Scottie’s Christmas, circa 2022
by Joshua Heston
[SPARTA, MO] — Scottie Snider, longtime antique collector, artist and decorator, stands in his 1880s’ farmhouse, welcoming the civic-minded and the curious of Christian County into his holiday-ensconced residence.
“I have collected antiques since I have been married and my wife Pam and I loved the old primitives. I want pieces that are old, dirty and dark, not the shiny stuff,” says Snider in between guests.
Christmas open houses were a tradition for Scottie and Pam with the help of longtime friend Randy Woods. “Randy lived with us for 17 years.”
This Christmas is bittersweet. Pam passed away in January 2020. Randy passed November 2021. “I wasn’t going to decorate my house with someone dying in it,” says Snider.
With 218 Christmas trees, 275 Santas, 58 nativity sets, and an uncountable number of ornaments and unique pieces, the holiday home is a memorable albeit overwhelming experience.
The holiday open house set-up began July 4 with the help of local Darren Gloyd. In November, 40 fresh cedar trees were cut from ditches. The trees now appear to sprout around the front walk. Hand-cut wooden stars and evergreen boughs frame the old porch.
An elderly couple pass through the front door, dropping a few bills into the donation jar. This year’s Christmas open house tour was organized by the Cosmopolitan Club of Ozark — a social club which raises money for local children in need — and the event included several properties. More than 300 attendees passed through Snider’s crowded home over the course of two December weekends.
The host’s bedroom was opened to the public. One wall was decorated in old cabinet photos of men, taxidermy pieces, and an antique liquor cabinet; the bedroom is the only room with original unpainted bead board on wall and ceiling.
Handmade Santas are everywhere, this piece having been created by Stone County artist Kay Cloud. Regarded as the “original sawdust doll maker,” Cloud’s work is displayed in the Smithsonian. Here you will not find the jolly, sanitized Saint Nicholas of today but instead, the Old World Sinterklaas, rough, primitive, hard-to-find pieces.
Woods collected copper ware and Snider now collects copper cookie cutters in his memory. In the small galley kitchen redolent with the smell of spiced cider and meatballs, a copper-laden pine anchors a worn table of turn-of-the-century lumber, the table packed with winter-rescued spider plant, hulking gray-green general store scales, and a glass water urn shimmering with cranberries, sliced oranges, limes and lemons.
The house is old, having been originally built about a mile-and-a-half north of town, likely before the infamous and historic Bald Knobber events of the county. “Bud Gann was grandmother’s grandfather,” explains Snider. “That was his shotgun. He was leader of the Shady Grove Bald Knobbers.”
At bedside hangs an old photograph of Gann. The frame is ”made of the gallows used to hang the Bald Knobbers on the Ozark square.” Gann’s hawthorn walking stick hangs next to the gallows’ wood.
The framed art on the wall is a Snider original (of the nearby Ozark Mill). A 1940s’ paper nativity graces the footboard, along with a hand-crocheted tree beneath a glass bell cloche.
The bed’s footboard is made from cemetery fence, the headboard a cemetery gate. The nativity rests upon a fainting couch from the Klepper Funeral Home in Ozark. “I guess I could be called a little morbid,” chuckles Snider softly.
“The deer still has velvet on his antlers. I don’t hunt, but I love the look of the deer, of men, of guns. It is what I want in here now.”
“The big tree is Randy’s. The ornaments are mostly from Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.” Feather ornaments complete the look while shelves of Blair pottery frame the room. The green-and-cream “pear leaf” pattern — sold by Neiman Marcus in the 1940s and 1950s — was handcrafted in Ozark, Missouri.
“We bought Bob in Aurora [Missouri]. Every time we hit a bump, he would bob up and down on the drive home,” recalls Snider, ”so we named him Bob.”
To the left of Canada goose Bob are “snow babies” collectibles. “Randy and I found the signed pieces in a shop in Florida.” That Halloween vacation would be Scottie and Randy’s last trip together.
The egg tree is Dutch; hand-made papier-mâché from Holland. “I don’t know how old [the eggs] are,” admits Snider, “but I love the old Delft colors. I had them for years until I sold them in a yard sale.” Befitting the small town, Snider would lament the decision sometime later to a friend who replied, “Oh, I bought those. You can have them back.”
In the den, 1920s’ taxidermy ducks appear to fly over yet more trees, more pottery, more ornaments and two caskets (for decorative purposes only). Residents have reported paranormal activity throughout the house. “I’ve had stacks of books slam into the floor from the caskets,” says Snider.
A lady in old-time garb once glided past guests in the dining room and the shadow of a black dog wanders the home.
“I have a little black dog that looks like the ghost dog we were told about,” furthers Snider. “I went outside to let the dogs out and reached over to pet Audrey on the head. Then went back inside and found Audrey in her pen locked up. I guess I was petting the ‘other’ dog.”
“It is said when someone near you dies you will see pennies, feathers and cardinals. I had my first three [open house tours] and cleaned and swept everything. I was the only one in the house. I went upstairs the next morning and found a penny on the floor of all three rooms.”
Later, Snider found “two long feathers in the middle of the dining room.” Placed inside a glass ornament created for the purpose, the feathers serve as a quiet memorial on “Randy’s tree.”
Next to a silver tinsel tree and within the gaze of a stern rams’ head barometer, four primitive Santas stare balefully next to a gingerbread man. “The fabric one is very old, over a hundred years.”
“The dishes are from Riverside Inn.” The table settings are traditional, the massive oak table dominates the dining room-turned foyer. “Riverside Inn was opened in 1923 by Howard Garrison two miles north of Ozark on the Finley River and torn down in 2010.”
A brown plastic nativity brings back memories of a 1950s’ Christmas. Behind is a family photo inside an old clock. “I added the dried rose from dad’s funeral and a wasp nest. I like weird stuff.”
Narrow stairs lead to a vast array of 19th century antiques. ”I like the old original red,” smiles Snider, referring to the painted staircase. In the stairwell hangs Riverside owner Howard Garrison’s baby dress. Garrison was born in 1901 and died in 1974. “I’ve owned his baby dress twice.”
“I love the Belsnickel look. This piece isn’t terribly old but it is neat. I love the old Santa look, things with weird fabric coats, papier-mâché over plaster, old Christmas prints.”
“Randy’s great-great-grandmother was half-black and black history and art were very important to him.” The tree in the original kitchen is trimmed in cotton stems and turn-of-the-century postcards. “I painted a portrait of his great-great-grandmother and her little brother and hung the paintings on the wall,” says Snider, gesturing into the room.
“Handmade with a beard of real sheep’s wool, this primitive Santa is one I’ve had for probably 30 years. Pam used to go to home interior parties and I’d tell her, ‘Don’t buy anything. I want everything in my home to be unique.’”
Hanging from a chandelier made of an overturned wire flower basket are dozens of 1960s’ beaded eggs and balls. “I’ve collected those for years and made the chandelier myself.
“Pam wasn’t fond of the holidays. Her dad was ran over and killed on Christmas Day when she was seven years old. I tried to make [the season] special for her.”
At turns bittersweet, overwhelming, haunting, heartfelt and touching, Scottie’s Christmas, circa 2022 was an experience unlike any other.
— photography by Joshua Heston 12/09/2022