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October 24, 2019

Jonathan Visits Kookyville, KS, population 1

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I would hate for anyone to think, from reading this story, that Jonathan Malcolm, nor I, are alcoholics. Yes, we imbibe, but "alcoholic" is a strong word.

A week ago Tuesday started out simply enough...we woke up early and hit the road north to Marceline, MO to tour the Walsworth Publishing plant, then lunch at Tall Paul's in Bucklin, MO with Meghan Viers Jolliffe, Joe Cupp, and Beverly Cupp. From there, Jonathan and I would wander rural Missouri so he could get a glimpse of life out here.

This wasn't exactly an official "Kooky's Road Trip," but I had my shirt on, just in case.

Before I go too far, for those who don't know Jonathan, he's a friend of mine who is originally from New Zealand, but now lives in Zurich, Switzerland. We met in London in 2005 at a conference I spoke at, and we've been buddies ever since. He spent the week with me in Kookyville, KS, population 1. I let him have the camper...I slept on an air mattress on the "front lawn."

I had given Jonathan a false impression of America, by serving him strong, European espresso every morning since he got here. So when we stopped at QuikTrip for gas and java, he was underwhelmed. "Undrinkable" is how he described it, I think.

The Walsworth plant tour was amazing and lunch was fantastic.

So off we went, heading north out of Bucklin.

First stop was New Boston, MO where we walked around and grabbed a few shots. Jonathan was shooting my Canon 7D with 24-70 2.8 lens. I was shooting a Nikon FM2n and a Pentax Super Program, both with Kodak T-Max 400 film.

Back in the truck we wandered. That's not hyperbole. I remember at one point seeing a sign letting me know that Kirksville was 30 miles east. For those of you who don't know Missouri geography, we were a long way from Kookyville, KS, population 1.

We went from pavement to gravel, to bad pavement, to bad gravel, back to pavement. When we landed on what looked like some decent blacktop, I turned left...that's west, right?

We wound and turned and dipped and curved until I passed a sign that made me stop, turn into a field, back up and head back to the next gravel road turning north.

"What's up," Jonathan asked.

"You'll see," I replied.

Quietly we drove back the 100 meters to the road and I could tell Jonathan was really anticipating something big...much bigger than it really was.

"There!" I exclaimed, and pointed to a poorly designed white sign, with black letters, advertising "Winery" ... and underneath it was a full-color banner with "PIZZA."

We HAD to go.

The sign made it clear that it was only open Thurs, Fri, and Sat, but we could at least have a look and, if we were lucky, they would let us in.

Missouri wine can't be much worse than Swiss wine, right?

We drove the 2.2 miles up the gravel road to the "Winery." We could tell we were getting close as there were grapes. Not lots of grapes. Not enough to say this is a winery, compared to what I see in other places, but the sign out front affirmed it, so we pulled in.

Have you ever seen one of those farms where they park old tractors in a field and leave it...for years...and it just becomes part of the land. And maybe they do the same for a couple of trucks and a bathtub? I'm not saying that exactly describes this place, but it exactly describes this place. Little effort was put into the "curb appeal."

We pulled in and slowly drove down the road between the house and the barn. A dog came out to great us by standing in our way. I stopped. It slowly came to the driver's side so I could pull forward some more.

As I approached the far end of the house, we could see people inside, so we waved. They waved.

As one of them came outside, I rolled down Jonathan's window and greeted the man.

"I saw your sign and we wanted to come check it out," I said. "I noticed you're only open Thursday through Saturday."

"It's close enough to Thursday for me," he replied. "Come on down."

He headed down the road toward the grapes, windmill, and the tasting room, where I've heard you can also get pizza.

I parked the truck, grabbed my camera, and Jonathan and I followed the man into the building down the hill.

