Rural Missouri - February 2021 - 35

TALES to tell
Fishing, hunting and fantastic
creatures focus of new book

by Zach Smith | zsmith@ruralmissouri.coop

The bulk of " Ozark Outdoors " is given voice by living
enthusiasts across 32 stories collected and edited by Mark
and the students of one of his writing-intensive courses.
he phrase, " Give a man a fish and you feed him for
The class received twice as many submissions but chose
a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a
to focus on those that best conveyed the appeal of the
lifetime, " has an unwritten addendum: " And if the
outdoors. The stories relate not only the fish, deer and racfish gets away, the angler's likely to lie about it. "
coon that didn't get away, but also the life lessons learned,
For Mark Morgan, the story of the one that gets away is
memories made outdoors and a reminder to share these
sometimes just as good or better than the one that didn't
experiences with younger generations.
because like any angler, he's a sucker for a good fish tale.
" We were very careful not to steal the author's thunder, "
Mark, an associate professor at the University of MisMark says, " but I really wanted someone who is not part of
souri's School of Natural Resources, is no stranger to
the hunting and fishing crowd to pick this up and realize
Missouri's outdoors. Inspired by the works of folklorist
what they are missing. "
Vance Randolph and his own experiences, he collected
For those who venture outdoors there is always the
and compiled a book of Missouri fishing tales, " Hook, Line
chance, either implied or unexpected, at a brush with the
and Sinker, " in 2013. It wasn't long before he planned the
unknown. As such, the book includes a handy and hufollow-up, to focus on the Ozarks region of Missouri, Armorous encyclopedia covering mythical creatures of the
kansas and Oklahoma. The result, titled " Ozark Outdoors, "
Ozarks. The closing section covers everything from the
is a book of historical and modern fishing and hunting
" bingbuffer " - an inspired cross between the hippopotastories intended to pay tribute to the area's natural legacy
mus and the kangaroo that used its tail to throw rocks at
and promote its role in outdoor tourism.
prey - to the " wowzer, " a gargantuan mountain lion that
" There are a lot of natural resources here that kind of
reputedly attacked a wagon train in Oklahoma.
get overlooked compared to the commercial destinations, "
Cryptozoology might seem out of place in a collection
Mark says. " The goal for state agencies is reactivating that
of outdoor stories, at least initially. But Mark argues
interest in the outdoors for people. Storytelling
these stories are just as important as their true - or
is a way of doing that. "
at least more realistic - counterparts. They're part
To lend historical perspective on what the
of the storytelling patchwork that makes up folklore
Ozarks were like for early outdoorsmen, Mark
Columbia
and the tradition of sharing outdoor experiences,
relied on the hunting and fishing accounts of a
like a cousin to the classic fish story grown out
few who recorded their experiences: Henry Rowe
of control.
Schoolcraft, George Featherstonhaugh, Theodore
" If you stay in the woods long enough, you're
Russell and Silas Turnbo.
going to see some things that don't exist - and
Featherstonaugh's accounts made during
there's no shame in that. It's a great testament to
Missouri's early statehood relate sightings of Carolina
people's imagination, " Mark says with a laugh. " You hear
parakeets, passenger pigeons and ivory billed woodpeckor see something that captures your imagination, and the
ers - all of which are now extinct. Missouri's rich lineage
tendency is toward exaggeration. So what if it's not true? "
of outdoor columnists perhaps originate with Russell, who
Mark hopes the stories go beyond serving as a celebrawould detail his fishing and hunting trips and encountion of the region's natural beauty and resources. He sees
ters with wildlife over a 15-year career writing for the Iron
the collection of stories as a way to recruit or reactivate
County Register.
people - particularly kids - to the joys of the outdoors,
Turnbo's writings serve as a catalog of early Ozark
even if their interests don't include hunting or fishing.
culture and customs. Although Schoolcraft is arguably the
" Being in nature resonates with people on a lot of differmost well-known among the four as a Missouri naturalent levels, " Mark says. " You can talk about the camaradeist, Mark says readers may be surprised to learn his epic
rie, social bonding and adventure, but it's your experience
search for the region's lead deposits with companion Levi
and your memories that make it powerful. "
Pettibone was rife with misadventure.
" They were so ill-prepared it was hilarious, " Mark says.
Ozark Outdoors costs $15 including shipping and can
" But I was floored by all this early natural history they
be purchased online at www.confedmo.org. Contact Mark
recorded, and the hunting and fishing opportunities that
Morgan at markmorgan@missouri.edu or call 573-825-2705.
were present in the Ozarks in the early 1800s. "

T

FEBRUARY 2021 | RURALMISSOURI.COOP

35


http://www.confedmo.org http://www.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Rural Missouri - February 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - February 2021

Contents
Rural Missouri - February 2021 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - February 2021 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - February 2021 - Contents
Rural Missouri - February 2021 - 4
Rural Missouri - February 2021 - 5
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Rural Missouri - February 2021 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - February 2021 - Cover4
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