Stumped at Big Oak Tree State Park

Warriorette Shari’s friend Barb Goza Chambers flew in from California to see her Mother, Betty Goza, in January. They always like to go on a ramble when she hits town.

Betty in Walmart last year

Betty Goza 12-19-2019

I don’t pay much attention to people in stores, so I was surprised when Betty waylaid me in the Jackson Walmart last December. If I had been looking up, I’d have recognized that big smile anywhere.,

They decided they wanted to see the Big Oak Tree State Park, in Mississippi county. I’m pretty sure the soles of my shoes melted the last time I was there because the earth’s crust was still cooling.

I shudder when I think of big trees

Jackson’s Hanging Tree in 2010

The Missourian printed a picture of a big tree and wondered if it had set a state record.

Well, before long, we were flooded with people who claimed THEIR tree was a record-breaker, too. Guess who got to drive all over hell’s half-acre taking tree pictures and picking ticks off his young body. The only solace I could take while scratching chigger bites was that each tree was worth five bucks and mileage.

The only thing worse than trees was when the paper made the mistake of running a photo of a couple guys holding up a big snake in front of the newspaper’s front doors. Not long after that, we were given a “No more snake pictures” edict because the huge reptiles were freaking out passersby and the advertising staff.

Note: this wasn’t one of the the big trees. This is the Hanging Tree behind the Cape County Courthouse. The county cut the tree down on a Sunday in 2016 without giving any notice.

Back to the park to look for big trees

What’s left of former co-champion tree

Barb and I decided to head out on a boardwalk to hunt for the promised big trees. We should have read the display at the head of the walk before we took off.

The sign would have told us that five of the 12 champion trees were like this specimen of the former 17’7″ Quercus macrocarpa that fell in 2009.

The day was a bit chilly for the jacket I grabbed, so we didn’t do the full walk. On the plus side, we didn’t encounter any mosquitoes.

The best part of the trip

Google Map showing the park and Mississippi River

The best part of the trip was the journey back to what passed as civilization (New Madrid). We took some small roads that let us parallel the Mississippi River where we could see the chutes, islands and oxbows it makes.

New Madrid was a welcome sight because all that meandering left my van breathing fumes, something I didn’t share with my passengers.

Truck Stops and CB Radio

Bertrand truck stop 12-03-2015I was headed toward Charleston on I-57 working on my Bootheel project when I spotted this abandoned truck stop at the Bertrand exit. As always, you can click on the photos to make them larger.

I’ve always had a soft spot for truck stops, going back to the old CB radio days when you’d while away hundreds of miles giving and receiving Smokey reports and sharing road stories. Eventually, somebody would say they were going to stop for fuel, food or facilities, and all of us with time to spare would peel off to put faces with handles.

“Hey, Sweet Thang, got your ears on?”

Bertrand truck stop 12-03-2015Long before Facebook came along, you’d develop rolling friendships with the men and women who fought sleep and boredom by reaching for their microphones. In the dark of the night, somewhere in the Carolinas, I’d been chewing the fat with my front door, an 18-wheeler whose name I’ve long since forgotten, when he said, “Watch out for that four-wheeler. He’s weaving all over the road. Don’t know if he’s drunk or sleepy. Whoa! It ain’t a ‘he,’ it’s a couple girls. ‘Hey, sweet thang, you got your ears on?'”

He quickly established that it was a couple of college girls coming back from break and they were, indeed sleepy, and they had their ears on.

“Sweet thang, pull that vehicle over on the shoulder. I’m going to drive for awhile before you kill yourself or somebody else. I’d let my partner do it, but he’s young and horny, and I’m a grandfather.”

Sure enough, the car pulled over, the driver hopped in, and we went back to rolling for another hour or so until we all wheeled into a truck stop for a cup of 100-weight and a slab of pie.

“Beware of rattlesnakes”

Bertrand truck stop 12-03-2015I thought I had told this story before, but I couldn’t find it in the archives. In 1990, we took the Great Family Vacation Out West. We were driving though the part of Texas where the rest areas had warnings, “Beware of Rattlesnakes,” and signs saying, “Next Services – 120 Miles.” We fought the nighttime boredom by talking to Crazy Eights, the 18-wheeler in front of us, and having the Sons Matt and Adam count the deer eyes shining back at us along the sides of the road (they spotted more than 200 – deer, not eyes).

Finally, Wife Lila said, “I’ve had it. Stop at the next place that has lights.”

