Reflections: Show Me the USA in Missouri
April 7, 2010 in: Reflections on the River
Spring days like this in Northwest Missouri are so delightful, it’s enough to make up for that winter we had. Visiting with a friend recently, he said, “In this part of the country, we have it all.”
He’s right. We get to experience the full gamut of climate experiences, from snowball fights to spring sunlight to hot days at the lake to hayrides in the fall. In fact, Missouri is essentially the entire United State of America compacted into one state, conveniently located right in the middle.
Look at Missouri’s distinct outline. Squint your eyes, tip your head and hold your mouth just right and it looks (sorta) like the shape of the U.S. Instead of Florida dangling in the Gulf, we’ve got the Bootheel.
Missouri has two long coast lines, in the form of the Mississippi River on one side and the Mighty Missouri on the other.
Starting on our eastern coast, St. Louis has ethnic neighborhoods, a national landmark, gang violence and corrupt politicians. St. Louis is as dysfunctional and self-absorbed as any big east city in the United States.
Across the way, Kansas City has the expansive feel of a western city like Denver or Salt Lake City. The city is a science research hub and telecommunications center. Sure sounds like the West Coast to me, without the pesky earthquakes.
Northwest Missouri is like the American West: Cowboy boots and gun racks are common, the cow herds roam and the deer sure play. In Missouri’s Wild West, rugged individualism never goes out of style and if you’re looking for somewhere sparsely populated to build an anti-government compound, there’s some wind-swept real estate to choose from.
Truman State University likes to call itself the Harvard of the Midwest, so we’ll grant that northeast Missouri is like New England – a little standoffish, kind of cold and mostly ignored by the rest of the country.
Down in southeast Missouri, the delta stretches out wide and sleepy. The farms, entire sections of land, grow rice and cotton. The locals speak with a slow drawl. The plantation Tara from “Gone With the Wind” could have been in Missouri and our own Deep South.
Geography hits a little snag because Missouri’s southern border has no Gulf of Mexico or Texas. But, smack dab right where it should be is Houston, in Texas County.
With its rapid growth, Springfield could be our Dallas. The next big soap opera will probably be called “Springfield.” Nashville doesn’t have a thing on Branson, Music City Missouri/USA. It’s a vacation destination and entertainment capital all rolled into one.
We’ve got Great Lakes too, in the Ozarks. Missouri has just about every natural water feature you can imagine: rivers, streams, swamps and ice floes in the winter. Although we are pretty far inland, we all know that tropical storms produce rain here.
The middle of the country has a mountain range and so does the middle of Missouri, complete with its own mountain culture. It’s also home to caves, sinkholes, prairies, forests and geological treasure of the loess bluffs. And the world’s best tenderloin sandwiches.