The Ozark Mountains region of the United States is a uniquely wonderful place.

It’s both rugged and rolling, with natural beauty abounding in many forms, including rivers, bluffs and huge expanses of forest. And an interesting reality is, there’s not really a mountain anywhere to be found.

The character of the region’s landscape, climate, history and people lends to many aspects that are undeniably Ozarks, and spur an exclusive variety of sights, sounds, feelings and thoughts. Basically, there are many things about the Ozarks that help you know you’re there.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

For example:

•You know you’re in the Ozarks when the spread between the highest high temperature and lowest low in less than a week’s time is more than 70 degrees, or more than 40 in a 24-hour period.

•You know you’re in the Ozarks when your neighbor – who lives more than a mile away – stops by your house unannounced to give you a several freezer bags full of various cuts of pork from a recently butchered pig and sincerely expects nothing in return.

•You know you’re in the Ozarks when a female customer leaving the local pawn shop turns to the owners on her way out the door and says, “Thanks for letting me use the bathroom. I put the toilet seat back up.”

•You know you’re in the Ozarks when you go to the local café on Monday and there’s more talk going on about the price of round bales than the big game that was played over the weekend.

•You know you’re in the Ozarks when you go to the local café and the two tables in the “no smoking” area have ashtrays on them and they’re located in the same room as the “smoking area.”

•You know you’re in the Ozarks when there are four auctions in your community on the same Saturday, and over the course of the next week you hear at least one person who went to each one describe how crowded it was.

•You know you’re in the Ozarks when you’re driving to town to get a gallon of milk and see a young bobcat bound across the dirt road a half-mile from your driveway, three deer standing next to the highway a mile-and-a-half from your house and a bald eagle sitting on a tree branch three miles from home.

•You know you’re in the Ozarks when you step outside your house in the evening, do a double-take at a sundown featuring a spectacularly vibrant array of colors in the western sky, and then stand there for 12 minutes staring at it before it’s replaced by darkness.

•You know you’re in the Ozarks when a cement walkway on your property is coated with ice by freezing rain on one day, covered by sleet the next day and then buried by snow the next day.

•You know you’re in the Ozarks when – if you’re a man – three of your most important possessions are your truck, boots and pocketknife.

•You know you’re in the Ozarks when – if you’re a woman – three of your most important possessions are your boots, chickens and .22.

•You know you’re in the Ozarks when rain can be both something you dread because it wreaks havoc on your driveway, or pray for because your cattle ponds are drying up.

•You know you’re in the Ozarks if your house is 89 miles from the closest mall.

•You know you’re in the Ozarks if you know someone who at times addresses others using each of the phrases, “y’all,” “y’uns” and “you guys.”

•You know you’re in the Ozarks if there isn’t enough cellular coverage at your home to make calls, but there is enough to text.

•You know you’re in the Ozarks if you own an ATV and haven’t used it in three years, own a horse and haven’t gone riding in four years, or own a canoe that you’ve only gone down the river in once, seven years ago.

•You know you’re in the Ozarks if you know how to skin a deer, run a trotline and are a regular user of Facebook.

•You know you’re in the Ozarks if you often tell people about how things “were better” many years ago and that “they don’t make stuff like they used to,” but you own a smart phone and pay for an expensive data plan.

There are many other aspects of the Ozarks that make knowing you’re here easier. I’m glad for all of them; there’s no better place to know you’re there.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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