I spotted the only break in the darkness, a small motel that had seen much better days (assuming it had EVER had better days), said our goodbyes to Crazy Eights, and let my headlights sweep the motel. Wife Lila said, “Don’t even slow down, Keep on going.”

“Them boys ever been in a big truck?”

Bertrand truck stop 12-03-2015About two miles up the road, Crazy Eights was idling on the shoulder. “I knew you’d be coming along shortly. Have them boys ever been in a big truck?”

After we allowed as how there had been a gap in their education, he offered to let him ride with him.

Wife Lila hesitated, but I argued that this might be the high point of their vacation, and that one of two things would happen: (a) when we got to civilization, he’d give ’em back, or (b) he wouldn’t. At that point in the trip, either would work for me.

I miss the old truck stops

Bertrand truck stop 12-03-2015In the old days, the legend was that you could find a good place to eat by seeing how many trucks were parked around it. That wasn’t necessarily true; they might be there because there was plenty of parking for the big rigs; the fuel could be cheaper than up the road, the waitresses could be friendly and pretty, or the food could actually be good, plentiful and cheap.

Nowadays, alas, you are just as likely to see a national chain restaurant like Popeye’s, McDonalds, or the like serving up the same old food you can get anywhere. (I loved the strawberry pie at the 76 truck stop at Wildwood.)

I bet even Mavis at the Old Home Filler Up and Keep On Truckin’ Cafe is riding a rocking chair in an old folks home.

Road Warriorette Reactions

NN north of Bertrand 12-03-2015All of my road warriorettes display different reactions to my driving. Foodie Jan is prone to scream “We’re all going to die!!!!” at the least provocation. She’s also the one most likely to question my food and lodging choices.

Curator Jessica is so young she still thinks she’s immortal, so she takes my driving quietly.

You haven’t heard much about Warriorette Anne lately because she abandoned me for Texas. She kept quiet even when she had good reason to scream. It was on that occasion that Mother, the original Warriorette, said she didn’t scream because she was biting down too hard on a pillow to keep from doing it.

(You can click on the photos to make them larger.)

Now that I think of it

Suspension pipeline from Grand Tower IL 07-17-2011I only knew of one time when Mother expressed any kind of shock.

I was trying to get a good photo of the world’s longest suspension pipeline that links Wittenberg, Mo., with Grand Tower, Ill. I had been there about an hour earlier and got some nice pictures, but after heading north along the river and not finding a good angle, I decided to race the sun back for this shot. I made it with about five minutes to spare. When I went airborne over the top of a levee, Mother yelled, “Whoa!

I knew there was a road on the other side of the levee, but she, evidently, didn’t.

At the time, I wrote, “She never yells, ‘Whoa!’ She yells, ‘Gun it!’ She must be getting old.”

Getting to the point of the picture

NN north of Bertrand 12-03-2015Getting back to the original subject of the tree photo at the top of the page: Warriorette Shari, my old high school girlfriend (briefly, by her choice), and I were hammer down on NN north of where I took the silo picture when I smoked the brakes and did a sliding U-turn. Shari didn’t say a word, even when I pulled off on the side of the road and jumped out.

I had spotted a farm pond that was perfectly smooth and picking up the reflection of trees backlit by the setting sun. It captured the feel of The Bootheel for me: the endless flat ground, the green crops, the trees and buildings way off in the distance.

When I crawled back in the car, I tried to explain my philosophy of “Shoot It When You See It” because I was losing the reflections of the trees in the three or four minutes it took me to get turned around and start making exposures.

This old tree standing sentinel in the field has the same feel as the pond photo, but I like the reflections better in the first shot.

I almost always use a circular polarizing filter on my lens to protect it, reduce reflections and make skies more dramatic. Depending on the angle of the light, sometimes it doesn’t work at all or, like here, it causes part of the sky to be a different shade, which bothers me.

Why Does Silo Have Holes?

Silo north of Bertrand on NN 0 W Granite Rd 12-05-2015Road Warriorette Shari and I cruised Scott and Mississippi counties looking for photos to illustrate my Bootheel project. Late in the afternoon, when everything took on a golden glow, we spotted this silo on CR NN near West Granite Road north or Bertrand.

The recent cold nights must have killed whatever foliage had attached itself to the structure.

My silo ignorance is showing

Silo north of Bertrand on NN 0 W Granite Rd 12-05-2015One of the problems with documenting an agricultural area is that I know practically nothing about farming.

Would someone explain why this silo (and  couple others we saw in the same area) have holes running up the side? Click on the photos to make them larger.