You can also hear Dr. Blevins work on Ozark Highsland Radio, Sunday evening at 7 on 89.9 KRPS. Or visit OHR website by clicking this link.
The story and history of the Ozark is as vast as the land itself. Representing the story of not only parts of three states (Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arkansas) but the story of America. While millions of coastal dwellers think their crowded cities and boroughs make up the pulse of the US, the heart of the country is intertwined with the narrative of this varied landscape which is roughly the size of the state of New York at about 54,000 square miles.
KRPS’s Fred Fletcher-Fierro recently spoke with Dr. Brooks Blevins, the Noel Boyd Professor of Ozark studies at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri, who described the bounties of the Ozarks this way.
“It stretches from the Missouri River in the north, all the way to the Arkansas River on the south, from the Mississippi River on the east, all the way to about the Grand/Neosho river on the west. Those are very, very broad boundaries, but that is probably the easiest way to define it.”
Dr. Blevins would undoubtedly know the area’s borders, having written a trilogy of books titled, The History of the Ozarks Vol 1., The Old Ozarks, Vol 2. The Conflict Ozarks and Vol 3., The Ozarkers. Together the three books took him about ten years to research and write. However, having grown up in northern Arkansas, a lifelong resident, Dr. Blevins was writing the story of his people.
Today if you asked residents of Southwest or Central Missouri where the Ozarks got their start, you would probably hear Springfield or Branson, the areas that the Ozarks are best known for today. And that is one of the hidden gems in The History of the Ozarks Vol 3. Dr. Blevins tells us that the region started in the eastern part of Missouri.
“They are actually called the St. Francis mountains. (The location of the start of the Ozarks) They are among the oldest landforms in all of North America. And they are severely eroded because they are so old. And southwest Missouri is not what people think of when they think of the Ozarks. Especially that kind of rural sparsely populated place where the St. Francis mountains are.”
According to Dr. Blevins, the damming and creation of Table Rock Lake would be a major turning point for the Ozarks. The past 100 years of Ozark history portray the American experience and near-constant change, no matter how politically conservative the area has become. During this time, the site would go from having robust agriculture, dairy and poultry, and mining sectors. Some of the remnants are with us today, such as the scars left by extensive mining in southwest Missouri.
“The 20th century Ozarks which is what volume 3 is about. The things that come to mind are certainly the damming of so many rivers. For the most part, that was the Army Corps of Engineers that created the lake areas of the Ozarks. A couple of the others were created by private companies like Lake of the Ozarks. That certainly was one of the major events, taking those cumulatively.”
In The History of the Ozarks Volume 3, Dr. Blevins reminds readers that regardless of technologies that allow us to communicate and travel faster today, the story of the Ozarks is similar to what it was about 100 years ago. The Ozarks are a microcosm of the American experience, and economic wealth on one side of the area does not mean that prosperity is spread across the region equally.
According to a 2022 report from US News, all three of the states the Ozarks inhabit are in the bottom 8 for healthcare in America. Two, Arkansas and Oklahoma make up the bottom three. Arkansas’s neighbor to the south, and one of the poorest states in the union, Mississippi, is the only state in the US that has worse healthcare. The Ozarks, no matter how prosperous or how large the area’s population has grown, still have many challenges according to Dr. Blevins.
“The Ozark region, really since it’s first arrival of white settlers, east of the Mississippi in the 1790’s has just gone through one phase after another agriculturally, and those phrases differ depending on what part of the Ozarks your in. It’s a big region and different types of farming. But certainly by the early ‘1900s, 100 years and a little more ago, the region was very big, with different types of fruit.”
Scammers and scams change with the season
Today, there are numerous ways that scammers can reach you. Whether through your email, text, phishing, or social media, all are effective and cost consumers millions of dollars each year. Though some scammers operate in a much less tech-savvy way and knock on your door, introducing themselves as a local government official, and they are at your doorstep to save you money.
According to Stephanie Garland of the Better Business Bureau in Springfield, Missouri, scammers are looking to prey on people looking to save money during the hot months of the year.
“The scammers said that you may be saving big on your energy bill if you install filters, thermostats, or other energy equipment. But they may also say that you can pay less than you already are now. All have you to do is possibly sign a contract or run a credit check.”
Both a credit check and signing a contract are red flags. Once you provide that information to the scammers, there is a good chance they will try and steal your identity and open up lines of credit in your name. The Better Business Bureau has also heard reports of scammers trying to get homeowners’ credit and debit card numbers to pay for upgrades to their homes to save money on their energy bills.
The BBB warns consumers that if a salesman comes to your home unannounced and offers you a “Home Energy Audit,” there is a good likelihood that it is a scam. If you are unsure, you can file a report with the Better Business Bureau in Springfield, MO, by calling 417-862-4222 and get advice at no cost. Or visit the BBB’s Scam Tracker and report it by clicking this link.