We left St. Louis Monday morning headed for Des Moines.  Google map told us it would take five hours…it took seven.

Our goal is to get another day closer to Yellowstone without killing ourselves and meeting a friend and fellow Yellowstone co-worker in Keystone on Wednesday for three nights.  This friend has three of her grandchildren with her on her drive up from Louisiana.  One of these grandchildren is female and the same age as my granddaughter.  Therefore, from St. Louis to Des Moines is not out of the way if South Dakota is the next destination.

Additionally, I have a long-time friend from Jackson, Mississippi (David Gray) who has lived in Des Moines for decades.  We lived across the street from each other for eight years.  He and my brother found many creative ways to get into trouble and/or not get caught “having fun”.  They did nothing evil, just enjoyed to the fullest being a boy in a safe neighborhood.  We have all taken different directions since high school, but social media bridged the gap several years ago.

DavidDavid and his son with their “TOYS”

David always says he married up.  I got to meet his wife, Lou (a Mississippi girl), on this outing, his daughter and his three grandsons.  I agree with him, he did very well.  He has become the Pinball Wizard.  He is recently retired, but his life-long hobby is rebuilding/restoring and reselling Pinball Machines.  We got to spend the afternoon and evening with him, his family and his pinball machines.  He also owns a cannon, sweet granddaughter got to fire it!


This visit was a bonus. BTW:  Iowa is BEAUTIFUL…really!

iowa farm iowa flower iowa-3iowa corn

Gently rolling hills, newly planted corn and grains and handsome beef cattle.  It is clean, so clean and manicured to perfection.  The farms and farm houses are multi-generational.  Each 100+ years old and well cared for.  They all have flower gardens and vegetable gardens and silos and beautiful barns.  These houses are all surrounded and shaded by century old hardwood trees.  Then, to complete the all American farm portrait, the Peonies are in bloom.  What is a farm house without Peonies?

The grass edging the interstates, highways and county roads are at least (uniformly) 12″ high and sway as you drive by, as if waving.  Iowa has a constant breeze.  David confirmed that Des Moines is a windier city than Chicago, which is wonderful in the summer, but brutal in the winter.

Taking advantage of this wind are hundreds of enormous, white wind generators, scattered throughout this amazing landscape.  Sweet granddaughter, from down in big oil country, had never seen these.  Their scale rising with dignity from these humble grain fields impress and inspire.  We are America!


Meanwhile, back to the drive.  Further down the road, our trusty GPS took us onto a county road, which connected two state highways.  Along this route, we saw a sign pointing us to The American Gothic House…Naturally, we stopped.  We may only pass this way once, if time, energy and gasoline allow we are going to make the stop.

am gothic IMG_1830

We stumbled on a tiny treasure.  American Gothic is a painting by Grant Wood in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. Wood’s inspiration came from what is now known as the American Gothic House, and his decision to paint the house along with “the kind of people I fancied should live in that house.”  The painting shows a farmer standing beside his spinster daughter.

Sweet husband and sweet granddaughter went straight to the pool and hot tub (indoors) as soon as we checked in last night.  I propped up my feet and finished my blog about West Virginia and St. Louis, before I forgot all I wanted to say.

South Dakota, here we come…

Fifty Shades of Green

Friday we left Richmond driving west on I-64 across the Appalachian Mountains across West Virginia into Kentucky. We spent the night at a motel on an interstate exit east of Lexington. Saturday our destination goal was St. Louis via a stop in Louisville to see Churchill Downs and a couple of other side trips off the beaten path. However, in Lexington the interstate was closed and giving us no alternative but to ask our trusty GPS for an alternate route. What a stroke of luck. I will tell you about it, but first I must back up to Friday and that portion of our trek.

Friday we crossed into The Shenandoah portion of the Appalachian Mountains. Shenandoah is a Cherokee name, which means Bright Daughter of The Stars. She is. I love these mountains from Maine to Georgia. They have many names, but it is one continuous range and is ancient.

Spring has come and gone in the lower portions of the southern states, but is breaking forth with great passion in the area we are driving through. Wild flowers of every color and every shade of green only God could paint. Locust Trees in full bloom from one side of the state to the other and ooooooh the fragrance! We had mild temperatures and a constant breeze all the way from Richmond to Iowa…


West Virginia and Kentucky will take your heart forever. I am told by our media that there is death and some environmental destruction from the coal mining. Even our Mississippi John Grisholm preached on it in his latest book…I did not see any of that…perhaps it is there (?). I did, however, see a train with cars filled to the brim with coal at one point near The New River.

The New River Gorge

The New River Gorge

The New River and rail road

The New River and rail road

We spent the night at a small town motel in Farmers, Kentucky and met a nice couple from Norfolk, VA on their way to Santa Fe, NM (They will love it!).  God lets us meet the neastest people!

