Saturday, March 2, 2024

Heart-Land: Take care of our own – By Don Barone – Story


Heart-Land: Take care of our own

Don Barone
I thought this would float down the river but…

“Where’re the eyes…”

Dateline:  Branson, Missouri

If we do not come to the aid of our heartland, who will it be that will come to the aid of our shores.

Who will put the food on our table.

If not for the middle of us, what will balance America.

If not for the Heart of our Land, where will rest our soul.

“…the eyes with the will to see…”

It comes in the darkness of night.

It makes the light of day dark.

It is a war, a battle between the sky, and the earth.

Wind vs soil.

Rain vs tears.

And when the sky comes for the earth, sky wins, and all those in its path become nothing more than grains of sand.

Splinters of wood left by the clouds.

Splinters of wood, all around me, here in Branson. Missouri.

But know this…Branson is OPEN.

Scarred, but open.

Bruised, but open.

The sky may take with it our splinters, but it will not, has not taken with it, our spirit.

Our spirit is stronger than the soil we stand on.

Our spirit is what holds us together, not the wood, not the concrete around us.

It is our will, not the wind, that will ultimately win.

“…where’re the hearts…”

“db, the morning after the tornado hit, one of the reporters in a news helicopter called me to say that from his vantage it looked like a colony of ants down here…”

Tammy Scholten, the director of marketing & something for the Branson Landing area, is walking through Branson Landing, the site of the final Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open weigh-in on Saturday, and pointing out various spots to me where the tornado came through and left its mark.


…but here it is today. Open and running. Like the town around it.


“…from the helicopter we looked like ants but it was the whole town who with contractors and clean up crews came together to put things back the way it was.”

Tammy is a pretty cool lady, a working stiff just trying to do her job, which right now might not be the easiest job on the planet, what with trying to market a tourist town that an EF2 Tornado touched down in almost just two months ago to the day.

“We are open db…Branson is open…we need our guests to come back, please tell them we are open.”


“…that run over with mercy…”

I sat in traffic waiting for a light to turn my way, green, sat in front of some old time five-and-dime store decked in red, decked in white, decked in blue.

I sat and watched an older lady walk down the street with string in her hand.

I sat and watched as the lady got down on her knees and gently propped up whatever flower she saw that was drooping.

I sat and watched as she wiped the dirt off the petals, sat and watched as she patted the earth, sat and watched as she struggled to get up, sat and watched as she willed her aching body to bend one more time, one more flower to be rescued.

I don’t know for sure, but I bet you money, this lady wasn’t getting paid a dime to do this.

She never looked at the people walking by her, she never looked at the traffic around her, she never asked for help, she only gave help, to the flowers…to her town.

Don’t come here because someone who markets this town wants you to come here.

Don’t come here because of some line the politicians are feeding you.

Come here for the lady of the flowers.

Come here for the folks you will see when you look in your mirror.

Working stiffs.

Come here…for the person on the breakfast grill who cooks your scrambled eggs.

Come here…for the waitress who brings the eggs to you.

For the lady who cleans your hotel room, for the guy who wraps your souvenir coffee cup in the paper so it won’t break before you get home, for the kid in the drive-through.

I’m told this is a family area, and I can see that, so bring the kids for the kid things, for the shows, but also show them something they may never forget.

Show them…America.

Show them, the Heart-Land.

“…we take care of our own…”

We, our own selves, are a nation of people who will get down on our knees to help a flower.

We are a nation not afraid of picking up a broom, picking up a hammer, if we have to duct-tape the Midwest together for now, if that’s what we need, brother pass the tape.

Don’t come here to take pictures of the rubble. Come here to get on your knees with the flower lady.

This is what happens, the sky scars the earth, we all see photos of it, we all see the Live At Five video of it so we go out and we buy jugs of water, staples, clothes and send it to the land the sky attacked.

And then, if we don’t live there, we forget.

And then, when the news people leave, we forget.

But that’s when the areas hit need us the most…they need us to COME BACK.

They need life to return to normal, and that is for us to bring.

They need business to return to normal, and that is for us to bring.

Working stiff, to working stiff.

Cruise the Caribbean some other year.

