saw Rufus peeking out the barn window, hoping to catch a glimpse of cousin Rudolph at the head of Santa’s sleigh.

Merry Christmas and the happiest of newest New Year’s!

 

Ozark tourist at heart! Travel to the Ozarks

How to be an Ozark Tourist

My son on mule at Silver Dollar City, an Ozark visitor from 1970
Fun trip to Silver Dollar City, 1970 – nothing like a mule ride!

I am an Ozark tourist every day. It’s one of the perks of living in Harrison, a burgeoning city in the Ozarks.

Because I have lived in the Ozarks for over 30 years, I officially attribute “hillbilly” to my nomenclature.

Travelers flock to the Ozarks because  (1) it is an amazing place for family vacations  and (2) it is within a day’s drive from the big cities of St. Louis, Chicago, Kansas City, Dallas, Oklahoma City, etc.

For instance, over 71 million tourists have passed through the gates of  Silver Dollar City, alone,  since it opened in 1960.

Shoe Essentials for an Ozark Tourist

Eric caught a trout on the White River
Trout, caught in the White River

Campers and RVs roll into Branson, filled with fishermen and show goers. When the tourist season rolls around, I become a tourist, too — I throw on my flip flops and sun glasses and off I go. That’s the beauty of living in a tourist region.

Further, in a mountainous terrain filled with lakes and rivers means countless occasions for entertainment. Suggested shoe wear: cowboy boots, wading boots, hiking boots … flip-flops, boating shoes, water shoes, sandals, tennis shoes, loafers, golf shoes, pumps, slippers, and heels. Continue reading Ozark tourist at heart! Travel to the Ozarks

Did you put a frog in the toilet? Asks Hubby

cricket frog or chorus frog that hopped onto the edge of our toilet
A cricket frog came to visit

No, I did not put a frog in the toilet!

A frog sitting comfortably on the commode caused a stir at our house. After my  hubby walked into the bathroom and saw the frog looking up at him, he asked me, “Did you put a frog in the toilet?”  I laughed, of course.

In his wildest imagination, my husband thought I put a frog on the edge of the commode to remind him to put the toilet seat down when finished!

Me placing the frog on the toilet seemed plausible to my husband. What other explanation could there be for a frog, inside our house, sitting on the edge of the toilet.

Of course, Darrell, a passionate wildlife photographer, rushed the frog upstairs to his studio and took a photo of it on his light table. However, the frog was an unwilling subject. He sat like a frozen statue and refused to hop for us.

Commando frog mystery

This cricket frog with its camouflage exterior can sail through the air with each hop. He has suction-cup feet, perfect for gripping a toilet bowl. We had seen him clamped on our windows before, peeping inside, but how did the frog enter our house?

My husband reasons the tiny, one-inch frog came in through the drain hole pipe housing between the basement crawl space and the house interior flooring in the shower. Sure!

I prefer a more glamorous,  big-bang entry: frog leaps into the house by way of the back door and the attached garage.

Darrell grocery shops late at night at Wal-Mart to avoid crowds. He brings the groceries in through the garage, with the garage door open. Frog sees bright light and opportunity.

Frog hops inside, undetected, in the middle of the night when Darrell is more interested in eating a bag of Cheetos, washed down with a can of root beer, than closing doors.

We know Mr. Frog didn’t ring the doorbell and come through the front door. And he hadn’t been leaping around our house prior because we would have noticed him, however diminutive.

I never saw the frog sitting on the commode myself, which would have been funny! Almost as funny as my husband asking, “Did you put a frog in the toilet?”

Mystery solved, in my mind


My  frog-entry theory has promise as proved days later, following another late-night grocery run, when a toad hopped in through the garage door, and I was there to greet him.

illustration of a toad
My favorite toad illustration by hubby, Darrell Wiskur

Toad illustration art by Darrell Wiskur, published in Living Things Change, Stepping Into Science; Regensteiner Publishing Enterprises, 1971; written by Lila Podendorf.