Books & Essays
The White River Chronicles of S.C. Turnbo: Man of Wildlife on the Ozarks Frontier
University of Arkansas Press 1999
This highly readable folklore collection, edited by James F. Keefe and Lynn Morrow, highlights the most representative and evocative tales in the twenty-five hundred pages of backwoods stories collected by Silas Turnbo toward the end of the last century. Turnbo and his informants, antebellum Ozarks natives, believed that the legends of the hunt were, as William Faulkner would write, "the best of all breathing and forever the best of all listening." With no apology, the first settlers on the southern frontiers became predators in their own environment. They embraced blood sport and sought its rewards at every turn. The chase, accompanied by an anxious spirit of gain, promised them a sureness of profit more predictable than land speculation, timbering, or commercial agriculture. These early opportunists believed that the greatest natural resource along the lush White River drainages in Missouri and Arkansas was large game. Although surrounded by living waters, climax forests, and luxuriant grasses, the tellers of Turnbo's stories only incidentally made mention of flora. Silas Turnbo and his informants were fascinated by animals and the settlers' ongoing relationship with them?a relationship often defined by contests for supremacy. Significantly, Turnbo's education included only a few years in subscription schools of the 1850s. His writing is direct and in the idiom of the Ozarks, including spellings that are occasionally whimsical, perfectly befitting these "fireside stories" of the great outdoor drama of the southern frontiers.