Every now and then, in encounters casual or commercial, we bow to what must be obvious — we have to admit that neither of us is native to Arkansas, or The Ozarks, or The South. And we’ve yet to meet anyone who treats us any differently.
When we confess to being the tourists we are, the simple response is a warm smile.
Deb was born and raised in West (By God) Virginia. Her childhood home was a Morgantown neighborhood north of the WVU campus, where she had a traditional upbringing in a close-knit community of households and mom-and-pop shops.
Though she came up in a “university town,” with the accompanying employment opportunities and cultural influences, her family owned and operated a variety of businesses — trailer court, auto repair, gun shop — catering mostly to local residents.
I’m originally from northeast Ohio, growing up in the farmland west of the working-class city of Massillon. My parents, like Deb’s, were children of The Great Depression, my father a veteran of the US Army Air Corps who worked 40-plus years as a country veterinarian. The tone of our Heartland home was old-school conservative, dominated by the hardest-working man I’ve ever known.
As for the Massillon-area community, in a previous post I summed it up this way:
“American traditions and Heartland values. Unabashed patriotism. Blue collars and shit-kickers, steelworkers and meat-cutters and third-generation farmers, men who worked with their hands. Veterans of World War II and Korea who gave us their stern guidance and humbly accepted our thanks. Family, the center of the community. And football — always football.“
I like to say that I grew up at a great time and in the best place on Earth. And I mean that.
Between us, and before we met, Deb and I lived lots of other places — Indiana, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Texas, Louisiana, California, Pennsylvania — and each of us traveled all over the country. We made our home together in central Ohio, which ultimately became the launch pad for an odyssey that’s now led us to “Ozarkansas.”
What draws us here and keeps us hanging around is a culture that closely resembles those in which Deb and I grew up. We can’t say that about present-day central Ohio, which in many ways has “evolved” into something we barely recognize as America.
We understand what motivates some people, especially young people, to flee simplicity and tradition for more exciting places, more sophisticated locales. The Big City has its allure, and fast-paced urban life definitely seduced me years ago. Deb, too, I’m told.
But as we’ve grown older, with all that “evolving” nonsense well behind us, we’ve come back to what made us who we are — roots, if you will. We have the benefit of experience and a longer perspective. The values we’ve carried through the decades are once again at the center of a very American Life.
The people we seek out now are more likely to extend a hand than they are to wear a mask. Cornbread, yes; sushi, no. They distrust government. Flags fly. Parades, not marches. America is celebrated without apology and Liberty is honored. Folks who cherish a pre-1964 Model 70 rather than prize a Prius.
No-bullshit law and order. A community that takes care of its own business.
In the news recently I’ve seen videos of “flash robs” — organized mobs using surprise, speed and numbers to overwhelm resistance and steal tens of thousands of dollars in merchandise, leaving before cops can respond. Thanks to the decriminalization of shoplifting in some cities, it’s become disturbingly common.
It’s looting without the cover of a riot.
I can’t fathom an America in which that’s accepted. I am, however, absolutely sure that it wouldn’t be tolerated here. And if, by chance, an invading mob materialized in The Ozarks of northern Arkansas, it’d happen only once.
So yeah, The Ozarks suits us. It’s the real America, the one we remember, and we’re treated well ’round these parts. I suppose I could chalk that up to Southern hospitality, but there’s more to it.
It is, I think, the perfect match of where we are and who we are, coming together at the right time.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.