by Louis Darby
In one word, I’d call the culture interesting.
There's a lot more French influence here than many would realize. Being from south Louisiana, I was intrigued at the similarities and came to the conclusion that the only difference between a Cajun (which is what I am) and a hillbilly is that we speak French and they don’t!
Our thought process, our cultures, our utilization and appreciation of the land? Our use of all resources?
We have a lot of similarities. People here — the natives — are very conscious of using natural materials and making the most of those materials. There was very little waste. People used to ask, “Do you miss Louisiana?”
I'd have to laugh and tell them, “No, not really. If you think about it, Missouri was part of the Louisiana Purchase. So I feel right at home!”
Originally, even the name was a French derivative, though it would have been spelled Aux Arcs. In the French language, you can translate or interpret a lot of different things, so it's hard to know exactly what it meant. But the Ozarks have been very interesting. I’ve met some wonderful luthiers here. One, Charley Wells, was both a luthier and a local bee charmer. So he'd fix my fiddle and I’d get a quart of honey while I was there!
I think it’s just the love of life and everything that comes with Cajun culture that really bled into the Ozarks. People here have a really good comfort level with that.
I've been here 20 years and wouldn’t call any other place home. But I can tell you that the local people worked hard and they worked for what they had. They love life and they don't waste anything. It's a nice atmosphere.
plate 1. Sunset Ozark Trail. Photo by Joshua Heston, October 29, 2011.
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plate 2. An Ozark Fall. Artwork by Joshua Heston, August 20, 2009.
Louis Darby, originally of Opelousas, Louisiana, has lived in White River Country since 1987. In the article at right, Darby succinctly defines a very hard-to-nail-down subject: the culture of the Ozarks.
A two-time Louisiana State Fiddle Champion, Darby became well-known in the Ozarks-region as fiddle player with Silver Dollar City’s Cajun Connection and the Circle B Chuckwagon Show in Branson.
I still remember the first time I saw him fiddlin’ up a storm at the Riverfront Playhouse one cold December afternoon over at Silver Dollar City. He currently plays with the Sons of Britches, a local group which includes John Fullerton and Earl Vaughn.
Bright Glowed My Hills
“All life was not dull work for James Columbus Booth. He was a musician. He had no musical training, but somewhere in his Irish and Scotch ancestry there must have been a harp or bagpipe player because Lum could truly make his old fiddle sing. He kept the instrument in a bleached, white muslin flour sack carefully laid in the bureau drawer. Inside the fiddle, he kept a set of rattles from a rattlesnake, ‘to help the tone,’ he explained.”
— Doug Mahnkey, Bright Glowed My Hills, School of the Ozarks Press, Point Lookout, Missouri 1968