Red Oak II — a town-like collection of buildings near Carthage — was the creation of the late artist Lowell Davis. (Photo: Kaitlyn McConnell)

To read this story, sign in or register with your email address. You’ll get two more free stories, plus free newsletters written by our reporting team.

You’ve read all your free stories this month. Subscribe now and unlock unlimited access to our stories, exclusive subscriber content, additional newsletters, invitations to special events, and more.

Register Subscribe

This story is published in partnership with Ozarks Alive, a cultural preservation project led by Kaitlyn McConnell.


After spending the morning in Carthage for an interview (and time in the “car office” finishing the next Legacy Ozarker story — watch for it soon) I took advantage of this beautiful day for a quick stop at Red Oak II.

These words began as a reminder to visit this special place if you like eclectic, living art. The stop — a town-like collection of houses, public buildings, gas stations and other landmarks from former times — was originally created by Ozarks artist Lowell Davis.

Located just off Route 66, it combines the present and past in a dream-like place where roosters crow hello, art becomes life and a creaky wooden bridge keeps carrying travelers — more than 120 years of them so far, the metal sign says.

A few images from Red Oak II

The stop is now also an expression of a larger question in my mind as a strolled the crunchy gravel path: Why do certain memories stick out in our minds?

I’m sure there’s a very complex scientific reason; that even if we don’t understand it, certain things impact parts of our brains based on how we’re individually wired. But it still fascinates me as to why.

As I strolled, I said hello to a black and white dog, sprawled under a shaded patch of grass. He didn’t move other than lifting his head to silently say the calendar doesn’t matter: We’re already in the dog days of summer. And when I met his eye, I’d agree that time does move fast.

Red Oak II was a place my family often visited when I was young. So young, in fact, that I don’t recall the first visit. Perhaps a better measurement is that our stops began long before I knew I cared anything about the Ozarks.

But I do distinctly recall the grilled cheese sandwich I ate one day at Red Oak II’s then-open restaurant. And a specific instance of walking in the general store, which back in those days used to sell wares you might expect in such an establishment.

Those flashes bring me back to the question of why.

Why did my brain think that these ghost-like memory fragments were worth keeping? Why do our minds file away certain fleeting moments and not others? I don’t particularly care that I ate grilled cheese. I mean, it’s good and all, but not exactly life-changing.

But then again: As I sit near that former restaurant and reflect on sitting at a table with my parents — both a few feet and decades away — maybe it was.

Maybe instead of being like photo-ripped fragments of our past, those specific flashbacks are glitter: They take general memories, hopefully good ones, and make them even more special.

As with so many questions in life, maybe I’ll never know why certain things stick out to me. Maybe they do you, too.

But I do know I’m glad.

Kaitlyn McConnell

Kaitlyn McConnell is the founder of Ozarks Alive, a cultural preservation project through which she has documented the region’s people, places and defining features since 2015. McConnell regularly shares her stories with readers of the Springfield Daily Citizen. Contact her at: More by Kaitlyn McConnell More by Kaitlyn McConnell