Where the road Y's

Where the road Y's
is where I like to be

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Flat Stanley Visits the Anderson's

My sweet, little nephew Jonah sent his Flat Stanely to visit me for a couple of months. We have several adventures planned for the colorful boy, but the first one we undertook was to Mansfield Missouri to visit Laura Ingall Wilder's home. The home where she lived while she wrote all of her books.

Here is a picture of Flat Stanley:

He is hanging out in a screen door on Mrs. Wilder's backporch. The folks at the museum would not let us take pictures inside, so we had to make due with what was available to us. Here is a picture of Flat Stanley on a tree stump that the Wilder family had planted about 1900:

As we got ready to leave, in our normal family tradition, we found the post office for this small town, and had Flat Stanely pose in front of it:

I purchased a book about the Ingall's journey to the Ozarks along with a map showing the trails that they took. I think Jonah liked this because he was studying Pioneer Families.

If the rain will hold out, Flat Stanley is going to get to go on a "Ozark Leaf-Peeking" trip this weekend...

Jonah, thank you so much for sharing your Flat Stanley with me.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Back on the road...

I could not take it anymore... I hid the broom, kicked the dirty clothes back into the closet and found my keys. I gave the kid 30 minutes to get ready and meet me in the car. That was just enough time to load the dishwasher and get the yard duty done (scoop-the-poop for you non-dog owners). 28 minutes later, a silver Saturn Ion could be seen barreling down a back-alley leaving nothing but an opaque wall of white dust to hide the view behind it.

We were going to Eureka Springs. I swear to you, Eureka Springs. As I followed 60 West through several small towns, I saw a sign. The sign said Crane, That Way. Have you ever seen the television commercial just begging you to come to Crane? It claims that Crane is the Neatest Little Town in Missouri. To get there, all I had to do was go south on 413. Who could resist?

I don't know if Crane is the Neatest Little Town in Missouri, but it is a pretty cool town, if you like second-hand stores. Which I do. You can literally walk down one side of the street, turn the corner, cross the street and walk back up going into store after store after store. One of the coolest parts is that each store has its own personality. I have visited a few touristy type places that feel as if once you have been in one or two stores, you have been in all of them. I never felt like that in Crane. I enjoyed my visit into each little homemade store. I didn't buy anything, though there was a blanket chest that I really wanted. I kicked its tires more than once, but opted out.

Once we finished shopping, we wasted no time getting back on the black-top. Even in pre-spring season, Missouri is just beautiful. After flipping a quarter, left-turn won, we ended up in Reeds Spring. I almost stopped at Pop's Dari Dell, but we weren't hungry, not even for an ice cream cone. Another eating place I'd like to visit some day is Papouli's. We drove by and I think they were open, but the parking lot was absent of even one vehicle. But in spite of the beautiful scenery and the beckoning restaurants, it just wasn't a Reeds Spring day. I don't know how to explain it, but when you are on a road trip, sometimes you know you have a destination and where you are at just isn't it.

As we headed back north on 413, we came into Galena and then we started to go out of Galena and that is when I saw the bridge. It is over the James River, but separated from the main road by a pull-off area. I could not resist, I slammed on the brakes, made a quick left across the other lane and pulled in. Of course, my son's attention has now been pulled away from his Ipod and is fully on me and my crazy stunt. "What are we doing here?" is all he wants to know. There are no restaurants, shops, or other familiar signs of entertainment. "I want to see this bridge." is the only right response I had for him.

First, I walked down to the river. This did interest Jeremy. He is quite the rock skipper. I was rightfully impressed. He got up to 6 or 7 skips, and some as high as, at least, 3 feet between jumps. I am not sure the fishermen a few feet down from us appreciated his skill as much as I did, so I cut his rock-skipping activity short. As I started back up the hill and toward the bridge, Jeremy asked, "Are you serious?" Of course, I was serious. I really don't know what his apprehension was about the bridge, but he was not going to walk on it. Jeremy went back to the car and back to his Ipod.

Before I went to the bridge, I went to the sign. Honestly, I heard Jeremy sigh from inside the car. It just burns him because I have to read every historic sign I come across. This bridge was built in 1926. And this is where I am going to get in trouble. I did not bring my camera, I did not have a pen with me -- so I am going to try to go from memory about what the sign said. If you want to make corrections, please do...

First, what really got to me was that the Historic Sign reiterated so much of the stuff that I had learned in my Ozark Studies class. I think I may send my professor an e-mail telling him that he MUST take future students on a road trip to this bridge. It would make his lessons come to life.

