fanny-packs-and-fried-okraSetting: Branson Missouri, a June day with 95 degree temperatures and all the humidity of a Vietnamese jungle

Location: Silver Dollar City, aka “Steal Your Dollar Holler” (An amusement park with the theme “You Have A Great Past Ahead Of You”, meaning it’s centered on the “glorious” days of our hillbilly ancestry; blacksmiths, bloomers and Baldknobbers)

Cast: The Wife, The Heathens, myself and 10,000 tourists, 98% of which are determined to shove their elbows into my side as they waddle by me.

Somehow, I committed to taking the familia to this tourist trap of the Ozarks several months ago; chances are, The Wife sprung this question while I was in a coffee and bacon induced haze, and I agreed, most likely thinking she was asking if I wanted to die of cholesterol poisoning. Of COURSE that’s how I want to go out. To paraphrase the late, great Redd Foxx, I feel sorry for all those healthy people sitting around in hospitals, dying of nothing.

So, the wrath of the summer gods seems to have descended within the last couple of weeks, and I was beginning to regret agreeing to head south to Silver Dollar City (SDC), as I’d been sweating like a hooker on dollar day anytime I’d venture outdoors. My paranoid mind was starting to think maybe The Wife HAS been trying to kill me. A trip into a sweltering tourist mecca may well do me in. It didn’t help that she asked me yesterday where I would like to be buried, “should something happen”. She’s not even trying for subtlety anymore. My passing would no doubt please my amigos like the Dirtbag and Lyrical Jackass, since they feel I deserve it; plus, they would be here in a heartbeat to “console” The Wife, move in and raise my kids. The heartless bastards.

ANYHOW, we ventured down there this morning, and, just as I suspected, it was a wild menagerie of large elderly people in power scooters (ie; Jazzy’s, Hoverounds, wheelchairs with attitude for our, um, bigger boned friends), perfectly coiffed televangelist-wannabes, mullet-sporting Dale Earnhardt diehards and some of the most drawled out southern accents you can imagine, brought to you by the great state of Alabama. I was pleased to note that the fanny pack has, indeed, NOT gone out of style here in the Midwest. I was of the mistaken notion that only European tourists were still in possession of ass bags (stylishly worn to the front, so as to have easy access to your Marlboro Reds). I was wrong. What I wouldn’t give to travel back to 1988 and pick up my old Billabong fanny pack so I could party with this crowd. On a costume related tangent, I was also made very aware of the number of people wearing tee shirts that not only proclaimed their Christian faith, but also seemed to serve one of two purposes:

1.) to show you’re one of the wittier members of the flock (ie. a “FaithBook” shirt that reads like a feed of the social site Facebook and one that said “Got Christ?”) or,

2.) to show others that you’re a not-messing-around kind of believer (“His name is not ‘The Man Upstairs’, it’s Jesus, and he will kick your ass if you keep calling him that”)

Of course, man will get competitive about darn near anything, from racing lawn mowers to building potato guns, so I shouldn’t be surprised that he’s equally competitive about religion. The only rivalry for shirt space at the park came in the form of unbridled love of country. I lost count of how many shirts I saw that informed me about colors not running or something along those lines. Many of the power scooters were customized with the magnetic ribbons that were both patriotic AND evangelical, so really, those folks had their bases covered. It would not have shocked me in the least to find someone offering up a Dixie Chick for sacrifice on a bonfire somewhere within the confines of the property, probably right next to the lye-soap manufacturer and the walking stick whittler guy. The Contrarian in me wondered what would happen if I walked around there with a shirt in Arabic script; it wouldn’t even have to make any sense…it could say something like “I love Toby Keith”. Let me tell you what would happen: I would be beat to a bloody pulp by a bunch of power Christians in power scooters wielding aforementioned hand carved walking sticks.

After a few rides and some minor heat stroke, I began to notice a swelling in crowd size, both in numbers and in terms of the sheer mass of park attendees. Ironically, I was eating out of a bag of “fresh” fried pork rinds (I kid you not) when I came to this realization. And no, it was not lost on me. If the Center for Disease Control ever wants to do a study on the obesity epidemic in this country it needs to get on down to Branson. CDC, meet SDC. SDC will show you how it’s done. You won’t find wheatgrass smoothie stands or sushi carts here; we demand vegetables be battered and fried, sausages be skilletized and heaping helpings of fried funnel cake be coated in sugar. I could only hope that, as my arteries were clogging and my dehydrated brain was convulsing, The Wife’s ultimate desire for “something to happen” to me wouldn’t be fulfilled on this trip.

I hadn’t even had a chance to get that Toby Keith tee shirt made.