Posts Tagged ‘roller coaster’

My First Hand Encounter with a Predator

Adrenaline is such a rush.  In retrospective, a dramatic encounter last Thursday could have sent me to the hospital!  Let me fill you in and set up the story.

Do you take risks?  I’m pretty much a planner, so I don’t consider myself a risk taker.

With that being said, I’ve ridden on two roller coasters over the past few years including a wooden structure one in Arnolds Park, Iowa, that probably was more of risk than this larger one in Branson, Missouri, last summer.

Roller Coaster

“Wildire” is 120 feet high, covers more than 3,000 feet of track, features five upside down turns and loops, and reaches a top speed of 66 miles-per-hour.

But, as I share the story of what happened last week, it has nothing to do with roller coasters and there was nothing fun about it.

As you know, Ray and I love to work out in the yard and three years ago, we built a fish pond next to the patio in the backyard.

With the fish, the fountain, and the solar lamps changing colors at night, it’s very relaxing.


For a year-and-a-half, we had no problems with predators from the ravine.  However, on Thanksgiving 2013, tragedy struck when I discovered that nine-and-a-half of our eleven fish were missing!  It was the one-half of a missing fish that alerted me there was a problem!

There was only one survivor.

Lone Survivor From June 2013

It saddened and made me angry.  I blamed the massacre on raccoons and I hated them, even though it could have been owls, hawks, or other predators.

So, we beefed up our security by putting fence over the pond and replenished the fish.

We now have 18 counting our two new large additions that I named “Snowflake” and “Pumpkin Pie” given to us by our friends Thomas and Mike.

Snowflake Pumpkie Pie

I even started training them to come to the sound of my voice and “Pumpkin Pie”, the orange-spotted black one, will even take food from my hand!

It’s been almost two years since the massacre and we’ve had no trouble with creatures wanting our fish — until Wednesday.

I got home from work around 10 a.m. and was changing clothes and looked down at the pond from the bedroom window.  I saw a dark-colored “squirrel” walking along the foundation of the fish pond.  I didn’t think too much about it since I’ve seen chipmunks and squirrels walking around the pond and birds sitting on the fence.

I knocked on the window to scare it away, but it didn’t budge.  I went out on the patio and it scurried away and I thought, “that wasn’t a squirrel”.  Moments later, it came back across the yard and I scared it into our neighbor’s yard.

At that point, I realized it looked more like a ferret.  However, a quick Google search confirmed to me that it was a mink — just not this one!


Convinced it was gone, I was sitting at the computer by the open window looking at images and reading about minks.  All of a sudden, I heard a splash and I frantically ran down the stairs to the basement, stormed out onto the patio, and jumped across the fish pond!

I dropped to my knees on the foundation of the pond and the decorative rocks.  I didn’t care that I scraped my knee.  Without thinking, I plunged my hands underneath the dark water and I couldn’t see what I was grabbing for, but I saw a reflection of orange in the sunlight.

I grabbed the mink out of the water and flung it into the air.  It landed with a thud and ran away.  At that moment, I was afraid of what I’d find.

I know that if it had grabbed a fish, it likely would’ve been one of the two larger fish and since I had seen orange in the sunlight, I feared for “Pumpkin Pie”.

I didn’t know if she was dead or injured?  If alive, I didn’t know if it grabbed her face, her tail, or ripped open her body.

I grabbed food and fed them to get them to come to the surface.  They all came, including “Pumpkin Pie” and then I saw the injury.  It had grabbed her right above the tail and there was a flesh wound where it attacked her.

Pumpkin Pie Injury

Luckily, it wasn’t a complete gash, just a bite.

“Pumpkin Pie” is now timid and shy after Thursday’s attack, but she’ll reluctantly come up to eat.  I don’t know what will happen to her wound, but I’m hoping she’ll just have a scar and that it’ll heal without an infection.

I’m optimistic because we use a product in the pond that boasts healing ingredients for wounds.

Pond Care

I know if I had not seen the mink when I first did and scared it away, it would have jumped in the pond right then and there would have been another massacre.  Or, what if the air conditioning was on and the windows were closed?  I would have never heard the splash.

In retrospective, I had the instinct of a parent protecting its young.  I know it’s just a pond fish, but it’s mine and I’ve bonded with the fish.

Now that I now that minks are found in all of Illinois’ counties, that they attack animals larger than them, and how scary they look, I now realize that it could have attack me when I grabbed it!  Look at this thing. (Again, not the one from our pond!)

Mink Mouth

Had I know then what I know now, how would I have reacted?  I hope the same way.  It totally freaks me out now to know what a mink’s mouth looks like!  In retrospective, I’m thinking that it may not have been a raccoon the last time.  Who knows?

On a lighter note, the fortified vault building at Fort Knox in Kentucky is protecting about $337 billion worth of gold.

While our eighteen multi-colored goldfish, including newly acquired “Snowflake” and “Pumpkin Pie”, may not be worth much in monetary value, we’ve fortified the fish pond to protect the babies after last week’s attack.