This area had been inhabited by Native Americans from 7000 BC.. and as you are standing at the Y looking up at the bluffs, I swear you can feel the truth of that history. Here is a picture from Wikipedia:
I don't know if this picture does it justice. Those bluffs are a sight to behold.

The sign goes on to tell the history of Galena and the county it occupies. The Delaware Indians lived here, as well as the Osage Indians before they sold it to the settlers. If I recall correctly, the Osage Indians did not live there so much as they used this area as hunting grounds. Schoolcraft had came down the James River and wrote about the bountiful game and the pools of water so clear that you could see to the bottom. I wish I could have seen the river when it was that pristine. If the Department of Conservation signs are correct, it is now being used for black bass.

After Ozarkians settled the area, there was a lot of unrest following the Civil War because of guerrilla warfare. According to what I read, this guerrilla warfare really stunted the growth of the area and caused a lot of poverty. I am not very knowledgeable in this area, so I should probably not venture too far into that territory. I know that it was a horrible time in the Ozarks' history and a lot of families suffered greatly at the hands of folks who may have started out with good intentions, but things eventually went haywire and got out of control. But, as always, Ozarkians are resilient and found their footing once more.

Thar Was Gold In Them Thar Hills... but it was Red Gold, tomatoes. Stone County's first tomato cannery was built in 1895 and through the years many more canneries popped up. I am sure there were other industries going on, but tomatoes kept the folks in this area thriving through the mid 1900's, up until about 1960, if I recall correctly. However, since then, I think the primary industry that has sustained the area is tourism. Branson is not too far away. Lots of folks still like to float, though I am certain they will never find the pools of water that Henry Schoolcraft wrote about. I don't think anyone will ever find the Ozarks that used to exist for the first settlers. Those Ozarks only exist in diaries of people who died a long time ago.

There are a lot of old gravel roads to be traveled, some more carefully than others, but the landscape has been changed so much on the outside that even the countryside found far off the beaten path feels modernized. It is as if modernity seeps inward. It starts off as the outer shell for public viewing, but its effects trickle inward until even the most remote cabin cannot be immune to it. Or perhaps it is just my mode of transportation that separates me from my Ozarkian ancestor's past.

But today, regardless of how I got there, I knew that standing on that Y Bridge, staring up at the bluffs, I was where I was supposed to be.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ozark Stereotyping

I have been locked in because of work and personal commitments, as well as winter weather, so I have not had any Ozark Adventure to post about. But while I was meandering around other folks blogs, I ran across a comment that kind of upset me. I think I have been a little worked up already because of a television special I had seen a few days ago, so perhaps I am feeling a bit over-sensitive about my Ozark heritage, but regardless, here it goes:

WOW! Further evidence of why the Ozarks drives me crazy sometimes. The sad part is that he really thought he was giving a compliment. In his own backward, I'm-a-hillbilly way, he was, but good Lord — that type of ignorance has really bothered me for several months for some reason.

It is disheartening to me that the person who left this comment, as well as the approver, cannot see the irony of portraying native Ozark folks in a negative light under the guise of being offended by the stereo-typing of Asian folks. Why is it that people (workers, parents, teachers, children) of the Ozarks continue to be labeled and portrayed as backward and uneducated, as well as insensitive to the complexities of other groups? Why is that okay, but saying an Asian person doesn't have an Asian accent a sign of ignorance and hillbilliness?

Recently my son and I were in a grocery store and we saw a nicely dressed Asian couple accompanied by a cute little blonde haired Caucasian girl. The little girl was holding the Asian woman's hand. It really was sweet, but I burst out laughing at the strangeness of the situation. I have become very accustomed to seeing white couples with an Asian child, but in reverse it was startling, but refreshing.

Last week I watched a documentary (shallow as it was) by Diane Sawyer regarding folks from the Appalachian Mountains. At the end of the show I was so angry with her. She followed the local football hero as he claimed his scholarship to go to college, and also as he eventually failed and ended up back at home. Those kids journeys are not the same as every kid coming out of Kentucky or North Carolina - the families Diane followed around are from dying communities with few resources especially since mining has started drying up. I was angry with her for not bailing that kid out. He could have stayed in school except for the simple things like food and shelter. I kept thinking about how much money she has and how she stood back and let him fall. In my mind, she used him and his family to promote her television personality, a small scholarship set up to cover his living expenses would have been minimal to her budget or even her station's budget. I guess folks will comment that the necessity to not change the chain of events override one boy's education, but it just felt so unfair. Why do people allow themselves to be exposed like that without fair compensation? What do you think Diane Sawyer charges when she speaks at an event?

