Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 8
OF THE SHEPHERD
Vigilantes known as Baldknobbers
burn down Old Matt's cabin during the
Shepherd of the Hills outdoor drama.
New and old adventures await all ages at Shepherd of the Hills
by Heather Berry | firstname.lastname@example.org
be enough to entice investors, Jeff's interest runs deeper.
"My grandparents lived here in the 1960s and owned the Shepherd of the
eff Johnson recalls being a youngster and watching his granddad perform Hills Motel down by where White Water is located," Jeff says. "My granddad
was mowing grass one day and the director of the Shepherd of the Hills
in the outdoor play. He remembers the sound of his granshow stopped and said, 'I need you in my play!' For the next 25 years,
dad's recorded voice coming over the speakers, introduche played the Doc character until he passed away in the late '80s. So,
ing the drama about to unfold. While the play no longer
I literally grew up here on the property."
opens with the recording, Jeff can hear it any time on his phone.
As the new owners, Jeff and Steve immediately reviewed what
"You know folks, when God looked on the works of His hands
needed to be done ﬁrst at the iconic Branson entertainment venand called it good, He was sure looking at this here Ozark counue. "One of those things was to keep the Shepherd of the Hills
try...," the time-worn voice begins. "...it ain't no wonder 't all God
outdoor drama going," Jeff says. With that, plans to rebrand
rested when He made these here hills. Why, He just naturally had
the park as the Shepherd of the Hills Homestead Adventure
to quit, fer He'd done some of his very best work."
Park were well under way, with the opening of the 58th conJeff clicks the recording off and smiles.
secutive season for the outdoor drama last July.
Last June, Jeff, and business partner, Steve Faria, purchased
the historic Shepherd of the Hills in Branson. The property had been
home to the beloved namesake outdoor theater show since 1960, but decreas- The Shepherd Discovers the Ozarks
Kansas preacher Harold Bell Wright came to the Ozarks in 1898 searching
ing attendance and lack of funding for needed repairs forced its closure and
sale this past May. Jeff and Steve for more suitable weather for his ailing health - as well as to ﬁsh the White
are the fourth owners of the popu- River with an uncle. But the river had ﬂooded the area, forcing Harold to come
back across the valley. That's when he stumbled upon a homestead high on a
"When I heard the place was for hill where he paused for rest.
"This is the place where he stopped," says Jeff, walking onto the porch of a
sale, I called Steve and we jumped
on the opportunity," says Jeff, a cabin on the Shepherd of the Hills property. Even on the hottest days a light
former commercial banker from breeze ﬁnds its way across the south-facing porch, making the cabin one of
Springﬁeld. Steve, 48, owns Wa- the most pleasant spots to view the valley below. No wonder Harold decided to
make this his stopping point.
termill Cove Resort in Branson.
"This is really where it all began," Jeff says.
While the beauty of the Ozark
Harold had stopped at the cabin of John and Anna Ross, known to locals as
land alone would
Old Matt and Aunt Mollie. A fast bond was formed and the traveler eventually asked the couple if he could stay a while. They said he could pitch his
tent up on the hill behind their cabin. It was there Harold would camp for
eight more summers on the beautiful Ozark mountain.
Harold enjoyed writing and had already published one book called "That
Printer of Udell's." As the preacher began meeting more people in the Ozark
hills during his summer stays, a new cast of characters soon came to life.
And in 1907, "The Shepherd of the Hills" was published. Mostly ﬁctional,
it's a tale about Ozark mountain people and their trials and triumphs living
in the rugged hills of southern Missouri, battling vigilantes and raising their
families. More importantly, it's a story about love and forgiveness.
The book was an immediate success, eventually being made into four motion
pictures - the most famous being the 1942 version with John Wayne, his ﬁrst
technicolor ﬁlm. The cabin still stands on its original site and was added to the
National Register of Historic Places in 1983.
Far left: Statues of the characters portrayed in Harold Bell Wright's novel "The Shepherd of
the Hills," such as this one of Old Matt, greet visitors to the property near Inspiration Tower.
Left: The original Shepherd of the Hills brochure promotes the "pageant" at the Old Mill
Theater. This is the 59th season for the outdoor drama.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - July 2018
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - Intro
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - Contents
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 4
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 5
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 6
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 7
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - 8
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Rural Missouri - July 2018 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - July 2018 - Cover4