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.