This past week I was in Branson, Missouri, with my family. If you haven't heard of this tourist paradise, allow me to describe it with a list of key words, some of which are redundant:

Pork rinds

Killer lightning


Country music

Morbid obesity


One day we went to something called a "water park." I had never been to such a thing and was excited about the prospect of standing in line for 45 minutes in the sweltering heat for an opportunity to spend 12 seconds sliding down a watery tube while clutching my prescription sunglasses and wondering how many cartoonists had died doing exactly this sort of thing. It takes me a few days of vacation just to get into the proper attitude, which I gather is something along the lines of not caring if you live or die. I have a bad habit of stubbornly clinging to my preference for life over death, and I am told this interferes with my ability to have fun.

Take the roller coaster, for example. At one theme park we visited, the roller coaster tracks were supported by old pieces of wood nailed together by, I am guessing, inebriated hillbillies. When I ask myself what sort of engineered structure would make me feel safe, I generally think of materials created for NASA, or perhaps some sort of steel beams forged in the furnaces of Mordor. But wood? To me, wood is in the same structural category as playing cards and toast. I decided we "didn't have time" to ride the roller coaster.

What I liked best about Branson was the relaxed atmosphere. Tee shirts and sneakers were the dress code everywhere. I stood in line behind a man who had a shirt listing the five reasons "Beer is better than women." If you are familiar with this line of thinking, you know that several of the reasons are obscene. But in Branson, home of fried pies and stuffed critters, everyone took it in stride, including his wife and daughter who were with him, and who are apparently not better than beer.

You might have seen on the news that it has been raining a bit in the Midwest. I thought I knew what rain was all about until I experienced it Missouri style. From our hotel room we had a good view of a lake, or maybe it was a river. It might have been a side street. It's hard to say. Anyway, we could see a number of boats tied up to a dock. The only wrinkle is that the entire dock and all the boats were floating down the river, or lake, or side street, until they plowed into another dock. In California it hardly ever rains so hard it ruins our boats. I was impressed.

My family stayed for another week to visit in-laws in Arkansas. I had to come home and write blogs and make comics. On the way to the Springfield airport, at about 4:30 am, I tried navigating my rented Ford Taurus through sheets of rain and a Midwest lightning storm of Moses-like proportions. I was the only idiot on the road, and there were few reflective markings to tell me where the winding road ended and the beginning of my three weeks stay the bottom of a ravine began. Luckily the lightning was so frequent it illuminated the road just often enough that I could scream and yank the steering wheel in the nick of time.

One bolt of lightning actually struck fairly close to my car. Let me tell you, if you have never been in the immediate vicinity of a lightning strike, it is a real pick-me-up. I won't need caffeine again until sometime around 2030. And I wouldn't want to be the next poor bastard who rents that Ford Taurus.

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Jun 30, 2008
There are very few things that can unknot my tense neck muscles and cut through my stress and today's blog is one such. Very very hilarious. I used to live in MO once. Heard that Branson is famous for musicals, side-shows and other 'culture'. Too bad it rained on ur vacation. It must be really frustrating when water droplets from far above plop on our scalp..especially..your unprotected one :) (provided u didn't wear any barrier above ur head. :))
Anyway..great to see you back blogging. Did I mention that this post finally made me get off my ass and register :) ? I got used to the anonymity of your typepad blog.
Jun 30, 2008
Scott, that was so hilarious that I'm going to book my trip to Branson, Missouri straight away! BTW, I've been on one of those wooden roller coasters that you've described and it really is as terrifying (as well as bone-shuddering) as you might imagine.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 30, 2008
Don't rightly know why the word m-i-l-e-s would be censored........
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 30, 2008
Dang, you were 30 !$%*! away and I was coincidentally taking a couple of days of vacation. If I'd known, I would have bought you a round of your favorite beverage.

As an Arkansan living just south of Branson, I try SO hard not to be offended by the hillbilly jokes. I figure I poke enough fun at my colleagues in California that I should be able to handle the stereotypes that come from living in small rural state.

Yeah, the last few weeks have given us more than our fair share of thunderstorms; it doesn't matter whether you've lived here all your life or not, they still suck to drive in.

