Been Thinkin’ About… Nine summers ago.
Change. Love. Heartbreak. The passage of time. The pain of self-doubt. Life.
Nine summers ago, the tomatoes were ripening. Strawberry season had passed. Cottonwood leaves rippled in the dry August air. And I was on a mission. One I absolutely believed in for no apparent reason. I had known since I was 20 I wanted to be a part of the Ozarks. “Even a small part would do,” I thought to myself in that warm August air. “Just a part. Just a chance.”
More than that, I believed I understood the Ozarks. Her people. Her places. Innately. Egotistical, I know. But I still believe I was right. It’s hard to say how, but I knew. I knew the tenacity of the Ozarkers because I saw it in the eyes of my own people. My grandparents. I knew their reserve — that the respect is always there but it must be earned, never simply given. The heart isn’t meant to be worn on the sleeve. And rarely will it be.
There is deep authenticity here you won’t find at the mall.
The oaks. The mountains. The soft haze in the deep valleys. A country with the gentle lilt of The Osborne Brothers’ song Arkansas. I wanted to be part of these rugged, hazy mountains, the warm-sour-old smell of oak heavy in the late afternoon.
Nine summers later, it’s not been an easy path. Nothing in the Ozarks, it seems, ever is. I’ve seen the entertainment whims of Branson eat up others’ life savings and leave them hurrying for the greener pastures of LA or Vegas. I’ve seen times in which I’ve questioned everything I had hoped. Was it all just a silly dream? Is there really an enduring sense of place here? Did I make the right choice, nine summers ago?
Yes, yes I did. No, no it wasn’t a silly dream. The Ozark Mountains are special. The sense of place powerful, but our culture is often like starlight and thus most visible only from the corner of the eye. Stare too hard and you won’t see it. If I knew now what I knew then, would I do it? Would I pack up my orange duffle and throw my fortunes onto a crazy website idea that “might” pay off?
Yes, yes I would. But I couldn’t have done it without you all and I still cannot…