Vol. VIII, No. 1, 1995


Book Reviews


Walking with Wildflowers: A Field Guide to the St. Louis Area by Karen S. Hailer (Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 1994) 257 pages. Photographs, index. $22.50

This beautiful guide is organized differently than most. The author wants to help persons find specific wildflowers in specific places. It will be useful for amateurs and experts.

The book is divided into twenty-eight sections, each describing a specific site and some of its flowers. All of the sites are within an hour's drive of St. Louis.

For example, if you wish to visit Mastodon State Park, operated by Missouri Department of Natural Resources in Jefferson County, you will find at the beginning of that section a map of the park and the exact spots where you will find four wildflowers (brown-eyed susan, ironweed, spotted touch-me-not, and water cress). Each flower gets a two-page spread: one page is a four-color photo of the flower. The facing page is text describing the flower, when it blooms, and its location.

The photography, mostly by the author, is excellent. The photographs were taken up close and show in sharp detail the characteristics described in the text.

One weakness for beginners may be that not every flower is listed in the site where it might be seen. If you are walking in Mastodon State Park and see a wildflower other than the four listed above, you may look through all of the photos for all of the sites before you find it. This guide, unlike many of the standard works, does not have sections organized by colors or families.

Another weakness is that usually only one common name is given for each flower. The trout lily may be known to some by another name, dogtooth violet; spotted touch-me-not may be known to some as jewelweed.

For these reasons, amateurs will want a companion guide, such as Missouri Wildflowers by Edgar Denison (Jefferson City, Missouri: Missouri Department of Conservation, 1990) which is recommended by Haller.

Appendices include a monthly schedule of when the flowers bloom, a checklist by scientific name, a list of botanical terms, a list of references, and an index of flowers by scientific and common names.

This is an exceptionally well-printed book on heavy coated paper to assure fine reproduction of the color photos. It will be a good starter book for persons interested in finding wildflowers in the St. Louis area and a valuable addition to the collections of experienced students who want to know where to go to find a specific flower.

-Lynda Yarrington Independence, Missouri

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The White River Chronicles of S. C. Turnbo: Man and Wildlife on the Ozarks Frontier. Selected and edited by James F. Keefe and Lynn Morrow; introduction by W. K. McNeil. (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1994). 356 pp. Photographs, maps, notes, appendix, bibliography, index. $44.00.

In 1913 an impoverished and ailing Silas Turnbo wrote to his correspondent friend, Kansas historian W. W. Connelley, offering to sell his massive manuscript about life in the early Ozarks to Connelly for any "reasonable price." A few weeks later Connelley sent Turnbo a money order for $27.50. "I could not deny an old friend in need," he wrote Turnbo, "so I made extra effort and got the money."

Thus Turnbo (self-described as "nothing but a poor scribbler") relinquished all claims to the substantial work which had consumed him during a lifetime of collecting, interviewing, and writing. How pleased and proud this pioneer collector of Ozarks folklore and oral history would be with this excellent publication of part of his work as The White River Chronicles of S. C. Turnbo.

Most of Turnbo's stories come from the Arkansas and Missouri counties whose drainage flows into the White Riven The Turnbo collection is among the earliest assembled writings about the Antebellum Ozarks frontier, and certainly it must be the largest. In this book, Keefe and Morrow have included only a fraction of the "poor scribbler's" total output. (The collection in the Springfield-Greene County , Missouri library, from which they worked, contains 2,487 pages of typed material.) "We chose" they wrote, "tales that seemed best to illustrate the times and events (primarily 1815-65) that Turnbo recorded and to present his major themes." They selected their stories wisely and have organized them well. One of the five chapters of Turnbo text deals with wildlife, while three emphasize people and places, and one is devoted to Turnbo's experience in the Civil War.

The material that Turnbo collected is not just autobiographical, but represents the collective memory of dozens of informants whom Turnbo takes great pains to identify carefully. There is much family, local, and county history in Turnbo's writing. Genealogists, in particular, will find much to applaud in his careful and precise recording of family names and the places these families lived. The editors have provided selected genealogies of the Turnbo and Coker (another White River "first family") as an appendix to their book.

Turnbo's tales are well interpreted by the editors who comment upon and discuss the Turnbo

text. Since Morrow is an historian and Keefe a wildlife biologist (and 19th century weapons expert), their 60 pages of notes are interesting, authoritative, and informative. When Turnbo comments about "fire hunting," the editors explain that fire hunting is the use of a torch at night to illuminate the eyes of deer, the equivalent of modem spotlighting. When Turnbo is wrong, they do not hesitate to point it out. He tells about a "diamond rattlesnake," for instance, and the editors note that there are no valid

records of western diamondback rattlesnakes in Missouri, and that often early Ozarkers wrongly identified timber rattlesnakes as diamondbacks. Their notes not only explicate Turnbo's references, but open an excellent window into the culture of the Ozarks, ranging from frontier times to the present.

W. K. McNeil's introduction outlines Turnbo's life and traces his heroic, and mostly futile, efforts to get his precious writings into print.

Turnbo worked on his own, without foundation or government funding, without professional guidelines, and without encouragement. Indeed, Turnbo's obsession with collecting old stories was something of an embarrassment to his family in his later years. McNeil provides a folklorist's scholarly evaluation of Turnbo's methods and materials. Turnbo's habit of recording everything his informants told him, for example, "meant that he obtained data on many aspects of folklore and folklife that other reporters might have overlooked because they seemed so commonplace."

The center portion of the book contains a number of well captioned photographs from a variety of sources, all of which serve to illustrate the Ozarks culture described by Turnbo. Several sketch maps help locate the many place names mentioned in the text.

This book, to use modem parlance, is not a page turner. As a writer, Silas Turnbo is no Vance Randolph, which may help account for his difficulties in getting his work published during his lifetime. But, as W. K. McNeil says, "without the 'poor scribbler's' collection, our knowledge of Ozark history and culture would be considerably smaller." This book is an excellent reference work for libraries, and for all who are interested in expanding their knowledge of the Ozarks.

-Robert K. Gilmore

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