OZARK AND OUACHITA HIGHLANDS 305. A region of few railroads.— This re gion is quite like another and smaller southern Appalachia. If you look at the railroad map of the United States (Fig. 494), you will see that the eastern half of the country seems to be almost covered with rail road lines except in two areas. One of these is the Appalachian Highlands, and the other is the region of the Ozark and Ouachita Highlands. These upland regions are not tempting to builders of railroads. Why not? 306. Surface and soil.—The western part of the Ozarks is a plateau much like parts of the Appalachian plateau. Pieces of level upland are separated from each other by sharp valleys. The eastern edge of that western plateau is called the Burlington Escarpment (Fig. 239).
The center of the Ozark region is an irregu lar mass of roundish, crooked mountains, much like the mountains of western North Carolina, but not so high. There are no straight, open valleys through it; that is one of the reasons why there are so few rail roads there. The highest part is named the St. Francis Mountains.
The soil of the Ozark hills is not rich like that of the level prairies. Moreover, in places the soil is covered to a depth of several inches with little pieces of flint stone, about as big as the end of your finger. This cover •ing of flints is all that remains of a thick layer of limestone that once overlaid the tops of the hills. The limestone, which dis solves easily, has been dissolved and carried down the streams, but the flints which were scattered through it dissolve very slowly indeed. Therefore they remain, and in some places make the soil unsuited to farming. But since trees can get their roots down among the little stones to the earth below, the country was thickly forested when the white man came.
307. Living in the Ozarks.—By the year 1900, men with the aid of cultivators and reapers had farmed almost every acre of the rich, smooth, level plains north of the Ozarks. These people had grown rich and had good schools, and the land was dotted with comfortable houses and big barns. But a short distance to the south, among the stony Ozark hills, the living conditions were very different. There, many counties had no railroads at all, and the people were living very much as Dave Douglas lived in the Appalachian Highlands (Sec. 3). Their houses were small log cabins. In a little patch of a field, fenced with rails, barely enough corn could be grown to furnish bread for the family and to feed the horse and the cow when snow covered the earth in winter.
There were no fields of corn with which to feed pigs, so the pigs roamed in the forest hunting nuts and acorns for food. The land is too rough to grow much wheat. Because the summer was too short to allow a cotton crop to mature well, they had little or no cotton to sell. With little to sell, those people had to live in a primitive way. They had to make most of the things they needed, and thus for a time they remained poor. The schools were few, and many of the people could neither read nor write.
308. Apples and peaches.—But a change has come in parts of the Ozarks. Orchards were planted. Now there are apples and peaches to sell. Fruit trees, like forest trees, can thrive in well-drained stony soil.
The Ozark hills, like the Appalachian ridges, have thermal belts, or frost drainage, and in some sections peaches and apples are growing on the level hilltops ( Sec. 283). The mountains also serve to keep off the north wind. There have been seasons when cold waves have swept down the middle of the Mississippi Valley, and frozen the fruit crops from Nebraska to West Virginia, and from Dakota and the Great Lakes to the Ozarks. But in the orchards in the central and southern parts of the Ozarks, the fruit was not frozen in those seasons, and there was a good crop which the farmers sold at good prices. In some parts of the region the people have become as prosperous as are the people of the Cotton Belt or the Corn Belt.
309. most of this land is still woodland, there is lumber to sell. Many loads of oak railroad ties and barrel staves are hauled to the few railroads and shipped out of the Ozarks each year. This lumber comes from small sawmills that saw up logs from a few acres, and then move on to the next tract. The farmers haul the logs when they are not busy with their crops.
310. Towns and do not expect to find many towns in a region such as this. The largest are Springfield, Mis souri, with railroad repair shops; and Joplin, Missouri, the chief center in the United States for zinc mining. In this part of the plateau are many ore deposits containing both lead and zinc, and there are manymines. Zinc smelters are at work in and near Joplin. How many things made of zinc can you find in your neighborhood? Recently several railroads have been built, but there are still many places that are fifteen or twenty miles from the station. They can be reached only by bad roads over steep hills. You can see why towns would not grow large on such a plateau.