Four watermen from Jacksonville Beach, Florida created a logo that has gained traction internationally, the quirky but popular “Salt Life” logo that you see displayed on everything from hats to the windows in various vehicles. My South Carolina roots and love of the beach has led to the acquisition of a number of shirts, hats and decals professing my love for, well, the salt life represented by these two words. When queried about the meaning of “Salt Life”, I tell folks that, to me, it represents the sea breeze, crashing surf and endless miles of sandy beaches. I recognize the genius in coining this simple logo, and the commercial value that it represents. While this is all well and good, it represents a place that I enjoy visiting, not a place where I enjoy living. With these facts in mind, and with great respect for the magic captured in these simple words, we are currently navigating the complex issues attendant to the official recognition of “Ozark Life”, as depicted below in the back window of my pickup truck.To be sure, the oceans and their beaches are mesmerizing. If you enjoy seafood, there is no better place to relax in your sandals than a seaside eatery for the catch of the day. Listening to surf while slowly tempting skin cancer with the inevitable over exposure to the sun is an annual ritual for many folks who make their residence in fly over, middle America. I do not easily tan, but I burn really well, so I am the pale “northerner” you see who rocks back under an umbrella with my beverage of choice, necessary to take my mind off the incessant sand that mocks my very existence. I blame my tour in Vietnam for my deep appreciation for being clean and limiting my camping experience to one or two nights at best before seeking a hot shower and crisp, clean clothing. Sand everywhere, for me, dulls the allure just a bit. I smile when the beach first comes into view as we trek to the coast, but smile even broader when the flat topography gives way to the rugged hills that I call home, the mighty Ozarks.
Ozark Life is far removed from beach life. In the first place, beach life is all about simplicity, and the Ozarks are confoundingly complex. Our mist shrouded river valleys can chill you to the bone at the start of a early morning float trip, even in the middle of summer. This same float will take you through towering, wildlife populated bluffs that overlook deep eddys and bubbling riffles through rolling bottom farmland. The Ozarks are comprised of a geologic highland, primarily located within Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. The Ozark region is ruggedly beautiful, if not stunning. Our rivers take a back seat to no other rivers and are fish filled, as are our mighty impoundments. We have awesome caverns, stunning vistas and year-round outdoor activity. Our numerous villages, populated by pragmatic folks who can direct you to the nearest tavern for a cold something and their particular gastronomic specialty, are quaint and always inviting. We are rapidly becoming a destination for the zip line aficionados, as our hills are made to order for this pastime. No attempt at describing the Ozarks would be complete without a reference to the hardwood forests that cover much of our topography. Generations of folks have relied on our abundant forests to provide a living for their families. Wood heat, my particular favorite way to challenge the cold winters, can be found virtually everywhere, and when the grid goes dark as a result of some God forsaken happening, America will look to our region for this ancient and abundant heat source. Ozark craftsmen have found hundreds of ways to turn our supply of workable wood into everlasting beauty, from wood flooring to mighty Oak homes and the best whisky barrels in the world. The roads that interesect our region are replete with numerous turnouts so that you can pause to enjoy the views. These overlooks rival any in America, for reasons entirely removed from our nation’s other mountain ranges. Our European heritage is on display, reflected in names like Gasconade, Roubidoux, Auxvasse, and Pomme de Terre. You know little of geography if you have not at least read about lakes named Bull Shoals, Table Rock, Norfolk, Truman, Stockton, Beaver, and the Lake of the Ozarks. There may be motorcycle rides that approach the beauty and challenge of Ozark country rides, but none will exceed them. Our rich history is ever present and our unique culture reflecting pragmatism, honesty and hard work is on display in our College of the Ozarks, located on yet another terrific lake, Lake Tanneycomo. Such, to me, is “Ozark Life”.
When you see “Ozark Life” on a vehicle or some other product, know that it is intended to reflect the pride in the region of the state that captivated me in 1964, when we arrived at Ft. Leonard Wood. Our rugged region is certainly as worthy of this recognition as the “other guys” and their pride in the world of salt water. It is time that Ozarkians are accorded the respect this beautiful region brings. Ozark Life………..is a great life!