The dictionary defines “tale” as follows:
Tale – noun
1.a narrative that relates the details of some real or imaginary event, incident, or case; story
2.a literary composition having the form of such a narrative.
3.a falsehood; lie.
4.a rumor or piece of gossip
Read “Ozark Tales” for interesting articles on the history, culture, and traditions of Branson, and Ozark Mountain Country.
We love to “spin a good yarn!”
Posted in Ozark Tales
on September 19th, 2011
If you were born and raised in the Ozarks you without a doubt have fond memories of your Granny, Grandpa, Ma, Pa, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, and neighbors using some colorful adages from time to time to make their point.
For those of you visiting beautiful Ozark Mountain Country, we would like to share some of those phrases with the hope they will bring a smile and a chuckle to you as they do us locals.
Fair to Middlin’ (slightly above average)
He couldn’t whip his way out of a paper bag
Your eyes are bigger than your stomach
Still wet behind the ears
The squeaky hinge gets the oil
Full as a tick
Just go down the road a piece
Cold as a well digger’s hind end
Slick as a wax snake on a marble floor
Duller than a widder-woman’s ax
Slow as a seven year itch
We aren’t sure if it was the humorous sayings or remembering the smell of Ham & Beans, Cornbread, and Berry Cobbler cooking while they were conversing that brings that warm feeling of family back every time we read these!
Posted in Ozark Tales
on August 4th, 2011
In a rural area of southwest Missouri near the old village of Hornet and not far from the point where Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri meet, lies an ordinary section of dusty road, bordered by a shallow ditch and a narrow patch of trees that adjoin ordinary looking grassy fields. This area is known to locals as the “Devils Promenade”. Though ordinary looking at first glance, this section of road is visited by many believers, whom with the doubters riding along,come to see the extraordinary, an eerie enigma that has attracted countless visitors since the 1800′s. This unexplained phenomenon is described by witnesses as a “huge ball of light with an orange glow”, ” a dancing ball of light” that seems to appear out of nowhere. It dances, weaves and bobs, but never allows anyone to approach or pursuit it. Those who have allowed the light to come near and experienced it up close speak of an immense heat emanating from the light.
Many paranormal and scientific investigators have attempted to determine the cause or origin of the Hornet Spooklight. They have presented various explanations including escaping natural gas, reflecting car lights and billboards, and will-o’-the-wisps, a luminescence created by rotting organic matter. However, these explanations all fall short of being conclusive.
LegendsofAmerica.com writes, “As to the theory of escaping natural gas, which is common in marshy areas, the Spooklight is seemingly not affected by wind or by rain, and how would it self-ignite? The idea that it might be a will-o’-the-wisp is discounted, as this biological phenomena does not display the intensity of the ball of light seen along the Devil’s Promenade. Explanations of headlights or billboards are easily discarded, as the light was seen years before automobiles or billboards were made, and before a road even existed in the area. One possible explanation that is not as easily discounted, but not yet proven conclusive, is that the lights are electrical atmospheric charges. In areas where rocks, deep below the earth’s surface, are shifting and grinding, an electrical charge can be created.”
In 1946 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers studied the “Hornet Light”, but could not find a cause for it. In their words, it was classified as a “mysterious light of unknown origin”.
There are many legends that provide a more ghostly explanation. According to one legend, two Quapaw Indian lovers who had eloped, were close to being caught by warriors sent by the maidens angry father when they jumped to their death into the Spring River from a cliff. The Spook Light is supposedly one of the young Indians walking this quiet road searching for their lost love. Others say the Spook light is the ghost of an Osage Indian chief who was decapitated in the area and continues to search for his lost head, with a lantern held high in his hand.
The Devils Promenade is about a two hour drive west of Branson. To get there:
- Take Hwy 65 North to W. Hwy 60 ( James River Expressway)
- Take Hwy 60 West to Interstate 44
- Take Interstate 44 west of Joplin, Missouri and then take the Route 43 Exit and go south
- Turn onto Coyote Road (Right) off Route 43 and pass through Hornet
- Take another right onto Gum Road
- Take Left onto State Line Road
- Take the first Right to what is called “Spook Light Road”
- You’ll likely see markings on the road where people park and watch for the light
This is only a four-mile stretch of road that extends into Oklahoma. At a dip in the road, park your vehicle. There will be a field on your right side, facing left. This is the best location and you should see a slight rise ahead of you to the west and a much steeper hill behind you. Be sure to park your vehicle as far to the side of the road as you can (we suggest turning around with your car facing back toward Missouri) and watch out for any oncoming cars, or Indian maidens.
