thumbnail of This land, this heritage, this people; The People of the Ozarks
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
It was about the whole Ozark Regional is about 300 miles long and about one hundred fifty miles wide a country of scattered peaks and short rocky ridges smooth pine clad contours and sky lines winding green valleys and clear swift streams. But the most interesting features of the region are the people who live there. This land this heritage this people a series of radio programs tracing in word and music the footprints of America the turns we took the tales we spread narratives letters diaries and songs have been adapted from primary source materials by Professor Robert E. Gard director of the Wisconsin theater programs were produced at the
University of Wisconsin for national educational radio under a grant from the National Library Foundation. Today's program the people of the Ozarks. There are men in the Ozarks today who sleep in beds and hunt with muzzleloading rifles. There are women who still use cloth on homemade looms. There are old English ballads brought over by the 17th century colonists their old settlers who believe firmly in witchcraft and all sorts of medieval superstitions. There are people who speak an Elizabethan dialect so outlandish that it's well-nigh unintelligible to the ordinary tourist from Chicago and points east. The typical Ozark native differs so widely from the average urban American that when the
latter visits the hill country he feels himself among an alien people. The Hillman recognizes the difference too and refers to all outsiders as foreigners whether they come from North Dakota or South Germany. Where oh where is going to be where oh where is pretty little Susie Where oh where is very little Susie way down yonder in the nads. The early settlers did not bother much about the legal ownership of their land they just built their cabins where they pleased without troubling to record an entry although it appears they could have obtained a perfectly good title from the government by paying about $14. Thus securing the land to their children. But $14 was a lot of money in those days and there seemed to be plenty of land for everybody. Many a mountain boy is discovered on the death of his parents that he did not inherit the old farm would all still belong them. Some shrewd Hilman homestead of their land rightly enough. But before the time came to patent it the owner relinquished his
rights and another member of the family entered on the same piece of ground. By these excessive entries it was possible for a family to hold land for several generations without paying any taxes. I'm told the family still living on farms which have been occupied since the early 1850s without ever having had a complete title. They cannot pause but I'm in a basket. They cannot pause but I'm in a basket. Economic basket that corn was in is the principal crop. But some wheat was grown on the balls. And most children put in a few rows of taters and a little garden truck and tobacco. The Ozark hill sides are singularly adapted for fruit and many of the pioneers set out little peach and apple orchards. Some of them brought pigs too and he seemed to thrive and multiply without any care or feeding. When the Hillmen wanted pork he took down his rifle and stocked a Razorback just as he would a deer the early settlers had few cattle and kept sheep only for wool little cotton was
grown but only as much as the woman could spin and weave and cloth and used for filling quilts and cover lids. These matters were not taken very seriously by the men folks anyhow. The first Ozark her was a hunter and fisherman rather than a tiller of the soil and as long as the woods about it in deer and turkeys he was accustomed to live largely upon wild meat and quite willing to wear buckskin if no wool or cotton clothing was at hand. Let's go. At the beginning of the Civil War period. The Hillman were predominantly southern in their 70s and traditions. But the truth is that most of them took very little interest in the rumors of war which reached their isolated settlements. The typical Ozarks are in those days was concerned solely with local affairs. It appears that there were some backwoods families so isolated that neither troops nor bushwhackers ever disturbed them very
much. My grandfather who fought at the Battle of peace and saw in 1862 met a man almost within range of the cannon who had never even heard of the war. It sure was hard for us to endure another war. The boys took to the horses and for Williams to eat. They got to me. So he lit a shot for the timbered. Only just a.g but me. This made two
crops in a Yoko creators and durable part on a gale. No way but she killed him and made a sim big Cousens out to hide. We couldn't make it to the mat no so long ago I had to put them to keep the car. But at the end. They were just. You know mind we know Sterling prize was a raid and the DA Indians was with him the Everlast dog as you go or leave it all down and
further sweet we insured it sweet and that in the end and they took the auctions do but they left an engine through the hit hurt too bad to foller. It got where it was but it was no good for plowing. Paul E snuck in one day. Two big pistols hanging onto him and dried blood and he couldn't make the critter Blau needed. We did make a little crop of corn that year but that. Yankees coming to most. I recollect wanting a gang a bushwhacker freedom. One of me says well let
me out there on the hills this morning left him and. I says the high. Uns did he get. EVERYONE HE SAYS SHE SAYS I had worked my packing away she were now more groping for is ready to sniff buried next. Do my good deed get get run front of the house. I was feeding them and they shot down as they run for the horses. They just left a dollar in the road and had to bury him. He sure was durable. He's.