I have much more to add to this post, but my break is over -- I'll be back this evening.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

West Plains Road Trip

On the second day of 2009, I attempted my first road trip for the new year. It was not as successful as I hoped it would be, but overall I had a great day.

I headed to West Plains in search of the Harlin Museum and Lennis Broadfoot's artwork... Unfortunately, Harlin Museum is only open from April - October and I had to make due with seeing Mr. Broadfoot's work in a book published by the museum.

This fall was the first time that I gave serious thought to the artwork that comes out of the Ozarks. While Todd Lowery's work is not the first artwork that I became aware of, his is the first that I held my ancestry up against. Lowery, using his art, set out to confront the hillbilly image. Using his personal experience, and comments made by his peers, Lowery produced art that illustrates the backward, uneducated, and unkempt. When I view Lowery's art, I come away with the feeling that he is attempting to take ownership of all that is presumed negative of the Ozarks and therefore negate any power that it holds over Ozarkian citizens.

I must admit that Lowery's work makes me uncomfortable because he is putting out a negative image in a serious manner. We have all seen the moonshine jugs, or the reclining barefooted hillbilly used for tourism purposes, but Lowery's work is not meant to be sold in some truck stop along the highway.

Another Ozarkian artist, whose creations I admire, is Monta Black Philpot. You can find her work in Mena Arkansas or view her Ouachita Gallery on the web. I find a lot of the images to be a little bit romantic, but I can relate to the folks she portrays. They remind me of relatives from my past even though Mena AR is about as far away from Pulaski County Missouri as you can get and still claim to be somewhere near the Ozarks.

The third artist that I became aware of when I was trying to do research on Philpot is Lennis Leonard Broadfoot, hence my ill-planned road trip to West Plains. He not only sketched pioneer Ozarkians, but also documented their stories. His mission was to present a character study of the folks who lived around him. He falls somewhere between Lowery and Philpot. Broadfoot's characters are neither unkempt caricatures nor are they dressed in their Sunday best, smiling for the artist.

I won't make the same mistake I made on this trip of coming into West Plains on a single mission. After I found the closed museum, with no note on the door explaining their seasonal hours, I decided to just head back home. As I got to the edge of town I discovered the Tourist Center. I figured, since I had driven all the way there, it would not hurt to stop in for a few minutes. After a short conversation with the folks running the tourist center, I discovered that West Plains' downtown is filled with second-hand stores, locally owned restaurants, and theatres. There is more than a small volunteer-ran museum to appreciate in this town that is working to revitalize its Ozark heritage. I am looking forward to a late spring road trip back across 60 E......

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Arkansas is part of the Ozarks

This may seem obvious to most folks, but being from the most northeastern edge of the Ozarks, I always considered Arkansas to be part of the south... However, this fall I took a class at MSU called History of the Ozarks and that is when it became blatantly obvious to me that Arkansas has as much right to the glorious Ozarks' title as any county in Missouri.

The image I have attached to this post is from the fellow who taught the MSU class, I will let him know that I have posted the picture. If he requests that I take it off, I will oblige. I don't know if he will though because I think the map can be traced back to several different sources. However, I am certain the coloring of said map can be attributed directly to my professor's artistic skills.

Perhaps I should have started my blog with a little background regarding how I decided to even start an Ozarkian-based blog because anyone who stumbles across this site may wonder why I would take time to post information about the Ozarks.

It started out a little off-track. I was recently discussing my teenage son and my inability to find his passion in life. We have tried everything and I have yet to introduce him to the thing that he obsesses about. This conversation led me to a little bit of self-evaluation. What is my passion in life? I don't care too much about things my other friends are doing, such as quilting, knitting, crocheting, weaving, sewing, or any other hobby that includes fabrics and thread. I do like to write, a lot. I like a little gardening, but don't go overboard. But, what I love the most, what excites me every single time, is a road trip through the Ozarks or an article I have run across in some old musty smelling magazine that gives me insight to some building or event in the Ozarks. I am passionate about the land that gives me life.

Something else that I learned in my History of the Ozarks class is that there are two ways of telling the Ozarks' story: factual history and folklore. Sometimes these two genres cross over each other, but sometimes they adhere to their own distinct conventions. I will always do my best to distinguish which voice I am speaking with.