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The code of the hills

OPINION by Jim Davidson | September 26, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.

Back in the early 1970s, I got to know a man by the name of Bill Rosa. At the time he was superintendent of schools in Mountain View. If you have never been to Mountain View, I can truthfully say that you have really missed something. This is a fantastic community where folk music is played, weather permitting, almost every Saturday in front of the Stone County Courthouse. A trip to Mountain View will certainly take you back in time, and it's also home to the Ozark Folk Center and Blanchard Springs Caverns, a deep underground cave operated and maintained by the U.S. Forest Service. You can also catch your limit of trout in the nearby White River with no problem at all.

One year Bill Rosa invited me to be the speaker for his high school commencement exercises, and they held the event at their beautiful Ozark Folk Center. Unfortunately, I had a previous commitment in another school district and could not accept. To this day I have always regretted not being able to be there with Bill and his people. The reason I am sharing these thoughts with you is to give you a little background on a topic that hopefully will give you some insights where we are, economically speaking, in this country.

Back in those days I was president of a church men's group in Little Rock, and invited Bill Rosa to come and speak to us. He graciously accepted, drove 150 miles down to our meeting and back home the same night, and would not accept a penny for his time and expenses. During his talk he told a compelling story that has stuck with me to this day. Anyone who knows anything at all about the history of mountain people also knows there is a "code of the hills" that is very real. There are certain things you can do, and again there are certain things you better not do.

Times have changed, but even today there are still vestiges of this lifestyle in this part of the country. This story really has its roots in an earlier day when westward expansion began and most of their forefathers migrated from the mountains, hills and hollers of Kentucky, Tennessee and the Carolinas. These were rugged pioneers who forged a trail in the wilderness that provided a way for others to follow in the coming years. There was a stark contrast to the lifestyle these people lived and to the flatlanders on the plantations of the Deep South. Of course this goes back to the days of slavery. Thankfully, those days are long gone.

Bill told of a time when the early mountain pioneers lived in small communities to have protection from the Indians and to survive the long harsh winters. He said each community had a smokehouse. Everyone contributed to the smoking and curing of meat, especially wild game, and they all shared in the bounty. In essence, they were all putting something in and doing their part to survive. Then one day one of the mountain men decided that he could take something out of the smokehouse without putting anything in. As he continued this practice, one of the other mountain men observed him doing this and said, "If he can do that, then I can do it, too." This resulted in everyone having their own smokehouse.

My friend, what you have just read is a picture of how welfare got started. When you take something out without putting anything in, someone else has to pay for it. Later politicians found out they could get votes this way. Sadly, this kind of thinking has led to a national debt of almost $30 trillion. Our nation can do better.

Print Headline: The code of the hills

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