The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 6, 2012

Andra Bryan Stefanoni: Roaring River State Park an antidote for hectic days

By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
Globe Staff Writer

PITTSBURG, Kan. — I got my birthday wish, which was a trip to Roaring River State Park and a stringer full of fish.

It was surprising to hear from so many readers in regard to a column last month in which I announced that wish. They wrote to relate how much they, too, enjoyed a getaway to the peaceful Ozarks jewel. Some wrote to tell me that they would rather be gifted a hike on a trail than a fancy new pair of shoes.

Carol Striegel wrote to suggest that since I always am up for trying new things — like using a fly rod instead of a rod and reel — perhaps I’d be open to another new activity: singing in a show choir. She might think differently had she accompanied me on a car trip and heard me sing along to the radio.

But that’s a whole other column.

On Friday, my news editor and my husband both insisted that I go. No arguments. They must have observed something I couldn’t. So I packed a shore sandwich supper, grabbed my favorite fishing hat — “Mother Nature Is My Homegirl” — and hit the road.

On Saturday, when I began the descent into the park, I felt the pull of the rushing spring waters and the smell of Ozarks forest and rainbow trout.

I loved every minute of it.

On Sunday, I came home, back to the grind.

But the thing is, when you experience something you love, if only for 24 hours — heck, if even for just a few hours — there is no doubt that it changes something inside you. There’s a little release, a noticeable uptick in your attitude, a perspective that this old world ain’t half-bad, after all.

For me, it came just at the right time.

There’s no getting around the fact that this month will be a challenging one for everyone within shouting distance of Joplin. If you’re a parent, the last month of school is one heck of a month anyway. And then you throw in ... well, you know ... the “T” word.

A co-worker, in wishing me happy birthday, advised me to not think of any “T” words during my getaway. (He forgot that the fish I was after start with that letter, but his wish was well-intentioned.)

I didn’t have to try hard. I was having such a good time that those thoughts drifted away with the currents — until I saw the butterflies, that is, gathering in great swarms along the banks to sip mineral deposits. They were constantly in flight — and they of course reminded me of the “T” word. No matter, it was about time to come home, back to the grind.

And that's OK. The new Roaring River State Park bicycle rangers who patrolled the banks don’t know it, but I brought a little birthday present home in addition to the stringer full of fish. They needn’t worry; I broke no regulations. It’s invisible, and I’ll carry it with me for a while.

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