Bob Woodall's home page

Places Visited:

Missouri: Cuba: Steelville, Meramec Springs", Mountain Man Shop"
Rolla: The University of Missouri- Rolla, Ed Clarke Museum of Missouri Geology,
Stonehenge replica, U-M Nuclear Reactor, Mid-Continent Mapping Center

2003 Travelogue# 9 -Memories of Cuba, MO

Thursday, September 11, 2003
Cuba, MO
Mileage: 40802 Traveled 107 miles
Blue Moon RV and Horse Park, 355 Hwy F, Cuba, MO 65453 573-885-3752
Full Hookups, 30-amps, gravel pads, pool, store, $16 Good Sam & SKP discount,
Small lake, clean, on 30 acres

We left Marshfield today, after a month of being in and out of the city visiting family. We are heading east toward St. Louis on I-44, which in many places parallels Historic Route 66, and one of those unique little places is Cuba, MO.

The town of Cuba is where Peggy grew up. Her family and Aunt moved here in the late 40's, where they owned and operated Hotel Cuba on Route 66. The hotel was located on this major thoroughfare and across the street was the rail station for the Frisco line. Being only 84 miles west of St. Louis, celebrities often stopped here to rest. Peg remembers the night when Tex Ritter and his band were hotel guests and Peg's dad had to run them out the next morning because they got somewhat "soused" the night before. Also, another memory was helping in the hotel restaurant as a kid and the traveling salesmen, who were regulars, would give her candy. It was somewhat nostalgic driving around and seeing some of the things she did as a small child.

After several years, Peggy's parents sold the hotel and opened a Western Auto store on Rte 66, which went through the heart of Cuba, long before Interstate 44. At that time, they bought 5 acres on a hill in the country and built a home. Her Aunt and uncle also built on the property next to them. This home-place is where I first met her parents and where we came for our "summer pilgrimages" with our two children. Cuba provided a fun place in a rural setting for a time of re-creation. The 4th of July was always an enjoyable time for all of us. It was a big day at the City Park with hot dogs, cold drinks, exhibits, sack races, and always the bullfrog races with the evening spent in the backyard, eating watermelon and watching the city fireworks…once upon a time, long ago.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Since our days were busy last week, we'll rest, relax, and get a few things done around the motor home today… like, reloading my computer. On Monday, the hard drive on my laptop crashed, so, it was time to call Dell's technical support. The last time I called, I discussed my problem with a lady in Manila, Philippines and today I opened my discussion with Austin, in Bombay, India. He didn't sound like an Austin to me! Dell shipped a new hard drive overnight and Tuesday my nephew Matt loaded and reformatted it so I could get up and running again. Fortunately, last Saturday when everyone was in St. Louis for the Cardinal game, I took the time to back up some of my files.

Later this morning we drove into Cuba to visit Holy Cross Cemetery where Peggy's mother and dad are buried. She has other family members there also and we wanted to get some of the names and dates for our genealogy information.

We then went to Holy Cross Catholic Church and school, which is located on 7 acres in town where Peg started 1st grade. The school building has real character being originally built as a two-story home in 1894. It is constructed of sandstone, and large timbers, with large sandstone steps, maybe 10, leading to the high front porch and door. Standing on the porch and looking over the grounds brought back fond memories. She remembered the joyful times when the Nuns would let the kids out of class to pick strawberries. (Back then; four of those acres were planted in strawberries.) The kids received a nickel a basket for the berries but Peg's Aunt Lena would come and sit under an elm tree and pick the tops off her berries. She would receive an extra nickel per basket, if the green tops were removed.

Inside the school, which has been restored and still in use, we saw the one room where she attended 1st through 4th grade. Peg pointed out the floor registry grate for the furnace; where the class gold fish met its tragic demise. Her job, that fateful day, was to clean the bowl. As she was removing "goldie", it slipped out of her hand and fell into the endless abyss of the furnace grate. As a child, she was distraught for poor "goldie", the class mascot. It was gone forever and the tears flowed. Today, some 55 years later, that eventful day is still vivid in her memory.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

The Crawford County Historical Museum was our first stop today. We heard that the husband of one of Peggy's high school girl friends was the curator. He was… and he met us at the door. We were his only customers this rainy Saturday morning. Peggy introduced herself and immediately the gentleman knew who she was and asked her to sit down while he called his wife. They were like two high school girls once again, renewing acquaintances after these many years. Obviously, they were going to be on the phone for a while, so I was given an exclusive tour. Unfortunately, we caught him as he was closing and walking out. So, we were not able to fully enjoy the treasures that were in the museum but, at least, I was able to get a quick overview. Maybe some day we'll return and be able to spend more time with the exhibits.

