Dusk To Dawn
Early this summer, we explored Columbia and its immediate environs during the half of the 24/7 cycle when most of us sleep. From an outdoor slumber party in southwest Columbia to the first light of day at the Foremost Dairy Research Center west of town, we met up with a few of our Columbia neighbors going about their “days” from dusk to dawn. Come along for a glimpse of the other half of what makes CoMo a great place to live, work and have fun.
What says summer sleepover better than a campfire, s’mores and glow sticks? These parents (who asked to keep a low profile for their kids’ sake) invited friends and family over for an impromptu slumber party in their yard that abuts the woods. Still on the young side for an overnight, most guests went home before midnight chimed, but the dad and his three children camped out overnight for a memorable adventure just steps from their front door.
“I have such great memories of sleepovers,” mom Megan says. “It’s always time out of the ordinary, when you can stay up extra late, eat those extra treats, play games and talk deep into the night.” A movie and popcorn complete the fun until eyelids flutter and heads begin to nod.
The Twin Oaks Sports Center gets a workout as the home of the BC Baseball League, a competitive league, fielding 51 teams — age 8 and younger through 14 and younger. About 500 competitors and 150 to 200 coaches come from as far away as Sedalia and Montgomery City. Each team will play as many as 70 ballgames during the April through June season. Double-headers most Monday through Thursday nights and weekend tournaments are the norm. The league’s executive director, Steve Reller, has played and coached baseball and watched two sons grow up to play college ball and coach, but he never tires of the magic of night games.
“Every kid thinks they’re a major league player when they walk out on a field under the lights. It’s always something special, whatever age you are,” Reller says.
Shauna Marquardt tracks bats. A biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Missouri Ecological Services Field Office, Marquardt uses mist nets and ultrasonic bat detectors to find and study these winged mammals during the summer survey season.
Some nights, “you might only catch one or two, and the bat detectors are very quiet. At other times, the detector is chattering constantly,” she says. The information on location, colony sizes, reproductive condition and disease helps federal and state conservation agencies protect colonies — with the goal of being able to get species off the endangered list.
“There is something exciting and mysterious about working in the dark. The nighttime is peaceful, yet fully alive with sights and sounds not experienced during daylight hours. Bats and bat biologists get a very different perspective of nature compared to other animals who are awake and active when the sun is up,” Marquardt says.
Late Night Lyft
David McDonald’s “Eureka!” moment came in Scottsdale, Ariz., as he boarded a free downtown shuttle a year ago last April: “Why not Columbia?” he thought. Four months later, he’d launched Mac Daddy Lyfts, four “stretch” golf carts that tool around downtown on weekends.
While mostly catering to college students, McDonald says, “I keep thinking, how can we get people to understand there are so many great things downtown? How can we help them get around without having to worry about driving, parking and walking everywhere? Now we can say, call a cart. We’ll get you from one end to the other in three or four minutes.”
The service is complimentary, although tipping is expected. But if McDonald or his drivers see someone walking alone at night, they’ll call out, “Hey, climb on board” even if they can’t tip.
“The more goodwill that’s there, the more that will come back to us,” he says. “Long term, if we do this the right way, more and more people will want to ride, and we’ll succeed.”
Store manager by day, ghost hunter by night, John D. Jones prefers the title, “paranormal investigator.” With co-investigator (and fiancée) Karen Tuggle and research partner Sara Esse, Jones has completed 100 investigations since launching CoMo Paradigm about three years ago. Intrigued by unexplained phenomena since childhood, his curiosity piqued into an avocation 13 years ago when he moved into a Columbia home that seemed, well, haunted.
“I feel skittish sometimes about telling people what I do,” Jones says. “You always run the risk of people thinking you’re not for real or you’re crazy.” But he adds, he’s experienced enough to put him squarely in the not-so-skeptical believer camp. People find him on Facebook or by word of month. Every investigation starts with a protection prayer and a detailed three-page questionnaire he goes over with clients.
“I try to tell people, we’re here to try to get you some answers — or at least to confirm that you’re not crazy.”
It’s another Friday night for Columbia Police Officer Clint Sinclair who, along with Officer Mark Hoehne, makes up the DWI Unit on weekend patrol.
“I can make anywhere from five to 15 stops a night, depending on traffic flow, special events and when students are in town,” says Sinclair, who estimates he’s investigated and arrested about 100 alcohol- and/or drug-impaired drivers in his six years with the Columbia Police Department.
“Having worked fatality crashes, I know the loss and damage that can result from drinking and driving, yet the lack of education is frustrating,” he says. “Many people will only have a ‘couple’ of drinks and don’t comprehend how it impairs their ability to drive.” Sometimes he meets drivers who thank him for arresting them; they no longer drive after drinking. “Ultimately,” Sinclair says, “we want to deter impaired driving to improve the safety of everyone on the road.”
Be Safe: 100 is the number of estimated investigations and arrests involving drugs or alcohol Officer Clint Sinclair has made in six years with the Columbia Police Department. Driving impaired is never a good idea. For a full list of safe sides home in Columbia, click here
You know the type, that sassy waitress with a heart of gold? Meet Esther McCune. She’s waitressed on and off for 15 years — the last five at the Broadway Diner — putting herself through school. She works 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays — as well as Friday and Saturday mornings, cooking and scheduling, too. It beats 12-hour overnight shifts driving a cab, she says. Her regulars — restaurant workers and bartenders on their way home — like that she knows their favorites. Students pulling all-nighters appreciate the bottomless cup and good cheer. The drunks? “They kind of entertain me,” she says. And they apparently appreciate her. One came in one night when she was off and was inconsolable until they called McCune to talk with him over the phone.
