A Love Story for the Ages

Bill and Bette Byrne are posing for a photo. Bill is holding their newborn baby Gretchen and their black Labrador looking dog is in the photo looking as if he is going to give Bette a sick on the chin.
Bill and Bette Byrne: Summer of 73

 

Bill and Bette: A love story for the ages.

These two former “Back to the Landers” in Shannon County, Missouri, are two of the smartest and most humble people the Carbon Trace team has ever come across. We can’t wait to tell their story and others with “A Portrait of the Ozarks.”

Forty years ago, life in Shannon County, Missouri, was preserved through two documentaries created by MSU’s Center for Ozarks Studies. These filmsSet in the 1980's, Bill and Bette Byrne are sitting at a table with their two year old daughter on their lap. There are two brown coffee mugs on the table. continue to be immensely popular; the current versions on YouTube have received over a quarter of a million views each in the last 5 years, with many comments asking what Shannon County is like today or making assumptions about the community. Bill and Bette both had a short highlight in the film, but they may play a much bigger role in this new production. 

The Department of Media, Journalism, and Film at Missouri State University, the University Libraries, and Carbon Trace Productions are partnering to revisit this area of Missouri in search of the indicators of social and economic conditions in rural areas. We want to go beyond county-level population trends, employment, income, and poverty to see who the people still live in such a rural part of the state. 

The Byrnes are a fascinating family to follow as they were “newcomers” in the former films. Today, these people are ingrained in the Shannon County Community. Both are looked up to as respected, helpful, and friendly folks who have given their lives to help others. Our film will explore the cultural heritage aspects of the Ozarks and the softer side of traditionalism, and the concept of family in rural America.   

The project will grow from the project partners’ expertise, students’ and alumni’s participation, and the input from supporters currently in Shannon County. We hope to shed light on stereotypes and assumptions of the rural Ozarks and evaluate the increasing political divide in the United States between urban and rural in the microcosm of a rural county.

Funding is being sought through various granting agencies, including the NEH, completing the film in its entirety. However, time is of the essence as we would like to begin reaching out to the community’s aging members who were part of the original film. If you would like to help, give our Executive Director a call at 816-872-6789. 

Bill and Bette Byrnes of today are standing by a pond. Bill is looking at Bette, she is smiling.
07/30/2020 — Eminence MO — Stills and video of Crystal Creek Ranch owners Bob and Bette Byrnes for “Portrait of the Ozarks.” (back to the landers in the original film) with Andy Cline and Shannon Cay.
© 2020 Jym Wilson/Carbon Trace Productions