Postcard From Dawt Mill - Missouri

Grist mills were once abundant along most rivers where the natural rushing waters helped with the needs of man. These mills often became the centers of community life until the automobile came along. Often, along with the mill, there would be a blacksmith shop, a general store with a post office and a sawmill or cotton gin. People would come from miles around to visit, exchange news, and even vote. In the Ozarks, the mill's main business would be grinding corn rather than milling flour as it was easier for the farmers to raise corn in the hills and valleys rather than wheat which was grown more frequently in the flatter, open areas. Many folks were particular about getting back the meal from their own grain rather than that traded to them by the miller from his holding bin, minus his toll, so they would bring their own white woven sacks and wait for their corn to be ground.

About 2 miles from the intersection of Route 160 and RR PP just east of Gainsville, Missouri, is the Dawt Mill. Perched on a bank of the North Fork of the White River, the mill is advertised by the Ozark Heritage Tourism group as being a resort with a working mill, canoeing, lodging, camping, gift shop, restaurant and deli, food and supplies.  Sounded good to us.

Unfortunately, someone at the Ozark Heritage group took extreme literary license. The good news was the restaurant is in the process of being renovated and it looks real nice plus, all of the signs seemed to have been recently refurbished.  But at the time of our visit (7/2011), the working mill wasn't and the very small, ancient, wooden-floored gift shop had a few dust covered odds and ends to go along with the chips, cold drinks and candy bars. I'm not sure about the deli because there was nobody there and the shelves and counters were empty. The campground was suitable only for tent camping. The canoes for rent seemed pretty decent, but everything except the restaurant looked to have been built in the 1940's; often the sign of something interesting, but in this case, it looked like nothing had been touched in the way of maintenance since then. The place reeked of old, dusty, tired, and worn out.

At Dawt Mill
To be fair and give it a chance however, we asked to see a room, thinking maybe the new owners had already renovated them. No, afraid not. We were shown what was described to us as one of their best rooms. If that was their best, I would be afraid to even go into one of the bad ones. Threadbare carpet, very old, beaten up furniture with cigarette burn marks along the edges, a window air conditioning unit with the face missing, the floor groaned as I took a step across it, and just like the rest of the site, it felt old, sad and very used.

The people staying there and out walking around were probably not the kind of people we would be likely to strike up an immediate friendship with - they with their bodies covered in tattoos, a cheap beer constantly in hand, and loud speech indicative of having dropped out of school in the 8th grade. I don't mean to sound elitist or full of myself, I'm sure they were all fine folks in their own ways. It's just that their ways and our ways don't usually mix all that well. We are no longer 19 years old with nothing on our minds other than running around mostly naked, drinking beer, getting dirty, howling at the moon and partying all night. Alright, maybe there was a time way back when, but that's been a good long while ago.

We were hungry and the restaurant looked good so we gave it a try. Based on my observation of the rest of the place, my expectations were not high. I was wrong. The food was wonderful! Because I didn't have much hope for it, I just ordered a hamburger - hard to really mess up a burger. That was one of the best burgers I've ever had. Cooked to perfection, the fresh bun lightly toasted, tomatoes and onions that tasted like they were fresh out of a garden. It came with excellent crispy fries and 3 amazingly perfect onion rings. These rings were worth kicking somebodies butt for if they tried to steal one. I would drive a hundred miles out of my way to eat there again. Go there. Eat there. Then go away full, satisfied, and ready to tell all of your friends about this wonderful meal you had at the Dawt Mill! We just might give it a year or so and come back. If this is a sign of what it will be like after all of the renovation work, it just might be one heck of a nice place for a long weekend!

After walking a ways up and down the river bank, the heat and humidity finally drove us away. Since we didn't get a room there, we had to find some sleeping accommodations. We were deep in the middle of almost nowhere, just across the Arkansas state line. Since we were so close to Mountain Home and we knew there were a number of decent motels there, that's where we decided spend the night. On the way, just a few minutes after leaving the mill, it began to rain. Then it poured and kept pouring. We made it to Mountain Home safely and found a decent hotel with a covered entrance. The price was ok, especially after getting a good discount by using my AARP card (I don't brag about being a member, but I sure do use my card to get discounts!) so we were "home" for the night. After dragging up to the room just the bags and things we needed for the night and parking the car with the rain still coming down, we dried off and settled in to our modern, air conditioned, very clean and comfortable room with the flat screen TV. I opened the shades to check out our view. The rain had stopped. And at the Dawt Mill, the night's party had probably just started.