I am sure that all of us enjoy reading the articles by Wes Franklin and Sue Blesi as they describe the history and folklore of the Ozarks and the people who helped develop the marvelous Ozark culture.
I have recently read a book by Lonny Thiele titled “That Son of A Gun Had Sense” (printed by Stinson Press, Poplar Bluff, Mo.) that gives an excellent insight into the history and culture that is part of the fabric of the Ozarks, and for that matter the entire state of Missouri.
Lonny Thiele has accumulated a collection of tales from individual Missourians who have had a history of working with or being involved with the official state animal of Missouri — the Missouri Mule. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. In fact I have read it several times.
Thiele has interviewed over 70 individuals which produced 90 short stories. The author does a good job of blending history, some humor, knowledge and personality (both the person and the mule) into each story.
There is a biography of each contributor at the end of his or her tale. I like this part because it personalizes their role within the community and the contributions that they made. You know that it is real and part of the culture which makes Missouri unique.
The book also explores the history of the mule and its importance to Missouri, and also for the country. The author lists the unique definitions and terms used to work the mules and how the mule’s intelligence and physical makeup are greatly different from a horse.
This is a book were you can pick it up and read one or two stories, set it down and return at a later time to read more and not lose the plot. There are photographs from the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s of the mules and the hardworking people who raised and worked them.
The stories and knowledge are great topics for conversation to share as I have with my wife, Carol.
I highly recommend reading Lonny Thiele’s book “That Son of a Gun Had Sense,” which is steep in Missouri culture history and humor.
(Bill Wakefield is regional director of the Traveler’s St. Louis office and can be reached at 314-664-4844 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)