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By Jonas Weir
Following weeks holed up in my office editing and helping put together the many publications we oversee at Missouri Life, I finally had the opportunity to get out of the office and get in touch with my first loves: writing and reporting.
After accidentally passing by Glasgow while staring at the shimmering current of the Missouri, I was first struck by how picturesque the town looked at a distance—steeples rising from hills above Victorian homes and neoclassical buildings situated on the banks of the Big Muddy. Once I was on the main strip of downtown, it seemed apparent that this place was more than quaint—a town where you imagine things are “swell” and people get their kicks with burgers and shakes. Of course, Glasgow isn't a 1950s sitcom. It’s more interesting than that. Nonetheless, I wasn't sure disorientated me more on first impressions: the intensely bright sun, of which I'd seen too little, or the fact that this was considered a work day.
My first priority was a simple pleasure and a 9 a.m. necessity: breakfast. The River Bend was the only place to stop, and I gladly obliged. It was a great place to get my bearings and chow down some biscuits and gravy, the crux upon which I judge every diner. After putting in an order, I decided to start collecting the facts. What gives Glasgow this ineffable aura that I was going to have to sum for my story? Asking a local wasn’t a bad idea, so I turned to my extremely kind waitress Lacy Fleetwood for answers. I explained my story and asked what she liked most about Glasgow.
The situation dumbfounded her. “I don't know,” she said. “You might want to talk to my boss; he’s the mayor.”
Her response dumbfounded me. What a serendipitous start to the day.
After a long chat with Mayor Fred Foley, he and his restaurant, adorned with antique photos and newspaper clippings from Glasgow, piqued my interest in the town’s history. Fred suggested I talk with Father Jerry. Apparently, he was the man who knew all things Glasgow. The mayor, however, did not have Father Jerry’s phone number or address.
“Go down to city hall,” he said. “They'll give you his address there.”
At city hall, I asked for the phone number only because a stranger showing up unexpected and uninvited seemed a bit intrusive, though the trade of journalism requires being a bit invasive, quite inquisitive, and steadfastly tenacious.
The clerk behind the desk was rightfully suspicious until I told her Fred Foley sent me.
“I wouldn't normally do this, but if the mayor says it’s okay …”
Fred warned me that Father Jerry was hard of hearing. I guess he was right because nobody answered my call that day. I would have loved to talk to him, but it hardly mattered because everyone I encountered was talkative, friendly, and informative.
Glasgow’s variety of local eateries made it easy to find people to chat with. It was hard to not eat something every place I went. By the end of the day I had some barbecue, a root beer float, a sandwich, plus the biscuits and gravy that started my day. By the time I was ready to drive home, I was all but incapacitated by what doctors would call a “food coma.” But a Mountain Dew from the Trading Post shook me from the starch intoxication, and I made it home safely, though I didn't want to eat for days. However, the taste of Chris Damron’s barbecue haunted my taste buds for weeks afterward; once I was hungry again, I thought nothing could compare to that sweet and smoky flavor.
I did more than just eat, though. Places with historic interest such as Lewis Library and plaques that mark where the Battle of Glasgow as fought were fascinating little stops on the trip. The downtown shops like the Trading Post and the Riverport Market were nice places to browse.
Overall, the journey was an enjoyable excursion from normalcy—a perfect day getaway. But when I got back, I couldn't help but feel that I would miss the target when trying to capture the essence of Glasgow. Despite being a town of only a thousand or so people, there were still things I didn’t do. I didn't get a drink at the Fish Beak, discuss the high school basketball team, or eat a steak at Beckett’s. And I never learned the full story behind the oddly placed bronze deer statue in the center of downtown. Moreover, I didn't want to cheat the welcoming residents from a story they deserve. But the day had ended, the story had to be written, and the issue had to come out.