Advice on Ozarks Homesteading

Paul Durand provides sage advice for those considering homesteading in the hills of southern Missouri and Arkansas.rkansas.

| May/June 1975

Since offering a piece of land for sale, I've received scores of letters from sincere, good people who want to live simple, natural lives in the seclusion and beauty of a wild forest area. I agree with these folks' motives, and wish them all possible luck. . . but the tone of their correspondence reveals so much unrealistic wishful thinking that I doubt their chance of success homesteading in the Ozarks.

For that reason, I would like to offer some facts for all potential homesteaders to consider before they actually buy property and try to make a go of rural living. Although what I have to suggest relates specifically to the Ozarks of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas, I think most of it is relevant to any genuine "deep country" area.

The Ozarks is (or are) a beautiful wild region of several hundred square miles . . . mainly a land of low rolling hills covered with oaks and other types of trees. Summers are hot, winters are mild and short, and spring and fall are wonderful. Relatively few people live in the district. Towns are small and far apart, farms tend to be limited in cultivated area, and the majority of land holdings are just virgin forest, left idle and untouched for the most part. This is, in fact, one of the last sections of real "country" left in the U.S.

If you have a well-established source of income apart from the Ozarks (and are so constituted that you can thrive on solitude or the company of interesting guests from "outside"), you can live among our hills in peace and beauty . . . as close to nature as anyone could wish. But if you must rely on making money within the area — by selling craft items or garden produce, or by working full or part time — it's extremely unlikely that you'll make a go of homesteading in this or any other genuine "deep country" location. The advantages of suburbia simply don't coexist with true wilderness. In fact, it's their absence that gives such a region its character.

In most cases it's a myth that a person can settle in the depths of the country and maintain himself there. . . unless he or she is willing to devote him or her self to continual hard work, with little time to enjoy life or pursue whatever mental and cultural pleasures he or she favors. Only the rich can lead full, beautiful lives in a really wild area. Most others are enslaved to endless drudgery and penny-pinching. Think hard and realistically before you make the leap.

Furthermore, if you have children and genuinely love them, don't cripple their minds by subjecting them to the low level of "education" that prevails in such parts. The public schools naturally reflect the attitudes of the local voters . . . who are for the most part ignorant, want to stay that way, and have no use for ideas brought in from "outside" by upstart city folk. (Incidentally, how you look has little effect on your acceptance. If you dress well, you're a city dude and therefore suspect. If you have long hair and want to live simply, you're a hippie and even less welcome.)

4/24/2015 9:36:15 AM

Without having to read the full article..I can see that this guy clearly is trying to set a wrong done to him, either he was mistreated or his experiences didnt live up to his dream, and in which case, that would be his own failure not the hills of Arkansas or Missouri. Our little heaven on earth is not without its toils or hardships, but we are a simple people, who enjoy living life, not following the crowd, but rather having ideas of our own and by our own make them happen, as with most people I'm afraid. Our culture may seem "hillbilly" to most folk, but in reality it is not. If you care enough to know the truth, then do more up to date research of the area. I am fully confident that you will find a well educated, hard working, determined people that don't give up because circumstances or situations might stand in their way. This is country life, it has never been easy, nor was meant to be easy. Being "Hillbilly", is being country, only in the mountains. Our culture is a national heritage, which im sure if you do some genealogy of your roots, you might find some "Hillbilly" relatives of your own. Anyway, hope you take my advice, educate yourself about this region and its people, before you continue to embarrass yourself with your ignorance.

4/24/2015 8:47:46 AM

I usually don't comment on things but this guy kind of got under my skin. I have lived in the Ozarks in central Arkansas since 1973. We are well educated individuals not what the community seen fit to teach us. In order to survive any where you have to comment to your goals. Living, I find is easy here in the hills, maybe due to the fact that I was raised here. All in all, we are not hicks, the Ozarks are a beautiful place to to see and live at. You could not ask for a more kind of atmosphere. I think this gentleman needed to do some more research before pinning us here as a bunch of stereotyped "Hillbilly's". I'm proud to be among this culture. Yes, I am an "Hillbilly". :D

11/7/2013 9:45:02 AM

I am going to assume that the person who wrote this article in 1975 had an axe to grind because HE could not "hack it" in the Ozarks. Now I am not sure of the availability of good land in the Ozarks in 1975... BUT I do know today that you can find land that is fairly priced. I also know that you should do your own due diligence as far as utilities to the property, cost of a water source etc but that is the same anywhere as is making sure the owner has clean title to the land. Being raised in rural Missouri and having family that live in the Ozark Mountains I know a fair amount about the people and if down to earth, no B.S. types if folks offend you than the area may not be for you but for the most part folks are accepting of others and will just leave you alone if you do not reach out to them. Having said that once you get to know people they are more than willing to provide advice and in many cases help. I for one am glad the Ozarks may not be for everyone and just maybe we can preserve one of the last true holdouts honest,hardworking people.

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