Puxico’s Leap Year Day Tornado

I checked the weather before I turned in around 2 a.m. Wednesday and saw a fast-moving narrow band of ugly weather headed toward Cape. When I got up, news reports indicated that Cape had dodged the bullet, but some other local communities, including Puxico, hadn’t. That was significant because Wife Lila’s brother, John Perry, had come down to do some odd job repairs for us. His Wife Dee’s parents and brother live on farms near Puxico.

Tree came through roof

She called him to say that her brother Don’s house was destroyed and he was feared dead.

He was later dug out of debris in his basement. He was pretty badly battered, but didn’t go to the hospital. Her parents, D.L. and Fern Douglas, who live nearby, had a tree come through their roof, several outbuildings destroyed and a tractor blown into a pond. A neighbor in a mobile home was killed.

Dee’s Facebook updates

Here are some of Dee’s Facebook posts to friends and family Wednesday evening. John and Dee’s son Wyatt was kind enough to share these photos.

WOW, what a day!

9:21 p.m. – WOW, what a day!……The storms in Puxico flattened my brother’s house. My parents’ farm and home look like a war zone. Everyone is fine, shook up, but fine. My heart just breaks for everyone…..I spent the afternoon doing what I could do for my parents with Wyatt. I just cried when I saw my brother’s house. I am so thankful that everyone is alive.

We thought my brother was dead

9:46 p.m.My brother was thought to be dead. That was told to my Mother, so we were touch and go for awhile, I thought it was going to put her under, but she is one strong woman. My brother is pretty banged up, but I got to kiss him and hug him and that is all that matters!

10:41 p.m. – [Referring to wire service photo of her dad looking at his barn] He is so pitiful, all he has ever worked for was on that farm, but I still have him and Mom and the rest of my family, so for that I am thankful!

Pine trees snapped off

11:08 p.m.As Mother puts it – and I saw it – it’s like a war zone, but I can tell you, that it was really awesome to be able to hug and kiss and talk to each and every one of my family. It almost took my knees out from under me…….it was so hard to have to stay at work today.

John’s on his way home

John’s Missouri family needs him more than his Florida family does right now, so we’re putting him on a plane Friday morning to help his in-laws dig out. Wife Lila says the folks at Southwest Airlines were great in letting him change his return flight with no additional charge.

Knights of Columbus Hall

This photo of men was taken in the Knights of Columbus Hall on April 2, 1967, if the note on the negative sleeve is to be believed. I searched for it in The Missourian, but didn’t see it. Either it didn’t run or I shot it as a freelance job.

Some of the men look familiar, but the only one I can identify for sure is the man in the back row, on the left. That’s Ray Seyer, Wife Lila’s uncle. You’ll be hearing more about him soon. Lila went back to Cape for his 90th birthday party Saturday.

These are men who wear serious, built-to-last wingtip shoes. I wonder if they were made in the Cape Shoe Factory? Click on any photo to make it larger.

The KC Hall

The Knights of Columbus Hall that overlooks the Mississippi River is one of those buildings that I would recognize at a glance, but haven’t had many occasions to visit. My most vivid memory is abandoning my date – probably Lila – in my car in the parking lot one night while I dashed off to shoot a fire in a neighboring building.

Casino vs. Bingo?

Will the Bingo players keep coming or will the Casino dry up that income for local charities and groups?

A family photo

The last time I was inside the KC Hall was after Lila’s mother’s funeral. The family gathered there to reminisce and to snack on food friends had brought. Inevitably, cameras came out and the picture-taking started. This sequence shows Son Adam with his Uncle John Perry. The family resemblance is plain.

Pulling the Plug on Mother

I knew the day would come. When you’re 90 years old, unexpected things can happen. I had to pull the plug on Mother this week. (Click on any photo to make it larger.)

Let’s back the bus up

Her yard has a woods on the east side and rows of trees on the north and west sides. The neighbors and the fire station across the street all have trees. She thinks she has some kind of leaf magnet in her yard that attracts every leaf in the block.

It disturbs her.

Me, I’d say it was God’s plan to recycle the nutrients, and I’d leave ’em there.

She, however, wants them gone.

Taking the Murray for its last ride

Fortunately, the back yard butts into a no mans land that used to be a steep hill and cow pasture, so if she can chase the leaves that far, they go down where they’ll eventually fill up a gully in another hundred or two hundred years.

I left the other day and she was blowing leaves on the east yard. That’s pretty easy. She only has to blow the leaves about 75 feet to get them out of the yard on that side.

When I came back, she had started on the upper level of the back yard. I noticed that she was looking a bit tuckered out, so I offered to take over (knowing, of course, that my offer would be indignantly rebuffed). I left to run some other errands.

This time, I found that she had the 100-foot extension cord, plus the 25-footer, and was attacking the lower level of the back yard. Deciding that it was time for drastic action, I reached where the long cord plugged into the short cord and gave a yank. Within seconds, there was silence in the back yard. I had pulled the plug on Mother.

