Branson, Part II

The accents in Branson are absolutely fascinating. I just can’t figure them out. They’re not Southern, nor are they Western. They’re certainly not Midwestern. They sound almost like a Texan trying to simultaneously imitate a Michigander college professor and some guy from West Virginia who owns his own still, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. Branson’s strange place as a melting pot of sorts even shows in its citizens’ voices.

It shows in the license plates, too. Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, the Dakotas, and Kentucky are all well represented, but so are Arkansas, Oklahoma, and even Texas. In fact, this is probably one of the few places outside of an oil producers’ conference where a Texan and North Dakotan would be in the same city, much less the same parking lot. They come here because Branson somehow at the same time appeals to Midwesterners, Texklahomans, and Deep South folk by offering a little bit of each culture, mixed with a healthy dose of quasi-jingoistic patriotism and a smattering of cheap buffets. From what I can surmise, the people down here have the aw-shucks humility of Midwesterners, the genteelness (and odd affinity for the Confederate flag) of Southerners, and the grandiose ambitions of Texans.

That streak of Texan bravura is what made me excited for today’s lunch destination: Texas Land and Cattle Steakhouse, or, as I call it, Texas Land. It’s a new restaurant on the Branson Landing, and its total commitment to the concept of Texasticity – giant sign that looks like it was printed on leather, host who says “y’all” without an ironic grin, the stale smell of day-old tortilla chips and frozen margaritas – had me stoked. After all, I’m a native Texan, and this was supposed to be my return to the Fatherland. Here, I convinced myself, the Texan diaspora of the Midwest would unite at last. Here, I would find my home away from home.

Nope, although I will admit it was my fault for setting my expectations too high. Instead of a full-blown Texaspalooza, lunch was just a pretty good burger and some sweet tea (the only really Texasy thing on display).

After we finished our lunch, we left for our performance at the Branson Landing. A sizeable crowd was out to watch us, and things went as well as could be expected, considering the demographic. Branson, as I surmised from Wikipedia before leaving, is a place where the denture and walking-cane industries thrive by the banks of a veritable river of Social Security checks.

The drum majors and a few select bandies, well aware of this (one would think), nonetheless attempted to lead the crowd in a rousing rendition of “Cupid Shuffle.” It ended about as you’d guess it would, with a few retirees vaguely swaying, the rest utterly unmoved by the drum majors’ Sisyphean attempt to teach them a dance that involved both unaided locomotion and kicking.

That was pretty much the only hiccup, though. The show itself went off without a hitch, and Andrew Brandt and I successfully Band Crew Captained the first of two trailer loadings/unloadings, even after a tiring past twenty-four hours of ziplining (highly recommended) and sleep deprivation (not recommended).

Tonight, we’re going to see The Haygoods, who bill themselves as Branson’s Most Popular Show. I’m going to reserve judgment until after the performance (and from how PK has talked it up, it seems like they’re going to be great musicians, if nothing else). However, I have no idea who the Haygoods are, and I’m too tired to do the basic research that could answer my question. My best guess is that they’re sort of a family band/comedy act, but I could easily be wrong. Will pyrotechnics be involved? Is professional wrestling an integral part of the Haygoods experience, or only a peripheral one, or maybe not even involved at all? What are the chances that the whole show will just be a two-hour-long salute to famed microtonal composer Harry Patch? Will a blood-soaked ALF burst out of a Haygood’s chest during the show’s climax? At this point in my tiredness, anything seems possible.

All I really want right now is sleep, but that seems out-of-reach at the moment, so I guess I’ll settle for a good show, preferably one with a nice Branson accent or two.