Day 4 – Rolla to Joplin

A quick breakfast, a brief meeting, and we were on our way to points south and west, ever west. I remember this part of the trip last year and I knew that there would be a number of interesting reminders of how things once were. Not much has changed in one year and today afforded a little more time for the exploration of things I missed the first time through.

Bridge at Devil's Elbow

The first two stops included the Hooker Cut – once the deepest excavation through a rock formation in the U.S. – and then Devil's Elbow. The complete departure from the highway and associated noise allowed for a devotional moment along the creek whose formation inspired the name Devil's Elbow. All that could be heard was natural: birds, insects, and a flowing stream. It was a magical moment.

The next stretch of driving allowed us to arrive at Carthage, Missouri, and a brief visit to a delightfully restored drive-in movie theatre. I hope it is a profitable enterprise and that a new generation can enjoy the simple pleasure of a drive-in movie on a warm and pleasant July evening. Wall-E was showing last night. I must say that the Carthage Court House is magnificent and a must-see on any Route 66 trip.

Pat Crespino, Morgan Ramsey, and Victor Knowles with Andy Benton

The interview at the Joplin Family Y included Pat Crespino, South Family Y branch executive director; Morgan Ramsey, the youth and family director at the Y; and Victor Knowles, minister of Peace on Earth Ministries and a frequent guest and speaker at Pepperdine.

Joplin is a city that enjoys community. In an era when many cities are fractured and disengaged, Joplin seems to have turned the tide. Their churches, community groups, Boy and Girl Scout organizations, and other civic and social entities seem to be thriving. Several examples of local philanthropy supporting local charities were shared.

Victor Knowles and Morgan Ramsey

I was heartened by how easily this group spoke of the importance of faith and timeless values. The notion of prayer in school was a welcome concept and not threatening. When it comes to those things that students should be encouraged to attain in the course of their academic curriculum, we discussed the need to learn about money, good manners, social conduct, and a strong sense of self-reliance and responsibility.

Not surprisingly, parents were cited as indelible influences in the lives of those interviewed. I say "not surprisingly" because of the apparent and close connections shared between generations in a community like this one.

We discussed technology, adolescent influences, the economy, and a range of interesting, relevant topics, but the open conversation about the significance faith can have in our lives was one more positive attribute of this trip to America's heartland.

I would like to add another question to the five I proposed last evening for my blog-along friends:

6. In your opinion, what role should public secondary schools play in shaping values among their students?

Alternate view of Route 66 near Hooker Cut

Tomorrow offers an all-too-brief, 12-mile foray into Kansas and then a return to Oklahoma and an alumni event at the Skirvin Hilton Oklahoma City.

Your blog comments are very interesting. Thanks very much. Wish you were here!

4 Responses to "Day 4 – Rolla to Joplin"

  1. Victor Knowles Says:

    Dr. Benton,

    Thanks for including Joplin on your nifty tour. It was good to see you once again. I appreciated you including me in the interview. I mentioned Roy Rogers Rider's Rules. I thought you might enjoy them.

    ROY ROGERS RIDER'S RULES
    1. Be neat and clean.
    2. Be courteous and polite.
    3. Always obey your parents.
    4. Protect the weak and help them.
    5. Be brave but never take chances.
    6. Study hard and learn all you can.
    7. Be kind to animals and take care of them.
    8. Eat all your food and never waste any.
    9. Love God, and go to Sunday School regularly.
    10. Always respect our flag and our country.

    Many Happy Trails,
    Roy, Dale & Trigger

    And "happy trails" to you and your crew, Andy!

    Victor Knowles

  2. Doug Cole Says:

    Dr. Benton,

    I love this idea of traveling the "Mother Road" similar to what Steinbeck did, to rediscover the bedrock of who we are as a nation of people. Your experience at Devil's Elbow illustrates something we need more of today, solitude. It seems that our lives are lived at such break-neck speed that we don't have time to think deeply or create moments that define life more clearly. A few years ago I took a group of teens on a trip. We were driving across the desert at sunset and stopped on the side of the road to experience the beauty of the moment. It was silent. Not even a breeze was blowing. The response of the teens was nervousness, fear, and one even screamed and said she "Had to have some noise!" She then dove back into the van and turned on her music.

    It seems that we have gotten used to all the noise that keeps us distracted from some of the more important things in life, and life has become more shallow because of it.

    I pray your trip offers you some quiet refreshment as you connect with the heartland.

    In Christ,
    Doug Cole

  3. Brian Gaither Says:

    This is a great idea! As a person who was raised near Joplin, MO and now a Pepperdine student myself, it's a great thrill to see Joplin being exposed to the rest of the world in the spirit of education.

    Best Regards,
    Brian Gaither

  4. Andy Says:

    Joplin was a great stop in all respects. I would have liked to stayed longer and to look around. This, by the way, is a hard admission for a Kansan.

    I have always enjoyed the occasional quiet moment and the story Doug relates is both interesting and sad to me. There is entirely too much "noise" in life when it is silence that speaks so clearly.