This past week I was in Branson, Missouri, with my family. If you haven't heard of this tourist paradise, allow me to describe it with a list of key words, some of which are redundant:

Pork rinds

Killer lightning


Country music

Morbid obesity


One day we went to something called a "water park." I had never been to such a thing and was excited about the prospect of standing in line for 45 minutes in the sweltering heat for an opportunity to spend 12 seconds sliding down a watery tube while clutching my prescription sunglasses and wondering how many cartoonists had died doing exactly this sort of thing. It takes me a few days of vacation just to get into the proper attitude, which I gather is something along the lines of not caring if you live or die. I have a bad habit of stubbornly clinging to my preference for life over death, and I am told this interferes with my ability to have fun.

Take the roller coaster, for example. At one theme park we visited, the roller coaster tracks were supported by old pieces of wood nailed together by, I am guessing, inebriated hillbillies. When I ask myself what sort of engineered structure would make me feel safe, I generally think of materials created for NASA, or perhaps some sort of steel beams forged in the furnaces of Mordor. But wood? To me, wood is in the same structural category as playing cards and toast. I decided we "didn't have time" to ride the roller coaster.

What I liked best about Branson was the relaxed atmosphere. Tee shirts and sneakers were the dress code everywhere. I stood in line behind a man who had a shirt listing the five reasons "Beer is better than women." If you are familiar with this line of thinking, you know that several of the reasons are obscene. But in Branson, home of fried pies and stuffed critters, everyone took it in stride, including his wife and daughter who were with him, and who are apparently not better than beer.

You might have seen on the news that it has been raining a bit in the Midwest. I thought I knew what rain was all about until I experienced it Missouri style. From our hotel room we had a good view of a lake, or maybe it was a river. It might have been a side street. It's hard to say. Anyway, we could see a number of boats tied up to a dock. The only wrinkle is that the entire dock and all the boats were floating down the river, or lake, or side street, until they plowed into another dock. In California it hardly ever rains so hard it ruins our boats. I was impressed.

My family stayed for another week to visit in-laws in Arkansas. I had to come home and write blogs and make comics. On the way to the Springfield airport, at about 4:30 am, I tried navigating my rented Ford Taurus through sheets of rain and a Midwest lightning storm of Moses-like proportions. I was the only idiot on the road, and there were few reflective markings to tell me where the winding road ended and the beginning of my three weeks stay the bottom of a ravine began. Luckily the lightning was so frequent it illuminated the road just often enough that I could scream and yank the steering wheel in the nick of time.

One bolt of lightning actually struck fairly close to my car. Let me tell you, if you have never been in the immediate vicinity of a lightning strike, it is a real pick-me-up. I won't need caffeine again until sometime around 2030. And I wouldn't want to be the next poor bastard who rents that Ford Taurus.

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Oct 30, 2008
We recently moved to the Branson area and we love it! At first, we were skeptical as to whether or not we should start another Branson computer repair company here. But we diod! And we are so happy to now call Branson our "home". The people have been awesome and they really welcomed us to the community. Our business provides Branson computer repair services and more to businesses and residents here in the Branson area. It's been great so far and we really hope it will continue. Thanks! - <a href="http://www.ozarkscompu-tech.com">Branson Computer Repair</a>
Oct 8, 2008
Apparently I have been living under a rock in Dallas. Your post made me laugh so loud at work that my neighbors came over to check on me. Thanks for that.

This past summer I went to Branson with family and experienced much of the same. We did make it to Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede, and that was really wild. A, uh, rip roaring good time. :)

Jul 12, 2008
Jul 6, 2008
Ha! It's good to see the 'Californian Early Warning System' was armed and fully operational. This system detects when anyone from California crosses a midwestern border and unleashes the 'Wrath of God' tourist deterrent system - heat, humidity, hail, traffice, rednecks, lightning, and sheets of rain.

We secretly created and fund the system for one reason - we don't want you here . . .

We are afraid if Californians see us in our natural state: blue skies, clean water, no traffic, and houses where the annual property tax bill is less than what a west-coaster pays to register their car, big houses, big yards, etc., that you will want to move here. We don't want that . . .

Branson is where we funnel as many tourists as possible. Visit there once and you'll never, ever, ever, ever want to come back. The secret motto of Branson, "Welcome to Missouri, now go home . . ."

I am a native Californian who moved out to the 'big empty' in 1995. I had to marry a local to get my green card and be allowed to stay. My definition of a traffic jam is now 'two cars in front of my at the stoplight' and I like it like that!

Scott, love the comics, love the blog, think you are cooler than cool. However, 'Y'all just ain't from around here.'

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Jul 3, 2008
I don't know why I found this depressing. Probably because I live in Pennsyltucky.
Jul 2, 2008
Not sure I believe you really went to Branson because you didn't mention being knee-deep in Osmonds. Or do they migrate back to Utah at this time of year?

Glad you survived your vacation and returned to work so you can relax. :)

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Jul 1, 2008
Does anybody remember the old classic Beverly Hillbillies where they go to Silver Dollar City and meet up with their family? That is just a stone's throw from Branson. Looks like not much has changed in the last 40 years!!!
Jul 1, 2008
You left the following off your list of Branson keywords:
Jul 1, 2008
Great post, Scott. This is why I read your blog!
Jul 1, 2008
I'd consider Branson to be more Southeast than Midwest, but then again I have a vested interest. I live in the Chicago area.

