Written by Klaire Bruce
Posted by Mark Ruda
Shepherd of the Hills Outdoor Drama
Harold Bell Wright’s famous book, ‘The Shepherd of the Hills’ is the fourth most widely read book in publication history. And it’s no small wonder why that is – with its intricately woven story plot, incredibly descriptive language detailing the Ozark Hills, and characters that seem so real you could reach out and touch them, it’s easy to see why Wright’s book has drawn thousands to the historic Shepherd of the Hills Homestead since the book was published in 1907. Present day, however, it’s not only the book drawing people to Shepherd of the Hills. It’s also the chance to see the story and the characters brought to life every night during the summer and early fall in the famous Shepherd of the Hills Outdoor Drama.
Starting nightly at 8pm, weather permitting, from May to October, the Shepherd of the Hills Outdoor Drama is a reenactment of Harold Bell Wright’s beloved book. Here you’ll meet Dad Howitt, a newcomer to the Ozarks with a dark and troubled past and a kind heart. His past and future are deeply interconnected with the native people of the hills – Old Matt, a giant of a mountain man with a strong back and sad memories, Sammy Lane, a beautiful backwoods girl with the spirit of a rebel and the mind of a lady, Little Pete, a boy of surprising parentage who is not right in the mind, and many other hill folk. Set in the late 1800s, this story will take you through many twists and turns and leave you anxious to know what happens next. The show features not only human actors and actresses, but horses as well! Wash Gibbs, a well-known troublemaker in the neighborhood and a Baldknobber to boot, will leave quite an impression on you as he rides on set on a big white horse (known around the barn as Egor). Ace, a black and white Paint horse with blue eyes, and Twister, a brown and white paint with a crooked ear, play the part of Baldknobber horses as well. And Sammy Lane makes quite an entrance riding in on her gold and white pony, Smokie! These and many other horses and mules, (plus a few wagon teams and a flock of sheep!) help to make the nightly outdoor drama a hit. At intermission, the audience gets a chance to be part of the action – Old Matt will personally invite viewers to come down on stage and join a square dancing party!
The set for the Shepherd of the Hills Outdoor Drama is huge – but it is laid out in such a manner that every seat is a good seat in the amphitheater! The set features a large, open wooden square dancing floor, an antique gristmill, a steam engine replica, a small cabin and much more. Many different entrances to the set will keep the audience on their toes to see where the characters will ride up or run out from next! If you visit Shepherd of the Hills during the day and take a homestead tour, the tram will take you right up on set and you’ll get to learn about and see everything in detail!
The Special Effects
The special effects used in the outdoor drama make this unlike any other show in Branson - or anywhere else, for that matter! Many guns and rifles are required to accentuate scenes already brimming with action. A vintage 1908 DeWitt automobile (that still runs, no less!) makes the scene where Sammy Lane’s prospective husband, Ollie Stewart, returns to the hills from the city even more entertaining. A real bluegrass band fiddles out square dancing music during the party scene – it’s sure to have you tapping your foot. And when the Baldknobbers come tearing in on their horses bearing flaming torches and light Dad Howitt’s cabin on fire, you can feel the heat on your face! No cause for alarm, though – Young Matt and Buck Thompson will soon have the fire put out with water buckets kept at the ready. And watch out – there may be a mountain lion prowling around on set just waiting for an unsuspecting backwoodsman! Also keep your eyes out for a ghostly figure near the mill.
With eighty actors, forty horses, fire, vengeance, love, and rifles, the Shepherd of the Hills Outdoor Drama is a show you’ll remember for years to come! So come on out to the amphitheater – Old Matt, Dad Howitt, Sammy Lane and all their friends (and foes!) will be right glad to have you!