River valley drive offers festival and folk events

Monday, April 1, 2002

Submitted photo

Barbara Yallaly, center, and a group of other volunteers from the Cape American Legion Auxiliary Unit 63 lend a helping hand at the Missouri Veterans Home. Here, they prepared decorations for the dining room. From left, Frieda Howard, Vergie Templeton, Yallaly, Ginger Beauden and Gladys Lawrence. The group here has provided more than 18,000 volunteer hours at the veterans home. Yallaly has over 7,500 hours; Templeton, 5,200; Howard, 3,900; Lawrence, 1,300; and Beauden, 1,100 hours.By B. Ray Owen ~ Southeast Missourian

The Cat Ranch is a remote little corner of Bollinger County, where an artist, sculptor and author made his home.

The late Tom Runnels once explained how his 70-acre ranch came to be known as the "Cat Ranch": The name came with the property.

Seems that cougars and bobcats used to roam the land, and instead of referring to it as cat country, people called it the Cat Ranch. The name stuck.

Visitors won't have to worry about cougars and bobcats these days, but one of Runnel's old cats, "Bag Lady," is still around. They can see some of Runnel's artwork, prints and books and other writings at the site April 27-28 during the 12th annual Mississippi River Valley Scenic Drive, a 130-mile tour covering areas from Perryville to Commerce, and from the Mississippi River to Marble Hill, including the Cat Ranch and Massey Log Cabin, both in the Marble Hill area.

The Cat Ranch property is still privately owned, but it is open for the annual drive.

The Cat Ranch Art Guild, which was founded in memory of Runnels, sponsors the annual two-day event at the ranch. Area artists display arts and crafts, with art demonstrations on painting, weaving and portraits both days -- 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.

The Massey Log House will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days.

The authentic log house, built circa 1869, was moved to its current site in 1984.

A one-room schoolhouse is also on the grounds, said Rose Ann Thiele, vice president of the Bollinger County Historical Society.

The two-day drive will take motorists through a number of historic and scenic sites in the Southeast Missouri area.

Start tour anywhere

Visitors can enter the tour anywhere along the route. Tour maps will be available at various sites along the drive. Tour brochures are now available at the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau in downtown Cape Girardeau.

Along the way, motorists can see: the Saxon Hills; the site of an 1839 German settlement near Altenburg and Frohna; the Trail of Tears State Park and Museum; the Bollinger Mill, a working mill on the banks of the Whitewater River; and the Black Forest, as well as other points of interest, including Tower Rock, located in the Mississippi River, near Wittenberg.

Tower Rock is included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Another event will be the train robbery, along the St. Louis Iron Mountain & Southern Railway route. Train trips will depart from Jackson at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday and at 1 p.m. Sunday.

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