From a solitary grey cloud floating leisurely across the blue sky fell a single drop of rain. To the casual observer, that lone drop of moisture was inconsequential but, in the overall scheme of things, that moisture was so important. That single drop was the beginning of a phenomenon that would grow into something much greater.
That particular drop of moisture fell from a darkened cloud hovering in the sky above an area of land called the Ozarks. The wet droplet fell near the Arkansas and Missouri border and landed in a small flowing patch of water known as Big Sugar Creek. The creek garnered its name because of several sugar maple trees that once grew alongside the water.
There the single droplet joined with others like it and began a journey. The bit of water flowed down Sugar Creek Valley and made its way past Jacket. There, where Henry and Elizabeth Schell once operated a sawmill and gristmill, water from Otter Creek began to flow into Big Sugar, and the great excursion continued.
The water in Big Sugar Creek passed near the town of Powell and flowed slowly under the old and historically significant Powell Bridge. Other small towns rested along the banks of the creek as the water passed near the Antioch Church of Christ in Jacket. The water flowed near the Mountain Bible Church in Mountain, and it passed the one-room Laughlin Chapel in Roller.
Cyclone also rested near the banks of the stream. The town was named after a cyclone that devastated the area long ago. Legend has it that the tragedy took the life of an Indian baby who was then wrapped in deerskin and mummified. The baby now rests in the Smithsonian Institution. The creek's water leisurely flowed through the two-thousand-acre Big Sugar Creek State Park.
While the single droplet of moisture was making its way through McDonald County, something else was taking place. Big Sugar Creek's close relative, Little Sugar Creek, was winding its way from Arkansas to Pineville.
Little Sugar Creek could trace its beginning to a spot near Garfield, Arkansas. The water flowed through Bella Vista, Arkansas, and found its way into Missouri near Caverna. Caverna was so named because of its proximity to nearby caves. The creek then flowed alongside the place where the old Havenhurst Mill stood and over the dam.
A union of the two bodies of water was forthcoming, and the confluence of the two creeks near the town of Pineville gave birth to something larger than either of the two creeks, Elk River.
The drop of liquid passed under the old trestle bridge. Years ago, local stone masons fashioned supports for the bridge from locally quarried stone. The structure has certainly withstood the test of time. Only a short distance from the bridge, the water flowed under the low-water bridge, although occasionally and after heavy rains, some of the water also passed above the narrow bridge.
The water passed below Ginger Blue, where at one time, hungry patrons watched the water slowly pass by while waiting for their meals to be served at the Ginger Blue Resort. Not far downstream from there, the drop of water flowed past Mt. Shira Beach and then passed the place where the big rock stood above the surface of the river.
Water in the river passed campgrounds and places where those interested in float trips on the waters of the river could rent canoes and rafts. The drop of water continued to move effortlessly with others like it.
The water came alongside Noel and made a turn to the north. Then, and for a short distance, as it flowed between the two bridges, it passed alongside the steep bluffs. The water flowed next to the paved road that was once known as the "prize drive" because of its scenic beauty.
At one time, the water between the two bridges was a favorite tourist spot where many danced to the music played at the Shadow Lake night spot. Vacationers could swim in Shadow Lake or swing from a rope and drop into the warm water. Folks could rent a speed boat or watch the aquatic-themed show as showmen on skis made their way up and over the water ski ramp.
Those interested in landing the big one found the river a good place to try their luck. Many a largemouth bass had been pulled from the waters of Elk River by those fishing from its banks.
As the river's waters left Noel, they slowly fell over the dam before continuing their journey to a place not yet known, a place not in Missouri. The drop of water's trip was still far from over.
Water in the river came to Cowskin and the gravel beach, where those who had floated on Elk River watched as their canoes were taken from the water. They would later be used by others making the journey from Noel to Cowskin.
On its way to who knew where, the drop of rain passed farmhouses, old barns with red roofs and fields of grass. There were small towns like Powell, Pineville and Noel, where people lived out their lives paying little notice to the birthplace of the many drops of water or their destination.
Finally, the single drop of water's journey came to an end. The water from Elk River, and with little notice, flowed into Oklahoma's Grand Lake. The water that had once been a part of Big Sugar Creek, Little Sugar Creek and Elk River became part of something much grander.
There came a day, and after the longest of journeys, when the drop of water was no more. The miracle of evaporation had taken the soul of that drop and carried it away and up into the sky. But the small bit of moisture was not gone forever. The very essence, the soul, of that drop would one day gather with other drops and once more fall to the earth to embark on a great and wondrous journey once again.
-- Stan Fine is a retired police officer and Verizon Security Department investigator who, after retiring in 2006, moved from Tampa, Fla., to Noel. Stan's connection to Noel can be traced back to his grandparents, who lived most of their lives there. Stan began writing after the passing of his wife Robin in 2013. The opinions expressed are those of the author.