Fort Fish Pond

I know that a mink is a predator and that’s what it does and I don’t condone hunting just to have an animal head on the wall, if I see that mink back again, I’ll be wearing a pair of new mink gloves this winter.

Sorry, PETA!


One (Culinary) Reason To Visit Branson

A couple of weeks ago, we took a little road trip seven hours away from the Quad Cities to spend a few days in Branson, Missouri, in the Ozarks.

This time, it wasn’t just the two of us.  We took Gretel and her best friend, Zoe, along with us.  Let’s just say it was an interesting time hanging out with two thirteen-year-old girls!

While definitely a tourist trap, it was beautiful with all the trees.  We took advantage of nature and the nice weather and took the girls hiking in the Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area for a few hours.


On Friday evening, we enjoyed a dinner cruise on the Showboat Branson Belle. 

The show, featuring a comedian/magician, music, and aerial stunts with complete with fiddle playing, was fantastic. 

The only down side was that between the show and dinner, we didn’t get to enjoy the deck during much of the cruise.  It may have been that we went on the 8 p.m. cruise and it was dark, so the show may have been longer since you couldn’t see as much outdoors as you could during the day?

On Saturday, we visited the Silver Dollar City theme park and I took my first real roller coaster ride with Zoe on the “Wildfire”!

Anthony Roller Coaster

At 120 feet high and a top speed of 66 miles-per-hour, the “Wildfire” is the tallest and second fastest ride at Silver Dollar City.  It covers more than three thousand feet of track and features five upside down turns and loops!

Roller Coaster

The thrilling ride only lasted what seemed like a minute or so, but seeing the Ozarks from that vantage point and knowing that I could die at any moment made the ride more exhilarating and incredible.

I wanted to do it again with Ray, but we decided against having both adults on the thrilling, life-defying ride.  So, he rode it with Zoe, who was more than willing to take another spin on it!

That evening, we bought snacks at a fun grocery store, Price Chopper, and sat by the pool, drank wine, and played Marco Polo with some other hotel visitors from Oklahoma and Chicago.

Now, on to one of my favorite topics — food.

On the drive down on the first night, we stopped outside of Branson in Ozark, Missouri, and had a southern meal at Lambert’s  Cafe, “Home of the Throwed Roll”.  Yes, grammatically incorrect, but it’s a slogan known across the South and Midwest!

Lambert's Food

The food was amazing and, luckily, no one in our party dropped any of the tossed rolls that came our way!

However, the highlight of the trip for me is something that I’d highly recommend for anyone visiting Branson.

On Sunday, as we were leaving town, we stopped at The Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks for Sunday brunch at the Dobyns Dining Room.

Keeter Center 1

From the moment we walked into the rustic building and were escorted to our seats right past the most beautiful display of homemade desserts, I knew I was in heaven.  If you know anything about me, you know how much I love desserts and I would forsake the food pyramid for sweets.

Needless to say, my first plate of food was dessert.

Dessert 1

Now, since we were with two impressionable teenagers, I wanted to set a good example.  So, I sampled only a bite or two of the dessert plate before moving on to my first plate of real food — fruit, cheese, and two different salads.

I then tried a few breakfast items and a couple of lunch options.

Entree Plate 2

Our server, Stephenson, a student from Haiti, was very attentive.  The culinary staff’s presentation of made-to-order waffles and omelets, numerous breakfast and lunch items, including carved meats, and a made-to-order pasta station was very elegant.  I skipped the pasta station, but Gretel says it was delicious.

After trying all that I wanted, my third plate of food focused mainly on my favorite part of the brunch (desserts withstanding).

Summer Salad

It was a refreshing and stunning summer salad with spinach, almonds, peaches, watermelon, cantaloupe, blueberries, feta cheese, and a honey-citrus dressing, if my memory serves me right.

After finishing my third helping of the summer salad, I moved on to finish my first of two dessert plates and then I sampled Ray, Gretel, and Zoe’s desserts, too.

While every dessert that I sampled was superb, my favorites were the orange-flavored baklava, caramel peanut clusters, white chocolate peanut clusters, lime cheesecake, and the pralines.

Dessert Plate 2

College of the Ozarks, just outside of Branson in Point Lookout, Missouri, provides a  “Christian education to those who are found worthy, but who are without sufficient means to obtain such training.  Instead of paying tuition, all full-time students work campus jobs to defray the cost of education”.

Maybe it is because of these principles that everyone was so warm and inviting from the moment we walked in to when we left.  They worked effortlessly to make sure our dining experience was superior.  And, it was.

Culinary Staff

I don’t recall what we were reading online when we found this place when researching Branson, but I’m glad we did.

Would I ever go back to Branson?  Probably not — unless I was going just for the brunch at The Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks!

By the way, Ray wants me to point out something.  Those are Gretel’s blue fingernails in the first picture.  Much to his chagrin, people on Facebook thought they were his when he initially posted the picture. 🙂