J. W. Childress loved farming but was lousy at it. His family - including his wife, children, and stepson - toiled as sharecroppers and migrant workers in fields of cotton, broomcorn, and peanuts in the Ozarks of Missouri and Oklahoma and were continually defeated by hardship and agrarian ineptitude as they struggled to stay united amid adversity. In An Ozark Odyssey: The Journey of a Father and Son, William Childress recalls the life of his late, irascible but lovable stepfather - his bad decisions, his misfit marriage, his prickly personality, and his gypsying ways that impoverished the family. Stirred to recount humorous anecdotes from a peripatetic childhood, and including tales of coming-of-age in the Korean War and his own experiences with marriage and fatherhood, Childress tells a story of family bonds, wandering and struggle, privation and joy, quarrels, hard times, and the courage to brave the familiar. In doing so, he comes to terms with his enormous affection for a man who never expressed affection, while also coming to terms with his affection for the landscapes and lifestyle that ensured poverty and hardship for his family.
As Childress demonstrates through charismatic storytelling, wit, and a humor tempered by the ghosts of a hardscrabble youth, the Childress family learned that security is mostly illusion but that giving up is no solution. An Ozark Odyssey covers J.W.'s journey from age seven to his death at age eighty-two, through marriage and divorce and reconciliation, four children, extreme poverty, restlessness, bank-ruptcies, and at last, a little recompense. Against all odds, he died well off, leaving his children a successful Ozark ranch.