We were rerouted in Lexington due to interstate closure and saw some of the most beautiful horse farms in the entire world. Farms walled substantially in stone, white or black wood with vast fields of grain and miles of pastures. There were barns, oh my the barns, nicer than most homes. We passed a sign directing us to Woodford Reserve Distillery and whipped in. As you know, Kentucky makes Bourbon, everyone else makes whisky and they are quick to tell you. They are the OFFICAL Bourbon of the Kentucky Derby.  Unfortunately, there was a 90 minute wait to take a 70 minute tour…NOT…and didn’t happen for us. We just went back to enjoying the beautiful drive and headed on to St. Louis for a good nights rest and the rendezvous with sweet granddaughter the next morning.




St. Louis is impressive. Forest Park is where the art museum is located.  It is shared by the zoo, the history museum, sculptured acres of fountains and blue grass and manicured gardens. The art museum houses a large, varied collection of art from all around the world and from many periods.

image image image image image

Afterward we drove downtown by the river where sweet granddaughter could see the Arch and view the same beautiful river that flows right by her home of Baton Rouge.

We skirted through the lower hem of Indiana and Illinois.  Mostly farm land.  Thank God for our farmers.

Next: Iowa

A Pearl Of Great Price

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:19 – 1:20 NKJV)

—noun:  strong, stern, or fierce anger; deeply resentful indignation; ire.
vengeance or punishment as the consequence of anger.

I believe wrath to be the fruit of hate.  It is the action, activity and work of hate fully formed.

I came face-to-face with the deep, emotional injury caused by the abandonment of a father to his daughter.  This selfish act of this broken man has formed a profound void in the heart of this woman.

Intense anger filled my heart.  What can I, a mere human, do with this kind of emotion?  Vengeance is the popular culture’s answer and a desire to be a part of that vengeance, would seem to satisfy.   I went to bed with these emotions.  Sleep was troubled, to say the very least.

The Word of God is the answer to every, EVERY situation, circumstance, sin, pain, loss.  This morning I turned to the only answer…His word.  In James I found the above instruction.  Wrath does not produce righteousness..hmmmm?  So why do I need to produce righteousness?  I thought I was already “righteous in Christ”?  Well, yes, but it is also something that becomes an established part of our soul.  It is a breastplate (protection).  Finally, it is the weapon of our warfare in the healing of these hurting people.

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed [of  this wrath] The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.  (James 5:16 NKJV)

What can I, a mere human, do with this kind of emotion?  I can pray.  Pray for God’s forgiveness, pray for the ability to forgive the person and pray for the healing of them both.  He promises my prayer avails much.

The Hills Are Alive With . . . Wild Flowers and Happy Critters

tree at guard gate

Orange and red trumpet flower on a small tree taken by Bubba McClary

This blog post will be mostly photographs.  The wild flowers in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park are a riot of diversity, color, fragrance and size.  There are many bears with cubs, making their debut.  Deer, Elk, Turkey, Rabbits, Squirrel, Ground Hogs and so much more.  If I did not add a name to the picture of the flower, it is because I am clueless as to what they are called. I have never seen many of these before.  I have been told that I can buy a book at the ranger station to help me identify them and (naturally) I will.  I am so thankful our National Parks are preserving these.  I did not take all these pictures, as it takes time and equipment I do not have, but I will give credit to those wonderful photographers, who trek into these woods.  Enjoy!

chreeping phlox

Creeping Phlox

Gwen Cross Photography1

Gwen Cross photography

Gwen Cross2

Gwen Cross Photography

Orchid Gwen Cross

Orchid by Gwen Cross Photography

Trillium Gwen Cross

Trillium by Gwen Cross Photography


Wild Rhododendron


Mountain Laurel


Ornamental Maple (not native, but planted here in abundance)


Some type of wild Magnolia


Cantilever Barn in Cade’s Cove


Mushrooms grown here and harvested from the woods here

wild azalea

Wild Azalea. Photo by Hank McClary

sweet shurb

Sweet Shrub. Often planted near cabin windows for their fragrance (back when we slept with windows open)

Lady Slipper2

Lady Slipper. Photo by Gwen Cross


This is not wisteria, it is a flowering tree and the fragrance is divine.


Red Bud



wildflower 3

Orchid by Sharon McClary

wild flower 2

Some type of wild Iris (?)




More mushrooms (for sale)

bear turkey IMG_1711 IMG_1657 IMG_1649 IMG_1648 IMG_1622 IMG_1618 IMG_1604 IMG_1600 IMG_1598 IMG_1593 IMG_1584 IMG_1545 DSC03252 DSC03249 DSC03248 DSC03185 wildflower7 wildflower6 wildflower5 wildflower4 wild flower1 Mr. turtle Lady Slipper