Monday, March 28, 2011

Ozark Juice-Harp

I remember one of my first musical instruments while growing up in the Ozarks.

When I was about 7 years old, and my family and I went to West Plains, Missouri, for a day. While there, we stopped by the West Plains Music Store. As my dad was looking over a selection of harmonicas, an older gentleman behind the counter spied me looking though a glass case. Peering over his glasses, he made a sales pitch by stating that I needed to start my musical career with an instrument I could master quickly.  His answer…a “Juice-harp.”

I was quickly sold on the idea, and my dad made the purchase. I popped and twanged that twisted piece of lead all the way home. In my mind, I could play any song. It took a little skill in arching my mouth the right way or to keep from pinching my lips.

It was a few years later till I found out it was really called a “Jew’s-harp.” You see, I reasoned in my mind, that since it was played by opening my mouth in different positions, it was an instrument that could be easily covered with spit. Hence, I called it a “Juice-harp.” It just made sense. In Ozark twang & vernacular, “Jew’s-harp” & “Juice-harp” sounds pretty close to being the same word.

To this day…I still think the music store man called it a “Juice-harp.”

In the following article, there is a wonderfully example of Ozark twang & dialect. I have transcribed the article exactly…word for word & letter for letter. I hope you have fun translating the 5th paragraph... as it is a part of our Ozarks’ History


The sun had just broken over the tops of the Ozarks one warm morning in summer. The mist that always settles thickly over these half mountains with the night all, was going to pieces and disappearing as the sun rose higher, leaving the green and dense verdure heavy and wet with the dew. In a cosy nook, on a log, overhanging the wild little stream that dashed down from a gushing spring above, a native was seated, earnestly playing a jewsharp. He twanged the vibrant metal with his thumb, keeping time by splashing one of his bare feet in the clear water below. After ten minutes, during which time the sun bad got high enough to shine straight in his eyes, he took the harp from his month and, wiping it on the leg of his trousers, exclaimed: "Thar!  Ef thet don' settl'r, whut will? "

Before he had spoken another word a stranger stepped from behind a big tree and addressed him: "That was the best tune I ever heard on one of those instruments."

The mountaineer looked at the stranger a moment and then, drawing himself up in a knot on the log, said: "Dye mean it, mister?"

"Mean it? Of course. "Why do you ask?"

"It's lak this, mister. Yer see, I hev be'n jest on the aige o' jinin' th' Simpson gal, over 'n th' holler, fer more'n er yar, an' when th' poppin' time kem, she up an' says thet I kain't hev 'er 'less I kin play thcr jews'a'p. I bin practicin' hyar on this log ier nigh a month now, I reckon, ev'ry day in th' mornin' 'ore sunup, an' I wuz thinki n' es I sot hyar, ez ei I didn't git th' bang o' it purty soon, it'd be gooilby, Sal. But yer made me feel better, stranger, an' ef yer roun' these parts nex' week, jes drop over on ther slope, 'crost th' way, an' ye kin be my best man."

As the stranger moved on down the path, the mountaineer struck up his tune again and played with a vim that was evidence that the stranger had been telling the truth. Along with the fiddle, the jewsharp still ranks high as a musical instrument (in the mountain region of Arkansas and Missouri. A native who can't play the jewsharp is looked upon as having very poor prospects.

Work Cited:
“Our Short Stories: Wooing a Maiden of the Ozarks With the Jewsharp's Notes. “ Pittsburg Dispatch  45.205  (31 Aug., 1890) 14. Chronicling America. The Library of Congress, Washington, D. C. 11 Jan. 2008 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sweet Youth, Hot Lead, and Bitter Revenge - Part 4

In uncovering old stories and writing a history blog, I sometimes come across people & stories that I can hardly let go of. When I look at a map, drive through a certain area, or scurry through a local grave yard, I still keep looking for more clues. I know there’s got to be more information somewhere. There’s still has to be one more living link. This is the situation concerning a blog I wrote in 2009 called, Sweet Youth, Hot Lead, and Bitter Revenge - Part 1, 2 &3.

I have been trying lately to find the graves of the people of this story. One problem I have been running into is graves that are marked with old creek stones.
No Name.
No Date.
No Easy Clues.
I have an idea on some markers, but not the confirmation I need...yet.
I have held on to this 4th part of the story for the past few months in the hope of finding some breakthrough. Nevertheless, I am posting it to add another part of the story followed in national newspapers about the love, feud, and murder in Gainesville, Missouri. Though this part of the story has a sad ending, I am sure there will be more pieces of the puzzle to follow in our Ozarks’ History.

