Baxter bottle yard-art on display at the corner of W 11th and Lincoln Ave.

Bottle poles or trees are fun and economical to build and easy to convert to all holiday season. How about an outside Merry Christmas bottle tree to spread the holiday cheer? Talking about a head turner!

Baxter Springs Heritage Center and Museum has exhibits on the Civil War, World Wars, Native American History, African-American History, Tri-state mining gallery and more.

In the basement there is a little known pop bottle collection.

I love the art and creativity poured into the older bottles, just seems to me more love went into the making of yesteryears' bottles, plus the pop always taste better and stronger in a bottle.

Mary Billington, Director, has been on duty for 18 months now. She is a fascinating person and self proclaimed genealogy obsessive, avid reader, and just an all around nice person. Mary, because of folk like you, history lives! Travel out to 740 East Ave. and check out the museum or visit online at Hours open are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Free admission.

In my world travels I have collected pop bottles, why some may ask? Well I always took suitcases full of bibles, gospel tracts etc., on mission trips and wanted to bring something back besides a empty suitcase. Many of the countries I was in still used glass for the pop like I saw back in small town Jordan, Kentucky, population 30, where I was reared. I found them in barns, ponds, and along the railroad tracks.

Out in the world I found them on top of old Hotels in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and under an old Hotel in Jerusalem Israel. I found them in small villages in Haiti, Cuba and Trinidad. They were free and that meant they were for poor me. Now I was rich in God just not in gold if you know what I mean, of course if you are rich in him then you are the best kind of rich in the world. Mark 8:36

As a boy I drank Chocolate Soldiers, Coke, Big Red and RC. We would set them on the railroad rails back in the day. I have Tab bottles as Moma drank them way back then.

My personal ark of the covenant are the bottles I found under the ancient Petra Hotel in old Jerusalem. The hotel was under renovation while I was staying there, it's sits near the Jaffa gate. Well I wandered under a parking garage one night where homeless people had been sleeping and found the perfect set of six Gaza cola bottles in a very old trash pile in a lost hallway. The plant where they were bottled was in the Gaza strip and had been blown up by Israeli jets.

Due to paint drippings I believe the original builders left the bottles behind for me all these decade's later. Local gents hadn't seen them since chidhood and I was offered a boat load of Israeli shekels for them, but due my emotional attachment could not part with them.

If you don't want to travel to Bethlehem this Christmas to look for old bottles, go to Sleepy Girls Thrift Store at 1021 military where they have furniture, books and more...much more including old pop bottles. This historic building was formerly Polster Dry Goods, and for seven years housed the Baxter Springs Post Office in one corner.

There is a mostly unknown museum in our Cherokee County Courthouse, the director is my good friend Ralph Houser who is the custodian and pop bottle collector extraordinaire with over a thousand bottles in his lower level office. Ralph has two or three thousand more at home.

He has painted walls, laid tile, and sweep floors at the courthouse for 21 years, he started filling his office 11 years ago with bottles. Ralph started collecting 38 years ago as on the farm with plenty of time and little money he saw the colorful bottles poking out of the ground in old burn piles and along creek banks. He is truly a legend in my mind and his court house time, humble and generous by nature only with duplicate bottles. He is so almost famous a statewide travel magazine did a feature on his office museum and he didn't bother to pick one up.

Why I would be mailing them out by the bakers dozen!

Lots of folks have stumbled up on the museum but Ralph told me in over a decade only three true collectors have passed through his way. We are a rare breed. I am proud to be one of the three.

Happy birthday Ralph and pack up some pop bottles....Mary in Baxter has invited you join me in an pop bottle exhibition. Kelly St. Clair-Barnes gave me two neat pop bottles at her MONARCH PHARMACY, 1601 Military Ave. They have pop in the bottle and an old-fashioned soda fountain.

Gonna write more later but like the old Sun Drop pop bottle says, this place is excitingly refreshing! Are you thirsty and starving, go to Marvin's Grocer as they have pop in the bottle for starter collectors, and Little Debbie cakes. While picking up the cakes enter to win a bicycle for your child or grandchild. Drawing is Dec. 15, no purchase required. But the drawing box is out front by Little Debbie. I ate a sausage biscuit with Jesse there the other day in the break room, the benefits of family. They have a great bulletin board for lost and found dogs and cats, without my eye glass I can hardly tell one from another, take a look and let's get-em home for Christmas. Well I ain't no Shakespeare's but he ain't here so I enjoy as a country boy spillin' a little ink each week somewhere in the world inspired by God. Thank you for reading my localized news column mixed with a bit of fun and wit weekly. It's always mostly true, best I remember. Warm regards!

---- Lyon is a world traveler, writer, poet and folk artist, painter. He lives part time in Baxter Springs and has been a Missionary in 70 countries for over 35 years. He has published poetry in Canada and the United States. He is a graduate of CFNI in Dallas, Texas.