Wednesday, 19 October 2011
Author Spotlight - Barbara Scott takes a look at the Bootheel of Missouri
Lifelong friends, Kari Bryan and Dahlia McAllister of Talk of the Town grew up in the Bootheel of Missouri. It was there they developed their grand dreams of finding success in the city. It was there they hatched their pact to keep men out of their lives until they achieved their dreams. Men only complicated things. They'd seen the proof of that among their classmates and neighbors. They were serious enough to sign their agreement in blood.
The Bootheel is a unique geographic location at the southeastern corner of Missouri which got its name from its shape, jutting into the state of Arkansas like the heel of a boot. Stories of the reason for this border anomaly range from the accepted truth to folklore.
At the time the border was drawn, a pioneer plantation owner in the area argued for its inclusion in the new state because of his political and financial ties to St. Louis, Cape Girardeau, and Ste. Genevieve in Missouri. He was accommodated with the fifty mile jog south. Legend gives other explanations including fear of wild panthers, bears and copperhead snakes that roamed Arkansas territory and the story of a sympathetic surveyor who wanted to include his sweetheart's farm in Missouri when it entered the Union in 1821.
Plagued with frequent floods, the three counties in the Bootheel are mainly agricultural with rich soil supporting crops of soybeans, rice and cotton. However, until the twentieth century the area covered with native forests and swampland. The forests were cut and the swamps drained during a series of reclamation projects extending from 1893 to 1989. Its culture identifies more with the South than the Midwest and its residents are among the more impoverished in the state. It is primarily rural with no big cities.
The Bootheel's colorful history is ripe for storytelling. I'll delve more into it tomorrow.