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Neosho Daily News - Neosho, MO
  • Neighbor in a lighthouse

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  • This week's good neighbor has fond memories of the times he spent visiting Neosho in the 1960s. His memories are so important that he titled his first novel, "Neosho," and readers will recognize many Neosho landmarks.
    Richard Brian Cain lives in St. Augustine, Fla., where he is deputy director of the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum. St. Augustine is the oldest seaport in America, home to many shipwrecks.
    "I am a real lighthouse keeper as our light is still an active aid to navigation for the United States Coast Guard," Cain said.
    He not only maintains the historic structures, he keeps the museum operating and open to some 200,000 guests each year. Cain is also chairman of the board of Florida Attractions Association, where he presides over vice presidents from such attractions as SeaWorld, the Kennedy Space Center, DisneyWorld and Universal Studios.
    In spite of his active involvement with life in Florida, Cain chose Neosho as the setting of his first novel. His family came here in the 1800s. In 1900, his great-grandfather, Harvey Hawes, built a house at the corner of Oak Street and Washington Avenue. It was in and around that house that Cain set his novel.
    As a boy, Cain came to spend time with his grandparents, Cliff and Edith Hawes. From that house on Oak Street, he explored Neosho. His grandfather worked at Don's Shop (a motorcycle shop) near the Neosho National Fish Hatchery and Cain loved to explore that area of town. He spent many happy moments going to the grocery stores, getting a haircut, shopping at McGinty's Department Store, hearing the sound of the nearby train and fishing off the Shoal Creek bridge. He well remembers the roar of rocket engines as they were tested at Rocketdyne and he swam in the old Crowder pool.
    All these memories, these sights and sounds, are part of "Neosho," the book. But the book is really much more modern than the 1960s. In keeping with a theme that runs through American literature today, the book involved a "crossing over" in which a young girl leaves a very different place and crosses over to today's world, ending up in Neosho. This leads to a friendship with a young boy and his grandparents, who protect the girl while her "other" family searches for her. It's a story of two worlds colliding.
    In the girl's native tongue, there was a commonly used phrase "ha, neo, sho" which meant "Safe Haven." That is why when the girl "crossed over," the Guardians led her to Neosho and to the big house at the corner of Oak St. and Washington Ave.
    Richard Cain has a background in philosophy and religion and it is apparent in this 500 page novel. No doubt it will emerge in more novels because Neosho is the first in series that Cain is calling "The Neosho Chronicles." And he's already 80 pages into his second book.
    Page 2 of 2 - Richard Brian Cain is this week's good neighbor because he cares so much for our town.

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