He put two glasses on the counter and uncorked a bottle and poured. We drank.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I'm probably as bad at reviewing wines as I am movies. I have seen very few movies I didn't like and I rarely have a bad glass of wine. I'm also bad at reviewing music, as I actually listen to Tiny Tim, Slim Whitman, Yma Sumac, and Neil Diamond...and almost anything else out there.

As we drank, I think I heard Jonathan raise an eyebrow.

"It's sweet," I said, "like a Moscato."

The vintner, Ethan, nodded and pulled another bottle from the cooler.

My review: It was white, sweet, made from grapes, and very rural.

Ethan said the wine was made from grapes grown right outside. By the size of the vineyard, I'm guessing we pretty much drank the yield sitting there.

The next wine was an apple wine. He was going to let us try two different ones, both made from local apples. The first one I forgot which apple it was and the second was a granny something something.

I liked them both. I think Jonathan did the quick "toss it over your shoulder when he's not looking and let the dog lick it up" trick.

"I also have pear wine," Ethan said.

"Now you're talking," I exclaimed, anxious to try pear wine.

Ethan explained that one of them he likes and the other he hates. He wasn't going to tell us which, he would let us figure it out. With a little prying, we were able to get it out of him that the pear wine he hates has nothing to do with the quality of the product, but is solely because while picking the pears, he fell off the ladder and broke his back in three places.

I had to admit to Ethan that I preferred the one he broke his back for. Unfortunately, he made that wine before he got his license, so I couldn't buy a bottle.

Jonathan, Ethan, and I had a great time shooting the breeze, laughing, and learning a lot bout the wine business before it was time to hit the road again. On the way out I bought a bottle of the wine made from his vineyard.

"That was nice of you," Jonathan said, as we headed for the truck.

We hit the road aiming for Hamilton, MO...birthplace (or something) of JC Penney and the location of Levi Garrison Brewing Company.

"I hear it's terrible," I told Jonathan as we rode along. "Remember Mark Eimer from the party on Sunday? He told me not to go there."

"It's beer, right?" Jonathan asked. "How bad can it be?"

So we had a goal, a quest, a target, a beacon upon which to focus as we drove...and we later discovered, that Mark wasn't far off.

It is a comfy little place in an old building just off the main strip. The bartender was friendly and welcoming and asked what we would want to try.

I tasted a few brews, served in shot glasses, before settling in on one. Jonathan, on the other hand, had to keep trying different ones. Finally, after a lot of hmmmming, he chose one and we were off, chatting with the locals and drinking the local beer.

Later, in the truck on the way back home, Jonathan confessed that he kept trying different ones hoping he would find one he liked. He settled.

Hamilton is just over an hour north of Kansas City, and I pointed out various points of interest as we drove along, like Kearney, MO, birthplace of Jesse James, and how the shopping center on the southwest corner of I-35 and Choteau Trafficway was once an amusement parked named Winwood Lake. It was there when I was a kid living up the street and I remember going down the huge wooden slide, scaring the crap out of me. I also pointed up the street to where our buddy Brent Niemuth lived and where we went to school together (I believe there is a commemorative plaque on the building).

Back at home in Kookyville, KS, population 1, Jonathan and I opened a nice bottle of wine, turn some great tunes on the Sonos and sat on the "front lawn" to relax the road away. I estimate we drove more than 400 miles that day. And we have the pictures and liver damge to prove it.

I should also note that Jonathan had never had Fireball before coming here. A shot before bed became tradition.

I don't measure the quality of beer, wine, food, or live music solely by the product. I also take into account service, atmosphere, uniqueness, and company. Hanging out with an old friend for the day and experiencing things I may never try again was priceless.

I give a week ago Tuesday five out of five stars. Absolutely.

And I've got a special bottle of wine here to share with the first reader of this story to visit Kookyville, KS, population 1.


Russell Viers

I'm just a guy who finds the world an interesting place and likes to capture certain moments with a camera. They aren't for sale, or anything. I just like them. Well, usually. I've taken a lot of photos I don't like, as well.

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