People who live in Kirksville and the surrounding area know that our state park is called “Thousand Hills,” fitting because of the rural landscape. The best view of the rolling hills may not be from the park.  Recently I was invited for tea and muffins, a morning repast to share with some people I feel fortunate enough to call friends.  Our hosts were the lovely Mabel Hill and her equally lovely daughter, Trish Hill Bellington.

Mabel is the matriarch to the Hill family, which settled in the Kirksville area in the early nineteen hundreds.  She is a delightful and charming individual with many interests.  Her two children have made their own way in the world by pursuing their own interests.  I have not met Mabel’s son, Harry, but he served for twelve years in the State House of Representatives.  Trish is a watercolorist with a lovely vision of her subjects, which are often animals.  She manages to give them an almost human expression unlike any animal paintings I have ever seen.  Her landscapes, too, are pleasing to the eye and make you wish you were seeing the surroundings she paints first hand.

Mabel’s home is about a hundred years old.  Her walls are decorated with family portraits and various paintings and other objects that draw one’s eye.  There’s a warmth and completeness to her surroundings with family and extended family nearby, and animals for additional company. Gretta is her six year old German shepherd, and Freddy, an older dog, looks to have hound-like heritage.  Freddy was abandoned near Mabel’s home.  It’s clear her animals are not valued because of their pedigree, but for their companionship.  Mabel also likes birds and has a number that chirp joyfully throughout the day in a large cage in her kitchen.

Mabel lives where one can see the thousand hills that give our state park its name.  As we toured the family farm, we could see gently rolling hills in all directions.  Her family property is not so much near the state park, but representative of the terrain that lends a name to the area. One can almost feel the presence of familial spirits roaming the land to insure that their vision continues and their traditions are honored, but also kept current.

We enjoyed tea and homemade muffins, conversation with some family history thrown in, and a general ambiance of welcome.

Of course, many people in Kirksville know of Mabel and her family.  The point of this segment of my blog is that we get stuck in Kirksville and forget to drive out of town to see firsthand the beauty of rural northeast Missouri.  We find time to dash to Columbia for more shopping options, or to visit friends in St. Louis or Kansas City.  I’m trying to teach my family in St. Louis that the highway goes both directions.

It always makes me smile as I drive through the streets of town from pavement to surfaces made of bricks.  I also enjoy driving on the highway and seeing horse drawn buggies sharing the road.  All these features give our area special characteristics that have largely disappeared from much of America.

It’s worth an hour or two to just drive out on one or another country road. You might even get lost, but eventually you’ll find a highway that’s marked and will give you an indication of how to get somewhere more familiar. Last summer I was driving in southwest Missouri to visit my aunt. I took a shortcut to save time, but ended up hopelessly lost and it took me twice as long as it would have had I gone the normal route.  It was fun, however, and my eyes were opened to the landscape because I had not seen those particular roads before.  We get caught going the same way all the time.  None of us are so busy that we can’t take a detour and drive along a road that goes somewhere we’ve never been.  Take a camera.  It’s beautiful country around here.