There is much to recommend about Winterset, Iowa. For instance, the town's museum boasts a limestone outhouse that's listed on the National Register of Historic Places. As well it should; after all, said privy is a "three holer."
During our tour of Winterset's museum, my wife and I visited with a museum volunteer who was cataloging its collection of bullet pencils. I hadn't seen one of those doodads in years! I can clearly recall when a personal digital assistant consisted of a bullet pencil and a seed corn booklet. What does it mean when items from your childhood turn up in a museum?
Among the sights that cannot be missed in Winterset is the birthplace of silver screen icon John Wayne. This is because there are numerous signs around town that point the way to the John Wayne Birthplace. And should you miss all of those, there is an entire street named for The Duke.
The house where Marion Morrison was born is quite small. John Wayne was such a big guy, it's hard to imagine that he ever fit into that tiny structure, even as an infant. The city is currently constructing a new John Wayne Birthplace Museum, which will be several times larger than his actual birthplace.
My wife and I left Winterset and pointed our car generally southward. We ran across towns with names like Peculiar - which seemed like a perfectly normal place - and Humansville, which, despite its name, contained numerous people but no humans.
Nighttime found us in the tiny town of Jamesport, Missouri, where we secured a hotel room. In the morning, we were awakened by a sharp, rhythmic "clip, clop" in the street. Investigation revealed that it was a horse-drawn buggy and that we were in Missouri's largest Amish community.
This of course meant that we had to partake of the local Amish culture, including visiting an Amish restaurant for a typical Amish breakfast - a meal that contained enough calories to feed the entire crew of an aircraft carrier.
All around town the Amish went about their business, their wooden wheeled wagons and buggies propelled at a stately pace by equine muscle. When folks in that area talk about horsepower, they literally mean horsepower.
We visited a couple of local shops because my wife said it was probably against the law to leave town without shopping. The stores offered everything Amish, from traditional Amish quilts to traditional Amish soaps and candles to traditional Amish salsa. We purchased the peach salsa, which proved quite delicious.
As we drove through Jamesport, we came to a four-way stop at exactly the same moment as a horse and buggy. What is the protocol in such a situation? Does the driver with the most horsepower go first? Or does the horse-powered vehicle have the right of way? We opted to wave the buggy through, not wanting to risk invoking road rage in a Morgan gelding.
We drove to a local dairy farm that makes farmstead cheese. The farm is operated by a family that includes eight daughters and two sons. Three of the girls - the oldest of which was about 9 - were running their retail store. The girls were very polite and well-mannered, as was the cheese.
Our innkeeper informed us that an auction wherein the Amish would be selling their fruits and veggies and flowers would be taking place nearby. We had to attend; who could pass up an Amish auction?
The auction facility was large and airy, with a concrete floor and ample loading docks. Numerous black buggies occupied the parking lot and a group of unhitched horses rested in the shade of an open-front shed. I figured that this was the Amish version of a parking garage.
There were many colorful potted flowers for sale at the auction, which was attended by an even mix of Amish and civilians. Glancing around the room, it occurred to me that a guy could do a booming business selling suspenders and straw hats.
An older gentleman sporting Uncle Sam whiskers sat on a folding chair by a wall. Next to him was a large feed scale that had a hand lettered sign on it that read "Do not play with!" It wasn't clear if the placard referred to the scale or the guy.
As we left Jamesport, we were passed by a bearded motorcyclist who was decked out in black leather. The slipstream molded his whiskers into a cup that enveloped the lower half of his face. We guessed that he wasn't Amish.
And so we exited central Missouri, heading for our next adventurous destination. A place called Branson.