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By Chris Meadows
Scott Quadrangle, Athens, Ohio, 1995
Reprinted by Litho Printers, Cassville, MO, 1971 88 pages

Bob Corbett
February 2016

The title is quite accurate. The author tells us that he will give us short, even very very short, stories and poems. They are bits of literature of some hard times in the remote areas of the Ozark Mountains, yet quite interesting history lessons.

The opening story, “Memory,” is both fascinating and well-told. It sets the stage for what follows in the rest of this short volume. The story is told by an old man remembering his life in the Ozarks from his family’s first coming there in the time of the land-grants and then their living an extremely simple life in the deep hill country. They grew all their own food, trading this or that with others and eking out a difficult but rewarding, satisfying life. The story is beautifully told and very touching.

Another tale, “The Ozark Hillbilly” describes life in the White River Valley from the 1830s onward. Among other farming activities they did some shelling along the White River where there were beds of mussels, sometime ¼ mile long. They collected them, boiled them and sold them for $20.00 a ton. They could often find and process 500 lbs. of them a day. Button factories purchased most of them.

The author also reports that until close to the 19th century law and order was a local responsibility and was administered with stern and swift notions of justice!

He also writes of the ferry boats of old and the “careful” exploration of caves including the myths of buried treasure, seemingly never found.

There is a great story of when the railway was being built. There was a strong market for railroad ties. Men would cut them and tie masses of them together and float them down the river to Branson, Mo. It was hard work, yet they could make a bit of cash, something these subsistence farmers had little of.

I was amused when he was describing the schools of many years ago and he celebrated the beating of students who didn’t behave!

“The school master rules his class with an iron hand. A hickory stick was always handy in one corner of the school and it was used to teach and build character in the boys and girls who tried to get out of line. This helped make these future men and women better persons.”

Ah me, it brings back the memory of some of the nuns who taught me here in St. Louis back in the 1940s and 50s. It seems to have been little different from the schools of the rural Ozarks!

Another chapter was a fascinating history of fishing in the White River, first before any dams had been built, and then the development of various projects where several dams were built to create large lakes and to create a massive tourist business.

Toward the end of this short volume there is a fairly long chapter about the author Harold Bell Wright who wrote the now famous THE SHEPHERD OF THE HILLS.

Wright spent a lot of time with the people and they liked him a great deal and told him many stories which he incorporated into his novel. However, when it was published and became very popular it inspired many city folks to begin to visit the area and this horrified many of the old-time country folks who saw this as a terrible intrusion into their privacy. All of a sudden Wright became an unwelcomed visitor and many of the folks then moved deeper into the even more rural and hidden, quiet hills of the Ozarks.

This is not a profound or great book, but it is a fun read. It has a very “down-home” sense to it and I had a great time reading it. However, while I enjoyed many of the stories of the hardships of the past, and the courageous activities of these simple and quiet folks, I was never able to be even in the slightest attracted to the lives of these folks who seem to me to have worked harder, longer and at more difficult tasks than I would ever in my life have even the slightest desire to experience.

But, the book is a delightful short read!

Bob Corbett


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Bob Corbett