True Grit: A Story of the Ozarks

From Joshua Heston, Editor of State of the Ozarks online magazine.



Yep, I’ve been mighty busy this month but finally managed watch both versions of True Grit. Don’t tell anyone I hadn’t seen the John Wayne version before now, okay? It seems downright sacrilegious to admit to having not seen a movie starring The Duke.I think it is interesting because both versions are considered classic Westerns (the first being filmed in beautiful places like Castle Rock and Ouray, Colorado and Mammoth Lakes, California). The new version— directed by the Coen Brothers — got a little closer to home with filming in Granger and Blanco, Texas… but also the Buena Vista Ranch in New Mexico.

And yet, Charles Portis’ book was very clear on the locations:Dardanelle and Fort Smith, Arkansas, and the rugged hills of Indian Territory (the Oklahoma Ozarks). Rooster Cogburn, with a cat named General Sterling Price, was of Osceola, Missouri. Mattie Ross’s strident, unbending Cumberland Presbyterianism drove the story forward, reminding me of something Louis L’Amour wrote one time:

A man [or woman] who is positive they are always right is mighty dangerous indeed.

In the places, the people, the times, the heart, True Grit is a story of the Ozarks.Unbending, unyielding, proud, sometimes winning, sometimes losing, but breathtakingly beautiful in its extraordinary plainness. I think it takes a lifetime to get your head wrapped around the contradictions. But listen to the 2010 film’s music, a glorious, stark, emotional paean, combining Leaning On The Everlasting Arms, What A Friend We Have In Jesus, and The Gloryland Way, and you just might — in your heart — have it figured out.

Joshua Heston is the author of
The State of the Ozarks: Essays and Photos from the Ozark Mountain Region

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