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This Is My Ozarks

By Timber Joseph Jones

I grew up on a river at the foot of a mountain in the Hudson Highlands.  As the river wound around the mountains and out of sight, I often wondered where it flowed.  It was here that the seeds of a searching spirit were sowed.  Although I didn’t know yet what I was searching for, I came to these Ozarks Hills with my walking stick in hand.  Like many early settlers of the area, I wasn’t born here.  I came here in search of a new life.

My first real experience of the Ozarks was on a trip to Shannon County, where my wife’s family finds its roots.  The steep hills, deep valleys, and winding roads reminded me of home, but these hills seemed more pure, less touched by man.  The Jack’s Fork and Current Rivers were perfectly clear.  The lapping of water at my feet was like hearing the ticking of a clock beckoning me back to yesteryear.  This was also the first time that I saw my wife’s love of the water.  She was content just to be there with the flow of water all around her.

To see her so content brought back memories of my younger days to mind.  Days spent running the woods of my grandfather’s land.  I wanted days like that again, and I wanted to share with her the same feelings from my own family’s roots.  In the next year or so, I brought her back to the place that I had called home.  While there, I was surprised to find that I had become a stranger in my own home town.  It was only when we arrived back in the Ozarks that things became familiar again.  I now found comfort here and finally realized that I had come to the Ozarks in search of a new life, for the redemption I seemed to have found here.

Sometime later, I went on a float trip with a friend in Arkansaw on the Buffalo River.  As I lowered myself into that river, it felt like I was being baptized as an Ozarks man.  I washed off all of the North and began anew.  These hills were now my home and newer, stronger roots were about to be planted.

With a renewed sense of purpose, I began to experience all the things that make my home unique.  On most evenings, I look for the sunset.  After years of searching, I have found where the sun sets best.  It is over any hill in the Ozarks, where it rests for a while then breaks the dark on a whole new day.

I have watched just before twilight when the shadows grow long and the treetops of my Sawmill Valley have been painted with light. 

I have wondered too far from home at night, through the woods and into an open field.  I was comforted to look up and see that the vast field wasn’t dark.  It was illuminated by the Ozarks Moon.  It led me home.  There is no moon greater than the one that hangs above these hills.

I have sat in a rocking chair at night listening to the tree frogs sing their song.  I have felt the humid air cooled by a breeze that seemed to embrace me.  I have listened carefully as the Arkansaw thunder rolled slowly over the hills that lead to my back porch.

This is my Ozarks.

I have sat on a protruding rock at the creek with my cane pole in hopes of a bite, but content just to sit there as time slowed down.

I have been stopped in my tracks by the awesome silence of the deep woods.  I have sat at the foot of a great pin oak with my daughter as she discovered just how awesome the silence can be.

I have heard the ringing of my axe on a 6 degree day while teaching the lumberjack trade to a good friend.  I have heard the ringing of his axe as he discovered his own love for the trade.

This is my Ozarks.

I have been there as my family said goodbye to our beloved patriarch as his ashes floated away near his favorite spot on the river.

I have stood above the great horseshoe bend of the Buffalo and over the deep blue waters of a spring, and atop the valley of a big red mill.  I have stood above it all and felt completely humbled, unworthy, and grateful to be in the presence of God’s great country.

This is my Ozarks.

In a land of thousands of hills, my footprints are on just a part of them.  God willing, I will be able to wander over many more of them before He calls me Home.  I have a strict rule for my family: If I am, for whatever reason, someplace other than the Ozarks on my dying day, drag me back so that my last breath can be taken from the air that covers these ancient hills.

No, I wasn’t born in the Ozarks, but I got here just as soon as I could.  I learned to love God here.  I became a man here.  I have made a family here.  

This is my heritage.

This is my Ozarks.