Putting up a brave front

I think even she knew it was time. She didn’t protest when I started coiling up the power cords and hauling them off.

But, that’s not the end of what happened this week. She was giving the yard what she thought would be one last cutting of the season (plus sending leaves off to leaf heaven) when she complained that “it’s not blowing.” I figured she had probably thrown the belt that spins the blades, cutting the grass and mulching the leaves.

When I went to thread it on, one of the pulleys kept popping off its shaft. When I took off the shroud that covered it, I discovered that the shaft wasn’t the same shape all the way up; it came to a point. At some point, the thing that held the pulley to the shaft had come off, the pulley had started grinding away at the shaft until it looked like a bad tooth. I wish I had taken a picture of it.

“Goodbye, Faithful Servant”

It was time to call Brother-in-Law John Perry. He’s seen and done it all when it comes to fixing things. He’d just never seen anything like THIS before. We loaded up a mess of parts and headed out to see Jake the Lawnmower Guy. He, too, had a Maude Moment – “Hey, Maude, Come here. Bet you ain’t never seen anything like this before.”

He pulled out his calculator. Well, this is Missouri. He pulled out a pad of paper and a pencil and started writing down part numbers and getting more excited all the time. He could just see himself out on the Lake of the Ozarks in his new bass boat.

Finally, tearing up his parts list, he said, with the images of the bass boat fading away, “I have a couple of used mowers you might want to take a look at.”

Taking it easy on first lap

I went back to Mother and said, “I have the solution to your lawnmower problem and it’s only gonna cost a quarter.”

“A quarter,” she said. “What can you do to it for a quarter?”

“Well, if I can borrow a gun from John, I can buy a bullet for about a quarter and I think shooting it is about the only course of action that makes sense.”

Vrooooom! Vroooom!

After complaining that the new mower operated differently than the old one – “I won’t know what to do with my left foot. The old mower had the clutch on the left…” – she bought a used Troy-Bilt 21-horsepower, 46-inch mower. Her old one only cut 36 inches and had 11 horses hitched to it. (I can hear her complaining about the cost of feed already, not to mention having to build a bigger barn.)

The new mower has modern safety features. If you put it in reverse, the mower blades stop. If you lift up off the seat, the mower blades stop. If you come completely OFF the seat, the mower blades stop and the motor dies. Keeps you from being run over if you’re ejected.

She needs rocks in her pockets

The only catch is that mother weighs about 72 pounds. I noticed that the blades kept kicking out. I watched her awhile and figured out that she’s so light that every time she hits a bump, the seat flies up just enough to engage the safety interlock and kill the blades. We’re either going to have to fatten her up or make her keep a concrete block in her lap.

Not bad, thought, for someone who had to overcome adversity.

Catfish Kitchen in Draffenville

On my final leg back to Cape, I was starting to get hungry. I knew I’d get home later than Wife Lila and Mother would want to wait (not even taking into consideration that I’d pick up a tired bike tourist), so I started thinking about what I wanted. Since I was on I-24 in the vicinity of Paducah, I pulled up the GPS waypoint for the Catfish Kitchen, which is near Draffenville, which is near Benton, Ky, which isn’t near much of anything.

The actual address is 136 Teal Run, about a mile south of Draffenville, Ky., off US 641. Just follow the cars. They’re open Wednesday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., and on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Google the restaurant and there are plenty of maps showing you the location.

Be prepared to wait

Since the folks had a trailer on Kentucky lake not far away, I’ve eaten a lot of catfish, frog legs, white beans and hushpuppies there. The only catfish around Cape that comes close to it is at Sandy’s Place at the airport on Friday night.

Because it is popular, long waits are common. That’s not such a bad thing, though. Behind the restaurant is a small lake full of fish, turtles and waterfowl. Kids and adults alike love to toss bread and hushpuppies into the water and see the size of the fish that snatch them up.

Ducks, turtles, fish and bugs

I found photos going back to 2002 without much searching. These ducks were floating around in October of that year.

Comfortable waiting room

If the weather’s not conducive to hanging around the lake or wandering outside looking at antique farm equipment, there’s a comfortable waiting room. There are plenty of toys and games to keep the kids from getting too squirmy. If they get too much out of hand, you can always feed them to the bear.

Meet Uncle Ezra

The service is fast and the servers are great about checking to see if you want refills of the unlimited white beans, hushpuppies, slaw and drinks. Mother and I took Wife Lila’s brother, John Perry over there once. They must have had to harvest another field of beans to handle his requests for refills. (I made sure to take him a half-pint of them when I left the other night.)

The inside of the restaurant is decorated with a whimsy. There’s plenty to look at while you’re waiting. The first time I saw Uncle Ezra, I thought he was real.

Antique farm machinery

You can wander around scoping out the antique farm machinery dotting the road. They have a PA system loud enough to hear your party being called, so don’t worry about losing your place in line.

Photo gallery of Catfish Kitchen

Here’s a collection of photos I’ve taken of the Catfish Kitchen over the years. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery.