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Van Buren Get-Away

Posted 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.
It's been awhile since I wrote a travel story about one of those close-to-home "Staycations," like I did last year. I have a friend who likes to travel around to see new places and check out the old ones, too - so yesterday we made the pleasant drive back to Van Buren, to spend a sunny day along the Current River and share a piece of Mississippi Mud Pie at the Float Stream Cafe across from the old courthouse.

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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Just wanted to say Thank you to Debbie and Bear for a wonderful week here. Even though it was extremely hot outside, it was so cool and comfortable inside that you could come in and get cool immediately. I apparently picked the hottest days in years to be here but it was an absolutely awesome view and the peace and quiet would be hard to rival. She did a beautiful manipedi for Kasey and has lots of wonderful products and services just steps away from the massage chair they provide. I am just waiting to find out when the next time I can be off for a few days so I can go again!

-- Posted by nitedove on Tue, Jul 10, 2012, at 12:21 PM

Lookin' better and better... A deck in the sun... Ah, I do hate to see winter approaching...

-- Posted by goat lady on Sun, Oct 19, 2008, at 3:23 PM

This morning it's grey and wet outside my window, and I don't wanna leave the house! I would so love to be right there in that picture, soaking up the sun and letting the breezes fan my face!

-- Posted by goat lady on Tue, Oct 7, 2008, at 7:26 AM

Hahaha! I can make the same observation about the town where I live! Small towns are SO CLICKY!!!! It doesn't always matter if you yourself were born in a certain town - It matters if your PARENTS were born there. And it helps if your GRANDPARENTS were born there, too!

We outsiders have to stick together, folks!!

As for the Van Buren issue - the per capita income for that area has to be down in the basement! Conditions may change as Highway 60 improves access to the outside world, but the area has been relatively isolated for a long, long time.

-- Posted by goat lady on Sat, Oct 4, 2008, at 9:20 AM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
True comments about small towns!

I did a story last year about Marquand, Mo. and the renovation that they're doing to make their little town of 400 into a historic getaway. Some of the money has been provided by grants obtained through the efforts of Mayor Denny Ward, but some of it has come from private individuals like the Dursos, who've retired to their old hometown, bringing the money they earned working elsewhere all their lives.

Wonderful story! I love to see such glimmers of hope for the future of a town! It takes vision, though, and so many people are looking down into the mud, istead of looking up to the sky!

gardengirl, I've been in Dexter almost 40 years and still not accepted!!!!! Wasnt born here.

-- Posted by changedname on Fri, Oct 3, 2008, at 8:16 PM

I wish the Cooks well, as we've been told that it can be hard to get accepted in Van Buren. Maybe they're in a position to survive on the summer tourist trade and can get by without a lot of local support.

-- Posted by gardengirl on Fri, Oct 3, 2008, at 11:20 AM

I think I shall gather up some of my girlfriends and go over to spend the day on that deck, get a facial, a pedicure, and a massage! Aaaaaaahhhhhhh! Maybe she can take 20 years off this old face!!

-- Posted by goat lady on Thu, Oct 2, 2008, at 5:57 PM

Loved your story. Beautiful visualization. I started taking my kids over to Big Springs when they were small. Haven't been over that way in a while now, but I think I'll make a day of it and go to the Fall Festival this weekend. Thanks again. I feel more peaceful already!

-- Posted by ct on Thu, Oct 2, 2008, at 11:03 AM

Great read, thanks for the memories. I too was at 'Big Springs' recently and the Lodge Restaurant was open and serving food. It was great.

The Float Stream Cafe would be better with a non-smoking section. I was there last week and almost choked, the food was great and love their pies. I had a piece of cherry pie there years ago and they left out the sugar,,, thought I was gonna die......lol.........

The new approach to the Big Springs is much nicer now, you can walk right up to the water. Thanks to Park Commission.

-- Posted by changedname on Thu, Oct 2, 2008, at 9:13 AM

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Madeline DeJournett
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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 advancensc@sbcglobal.net.
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