At the Cuba exit, on Interstate 44 and State Hwy 19, there's a sign proclaiming this as the entryway into the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, America's first national scenic riverway. Hwy 19 goes to Steelville, the county seat of Crawford County, considered to be the "Floating Capital of Missouri" and our next destination. Big springs pour out millions of gallons of crystal-clear water each day and form three major rivers in the area, the Courtois, Huzzah, and Meramec. These rivers provide wonderful recreation activities such as trout fishing, floating, rafting, and camping for all to enjoy in the 45,000 acre Mark Twain National Forest.

Meramec Springs was always a favorite with our family. Every summer, at least one day was saved for a pilgrimage to the park to picnic, and just look at the bubbling spring emerging from the rocks. Running up to the trout hatchery to watch the trout fingerlings was always a must with our kids.

While in Steelville, one of the shops I wanted to see was the Outdoor Artistry Mountain Man Shop on Main St. but it was boarded up…Poo! Continuing south, a few miles out of town on Hwy 19, I happened to glimpse two new log cabins tucked back in a draw. A sign on the highway read "Mountain Man Shop". I slammed on the brakes, and made a hard right turn onto the gravel road. I asked someone backing out "if this was the store from town and was it open for business?" He confirmed that it was the same and it was open. This is definitely a "guys" place! When you walk in you're struck with all the wonderful taxidermy work. Mr. Richardson hand carves antlers into handles for knives, which are sold many places, one being Cabela's. An assortment of knives, arrowheads, antler chandeliers, moccasins, Navajo pottery, pelts and various accessories for hunting and archery filled the store. Many of the pelts for sale were gathered at "mountain rendezvous' and brought back for sale. Local trappers bring pelts to the store such as fox, mink, rabbit, and raccoons. Their web address is www.OutdoorArtistry.com.

Our next stop was Pucky Huddle, MO, the home of Davisville General Store-Post Office established in 1899, also known as Davisville. Since the turn of the century, the store has carried food and dry goods for the locals because it was a two-day ride into Steelville for supplies. The old store today is much like it was in yesteryears, oak floors and shelves with every available space crammed full. As we were browsing the store, I felt something strange hit my leg. I looked down to see two small kittens chasing one another and playing around the feed sacks. We bought some home grown tomatoes and noticed, as we were leaving, a man buying 100 lbs of oats for his horses, while a load of LIVE ducks waited for him in his pickup…only in the Ozarks!

Continuing our journey back in time, we came to Dillard Mill State Park. The 132-acre picturesque and peaceful Park has good hiking trails, which we enjoyed. But the highlight is a bright barn-red mill. It's nestled among green trees beside crystal-clear blue waters rolling over a rock dam creating a colorful setting for one of Missouri's best preserved, watered-powered gristmills. The mill, completed around 1908, sits on Huzzah Creek and continued grinding grain until 1960. Daily tours are offered until 3 pm; we were too late.

Our return to the motor home was through the Mark Twain National Forest, twisting and turning our way back through Steelville. It was an enjoyable day... seeing a little bit of Americana.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

We attended Mass this morning at Holy Cross Catholic Church. The service began at 9:30 and we were told to be there by 9:15 to get a seat, which we were. Whoever told us to be early was right; because it was soon a packed house. As we sat in the pews I could visualize Marty, Peg's dad, being one of the ushers. He was there every Sunday seating the people.

The church is a unique structure because the exterior of the building is constructed of native stones, which were quarried nearby. The wall behind the altar is made of the same type of river native stone. These rocks were neither smooth nor flat like a brick, but very rough, about the size of small to large melons. Sitting quietly in church this morning, brought back many memories.

After church we headed to the Cuba Country Club for brunch but on arrival, we saw no cars. Opps! Checking inside we found they had closed for the season so we stopped at the grocery story and returned to the motor home. The rest of the day was spent "putzing" and talking to our neighbors.

Monday, September 15, 2003

It was a beautiful morning and Peg was out for her walk, while I tried to connect the dots. We are about 80 miles west of St. Louis and I need to have some work done on the Saturn and the motor home. Trying to locate a dealer plus find a campground in the area are trying exercises, via a cell phone, the web, and voice menus. I'm still blowing fuses on my auxiliary braking system, so, I talked with the Brake Buddy folks and they are UPS-ing a 12-volt adaptor to connect to the battery through the firewall. Maintenance goes on whether on the road or living in a "stick" house. Oh…I'm still reloading the hard drive.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Rolla, 20 miles west of Cuba on I-44, was our destination this morning. The University of Missouri- Rolla, formerly the Rolla School of Mines, is located here and this is where Peggy's brothers (Greg and Jeff) received their Engineering degrees.

