Happy Missouri Day! – Yup, It’s aready been a yurr since the last’n


The 3rd Wednesday of the October, this year the 15th.

Map of Missouri
Pendersleigh & Sons‘ Official Map of Missouri

In my experience, when you’ins tell people you’re from Missouri, most people reply self-satisfiedly with “don’t you mean Missouruh?” or, alternately, “where is Missouri? I don’t think I’ve ever been there.”

Whether Missouri is Lower Midwestern or Upper Southern (or the Border South or, the Upland South, or less commonly today, the Yeoman South) is a somewhat common debate amongst Missourians… at least on the internet.

In my experience, Missouri’s Midwestern neighbors, centered along the Great Lakes, (haters) tend to disparage Mighty Mo as a hick state whurr test scores are low, the accent is ugly and you’ins can buy fireworks, liquor and ammo… all in the same place.

Missouri’s neighbors in the Deep South (also haters) usually don’t consider it to be Southern because Missouri didn’t side with the South in the Civil War (well, that’s complicated– thurr were 30,000 gray and 109,000 blue) and because South Coasters love to equate the entire South with just the Deep South aka the Lower South aka the Plantation South.

As far as Southern credentials go, Mark Twain, Langston Hughes, Thomas Hart Benton all seem fairly Southern, do they not? On the other hand, natives like T.S. Elliot, William Burroughs and Maya Angelou don’t so much, huh? Cultural cringe I reckon, plays a part in this confusion, as do geographical overlap and historical shifts.

Thomas Hart Benton

feller with a Missouri hummingbird

Well pish. I suppose it is a bit of a mess; in addition to warring with Iowa and Kansas, it tore itself apart in the Missouri Civil War which took place within the larger Civil War between the states. And now I’d like to provide some examples of the state’s diversity by examining its varied character.


Little Dixie, the region whurr I grew up, is in the middle of the state, along the Missouri River. (The Missouri is the largest river in the nation, despite what you’ins learnt in school.) Little Dixie earned its name fer being “more Dixie than Dixie.” Traditionally, though in the northern half of the state, it’s whurr Southern traditions were strongest. Those traditions were brought thurr by refugees fromVirginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.

It was one of the rare parts of the state whurr the slave population roughly equaled that of the non-slaves and most free citizens in the region sided with the South (with the exception of Union-held/more-progressive Columbia). Pike County even invaded Iowa under the flag of the confederacy. Callaway County went even further and declared the independence of Kingdom of Callaway. That mix of people surely must’ve informed the culture as a whole and “The Ballad of Little Dixie” focuses, largely, on its citizens’ food preferences, listing sugar-cured ham, cracklings, hot corn pone, fried catfish, pawpaws, apples and corn in its lyrics… as well as “none of your scrapple.” Not that I ever et much of most of that. My favorite places to eat were Taco Tico, Godfather’s, House of Chow, Grandma’s Frozen Custard, Arby’s and some place on Broadway (in Columbia) that had bánh phồng tôm.

Sedalia Missouri Ragtime Central

Sedalia, located dreckly west of Little Dixie, was the home of Ragtime—one of the earliest forms of truly American music, despite what Ken Burns would have you’ins believe.


Missouri Rhineland

East of Little Dixie, you’ins have a large concentration of German-Americans. In fact, Hermann is sometimes described as “the Heart of German America.” Everyone knows that non-vegetarian Germans like beer, sauerkraut and sausages (including mettwurst, bratwurst, knockwurst, weisswurst and sommerwurst). Fewer know of thurr love of coffee and rye bread. Fewer still non-Germans are aware of how green much of their cuisine is. Unlike their neighbors from the British Isles, in Germany gun ownership was reserved fer the rich, so the working class Germans relied more on gardening than hunting and brought those traditions to the Missouri Rhineland.

