Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Real Ozarks

There is a free magazine that just came out called "The Real Ozarks."  Since tourist season is just getting started around here, the Ozark County Times put out a publication explaining this little area of the world.  There is one article entitled "A People Rich In History" that I am going to copy here.  It so perfectly describes the population and environment here.  I found myself nodding and smiling as I read.

There are lots of Ozark things throughout the Midwest:  Ozark towns, Ozark businesses, Ozark lakes, Ozark organizations.  But in all of America, there is only one Ozark County, and those of us who live here know it's a special place with a remarkable heritage.

That's not to say it's easy to live here.  It takes a hearty constitution and a lot of gumption to live in a place where the summers are hot, the winters can be icy, the roads crooked, the economy struggles, and the facilities are few.  We've got chiggers, snakes, mosquitoes, poison ivy, and armadillos that love to dig up the garden.

Yes, it can be hard to live in Ozark County.  But many folks agree that once you've lived here, it's hard to live anywhere else.

There's something magical about those mornings when the mist hugs the hollows just as the sun creeps over the hills.  And what can compare with a night sky so clear and dark the stars seem close enough to touch?

The rush of the rivers' see-through water, the rhythm of the lakes lapping against the shores, the sounds of the woods and the scent of hay fields freshly cut... these things can haunt you when you leave to live in the city.  I heard a man say as a high school reunion, "I was gone from here 30 years, and every day I was away I knew I would eventually come back."

It's not just the rugged land, the clean air and the clear water we love.  It's the sense of independence we enjoy in our rather isolated corner of the world.

And, it's the people.  As ornery and aggravating and hard-headed as we can be, we're quick to come running when help is needed.  We care about each other.  City people hear a helicopter flying overhead and wonder if it's something that might be on the evening news.  We hear a helicopter and wonder who's hurt or sick - because it's probably someone we know - and we pray they make it to the hospital.

We love to tell jokes and share a laugh, but we cry together too.  When we take our turn on that awful front row as a funeral, we're comforted by the friends and family sitting behind us, surrounding us with love and sharing our grief.

We still have pie suppers for families in distress, we play music the old fashioned way, and we feed our neighbors' pets and livestock when they're away.  We live in beautiful homes with well-kept lawns... and ramshackle trailers surrounded by weed-spiked junk.  We're opinionated and stubborn, quick to resist anyone who tries to take away even the least of our rights.  And one of our most enduring and ironic hillbilly characteristic is our mischievous pride in being unpretentious.

It isn't easy to live in Ozark County.  Never has been.  Maybe that's why there are less than 10,000 of us scattered over the county's 731 square miles.  This is no place for sissies.  But, for the most part, there's one thing that unites us with each other - and with our past: we're here because we want to be.

That is the perfect description I have ever read for this little neck of the woods I now call home and I wouldn't have it any other way.

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