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Broadfoot's Collected Stories from the Past Come to Life

KSMU's monthly series "These Ozarks Hills" features stories about people and places in the Ozarks collected and presented by long-time journalist Marideth Sisco. In this installment, Marideth shares the stories of an Ozarks artist and storyteller.

This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills. Almost 100 years ago, a Shannon County boy of Cherokee heritage, Lennis Broadfoot who had a passion for drawing, went west to seek his fortune. He became a successful commercial artist. But in the Great Depression, he left his family behind and returned to the Ozarks to fulfill another passion: to draw the people from whom he'd come. The result? Almost 300 drawings, mostly in charcoal but a few in oil of a generation that was fast passing away. As he drew, he also wrote down the stories they told. Today, those drawings and the stories reside in the Harlin Museum in West Plains. They're the basis of programs like History Works that teaches economics to fourth grade school children and Not a Far Reach, a program that shows how traditional Ozarks values are relevant in today's world. In both these programs, developed by local non-profit administrator Lois Reborn, actors depict the Broadfoot characters and bring their stories to life. Let's hear what they have to say:

Actor: My husband Jake works around the saw mills where they manufacture lumber or at anything else he can get to do. I have even made all the furniture I have in my house.

Actor: We've got our own workshop. Make about everything we use, even to this furniture in our house. We always had to work in the fields til the summer's work was done and the crops laid by and then go to the old spinning wheel and loom and make our clothes.

Actor: I'll bet I can kill more squirrels with rocks than most fellers can with a gun. Now boys, boy, I just wish you could see all of them in a pile that I've knocked out of these trees with rocks.

Actor: I'm 85 years old and was married when I was pretty young and raised my family of four girls. I got a cow, some chickens and a dog. And I've raised my own garden. It's mighty nice to have all these things that you've raised yourself and can sit and spit in your own fireplace in the wintertime when the ground is all covered with snow and enjoy life.

Actor: Henry splits clapboards and kivvers houses and I keep the old spinning wheel humming to help make a living and it seems like it keeps us both busy to keep the wolf from the door and keep going. Me and Henry have always been hard-working critters and while we hain't got no finery, we hain't starvin' neither. And we'll get by somehow.

Actor: I have as midwife waited on more than 400 maternity cases and delivered that many babies to this world. Sometimes, I would have 10 miles to go with nothing but a trail to follow through the hills and so dark you could hardly see your hand before you. And many times, it's be raining and freezing and my shoes would freeze fast to the saddle stirrups before I'd get there. They were all poor people. Sometimes I got a little pay but most of the time, no pay at all but they needed me so bad and I couldn't say no.

Actor: Sometimes I think I could sit on a sack of taters and run a better government than some of them do. These duck-billed, beer-bellied politicians come around at election time, making their soapbox speeches and telling us old humpy farmers how they're going to take the whole works apart and see what makes it tick. Every time those greasy-tongued liars puts in a new wheel, it's one that grinds a new kink in our legs and a hump on our backs. I can see that if we ever get anywhere, we've got to do something besides set on a sack of taters and talk.

Actor: I done fine til those durn old automobiles come in and robbed me of my profession and drove me out of business. Makes me mad every time I look at a durn old car. They're the very thing that has bankrupted the world and put people on the bum. They're just a fast streak of waste and an extravagance that's caused all the world to go speed-crazy and do nothing but burn up time and money. What a nasty mess of monkey business they have got this world into. But there you go and where we're going to wind up?

Marideth: Something to ponder on a winter's evening in These Ozarks Hills. This is Marideth Sisco. Thanks for listening.