She plans to become a middle-school art teacher. “I figure if I can manage a classroom of 30 12-year-olds, I can handle any drunk,” she says. “I suppose the opposite might be true, too.”
Highway driving might be one never-ending pileup without Missouri Department of Transportation night crew leader Steve Galen and his team of three. From 8 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays, they “slow roll” mainly along Interstate 70 and U.S. 63 in Boone County, fixing potholes, flushing bridges and tending to lesser repairs, making sure the roads are ready for the daytime traffic ahead. A TMA (Truck Mounted Attenuator) truck with its big flashing arrow guards their rear.
“It takes a while, but after about two weeks, you get used to it,” says Galen about working nights. “You see less and are more focused on what’s right in front of you.” Or what’s above.
He remembers getting out of the truck one night north of the city and looking up at the sky. “I was amazed at the massive number of stars. I haven’t seen anything like that since I was kid down at the Lake of the Ozarks. It was something to see.”
Care & Feeding
Some years ago, Ron Rottinghaus stumbled across a book by LaBrea Bakery founder Nancy Silverton while browsing the shelves of the old Acorn Books.]
“That book got me into earnestly baking,” says Rottinghaus, Uprise Bakery’s owner and head baker. “… that you didn’t just have to make one kind of bread from sourdough … that all your bread can be made from natural leavening.” This was a revelation to Rottinghaus whose first baking experience involved making pizza dough at “Shakes” (Shakespeare’s Pizza) and tasty but more commercial quality bread at a bakery in Telluride, Colo., where he landed for a few years before returning to Columbia and eventually helping to co-found Ragtag Cinema.
The process that explains the rich tastes and textures of Uprise breads is also “the ball and chain about natural leavening,” Rottinghaus says. “You have to take care of your culture because it’s alive,” requiring a team to provide round-the-clock monitoring, care and feeding.
Ronald Mitchell — the lone street sweeper on the downtown 3:30 a.m. to noon shift, Monday through Friday — is a self-described neatnik. For the last eight years, this lifelong Columbian has cleaned downtown streets after the rowdies head home. “I like seeing the way it makes things look after I’m through,” he says.
From high up in the cab of the towering Pelican, Mitchell patrols a realm of litter and leaves. Responsible for streets roughly bounded by Boone Hospital Center, College Avenue, and Ash and Garth streets, he says the downtown bar scene always demands extra attention. Mitchell expertly nudges the swirling gutter broom against the curb, pulling debris onto a conveyer belt that empties into a front hopper — as many as three 2- to 3-ton loads some nights. Mitchell climbs down from the cab often, meticulously sweeping up any glass shards and cigarette butts left behind.
“I am very particular,” he says. “I like everything in order, everything done neatly, nothing out of place.”
The next time you’re standing in front of the display case at Harold’s Doughnuts, overwhelmed by the tasty choices that beckon, thank Grace Lechiara, Scott Jost, general manager Amy Winschel and Katlyn Renee.
Lechiara starts the process about 1 a.m. — prepping the old-fashioned dough. An hour later, Jost arrives to start frying. Winschel and Renee start decorating at the relatively civilized hour of 4 or 5 a.m. Glazed, frosted, sprinkles, bars, twists, Long Johns, rings, Boston creams and more — all deserve a final sprucing on their way to one of the 12 trays — with backups at the ready — that have to be filled and in place when the doors open at 6 a.m.
Winschel started as Harold’s graphic designer until “I just kind of fell in love with the whole ‘love your craft’ concept” and started making doughnuts, too. Her grandmother worked most of her life in a doughnut shop in Perryville. “There were always treats at Grandma’s house” — maybe part of the inspiration.
As they wake up with the rest of Columbia from 4:30 to 7 a.m., the KOMU-TV 8 “News Today” morning reporters almost always go live on location — like Nina Amedin doing her standup at the City Hall breakfast station during Bike, Walk and Wheel Week.
“I live and breathe Chicago sports, specifically the Chicago White Sox and the Bears,” says Amedin, a University of Missouri School of Journalism senior. “I’m half-Assyrian and half-Italian, which means I’ve got a big personality, a big family and a big heart.”
Reporting for the morning show is difficult, Amedin says, because the story has to be compiled the day prior yet have a “today” angle. “I’m confident that the work I am doing now can only help me in the future,” working toward her goal of becoming a television anchor in Dallas, Texas. “I like reporting, but I love anchoring and getting to tell the story.”
Every day, the 200 Guernseys and Holsteins at the Foremost Dairy Research Center head to the “pits” for milking — at 4 a.m. and again at 4 p.m. Another 250 or so calves and nonlactating cows have to be fed and tended to — as well as the usual farm chores of fences to mend and grass to mow — all done by five full-time staff and eight to 12 part-time students at this University of Missouri dairy operation about nine miles west of town. Much of the milk, marketed through the Dairy Farmers of America, ends up in Central Dairy products.
“I love this job,” says Katelyn Adams, an animal science major and former Future Farmers of America dairy judge from Lee’s Summit.
“I want to wake up every morning and do something new and different,” says Adams, who plans to become a veterinarian and raise beef cattle some day. “And let me tell you, you are definitely not doing the same thing every day, working on a farm.”