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Van Buren Get-AwayPosted Thursday, October 2, 2008, at 7:57 AM
This is the view from the Sun-Bear Trading Post on Skyline Drive in the mountains above Van Buren, Mo. Ed Cook and his wife Debra operate the trading post and the Touch of Grace Spa and Salon, seen here.
Quite by accident, we made a couple of new friends, high atop Skyline Drive, which overlooks Van Buren and the Current River. As we looked for a place with a view, we met Debra Cook, going up to check her mailbox. She graciously offered to let us view the valley from her spectacular deck. One thing led to another, and my travel buddy said, "Madeline, why don't you do a story on her?" Ah, that's all the excuse I need!
Relative newcomers to Van Buren, the Cooks operated a restaurant at the "top of the Ozarks" for several years, until the price of food got as steep as the hills. Now, Debra runs the Touch of Grace Day Spa and Salon, where she offers a variety of services, including massage, haircare, cosmetics, and something called "Reiki-Energy Work III."
In contrast, her husband, a silversmith, has a quaint cabin just up the hill, where he sells his silver & turquoise jewelry, leather items, cast iron cookware, wood burning stoves and authentic Native American art. Yesterday he was loading up his wares to take them down into Van Buren for the town's annual Fall Festival, which is this weekend.
We sat on Debra's deck, enjoying a cool, sunny October day and speculating on why this area hasn't developed into a tourist Mecca. I have no doubt that if the weather were like yesterday's YEAR 'ROUND, Van Buren would look a LOT different than it does today! (That might not be all good, however!)
In the Trading Post, I bought a sovernir t-shirt, a small brilliant green Malakite horse, and a strawberry quartz necklace. Debra gave me a Van Buren Visitor's Map with the city's website (www.seevanburen.com), and some material about her spa (573-323-1280) and the Sun-Bear Trading Post (573-323-1280).
We bid goodbye to the Cooks and headed down into the valley which houses that fabulous Big Spring, where the blue and green water bubbles up and sparkles in the sunlight. Sitting a bench in the speckled shade, my friend said, "This is as good as it gets, isn't it?"
The spring has changed very little since we were there as kids, and we wondered if it looked the same when the Native Americans and early pioneers came through. What a sight it must have been to the first settlers who set eyes on it! How can the water gush out endlessly, century after century, with no end in sight? It is truly a marvel.
Going back there, year after year, sitting on the bench, watching the water....It's a form of renewal, I think. It's good to know that such a place is there. I like to think about it in times of stress; I think it lowers my blood pressure...
This weekend Van Buren will host their Fall Festival and Craft Fair. If you'd like a pleasant day trip, hop in the car and drive over. It's about an hour and a half from Dexter, and Highway 60 just gets better and better!
From the sunny hills of rural Tillman, Mo., this is your renewed roving reporter Madeline, signing off on another spectacular Missouri October day!
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.