April 23, 2017

The Unsinkable Ozark Hilton

Timothy Birdnow

The Ozark Hilton is ever one for surprises, and yesterday's bloglessness was a result. As is my custom I headed down to the fabled mansion in the pines to try to get a little work done and maybe enjoy a bit of solitude. I didn't know my stay would be extended courtesy of the property itself.

For new readers the Ozark Hilton tales have become a standard part of this website. Twenty acres of forest land in southern Missouri, the property cost me less than most used cars and continues to do so since taxes are ridiculously low in my area. Building codes were largely non-existent, too, and so I built a two room cabin out of trash and debris I found throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area. It's unfortunate I got sick back in 2011; the cabin isn't done and now probably never will be. I have a huge pile of boards and other building materials detracting from the natural beauty, and I don't know how I'll ever get rid of it now. I can burn some of it, granted, but I really wish I could have completed the structure.

It is, um, rustic; no electricity, no running water, no toilets, nothing. If I have to go to the bathroom I use a couple of cinder blocks which accommodates a toilet seat. I don't have to worry about the waste, though; critters come and clean it up for me, a self cleaning system! I light the cabin with kerosene lamps or battery operated gizmos. Heat is provided by a steel barrel turned on its side with a hole knocked into it by an ax. Black stovepipe vents the smoke through a hole in the wall (which leaves a gap in the structure) and a Weber barbeque lid acts as my stove lid. I cook with those too, by the way. Not that I do much cooking down there; too much trouble cleaning up! I usually just eat a sandwich and if I have to go to the bathroom I generally try to hold it until I get home - or to the nearby state park.

Ah the joys of the rustic life!

I am forever chasing rodents out of the cabin, too; they tear everything up and make a huge mess. Rats are the worst because they destroy things. I've had to replace countless kerosene lamps because of those little love children. I once brought down a big bag of rat poison and put some out; they found the bag in a plastic container and ate it all! I STILL had a rodent problem after that!

But what the heck; the place is beautiful even if it rather resembles a junk yard now (I have all manner of building material scattered about and unfortunately work stopped when I became ill back in 2011.) I suppose it will never be finished now, although I do have hopes. I usually go down there and do light duty, mostly clean the place up and maybe nail up a board or two.

I used to read after dark, but the dim lighting precludes that. Now I bring down a portable DVD player and a 12 volt battery, the kind you use to jumpstart your car. I can watch movies all night! It doesn't exactly make me a scholar, but at least I have a chance to relax and enjoy a little solitude.

At any rate, Friday I eagerly headed down to my luxury resort. It was colder than it has been in weeks; barely scratching 60*. Oh, well, I would have to have a fire, that was obvious. It started raining when I was a third of the way there.

It never stopped.

Now my property has a road only in an academic sense; it was nothing more than a trail used by loggers when the property was logged many years ago, and I cut the volunteer growth out but little else. It's a tight squeeze, but it has always served. I've been there in heavy storms, in snow, in ice, and always had little trouble. The only real problem I had was when the Missouri Department of Transportation redid the main road and raised it up so I had a hard time getting onto the blacktop. Last Christmas they gave me a present; put in a ramp allowing me easy access. I thought my problems were solved.

Nope.

Because of the heavy rain I was forced inside. I made a marginal fire with largely wet wood and lit my lamps at five p.m., settling in for a long and dreary siege. The cabin stays dry, despite my rather poor craftsmanship. (It was leaking in the "new cabin" the add on I built, but there wasn't much to be done; someone is going to have to get up there, and the last time I was on a ladder I fell and broke five ribs.) About eight p.m. my cell phone received an emergency alert, warning of dangerous flooding. The rain continued all night and into the morning. When I went out I was surprised to see a lake where my parking lot had been. Now, this land is all rock and tree root and it sits on a ridge so it drains in minutes. I've never seen it like this, and have never, ever had a problem with mud. But my foot got stuck in a quagmire, and that gave me trepidation.

I headed off and just as I reached to top of the drive my truck sunk in the mud. Just sunk. I have rear wheel drive and could have gotten out with four wheel drive, but alas my two rear wheels just kept digging. I swear I was a foot deep in the earth!

What to do? This land is not near any town or even any major intersection (the nearest being almost two miles away). It is true rural land in one of the least populated counties in Missouri. Here I was stuck in the mud off road in the ass end of nowhere. What to do?

I did what any city slicker would do; called AAA!

The customer service rep was, um, a bit confused; I had to tell her physical landmarks to look for my property. But while I was on with her the service station called (that quick) and I am very good at giving directions, being as I have worked in the field most of my adult life. Within the hour the tow truck arrived, hooked up the winch, and towed me right out. It was that simple.

God bless them!

This put me back hours, though, as I tried all manner of things to dislodge the vehicle and tried to wait out the rain. As a result, I did no blogging yesterday.

A thought occurred to me as the wife and I were talking over dinner last night. My mother recently passed away, and she had a notorious feud with the Auto Club, who once cancelled her for too many service calls (she was forever locking her keys inside her car). This whole fiasco would have made my mother smile; it was like a vengeance she would have smitten them with, making them go out into the virtual wilderness to pick me up. I can't help but think my mother had a hearty laugh at this.

It DOES make me gun-shy about my next visit; how many times will I be able to get them to come and tow me out? As I say, I never had a problem like that before. I did get stuck once or twice climbing up onto the pavement (and locals always stopped to pull me out) but getting stuck on the land is a different thing. I now have one more thing to worry about down there.

But life is not to be lived in fear; I'll be back down there again soon (as long as it's not raining like THAT.) All I have to fear are snakes, scorpions, hornets, wasps, coyotes, maybe even bears and mountain lions (which I think visited me once there.) Oh, and the occasional heart attack or whatnot.

But it's still worth it.

Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at 08:51 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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