Centuries ago, tucked away in the mountains of northern Arkansas in a small town called Hardy, two local families – the Russells and the Evans – became embroiled in a fight at a town dance, allegedly resulting in three deaths. Cut to 2014, and the family feud continues in that town, and it is now the subject of a six-part Discovery mini-series entitled “Clash of the Ozarks.”
“This isn’t just a clash of two families; there is a bigger story in this. We initially wanted to call this series ‘The Last Americans,’ because it really is about the battle for America,” executive producer David George told FOX411. “There is one side rooted in traditional ways, and another side wants progress and things to change. It’s a never-ending battle, and that’s what this is about.”
In the modern-day Hatfield and McCoy-like story, on one side, there is the patriarch of the Russell family – Crowbar Russell – seen by some as an outlaw, by others as a generous and hard-working churchgoer. But one thing is certain, he wants to continue doing things the way they always have and is opposed to any form of progress and change.
Such views are met with great disdain by his nemesis Kerry Wayne Evans who heads up the Evans household. Born and bred in a tiny one-room house on the south side of the tracks, this six-generation Hardy man fights for his belief that people should police themselves and be self-sufficient rather than relying on the authorities, but is a savvy businessman who seeks to bring prosperity and improve life for those in his community.
“When you live in a small community, you fight for what you believe to be right and that is what made our country great. We were dirt poor and lived off the land, we hunted and fished,” explained Evans. “But there are things we need in the community that I try to do like build dams or hospitals. I’m not satisfied with the status quo. We live in the greatest place on earth to raise a family, and that is America… Progress is not a bad word. It is just a word.”
While visiting the township several months ago on research for a different show, the producers accidentally stumbled upon Evans and Russell and knew instantly that there was a salt-of-the-earth story to be shared beyond the heartland. But at least in the case of Evans, the Hollywood door-knock wasn’t met with open arms.
“I didn’t want to be involved at first. I’m very outspoken in the community, and I didn’t necessarily want that broadcast to the world,” Evans admitted. “But when I was 11 or 12 a kid beat me up, and I came home, my dad looked me in the eye and asked me if I believed in what I was doing when I got into the scuffle. I said ‘yes sir, I did.’ From that day on, I believed in the things I did. I have goals in life, and I don’t want people telling me what I can and can’t do. These squabbles go on every day.”
Similarly, the notion of Discovery’s cameras invading the 772-person Arkansas town and exposing it to the world has been met with mixed feelings.
“It will have a massive impact on our town. There are people that are excited… Others aren’t for it, they don’t want a bunch of people sticking their noses in our business,” Evans said.
But in his opinion, the national spotlight is bound to boost business.
“One hundred years ago you could self-sustain off the land and it was a great life. But with all the taxes and rules and regulations now it is outrageous. You can live off the land if you have someone else subsidize it. But I will never do that,” Evans declared. “That’s what is wrong with America now: We don’t take care of ourselves anymore. We expect others to.”
“Clash of the Ozarks” premieres on Discovery Tuesday, Feb. 25.
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