Not everyday on earth has to be exciting and action-packed. Some days are just filled with the usual stuff: Waking, eating, writing, cooking, watching some TV, and hanging out with the homies (literally, the people at home 😂).
The last few days have been like that. Low key. A good time to write about Missouri.
Missouri, the “Show Me State” and “Mother of The West
I drove across the state of Missouri back in…. what was it? September? Feels like it’s been ten years already! As I drove out of The South and into the Midwest I somehow thought it important to write this in my journal:
“You know you’re in the Midwest when there’s a Cracker Barrel at every major exit.”
And a specific question for Missouri:
“Why is the word Missouri printed so small on their license plate? I’d really like to know. You can’t hardly read it!“
A short story of a tragic beginning
Both my maternal grandparents were from Missouri so I was looking forward to driving across the state. Grandpa was born in Kansas City and grandma in Branson. They weren’t too fond of the place though, owing to circumstance rather than anything else. Bad memories lurked there.
My grandfather was adopted out not once but twice and bounced around fosters homes in between. He knew his birth mother but she wasn’t certain enough of his birth date to tell him what it was exactly! All she could remember was that it was 1903 or 1904. Crazy! He’d had to settle on his own date to celebrate in January of 1903.
Born a little later, in 1908, my grandmother had misfortune as well in the form of a control-freak mother who refused to even let her to go out and play with other children. She was allowed to go to school and to the library, thus she became a book worm. It was one of her few salvations aside from her beloved father. He was rather sickly though, apparently as a result of being worked like a dog, as was common in those days. He died when she was still a teenager.
A story of migration
So, they eloped in 1926 as soon as my grandma turned 18, and together they escaped to the west, which in those days was still a bit wild but it was quickly becoming less so. They got as far as Salt Lake City, and even though they had zero ties to the Mormons, they decided not to go any further. This part of their story always reminds me a bit of Mark Twain’s migration south, as detailed in Roughing It. Not nearly as humorous though.
Despite cars replacing wagons, traveling back then was still hell. I mean hell. Prior to arriving in the SLC area a thick rain had decided to fall at the western edge of The Rocky Mountains. So, it ended up taking them something like 10 hours to go just 20 miles because their car kept getting stuck. My grandfather would have to get out and shovel out the mud so they could go again!
Wow! It’s hard to imagine. We are so spoiled to have such simple things as paved roads.
Grandma refused to endure anymore of that. They settled down and did the best they could through more than 75 years of marriage.
When the depression hit they survived by making candy from scratch and selling it on the street. They became excellent candy makers, to our family’s benefit. Yum.
The stolen hit song?
My grandparents were awesome musicians as well, both having played in various jazz and classical bands. Shortly before her death in 2004, grandma sat me down and said: “I want you to listen to a song.”
I recognized it instantly. “Please Help Me, I’m Falling.” She told me she wrote the song but that when she sent it into music producers she never heard back for a long time. Imagine her surprise when it ended up becoming an extremally popular song. I 100% believed her. It’s not difficult to surmise that such things happened frequently in those days but lacking a digital footprint and a great lawyer it was nearly impossible to prove.
I felt so bad for her!
These are a few of the stories I remember but oh how I wish they were still alive so I could obtain even more, especially of Missouri.
I enjoyed Kansas City immensely, much more so than St. Louis. To be fair to St. Louis, perhaps I just didn’t go to the right places.
The weather in KC was beautiful and there was free parking everywhere as it was the weekend. I loaded myself down with some good KC BBQ and took a little tour of Union Station and the World War II memorial across the street. I wanted to stretch my legs and that I did. I had no idea of how many steps it took to get to the top. About a zillion or something but I did get much needed exercise.
Hope everyone is doing well!