Branson, Missouri

Thanksgiving November 26 - November 30, 2008

by Paul Ridenour

Thursday November 26

Dottie and I have been to Branson before on Thanksgiving Day but this time we decided to go a day earlier.  To read about our previous trip, click here Branson 2006.

We left our house after 10:30 AM and our Garmin Nuvi 260 said it would be about a seven hour trip. We were getting near New Boston, TX, and I called Charles Steger to ask him where we should eat lunch.  He mentioned Ramage Farms, which is in the town of Hooks.  We did not know it was BBQ and it was very good.  A neat place with a nice country store. 

Dottie had never been to Old Washington State Park in Arkansas and it was only six miles out of our way, so I decided to take her there.  On the way, we passed by the Hope Airport and we see our tax dollars and the incompetence of our federal government at work.  There must be 20,000 parked FEMA mobile homes, and they may never be used again since people complain that they made them sick.  Rows and rows of mobile homes as far as the eye can see.  A photo cannot capture it from the ground.

Old Washington was nice and I showed Dottie where Stephen F. Austin practiced law before coming to Texas.  The knife making shop was open where the Bowie knife is believed to be made and the man working there gave us a nice tour.

We arrived in Branson about 9 PM and stayed at the same Holiday Inn Express on Green Mountain Rd.

Ramage Farms


FEMA - Hope airport in Arkansas

More FEMA waste

Dottie at the huge Magnolia tree in Old Washington

Thursday November 27 - Thanksgiving Day

We had lunch at the Cracker Barrel at 11:00 AM.  We had to wait 50 minutes before being seated.  Both our meals only cost $19.59 and that included pecan pie.  It was a very good Thanksgiving meal.  My family, at my suggestion, was at the Cracker Barrel in Mesquite, Texas, at the same time.  I was hoping they liked the food as I would not hear the end of it for the rest of my life.

After lunch, we went shopping as most things in Branson are open on Thanksgiving Day.  I bought an expensive knife and we found a book that my mom will love, but she'll have to wait until Christmas. 

We saw the Liverpool Legends at Starlight Theatre.  They are a Beatles cover band hand picked by George Harrison's older sister Louise Harrison.  The tickets were $59 for two plus they gave us a $20 gas voucher at Cody's Convenience Stores.  Not convenient for us however because there are no close stores, with most of them being in Springfield, MO.  So, we never used them.

The Beatles show started out with some old Beatles video footage and some of it I had never seen.  There was also a lot of trivia questions and I knew most of them.  

The show starts out with Liverpool Legends playing the old Beatles songs like She Loves You, I Want To Hold Your Hand, All My Loving, I Saw Her Standing There, Till There Was You, Yellow Submarine, etc, and they were dressed in the early Beatles gear.  I personally do not like the early Beatles as much as the later Beatles, from Rubber Soul one.  Friend Mark Smith does not like the later Beatles and I think that is nuts.

George said "This next song was written my Paul and it has been recorded by more singers in history.  Do you know what it is?  The audience yelled out "Yesterday."  George replied "Wow!  In Branson, they usually say Moon River."

The band had a great John Lennon and George Harrison and they came from another band called American English from Chicago.  The guy behind me thought that American English was better than the Liverpool Legends.  I went to high school with drummer Doug Cox of the Beatles cover band A Hard Nights Day out of Dallas.  I think Doug is the best Ringo Starr and no one does Paul McCartney as well as band member Mark Ehmann.  I thought the McCartney of Liverpool Legends was the weakest member.  The Ft. Worth, TX, band called Me And My Monkey also has a great John Lennon and George Harrison, but A Hard Nights Day is better than any Beatles cover band I have heard.  It made me want to go see A Hard Nights Day.

Louise Harrison spoke at the intermission about when George Harrison came to Missouri in 1963 and she also mentioned that he wrote about her in a couple of songs, one being "Cheer Down."  She looks just like George.  It was neat to get to see her.

Liverpool Legends came out the second half with the Sgt. Pepper attire and then the Hey Jude look and it was so good.   They preformed Sgt Pepper/With A Little Help From My Friends, When I'm Sixty-Four, A Day in the Life, Hey Jude, the acoustic version of While my Guitar Gently Weeps, Birthday, Something [as audience members slow danced], Get Back, etc.

John and George played the part well with telling Lennon type jokes and certainly Lennon was in 100% character.  Sometimes they were not funny.  The drummer also had a huge nose and was a good Ringo, especially as a singer.

They did not do Revolution, which my friend and Rolling Stones fan Ed Brown once said, when he was inebriated, "That's the Beatles' best song, EVER!"  I tend to disagree.  My favorite is A Day In The Life.


"I saw a film today, oh boy..."

My dad

Louise Harrison

"They say it's your birthday..."

