My goal in this “Last Pair Of Boots” blog post is twofold … First, to briefly cover the most recent weekend in the mountains … that being our traditional Superbowl Weekend Campout. Next, to take a photo journal walk down memory lane to a time when we were younger, could hike farther and could carry a fully loaded backpack. Times and our bodies have “matured” but the spirit still lives!

This is one of the highest elevations in North Central Arkansas … Mount Sherman near the amazing little city of Jasper, Arkansas. We hiked this areal

I may have left out a few photos I wanted to include and possibly have posted duplicates. If so, please accept my apology. Most of those who subscribe to this blog should know the places, people and time frame so I have not done any detailed captions. One photo I do wish to mention is the last one on the bottom. This is one of those rare moments when my wife, Patti, and JC’s wife, Gwen, agreed to backpack with us. JUST HAD TO INCLUDE IT.

For over forty years a group of male friends has had lunch together once a week and taken a trip together once a year. I’ve written about this unique friendship several times before and the trips we have taken to first class places like Park City, Utah; Breckenridge, Colorado and Scottsdale, Arizona. Not that Branson is less than first class … in fact we stayed in a beautiful 7 bedroom, 7 bath home overlooking Table Rock Lake. So why “did” “we choose Branson? Mainly because it’s close to Little Rock, has a lot going on and more of our guys could make the trip. Good Move … Until the Major Cold, Ice and snow event threatened to disrupt our plans. The weather. as predicted, was bad … even the owner of the house we rented recommended we reschedule. No way for this group! There was a little drama and uncertainty before, during and along the way … but, We made it and SST 2023 (number 44) is now in the record books.

Typical scene along our route to Branson

Mr. G’s Downtown Branson, Missouri

We have several good cooks and most meals were prepared in our well equipped rental home. Below is a photo sampling of food, fun and fellowship.

In spite of our penchant for the fun facet of our time together, we always find time for something a bit more culturally enriching. This trip, we visited Bass Pro founder, Johnny Morris’s Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum at Ridgedale, Mo. There are over 75,000 artifacts representing about one third of Mr. Morris’s Collection.This place is truly a “must visit” in the Branson Area. Plus, this is only a small portion of attractions under the Top of the Rock/Big Cedar umbrella. Below are a few photos. Of particular interest to me was the Edward S. Curtis Gallery. I just recently read an amazing historical biography … Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan. This book portrays the lifelong passion of one man in the early 1900’s as he captures in photographs the pictures and stories of disappearing Native American Indian Tribes. This gallery alone is worth a visit to Ozarks Natural History Museum.

Once again it was illuminating, energizing and reassuring to know there are friendships that can last a lifetime. I have seen old guys (ROMEOS … Retired old men eating out) in small town restaurants across America. We are they! However, I bet there is not another like ours that has for over four decades had the consistent commitment to keeping a friendship bond right at the top of the calendar and priority list as we have. Thank you Fellow SST members.

I love Christmas. I love Christmas lights. I love the spirit of Christmas … even a few Hallmark Holiday movies. I especially love togetherness of family and I love the true meaning of Christmasthe birth of Jesus. I love that we stop for a moment to share the spirit with friends. I love that we have a “flawed” country which I would not trade for any other. I love my city of Little Rock, I love Arkansas … our beautiful Natural State and I love our USA, a nation founded on principles of freedom, equality and love.

The above photo is our traditional Family Christmas … in our home … in front of a Santa Painting … Holy Family figure on the table in front of us.

We are truly blessed … in so many ways!

I also love Charlie Brown … mainly Charlie Brown Christmas! Those who know me at all, are most likely aware of my Charlie Brown Christmas Campout. In fact, my previous post has photos and text from this year’s campout. As in the past 10 or 12 years, we wear out Santa Hats, decorate a scraggly “a la Charlie Brown Christmas Tree” and soak in the wonders of friendship, nature and the seasonal spirit.

Each piece of art above represents something meaningful and personal … Aspen painting by a local artist, Santa by a local artist, candles a gift from a friend, Patti’s Baby Jesus and four children with our children’s names on each, and the latest addition from DJ and Joy, a perfect figure of Charlie Brown himself. Thank you to all who help keep this tradition alive. Remember the meaning, catch and keep the spirit, spend time with family, show love to your friends, reach out to someone sick or hurting … and finally, Pray for peace in Ukraine.

