Day 4: April 29, 2016
A Peek at a Life Well Lived

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We were just the second group to make use of the brand new Legacy Barn Event Center. The Missouri Route 66 Association met here a couple of weeks ago and now it's the Jefferson Highway Association National Conference. It won't be all roadies all the time though. This place is set up to handle all sorts of business meetings and social event.

The primary speakers for the day were Susan Kelly, who spoke on "Politics and Pavement", and Bill Hart, who spoke on "Roads, Trails, & Heritage Tourism". The middle picture was taken during a break between presentations. The annual business meeting and a couple of smaller group discussions also took place here and we enjoyed a very nice catered lunch.

With all the official stuff wrapped up by mid-afternoon, we were left with ample time to explore Read Oak II just across the road. Red Oak II is a three dimensional, full size, living and breathing sculpture brought into existence by artist Lowell Davis. The first I ever heard of Davis was during my 2003 Route 66 trip when I encountered his "Crapduster" sculpture at the east edge of Carthage. Over time I learned a little more about Davis' art and finally visited Red Oak II in 2012. The buildings, although they may have been altered a bit -- or more --, have been moved here with a eye toward preserving them. The entire town, including bunches of artwork, was made from "stuff other people threw away".

I knew that Lowell Davis lived at Red Oak II and had heard stories of him chatting with visitors on occasion. I suspect I picked up my pace just a little when I spotted him chatting with a small group a short distance ahead. I said "Hi" when an opportunity came up and we shook hands. When I asked if I could take a picture, he not only consented but moved to the nearby fountain and struck a familiar pose. I momentarily thought the choice might have been prompted by my mentioning that the display of wild plumbing was one of my favorites but I imagine it is a convenient spot he uses often.

I was seriously thrilled by this bit of good fortune but it got even better. I don't remember the exact words but with something like "Let me show you something" he headed through the gate to his house. Sharon & Mike Curtis and I followed. The house is the one that Belle Star grew up in. The log addition is made from two slave cabins. He pointed out the garden and features like his "man cave" as we walked to the tall building that he once considered turning into a bed and breakfast. The tour continued inside the building with our guide displaying his wonderful wit every step of the way. I asked about the card file and Davis explained that before he had the means to actually move endangered buildings to he "town", he preserved them with a camera. Those draws are filled with 30+ year old photographs of barns and houses and other area items that, for the most part, are long gone.

Then it got even more better. We were asked if we would like to see some of the art in the house. Asking twice was not needed. The only photo I took inside the house is the one of the fireplace in the log section but we passed through several rooms looking at paintings, sculptures and drawings that this incredibly talented man had produced. His latest is a series of drawings for signs to be erected on the highways around Carthage. Us three visitors naturally enjoyed our tour very much but we all had a rather clear impression that the artist did too. Shortly after we left, I Tweeted that Lowell Davis "has more twinkle in is eye than most Christmas trees". His life has made a whole lot of people happy including himself.

We went back to strolling along the gravel street that loops through Red Oak II snapping a picture here and there but mostly reflecting on our time with Davis. The Mail Pouch sign is on the side of the building that was almost a B & B.

There was no formal JHA activity planned for the evening but there were a number of informal options. The Jasper County Courthouse remained open later than normal to allow us to look over its displays on local history.

The local Civil War Museum also stayed open late on our behalf. I saw no other visitors while I as the museum or the courthouse but registries showed that some had been there ahead of me and I spoke to others who were there later.

Gray skies and approaching rain threatened a planned car show on the town square but the local Mustang club showed up with quite a few interesting cars. Some real hot-rods were parked across the square.

A small group of us met at the hot-rods and headed across the street for dinner at a place called Rumor Has It. Everyone had the buffet but there was variety in the details and the food was quite good. Everyone also ordered a piece of pie but again there was variety. I had coconut cream.

The evening's last stop was at a big boy's playhouse a couple of block from the square. The first three shots are of the active train layouts on the second floor. The last two pictures were taken from a between floor landing and those are not miniatures but full size toys.

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