What's An Ozark?
Is it a boat? Nope, but you'll need one. Is it a tree? No, but you'll see plenty. Is it a wild animal, no, but you're sure to encounter some! Well, then, what is it? It's the Ozark mountain region of the United States, which is, in my opinion, the most beautiful place on earth.
The majestic Ozarks.
The Ozark Highlands are a diverse geological region that covers most of the bottom half of Missouri, the top third of Arkansas, a tiny corner of Southeastern Kansas, and a small section of Northeastern Oklahoma. Technically, the Ozarks aren't even mountains at all. The region is actually a gigantic plateau, heavily dissected by rivers , which over the eons of time, have cut mountains, caves, valleys, and other geological formations unique to the area. You're probably asking yourself, "But, wasn't all of North America's face wiped clean by glaciers so many thousands of years ago?" Well, not all of it. The Ozarks, for one, escaped. The glaciers never got that far. What does it mean? It means that for tens of thousands of years, the flora and fauna of the region was left virtually untouched, which accounts for one of the most diverse collections of biological life on the planet. In other words, there are a lot of different species of plants and animals in those hills.
The people of the Ozarks were originally First Nation, or Native American. Next came the white settlers, mostly from the Appalachian mountains of the East. They brought with them, the Celtic culture of old. There were also German folks that immigrated to this region, adding their rich traditions to the mix, and almost every family has at least one Native American ancestor. The Ozark culture is swiftly fading, due to the availability of media and transportation. Most of the old "talkers" are all gone. Sure, the younger generations have a "hillbilly" accent, but it lacks the quaint Celtic lilt of long ago.
Bluegrass music is very much alive in the Ozarks. This music had its origins in the old ballads of our ancestral home. Traditional music can be heard at any Ozark festival.
The climate of the Ozarks is temperate forest. Humid and hot in the summer, and wet and cold in the winter. The weather is notiriously unpredictable. The old saying is, "If you don't like the weather here, wait a few minutes. It'll change." Spring and summer tornadoes aren't just common. They're expected.
Along with the many beautiful and rare species of plant and animal life come the unwanted, also. Poison ivy, oak, and sumac are notoriously prolific. Stinging nettle abounds. Rattlesnakes, copperheads, tarantulas, poisonous spiders, mosquitoes, and all kinds of stinging, biting creatures make their home here right alongside the deer, turkey, bears, rabbits, coyotes, countless songbirds, ducks, and other amazing and interesting wildlife. We learn to live in harmony with the ones that are protected, and remove the other little pests. It's the price that must be paid to live in paradise.
The Ozarks happen to be my home. The place where I was born and raised. It's hard to explain how life is with Paradise perpetually at your fingertips. I grew up swimming in pristine rivers, dining on the wild bounty God has placed in this garden, waking up to quail calls in the morning, and being lulled to sleep by whippoorwills at night.
How can I think a place full of poisonous plants, dangerous animals, and threatening weather is Paradise? The first time you walk down a little-trodden path, the morning sun illuminating the steam rising from the forest floor, tenderly caressing the new, tender leaves and flowers of spring, cross a laughing brook where deer have left their prints moments before, hear the songbirds softly singing their notes of love, see a squirrel gracefully swing from limb to limb, and smell the primeval scent of timeless beauty, all in a morning's walk, you will know.
The next time you are tired of living in the fast lane, just grab your toothbrush, bug repellant, poison ivy medicine, and your hiking boots, and head on over to the Ozarks, the most beautiful place on earth!