|The Hills Sing|
| Taney County, Missouri, in the heart of the Ozarks, once the home of my Jackson and Matthews ancestors. It's well known today because of its number one tourist attraction, Branson, but in the days of my ancestors, it was far from famous and little resembled the glittering neon lights of Branson today. All of the photographs on this page are from Taney County, many are from the photo gallery of a great Taney website (you'll find a link to it below).
I was reminded of the Ozarks and my Grandpa Jackson recently, when I found a wonderful web article, Sirens of the Ozarks, the first line of which read, "Since time immemorial, the Ozark mountains, like the sirens of ancient mythology, have been quietly singing......."
One of the stories Grandpa used to tell me was that, even years later and miles away, he could sometimes hear the Ozarks singing to him at night. His fascinating stories of life in the Ozarks always intrigued me.....and made me sad to be a "flat-lander" living in the city of New Orleans, a city so flat that it's below sea level (the ships sailing by on the Mississippi River are actually higher than the city!).......and, in order to demonstrate what a hill was to the children of the city, the folks at Audubon Park constructed a man-made hill (translation: high pile of dirt), called "Monkey Hill." I make fun of it now, but how my friends and cousins and I used to love to play there.....standing on top of that hill, a 6-year-old, with a story-telling Grandpa, could be transported instantly to the singing mountains of the Ozarks!
The Ozarks are a magical place.....I hope you enjoy your visit. Nancy
The poems on this page are the work of the unofficial "Poet Laureate of the Ozarks," Mary Elizabeth Mahnkey, a remarkable lady with a rare talent.....for poetry and for seeing beauty in the everyday things of life. There is a link below which will take you to a page I did on my Taney County ancestors, where you will find more poems written by this gifted lady.
|"Almost from the time the Ozarks region was first settled by intrepid pioneers, hill people have been looked down upon by outsiders. The isolation and difficult demands of life in the hills have shaped Ozark culture, but from the perspective of the outsider, hill people are almost always depicted as uncultured and unsophisticated. It is for this reason that the people of the area treasured the writings of Mary Elizabeth Mahnkey, who was born in the Ozarks in 1877. Beginning in the 1890's, first in local papers and later for regional and national publications, she wrote about Ozark life in a simple, honest voice, helping both the local people and the nation appreciate the beauty of Ozark values and traditions. Hers was the voice of a sensitive and cultured woman, native to the hills. Proud of her heritage, understanding of her neighbors, she presented a picture of the Ozarks that showed the pride, the beauty, the caring and the work ethic of the people. Her mission seemed to be to 'transform commonplace things into silver and gold,' so that her readers might see the beauty all around them."
-- A History of Taney County, Missouri
One of the sounds we hear no more and never shall hear again,
Is the rhythmic ring and rattle of a swinging bridle chain.
And the screaking saddle leather and a gruff old scolding voice,
As Doc Storms rode down the mountain, sounds that made our hearts rejoice.
For we knew that help was coming, in our hour of desperate fear.
How we strained our ears to listen, as those hoof beats sounded near.
Entering in so bluff and cheery, scolding Coalie to stay at the door.
But we were glad to see his old dog, lying by our hearth once more.
Leather saddle bags he cast down, warmed his hands before the fire.
Asked that some one take old Slocum, as the wind was getting higher,
And tie him somewhere in the stable, maybe near a little hay.
Then he donned his steel-rimmed glasses, and his eyes would never stray,
From the white face on the pillow, gently touching wrist and brow.
And we felt our fears all vanish, Doc Storms was with us now.......
|The VanZandt Cemetery
Strangers have bought the VanZandt place, and I wonder if they know
Of a little plot upon the hill where sad white roses grow?
Will they see that way, that solemn way, that leads up to the hill,
Where the gate is closed in sorrow and everything is still?
The old Captain lies here sleeping in the fields he loved so well,
Where melodious tones still echo from his old farm dinner bell.
We have two darlings lying within this sacred sod.....
Oh, remember, please, dear strangers, this acre belongs to God.
I stick smart weed and beggar lice in with my bouquet
And then I smile when my friends begin to say,
"How beautiful, how delicate, what can these blossoms be?"
"Oh, yes," I say, "Oh, yes, but it takes one just like me
To show you all that common things have beauty, charm and grace,
.....But not until you see them stuck in a crystal vase."
There's a twickety-twock on the bridge, Uncle Andy is coming to mill
On his old gray mule, so steady and true, from over yan side of the hill.
The old gray mule lays back his ears at the sound of a motor horn,
And a rich, powerful car whines down to a creep; serene, Uncle Andy rides on,
Secure in his right-of-way. "Let'em toot, let'em cuss,
I'm fust on the bridge.....An' I'm goin' to mill today."
.......and yet he sees
Wild gnomes and harps in leafless trees
And pale gold stars bend low to tell
The secret of this strange, bright spell.
He was a highhat, pompous and stately.
In anguish I twisted my aprons strings
(Wealth and dignity are fearsome things),
Wondering what I should try to say
To this potentate who'd come my way,
Twisting and folding my apron strings
(Wealth and dignity are fearsome things),
Then he stooped to carress my flowering moss,
He smiled at my rose on its cedar cross,
And I dropped my twisted apron strings.....
For roses and gardens are kindred things.
| The Past Whispers-Home
My G-Grandfather's Attic