Apr 23, 201212:52 PMRoad Trips
Exploring the world within driving distance of Columbia.
Day Three In Branson: Fish & Shoji
It was a relaxing morning at the condo as we were up late. We fixed eats in the kitchen.
Then we were off for the day with our first stop at the Dewey Short Visitors Center located at the nearby Table Rock Dam. Short was a southwest Missouri congressman who, along with Missouri Senator Stuart Symington that Branson banker Ben Parnell, cajoled lawmakers to pass legislation leading to the funding of the dam that formed the lake.
We were surprised to see a huge stone and glass structure rising along the lakeside near the dam. It is a beautiful building that will be dedicated April 27 and will serve as a Visitor's Center.
It surely must have cost millions.
I wondered where those funds were found in an era of deficit spending and supposed governmental belt-tightening?
A tour of, to me, the more that adequate current visitor's center was informative but again, to me, had one huge omission.
For years civilian Richard Gross was the chief operating administrator of the Table Rock Dam and Lake. He reported to the Corps of Engineers and the generals in charge in Little Rock, Ark.
A casual observer will notice the tremendous amount of development on and around Table Rock Lake. That did not occur by accident. It was Gross who was continually in the faces of the administrative generals arguing over and over, sometimes heatedly, for the permission to generate more income and allow development around and along the shoreline of the serpentine lake. Nowhere does his name appear.
Just compare the development at Table Rock with any other government lake and Richard Gross' visions are evident.
Just across the dam below the towering Table Rock Dam, sitting alongside the shores of lake Taneycomo, is the Shepherd of the Hills fish hatchery. Operated by the Missouri Department of Conservation, the facility raises brown and rainbow trout that stock 700,000 fish annually into the cold-water Lake Taneycomo.
That lake had been in existence since the 1920s when Empire District Electric built a dam near Forsyth in an area called Powersite. With the building of Table Rock Dam, the culture of that older lake changed. Because of the nature of the power generators at the new dam, the waters of Lake Taneycomo were transformed from warm to cold water.
Table Rock generators take in their water for power generation from the bottom of Table Rock Lake. Thus the water discharged into Taneycomo is cold and the sporting trout can thrive in that environment.
It was a short drive from the hatchery to an old favorite: The Outback Steak and Oyster restaurant. Almost three decades ago old friends Steve and Linda Wood built this nonchain-affilliated restaurant. The interior is adorned with plunder that Steve and Linda accumulated serving across the Australian Outback.
"We were like the Clampets moving," the said making an analogy to the "Beverly Hillbillies" television show whose venue for many episodes was Silver Dollar City.
There is always good food there but especially at dinner because oysters on the half shell are 49 cents each. One dozen was not enough. So I had a second dozen.
Then it was off to the Shoji Tabuchi show.
Known for the lavish bathrooms, the theater has created a production standard for Branson that raises the bar high. The costumes are many, lavish and spectacular. The scenes are beautiful and awe-inspiring with smoke, glitter, balloons and more glitter.
Shoji was charismatic and charming.
After the show we were able to chat with Shoji, whom I have known for 20 years. He posed for a photograph with us and took off the last of the 10 sequined jackets he had worn during the performance.
He handed it to Joyce who was amazed at the weight: eight to 10 pounds was her guess. Shoji smiled.
We chatted a bit longer about times passed and then drove back to the condo. It was a great day in Ozark Mountain country.