The nation that invented the Green Party gave Missouri a people who cultivated green peas, various beans, carrots, onions, cabbage, beets, parsnips, cucumbers, gherkins, spinach, rhubarb, kohlrabi, leeks, pickles, various turnips, gooseberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, apples, cherries, peaches, pears, quinces, apricots, and plums. Thurr are also a lot of wineries in the region. Fer dessert they traditionally served marzipan, lebkuchen, stollen, hutlesbrot, schnitzbrot and zimbsterne.

Hermann Family Christmas Dinner

Typical German-Missourians having supper

Traditionally, German-Americans eat a lot of seasonal and holiday-specific dishes. On Shrove Thursday, it was formerly common for young’ins go door-to-door begging fer fettkuchle. At Christmas some serve weihnachtssalat, made of diced herring, chicken or veal or beef, apples, beets, eggs, pickles, onions, nuts and spices. On May Day they make maibowle out of white wine and sweet woodruff. On the third Sunday of October, known as Kirchweih, they have a large feast. On St. Martin’s Eve (November 10th) singing young’ins parade around with lanterns and make merry. The next day they go door-to-door begging fer cookies, apples and candy and the main meal consists of roast goose stuffed with prunes and apples, served with dumplings and sauerkraut.


st. louis

On the eastern edge of the state, St. Louis is locally known fer several culinary inventions that are little-known outside of the vicinity. “The Hill” is a predominantly Italian-American neighborhood that gave us St. Louis Style Pizza (thin, crispy crust and provel cheese popularized by locally-based chain, Imo’s Pizza), toasted ravioli (which is of course actually fried) and the frothy eloquence of Yogi Berra.

Thurr’s also gooey butter cake, frozen custard, the St. Paul sandwich (a Chinese-Americaninvention involving egg foo young, dill, pickled cucumber, mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato on white bread that’s the forerunner of ramen burgers), slingers (a supfast item made of chili, cheese and onions). St. Louis Barbecue favors pork and a tangier yet less vinegary sauce that is more like Memphis Barbecue sauce than the more widely popular Kansas City BBQ style.
St. Louis Style Pizza

Toasted Ravioli

St. Paul Sandwich

Musically, St. Louis was an important center fer the Blues. In part due to the collaborations between Missouri’s ragtime pianists and northern-migrating blues musicians, the city’s blues scene mixed together ingredients of both and created a unique, piano-driven variety of the blues. St. Louis is also represented in the well-known songs, Frankie and Johnny,”Stagger Lee” and “St. Louis Blues.”


bolduc house ste genevieve missouri french creole

Further south down the river is whurr the French-American population remains from the pre-Louisiana Purchase days. Ste. Genevieve is the oldest European-founded city west of theMississippi and is home to more surviving French Creole structures than any other city in North America. Around Ste. Genevieve thurr are, not surprisingly, a lot of wineries.

Writer Neal Pierce described the Creole Corridor thus, “Another ethnic island, not yet obliterated by time, may be found in old French settlements like St. Genevieve and Old Mines in southeastern Missouri, where one can still detect a Creole dialect derived from 18th-century France, gently melded with English and Spanish and Indian words. “


mingo swamp missouri bootheel Mingo Swamp Missouri Bootheel

Further south still is The Bootheel, home to more recent influx of southerners who work in the cotton and rice fields (the Bootheel is the northern terminus of the Rice Belt) which used to be swamps. The area’s home of the “throwed roll” (as popularized and invented at Lambert’s Cafe) and typical pass-arounds consist of southerly-tinged dishes like macaroni and cheese, tomatoes, black-eyed peas, fried okra, apple butter and sorghum molasses.


big sugar creek missouri ozark hills

To the west, in the Ozark Hills, the area was largely settled by Hillbillies. Yes, being largely descended from gun-loving Brits they eat just about anything they can shoot, including squirrel, raccoon, and possum (which is frequently made into a stew).