My song song. Now women and song. This has brought some changes to the Ozarks of course but it's astonishing how
insignificant these changes are as compared with those which have occurred in parts of the country. The Ozark table is often a shock and a despair to the hungry traveler. Many mountain families have neither milk nor butter and when they do have butter it's often flaky and rancid. I've heard that this is because the woman heats the churn at the fireplace or pours hot water into it to make the butter come more easily. The hill folk nearly all prefer to sweet. If one wants the latter he must say sell in no uncertain language. I once asked a woman for a glass of milk and she replied that she had not an ally just seen her carry a big pail of it into the cabin. This being indicated she said Oh yass we got plenty of sweet Mayo if you want to drink that. Most Ozark ER's do not care much for fresh vegetables and they seldom eat raw fruit but prefer to make pies or cobblers of it or steal it into what they call sass. There's no convenient way to keep food fresh in the absence of any sort of refrigeration. Even the
spring house is a luxury enjoyed by comparatively few. Since many families depend upon a shallow wells for their water the words meet in the Ozarks means bacon or salt pork killing and butchering hogs was a big job in the old days when the average family killed as many as 12 or 15 Parkers for their winter's meat. The neighbors all gathered on the appointed day and unless there was a very large spring nearby they repaired to the nearest creek and built a great fire of logs in which a number of large stones were heated. Having no vessels big enough to scald hogs in they diverted the stream into a suitable hollow or pit among the rocks and heated the water by throwing the hot stones into it. When the hogs were scalded everybody helped to scrape and got the animals which were then cut up by the most proficient butters in the party that no the women provided a big dinner with fresh pork of all kinds and the host set out a jug or two of corn whiskey in the evening there was another big feed followed by a dance or a play party
or better yet another as pretty as the other as expected. Yet Septimus. Most of the old timers thought the dancing was immoral and regarded the fiddle as the devil's own instrument. When the people of my own village refused to allow a children's dancing class in the town I myself heard one of our leading citizens declare that he would rather see his daughter dead than to have her Dam's even in her own home. But the play party it appears is a different matter and even the most fanatical religionists see no particular harm in it. The party games are really dances but there is no orchestra. The players furnish their own simple B by singing last allayed as they go through the intricate figures while the spectators clap their hands and stamp their feet as the spirit moves them.