God Bless you … Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and “Add a little Charlie Brown Christmas to your life.”


For more than a decade, a few of my family and friends have taken to the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas in search of Charlie Brown’s Christmas spirit. The first five years, we backpacked into remote wilderness areas, set up our tents, gathered firewood donned Santa Hats, selected a small lonely cedar tree and with much pomp and ceremony, decorated it with a few items from home plus edibles for birds and animals. This has become a tradition as seen in the above December 2022 photo. The only difference from earlier years is we now go to one of the beautiful camp grounds along the Buffalo National River near Jasper, Arkansas. Incidentally, the free flowing Buffalo was the first river to be declared a “National River” by Congress.

Above is one of the beautiful limestone bluff lines at Kyle’s Landing where we set up camp.

Just in case you are wondering who would wear a jacket like the black and white one above, it is I. It’s truly perfect for camping in cold weather … down lined with a hood and it didn’t cost much at all. I found it in a discount store in Colorado and immediately declared it my camping jacket. Retail $300 … on sale $32. Enough said?? Also, how about the guy in the first photo with the Goldilocks Santa Hat?

Charlie Brown Campout 2022
The guys … Bryan, John, Daryl, CB, Renie. Showing up later … DJ and Don.

Above is a typical afternoon routine … tents erected, fire started, a little relaxation… happy hour not too far behind. Below, one can see what “roughing it” means to us … Renie preparing our main dish for the evening … pork tenderloin over an open charcoal and wood fire. WOW!! I can attest, his secret marinade made this meal as good or better than any 5 star restaurant!! BTW … Renie and his wife just returned from 9 months in France. Thus, “laissez les bon temps rouler”… “let the good times roll”

It was another unique and special weekend with friends and family. The older I get, the more I appreciate the freedoms and the blessings of living in the United States. In particular, I appreciate how so many before us have seen the value in preserving National Parks, National Monuments and State Parks, especially those here in Arkansas, The Natural State. We are truly blessed!!

Because Charlie Brown Christmas Campout has become a tradition, I am including a few photo memories from Christmases Past !!


In my previous post outlining the Bourbon trip with my sons and son in law, I mentioned that Maker’s Mark Distillery has a Ceiling of Glass crafted by world famous glass artisan, Dale Chihuly. My wife pointed out my egregious misspelling. So sorry, Mr. Dale Chihuly. In addition to correcting the spelling error, I have attached the below picture as photographed in the distillery vestibule.

Patti and I have been fans of Chihuly glass for years … can’t afford one of his works, but we can admire. We had the privilege of meeting and visiting with this fascination artist during the dedication and renaming of our Little Rock Airport to The Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport. Patti loves to recall his shoes … speckled with dots of color.

Little Rock has been host to a number of Chihuly Glass showings including the Clinton Presidential Library and the Arkansas Arts Center.

Mea Culpa again, Mr. Chihuly!!

Some of my friends might consider me a “Scotch Snob”. Well, I will admit my preferred whisky is Scotch … especially, a good 12 year plus aged Highland Single Malt. So why are we pictured in front of the James B. Beam Distilling Company? Short answer, we discussed Scotland, weighed the expense, the time away and opted for a simpler, less expensive adventure just a few hundred miles from Little Rock

Actually, James Beam was our last visit and we did not do the full tour. However, we did enjoy a wonderful lunch overlooking the James Beam “Campus”. One should note, as well, DJ and I attempted to enjoy the flavor of the Halloween Weekend. Check out my Niki de Saint Phalle tie and DJ’s stunning conversation starter sport jacket.

Quick photo from the deck of James Beam restaurant. These huge buildings hold thousands of barrels of bourbon … aging and awaiting future distribution … and consumption! We found it interesting that the buildings are painted dark … the reason, fermentation causes mold coloration on the exterior surfaces. At least, that’s what we were told. Regardless, I found the contrast appealing,

Buffalo Trace was particularly interesting because of it’s history and 200 plus years of operation. Besides, one of the most famous bourbons in the world, Pappy Van Winkle, is distilled here. Unfortunately, it was not included in our tasting session.

