Monday, March 19, 2012


We had a great spring break in the El Fisho household. We got a friend's daughter to watch the watchdogs, so they could do their jobs and watch the homestead and not have to go to the dreaded

We took off to the Lake of the Ozarks near Osage Beach, Missouri. Getting there from Texas involved a harrowing drive through driving rain on the first day of the trip, with the rain and attendent heavy traffic slowing our progress so that a half-days travel got us only as far as Denison, Texas, at the very cusp of the Oklahoma border.

Let me say at the outset that my mom is from Oklahoma, although brought to Texas as an infant. I have not been to or through Oklahoma since I was El Fisho Jr.'s age, and don't recall much of the roadside panaramas on that trip.

And that's good, because the second day of the getting to Missouri drive involved a good five or six hours of depressing travel through the trash laden highways of Oklahoma. The roads suck, being filled with potholes, and both the dreary roadside trash and the sad towns we passed through made us glad when we finally crossed into Missouri.

The difference between the roads, both the road condition and the trash on the side of the highway was immediately noticeable. We didn't need a sign to tell us we had left the Okie state, we knew immediately. Which led me to comment on why they call Oklahoma the Sooner state. The sooner you can leave it, the better. The wife's version of that joke is why doesn't Texas fall into the Gulf of Mexico? Because Oklahoma sucks so bad...

Once in the Show Me state, things were marvelous. We stayed at a very nice resort on the gorgeous Lake of the Ozarks, and although fishing didn't bring any big rewards, several extended rounds of trap shooting were highly enjoyable for El Fisho Jr. and myself. I did much better than I thought I would, particularly shooting with the resort guns, two very heavy Remington 870's. It made me regret not bringing an 1100 and a O/U 20 gauge for El Fisho Jr.  With the shells we were using, the guns kicked like hell, especially after the third box.

I tend not to pack lightly, particularly where fishing expeditions are involved. I want to be prepared for every contingency within the fishing realm, and frankly, didn't want to leave long guns in the hotel rooms we'd be occupying in Branson later in the trip.

I saw an interesting gun in a junk shop, er, I mean, antique store in Osage Beach. It was a rarely seen Automag III, and unfortunately it was in the wrong caliber, otherwise I would have snapped it up. It was in immaculate condition, which I surmise is due to the ammo shortage of it's chambered caliber, that being the to me previously unheard of 9mm Winchester Magnum.

The gun had a premium price tag on it, but when googling at the hotel later in the night I found several examples had recently sold for more than 3 times what that one was going for. I later visited a gun museum nearby and gave the curator/gun shop owner the heads up about the gun and it's location and I suspect he's already snapped it up to add to his museum of cool guns.

Had the gun been chambered in the more desired .22 magnum or even in one of the other sort of unusual calibers it came in like the .30 caliber cartridge, I would have hit the ATM and gotten some cash and started bargaining at $300 for the gun. But alas, I found that there is no commercial production of the 9mm Winchester Magnum cartridge, and that components for reloading for it are quite rare as well, although apparently brass can be had at a premium price.

I've been reading up on reloading and have contemplated purchasing a entry level setup for doing pistol and rifle ammo. But buying a gun in 9mm Winchester Magnum, where the only hope of obtaining rounds is to pay someone to reload them for me or to jump headfirst into a very serious endeavor myself, didn't really appeal to the level of relaxation I'd reached while on vacation.

We liked the Lake of the Ozarks, and we hit it at a good time. Had we hit it a little later in the season, all of the arcades and such that are over near the dam would have been open. As it was, there were plenty of amusements for us in the town of Osage Beach and at the resort. An indoor pool, although very nice, wasn't as necessary as we had thought because that area had a bunch of almost 80 degree days while we were there. One day of rain out of four days there wasn't bad either, and gave us time to relax after the traumatic journey through Oklahoma.

After four days, we departed our resort, which by the way was on a groupon the wife found and at a very cheap price. En route to Branson, we spent several hours at a very decent African Safari drive through deal, and for once the animals were well taken care of and had lots of land and water.

It's a very nice park, and we saw almost every species of African mammal except for Rhinos and Elephants. There were animals everywhere, segregated into different areas. The lions, tigers and other big cats were of course segregated into cages, and had that look in their eyes that makes you sad when you see a wild animal in captivity. Well taken care of, yes, but nonetheless living in a cage.

The other residents of the Safari park fare much better. Plentiful lakes and watering holes, abundant natural grasses as well as lots of hay, means they are fat and happy for the most part. The SUV was covered with saliva from various animals who flocked to the car for feeding. Mrs. El Fisho and El Fisho jr. have the Dr. Doolittle effect on all animals, meaning animals that shun humans are  drawn to them. I've seen it time and time again. Animals that won't give me the proverbial time of day RUN to be petted by Mrs. El Fisho and our son.

The only exception to this power they possess was the zebra population, although one well trained zebra had it down. He would come within about 10 feet from the truck, and then nod his head towards the ground indicating where he wanted the feed pellets thrown. It was hilarious.

A sign there said zebras had never been successfully domesticated. They are a beautiful animal, and watching the herd of them there made me wish I had one just to be able to watch it's graceful runs. 

The giraffe, on the other hand, would have followed Mrs. El Fisho and El Fisho Jr. to the truck to come home with us if it had its' way. More doglike than most giraffes I've ever seen in zoos and wildlife parks, it wanted to be petted on the head and was seeking attention and not food pellets. Again, I saw other folks approach it and it didn't act with them as it did with the wife and child. It hugged them, licked them and generally sought their affection, and this is anther animal that would be cool to have if I had the right land and the money to purchase it.

Later that day, we arrived in Branson, which had been hit by a major tornado several weeks before. Fortunately, no one died in that storm, but the damage was significant. Still, most of the town was operating and in good shape, and we had a great time there as well.

I'll talk about Branson and the beautiful trout streams and creeks I saw in northwestern Arkansas in Part II.

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