The typical Ozark play party is not arranged for any particular number of guests and no special invitation is necessary. The new assembly nor rated round that there is to be a frolic over at so and so's place and anybody is welcome to attend. Most of the parties at which I have to supported myself drew people from a distance of five or six miles which is a long ride over the rough mountain trails. Shortly after dark the guests begin to arrive. Young people usually travel on horseback or afoot while the old folk come in wagons or occasionally in cars. The girls generally make some effort to dress up for these affairs but many of the young men are attired simply in heavy boots Hickory shirts and overalls which latter garments are known as Doc interns. The women usually go into the house immediately upon their arrival but the cabins are too small to hold all the guests so the men folk wait their turns outside where they stand about peering in at the doors and windows at some play party as no food is served but often the dancers are regaled with watermelons or apples
and sometimes there is a plate of sandwiches or cold meat. The young man usually have a jug of whiskey out in the dark where the horses are tied and drinks are free to anybody who wants them. There is a certain amount of clandestine lovemaking which they held that elegantly designates as Tom Cotton. One time my hair was an old man and
some say his name was Bentley. He was a heavy drinker and one night he passed out so his friends put him in the ice house. Then they got to drink and forgot all about him. Two or three days later somebody happened to go in the ice house and there was the old man froze stiff as a poker. And the boys felt awful bad about it but they didn't know what to do with a Joe or to wound and then decided to thaw the body out and tell the folks he died of a heart trouble or something so they fetched the old man in the house and laid him on the bed. Next day a woman went in to look at the corpse and when she seen at old Benton was a brazen she fainted away. The folks sent for the doctor and put hot towels on a man and they poured some whisky between his teeth. Pretty soon the old devil was settin up chipper
as it jaybird. He says he feels better than he had in a long time. The old man didn't remember nothing about being unfrozen the icehouse folks never told him. He figured he wouldn't believe it anyway he told the doctor what happened though but he just laughed at them. You know it was about a year after that when old man Benton got to drinkin and raising hell worse than ever. One night him and his friends all got drunk. Then the old man passed out again. First thing anybody know damn damn fools put him in the ice house again and this time they let him freeze solid for a mar no month. Then they fetched him in the house and he bought out of feeling fine. One of the boys told him this time but the old man just laugh. He didn't believe a word of it.
After that the folks used the phrase old man Benton every so often and seems like it agreed with him fine. A quick freeze and a slow thaw out done the old devil good. Doc Colton come along one day some of the boys took him down to the ice house and he seen old man Benton laying there froze hard as a rock. Doc says BAIRD You killed him I will have to tell the sheriff about it. But the boy says just keep your shirt on Doc and watch just saw him out. So they just like old man Benton got to breathe in again. He was pretty slow coming out of it this time though. Doc set up with him all night but the next morning. Oh man Benton was dead sure enough.
Ari's says Doc never seen nothing like this before and maybe I'm going crazy. I don't know what this fellow died out but there is no sign of frostbite. He was an old man anyhow so I am going to put it heart disease and try to forget the whole business. But from now on if you freeze anybody else I will see that you go to the penitentiary and I ain't joking neither. Went back to everybody's mind about them things first. The folks up that way are still got blocks. Early marriage is the rule in the hill country and many mountain girls are wives and
mothers at 15 or 16. A girl of 20 is well past her first bloom and not likely to get a desirable husband when she reaches the age of 25 she is on the cult list and at 30 she's definitely an old maid. A lot of the spinster was hard indeed in the Ozarks and she is universally regarded as a failure and must depend upon the charity of her male relatives for support. This usually means that she does all the household drudgery without any compensation except her board and lodging. Very rarely is there any opportunity for her to work out or take in washing since even the most indulgent amount of the husbands would never think of hiring another woman to do his wife's work. Mountain Boys and girls generally follow their own inclination in choosing their mates. Most parents seem a little disposed to interfere in these matters and all of the hill focus so poor that financial considerations are less important than elsewhere. Elderly people however frequently brought together by the curious practice of recommended
as when the friends of a homeless widow recommend her to an elderly bachelor who has a house and is in need of a housekeeper. In such cases the wedding often takes place within a few hours of their first meeting. It is regarded as a business arrangement without any pretense of sentiment. These marriages are often called made up weddings. Many of them appear to turn out very well indeed. There are no church weddings in the hill country. The ceremony always takes place at the home of the bride's parents and is followed by a dinner which often lasts until dawn. Usually the newlyweds do not sleep together on their wedding night since many hill folk feel that this is somehow indelicate as placing the union upon too obvious a physical basis. On the day after the marriage the wedding guests assemble at the home of the groom's parents for the EMS there which is another feast and jollification. I got up today don't get up but going to don't get up at 10 and don't expect to get
