February 11, 2024
It's been a while since I visited the Ozark Hilton, that legendary El Dorado in hillbilly country. It's been cold and I've not had the fortitude to make the long drive and then kill myself to sit and shiver in the place. Not that I can't warm it up nicely with a fire; my barrel with a hole cut in the top for a stove pipe does work failure well these days (amazing what putting a hole in the back of the barrel and running a dryer vent outside did to fix the smoke problem and cut down on a cold draft!) but the barefooted hillbilly bandits stole most of my firewood when they robbed me and so I would have to buy some and take it down, meaning just more work.
At any rate we had a nice little false spring this week and so it was time to fire up the old pickup and head down to the best little shanty in America.
I got a bit of a late start for winter glumping (it ain't glamping, more glum, or so says my dear wife who refuses to attend, thank you very much!) and didn't head out until 11. Mostly I wanted to wait so I could take care of the call of nature, something I don't want to have come over me on the way down, or worse on the property itself where I have to sit on a toilet seat on a couple of cinder blocks. So I waited and did my business in luxury, or as close to luxury as a man can get in his own home, anyway.
The drive was uneventful, by and large. I didn't have to stop at the Timothy Birdnow Memorial Outhouse in St. Joe State Park as I am accustumed to do on my journey to the OH! I didn't have to stop at all, not even for gas! I made my first stop after two hours of driving in the gas station in Cherokee Pass, the quaint little town on the way. Cherokee pass is sad; it was a lovely little town when I first started going down, with several diners and a Dog N Suds. Now there is nothing; all of them are out of business. The reason is the state moved the highway, bypassing the whole town. It's now a dead hulk. But it does have the gas station still, which moved off Old Hwy 21 to the big interstate looking road.
I wanted to buy firewood from this gas station. I always stop there when I need to buy wood; it has the best and biggest bundles of firewood for sale at a gas station in Missouri, or at least in the parts I have seen.And I HAD to buy the wood, not rely on my land for it; the thieves who robbed the place STOLE my woodpile and left me with nothing. I could build it up again if I had the energy, but sadly I don't nor the time as it gets so dark in winter. Come summer I'll work to rebuild the pile, but this winter I have to purchase my heat.
The accursed gas station was out of wood.
Now this stop wasn't a total loss; there is a Subway sandwich shop connected to it and I was able to get my supper from them. But I sure wished I would have been able to get some wood. Also, I had to ensconce myself on the porcelain throne again and thus avoided that unpleasant chore on my cinder block arrangement.
At any rate I had to go on and hope to find some firewood elsewhere. The pickings would be slim; most of the places that used to carry it were out. I finally found a gas station that had small bundles of wood and I bought two. I was shocked when they told me it would be $24; the price has really skyrocketed! and this for about six sticks! But they wound up burning pretty well, little smoke and good heat.
I was pleased to see I had no fallen deadwood blocking my drive; I had feared that. But I had another problem.
They hit me again! I opened the door and the place was trashed again, stuff all over the floors, the trash I had cleaned up dumped back on the floors as if they wanted to just mess it up.
There wasn't much left to steal but they got what they hadn't taken. They dumped all my books on the floor, stealing the best ones (like my guide to identifying wild mushrooms). They even stole my BIBLE! Who steals a Bible? Hopefully these creeps will actually read it and learn something.
They threw all my blankets on the floor, as well as the coats and clothes I had left down there in case of need. Of course all my tools were long gone, but they stole the coffee can of old nails, as well as the box cutters and razor blades. That last was sad; I had squirreled those away long ago, when I worked at a grocery store. It was like they stole a part of my youth.
Fortunately I didn't leave any more lamps down there so I had four kerosene lamps to use, and brought down kerosene for good measure. And I had several battery-powered lamps, particularly two Atomic Beam lanterns and a couple of nice other lights along with batteries.
They also hadn't cleaned out the firewood inside the cabin itself, and I had one very nice log for long burning. I was toasty warm all night - too warm at some points and had to go outside. Also, the stove pipe was down and I didn't have time to fool with it, so I had to live with some smoke. The good wood helped a LOT in that regard, along with the smoke holes I had left in the very top of the eaves for just such a purpose (originally I had tarps for a roof on the cabin and the smoke collected in a cloud. I realized the need to vent it and it has worked pretty well.)
So I spent a couple of hours cleaning up. Waste of time but what can you do? I know of no way to stop them, and reporting to the cops would be pointless. I suspect my neighbor at the bottom of the hill is gone; he used to come up there when he heard me, with his rifle, just to check on the place, and I think the locals left it alone because of Clifford, a God fearing young lumberjack. I think these robberies are happening because he is no longer living in the valley below, alas.
At any rate the place is still a wreck. They even stole the remains of a broom I had, which was missing two thirds of it's bristles! I had to just kick trash into a pile; that was the best I could do.
I'm considering my options. I could maybe dig a hole out in the woods and bury some stuff out there so I could retrieve it. I need some tools down there; saws, hammers, axes, etc. as well as lamps and coal oil. I will have to hide it from the thieves much as someone would hide food from a bear. And I may have to go armed down there in future; if they should show up when I'm down there I could be in a world of hurt.
Anyway I got the place, well, not exactly habitable but tolerable and sat out on the porch as the afternoon waned, lighting my lamps and getting ready for the night. Darkness fell and the coyotes were out in force; I heard at least seven of them howling at one point, just having a cracker jack time of it. I also heard something fairly large walking about in the dark (it was an overcast night so outside of the circle of light from my lamps it was blackbody black, and ANYTHING could have been out there.) I went inside when I got chilled, at about 10.
And sat and watched some videos by the fire. I watched the movie Passengers and then a couple of episodes of the t.v. show Fringe. I bring down a portable DVD player and a battery to run it on after the player's battery ran dry. I planned to watch more but fatigue took me and so I went to "bed" meaning I just sat back in my couch and fell asleep.
As always it was a poor sleep, because I was sitting up all night. While I have a couch there I also have a lot of stuff on it - blankets and other things. And with the place being trashed I REALLY had nowhere to go with what's there, so I just sleep sitting up. But it's not conducive to good rest, and I don't have my CPAP to help me breathe.
I was wide awake before the dawn and began packing up my stuff and hit the trail shortly after first light. The trip home was uneventful.
I really don't know what I'm going to do about the Ozark Hilton. It's just too much work for my tired old bones, and it's become that much harder since the jerks stole my stuff out of there. I need my ladder, for instance, which is gone. And my poor eyesight is making the drive a scarier proposition. I noticed some things that needed repair down there too, and I won't be getting to any of it soon. Especially without a ladder (there were some holes in the clear plastic roofing I used to cover the eaves, for instance.)
I hate to let the thing die though; I poured my heart and soul and sweat and tears and blood into that place.
It's sad to think it will never be completed. It would have been had I not gotten sick back in 2011. I have been treading water there ever since.
At any rate it was still magical to be deep in the woods in my favorite hillbilly haven. The Ozark Hilton is a wonderful place when you get a chance to relax and enjoy the peace and solitude. I hope to head back there in a couple of weeks, anyway.
Now I'm sore from all the work and it may take a couple of weeks to recover enough to go back!
Wish me luck!
Yes, Tim, I really thing that from now on, you should go down there armed! With lots of extra lead!
Posted by: Dana Mathewson at February 13, 2024 12:36 AM (rDOKo)
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