M..Mel and the Ducks

Branson Travel Blog

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Tuesday, June 16, 1998


Today was our last day in Branson, but we were in no hurry to get it started. We didn’t have anything scheduled that would require us to compete with the rooster for crowing rights. Most days of our family vacation we are up by 7 AM, and usually earlier, so we can get everything done we want to. I believe in going to a destination and squeezing it until all the things to do, see, and enjoy, are done, seen, and enjoyed. It’s a competition between us and the destination. Will we extract every bit of stimulation from it, before it fatigues us to the point of civil war? I just never understood the reasoning between going somewhere and spending more than 7 hours (children excluded!) in bed. If extra sleep is the priority for your vacation, there is no point in traveling half way across the country. There is a very comfortable, and free, bed back home. However, you have to have a break when you can. Sixteen hour days, back to back to back, are killers. And contrary to the above perception I may have given, I am not a morning person. So today we slept in.

We got up at 9ish. Not exactly sleeping the day away, but those extra hours always feels nice. After showers and a leisurely breakfast we drove into downtown Branson and found a place to park. The plan was to wander the shops and see what trinkets and novelties existed that we could not possibly continue to draw breath without owning. I don’t particularly enjoy “shopping”. I’m not fanatically opposed to it, and even some types I actually enjoy. Back home, if we are in a Home Depot or Lowes, even Sears (Yea Craftsman!) I can make a couple of hours disappear dreaming and planning. But any clothing only store, jewelry store, or baby store can bring about crippling depression. Those stores should only be approached after necessity has dictated, and then only with a limited shopping list, and a reasonable time limit. Say, fifteen minutes.


I love the Budweiser commercial in which a clothing rack has been transformed into a Men’s Club with beer and sports on TV.  I have even considered lobbying to have the marital vows amended to remedy this situation. My though was something like this:


“and do you, Lovely Bride, take Handsome Groom, ….blah..blah...blah…richer, poorer….blah…blah…blah….forsaking all others….blah..blah….and never make him go shopping, as long as you both shall live?”


And of course the proper response would be:


“I will, especially the part about shopping”


All right, maybe I’m exaggerating a tad. It wouldn’t be that bad. Not every shop would be filled with candles and flowers. There would be T-shirt shops that espouse such maxims as “The difference between a Redneck Girl and a Southern Belle is a six pack” or such sage advise as “Paddle Fast, I hear banjos.” I actually find most of these hilarious. I much prefer reading all of the t-shirt wit, as opposed to inhaling deeply as my wife picks up candle after candle and queries “Doesn’t that smell pretty?” After the third one, my nose is numb and they all smell like wax.


Then there are the candy shops. We can shop there anytime. Display cases and aisle filled with sweets, confections, and if your lucky a taffy pulling machine. I don’t recall seeing one on this trip, but the things are down right hypnotizing as they stretch and pull the taffy. So we wandered from shop to shop. Some I liked. Most I just tolerated and tried to make the best of it. I think we ended up with a T-shirt of some sort and a cookbook from a place called the Gingham Goose. It could have been worse.


We ate lunch at Shoney’s. They don’t have any Shoney’s in Colorado, but they are an institution in the South. If I recall they had a choice between ordering off of their menu, which features standard American fare, or a buffet. Nothing really made an impression on me, so the food was probably good, but nothing extraordinary.


After lunch we headed over to Ride the Ducks, to take a tour of the town. Ride the Ducks is a tour company that uses converted World War II amphibious craft to take tourist around town, and on Table Rock Lake. That’s right on the lake. The craft, DUKW built to move troops during the war, has six wheels under a boat shaped bottom, with a propeller in back. They load you up, and drive you around town for about twenty minutes, and then head to the lake. Once the captain takes you on to the lake, which he does with a big splash, the captain turned the craft over to the kids. Actually anyone who wanted a stint behind the wheel could drive. There isn’t a lot to hit in the middle of the lake, so it was pretty safe. Soon our captain had told us all he knew about Table Rock Lake, and it was time to head back to the duck house.


We were all getting a little tired, so we headed back to the hotel. Part of the reason we were tired was because of Jackie. Jackie is a very nice person, but Jackie snores like a buzz saw. She goes to bed early, and the first night at the hotel, I heard this god-awful racket sound coming from the next room. I asked Margo about it, and she started laughing. “That’s Jackie”. Margo had grown up with it. But, it definitely kept me from sleeping soundly. I think the girls did a bit better, but we had done a lot of walking. So a nap would do us all some good.


After a few ZZZZZs, it was time for dinner. We headed back into town and ate at The Home Cannery. Again, I don’t remember much about it, so it was probably decent food, but nothing special. We were getting pretty excited at this point. What I considered the high point of our vacation was just around the corner. We had tickets to see the Mel Tillis Show, at his theater. In his day, Mel was a top country artist. But, he had decided he wanted something of a home life, so he built himself a Branson theater, and had his fan come to him. But, the topper was that his daughter, Pam Tillis, was currently a major star in her own right, and was appearing tonight.


We got there early for the 8 PM show and got to our seats. It was a sold out show, and for good reason. Mel put on a great show singing a lot of his hits, and working quite a bit of comedy into his act as well. Mel is famous for his stutter. When he speaks to a person, or crowd, he really works to get the words out. When he sings, he is flawless. He worked his stuttering into a couple of jokes. One in which he was really laboring to get the name of a current country super-star out. He was saying  “Le��"Lee An-nn, Le Ann”, and by that time the crowd (me included) finished his sentence by saying “Rimes”, as in LeAnn Rimes, the brand new and very popular young singer. But, as soon as the crowd had the name out of his mouth, he finished his own sentence with “Womack”, another singer, just to let us know he wasn’t as hard pressed as he let on with his words.


There were other jokes, and I have no idea why they have stuck with me. But, Mel told of when his daughter was a little girl, and wore this beautiful dress to church. The dress had many ruffles, and Mom (as the story goes) spent some time getting it ready. After church, as the preacher is talking to little Pam, he comments on how pretty the dress is. Pam responds, “Thank you, Mom says it’s a real bitch to iron.” Much laughter from the crowd. Later in the show, after Pam finished a song and was doing her own monologue, she asked if her father had told that particular story. The crowd, of course, affirmed that he did. She admonished us “Not to encourage him”. Years later I had heard many versions of the “It’s a bitch to iron” joke/story, so I kind of doubt it really happened. That didn’t make it any less funny and by the time the show was over, I was looking at the Mel Tillis CDs, to have one to take home.


That was it. After the show there was no fun left to be had. We had another very long drive the next day, so we went to bed as soon as we got back to the hotel. We had toyed with the idea of taking two days to get back, and we had toyed with the idea of stopping in Abilene, KS to see the western sights. But, both ideas were deep sixed. It had been a nice trip. I think everyone enjoyed it, and I know Jackie remembers it fondly. I know it provided me with a welcome break from work, and marked the renewal of our annual family vacations. For that alone, I am deeply grateful.

williamsworld says:
This sounds great. So many people from Texas head up there and I have never been. I have to make this a must do for this year.
Posted on: Jan 13, 2010
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