Painting of Louse Harrison and George Harrison, donated to the theatre in 2006

Friday November 28

Most of our trips are fairly problem free but not this trip,  Dottie's left eye was red and she pulled a hair out from under her eyelid.  Next thing we knew, both her eyes were red and we drove up to Pearl Vision just as they opened.  Before we left, and while she was getting ready, I took the car up to Wal-Mart as it had a tire pressure alarm,  Last two times I got that, there was a nail and a screw in the tires.  Wal-Mart found the problem, which was just the spare tire was seven pounds low of air.  I did not have to pay anything but I ended up spending $97 on another Garmin Nuvi 200 for my car that Wal-Mart had just put out on their counter.  The previous night, I borrowed a plunger from the hotel front desk and unstopped our toilet.

The eye doctor at Pearl Vision was Dr. Kevin D, Umbright of the University of Missouri.  He was very good.  Turns out she has pink eye and he wanted her to use the antibiotic Zytel every hour the first day and to use it for the next seven days.  The medicine was $97 at Wal-Mart.  Second time I'd been to Wal-Mart that morning and the second time I spent $97.

We had lunch at Montana Mike's Steak House.  We split a rib-eye.  With tea, salad, baked potato, and my chocolate cake, it cost $27.  The chocolate cake was no "Death by Chocolate" type cake but it had nuts and was very good.  I like Montano Mike's.

Later in the afternoon, we went to Silver Dollar City,  I was surprised that it was $105 for two.  We got there and then split a hamburger for $12. 

We saw Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" at 7 PM and we were lucky to get in, as we were the last three or four to get in the sold out show.  It was only one hour but one of the better productions I have ever seen.  I am used to seeing high school shows that include kids of people I know.  Even though I did not know anyone in the show, some of the actors reminded me of some of the Thesbians, I mean Thespians, that I worked with in high school.  One reminded me of Sara O'Brien and the other Denny Johnson.  I loved it when the Ghost of the Future [death] came out of Scrooge's bed.  In the cemetery scene, they added a couple of songs - Little Altar Boy and Ava MariaLittle Altar Boy by Glen Campbell is a great song.  We also saw the Living Nativity show (20 minutes).   Not as good of a production but better than a lot of church productions I've seen.  I rode the Magnificent Wave Carousel and it made me a little dizzy with all of those 4 million Silver Dollar City Christmas lights flashing by.

Montana Mike's Steak House

"A Christmas Carol" - Sara O'Brien ?

Denny Johnson ?

Silver Dollar City Musical Christmas Tree

I've taken a picture of this before - Love it [Silver Dollar City]

Magnificent Wave Carousel

Silver Dollar City Parade

Parade Joker/Clown

Parade after some Peyote

Saturday November 29

We saw the Titanic Museum.  Cost $47 for two.  That is a neat tour.  They give each person a name of a person who was on the ship and some information about them.  At the end of the tour, you find out if your person lived or died.  Mine was 44 year-old Oscar Scott Woody, part of the crew and one of five US mailmen.  He celebrated his 44th birthday on the ship.  I knew he would not survive and he did not.  Got to see some of his letters.  Dottie had 39 year-old Franz Karun who had a four year-old daughter named Manca.  They survived of course.  The Rev.  John Harper was witnessing to someone as the ship went down.  He did not survive.  There were a lot of brave people and a lot of cowards.  Some of the women were more manly than some of the men.   We have been to the Titanic cemetery in Nova Scotia and this museum tied the entire story together.  Some very sad stories.  One man told his maid that the ship will never sink, and he was furious at the insistence of his maid to get the kids and get off the boat.  The maid took his infant child and got off the boat.  The man's wife also told him to get off the ship and he refused.  When he saw water in his room, he decided that the ship will sink and he and his wife got their young child.  His wife would not leave the ship without finding their infant child, not knowing that their infant child was already safe.  The three perished and the young child was the only child that died among the first class passengers.  The youngest person on the Titanic is still alive today and she is in her 90s.  There was a Catholic priest and amateur photographer who got on the ship via a free ticket and he got off at the last port, before the ship went down.  He has numerous photographs of the Titanic and they are displayed at the museum.  He was in the right place at the right time and I would have loved to have been him.  Many of the items from the Titanic like purses are worth thousands of dollars today and they are in the museum.

The museum had a display of water that was 28 degrees, the same temperature the water was that night in 1914.  The cold water is what killed them.  I put my fingers in the water and after 30 seconds, I could not feel them.  I could not take it any longer at 45 seconds.  The cold killed the passengers in 20 minutes or less.  One of the chefs decided to eat the good pastries and bring out the wine.  He got drunk.  They found him alive and singing in the water.  The alcohol in his blood saved his life.  Remember that the next time you are on a sinking ship in cold waters.  The highest survival rate was if you were a woman and one of the crew.  Lowest survival rate were the 3rd class passengers.

We had lunch again at Montana Mike's Steak House as it is right next to the Titanic Museum.

