Bob Mitchell: An argument about True Ozarkers

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Back some 35 years ago, a friend of mine, Frank Farmer, was editor of the editorial page of the Springfield Daily News, the morning issue that no longer exists, putting us in dispute about True Ozarkers.

On a hot July day in 1981, here was his reply to the Cassville Democrat's stand:

"A great number of Ozarkers were unintentionally overlooked in a recent editorial concerning a small area in the south of Springfield that was designated 'the True Ozarks.'

"As a result, one of our best friends, critic and fellow Hillbilly, Bob Mitchell, editor of the Cassville Democrat, brought us up short 'your comments could have been cleaned considerably to at least let quite an area of traditional Hillbillies feel they were still in a part of the proud Ozarks,' he commented."

Right again

"Bob is right. An Ozarker is an Ozarker. And he doesn't have to reside in a tiny rectangle designated as Ozark Mountain Country [OMC] to live in the Ozarks.

"OMC is bounded by Springfield at the north, the Arkansas border in the south, Kimberling City at the west and Forsyth in the east. The designation is part of a promotional effort to bring tourists to this entertainment area.

"OMC is a part of the True Ozarks -- just as is Bob Mitchell's Barry County with its spectacular Roaring River, Mark Twain National Forest, rolling fescue meadows and neat, wholesome cities, towns and villages."

Further description

"And so are the rolling hills to our east, the prairie country to the west and the mixed prairie and forest country to the north -- plus a whole lot more water-sculpted hills, celebrated and shimmering streams and mysterious caves. In fact, the eastern and northeastern regions of Oklahoma can also be included in the designation of Ozarks, plus the rugged and incredibly beautiful northern Arkansas region and possibly a smidgen of southeastern Kansas bluestem country."

Explained oversight

"All that unblemished beauty, all those uncrowded areas...most certainly they are all the 'True Ozarks.' We stand guilty of unintentional -- journalistic parochialism. We focused on the area south of Springfield, which has sprouted with full-time entertainment facilities neglecting to maintain, in our efforts to praise the promotion of this area, that the true Ozarks covers a much larger expanse, of oak forests, limestone bluffs, free flowing streams and man-made lakes.

"In fact, if persuaded to take off our blunders, we'd admit the Ozarks extends into areas far beyond these to which we are accustomed to considering as we go about our daily tasks.

"So it's obvious we should have been using our wide-angle lens, instead of writing about one tiny area of the Ozarks. We knew as well as Bob Mitchell that visitors want to experience easy Ozark living, who want to make the most of their visit, will venture outside the Branson-Silver Dollar City area."

A closing comment

"Back to Mitchell's comment:

"The Barry County Ozarks, you know is the only TRUE God's Country, we know of.

"All right Bob. We accord you the right to gross exaggeration, monumental pride. But you don't have an exclusive on hyperbole, you know Springfield is THE Queen City of the Ozarks."

This went further

Some time after the late friend's admissions, interests at Southwest Missouri State University, now Missouri State University, took it upon themselves to extensively extend the boundary of the Ozarks to include areas of their interest. Taking them to task for this effort might have been the wrong thing to do, since that is the last time I've heard from them, except for requests for an alumni contribution.

First of all, in my way of thinking, alumni are those who graduated from a learning institution. In 1949, with the Korean War looming, Uncle Sam probably had my time on his mind, so I got ahead of him and enlisted.

This act has nothing to do with this move, but it did eliminate much more contact regarding the boundary of the Ozarks.

The first boundary that Frank wrote about is about correct in my way of thinking. It's not as expansive as some would like, for whatever their purpose might involve.

And it's perfectly understandable why folks outside the True Ozarks would like to be a part of this our favorite and respectful area. They should realize things might not be as perfect as they might be led to believe but, for that matter, there isn't a spot on this earth that can lay a claim to being perfect.

So far as this Hillbilly is concerned, the boundaries of our beloved area are not made of rubber. They will not expand or stretch at the whim of anyone having their own benefits in mind.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat.

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