BRANSON, Mo. —
It was a beautiful Ozarks morning when I met Ron Buchanan. I knew his name from reading police reports in The Joplin Globe.
Buchanan isn't a scofflaw, however -- he is the law. A Joplin Police Department patrolman and detective, he and his law-enforcement comrades were honored at Silver Dollar City on a recent Saturday morning.
The event was a dedication of a 30-foot tall monument to "the good guys." Community police officers, county deputies, state highway patrol, local and federal drug enforcement officials and other first responders from around the region represented their noble professions during the ceremony in the park's town square.
It was a cool deal. The department representatives received commemorative plaques and were recognized for their enforcement efforts. They were also reminded of the good relationship and longtime cooperation between lawmen and cowboys.
Brad Thomas, the park's top guy, stressed to the crowd: "Even though the park's new coaster is named 'Outlaw Run,' at Silver Dollar City, the good guys always win."
The monument was important to highlight, Thomas said.
"We dedicate this monument to the men and women who aspire to be the good guys," he said during the ceremony.
The Sons of the Silver Dollar played, dignitaries spoke and the Haygoods opened the event with the national anthem. It was a heartfelt and patriotic experience.
After the town square party -- complete with music, ceremony and confetti cannons (I love confetti cannons) -- we walked down the hill to Outlaw Run. It was the official public opening of Silver Dollar City's new $10 million, steel-wheeled, wooden roller coaster.
The lawmen and a dozen or so local kids were recognized for inspiring citizens in their own Ozark communities. They -- all above 48-inches tall (minimum height requirement) -- were invited to take the first "official" trips on Silver Dollar City's 87-second whirl around the 1880s-themed park.
The coaster hits 68 mph during the breathtaking ride through the park's forest and hills.
Buchanan was impressed. I know, because I was in the stagecoach-inspired coaster's steel-wheeled cars following him. The new ride left my breath 16 stories above the park before the Outlaw Run cars dived 81 degrees, almost straight down. I recognized Buchanan's JPD uniform, and after I regained my coaster composure I hit him up to answer a simple question: "So, what did you think?"
"This is awesome," the officer said, scoping the horizon for his own children. "What Silver Dollar City did for law enforcement here today is great. We're about two hours away, so it's a big honor that they invited us."