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Local History

'We Have Met The Ozarks, And It Is Us'

Rachel Kramer

This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills. In this week of wacky weather I was looking really hard for a metaphor and maybe a song to describe the springtime Ozarks and its unique weather pattern.


I thought of the image of a yo-yo to illustrate the ups and downs, but I went all the way through a semi-famous American rapper, a hip hop artist from the Punjab, a venerable Hostess snack cake and a beloved Asian cellist before I got to the toy, so - so much for that icon. 

Then I considered the possibility of the pogo stick, but that had its own problems, not least of which was running the risk of maligning that legendary cartoon called Pogo and my all time favorite cartoonist Walt Kelly, with his all time iconic punch line of “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”


So that was out too. 


I was left with just Lucy and her football, the one she always promises to hold for Charley Brown. But she just can’t bring herself to do it. Time after time, she is almost good, almost steady, steadfast, even. But she is doomed to be fickle. As is the Ozarks weather. Someone told me recently that in some weather study, Springfield, our Springfield, was voted as having the most unstable weather of any city in the U.S. I can’t verify that as true, but I have absolutely no trouble believing it. 


I think that may be why some of us have trouble grasping the concept of global climate change. Because it happens here every day or two. In fact I remember a day last week we had rain, snow, freezing rain, freezing fog, freezing drizzle, thunderstorms and a tornado or two – all in the same forecast.


That kinda stretches fickle to the max. You want a picnic, here’s you a thunderstorm. Need a little rain? How ‘bout an ice storm. You nervous about your tomatoes and crave a good soaking rain on the garden. Sure, maybe in a month or two, but now? Nah. I’m busy. Go buy a hose. 


It’s enough to make a person crazy. Or teach a flighty person patience.


Growing a garden or anything else in the Ozarks takes gumption. 


But you know, it has its good side, too. Sometimes I think that’s what has given those of us who live in this place the resilience to keep holding on, to keep taking on the challenges thrown by the natural world that everyone who lives here faces.


Is there a message here? Are there secret codes hidden in the winds and wild weather. Are they trying to tell us something. Should we heed them? Do we have the capacity to think this through to a firm conclusion? I don’t know. 


I hark back to the stories the early European migrants, the ones we call pioneers, told about advice they received from those who came before, those “Native” Americans who were also immigrants, but who arrived much, much earlier. Those ones were horrified at the notion that the European newcomers planned to make their homes in the Ozarks. 


“Why would you do that,” they asked. “Nobody does that. We come through in the spring to hunt game and harvest the early greens, and again in the fall to gather nuts and the tree fruits. But you’d be crazy to live here through the summer or the winter. Just try it and you’ll see. It’s not worth it.” And so we did try, and we did see – and we stayed anyway. 


Down at my longtime home in West Plains, in the 1800s, back when the town was first being built, Native people warned the newcomers that although the town site was a good one in general, there was an area to the west of the tiny settlement that, although it might appear to be full of good home sites, was totally unsuitable for habitation. “That’s where the big winds come through,” they were told. “Anything you put there will just be blown away.”


But hey, we were pioneers, we were nation builders, the inheritors of the wisdom of ages. What could these "savages" know? It was a beautiful place. So much so they put the Country Club out there,  the perfect location, with its gently contoured golf course and its lovely clubhouse. A beautiful addition, to be sure.


Of course It’s only been blown away twice so far, with a few near misses in between.


What could those "savages" know, indeed.


It’s a good thing this is a land of extraordinary beauty, because we have to put up with a lot. And it’s a given that some of what we have to put up with is ourselves.


Walt Kelly was right. But I digress. My point is, the presently fickle weather is just the beginning of a seasonal spree of the weather showing its stuff.


If it were a performer on the stage, it would quickly be accused of overacting.


And sometimes I think that’s what makes us who we are. Rash?  Foolhardy?  Apt to go out on a limb? Yes, that’s us. But we’re also tough as nails.


You’d have to be to not just live here, but to thrive.


So bring on the weather, Mother Nature. You can try us, you can sometimes beat us, you can wear us right down to the core. But you can’t run us off.


There are gentler places to live, that’s for sure. But we’d miss the weather.


Even in the midst of ice and wind and cruel turns in our fickle climate, there is beauty to behold just about everywhere in These Ozark hills, no matter the season. And that’s what keeps us here, and calls us relentlessly back when we leave.


We have met the Ozarks, and it is us.