  • The above photo represents only a sampling of the thousands of barrels.

DJ, Mark (now Maker Mark), Dad Jim, and Jeff. Pappy Van Winkle smoking a cigar while testing his finest.

Maker’s Mark visitor center above. I love the design of this building … like a piece of modern art amidst centuries of tradition and the pastoral Kentucky landscape.

Lux Row Distillers near Bardstown might have been my favorite. It’s newer in the world of Distillers and yet captures the spirit of “Spirits” … hospitality, variety and a “new age”. Above are the bourbons we tasted with the corresponding bottles and labels behind. Below is the Lux Row visitor center.

We had two nights in Louisville at the Embassy Suites downtown. The hotel was beautiful, the staff was friendly and accommodating, especially Front Desk Manager, Jillisa and a stroll downtown was a fine example of a city preserving its history and heart.

We had one night in Bardstown and fell in love with this authentic, energetic, historic town … great food, in the center of bourbon country and a tasty walk up bakery where a friendly young man bought our pastries.

As you can see, nature’s colors were vibrant … a perfect segue to the stained glass window at Maker’s Mark.

Stained glass window in Maker’s Mark entry vestibule by famed New Jersey-based stained glass artist, Neile Cooper. This and a Dale Chuly glass ceiling offer a special artistic lagniappe on this tour.

My good buddies, Bryan and Daryl, just returned from our annual hiking trip to National Parks. This time to Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon, both located in Southern Utah.

We drove … almost 3000 miles round trip. That’s a long trip but with three drivers, it was comfortable. With the flexibility of having a car, we made side trips, detours on purpose and an overnight in Chinle, Arizona to visit Canyon de Chelly. The next day we stopped in Page, Az. to see the 710′ tall Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell where the water level is at one of the lowest since the dam opened in 1966. After a short hike to Horseshoe Bend we drove on to our base for the next four days, Kanab, Ut.

Below are a few picture of these amazing places. Of note, crowds are increasing … that’s good and bad. Just be prepared and try to go early.

Canyon de Chelly
Horseshoe Bend Page, Az.
The Narrows in Zion National Park
Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon
Sand Caves Kanab, Ut.
90 Million Year Old Dinosaur Tracks

In closing, once again, I am so blessed to have good friends and we are all so blessed to be able to enjoy and share the freedoms and beauty of our incredible country … USA.

Good food … Good Wine

It’s Fall and wild persimmons are dropping from the trees.

Yesterday, while on a short hike, I was transformed into a hunter gatherer foraging beneath a huge hardwood tree for beautiful, delicious and ripe Arkansas wild persimmons. After gathering several pounds, I headed home … whereupon, for the first time ever, I made Persimmon Walnut Bread. Thank goodness Patti was there to steer me away from serious mistakes. The above photo is the final product.

  • I’m certain there are less primitive ways to discard the seeds (four or five in each fruit) and recover the pulp … I chose rolling up my sleeves, squeezing one or more between my hands and fingers and extruding the slippery watermelon size seeds into a trash bag. I can attest this is messy, sticky work and that there will be more waste than edible pulp. Regardless, it’s been entertaining, educational and palatable … and a lot of work!
  • Maybe I will forget the work by next October. In the mean time, there’s another Persimmon nut cake in the oven. BIG SMILE! Happy Fall and Halloween!

Arkansas to Oklahoma to Texas to New Mexico to Colorado and back home.


This little city in the Ozark Mountains is a frequent destination for Patti and me … I suspect I could go so far as to say it is our favorite Arkansas escape. Labor Day is reserved each year as an outing with another couple … Nancy and Steve.

I’ve covered Eureka Springs before featuring its uniqueness … the historic 1800s building, the healing springs, the Ghost tales in the Crescent Hotel and the countless serpentine streets, hills and “steps everywhere”. In this post I wish to draw your attention to Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge … a 400 acre lifetime sanctuary for Big Cats and other abused wild animals. Founder, Tanya Smith and her family have dedicated their lives to the monumental task and financial challenge of caring for over 100 animals. Thanks to Walmart and Tyson’s Foods plus 100s of volunteers and thousands of visitors and donors, Turpentine Creek is one of the most successful and respected large animal refuges in the nation. Truly worth of a visit and possibly even an overnight stay in a cabin … complete with lion and tiger vocals. Check it out at: https://www.turpentinecreek.org

Birthday party for Lakota

Oklahoma … Roland and Shawnee

We both enjoy a few pulls of the slot machine handles so a short stop in Roland, Ok. and an overnight in Shawnee, Ok. broke the trip into shorter segments and thankfully didn’t break the travel bank. We had fun … won a little and lost a little. Patti is usually the lucky one.

