Black Oak Ridge, Missouri Ozarks

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These old hills are home to a people. A people defined by a region — a people who have come to define that region. It is easy to understand plateaus and highlands, rivers, boundaries. It is not so easy to understand a people, a culture, a sensibility. These old hills are rugged. Long ago, they attracted the desperate, the independent. The foolish.

Frenchman from New Orleans. Early British pioneers. Poor Irish immigrants, then black-dirt farmers from Indiana and Illinois. Southerners to establish Missouri as a slave state. Unionists from Ohio and Iowa. German immigrants by the scores, with high-minded sensibilities, organizational skills and a desire to escape political persecution in Europe. The foolish died quickly or moved away. The independent flourished.

The foolish died quickly or moved away.

The depraved found safety — and often became more depraved.

In the 19th century, the Ozarks were a lonely, dangerous place. And what little law and order existed before the ravages of war, there was none after. Stories of deadly bushwhackers, baldknobbers and just plain-out-and-out-coldblooded killers make for romantic legends today. It wasn’t too romantic at the time.

How would you like to walk to school one morning and find the body of a neighbor hanging from a tree? Or work from dawn ’till dusk for months, only to see locust clouds descend over the hills, eating crops, grass, even fenceposts?

Life in these hills was hard.

Out of that hardness was bred a people — a people defined as stalwart, laconic, distrustful. A people self-reliant. To define the Ozark region by its culture? Some would say these peoples are a microcosm of all that makes the United States what it is. This State of the Ozarks.

— Joshua Heston, editor April 26, 2009

State of the Ozarks is one of the definitive websites of the Ozarks.

Not a government sponsored travel site nor a local advertisement page, StateoftheOzarks is privately owned and dedicated to the history, culture and the people of the Ozarks.

The Ozarks region has long been a respected place where the American Heartland still has a voice. Where time runs a little slower, the folks are friendlier, and rivers a bit cleaner. A place that stands in book end answer to elite Eastern sensibilities and the flash of LA culture.

The Ozarks are still here. And we’re still proud of that.

10/5/08, Black Oak Ridge. Photo credit, Joshua Heston. Location: Stone County, Missouri

From Shepherd of the Hills

“And this way runs the trail that lies along the higher, sunlit hills where those who journey see afar and the light lingers even when the day is done.”

— Harold Bell Wright, 1907

Check out these Recent Articles:

Ozark Knife Making

Knife Making. “Like fire and ice, the beauty of a hand-crafted knife captivates the imagination. An age-old art, knife making hearkens of generations past....” To read more, Click Here!

Firework Artwork

Summer Firework Art. “Brilliant colors, the tension of a sputtering fuse, booming explosions, the threat of danger. No wonder fireworks are so popular....” To read more, Click Here!

Ozark Magic & Hoodoo

Ozark Magic & Hoodoo. “Our rational, scientific world filled with textbook knowledge and an overabundance of electronic equipment has little room for the unknown or inexplicable....” To read more, Click Here!

Independence Day

The Roads to Bonniebrook. “ A mysterious place too, a small family cemetery lay nearby, holding the bones of an Irish immigrant family made good in the New World. And the house was lost forever......” To read more, Click Here!

Independence Day

I Pledge Allegiance. “But that cloth is our symbol, standing for our nation and its people, and carried around the world and into space.....” To read more, Click Here!

Big Cedar Legends in Golf

Big Cedar’s Legends in Golf. “In the legends division, golfers Jack Nicklaus, Bobby Nichols, Lee Trevino and many others are scheduled....” To read more, Click Here!

Ozark Gospel Music Convention

Ozark Gospel Music Convention. “Traditional gospel music and Ozark Mountain culture go together mighty well. From brush arbor singing schools to pine-enshrouded churches where country folks sang from well-worn hymnals every Sunday morning, the sweet sounds of gospel music form an emotional basis for many of us...” To read more, Click Here!

Chinkapin Oak

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Baldknobber Vigilantes

(Kirbyville, MO) The early spring day [believed to be April 5, 1885] dawned bright and clear. The meeting grounds were on top of Snapp's Bald, a great treeless peak located about two miles northwest of Kirbyville, a village of approximately five miles southwest of Forsyth and not far from the Kinney home.

"Barren of timber and underbrush, the spot had been selected because sentries could insure the secrecy and security of the proceedings. This particular peak commanded a view of the countryside that discouraged interlopers from drawing nearer than a half mile."

From Baldknobbers: Vigilantes on the Ozark Frontier, 1988.

Ozark Ventriloquist Makes Good

(Pepper Flats, AR) I reckon everyone knows a person they like to brag about, a person who as “made it” out in the world. Our most famous person was the “Great Newtoni.” Actually, his name was Newt Larson and no one ever figured he’d amount to a hill of spit until he sent off for one of them there magic courses they advertise in the back of comic books.

When Newt received his magic kit, he went at it whole hog. He practiced every trick over and over again until he got to be a pretty good magician. He changed his name to the “Great Newtoni” and moved to Sylene City to work in what he called “big time show business.”

Newt landed a job on Saturdays at the Picture Palace Movie House doing a little magic show before the main feature. One Saturday, a theatrical agent saw him and liked his act and said he would liek to book him in better venues. Newt signed on with the agency and they started booking his act all over the country.

He bought a little ventriloquist figure he called “Snowball,” and he got so good at ventriloquism he dropped his magic act completely. Las Vegas wanted him. New York wanted him. Hollywood wanted him. It got where he couldn’t fill all the engagements.

Now, my daddy always told me to be nice to people on your way up because you will want them to be nice to you on your way down and that’s what happened to Newt. Just as quick as the fame happened, it was gone. The bookings got fewer and fewer and finally the agency dropped him.

While reading a newspaper one day, Newt noticed a thing called “psychic readings” was very popular. He watched the psychics on television and realized with his magic and ventriloquism he could do the same thing. He rented a little shop in downtown Pepper Flats with a sign reading “Psychic Readings - $25, $50, and $75.”

One day a lady came in and said, “My husband passed away about three years ago and I would like to talk to him. Please tell me the difference betetween the $25, $50 and $75 readings.”

“Very simple,” Newt answered. “For $25, you may talk to your husband. For $50, you may talk to your husband and your husband will talk to you. And for $75, you may talk to your husband and your husband will talk to you while I drink a glass of water!”

From Arkansas Red’s Hillbilly Happenin’s.

State of the Ozarks

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