Our houses are protected by the good Lord and a gun
You might meet ’em both if you show up here not welcome, son
Our necks are burnt, our roads are dirt and our trucks ain’t clean
The dogs run loose, we smoke, we chew, we fry everything out here
Way out here
That Josh Thompson lyric makes me smile. It always has. A long time ago I added “Way Out Here” to a CD that I put together and played in my truck, and I used to call the boys’ attention to it when I’d shuttle them to and from school..
I’d point out to them that I was born and raised way out there. Naturally they didn’t get it, probably because they had no frame of reference, no experience with places like that, people like that — until, that is, our younger boy accompanied their mom and me on a trip to my old stompin’ grounds.
He damned sure got it then.
Over the years I drifted away from the country culture that made me who I am. Now, with our move to Ozarkansas, I’ll live the rest of my life immersed in it — way out here. Simply saying that makes me happier than I can tell you.
I’ve talked a lot about how The Mountain feels separated from the rest of the world. It’s remote in all the ways that matter.
We’re building our house 75 statute miles from closest Interstate highway, which in this part of the country translates to over two hours’ driving time. It’s 70 miles from a major airport and 60 miles from closest Class I rail line. As the crow flies, we’re 100 miles (or three hours behind the wheel) from the nearest military base.
Maybe best of all, The Mountain is 90 miles from the closest county that went Democrat in 2020.
If it was up to me I’d love to see this country run
Like it used to be, like it oughta be, just like it’s done out here
Way out here
In our town of Yellville we have a grocery, an honest-to-country feed mill and a real hardware store. Walmart and O’Reilly Auto Parts are 15 minutes away in Flippin. A half-hour drive brings us to Meek’s, Lowe’s or Home Depot in Mountain Home.
There are four or five independent sawmills and lumber yards within 15 minutes. The grizzled Cajun who lives down over one side of The Mountain has offered to mill wood for us, too.
Farming surrounds us — beef, mostly, and turkeys. Hay for the cattle is tended, cut and rolled into large round bales in fields throughout the area. Butterball operates an enormous mill west of Yellville to feed the poultry.
Tractors and other farm vehicles are a common sight on local roads.
Other than the town centers and a few clusters of houses, most folks don’t live close. The nearest neighbors up where we are tend to be a quarter-mile away, often more distant than that. You might surmise that cultivates fierce independence (which it does) and a certain isolation (which it doesn’t).
The quality of one’s neighbors way out here is far more important than the proximity of modern conveniences. Sharing time and labor is essential to thriving. When misfortune comes calling, as inevitably it will, having good neighbors is the key to surviving.
Country folk have the uncanny ability to mind their own damned business and still be right there when you need ’em. They don’t make a show of their charity, but they’ll quietly hand the grocery cashier ten bucks to buy a “blessing basket” so that one of their less fortunate neighbors can have a real Thanksgiving dinner.
This subtle web of relationships is almost invisible unless you know it’s there. And honestly, you’d probably have to live here to see it.
The strongest sense of remoteness, of being way out here, comes to us when we’re up on The Mountain itself. Whether we’re porch-sittin’ with Deb’s cousin, wandering around the homesite, or scooting over road and trail in the buggy, separation from the world is obvious.
The farther we wade into the woods, the more seductive the seclusion. For us the most accessible sanctuary is the summit — we can ride up there on a trail we cleared, unfold our chairs and revel in being alone.
I could tell you all kinds of stories of solitude — mountain and desert, seacoast and prairie, shores of placid lakes and banks of bubbling streams, places where I’ve found remarkable peace. And yet nothing compares to what I’ve experienced on The Mountain over the last 12 months. It’s powerful, almost overwhelming.
Soon we won’t have to leave — way out here will forever be Home.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.