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The Outlander

I am an Outlander Who lives on a high hill Overlooking a man-made lake That once was a rapidly rushing river Along whose banks the Ozarks Bluff Dwellers and the Osage and then Delaware Hunted, fished, and created shelter For their families Where their children ran freely While red-tailed foxes sneaked softly Through the forests and the Wise Night Owl chatted with the Whispering Whippoorwill. I am a child of Outlanders Who came from the North To live along the banks of the man-made lake Where a small fishing resort, built by my father, Nestled at the base of yet another high hill, and from the crest of that hill The southern arm of the lake could be viewed unhindered. Miles of blue and white water danced in the afternoon sun. Between Table Rock Dam on my right and Long Creek Bridge on my left, The main channel branched off- broke loose- and formed the cove Which we shared with Dan and Cuba Norris at their dude ranch Located by the side of the Devil’s Pool- That ancient, sacred, cleansing spring of the Osage men. The back waters of the cove edged our front yard. The steep, timber and rock strewn slopes cloaked the sides and back of the 80 acres that Mr. Curbow sold to my father shortly before the dam’s completion. Perched between the wooded areas, and the cedar glade, A ledge rock served as my look-out, like A sentinel standing guard over acres of scrubby plants and limestone that my father Transformed into grassy green patches and rocked-up retaining walls, Laboring as the pioneer settlers had a century before- He and my mother, pioneers themselves, carved out a home where Dogwood and redbud trees scattered themselves amid the cedar. In the spring, they checkered the hills in pink and white and green. Later, verbena, black-eyed Susan, coneflower, milkweed, and Indian paint-brush Fashioned a palette of ever-changing tones and hues. I am an Outlander Who went to school in a small town that Once was a humming railroad station where Farmers marketed fruits and vegetables and wild game, Shipping their goods out of the land from that Tiny railroad town, snuggly fit among limestone bluffs, the White River, and Turkey Creek. They tell me, long years ago, There by the creek, an old woman lived Who washed her clothes on a rock each Monday, While her boy played contentedly in the deeper water nearby. Generations of children splashed gleefully In that once glistening, iridescent Granny Hole. I am an Outlander who continues to live in a growing town whose people Once, only provisionally, greeted the laughter of holiday makers- those Wealthy sportsmen and their wives Who stepped off the train From far off cities To camp along the water’s edge or To lazily float the river with Jim Owen in locally crafted Jon boats Or, having read Mr. Wright’s celebrated novel, Trekked the rough and rocky roads in search of Old Matt and Aunt Molly and the shepherd of the hills. City-dwellers came to embrace, for a time, the goodness of a fading life-style When native hill folk families gathered neighborly to Fill the valleys with songs of long ago troubadours. Outlanders came, time and time again, To find balance in themselves within the exquisite Ozark hills, and As did my parents, and those before them, Many returned to stay. Pioneers and Transplanted Outlanders Forging common values and visions for the future Mutual conservers of the land I am an Outlander’s daughter who looks out over These hills and hollows now choked with highway billboard signs, half-empty theatres, go-cart tracks, and flashing neon lights, I find myself mourning deeply the invasion of Greed-driven, treasure-seeking speculators, whose Coaxing with cunning words triggered an invasion of outsiders Seemingly unconcerned about preserving the natural or cultural landscape I watch family farms transform into cheaply-built, cookie-cutter housing hubs- and I grieve the loss of the quiet, family-owned fishing resorts. Time-share vacation condos, signature golf courses, and shopping malls have Swallowed up centuries -old oak trees Today’s visitors, looking for faster-paced amusements and thrills, Arrive in the “Land of a Million Smiles” Hell-bent on having manufactured family fun and patriotic fervor. They rush from venue to venue and shop to shop, then Leave without ever questioning the cost. Progress rides across the landscape as did the Bushwhackers and Baldknobbers of old Assaulting the environment, Usurping the ambiance, Eroding the ecosystem Deaf- deaf to the living symphony of nature floating softly in the evening sunset. I am an Outlander who has lived upon these high hills For more than a half century Admittedly sharing in the alteration of the environment, regretfully- But mindful of the historical richness of the land, the need to preserve its character As does the doe who brings her speckled twins to the clearing in June and the Turkey hen her brood of bobbing-headed babies marching in single file across my yard. I watch my grandchildren Run and laugh and chase fireflies on this ancient slope. They swim and fish the same waters that shaped the adjacent hillsides eons ago. Yes, I am an Outlander who lives on a high hill Overlooking a man-made lake That may, in time, again become a rapidly rushing river Along whose banks other Outlanders may come to Hunt, fish, and seek shelter For their families. Hopefully, their children will run freely While red-tailed foxes sneak softly Through the forests and the Wise Night Owl chats with the Whispering Whippoorwill. ©2010 Michelle Waters

Copyright © | Year Posted 2017

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