1. Cloth diapers are great, being potty trained is better (getting close...bribing with pennies and Elmo big girl panties).
2. Isn't it interesting how God made index fingers and nostrils the SAME size?
So you see, my profound thoughts aren't going too deep these days, however, once upon a time I had thoughts that went deeper. When I was a senior in high school, life was much more black and white, and I was going to save the planet. Today, I'm happy not overloading landfills with diapers and teaching kiddos to appreciate outside (although about the 550th time she asks to go outside on a rainy day I do start questioning!) But back to that senior in high school, a teacher gave me an essay contest form and I sat in my room for about thirty minutes and wrote an essay and submitted it. I got a state of Missouri honorable mention, my article published in a couple local papers, and ultimately a book with all the contest winners. With that said, I'm not trying to brag, I just wanted you to know that this essay has been lost (in a basket at my mom's evidently--along with a card I made her for her 31st birthday that proclaimed how old she was getting...what was I thinking? 31 isn't old!) for several years, with us just wondering what happened to it. Monday, she found it! Literally, years later, it reappeared and she was gracious enough to type it out for me. The contest was to write a letter to an author, dead or alive and tell them how their book has impacted your life. Well, I chose Harold Bell Wright, author of Shepherd of the Hills, my favorite book (to this day it is still my favorite book, but careful when you read it, does absolutely nothing for your grammar! I always just imagine how Granny talked and to me, that is the accent of the hills) If you've read it, this letter will make a lot of sense. If you haven't read it, why not? It's one of the best books ever written! (maybe someday I'll have time to read it again) And yes, the play is good too, the movie is not at all close to the book and appears to have been filmed far away from the ozarks! And ironically, one of the first big tourist attractions was the outdoor theater at Shepherd of the Hills....So, without further ado, my essay from the spring of 1998.
1998, Honorable Mention, Level 2
The Shepherd of the Hills by Harold Bell Wright
Hurley R-1 High School, Grace Grebel, teacher
Dear Mr. Wright:
Your book, The Shepherd of the Hills has touched my life in many ways, with the most influential part being your vivid descriptions of the Ozarks, and the characters’ love for the hills. Your story told me how these hills must’ve been before tourism was the big industry. Reading your book, my emotions, reminding me of my own journeys in the woods, made me somewhat sad. I’m not real sure that you would like what you would see if you were to come back to the Ozark countryside today. It is littered with buildings and tourist attractions, all in the name of improvement. But you see, Mr. Wright, in all of their improvements, they are destroying the hills that Dad Howitt tended his sheep on. They are destroying the view from Sammy Lane’s look-out rock. A city, best known as Branson, USA, has been created, forgetting about the beauty that drew our ancestors to this land in the first place. That is why your book means so much to me. It describes that feeling that only comes from being alone in the woods, without the distractions of modern day life. You know what Mr. Wright? To find a place like that these days is nearly impossible. National forest land has been protected, to an extent, from man’s harmful hand, but even there, an airplane may go over, or a chainsaw in the distance may destroy the peace. Your book gave me an increasing urge to protect these hills. In less than a century since you wrote your book, the Ozarks have changed dramatically. You probably wouldn’t even recognize it here now. If someone doesn’t step up and try to save what’s left of the wilderness, will it completely disappear?
As much as I love your book, Mr. Wright, I don’t want it to be all that is left of the Ozarks’ beautiful hills. In my lifetime, I have seen much of the scenic landscape disappear. I remember knowing a path that began my interest in saving this dying landscape. Then, when I read your book, I realized how much things had changed since my great-grandparents moved here. I decided my goal in life would be to preserve our land. As you mentioned in your book, and correctly so, many came and did change the land, more than you could ever have imagined. Mr. Wright, you, like Dad Howitt in your book, closed your eyes in peace before the land was dramatically changed. Now, I just hope some of the beauty can be preserved, even restored, for my children and grandchildren to see. And I hope, Mr. Wright, that others will read your book and at least give a second thought before blasting another hillside away.
Thanks for your book, and your message. You really made a difference in my life, showing me the treasure that isn’t hidden in the hills; it is the hills. Mr. Wright, I will share your book with many, and hopefully they too will learn, and join me in the conservation efforts. Once again, thanks for writing a book about the Ozarks, its people, and its beauty. You gave me a chance to discover what is really important before my life, and the land, completely passes away.