back to you. They start to suspect tips. Nearly every man of my acquaintance disclaimers all superstitious belief but an investigation now ably shows that he is superstitious to a remarkable degree. No single individual accepts all of the beliefs but every one of them is credited by hill folk within my own circle of friends and neighbors. The man who laughs at witchcraft and supernatural warning is found to be a firm believer in the moon's influence upon crops while the woman who doesn't believe in evil spirits. Thanks the question of prenatal marking very seriously indeed. Superstitions relating to love courtship and marriage are legion in the Ozark country. Many heal men still believe in love powders and potions and this belief is encouraged by the country druggists who sell a perfume and a mixture of milk sugar and flea quiting at enormous profits. These materials are dissolved in a girl's coffee or
fed to her and candy and is said to be quite efficacious when it grows a bun is unfastened accidentally or her skirt turns up or her stocking falls down or her shoe comes on Tide. She knows that her lover is thinking of her if she stops a toe against a stone and she kisses her thumb and rests happy in the knowledge that she will see her sweetheart within 24 hours. By cleaning her fingernails on Saturday she can force her lover to visit her on the following day. And if a red bird flies across her path she is sure to be kissed twice before nightfall. Oh but it didn't get it right here in step. Hundreds of tourist camps and summer hotels have sprung up along the new highways. And the people who stop at these places are foreigners. The old time hill man was impressed by the fine clothes and big motorcars of the invaders.
Wright knows perfectly well that nearly all tourists are salaried people. Nothing but hired hands while he himself is a landed gentleman despite his rags. And don't take no orders from nobody. Like most rustics regards all cities as a sink of iniquity and believe that all city dwellers are grossly immoral. The behavior of the modern tourists particularly the women shocks him profoundly. He feels that the coming of civilisation is by no means an unmixed blessing and can never be enslaved by anybody. His almost insanely jealous of his independence and his personal liberty and will fight to the death in defense of whatever he happens to regard as his rights. The mountain air may be poor and illiterate and shiftless but he is a free man is likely to remain so for some time to come. Except for the ties of family and clan relationships the hill people are individualistic and nonsocial in the
extreme. They're so suspicious of one another that they cannot be organized. They recognize no community of economic interest and it's almost impossible to get them to work together for their common welfare. Most of them will have no dealings with labor unions or with organized efforts to market their crops more advantageous. Not even to work the roads which are obviously for the benefit of the whole neighborhood. Great corporations are taking their debt and their water power and their neglected little farms are fast falling into and more efficient hands. Their old neighbors are moving out and unwelcome ones are coming in. It may be that the native Ozark areas will soon give place to foreigners and vanish like the Indians and the block dwellers who kept these wild in other years. If he has done his work and outlived his usefulness he must inevitably go the way of primitive people who stand in the way of economic progress.
For those of us who know the old timers However the transition is not without a touch of melancholy and regret. The gods of the hills are not the gods of the valley. Very different from the comparatively uninteresting people who are replacing them. Perhaps but the extraordinary men and women their passing definitely closes one of the most romantic and colorful chapters in the history of our country. This land this people a series of radio programs tracing and word music the footprints of America the turns we took narratives letters and songs have been adapted from primary source material. Guard
theater programs were produced at the University of Wisconsin for national educational radio under a grant from the National Foundation. Today's program for the people of the Ozarks. Music for. Production by the narrative was drawn largely from the works of Vance Randolph you're speaking this is the national educational radio network.
This land, this heritage, this people
The People of the Ozarks
Producing Organization
University of Wisconsin
WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-z31nmz11).
Series Description
For series info, see Item 3351. This prog.: The People of the Ozarks. Narrative from the works of folklorist Vance Randolph. Music includes Grandma's Advice, Way Down Yonder in the Paw-Paw Patch, and We're Coming, Arkansas.
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Producing Organization: University of Wisconsin
Producing Organization: WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-17-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:28
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “This land, this heritage, this people; The People of the Ozarks,” 1968-04-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 23, 2024,
MLA: “This land, this heritage, this people; The People of the Ozarks.” 1968-04-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 23, 2024. <>.
APA: This land, this heritage, this people; The People of the Ozarks. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from