Volume 31, Number 2 - Winter 1992

By Kathleen Van Buskirk

The landscape in Upper White River country (and these border counties are still that, despite the dam and lakes) is changing very fast. More and more visitors come each year, and the quiet time between tourist seasons is shorter and shorter, especially when the weather is mild, as it has been this winter.

Around Branson the mild weather has allowed theater building to continue along Country Music Boulevard (Highway 76) and each week brings news of additional music stars and other entrepreneurs who are planning to add to the entertainment and accommodations visitors come expecting to find here.

The old ones, our staunch Ozarks ancestors, would probably say-- as they usually did when describing tie hacking, harvesting tobacco or cotton, or growing and canning tomatoes --"It’s a living." And, indeed, for three-fourths of the year there are more jobs today in Taney County than there are people to fill them.

The same thing can be said for the White River counties in northern Arkansas, partly due to tourism, but also due to the growing chicken raising and processing industry.

In northwest Arkansas as in southwest Missouri there are prices to be paid -- the loss of old landmarks, pollution problems, congested highways, housing shortages, and many newcomers seeking work who aren’t familiar with the friendly, laid back way of life we treasure here.

Is this history? Of course it is. Will the way of life we have enjoyed here over the past few decades become recorded history, or be known only in dusty foundations and trinkets studied by archaeologists, as they today study the traces of Indians and of the vast majority of the pioneers who went unrecorded before us?

Because we are accustomed to houses, towns, railroad tracks and automobiles, we tend to minimize in our minds the vastness of the changes that the Ozarks have seen in the past 200 years. But it is easy to watch the big earth-movers leveling the hills to build factories and theaters and mourn the lost green-clad vistas.

The land will survive, changed though it may be; but the knowledge of how it was and is now, how our lives were and are now, will survive only if we choose to remember it and record those memories before they become so dim they seem like fantasies.

The White River Valley Historical Society has, for the past thirty years, encouraged through its Quarterly and other activities the preservation of old memories, records, letters, photographs, and heirlooms. Today, as so many times in this region in the past, we are again seeing rapid changes.

We can’t stop things from changing, nor go back and live in the past, but we can save the memories, as we or those who went before us knew them, lived them, so that those who come after will have a chance to know their past, and to value themselves more for that knowledge.


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