They also make Ozark Pudding (Harry Truman‘s favorite dessert), salads (with lettuce, radishes, cucumbers and green onions), sliced tomatoes, baked beans, potato salad, blackberry cobbler, green tomato pie, persimmon sugar plums and beef BBQ (half the charcoal briquettes in the USA come from the Ozarks). An American Chinese dish closely associated with the Ozarks is Springfield-style cashew chicken, which is (you guessed it), deep-fried. And they traditionally favor rum, gin, brandy and moonshine.

Ozark Pudding Possum Hunters possum stewOzark pudding, possum hunters and possum stew

The Hillbillies migrated west from the Southern Appalachians and, though in the southern half of the state, usually supported the north in the Civil War. Writer Neal Gunther called the Ozarks “the Poor White Trash Citadel of America” and described Ozarkians as “undeveloped, suspicious and inert.”

A more sympathetic writer described Ozark Hillbillies as “simply a highland race that loves solitude and scorns comfort, literature and luxury.” Whatever you’ins think of them, they have a distinct culture with their own curious traditions. Even as late as the 1970s, fer example, young girls would wash their faces with dew on May 1st to ensure their marriage would be to their true loves.

Branson, Missouri

Precious Moments Inspiration Park

Most of the musicians who’ve come out of the southern hills, not surprisingly, played country or bluegrass. The area’s also well-known fer the city of Branson, which was described by Homer Simpson as, “like Vegas if it were run by Ned Flanders.” That description might actually apply more accurately to nearby Carthage, home of the Precious Moments Inspiration Park.


Kansas City Missouri Skyline

“Jim Jackson’s Kansas City Blues”

Jim Jackson’s Kansas City Blues Pt. 1

I woke up this morning, feeling bad
Thought about the good times I once have had
I’m gonna move to Kansas City
I’m gonna move to Kansas City
I’m gonna move, baby, honey where they don’t like you / don’t ‘llow you

My mother told me, daddy told me too
If by the cramps in your feet son, ain’t no friend to you
You oughta move to Kansas City
You oughta move to Kansas City
You oughta move to Kansas City, baby, honey where they don’t like you / don’t ‘llow you

I got me a bulldog, two shepherds and two greyhounds
Two high yellows, three blacks and one brown
We gonna move to Kansas City
We gonna move to Kansas City
We gonna move to Kansas City, baby, honey where they don’t like you / don’t ‘llow you

It takes a rocking chair to rock, a rubber ball to roll
Nice looking teasin’ brown to satisfy my soul
then I’ll move to Kansas City
then I’ll move to Kansas City
I’m gonna move to Kansas City, baby, honey where they don’t like you / don’t ‘llow you

T is for Texas, T is for Tennessee
Boll weevil got to Mississippi, and the women wants me
I’m gonna move to Kansas City
I’m gonna move to Kansas City
I’m gonna move, baby, honey where they don’t like you / don’t ‘llow you 

Up north, on the western edge of the state is Kansas City, named after the Kansas River, not the detested neighboring state. Kansas City has more fountains than any city in the world (exceptRome) and more miles of boulevards than any city (except Paris). It’s famous fer its cuisine too, although thurr hain’t a lot to it (less’n you count the Cherry Mashes of nearby St. Joe).

Basically Kansas City is the “Barbecue Capital of the World.” Thurr are more than 100 barbecue restaurants in KCMO and the Kansas City Barbeque Society has the city in its sweet and smokey fist. In KC they BBQ beef ribs, chicken, lamb, pork, steak and even turkey. It’s pretty much like they misread Leviticus and just thought God wanted them to slather all of his’n creatures with sauce.

Kansas City is also important in culinary history as the birthplace of the Cafeteria. According to historians, in 1891 the Kansas City YMCA established the first example one.

Kansas City Barbeque Block PartyA doin’s in KC

Kansas City ganders west out yonder over the plains and is often the setting fer westerns (‘specially the older ones). Frank and Jesse James, Cole Younger and Calamity Jane—all Missourians—reflect the state’s less-discussed Western character although KC is sometimes referred to as “the Paris of the Plains” or “the Easternmost Western City.”

