Love and Charity in Missouri

May 4, 2013

Welcome to MissouriI spent the last three days in Missouri with my good friend, Jimmy Pierotti, who I haven’t seen in years. I was also gifted with the opportunity to meet his family, partner Karen Peebles and her two children, Elizabeth and Jack. Those three days were among the fondest of my trip. I imagine they will remain so. I rode in to Lebanon in eighty degree heat, but by the following morning a front had moved in, the sky had clouded over and the temperature had dropped forty degrees. On Friday morning we had snow. When I departed today the temperatures were in the high thirties. Although the sun refused to shine for the duration of my visit, the generosity, hospitality and love I received was brighter and warmer than the sun could deliver.

Karen, Elizabeth, Jack, Jimmy

I met Jimmy years ago while we were swimming laps at the pool in Brattleboro, Vermont. I was swimming along in my lane when this swimmer with very good technique passed me in the adjacent lane. We discovered we both had a penchant for open water swimming. It’s all history from there. We spent many hours in the open waters of Vermont and New Hampshire over the succeeding years – some of my best memories of open water swimming. So what was one of the things Jimmy and I had to do when we got together?  SWIM!

Jimmy! SwimWithJim FishEyes

I arrived on Wednesday late afternoon. Perfect timing!  Jimmy informed me that every Wednesday evening the family helps serve a free dinner at a local church for low-income people. I had the privilege of joining Jimmy and the family and being one of the servers. After the Joplin tornado in 2011 Jimmy also volunteered to provide assistance. He also is a swim coach for the local swim team, where he works with the youngest swimmers to help them get adapted to the water and learn the fundamental skills that are the building blocks for successful swimming. There was no swim team before Jimmy suggested a team be created. It started with a handful of kids and has grown into a team of dozens at all age levels. They’ve won a lot of ribbons and trophies over the years Jimmy’s been their coach.

trophies  winners

These pictures probably speak more and better words than anything I could say about how much this visit meant to me. The word GIFT keeps repeating in my head.  GIFT!

Elizabeth, Karen, Jimmy and Jack

Elizabeth, Karen, Jimmy and Jack

Karen and Jimmy – a wet and cold day at Bennett Springs State Park

Karen and Jimmy

Jack up his Sweet Gum tree

Jack in the Gum Tree

A view of Jimmy’s garden, fields and forest. Jimmy and Karen sell organic vegetables from their garden at a roadside stand, as well as through advertisements on the internet.

Jimmy's Garden

One of my favorite inventions of Jimmy’s: The Poker. Jimmy rolls this over his garden rows…

The Poker

… which enables him to easily drop onion and garlic bulbs into the holes, thereby allowing him to plant more quickly.

The Poker

Jimmy showed me to a large sink hole on his property. He told me the story of how a couple of his neighbors were having wells drilled when the drilling equipment sank into the ground as a result of hitting an underground cave. This sink hole has all the classic characteristics pointing to a high probability that a cave exists under it (read my post, Kentucky Landscape). I told Jimmy, “Let’s set some dynamite, blow the thing and rappel down into the cave!”  Maybe another day…

Sink Hole

Jimmy explains some of the geology of his land.

Forest talk


Hiding in the voluminous rows of bamboo Jimmy’s planted throughout his land.

bamboo jimmy

On Friday we went to an Amish auction. Having grown up among the Amish in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, it was odd for me to see Amish in Missouri even though I know large communities exist throughout the Midwest. More on the Amish here.

Amish Buggy

The Auctioneer, a Mennonite

The Auctioneer

Listen to this Auctioneer go at it

Recording the winning bids


Sorting produce

sorting produce

An Amish girl has a snack

Amish girl

A fly fisherman at Bennett Springs

Fly fishing

Jimmy wants a go with my camera

Jimmy pic

I could have hung out with Jimmy and the family for a week or more. Between long walks on his land, eating outrageously delicious food prepared by Karen, watching part of The Fellowship of the Ring (yes, I’m a Lord of the Rings junkie!) – which led to us playing the Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuits game – talking and hanging out with two of the most incredible children I’ve ever met (Elizabeth and Jack) and generally just soaking up lots of loving, it was very hard for me to leave Missouri. Looking at the miles I covered over the last two weeks and seeing all the miles that lay ahead of me, I had no choice but to ramble on.

A cold front that brought snow yesterday and still-lingering low temperatures with intermittent rain today, I was forced to re-route my journey through Kansas rather than Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma. The rain’s been biting at my shirt tails this entire journey. This is the latest weather I’ve confronted:

weather in Missouri

The red circle shows where I was located this morning. The red arrow shows the route I intended to take. The black arrow shows the route I took today. The rain was determined to pester me, nevertheless. It spat on me throughout the day, with wind chill temperatures on my motorcycle undoubtedly in the teens, or below. By 4 PM and less than 200 miles traveled I was forced to bail out at a small motel in Iola, Kansas. Tomorrow my destination is in or around Dodge City, Kansas, before I dip south through the western corner of Oklahoma and onward to Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Giddy-up horsey!


All content Copyrighted ©  Stephen Tavella

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