• Lawletters

At Home in the Ozarks

Greetings friends and neighbors of Stone County! I feel very fortunate to be a part of this community, and even more so for the privilege to have a weekly chat with you. We should all be very proud to be Ozarkians, Missourians, and Americans, regardless of what some people are calling us these days.

I remember when I was a kid, growing up on a cattle farm, and my grandpa would complain about the sad state of affairs in our country. Then it was the Vietnam War protesters, the hippie culture and Woodstock, the Black Panther Party and civil rights, Charles Manson and Helter Skelter, or just that plain old “devil music” we were listening to.

I’d go to school and live in that world and really didn’t know what he was complaining about. To me it was no big deal. My elementary school art teacher was kind of a hippie type, in grandpa’s standard anyway, but I thought he was one of the coolest teachers we had. His hair was a little longer than most, he wore bell bottom jeans and thick collared shirts, and drove a metallic blue Stingray Corvette.

A generation later my dad complained a lot, in a similar fashion, mostly about cultural changes of having to move to the big city. You see, going from the farm life to living in a big city suburb was kind of a culture shock for all of us. Sometimes when we are having trouble fitting in we blame it on those around us, when really we are the lost ones.

I grew up believing that America was going fishing, playing baseball, and bailing hay in the summer, and hunting, watching football, and feeding cattle in the winter, and that’s what everyone did. Then life events led us to a big city, and oh was that ever an awakening.

In the big city we could play baseball but there were numerous teams and you didn’t know the kids you were playing against. You didn’t go fishing unless you went to a city reservoir that, instead of algae and cat tails, the banks were littered with trash, and the water was covered with a film that no doubt threatened the quality of life living beneath it.

In the city the ethnic culture is no longer broken down by German, Irish, Italian, Croatian, but a more noticeable White, Black, Hispanic, Asian. The religious diversity was no longer Catholic and Protestant, but a broader Christian, Jewish, Muslim, atheist. In other words, when we thought we were different before, we were really different now.

Whether we like it or not, that is America as much as the way I grew up, or the way we live here in the Ozarks. Though I’m somewhat citified, and college educated, I reverted back to my traditional ways, not to get away from the culture, but more so to slow down. Maybe it’s also a hunger for memory. Hence the name “suburban cowboy.”

It’s certainly not because I disliked the people of the city. There are good and bad people wherever you live. There are good and bad people in every race, every ethnic background, every religion, every political party, and every profession. I know because I’ve met them, befriended them, and learned to understand them.

Some of us just like to live around whatever is familiar to us, and that’s okay. The nice thing about America is our freedom to pursue our own happiness, wherever that may be. After moving to the big city my dad bought some land in northern Missouri so he could get away and enjoy it on the weekends. That was his solution. But he did make some lifelong friends in the big city.

Now that Dad has been retired for several years, I find myself a lot like he was, and my grandpa was, complaining about the way things are. Just like them, I have experienced tremendous technological and social changes. Entire industries that have transformed the way we live and work from day to day, and how we interact with our fellow human beings.

I have a son who is fourteen, and just started high school. He hears me complain about video games, lack of work ethic in young people, or how rude kids are these days, and he just shakes his head. Just like I was when I was a kid, all of this “stuff” his dad or grandpa complains about is no big deal to him.

We could look at it like Charles Dickens. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Sometimes people see only the bad, such as the high cost of living or rising crime rates, or the good, such as how much easier life has become with the amazing technological revolutions we’ve experienced.

Has technology made it better? Or has it made it more complicated?

When I was a kid, politics, for example, was this thing that came around every four years. It was kind of fun, kind of exciting, but it didn’t feel like life or death. Now it’s a form of entertainment that never ends. Politicians at all levels are not just well-known, but celebrities with rock star like status, more popular than any Hollywood actor or pop singer. Their lives are a spectacle, a soap opera, and technology has caused this.

The culprit of this is social media, i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al. It was best explained by a post on Facebook that said, “Remember when all this stuff used to just stay in our heads?”

My son isn’t old enough to remember a land line. He’s doesn’t understand the purpose of a physical post office. He really doesn’t even see the need for email, other than the fact that you have to have an email address to be able to sign in to social media accounts. To him it’s all about texting or video chatting. There’s no writing a note in cursive and sealing it with a kiss. It’s written in text code abbreviations, kissy emojis and GIFs.

Don’t ask me what they words mean, I just know them when I see them.

We are living in crazier, more difficult, and more dangerous times, with more opportunities, more information, and more ways to protect ourselves than ever before. Do you remember a simpler, easier time? Would love to hear your story.

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