Large lawnmowers seem blunt instruments for sculpting art. But here, Missouri’s Arrow Rock State Park meanders over rolling green hills mowed with dexterity, precision, grace; it is art. Our campsite is quiet, partially shaded, exquisite. When we arrive we have our choice among a dozen carefully placed spacious sites in the rustic section where no electric or sewer hookups mar the mowing lines. I choose one, step out of my truck and breathe. A small brown bunny with a white tail hops across the road.
Each site features a fire ring and a cement pad with lengthy picnic table whose ends reach past the seats so no one can sit too close to the campstove … also, a cement tire stop and a vertical post made from a six-by-six with a simple sturdy straight hook near the top. We try to guess what this is for. At first I guess it is for hanging food out of reach of bears, a purpose for which it is inadequate. But we are not in bear country. Maybe a lamp? No, my son, who we’ll call “Chance,” decides it is for hanging one end of his hammock.
Campgrounds like this are designed for sheer bliss. Of course they’re not always entirely empty.
Our neighbor four sites away is an aging couple lounging in campchairs like ours next to a tidy van. They are pleased as punch and restrain themselves little to share with me their brilliant retirement plan. “We got ourselves a National Parks Pass,” the friendly gray-haired woman tells me. “We just go state to state.”
“We gonna keep goin’ ‘til we run outta money,” the man states. “They gonna hafta pry my cold dead hands offa that steering wheel,” he adds with a toothy grin.
When I head for the shower in the morning they have already taken off. It is 7:30 a.m.
And when I get to the shower, I find out maybe why they left so soon.
The best thing about the shower at Missouri Department Natural Resources’ historic Arrow Rock Park is the light green frog tucked into a crevice between a broken window and the steel door. I think the frog is actually smiling.
As well it should be. This shower is divine.
From a frog’s perspective.
It’s the water-saving kind of shower head so no actual water comes out of it, just a fine mist delivered at one speed: Warp.
I cannot get too close to it, close enough to say, wash my oily visage, because the mist stings so hard I think it will remove my face.
The angle of the shower head is likewise fixed. It sprays water directed at the passageway anyone needing to merely use the toilets must traverse to reach her goal. Ah, I discover, I must close the curtain. The curtain is of heavy plastic, cut from one flat piece of industrial strength sheeting, already tinted dull beige. But it is not heavy enough to stop the spray from soaking anyone who might want to pass.
Fortunately no one else is in the campground at all so I feel permitted to use the single hook on the back of the toilet stall to hang my clothing, towel and toiletry bag. No other hooks were thought of.
The water is warm and after about 20 minutes standing under the spray I decide that I am clean enough.
I prop the steel door open with the heavy garbage can and say goodbye to the lovely green frog. She is grinning even more now.
An owl hoots me awake at 2 a.m., so close I cover my head. It hoots once more and leaves me wondering for an hour if it is still lurking. I remember how quiet owls are, and hope it has not discovered my welcoming bunny.