In our league during youth baseball season, coaches leave their driver side window rolled down. In case thunder or hard rain comes up quickly, kids evacuate to the nearest coach's car. We sort them out to parent vehicles or to the correct coach's vehicle. Last night, a police car drove past a half dozen illegally parked cars without comment or ticket. He knows that storms can be sudden, fierce and deadly. At a different field, my oldest son broke a coach's windshield with a foul ball. Our insurance agent has a fund to pay the out-of-pocket deductible for such events. It's a part of the pattern of life in the Midwest.

My wife's family had a reunion at Branson eight years ago. Our flatlander newborn -- a preemie who had just gotten off steroids to breathe -- went into distress in the middle of the night. The local hospital didn't have the equipment to x-ray the child, so I had to hold on to him while wearing a lead apron. The hospital connected its computer imaging system to UM KC's medical hospital specialists and our son's birth hospital in Naperville, IL. Branson might be the middle of nowhere among folks who talk real funny, but the doctor (a pediatrician who in med school had done a rotation in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and was the closest thing to a pediatric pulmonologist within 200 !$%*!$ had the resources necessary to fill the need.

Last Saturday, the Midwest storms parted around the baseball field for our game. The child who was once a six-month-old with 'roid rage was at bat. The strong wind at his back helped quite a bit, but he hit his first over the fence home run. Everyone on both teams and all the parents stood and cheered, and the other team's coach gave a little help to a winded player that had just beaten his team.

We do that in the Midwest.
Jul 1, 2008
Great post, Scott! I love it when people who are as funny as you (I think that equals you and Dave Barry in the USA) make all my anti-American points for me. When I say the same kinds of things, most of my readers don't think what I say is funny. When you say it, people roll on the floor laughing out loud. Just goes to show everyone that it's either who says it or how one says it that matters. I suppose all those Branson amusement park visitors will probably write in James C. Dobson (Focus on the Family founder) instead of sullying their pork-rindy carpals (or maybe even tarsals) on either Obama or McCain. Jesus for President! That's the newest thang. Plunk your magic twanger, Froggy, and the world can all fall down.
Jul 1, 2008
One of the nice reads after quite a long time. I guess the break did work for you :)
Jul 1, 2008
It must be in another post but...

An article by Naomi Klein about Obama's economists

Jul 1, 2008
I've been to Branson. Used to go there and Silver Dollar City in the 70's when I was a kid. It was fun then - but it's grown-up now. Now, simple people-watching is worth the price of admission, even if you don't participate in anything. Better than our state fair here in Oklahoma for that. One caveat, I was charged extra for not having the minimum number of tattoos. I was also told I would not be admitted unless I donned a sleeveless T-shirt provided by them for a small charge. Each member of the family was also required to go to the nearest turkey drumstick establishment and purchase same - no napkins provided.
Jul 1, 2008
Welcome back. Hope the grey cells are still charged...
Jun 30, 2008
Speaking of lightning...

My wife and I had a number of out of town guests and decided it would be fun to take them to see a local national landmark. Having been before, we quickly purchased tickets and queued up for a promised 45 minute wait. I particularly enjoyed the street performer telling the family, who just gave him $2 for singing a short ditty about their home state, that the approaching thunderstorm was trying to form a tornado.

As we approached the inside part of the line, the approaching storm seemed to grow closer, with every present lightning strikes, but no rain. I occasionally moo'ed, much to my wife's consternation. I took up the practice the first time I stood in that line years earlier, when the attendant kept telling us to keep moving and packing us in and I started to feel like a cow headed to slaughter. So I said, keeping moo'ing and then moo'ing loudly myself. All the while wondering why my wife stays with me.

So as this storm gets closer, I feel the need to moo more loudly and often.

Suddenly the sky opens up with small hail and heaving rain. I am not sure what possessed me, but at that point I start moo'ing VERY loudly while calling my wife's name. Despite having an umbrella I am immediately drenched.

I look back and see most of the line behind us has departed with only the !$%*!$%* umbrella users still there. By the time the rain hit, we were only ten feet from the covered portion of the wait. Meanwhile the NPS folks are telling people to stow their umbrellas before entering the covered area. I fully expected to see hordes of people inside, but am surprised to see the security area mostly empty. It turns out the holding area beyond, that we were told was full, was completely empty.

I think those NPS people are treated poorly by their employer and just wanted to take out their frustrations on the only suckers available.

BTW, once 'safely' under the tent, I heard a lightning strike as I never heard before. It sounded like a loud gunshot, followed by the usual noise from thunder.

Later, my wife's sister told how surreal the whole thing was, with lightning, hail, heavy rain and me alternately moo'ing and calling out my wife's name.
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Jun 30, 2008
great post, yee-ha!
and careful with lightnings :)
hope you'll like these
Jun 30, 2008
I feel the exact same about water parks and getting wet in general. Thanks for the great post.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 30, 2008
Went to an amusement park in the Detroit area in the '60's with some friends. We walked behind the wooden roller coaster, where we stopped to breathe (temp and humidity both in the high 90's).

I leaned my hand against the wood frame, and it went right through.

Looked up as several coaster cars passed overhead with people screaming and waving their hands.

Looked back down at where my hand had made a cookie cutter hole in the frame.

Thus began my coaster-free life, choosing as you did, to live.


+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 30, 2008
What's with you Californians always looking down on us Midwesterners and treating us like we're a tuft of scraggly hair growing between the two gloriously plump butt-cheeks of the coasts? Just because we're a little on the blue-blooded side of things....at least we aren't going to let men marry each other any time soon!

(I kid, of course...I'm from Chicago, and to us, anyone who lives below the "Route 80" line is considered part of the Deep South)
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