just say no

It’s official:
My parents went to Branson and were converted into one of its evil minions. After my repeated warnings to my closest family members about the Portal to Hell that is known to exist in the Branson area – and its capacity for sucking people in and turning them into grinning, hand-clapping country music robots – my parents allowed themselves to be lured there by out-of-town guests. Imagine my surprise when my nice, innocent mother called me up and said “Guess what! We’re going to Branson! We’re dropping the dog off at your house tomorrow. See ya!” I was in the middle of what turned into a 10-day variation of what I believe was the Avian Flu, and was more or less incoherent; so I barely had time to digest the words”We’re going to Branson” before she hung up. I flopped back down on the couch, where I was the next day when my parents breezed in with their neurotic dog, Crazy Daisy. Still in a virus-ridden haze, I repeatedly attempted to express my concerns about their trip, but was only able to mutter the words “Careful…danger…(cough, cough)…no Bald Knobbers – I’m begging you…” but my mother is hard of hearing and my efforts were totally wasted. The last thing I remember was her looking down on me and saying, “Oh my, you’re sick! Well, take care of that cold or whatever you have!” – and then they were gone.

Crazy Daisy must have known as well as I did that no good could come from this ill-fated trip to Hillbilly Land, because she barely came out of her kennel during the 4 days they were gone. Luckily, she also abstained from eating and drinking, for the most part. It was as if Daisy had decided to go on a hunger strike to give voice to her concerns about her owners visiting the dreaded Branson area.

4 days later, my parents returned, regaling us with stories about the shows they saw: Mickey Gilley, Ray Stevens, The Gatlin Brothers, Pam Tillis, and Roy Rogers Jr. Wow, Roy Rogers Jr. Branson may be the only place on earth where a person can make a living just by talking about their famous dead parents and singing old cowboy songs. “And one day” they gushed, “one day we saw THREE SHOWS IN ONE DAY!” Yes, it was just as I had feared. My parents went to Branson and came back somehow “changed.” Just like the characters on Invasion.

A couple of days later, Ken & I had to go down to Springfield for a soccer tournament. It was only for the day – leave at 6am and be back in Liberty by 8pm. As part of our family Doggie Exchange Program, I took my dog over to my parents’ house to spend the day.
“You know, I was thinking,” my mom said excitedly, “you’ll be really close to Branson…why don’t you two just STAY OVERNIGHT AND TAKE IN SOME SHOWS! Mickey Gilley was GREAT! Or what about Roy Rogers Jr. You’d really like that!”

She had officially slipped off the deep end.

“MOTHER!” I yelled, taking her shoulders in my hands and firmly shaking her. “Snap out of it! It’s me, your daughter, remember?”

A look of confusion passed over her face, replaced by a look of total understanding.
“Oh my” she said. “You were right. It IS an evil place, isn’t it?”

“Yes mother, Branson is a known Portal To Hell. You may have been sucked into it briefly, but you seem OK now. How do you feel?”

“Much better, thanks to you! But what about your dad? You’d better fix him, too.”

“Let’s go,” I said.

I then spent some time deprogramming my dad. He was a little harder to “fix” and I had to resort to applying battery leads directly to his brain. But I eventually got him to stop humming “The Red River Valley”, which he’d been humming incessantly for a couple of days.

My parents are no longer allowed to go any farther south than Osceola. Branson will always be a siren song to them, and to everyone else who’s ever been lured there by the promise of cheap hotel rooms and non-stop, second-rate country music acts. Just remember – if you find yourself in South Missouri, in a place inundated by billboards and bumper-to-bumper traffic, just keep driving. Go back to Osceola and buy some cheese and call it a day. You’ll thank me later.

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