Our first stop was the Ed Clarke Museum of Missouri Geology, located in the Missouri Geology Building. This facility is an active center for the State of Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The museum, located on the main floor and in the basement, is scattered amidst the offices and cubicles of the working staff. Rocks, collected from Missouri, are displayed by major divisions of geological time i.e. the Cenozoic Era (recent life), Mesozoic Era (age of medieval life which included the Jurassic and Triassic periods) and the Paleozoic Era (age of ancient life). As we made our way through the different Era's, we could identify some of the rocks we had seen on our walks and drives.

One interesting display was called a Physiographic Region of Missouri. This is a map of the State showing the different regions i.e. Osage Plains, Springfield Plateau, Glacial Plains, but what interested me was the jagged line drawn across the State called "The Limit of Glaciations". This line marks the general area where glaciers stopped and started their retreat; and almost matches the configuration of the Missouri River as it comes across the State.

Phelps County was spun off Crawford County, and Rolla is the County Seat. The "Old Court House" was our next stop. The construction of the Court House began in January 1860, using bricks "fired" 4 blocks away and costing $8000. By the time the Civil War started, the exterior and 1st floor were finished, but then the workers left to fight and the Confederate flag was raised over the structure on May 7, 1861. The building became a grain storage facility and later was used as a Confederate hospital for the wounded soldiers who fought in the Battle of Wilson Creek; near Springfield, MO. Today, the building houses a small museum, gift shop, old courtroom, and offices for various attorneys.

Our next stop was back on the School of Mines campus to see a half-scale replica of Stonehenge, carved by high-speed water jets out of granite rocks. The original Stonehenge is located on the Salisbury Plain, 75 miles southwest of London, England. It was started around 2800 B.C., and evolved over the next 1000 years into a 100-foot circle of 29 ½ "sarsen" stones (representing days in a lunar month). Each stood 14-feet high and weighed 25 tons. The "sarsen" circle was capped by 7 ton lentels and inside the "sarsen" circle were 5 "trilithons" with each vertical stone standing 25-feet tall and weighing over 52 tons. The construction of Stonehenge was an engineering masterpiece for its time and the replica is well suited for a School of Engineering campus.

No one knows for sure, but it is believed Stonehenge was used as an ancient calendar and timepiece. The sun presents itself through various alignments of the "trilithons" with the heel stone and signals the beginning of the summer and winter solstice. What really fascinates me about Stonehenge is that the Anasazi Indians in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico used this same type of observation in 950 A.D. to 1150 A.D. to record the solstices and develop a planting calendar.

From the Stonehenge replica, we moved indoors for a tour given by SRO Dan Engle, a Senior Reactor Operator at the U-M Nuclear Reactor. We had never seen a nuclear reactor up close, so here was our chance. The reactor has been in operation since 1961 and was the first nuclear reactor in the state of Missouri. It is termed a "swimming pool" reactor, because it sits near the bottom of a large pool of water. The reactor is currently licensed to operate at 200 kilowatts of thermal power and is used only for research and training.
It was just Dan, Peggy, and I standing in this large room, looking down into a pool of water, some 32,000 gallons and 30 feet deep, watching the water change colors from gray to cobalt blue. The reactor core was doing its thing, like blowing out neutrons into the water and some bouncing back into the boron and stainless steel control rods. We were watching a live demonstration of nuclear reactions.

With the afternoon about over, we had to hurry to our last stop, the Mid-Continent Mapping Center, part of the National Mapping Division of the U.S. Geological Survey, where a lady gave us a personal tour.

The tour began with a short video of the history of mapping and surveying and its development. In the early days, maps were drawn by hand, later, with the printing press, and copper engraved plates were used for printing maps. The development of aerial photography, in1939, changed the way maps were made and by 1950 all 48 States had been photographed and mapped. In 1970, the age of computers took the next leap in the way maps were made and produced. Today, the Internet and the use of satellite imagery have once again altered the coarse of this ancient art, of map making. This was a fascinating facility and we found that the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) web site (www.usgs.gov) is the gateway to explore an earth science virtual library of digital information, publication, and data.

We've had a busy and enjoyable week here in Cuba, due, in large part, to the hospitality of the owners of the Blue Moon RV Park, Jim, Kay, and Liz Barton. They allowed us unlimited Internet access and the Park was an excellent place to stay while seeing the Ozark National Scenic Riverways and reliving memories.

Bob & Peggy Woodall


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