John and I zipped away this July for a wonderful ten day vacation in the American Heartlands. We flew to St. Louis, Missouri, to start with a pigeon meeting and a visit to the Gateway Arch-a National Monument. On this trip we hit SEVEN National Parks or Monuments. This ties our Arizona trip of 1990!
From the Arch we headed West (sort of). John visited with several veterinary friends. One former student of his treated us to a night under the stars with the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber. Webber is the composer of the soundtracks for Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar, and The Phantom of the Opera. Michael Crawford, the original star of The Phantom of the Opera, was a special guest star. It was a very enjoyable evening.
Another veterinarian pulled strings for us to see the rare and endangered Tuatara lizards. These lizards are the only surviving members of a group of reptiles common during the Mesozoic era. They live in New Zealand and there are no other individuals in the United States except at the St. Louis zoo. The St. Louis lizards are not on display. They are set-up for breeding. We actually touched one of the younger lizards.
Wilson's Creek and Pea Ridge National Battlefields were the next stops. These two areas are important sites from the Civil War. Although Wilson's Creek (in Missouri) was a Confederacy win, the battle kept the state of Missouri from joining the South. Pea Ridge (in Arkansas) was a bloody battle with a Union win. I was surprised at how short the actual battles were (4-5 hours at a time) and how horrible the medical care was. About 70-80% of the wounded, died. We found it pretty hot and miserable to even walk around the battle sites.
We also visited Fort Scott in Kansas. This historic site was one of a chain of Forts that protected the United States from the Wilds of the West! It was in operation before the Civil War and had even been sold to private parties when the war began.
John humored me with visits to the original Wal-Mart (in Bentonville, Arkansas) and to the site of the Pony Express in St. Joseph, Missouri. Did you know that the Pony Express run ended in Sacramento? Great trivia! We visited the homes of three famous Americans - Harry S. Truman, George Washington Carver, and Mark Twain. I was buying books like a demon! We also visited the Homestead National Monument of America in Beatrice, Nebraska. I would have made a poor homesteading wife. The lifestyle was isolated and hard. I would have pushed for California.
For the grand finale, John introduced me to his grandmother, and uncle, and assorted cousins in Nebraska. They seemed fairly harmless. His 80+ year old grandmother still cooks up a ton of food and lives in her own home in Nebraska City, Nebraska, the home of the Arbor Day foundation. All-in-all, it was a great vacation!
I have adopted another creature - a Reeves Turtle. The poor dear has a mycobacterial infection (tuberculosis or reptile leprosy) around his neck. Against most recommendations I have elected to treat. I wear gloves when handling the turtle, as it is possible for me to become infected also. Apparently this type of infection is a relatively uncommon occupational hazard for professional aquarium keepers. Some people who became infected, lost fingers and nothing else. My chances are good that I won't pick up the infection, but now I am a little over sensitive to any cuts on my hands. I'll keep you posted. If I don't return the next issue of voice cards, it could be that I lost some fingers!