Friday, December 4, 2009

In Wild Arkansas

Shenanigans, Highfalutin, & Sensationalism
                                                                                …that’s what it is.
Well…that’s what makes today’s news …the news.  In addition, what makes a series of normal life events look extreme or bazaar?  I believe it all matters behind the perspective and view of those who the chronicle their times.  How about 116 years ago?  I submit; it was the same. Yet, behind all the tomfoolery that can be seen in print, I believe the truth can be found.

I remember when I was in the Air Force, people would ask me where I was from. I would tell them… born in Mountain Home, Arkansas, raised in Ozark County, Missouri, and lived on the Missouri & Arkansas Stateline. The next set of questions would entail…do you have electricity, running water, or toilet paper?  I’ll admit it; the closest thing that many have seen in the past about the Ozarks was the show The Beverly Hillbillies or Al Capp’s Dogpatch comics. I’m not completely upset their perspective; we are a bit redneck in our ways. All the same, I would tell them their perspective was a little bit warped.

Being from the Ozarks, scrutiny and jokes of outsiders served a humorous vent of those who did not fare from these parts either. It was a normal flare of the region.  Just as those people “Up North” made jokes of those hillbillies, hayseeds, rednecks, ridge-runners, and hicks, we countered their attack.  It went something like this.

"Up North"
When I was a kid and someone would say they were from “Up North” or from “Chicago,” many a redneck’s eyes would roll up in their head or a gentle sigh of, “Yelp.” would ensue.  Then we would look at our friends and give a nod in knowing the foreigner wouldn’t understand because they were from “Up North.”  As I grew up, I realized not all Yankees were arrogant and egotistical.  Ah…mmm…I’m married to one and happily converted.  Actually, this point was needful in seeing the first strand of my family, The Wayland Family, came to Arkansas in 1815.  Other migrations ensued to the Ozarks in 1840, 1859, & 1876.  Needless to say, the family tree probably forked in a few areas and needed refreshing.

Moonshine Heritage
In the past, the Ozarks did play a part by its’ sheer remoteness in harboring some unsavory elements.  Case in point…Moonshining. Moonshine and its’ industry in the Ozarks has given this profession a few peculiar names over the years.  The Ozarks was known as the "Moonshine District" containing "Blind Tigers” or “Blind Pigs.” The trails & paths commuting this clear and liquid gold, “White Lightenin'” were known as the "Mountain Dew Express.”  I have more articles which I will be posting in the future concerning moonshine in Baxter, Marion, Boone, and Ozark Counties.

They Said What?
As in some of my blogs, I like go over colloquial speech & dialect written in an original Ozark vernacular. People may say articles like these enforce bad stereotypes, but it is still part of our Ozark’s History.
  • Fur kaze. - For cause…or…Because.
  • Kase couldn’t fin' no door. - In case I couldn’t find the door.
  • Don't yu try tu fool us. - Don’t you try to fool us.
  • Yu air revenoo , that ' s what yu air. - You are a revenue officer, that’s what you are.
  • Wo 'lowed yu war revenoo. We allowed/thought you was a revenue officer.
  • 'nd we' uns war reddy fur yu.’ – And we was ready for you.
  • 'nd Zeke 'll take yu safe out tu-morrow. – And Zeke will take you safely out tomorrow.
  • 'Hyar 's the road to Yellville; keep in the middle of it and ye’ll soon get there. – Here’s the road to Yellville; keep in the middle of it and you’ll get there soon.
Speech Not Often Spoken
Here are a few words or phrases not often heard in our day.
  • Sulphur – Old English form of the spelling of “Sulfur.” 
  • Simon-pure “Rackensack” native - A sarcastic or mocking nickname for someone from Arkansas & their traditional folk manners or customs.  
  • I demurred to this proposition. - I objected or balked at this proposition.
And Now To The Good Stuff
With all I have said, I have retrieved another portion of newsprint with a snapshot of the Ozarks’ History & Lore.

 Enjoy the article.



In the Lair of the Mountain Outlaws—
Very Good People In Their Way But
Determined to Beat the Government.

A R K A N S A S, OR rather the Northern portion of the State, has become noted for its mineral wealth, and just at present the prospectors of California are turning their attention this way. Not far from Yellville is the charred stump of a broken and burned hollow tree where in 1861 the Boston mountain boys who followed Lee melted lead for bullets and molded them In the primitive molds of a half century ago. Their mode was a crude one, made so by necessity. A hollow tree trunk was filled full of lend ore picked by the would-be soldiers from the sides of the mountain in ridges.

A wooden trough connected the tree with a convenient iron kettle, a fire was lighted inside the stump, and as the molten metal ran down the wooden trough into the kettle rough mold turned it into rudely fashioned bullets that told on Southern battlefields many miles from the half-burned stump in Marion County. A fair-sized company went from the section immediately contiguous to Yellville, and every man had his bullet pouch packed with these home-made bullets of native metal. More than that, each soldier carried a powder-horn, and each horn was filled with coarse –grained powder made by the wives and sweethearts of the men who went out to fight against the Union. While the men were making bullets, the women were boiling saltpeter, sulphur and charcoal, and the result was a mixture that passed as gunpowder. It served the purpose, and when they marched to join the Southern forces further north, not many squads were better equipped.