Posted in Ozark Tales
on April 2nd, 2011
The beautiful golf course named “Murder Rock” is built near a site that is steeped in mystery. As the legend goes, during the civil war there was an outlaw gang of renegades led by a murderous thug named Alf Bolin that committed several robberies and murders. Alf Bolin was as mean as they come, and he lived by no law other than his own. Alf and his gang would hideout along the old Springfield – Harrison road that passed through what is now the pastoral Branson Creek development. Their favorite spot was an area of limestone rocks where the gang could hide themselves, and then ambush the unsuspecting travelers. The gang robbed, raped, and murdered without mercy. Those travelers that they didn’t kill, were relieved of their money and best saddle horses. They alledgedly bushwacked a convoy that was smuggling silver bullion from the north to the Arkansas delta in order to support the Confederate war effort, and made off with an enormous sum. The gang supposedly buried the gold and silver that they stole in a hollow near a cave that is believed to be near the Old Mincy Store and Mill. Many have heard about the lost treasure, but no gold or silver has yet been found.
Alf Bolin met his demise when a Union soldier named Zachary Thomas posing as a sick Confederate soldier, beat Alf to death with a fire poker at the home of the Fosters. His head was placed on display in the town of Ozark so that the terrorized hill-folk would actually believe that Alf Bolin had been killed. When Alf died, so did the knowledge of the exact location of his loot. Some say Alf Bolin’s gang found the loot and carried it off, but most believe that it remains buried in a hollow around Murder Rock.
What causes this legend to persist? It could be the tale of a headless apparition wandering through the hollows of Murder Rock at night, or maybe it’s the ghostly whispers heard by hikers now and then, or maybe it’s just a “hidden treasure” tale for telling around campfires at night. No one knows for sure except Alf Bolin.
Posted in Ozark Tales
on March 4th, 2011
Hunting Wild Honey
By Dave Rawson
One of the most popular activities throughout the colorful history of the Ozark Mountains has always been the hunting and harvesting of wild honey. It’s an especially challenging tradition that continues today even though the honeybee population has been decimated over recent years. Unique maladies, pathogens, parasites, environmental toxins, even cell phone transmissions are blamed for the decline.
An 8000 Year Old Activity
The tradition of hunting honey, although famed in the history of hill country people, wasn’t initiated in the Ozarks. Rather, it’s one of the oldest, most popular activities known to man, with rock drawings indicating that Egyptians were hunting wild honey, even keeping hives, more than 8,000 years ago. According to sociologists, American pioneers probably picked up the art after watching bears find and enjoy the wild treat. Early settlers depended on bees for not only honey, but for the beeswax which they used to make candles. As the modern world evolved, the practice has become primarily a woodland sport for many people—to search and find the “honey tree” without even disturbing the hive. Others, though, continue to harvest the tasty treat.
Following the Bees Home
Hunters use various methods, the most popular being to watch wild bees collecting nectar from a patch of blooming flowers or crops. They note the direction the bees take while returning home loaded with nectar to refine and concentrate into honey, then follow along to find the hive—most often located in a hollow tree. Other hunters search the woods, watching for clusters of bees entering and leaving their hives. During summer months, hives can populate as many as 20,000 bees! Entry holes are found low to the ground or sometimes as high as 60 feet up.
Leonard Mecey, who’s hunted honey in the Missouri Ozarks for most of his 85 years, had his own favorite method. “I sit by the pond and mark between two fence posts the direction where the outgoing bees head. Where they intersect gives me the exact way to find the hive.”
Smoke is the Key
Various materials, from oil-soaked rags or papers to modern-day “smokers,” are then used to create a heavy smoke that disorients the bees while a hole is chopped or sawed into the tree. Harvesters prevent too much smoke from touching the honeycomb to keep it from spoiling the taste. Caring hunters also collect the honey early enough in the year to allow the bees sufficient time to restock their larders while nectar is available. Bees remain active throughout the winter and eat the stored honey to keep from freezing to death during the cold season. Concerned hunters also leave interiors of the honeycombs intact as they are filled with young.
Honeybees are now the most publicized insect in the U.S. mainly because of their importance for the pollination of fruit. Beekeeping with domesticated hives has become a major industry across most of the country to provide honey to markets and lease their bees to commercial orchards. Hopefully, though, the tradition of hunting wild honey will always survive amidst the grand hills and hollows of Ozark Mountain Country.