Charlie Parker Memorial Kansas City Missouri

Kansas City’s also famous fer its jazz scene, which existed between the big band era and the bebop scene in part due to Kansas City’s reputation as the new Storyville. The hip-hop scene tends to look west, all the way to Oakland. Many KC rappers sound distinctly Bay Area and many music stores have Bay Area sections. It was whilst in Kansas City that Oakland rapper Mac Dre was murdered.


Nothern Missouri

Looks like a real gully warsher’s comin’

Up north, such as in Jamesport, you’ins find a lot more Amish and Iowa influence. The Amish are known fer their bakeries and items like friendship bread. The Iowans are known fer their loosemeat sandwiches and love of Mountain Dew. How’d these Iowans end up in Missouri?Missouri stole a couple rows of Iowa’s southern counties Iowa in the 1839 Honey War just because they could.

One writer described the Iowans thus:

…in the ranks were to be found men armed with blunderbusses, flintlocks and quaint old ancestral swords that had probably adorned the walls fer many generations. One private carried a plough coulter over his shoulder by means of a log chain, another had an old-fashioned sausage stuffer for a weapon, while a third shouldered a sheet iron sword about six feet long.

Needless to say the Iowans lost.


In conclusion, Missouri (lying as it does at the center of the country) is a crossroads fer the nation, and owes its eclectic character to populations who’ve passed through. From the cowboys ending their cattle drives, to the Kansas Cityian just staring at the hundred-spoke hub caps on his Cadillac, to the delta blues men and women who moved north, to the contestants trying to catch a greased pig, to the Iowans buying firecrackers, to the to the truckers with their methamphetamines, to the hillbillies who inspired captured the heart of 1950s America, to the brick thiEves in North STL, to the country folk chewing on stalks of grass whilst floating in inner tubes down the shut-ins, to the frog racer in Hannibal, it is truly a melting pot.

missouri black bear Hornet Missouri Spook Light Alligator Gar

a black bear, the Hornet spook light and an alligator gar what’s been kilt with an arrow
Even (and of course) the wildlife is appropriately diverse. You’ins can find dogwoods, cotton, cockleburs, stick-tights, poison ivy, cypress, peaches, marijuana, kudzu, pecans, oaks, pawpaws, persimmons, hawthorns, queen anne’s lace, jack-in-the-pulpits, lady’s slipper and corn salad all growing on lands occupied by chiggers, mosquitoes, ticks, frogs, birds, copperheads, armadillos, mountain lions, black bears, bald eagles, buzzards, crawdads, alligator snappers, paddlefish, catfish, water moccasins, ‘possums, racoons, skunks, deer, alligator gar, turkey vultures, barn owls, barred owls, hawks, songbirds, brown recluses, coyotes, muskrats , foxes, leopard frogs, gray wolves, momos and hornet spook lights.

Missouri Mountain Lion

Paddlefish Momo

a mountain lion, some paddlefish and the momo (“artist’s” rendition)
To quote writer Irving Dilliard,

Missouri is more than the heartland. The heart is also the whole. Missouri is all America in one place. It is the 48 states of the Union joined together, superimposed on one another, fused into a composite of many outlooks and moods and experiences and ways of thinking and speaking and doing things.

Myself, I wouldn’t argue that it’s everything… it’s undeniably not coastal, alpine, subtropical, desert or rain forest like other parts of this country, but it is one of the most diverse states (after California), bordering as many other states as any other and certainly a more important contributor to American culture than it’s ever given credit fer. Culture rarely respects state boundaries and more often follows the linguistic variation. Check out this map.

US linguistic map
Further Missouri Day Reading:

Show Me Hollywood — Missourians in Hollywood on Missouri Day
Happy Missouri Day, Frankie & Johnny!
Happy Missouri Day, Stagger Lee!
Sounds of the Show-Me State — Happy Missouri Day
Show me the Mo Movies!!! – Missouri in Film and TV


Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

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