It wasn't a new idea. Ever since the Foxfire series of books began back in the 1970s, recording the memories of older members of a community about traditional life has become a popular way to document aspects of a region's folk culture. So when Juanita Bryant, director of the Madison County Senior Center in Huntsville, Arkansas, called me and said, "You need to come over here and interview some of these folks. They have a lot of history to share," I figured this was a chance to document life in the Ozarks a la Foxfire. Traditional Ozark life in Madison County has been a part of my own life for as long as I can remember. It was where my great-aunts and great-uncles lived in houses full of the mingled smells of wood smoke and moth balls, where my family attended Decoration each year at the Wesley cemetery, where I first learned about squirrel hunting, picking blackberries, and "the old home place." For me, an oral history project in Madison County seemed like the most natural of pursuits. And ultimately, it has been one of the most rewarding.
With Mrs. Bryant's guidance, and aided by a grant for supplies from the Northwest Arkansas Mental Health Association, I set out to record the lives of Madison County women. Here, in their own words, are their recollections. The common threads of family devotion, a strong work ethic, courage in the face of loneliness, and an abiding faith in the Lord are woven throughout these stories. Another belief that echoed from each woman was that her life was "nothing special."
Oh, how I beg to differ.
Susan Young is the outreach coordinator at the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History in Springdale, a position she has held since 1994. Susan is a lifelong resident of Fayetteville and a fifth-generation Ozarker.
She is the author of So Big, This Little Place, a history of the founding of Tontitown, Arkansas, and the editor of Memories I Can't Let Go Of, a collection of life stories from Tontitown, Arkansas.
Susan serves on the boards of the Arkansas Historical Association and the Ozark Folk Cultural Center Commission.
Her Ozark history interests include traditional folkways, religion and cemeteries.
In her spare time, Susan enjoys reading, traveling, gardening, genealogy and birdwatching.