Personally Speaking

An outsider's view
I'm the sort of person who attends Superbowl parties for the snacks. Sports have never been my thing, and I sat under Friday night lights for the very first time at Willow's homecoming game in 2019. Last Friday night, I had the particular pleasure of taking some friends, who are transplants like we are, to their first small town football game.  
They marveled at a lot of the charming things I have come to take for granted in the very short time I've been experiencing them. It occurs to me that if you have grown up here, you may not know how very much it means to find a place in America where the people are still decent and helpful and look you in the eye. Where a stadium packed full of people is completely silent during the national anthem. Where the pride in your sons or daughters battling it out on the field or court finds a vent in a deafening roar, win or lose. It's a sound completely different from what you hear in pro stadiums. 
So maybe I still don't love sports, but I love watching the pride the community pours forth for their athletes. 
The kind of pride we left behind in St. Louis was quite a different sort. Sure, we could shop at an international grocery store with fancy ingredients you can't find here, but one Sunday we left church and found out that grocery store was on the route of the city's pride parade. 
Our small house in the Benton Park neighborhood of St. Louis, which seemed at first so charming, began to attract a lot of attention when we started keeping chickens. It was not the kind of attention that made us feel safe. People thought we were crazy. I could go on and on about the reasons we wanted to leave the city, but the interesting part of this story is how we found the corner of the world were we now live.
Before we had children, Ron and I started taking weekend trips to small towns in Southern Missouri. We started where my family has roots: Iron County and the Arcadia Valley. 
Everywhere we went, we saw the same thing. Small town economies were wrecked by brain drain and drugs. Empty storefronts and empty-eyed people scared us away from Piedmont, Ironton, Fredricktown, Doe Run, and others. 
We theorized if we could find a place away from the major interstates, we stood a chance at finding somewhere where the drug problem was less severe. We poured over a map of Missouri, looking for the place that seemed the most remote, the most hidden away from the world and its ugliness. 
We picked Mountain View off the map. One Labor Day weekend nine years ago, we stayed a long weekend in the Malone Motel. We ate at Granny's Cafe. We shopped at the Curtis Department Store. We sampled wines at Viandel Vineyard. We swam in the Jack's Fork. We wandered into the community center where we found a live bluegrass band playing. We love bluegrass music. It seemed like a dream too good to be true.
Everything was so charming. Everyone was so sweet and welcoming. We fell head over heels in love with Howell County and started looking for property on the way home.
And now we tell your stories in this newspaper. For good and for ill, and even when small towns feel more like Twins Peaks than Mayberry, I remember what we left behind in the city and the awe we felt when we found this place. 
I felt that awe this week watching runners scream their way across the finish line at the cross country meet at the golf course. I felt it watching a regular contributor's son run 30 yards to a touchdown in Cabool. I felt it when most heads bowed to pray for a young man who was hurt in that game.
There's a lot of ugliness in the world, and small-town life can feel stifling at times. But to the people who have grown up here, those who can put their foot on their family's gravestones going back generations, I hope you can see what the newcomers see. 
So many people who visit here never leave. There's something rare and special in the Ozarks.
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Howell County News

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