There is, obviously, an abundance of culture right here in our village. Almost every street, for example, has an active archeological dig as scientists converge on our town and probe deep into the earth to find traces of past civilizations. (To help keep track of these scientific excavations, our village's road maintenance department asks you to report any on your street by calling 1-800-POTHOLE.)
But despite living in such a cultural mecca, once in a while it's nice to break free and travel to distant lands, to breathe some new air, hear different voices and see new sights, such as the most popular restaurant in the area, which serves hog jowls and has an enormous sign that reads: "Lambert's Caf. Home of the Throwed Rolls."
The waiters at Lambert's actually throwed, I mean threw, hot dinner rolls at the diners, often from across the room. I made a note not to go back on Scalding Hot Soup Night.
Luck o' the Irish
Lambert's is in the town of Ozark, Mo. I was lucky enough to spend several days in that lovely part of the country last week and can now say, in all honesty, that I have never seen that many dead possums in the road in my life.
I was on this trip with my wife and stepson. Brian was playing in USA Hockey's national championship, competing against 10 other elite teams from around the nation to see which one would be able to get the first flight out of town when the tournament ended.
The Colorado Springs team did not win the tournament, which was for hockey players 18 and younger, being ousted in the quarterfinals by a team called the South Boston Shamrocks. (The "luck o' the Irish" was apparent early in the tournament, when Shamrock team officials magically produced birth certificates indicating that their players, many of whom appeared to be in their early 30s, were born in "1987.")
But between hockey games there was plenty of time to explore the town of Ozark and the surrounding hamlets of Springfield and Branson. The town of Branson, as you may already know, is a real hotbed of entertainment, each year attracting millions of older visitors who have dinner at 2:30 in the afternoon and then catch the midnight shows, which begin promptly at 4 p.m.
I'm just kidding. Branson is a terrific place with lots of wild nightclubs and raucous bars where you can mingle with entertainment superstars and sip from a glass containing beer, fine wine and, when he gets forgetful, singer Andy Williams' teeth.
Old mineral deposits
And the "Home of Throwed Rolls" shouldn't be missed, either. The highlight of our visit to Lambert's came when Jimmy Seals of the popular 1970s singing duo Seals and Crofts caught 14 consecutive throwed rolls in his mouth.
Another popular local attraction we visited was Wilson's Creek National Battlefield, the site of the August 1861 Civil War battle in which Union and Confederate troops engaged in a long and bloody skirmish. When it was over, the Union soldiers had gained control of the area and celebrated by hopping on their horses and racing off to Branson to catch the 4 p.m. double-show featuring the Gatlin Brothers and Glen Campbell.
After the battlefield tour we headed north and caught the afternoon tour of Fantastic Caverns, to the northwest of Springfield, a spectacular Jeep-guided excursion inside an amazing array of caverns carved from limestone rock by relentless rushing waters. Inside the caves, formed by tens of thousands of years of mineral deposits, were rock formations known as "stalactites," "stalagmites" and the "Colorado Springs City Council."
Crawling into the woods
But the biggest attraction in the area is Bass Pro Shops, a massive, almost indescribable store located in Springfield, a store larger than "seven football fields" that is devoted to outdoor pursuits. These pursuits include fishing, hunting, camping and trying to get to the cash register while carrying seven fly rods and 48 goose decoys in one arm while using the other to pull a new boat as your wife trails behind calling you an "ignorant, selfish, thoughtless bastard."
(Personal note: Susie soon calmed down and stayed that way right up until she found the $2,400 shotgun and the $1,400 tent in the trunk of our rental car.)
A major attraction inside Bass Pro Shops is Hemingway's Blue Water Caf, which is named, as you might have guessed, after Jed Hemingway, the chlorine-checker at the Springfield Town Pool.
Another area of the Bass Pro Shops mega-store is devoted entirely to children's and infant camouflage clothing. Because nothing says "fun" like having itsy-bitsy little Homer crawl off into the woods and become invisible.
And the men's camouflage clothing section featured the latest in outdoor technology -- hunting clothes with something called "total scent containment." This guarantees that no matter what odors an outdoorsman might produce, the fumes will be contained within his clothing and not frighten away the deer, turkey or other game animal.
On a less positive note, last week Missouri hunter Luther "Pot o' Chile" Clampett, who had worn his "total scent containment" pants for 36 consecutive hours, was badly injured when a spark from his fly sent a fireball 600 feet into the air.
-- Listen to Rich Tosches Thursday mornings on the "Coffey and Alisha Show" on KVUU-FM, 99.9.