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Welcome to the Ozarks…

Posted by on August 23, 2017

WELCOME TO THE OZARKS. We’ve arrived in southern Missouri’s Ozark Mountain Country, also referred to as “the Ozarks.” It’s a highland geologic region of the country’s central states of Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma, extending in Missouri all the way northeast to the suburbs of St. Louis.  Although sometimes referred to as the Ozark Mountains, the region is actually a high and deeply dissected plateau, covering nearly 47,000 square miles.

 

We’re in Missouri’s Ozark Mountain Area. The Ozarks are actually not mountains. Rather, the area is a huge plateau extending in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma.  

 

The hills in Tennessee, Kentucky and here in the Missouri are heavily wooded, green and beautiful. I love San Diego and it is certainly beautiful, but compared to this the landscape there is like a desert.  

 

Cattle ranch in the Ozark mountain area of Missouri.

 

Remember Li’l Abner and Daisy Mae? They lived in the impoverished fictional mountain village of Dogpatch, USA. Right here in the Ozarks. 

This redneck hillbilly looks like an interesting chap, doesn’t he? 

HILLBILLIES AND OZARK CULTURE. Ozark also refers to the distinctive culture, architecture and dialect shared by the people who live on the plateau. Early settlers in Missouri were American Pioneers who came West from the Southern Appalachians at the beginning of the 19th century, followed by Irish and German immigrants. Ozark families tend to have lived in the area since the 19th century. The Clampett clan of The Beverly Hillbillies TV show provide a derogatory depiction of Ozark people. They are free and untrammeled white folks who live in the hills, have no means to speak of, dress as they can, talk as they please, drink when they can get it and fire off their revolvers as the fancy takes them.  Due to its strongly stereotypical connotations, the term “Hillbilly” can be offensive to Americans of Appalachian or Ozark heritage. Recent population influx has contributed to changing cultural values in the Ozarks. Theme parks, developed areas and theaters reflecting current regional values have little in common with traditional Ozark culture. Community tradition bearers remain active, although in decreasing numbers, but far afield of commercial offerings.

 

Often, stories about witches that appeared in the New World were linked to Old World roots. Tales of witch-flights in the Appalachians parallel similar stories from the British Isles. German stories about witches casting spells on hunters’ guns show up in the Ozarks.

 

The “Headless Ghost of Nickerson Ridge” is a ghost story from the Ozarks. Superstition, magic and ghost stories abound in these parts.

 

Stereotypical hillbilly from the Ozarks with a corncob pipe, pistol, rifle and bottle of booze. 

OZARK DIALECT. Studying the hillbillies, their culture, ways and particularly their dialect would be a fascinating undertaking, suitable for a doctorial thesis. We don’t have time for that, but we do have time for me to give you a little glimpse of “Ozark-speak.” Here we go: Yisterday I got me a new pair o’ britches over to Lem Tucker’s store, and as Mary allus has to cut em off in the laigs, she cut one laig and fixed it at the same time she was watchin’ the cookin’ of her grub. And be-dog my cats! Hyah, hyah, hyah! when she come back from cookin’ to fix the rest of my britches, she got all flabbergasted, and instead o’ cuttin’ off tuther laig, she cut off the same one, leavin’ tuther long enough to drag my tracks out and flung ‘em over to me. She never noticed till I had ’em on ready to come over here-hyah, hyah, hyah! And so I dug this green shirt that she’d colored for cyarpet rags, outen the smokehouse and come in style, be-dog my cats!” We haven’t met anyone here who sounds even remotely like this, but I’ll bet if we made an effort and really got of the beaten path we’d find someone who does! No thanks…this time I think we’ll make it a point to stay on the beaten path!

 

This is, in fact, how some of the unique dialects of backward folks in remote Ozark mountain areas came into existence.

 

PEOPLE’S CREEK RECREATION AREA AT LAKE WAPPAPELLO.  Our home base for the next couple of weeks is at People’s Creek Recreation Area, located in the southeastern Ozark foothills of Missouri and on the shore of Lake Wappapello.  The park is nestled in land once used by Indians and pioneers to feed their families. Legend has it that the town of Wappapello was named after a friendly Shawnee chief who hunted the forests overlooking the lake.

 

The lake is huge. There are probably a half-dozen marinas on the lake and all  types of boats share the water. But it’s hot and humid here…we miss San Diego’s mild and comfortable summers! 

 

WHY WE’RE HERE. There are a couple of reasons we’re staying as long as we’ve planned. First, the solar eclipse on August 21 was an occurrence much more popular than I’d initially realized. In fact, RV’ers all across the country turned out in droves to camp in spots that fave view. This was supposed to be one of them, because we had 98.76% coverage. So even though it turned out that the show here wasn’t much of a show, it was very difficult to find a spot, any spot, where we can be parked for this event. Second, Labor Day weekend, is also coming up on horseback. It’s summer’s “last hoorah,” and folks want one last chance to play before summer’s end and the kids return to school. So, when we had a chance to get reservations including both events, we quickly took them. Ordinarily, we shun reservations and having an itinerary because of limiting factors, but in certain areas and on major holiday weekends we have no choice.

 

Anglers on Lake Wappapello near where we’re staying for a couple weeks. As I mentioned when we were in Tennessee and Kentucky, the hillsides are thickly wooded. Same here. Beautiful, and there are lots of deer every evening. 

 

Personal watercraft by Yamaha can always be distinguished by the “pee fountain” at the stern. A Kawasaki ski is the only “real jet-ski.” I wish I had mine with me right now, as I’d give the guy in this picture a run for his money! 

 

 

I can’t believe there aren’t any boats on the lake today! The temperature is about 75 degrees and there’s no humidity…a perfect day for boating or fishing.

 

KUDOS ONCE AGAIN TO THE CORPS OF ENGINEERS. I’ve been raving over and over recently about CoE parks, so after this post I’ll be done. But for those of you who are on your own RV adventure or are thinking about one in the future, I can’t stress enough how valuable a resources these parks have become to us. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the nation’s largest federal provider of outdoors and water-based recreation. The Corps manages large construction projects at wartime and in times of peace. During the 1960’s, the organization was active in environmental preservation and restoration. Throughout this period, the corps built dams to help control rivers, often harnessing them to generate hydroelectric power. In Missouri alone, 12 lakes were created, and all of them offer camping and recreational opportunities. Be sure to see if these parks are located along your route and book one for a stay. You’ll not be disappointed.

 

The Corps of Engineers are active in wartime, as well as peacetime.

 

WHAT’S NEXT? We’re not quite sure, but we’ll be formulating our plans within the next few days. As most of you know, we’re headed for Oregon. Several of you have suggested that we go from here to St. Louis and take the famous Oregon Trail all the way across the country. So we may do that or we might take “the trail” for some segments and take a different route for others. Some stretches of the Oregon Trail look as if they might be tricky in a big rig motorhome like ours. Although I’m very confident with my driving skills, it can be very  stressful and even dangerous when driving on challenging roads. Remember, the combined vehicle loaded weight we take down the road is almost 37,000 pounds and our overall length, “start to finish” is about 56 feet. That’s quite a “package.”

OR MAYBE THIS. Another possibility for our next stop might be Arkansas and the Clinton Library in Little Rock. Have any of you guys been there? Was it interesting? Anyway, we’ll keep you posted about our plans: When we know where we’re headed you will, too. And if you’re not already a subscriber to my blog, take a minute right now to become one. That way, you’ll be notified by email each time I “continue my story.” And rest assured, I’ll never use your email address for any other purpose than to inform you about my blog.  We’ll see you again soon. Thanks for traveling with us!

 

I’ll continue my story next time.

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