It was work that brought Cathy and Kit Salter to Columbia, but it was love that brought them back.
The Salters originally moved to Mid-Missouri from Washington, D.C. in October of 1988 after Kit was hired as the chairman of the University of Missouri’s geography department — a position he held for over a decade.
The Salters scouted the area that summer and found an old limestone house with a pond and a barn — and a resident goose named Francis — at the southern end of Boone County near Hartsburg.
“I took one look and knew I was going to live there,” Cathy said of the home they named Breakfast Creek.
Cathy, who had been a teacher, welcomed the opportunity to learn about “country life.” In 1994, she began writing a column inspired by those experiences for the Boone County Journal, “Notes from Breakfast Creek” — which was picked up later by the Columbia Daily Tribune.
Kit had retired from MU in 2002 and was still trying to decide “what the next chapter of my life would be” when the couple paid a visit to Cathy’s sister and brother-in-law in Albuquerque. While observing the sunrise washing over the Sandia Mountains, he realized where that next chapter should be.
“It just captured me. After maybe an hour, maybe a day, I said, ‘We ought to come out here,’ ” Kit said.
He noted that the couple had lived in Mid-Missouri at that point for 16 years — the longest either had ever lived anywhere. The Salters sold their house in five days and made the move.
They had only been there three months when Kit said he realized Cathy — whom he noted “is always happy” — was not happy in Albuquerque.
Cathy, who had found her groove as a columnist, noted that she could not write while in New Mexico.
She traveled back to Columbia for a visit, and when Kit went to pick her up at the airport at the end of that week, he said, she was “levitating.” That was all the reason he needed to move back.
The Salters quickly found a new home in the Hartsburg area — close to their old property — which they christened Boomerang Creek.
“It’s a spiritual connection to the land,” Cathy said of the couple’s attachment to Mid-Missouri. “We had put down deep roots here. We realized we had been in Hartsburg for 16 years. We’d seen kids get baptized, grow up and have kids of their own — we saw the whole cycle of life here.”
Cathy was immediately able to start writing again upon their return and resumed her column — now dubbed “Notes from Boomerang Creek.” Kit has also done some writing and has occupied himself with editing as well, including two volumes of Cathy’s columns and a couple of poetry books written by his sisters.
They converted a separate garage on their property into a two-story office — Cathy has the first floor, filled with books, art, treasures from their various travels and a writing corner; Kit has the top floor where he works on lesson plans, writing and editing.
The couple has also been more engaged with the Columbia arts scene, getting involved with Ragtag Cinema, the True/False Film Festival and the local documentary film community, Orr Street Studios and the new Unbound Book Festival. They have contributed several times to the Columbia Art League’s Interpretations project, which gives writers a piece of art and artists a piece of writing and asks them to create their own work based on that.
Kit began teaching through MU’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, through which he also hosts a monthly literary gathering, Saturday Morning Book Talks.
“When we first started, there wasn’t a single place where all these writers had a place to showcase their work,” he said. “What has happened in the time since we began is the collection of people we have is authors, publishers and people that just enjoy books. It’s really become a valuable gathering for both the writers and the people that like to talk about books.”
Although their retirement has been full of work and other activities, Cathy said the couple has a good time with life.
“How could you not be happy in this place?” she asked.
Kit agreed he is “a happy guy.”
“The focus is to let Cathy come back to her world. I love watching her grow into her writing life,” he said. “I love being in this world.”