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In this segment of our monthly series “These Ozarks Hills,” Ozarks native Marideth Sisco shares some notes from the research she helped conduct on a recent study of local history...and also some exciting news.
This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills. If it's true that good things, as well as bad, happen in threes, then I'm probably going to just keel over before number three arrives.
Here I was, all primed to tell you about this very big thing that has happened in my life, when along comes an even bigger one. Now I don't know where to start. So I guess I'll just begin, not at the beginning, 'cause that would take all day, but somewhere along about the middle.
As some of you may remember, after the film Winter's Bone, in which I performed a number of songs, won the top prize at Sundance, life, as you might imagine, started getting a bit more exciting. I was invited to attend the South-by-Southwest film festival in Austin, Texas, and soon was off on a chain of appearances on behalf of the movie all over the country. The last was in December, in Italy, at the Torino International Film Festival.
About the same time the movie started taking off, I was asked to join Matt Meacham, Kathleen Morrissey and some others, to assist in the research needed to determine if a national heritage area could be established in the central Ozarks of Missouri.
Well, I'm so wrapped up in the history of this place, that was like giving me the key to the candy store.
In the months that followed, I was privileged to attend, visit with, and take notes on the stories of literally dozens of mostly elderly Ozarks folks as they shared their stories and their visions of a unique life and a tenacity that grew out of finding sustenance in a hard, ancient and beautiful land that is our Ozarks hills.
One man told of how he'd never been anywhere until he joined the army, and on his first night in camp they served brussels Sprouts. He felt sorry for them because they'd had such a poor cabbage crop.
Another woman told of how hard life had been in the Depression, and how if those who had more hadn't shared with those who had less, some people would have just starved. A third told of how he'd courted his sweetheart down by the gristmill by offering to share a large candy bar. "I suggested we eat it together, starting at each end. We finally made it to the middle, and we've stayed there," he said.
Well, as far as that research was concerned, we got to the middle and went on to the end, and just days ago turned in the completed product, a feasibility study taking into account all sorts of information and observations about Ozarks Culture, and what makes us unlike anywhere else on earth. The end product is now open to public scrutiny. You'll have 30 days to look it over and tell us if anything is missing. It's a beautiful document, and I encourage you to read it and offer your opinions and comments. The link is at: www.wparts.org. Click on the arrow or below it.
Now, see? That would have made a perfectly fine story, all on its own. I could have stopped right there. but then Tuesday morning my phone rang early, around 7:30, and I was still dozing. I got up and went to answer it, and before I could get across the room, the other phone started ringing. Well, I said, something must have happened. I knew the Oscar nominations would be out that day, and I was more than a little interested because I'm in one of the movies. But somehow I didn't think they'd be out that early, and besides, it would have been pretty presumptuous to assume we'd get much notice. I mean, I thought we should, but as you know if you live in the Ozarks, should is a far cry from gonna. Well, as it happened, and as you've heard unless you live on the moon, we got four somethings, and pretty big somethings at that.
The Acadamy nominated Winter's Bone, the movie, for best picture, best adapted screenplay, Jennifer Lawrence as best actress, and bless his dear heart, John Hawkes as best supporting actor. I was floored. Not just because they liked the movie. But because they were shown a true picture of a real part of life in the Ozarks, warts and all, and they believed it. It moved them.
In the end, the story of methamphetamine and its lethal results on families was trumped by the reality, the humility and the nobility of a frontier culture that still exists in the 21st century.
Today, it occurs to me that I only had one story to tell, after all. Whether you experience the Ozarks through the NHA feasibility study or by watching Winter's Bone. at least you're not forming your opinions from comic strips like Li'l Abner or Snuffy Smith. You're at least getting a glimpse of the real Ozarks, with not a lazy hillbilly to be found, because they're not here, and never were. Again, the study is at: www.wparts.org. This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills.