My first exposure to Ozarks folklore and culture was in seventh grade, when I first picked up a Pepto-Bismol pink copy of Ozark Magic and Folkore by the famed “Bull Goose of the Ozarks” — Vance Randolph.
I devoured Randolph’s collection of ghost stories, burial customs and weather lore that came from years of living in the Ozark hills among the mountaineers.
I had a fascination with Randolph, an individual that could easily be argued preserved Ozarks culture in the face of modernity.
That fascination has remained constant throughout my life. I have developed an appreciation of how landscape can shape the culture of a people, as the famous Ozark geographer Carl Sauer opined while Vance was collecting his stories.
For those of you who may not be familiar with him, Vance was not an Ozark native – he was a “furriner” from the flat lands of Pittsburg, Kansas, the son of respectable, establishment parents John and Theresa Randolph. His father was a noted attorney and politician, his mother a school teacher.