Dottie wanted to rest as the antibiotic made her tired/sleepy.

I went to the Butterfly Palace by myself.

We went to the Andy Williams Christmas Show at 7 PM.  Being at the Andy Williams show reminded me of an email I got from a soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Andy sings the English version of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, 4th Movement, called Words.  The soldier was trying to find a CD with that song on it and I found it for him.  He wanted to buy it for his wife.  And he did.

Andy had a guy come out named Dean Couch (?).  Dean did all of the following impersonations - a drunk Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Bing Crosby, Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett, etc.  He was fantastic.  He could talk like them, sing like them, and he looked like them when he sang.  Andy said "You didn't do my favorite"  Dean said "No, I did all the greats."  Well, he did all the greats except Andy Williams.  So, he did Andy Williams and both of them sang a duet, Andy singing with Andy. 

The show was supposed to last 90 minutes but it lasted 110 minutes.

Andy told a few jokes to kill time while the set was being changed out behind the curtain:

One lady told me she is 97, half blind, has cancer, diabetes, can't feel her feet or hands, can't hear, and has fainting spells.  She said "But the good news is, I still have my driver's license."  She said she now has a hearing aid.  Andy asked her if she told her family.  She said "No, I just listen.  I have changed my Will three times."

One guy on the subway had not bathed in weeks, smelled of alcohol, dirty clothes, on drugs, open sores, etc.  Next to him was a Catholic priest and he asked him "Father, how does one get arthritis?"  The priest replied "From bad living, whoring around, drinking too much, living a life of sin."  A few minutes later, the priest felt bad and apologized and asked the man "How long have you had arthritis?"  The man replied "I don't, but I was reading in the paper that the Pope does."

One last joke - Andy was talking to a nice old lady outside an old folks home.  They talked for an hour and had a great conversation.  Before Andy left, he asked the lady "Do you know who I am?"  The lady replied "No, but if you ask the front desk, they will tell you."

Andy tells a story and he tells it well.  It goes something like this: "There was a man born in an obscure small town, in a barn, a carpenter until he was 30, never married, no family, never set foot in a big city, never owned a home, never traveled more than 200 miles, and at age 30, became an itinerate preacher for three years.  Yet every army and every king and every leader, did not affect mankind like this one man did."  Then he sang Ava Maria.

Friday night I received an email from Mark Rackley.  He indicated that he emailed us a few years ago about my wife's Cherokee side of her family.  In his email, Mark said he was 48, a musician, and talked about a business venture from OK to MO to AR, including Branson.  I replied to him "I'm 48, a drummer, and I am currently in Branson."  He replied with his phone number as he too was in Branson.  He wanted me to call him before we left town.

I called him at 9:30 PM and we met in the hotel lobby about 09:50, as he was living just 1/2 mile away.  He said "I am a simple man" as he talked about getting coffee at McDonalds.  I said "Let's go to Starbucks" and we did. I bought him his first Mocha Frappuccino and I think he liked it.  He was originally going to order hot chocolate, as Branson had been cold all week.  He told me a lot of great information about my wife's family, the Civil War, and several things I had never thought of but made perfect sense.  He is working on a book and I want a copy.  He gave me a Wolf Clan scarf, being that the Wolf Clan is one of the seven Cherokee clans.  He had worked with Andrew Osmond in the past and he recognized Jimmy Osmond at Starbucks.  So I shook Jimmy's hand in the parking lot and told him I was age 9 in 1969 watching them on the Andy Williams Show.  He laughed and said Andy is a good guy.  He looks so much like Donny.  I enjoyed my time with Mark.

There are several family acts in Branson and many of them are Mormon families.  I just do not have a desire to see most of the acts as they are impersonators and perform music that does not appeal to me. I hear the Haygoods are good and Andy Williams brought out the Warnock Family.  Paul Revere and Raiders are a popular act and next time I go back, I may seen them and Jim Stafford.  Other acts include the Osmond's Christmas and the Twelve Irish Tenors.  I do not really like Elvis or Elvis impersonators and country jamboree music.  So,  not too many shows I care to see, and for those prices.

Titanic Museum

Butterfly Palace [and some birds and reptiles]

Sunday November 30

We were ready to get home, especially Dottie.  We had been there long enough and Dottie's eye issue was not fun for her.  The good news was that it was lightly snowing as we got up and snowing much of the drive home.


Four days after we got home, Dottie was completely healed, but then I came down with pink eye and will be taking two antibiotics for the next seven days.  My eye doctor in Plano gave me a free bottle of Zytel and a free bottle of Vigamox.  I could use Dottie's Zytel but I was just glad I didn't have to pay another $97 for it.

I searched my old CompuServe email system and found that Mark Rackley sent us an email back in 2005.

Oscar Scott Woody was a native of Roxboro, NC, and in 2004, the NC congress renamed the Roxboro post office after him.