Sunday, June 28, 2009


There is a good chance that I am related to a good portion of Southern Missouri. Both of my parents were born here. Both had generations of kin folks who made the rocky hills their homes. As many with many families some moved away…some moved away and came back. I always wonder if those who have the Ozark clay running through veins, but have never actually lived here get a sudden hankering for fried crappie and blackberry cobbler, occasionally find themselves rocking in time to the sound of a fiddle, or have the urge to put up a henhouse in the backyard. I hate to be stereotypical…after all, there are poets and artists in these hills. But most of us aren’t so removed from our roots not to appreciate the practicality of using a perfectly good piece of property for chickens.

For much of my childhood I lived a good distance away from any relations. Don’t get me wrong. I still lived in the Ozarks…just the Arkansas part. I can promise you that in the 1970’s there were still “stills” hidden in the hollers and hills. It was disconcerting moving to the bosom of my extended family when I was a young teenager. Still today I find myself looking at particular nose or expression of the eyebrows and wonder…”is that nose a Michel nose?” Or “could those be Wilson eyebrows?” And..”those have to be Bilyeu ears!” (you would know what I am talking about if you saw them first hand).

As an adult I have added to the vines and limbs of my family tree. My son doesn’t have the Michel nose…or the Bilyeu ears. His expressive eyebrows come from watching his mother (me) and his Papa use them accordingly. We grafted Josiah into the family tree. But, though he is not a child of my body I can still see the quirkiness and creativity that I attribute to the hillbillies I claim as kin. He hasn’t shown any aptitude for the musicality that runs deep through both sides of my family, but that’s okay…I’m sure I have a cousin somewhere that can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Josiah’s eyes still shine bright during family sings and he has great rhythm. Not that it would matter. Family is more than shared DNA or eyebrows. I am blessed I have gotten to experience the best kind of family love…the love of “just because you are you.”
P.S. The picture is of my mom (Sherry Lou Bilyeu at the time) and her grandpa...Grandpa Willie Bilyeu.

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