As the new roads push their way through the northern counties the undeveloped condition of the country will strike their projectors forcibly. The simon-pure “Rackensack” native is found in his best in the northern section. The east and southeast have been brought into contact with civilization, but this portion has been left undisturbed.

Uncle Jeff Miller” of Baxter county who is nearly 80 years old, is one of the most determined opponents of the development idea. Uncle Jeff was born and reared and has spent the entire span of his existence in a little mountain home perchased high up on the ridge dividing Baxter and Fulton counties. Only once, to any one's positive knowledge, has he ever been within the sound of a locomotive whistle. This important event in Uncle Jeff’s life occurred about two years ago. Reaching the station, Uncle Jeff explained to the agent that he wanted to take a short ride. Soon the train rounded a curve and came dashing into the station. Uncle Jeff was seen to jump from his seat in the doorway of the station and to run wildly up and down the platform next the cars. The train pulled out, leaving him standing on the platform, a thoroughly bewildered man.

"Hello, Uncle Jeff,” said the station agent, "thought you were going to take a ride?"

"Was,” said Uncle Jeff.

"Why didn't you get on, then?”

"Fur kaze.”


"Kase couldn’t fin' no door.”

Uncle Jeff had chased up and down the platform looking for a door in the side of the car.

To the south and east of Yellville is a large territory in the very heart of the "moonshine district." Here the "blind tiger" has his lair, and the "mountain dew express" makes regular and frequently recurring trips. To the east for a tier of counties seven deep there are no railroads, and toward the south not enough revenue officers know the country to interfere materially with the business of the distiller of illicit spirits.

Stories of the moonshiner and his ways are plentiful—most of them are fragmentary facts dressed with imaginative touches, but there are true ones. A few months prior to the purchase by St. Louis capitalists of valuable mineral lands in Northern Arkansas, J. M. Hynicka, a mining expert was sent down by Kansas City and Denver parties to ascertain the value of the lead and zinc lands. He found it necessary to cross Bull Knob Mountain, which lies between Jamison Cree k and White River. He started across the mountain, prospecting as he went. After a holiday spent in leisurely picking his way he deflected from his course to examine a promising canyon. What followed he tells this way:

I started up the canyon, occasionally stopping to hammer a likely-looking piece of shale, or to put in my pouch a specimen containing the mineral I was in search of.

Meantime, I was slowly working my way toward the head of the canyon and paying little attention to anything else. When near the head I noticed a well-defined path running diagonally across, and as its direction seemed favorable to my course, I turned into it without hesitation, not stopping to note the fact that broad, beaten paths are not commonly found in the roughest portion of a rocky gorge half-way up a mountain side. I walked along the pathway, expecting every minute to turn a corner and find again the road which I had left several hours before.

Suddenly a bend in the road brought me abruptly into view of a mountain hut before which two women were busily engaged noting though swimming of something in a large kettle which stood at one corner of the cabin. I had time to note this much when the women discovered me. One of them darted into the cabin, while the other, with a shrill whistle, dodged into the brush. The whistle had not ceased echoing when the crack of a rifle and the sing of a bullet warned me that I was in for something I know not what.

Before I could turn three mountaineers stepped into view, and as each was armed with a long rifle, I threw up my hands and yelled, "Don’t shoot!” I was taken prisoner with somewhat more of formality and flourishing of the suggestive looking rifles than I thought was necessary.

“Don't yu try tu fool us, ' said one; 'yu air revenoo , that ' s what yu air.' “

I was profoundly thankful at that moment that I was not armed. Barring a pocket-knife, a hammer and a stout club, I had nothing that looked suspicious. I showed letters. I pointed to my hammer and argued how unlikely it was that the government would select me as an object of extermination for bold, bad moonshiners. My eloquence prevailed, and, after a long and earnest consultation beyond earshot, the bearded proprietor—the one who had tried to nip my career with a rifle ball—came forward, grasped me by the hand and roughly apologized.

“ 'Wo 'lowed yu war revenoo,' he said, "' nd we' uns war reddy fur yu.’”

“Low yu'll hev tu bunk here, ' said the bearded moonshiner, ' 'nd Zeke ’ll take yu safe out tu-morrow. “

I demurred to this proposition, but when I saw that with suspicion I was still regarded, and would not be allowed to depart in any case, I made the best of a forced situation and cheerfully assented. This changed their warning courtesy into a returning current, and I was told to make myself at home. I did so.

After my acceptance as a guest, the women appeared and resumed their labors, the men returned to their work, the nature of which I could only surmise, and I was left the sole occupant of the cabin.” The night was an uneventful one.  I entertained my hosts with stories of the world beyond Bull Knob Mountain, and they in turn told hunting stories.  In the morning Zeke accompanied me across the mountain.  I soon found how true was the remark of my late host, the moonshiner, when he said that I would need a guide.  We were halted by natives several times, but in each instance a word from Zeke was a ready passport. Finally my guide halted and briefly said:” ‘Hyar’s the road to Yellville; keep in the middle of it and ye’ll soon get there.”


Works Cited
“In Wild Arkansas.” Quincy Daily Herald 44. (24 Oct. 183): 1. Access Newspaper Archive. Baxter County Library, Mountain Home, AR. 1 Dec. 2009

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