@ schmarvin: "squeal like a pig" took place in rural Georgia, HUNDREDS of !$%*! away from the Ozarks. That's like, three or four states away. (Had to take off my shoes to do that ciphering. Don't know why I'm wearin shoes in the summer anyhow.)
Jun 30, 2008
I salute your aversion to seeking amusement in amusement parks. Poorly trained part time employees operating massive, overused, unique, machines that inflict high velocities and G-forces to customers. What could possibly go wrong? Aside from a decapitated head here and pair of severed feet there, I mean.
Jun 30, 2008
You didn't mention the BILLBOARDS in your list at the top of the article.
Jun 30, 2008
Branson. What the hell were you doing visiting that place? What's next for you, a mobile home?
Jun 30, 2008
BRANSON? What a waste of a vacation. You come all the way to the wonderful Midwest and you go to BRANSON??? Not to say that it's your intention, but I hope you would not base your opinions of the "flyover" states on a single trip to a craphole carny town like Branson. Next time you plan a trip out to this part of the country, Scott, make it worthwhile. There's a whole heckuvalot more to see out here than obese rednecks in wife-beater Ts eating deep-fried candy bars.
Jun 30, 2008
I'm guessing you won't be doing any promotions for Branson any time soon, huh? However, a week of Dilbert in Branson would probably be a hit.
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 30, 2008
You didn't even mention the fabulous shows put on by washed up country singers or the cheesy cave tours. Living in Missouri all my life I keep wishing we could find a way have Branson become its own state. At least you were able to appreciate a good solid Missouri thunder storm. Its nature’s way of telling you that you need a new roof on your house - it simple removes the old one for you.
Jun 30, 2008
I haven't been there since 1985 - we lived in Ozark, AR, when I was a kid (79-85) so naturally that was a popular destination.

so how does a rich, "minor" celebrity get to Branson, MO? unless things have changed A LOT since I was a kid Branson is 4 hours in from any airport w/jet service (though SkyWays, a.k.a. "scareways" used to gladly puddle-hop you from Little Rock).

dude, two words for next time: Disney Cruise!

we did that w/our two (5 boy/3 girl) back in April and it was fantastic! they even have an adult-only restaurant (Paulo) that's actually pretty good (even mean by "real" restaurant standards, not the usual "hey, I can get three entrees - cruises rock!" sense) - we even had the South African sommelier gawking at the bottle of A. Rafanelli we had brought w/us.

if you're kids are too old and/or "cool" for that then you can't go wrong w/the Grand Wailea in Maui which has it's own private water park - no lines (or at least minimal depending on time of yr)!

Branson? come on...
Jun 30, 2008
Thanks for the good laugh. I'm glad you had one of life's eye-opening experiences here in our fair state of Missouri. It's a trip sometimes, that's for certain.
Jun 30, 2008
Sorry, I said Arkansas. I meant Missouri. Branson is close enough to Arkansas for the fun generalizations to work either way though.
Jun 30, 2008
Man, I love slamming on Arkansas as much as the next guy, but I can't believe you passed up on a wooden roller coaster. Steel coasters are nice but you will not get the thrill from one of those that you get with the wooden ones.

The poster up above was right, go to Pigeon Forge, take pics of the mountains built on Dolly's chest, then go to Dollywood and ride Thunderhead. Rated in the Top 10 Best Wooden Roller Coasters since it opened in 2003.

Totally awesome.
Jun 30, 2008
As someone who lived about an hour from Branson for a year, and before that was born and brought up in Arkansas, I was laughing out loud as work as I read this post. I avoided Branson whenever possible.

You were very smart to satirize Branson instead of Arkansas, considering that's where your in-laws live.
Jun 30, 2008
Awesome blog, man!

I had a long-distance relationship to a girl in Arkansas. Now... I live in Texas, and Texans don't speak very quickly. I have come to accept this. In Arkansas, though, "don't speak very quickly" just doesn't begin to describe it. The first time I went there, I got really mad at a clerk at Dairy Queen. I thought she was doing it on purpose. "Hey..... Do..... Y'all..... want..... some..... fries...... with...... that.....?" I don't know how to punctuate very slowly-spoken words, but I hope that the periods denote the long pause between each word. I didn't think a human being could speak that slowly. But then I recalled that a majority of alien abductions and alien impregnations happen in Arkansas, and I realized that she might not -- in fact -- be entirely human.
Jun 30, 2008
Funniest post ever.
Jun 30, 2008
Having lived both near Branson, and in Pleasanton, its not so much that Branson gets a lot of rain, but that Pleasanton is in a desert. By the way, Branson is first famous as the shooting location for when the Beverly Hillbillies went home to visit.
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 30, 2008
Hi Scott,

I was betting you were in London watching Wimbledon and were going to blog about England. Sounds like the vacation I imagined for you might have been better than your actual trip.

Water parks, I'm surprised you actually got wet at all. I remember you blogging about why you won't swim in the ocean, aka nature's toilet. I'm betting the ratio of impurities to clean water at your water park is much higher than out in the big blue. No matter what they tell you, those aren't rust stains on the slide.

I totally agree with you about wood. Owning a house and a boat will teach you one thing about wood, it is way too high maintenance. I'll bet the inebriated hillbillies aren't doing even close to all that is required to keep up with their structure. Wood is best used in the bedroom.

I'll bet your new bud with the beer t-shirt votes.

Welcome home, you should probably never stray too far from California

+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 30, 2008

Beautifully written, completely surprising ending!

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