You never know who will walk through the door at the Neosho National Fish Hatchery bookstore.

You never know who will walk through the door at the Neosho National Fish Hatchery bookstore.
Last week, a young family came in to shop. The family consisted of a mother, a father, four children and, I assume, a grandmother.
The kids were excited to see all the things for kids. Each was told to choose one souvenir.
What a hard job that was with so much to choose from. After looking and thinking, two children took stuffed animals, one took a light-up ball, and one took a toy tractor.
The parents also bought a couple of gifts for a friend.
The gift they gave us volunteers was being from North Dakota. I always ask strangers where they are from. Answers range from Neosho to Russia.
This couple came from Bowman, N.D., which is the town Russell visited when he was a young boy. A distant cousin of Russell’s mother had homesteaded in North Dakota and settled near Bowman. Russell and his parents drove out there to visit a few times.
It was a magical place for Russell. In those days, young boys had dreams of being in the West, ranching and cowboys. Bowman was “the West” for Russell. His relatives owned thousands of acres and leased many thousands more. Their ranch house sat at the foot of the Cave Hills.
The grandmother in that family still lived in the sod house that the family built when they first came to Bowman. It sat near the modern ranch house. Seeing and visiting this soddy, climbing the hills and riding out on the vast ranch almost was heaven to Russell.
All these memories were brought back to Russell by this family visiting Neosho.
We had a nice visit with this young family. The mother works in a nursing home and the father in the oil boom that hit North Dakota within the last few years.
Because oil markets have fallen considerably, I asked the father if his job is in jeopardy. He said he felt secure so far, although he was aware of the downturn.
I hope his job holds and his great little family can live in peace and financial security in what was once Russell’s idea of “the West.”
There is probably a place from your childhood that is your “west,” even if it was north or south or east. Most of us have places that were somewhat magical in our childhood where we imagined all kinds of good and fun things.
My magical place was California, although I was 16 years old before I saw the “Golden State.” On that first trip, California sure lived up to my dreams.

Kay Hively of Neosho is a Daily News correspondent and writes a weekly column.