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.

“...endless summer time.”

by Joshua Heston

One of these days, I reckon I’ll actually grow up (though as I grow older, being a kid again looks like a lot more fun).

I remember summer days that stretched on forever. I remember seasons slowly passing — when the local fair and my birthday, Christmas and even Halloween looked as though they would never arrive!

I remember the joy of an endless summer as though the white puffy clouds and azure blue sky simply could never not last forever.

Then adulthood happened. Schedules and deadlines happened. Responsibility happened. Now a whole summertime goes by faster than a week of my childhood. It’s downright depressing.

Easy it is to lament the lost past. Perhaps we are lamenting the belief the best is now behind us. Lost inexpressibly before we could really, truly savor the moment. What’s ahead?

The unknown. Loss? Darkness? Conflict? Impossible to tell.

But I can tell you this: We are surrounded by scores of immensely talented, amazing people. We live in one of the most beautiful regions of the world. And I believe some of the greatest contributions to our art, our music, our lives, our culture, our history, are yet to be made.

And I have an idea. Perhaps, if we look to the future with anticipation rather than trepidation, life will slow down just a mite. Each day might pass just a bit sweeter.

Perhaps we will see those around us with new eyes, wondering what amazing piece of a beautiful future they will create. Yes, there will be conflict and darkness and loss.

But there will also be beauty and joy and life.

And maybe then it will be like it was in the old days, waiting interminable weeks, until the county fair would open and we could go eat all the cotton candy we wanted and ride away the night on the Ferris Wheel, the Scrambler or the Tilt-A-Whirl.

A future that will last forever. A future filled with, well, filled with people markedly like us. We get to create their past. We get to paint a picture for them, a reminder —

The good old days weren’t all gone. There is hope and light yet.

— from August 10, 2014, State of the Ozarks Weekly Issue 349

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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 This Recent Article:

Bluegrass Journals

Bluegrass Journals. “We chose this road for there’s something in the music, the lyrics, the resonation deep within saying, I am true. I am honest. Now and forever. Because I am human and this is my song...” To read more, Click Here!

Celebrate the Ozarks in Your Inbox!

Every week, we celebrate the Ozarks with a brand-new issue of State of the Ozarks Weekly, cram packed with articles and topped off with a traditional recipe.

Sign up to receive State of the Ozarks Weekly free in your inbox every Sunday at 5PM!

Check out These Recent Articles:

Ellen Petersen American Idol

Ozark Star-Gaziing: Ellen Petersen. “Ellen’s performance was flawless. The judges were impressed. Not only did she win a golden ticket to Hollywood, but she was also joined by Connick Jr. and Urban onstage for an impromptu performance of “The Ballad of Jed Clampett!” To read more, Click Here!

Brandon Mabe & Megan McCombs

Berliner Pfannkuchen. “Ahh, the Berliner Pfannkuchen! I can remember having these as a New Year’s Eve treat as far back as I can remember,” says Janice Sieg Bernard. “As soon as I was old enough, I remember helping Mom make the doughnuts...” To read more, Click Here!

Brandon Mabe & Megan McCombs

The Baldknobber Jamboree. “I’m a third-generation Baldknobber,” shares Brandon Mabe of the Baldknobber Jamboree Show. “My grandfather started the show back in 1959 with his brothers...” To read more, Click Here!

Table Rock Dam 1956

Osage Ballet. “We are the Wahzhazhe — the Osage. We are a people with respect for life and the Life Giver. We begin our day with the rising sun and we pray...” To read more, Click Here!

Table Rock Dam 1956

Ozarks Photography. “These Ozark hills have more than their fair share of talented photographers. It is with great honor to begin their showcase here...” To read more, Click Here!

Johnie Groves Ozark Author & Mountain Cur history

Tip the Wander Dog by Johnie Groves (and Mountain Cur History). “I spent most of the afternoon conjuring up a good case. I even practiced on Mom. She liked the dog as much as I did and promised to serve as a character witness if it ever got that far....” To read more, Click Here!

Mountain Village 1890 Bull Shoals Arkansas

Mountain Village 1890, Bull Shoals, Arkansas A hot summer sun sets over the Arkansas hills. Deep shadows stretch across the grassy courtyard of Mountain Village 1890, a reconstructed village and small theme park that was once one of the top tourist attractions in north Arkansas...” To read more, Click Here!

Station Inn

The Weird, Wonderful Bluegrass Art of Tim Lee Lee’s work is a provocative combination of surrealist curves, whimsical circus art, pop culture references, all with a dark, back-hills feel and a supernaturally macabre edge...” To read more, Click Here!

Ozark County Fairs

Goin’ to the County Fair. “Growin up in rural Crawford County Missouri, one of things we youngin’s looked forward to was fair time....” 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!

Chinkapin Oak Randy Plummer

Randy Plummer with "Snow deer". Photo courtesy of Randy Plummer.

Randy Plummer with Sons of Britches, Grand Country, Little Opry Theatre & Snowdeer

(Branson, MO) In February, I caught up with Randy Plummer. Check out the entire interview by clicking PLAY below:

March 21, 2015

KIIC Thunder Country 96.7 FM!

Beth Hunter & Josh Heston

Beth Hunter and Josh Heston, hamming it up on the Classic Café!

At noon every third Friday of the month, StateoftheOzarks editor Joshua Heston is guest on the Classic Café Radio Show with none other than the talented and energetic Beth Hunter of KIIC Thunder Country (96.7FM) broadcasting from beautiful, historic downtown Albia, Iowa.

KIIC is a powerful local radio station broadcasting over an immense swath of southern Iowa and into downtown Des Moines. With a strong focus on classic country, great sports coverage and live weather reports, KIIC is the radio station southern Iowans turn to on a daily basis.

Listen live to this great, local radio station showcasing the best in truly classic country music! Click here now!

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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.

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