This year, cruise I-40, cruise I-80, cruise I-70…and when you see the “amber waves of grain,” stop.

Get out and buy stuff from the working stiffs like yourself.

You want to settle this balance of trade thing…buy a few bags of tomatoes from the roadside stand of a farmer who lost everything in the storm.

You want to settle this balance of trade thing…leave a big tip for the restaurant singer in Branson, leave it so she can pay the roofer to pull the blue tarp off and start putting the roofing back on her house.

You want to settle this balance of trade thing…buy roses for the old flower lady on her knees.

“…wherever this flag’s flown…”

I was here last year when the floods came, almost came for me. Saw bridges being closed, roads being closed, saw mean faces in the sky, saw the ugly skies.

I saw homes under water.

I saw businesses under water.

I met a man who told me his house, “was underwater,” I didn’t know what to say, just looked at him, touched his arm, put my pen and reporters notebook away and just asked, just said, “Sorry…is there anything I can do.”

“Nope…gotta wait until the water goes down.”

“Then what.”

“Rebuild her.”

I don’t know a person who lives in this city. Probably not even in the entire county.

But it was those two words that brought me back. To be honest, I have to cover 3 Bassmaster Opens, they can be any 3, but it was those two words that made me pick, here.

“Rebuild her.”

I came back here, because I fled here.

I came back here, to do this story.

I came back here, for the people of this town who have had to face back to back disasters, one from the water, one from the sky.

I came back here because B.A.S.S did as well, with all the lakes around, they didn’t have to come back, but back they came…twice now.

I don’t normally give a shout out to the bosses of B.A.S.S, ‘cept now, because they did the right thing.

After fleeing the floods, they came back.  Even when they heard about the recent tornado strike.

“You can notice some damage around here from the tornado,” Bassmaster Opens Tournament Director Chris Bowes told me while also trying to eye if I had a charge card to pay for dinner tonight. “It is still full-service around here, places to eat, places to stay, shows to enjoy. There was never a doubt in my mind about coming back here, never a doubt.”

For an hour and a half I sat behind the B.A.S.S. registration table…and watched America come through the door.

We have 170 boats…340 anglers…and they came here from: all over Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona, Illinois, Kentucky, Colorado, Arkansas, Ohio, Washington, Nevada, Wisconsin.

One dude came from Canada.

One dude, and it stunned me, one dude came from Queensland, Australia.  Carl Jocumsen, “It took me 18 hours in a plane and three hours driving.”

More than 15 hotels are being used.  Several campgrounds.  The Ramada alone told us they got 250 room nights, “at a real time of need.”

“…we take care of our own…”

The other day I went to breakfast at some restaurant with old taxi cabs out front…looked like a throwback to the ’50s.  Went there with Elite angler Kevin Short’s wife Kerry as K-Pink was out practicing.

It was 9:15 a.m.

And inside, a lady was singing, putting on a show for the few people eating breakfast.

Off to the side was a glass vase.

The glass vase had a handwritten sign on it that said this, “The singers only get paid in tips.”

In the vase, was 3-bucks.

The lady who sang Country Western during breakfast isn’t named…Cher.

She isn’t named…Celine.

Nor is she Bette.

Her name, is Melissa.

And she sings.

She sings for tips.

She does not have a 3-dollar voice.  She does not have a 3-dollar heart.  If the restaurant was filled, so would be her jar.

You and me, we are the farmer selling roadside corn amongst the amber waves.

You and me, we are the flower lady who bends on stiff knees to care for daisies.

You and me, we are Melissa.

We hold the key to the 3-dollar tip jar.

Forget not the people of the storm just because the cameras leave.

Because they are us.

If not for the Heartland, there would be no coasts.

From sea to shining sea, lies our soul.

And crown thy good, for each other.

Till all success, fills the 3-buck tip jar.

For the flower lady.

For the farmer.

For the breakfast singer.

I tossed 5 bucks into the 3-dollar jar.

Not because I particularly like Country Music.

I did it because…

…this is the Heart-Land.

Every damn inch of it.

“Wherever this flag’s flown
We take care of our own.”

“We Take Care of Our Own”

Bruce Springsteen

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