May 212009

Everywhere we go in this great land of ours we find interesting places to visit and stories to share with our readers. We spent yesterday playing tourist here in west central Missouri, covering everything from Civil War history to a one of a kind canine.

Fifteen miles north of Higginsville is the historic Missouri River town of Lexington, once an important riverboat port. We wandered through town a while, admiring the handsome old buildings in the downtown area, and discovered that Lexington is the home of one of the twelve Madonna of the Trail statues that were erected from West Virginia to California to honor pioneer women. The first of these statues I saw was in Springerville, Arizona, near our old hometown of Show Low, and I have seen a couple of others in our travels.

The purpose of our trip to Lexington was to visit the Battle of Lexington State Historic Site, scene of a vicious three day battle in 1861 in which the town was wrested from Union control by volunteers of the ragtag Missouri State Guard.

The Oliver Anderson home, once called the “largest and best arranged dwelling west of St. Louis” was pressed into service as a hospital during the battle and changed hands three times before the bloody fight ended. Today the walls still show the pockmarks and scars of bullets and shell fragments.

From Lexington we drove 40 miles east to the charming little town of Marshall to check out a story my buddy Ron Speidel told me about a while back. It seems that back in 1925 a local man discovered that his bird hunting dog Jim was not just your regular mutt.

Jim had the amazing ability to do things like obey commands in several languages, he could pick a person out of a crowd by the color of their clothes (even though dogs are supposed to be color blind), he picked the winner of seven consecutive Kentucky Derby races, his owner could tell him the make, model and license plate number of a car and Jim would walk down the sidewalk and stop at the car indicated, he could determine the sex of unborn babies, and a host of other unbelievable feats.

Jim was examined by expert veterinarians who could not explain how he could do the things he did, and he was featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not and several national magazines. Today Marshall has a small memorial park dedicated to Jim the Wonder Dog, and it is a popular stop for tourists visiting the area.

From Marshall we returned to Higginsville and stopped at the Confederate Memorial State Historic Site, once the location of the Confederate Soldiers Home of Missouri, which provided refuge for over 1,600 veterans and their families for nearly 60 years. The Memorial includes a cemetery where Confederate soldiers have been laid to rest, and a striking monument to the men who served the Lost Cause.

We’ll have feature stories on the Battle of Lexington, Jim the Wonder Dog, and the Confederate Memorial State Historic Site in the next issue of the Gypsy Journal if you want to learn more about the interesting places we discovered on our outing.

It was a long day, but we had a lot of fun. I’d rather be out exploring the back roads and small towns of America any day than spending my time watching a ballgame or swinging a golf club.

Thought For The Day – It’s okay to fail. Learn from it and you will succeed.

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Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  7 Responses to “Playing Tourist In Missouri”

  1. Thanks again Nick, for showcasing our state. Most folks do not realize the number of battles fought here during the Civil War. Lots of history here. Our State Capitol was actually moved, from Jefferson City, to Texas during the war. We have the home of the Stars and Stripes right here and I plan to run another article on it soon, on our blog.

  2. Too bad that Jim the Wonder Dog did not live when multi-state lotteries were legal. Old Jim probably would have raised one of his rear legs in a “salute” to Richard DuShane.

  3. Dan,
    Miassouri is one of our favorite states, full of hidden gems we love to discover.

  4. When I questioned my vet about dogs being color blind he said they see what we see.

  5. Nick – we must all recognize that those Confederate soldiers, while fighting for what many of would call the “wrong side,” were still heroes in their own right. They fought and died for a cause, they bled the same quantity of the same color of blood. So it is right to honor them, to remember them, and to write about them in the Gypsy Journal.

  6. Hey Nick,

    Missouri also is the start of both the Sante Fe Trail and the Oregon/California Trails. If you get a chance to go to Independence you can visit the Oregon Trails Museum and also see swales near the Museum left by the wagons as thousands of them left the town. Chuck and I are “Rut Nuts” and we’ve been to Independence several times. There is a small campground close to the Museum if you take your bus.Truman’s home is here, too, as is his Presidential Museum. And some very interesting LDS churches. Its well worth the visit.

    Another interesting Missouri stop is around Booneville and New Franklin. The first wagon out to Sante Fe left from here, I believe, in 1845.

    Off your beaten path perhaps, is New Madrid, MO (emphasis on MAD). The biggest earthquake ever in the US was here. For me, that’s a “believe it or not!” It’s a quaint little town with a nice community park where we stayed overnite at the curb.

    Then just East of St. Louis in Illinois you’ll find Cahokia near Collinsville. It, too, is worth a visit. Thought to have had a larger population than London during the Middle Ages. There’s some interesting archaeological work being done there on the mounds and stockade and a small museum.

    We love following you on the blog and hope to see you again in Celina.

  7. Many of your reader’s comments describe a variety of interesting and worthwhile places to see. I think I should have become an RVer 10 years ago. As it is I will never get to see all that I’d like to.

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