The Black River flows from Missouri into Arkansas, east of Branson and west of the Bootheel. It meanders where the foothills of the Ozarks begin to rise out of the Mississippi plain. The area was sparsely populated when E. R. Coleman was a young man. Like the population they served, businesses were modest, mostly small, and scattered. Arkansas was still the Bear State; slogans boasting that it was - or predicting that it would become - the "Land of Opportunity" were yet to be conceived.