Amarillo, Texas

This Interstate Highway spot on the map has become a regular for us … usually at Comfort suites where we have developed friendships with the smiling helpful staff. I even mentioned Teandra in a previous post … she’s still one of my heroes. Lots of restaurants, museums and natural attractions in the area … Napoli’s Italian downtown, Palo Duro Canyon and the Cadillac Ranch Sculpture Garden just West of town. Bring your spray paint can.

Palo Duro State Park

Las Vegas, New Mexico

I’ve written about Las Vegas, New Mexico before … especially our stop at the “Skillet Restaurant” … delicious, funky and artsy. Well this trip, we explored more and found a lot more that will keep us coming back on future trips. First of all, there are over 1000 buildings on the National Historic Register including a beautiful Catholic Church, “Our Lady of Sorrows”, The Plaza Hotel on the square, Montezuma Castle … now the United World College, the Dawn Light Sanctuary and our hotel, the Castaneda.

Hotel Castaneda … Our Hotel

I could write a book about Las Vegas, NM … it flows history. As an 1800s Railroad town it was not only a stop on a route but a destination and a settlement city. Patti and I loved our two nights at the incredible railroad hotel … Hotel Castaneda pictured above. This hotel, one of several built by Fred Harvey to serve rail travelers, opened in 1898. It was closed for many years and reopened after extensive restoration in 2019. Mr. Harvey created a hospitality industry, including the hiring and training of thousands of young women … THE HARVEY GIRLS … featured in a 1946 Judy Garland movie. There are now, even more reasons for Patti and I to pause in Las Vegas … plus, the Hotel Castaneda was a serendipitous find!

Westcliffe, Colorado

My buddy, Daryl and I discovered Westcliffe last year while on a hiking trip. I must say, this little town of 586 captured my fascination index … historic Main street, a couple of restaurants, a few retail and outdoor shops and a backdrop of the awe inspiring Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range. Nothing notable about our two days here … but then, everything notable. It was relaxing, refreshing, energizing and “spiritual” … out here in the middle of God’s natural wonders.

One other thing … Westcliffe is a Dark Sky City. I was excited to do some night sky photography but, alas, Full Moon. Oh well, Arkansas has one Dark Sky designated site … Tyler Bend on the Buffalo National River.

Sangre de Cristo Mountains Afternoon storm

Westcliffe, Colorado Main Street
Sunset behind the Sangre de Cristo mountains

Silverthorne, Colorado on the Blue River … last stop before heading home.

We’ve stayed here on the Blue River several times in past years and it seems a bit like coming home. Silverthorne, Colorado is a great destination in Central Colorado … cool crisp temperatures, 32 degrees one morning, in the mountains over 9000′, near Breckenridge and Frisco and Vail, plenty of good food, outdoor activities and shopping … of course! The only negative this year … Aspen tree color change was later. We were tempted to stick around for another week or two. I’m not complaining. It was beautiful … see for yourself.

Picnic and hike
we also celebrated Patti’s Birthday … sans traditional candle and cake
Aspen color was a little late but we did see this near Fairplay, Co. as we headed home for Little Rock

Just Married … 1965

Am I a lucky guy or what? Not only is Patti Murphy Dailey one of the sweetest, most loving and lovable people in the universe but one of the most beautiful. I thank God for these 57 years and I thank Patti for saying “YES” all those years ago.

Today, my post, will be more pictorial than commentary … more visual representation of Patti’s “movie star” beauty, “light up a room” smile and her “fun loving” authenticity.

apparently her 40th birthday
always the supportive wife
That captivating smile
Pretty Patti Playful
Naturally Beautiful
57 years of Family Blessings

In answer to the question … Am I a lucky guy? … I am both lucky and blessed. Thank you Patti and HAPPY ANNIVERSARY MY LOVE. JIM