Classic Ozarks Texts

Story Telling

From Richard Young and Judy Dockrey

“Folklorists record or preserve a single variant of a story at a time, with all the lacunae and imperfections of the specific teller, along with many details about the teller that reveal the cultural context and delve into the meaning of the story within that culture.

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“Storytellers are more content to collect the story as a body of variants, incorporating them into a single, distilled version of the story that represents the culture that tells it. [emphasis added]”

— Young, Richard & Judy Dockrey, Ozark Ghost Stories, August House Publishers Inc., 1995.

From Editor Joshua Heston:

....[T]hat represents the culture that tells it." Thus is stated the critical importance of storytelling. Whereas we may plough through reams of technical histories, genealogical records and — today — millions of pointless blogs, nothing captures and celebrates a specific culture like the stories.

They are the heartbeat of the people.

From Margaret Newton, author of Shad: A Biography of Lloyd “Shad” Heller

"The White River area was awash with stories, an oral tradition that had been handed down from generation to generation, draped and layered over by word of mouth, and then set down in books and articles until the legends had been woven into a softly brilliant lamé fabric.

It was a fabric of cherished folktales so intermingled with the flickering radiance of real people and actual events that it was difficult to separate the real from the unreal. And Lloyd [Shad Heller] began to feel himself a part of the Shepherd of the Hills country."

— Page 140, Newton, Margaret, ‘SHAD’ A Biography of Lloyd ‘Shad’ Heller, Pin Oak Publishing, 1982.

plate 1. Classic Ozark texts grace the shelves of editor Joshua Heston’s library. January 21, 2014.

Sunset Oak Leaf

plate 2. Oak Leaf Detail. A brilliant afternoon sun creates a mosaic of design through a tattered oak leaf against a blue autumn sky.

The tapestry of autumn proves a rich backdrop for many traditional Ozark stories. October 28, 2006.

Listenin’ To The Old Timers

by Arkansas Red, Ozark Troubadour

Growin’ up out in the country of Jubeit County (pronounced “You Bet”), I used to love to go to town on Saturdays with my folks and just sort of mill around the square and listen to old timers tell tales of how things were in the “old days”. The local townfolk called the gatherin’ of the “senior men” on the square the, “Spit and Whittle Club.”

These men would gather on the benches around the court house and swap tales, lies, and “down right truisms” from about eleven in the mornin’ til about two or three in the afternoon. Then they would get up and go home. Just about every Saturday, weather permittin’ you would find these gents gathered at their appointed place. I used to sit and listen as long as I could while my folks shopped, and then we’d come home, and I’d tell my folks all the about what I’d “heerd”. I remember one time this one old timer was sittin’ sorta by himself, so I went over and started talkin’ to him.

We got around to the part about things just not bein’ the way they used to be and the old man said, “Ya know when I was a little feller, not much older than you are now, my momma would send me to the store with two dollars in my hand to buy groceries. I’d come home with a sack of potatoes, a loaf of bread, a quart of milk, a pound of cheese, can of coffee, and a dozen eggs. But you know you cain’t do that nowadays.” I said, “Boy, you’re right about that.” The old man said, “No sir. Too dad-blamed many security cameras.”

From Arkansas Red’s Hillbilly Happenin’s.

from “The Vanishing Rider”

“On a cold, windy night, a young man was riding alone on a dark road in the hills.

The moon was full, and it was the corn-shockin’ moon. As he rode along, the sound of the horse’s hooves echoed off the cliff face through the brush to one side of the trail.

All of a sudden-like, he saw a young woman standing beside the trail, dressed in a calico dress, but without even a bonnet on to keep her warm....”

— Page 55, The Vanishing Rider, Young, Richard & Judy Dockrey, Ozark Ghost Stories, August House Publishers Inc., 1995.

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