‘A Continuity Of Place And Blood”


Well, in time the fields lay mown and slick as they ever had. The derelict house, new-painted and made sound, stood safe against the passing of more years. And John turned to Oma near the last and, calling her “Momma,” said, “You know, we dug this place out of a jungle.”

Like genius, greatness has many definitions. John Lewis was the kind of man and friend you are privileged to know once in a lifetime. He has gone now to lie beside his brothers in a country churchyard in the hills.

The Ozark highlands are changing, and must change. A way I of life so charming at a distance can be seen, on closer look, to exact its price of hardship and disappointment and pain. A region and its people cannot be kept as a living museum. Even if that were possible, it would be wrong.

But it is not unreasonable to hope that, in the process of change, something of the character and values of the highlands might endure.

In May, several years ago, I went on foot to what I calculated then to be one of the Ozarks’ remotest spots, far from any passable road. And in that wild valley I came upon a place where a settlement once had been, probably in the first decade of this century. The route of the narrow-gauge tramline could be seen, along which logs had been hauled to the mill.

The wildfires of a great many autumns and springs had done their work, and nothing remained of the houses that had been there-not one board or shingle. Yet the number of the dwellings and their location along the stream could be placed exactly. In each dooryard, some caring hand had made a planting. And stubbornly, through the ashes of all those burnings, the flowers had come to bloom again.