#218, Branson, Missouri
For one reason or another, I find it hard to take fish seriously. A trout with a number carved into it is only slightly more respectable than a No Smoking shark; still, I've been challenged to say something intelligent about today's number, so I will try very hard to forget my favorite Surrealist joke (Q: How many Surrealists does it take to change a lightbulb? A: A fish) and give this fish its due.
The Big Cedar Lodge is a recreational resort ten miles south of Branson, Missouri, a town of many billboards that is the sort of metropolis that springs up when you mix Las Vegas, Red Lobster, hillbilly humor, and the bible belt together in a big American bowl, then top it off with salt water taffy and dump it in the Ozark mountains. Yum! I found myself there this past May for the wedding of some dear friends and was horrified delighted intrigued to stay in a giant lodge of knotty pine with taxidermy deer on the walls. There was also the treat of free gingerbread cookies, shaped like pine trees, delivered door to door each afternoon by a nice old dear. Recipe included, of course.
So back to the hand-carved fish: kitsch or craft? To find out, I did a bit of nosing about on Ye Olde Internette and learned that for all its potentially over-the-top wilderness and wildlife motifs, the Big Cedar Lodge is the real deal. A fellow named Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops (aha -- fish!) designed the cabins and lodges based on old Ozarks and Adirondacks designs. The logs that line the lodges (say that five times fast) come from western Montana's Bitterroot Valley, and the wood furniture that decorates the resort is largely hand-crafted by a local wood merchant. And yes, you can fish there.
No word on who's responsible for the door marker you see here, but this may be &7's first example of a wooden bas-relief. (I can't imagine who this will impress, but then again, I swoon at ampersands.) And with all the brick, tar, and stone slathered about in the city, I know to never underestimate the charm that comes from trees.