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    This past week I was in Branson, Missouri, with my family. If you haven’t heard of this tourist paradise, allow me to describe it with a list of key words, some of which are redundant:

    Pork rinds

    Killer lightning


    Country music

    Morbid obesity


    One day we went to something called a “water park.” I had never been to such a thing and was excited about the prospect of standing in line for 45 minutes in the sweltering heat for an opportunity to spend 12 seconds sliding down a watery tube while clutching my prescription sunglasses and wondering how many cartoonists had died doing exactly this sort of thing. It takes me a few days of vacation just to get into the proper attitude, which I gather is something along the lines of not caring if you live or die. I have a bad habit of stubbornly clinging to my preference for life over death, and I am told this interferes with my ability to have fun.

    Take the roller coaster, for example. At one theme park we visited, the roller coaster tracks were supported by old pieces of wood nailed together by, I am guessing, inebriated hillbillies. When I ask myself what sort of engineered structure would make me feel safe, I generally think of materials created for NASA, or perhaps some sort of steel beams forged in the furnaces of Mordor. But wood? To me, wood is in the same structural category as playing cards and toast. I decided we “didn’t have time” to ride the roller coaster.

    What I liked best about Branson was the relaxed atmosphere. Tee shirts and sneakers were the dress code everywhere. I stood in line behind a man who had a shirt listing the five reasons “Beer is better than women.” If you are familiar with this line of thinking, you know that several of the reasons are obscene. But in Branson, home of fried pies and stuffed critters, everyone took it in stride, including his wife and daughter who were with him, and who are apparently not better than beer.

    You might have seen on the news that it has been raining a bit in the Midwest. I thought I knew what rain was all about until I experienced it Missouri style. From our hotel room we had a good view of a lake, or maybe it was a river. It might have been a side street. It’s hard to say. Anyway, we could see a number of boats tied up to a dock. The only wrinkle is that the entire dock and all the boats were floating down the river, or lake, or side street, until they plowed into another dock. In California it hardly ever rains so hard it ruins our boats. I was impressed.

    My family stayed for another week to visit in-laws in Arkansas. I had to come home and write blogs and make comics. On the way to the Springfield airport, at about 4:30 am, I tried navigating my rented Ford Taurus through sheets of rain and a Midwest lightning storm of Moses-like proportions. I was the only idiot on the road, and there were few reflective markings to tell me where the winding road ended and the beginning of my three weeks stay the bottom of a ravine began. Luckily the lightning was so frequent it illuminated the road just often enough that I could scream and yank the steering wheel in the nick of time.

    One bolt of lightning actually struck fairly close to my car. Let me tell you, if you have never been in the immediate vicinity of a lightning strike, it is a real pick-me-up. I won’t need caffeine again until sometime around 2030. And I wouldn’t want to be the next poor bastard who rents that Ford Taurus.

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