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Local Editorials

Morris Park revisited

It happened again. Mary and I were loading up the truck with junk, I mean sculptures, and someone stopped and bought a piece right out of the truck.

There’s just something about seeing a load of whatever, getting ready to move out, that prompts people to buy before the goodies disappear. Mary and I interpreted this odd sale as a good omen.

It was.

We were headed for Morris Park, north of Stockport, where we would set up our art. It was Van Buren County’s Scenic Fall Drive, always a festive event and, this year, because of the beautiful fall weather, exceptional.

The hickory nuts were falling off the trees as Mary and I set up. A lady came along with a sack collecting nature’s bounty. She explained that you separate out the wormy nuts by throwing the whole batch into a tub of water.

The ones that float are the wormy ones because of air pockets — always a good bit of country wisdom to possess.

No sooner had we finished setting up, but a whole string of Model Ts came roaring by in a cloud of dust, internal-combustion explosions, and aooga horns. They parked right behind us which, of course, drew a nice crowd of onlookers.

In front of us, was the stop where passengers were being picked up and left off from horse-drawn wagon rides. And across the road was a grand demonstration of old-time farm equipment.

They were baling straw, squeezing the juice out of sorghum, and generally having a good time running all this old, belt-driven equipment. I saw a contraption in operation that I have never heard of before.

It’s called a Shredder-Shucker. Whole corn stalks, with the ears still attached, are fed in one end. From two other ends came the shredded stalk, and the shucked ears of corn, all golden yellow in the fall sunlight. I asked if I could buy some ears for my squirrels.

“Sure!  Help yourself.”

Then Bob Norris and his wife Renae, from Dixon, Illinois, arrived. Bob is the producer of an internet radio station called Lost Lake Radio. I record my Empty Nest columns, and Bob includes them, along with many other local color stories, on the internet station (

Bob was aware that I made yard art out of old rusty farm junk. They arrived to take a look. In short, one sale netted more than I have made at any other venue. Thank you Renae, Bob, and Morris Park!

Saturday night, there was a chili cooking contest. Brian Morris (direct descendant to the Morris Park clan) and his wife, Darla, from Mount Pleasant, were cooking in the contest.

Bob featured his world-famous Chicken Little chili (chicken and white beans), and Noah’s Ark chili (everything in it). If there’s one thing I like better’n a potluck, it’s a chili cook’n contest — stuff yourself silly!

Bob and his wife were runners-up, along with Cindy Hewitt, daughter of Dorothy Gilbert, organizer of the Morris Park celebration. First place went to two little girls, Hailey Brown and Rachel Pforty, from Stockport.

They had the sweetest chili. Sweet chili from two sweet little girls is a sure-fire winner, every time. What a fitting way to end a Saturday at Morris Park — that and the Halloween Decoration Contest at the Morris Park camp ground.

Even the dogs were wearing costumes!

Sunday morning at Morris Park started for us with a Cowboy Church service, then the celebration of Morris Park’s 75th anniversary. There were speakers, a band, and story telling. I’ll definitely be back next year.

By the way, Mary and I are having an open house next weekend, Oct. 19 and 20, at my house in Mount Pleasant as part of the Southeast Iowa Studio Art Tour. Last year, Iowa Public Television showed up.

Y’all come, hear?  (Mary’s making cookies). (Meet Buddy).

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