Some Think He Was Foully Murdered.
Others That He Died by Accident.
Hod Miles
Gainesville. Mo., Nov. 2. -- The career of Hod Miles, of whose adventures in the Ozark Mountain region THE SUN has told the story in part, is ended. The reader who remembers anything about the man will be sorry to learn that he is dead. Hod Miles was a Massachusetts boy who came here nearly ten years ago and finding the land cheap and fertile and the climate to his taste bought a quarter section of land, and settled down to make a home. He was somewhat surprised to find that a shooting iron was among the necessities of life here, but he took kindly to Ozark ways, and was soon counted one of the finest young men of the country. He became a crack shot with pistol and rifle- -a crack shot in this country, where a greater proportion of accurate marksmen be found among the citizens than in any other region of the country, unless it be in southern Texas. As they say here, Hod sized up the range and lowed to cover it, but in his own way. Here every native uses either a repeating rifle or a navy revolver. Hod Miles always carried a target pistol of the smallest caliber. That would have made him an object of ridicule but for one fact He never missed his target. Squirrels in the tallest oaks, ducks on White River, and turkeys on the far side of a corn patch dropped when his pistol cracked, and they were always shot through the head. He had even dropped a quail in midair as it flew away from him.

Of course he was popular. Moreover, he could play the fiddle and dance and lead in a frolic, and in spite of Yankee thrift, was generous toward his neighbors. There was but one way in which such a man could get into trouble here, and Hod eventually found that way.

The Ozark Mountains are full of the handsomest kind of girls-bright-eyed, strong-limbed girls, who despise a coward, hate a mean man, and worship the one who is brave, dashing, and generous.  THE SUN has told how Hod by paying attention to one of the handsomest of these lassies, excited the jealousy of a friend of his named Dan Gibson. Dan undertook the job of running Hod out of the country, but the two did not meet until one night after the girl refused to go to a dance with Dan and did go with Hod. Hod had learned that the girl was worth fighting for and by chance found himself facing Dan on the ballroom floor with no one else in range. Because  Hod's target pistol weighed much less than Davis's navy revolver it was aimed a fraction of a second quicker, and Dan fell dead with tinny pellet of lead in his brain before his revolver was much, more than clear of its holster.

Dan left three brothers, who took up the feud and one after another died in attempting to avenge Dan's taking off. Two were commonplace killings, commonplace for this country. Each met Hod in Gainesville, each started to drawl his revolver at sight of the enemy, and each was too slow. The third lost his life in somewhat unusual fashion.

Hod had married the girl, and lived for three years on his farm unmolested. His wife, in spite of the care of a big boy baby, had grown handsomer as she grew older, and the proudest man in the country was Hod Miles. But one day he drove to Gainesville without his pistols; he had lived in peace so long that he forgot about them. While trading in Davidson’s store in walked the last of the Gibson boys looking for blood. For an insulting remark Hod knocked him senseless, and he was carried from the store. He soon regained his wits, however, and going to the further side of Hod's team, drew his revolver, cocked , and rested it on his left arm just above the backs of the horses. The team stood at the right of the store door as one walked out. If Hod was to shoot right handed he would have to expose all his body before he could get his pistol clear of the door.

Hod Miles was in a desperate strait. Gibson had taken such an advantage as made though event of to fight (for Hod would fight, of course) almost certain. Nevertheless this Massachusetts Yankee went on looking over the goods he wanted to buy with never a tremor that anyone could see. Then, when all was done, he located Gibson by a quick glance from the door, borrowed a revolver from the storekeeper, took it in his left hand, stepped once more to the door, and dropping the muzzle just beyond the door frame shot Gibson through the brain. It was done so quickly that Gibson probably did not see or know that Miles ever came near the door.

Then an uncle of the Gibson boys was run out of an Arkansas county for selling moonshine whiskey, the county having become one of the drys, and for some reason he and his son came here and took up the feud. While in Gainesville one day the young man, who was drunk, fired at Hod, but missed him. The whiskey had unnerved him somewhat, but Hod's reputation as a cool man killer probably had something to do with it. Of course Hod shot him dead in return. He could have killed the father as well, but instead of doing so arrested and disarmed him. When the old man had sobered up in jail Hod went to him for a talk on the subject of the feud, the result. of the talk being that Hod paid the old man's fare to Denver, Col., and sent him away.

Until the spring of 1892 Hod Miles and his family lived utmost an ideal farmer's life. Their home was comfortable, they were the most prosperous people in the section, and they were admired and respected by everybody. The killings did not worry them. They were, in fact, thoroughly well content with their lot. But on an unfortunate day while Mrs. Miles was riding along the road from a neighbor's house a deer jumped from the brush and ran across the road. The horse was frightened, and whirled around so expertly and quickly that Mrs. Miles was thrown to the ground. She was so badly hurt that she died next day.

The death of Mrs. Miles simply ruined her husband. The child, now a tiny boy in kinckererknockers, was given to the wife's mother, and the farm and its outfit of tools and stock were sold. Inside of a month Hod was staggering about Gainesville whooping drunk, and no more dangerous man than he ever got drunk in the Ozarks. That he did not murder any one was due solely to the fact that everybody let him have his own way. No argument of his friends availed to reform him.

Finally Bartlett Gibson, who had gone to Colorado at Hod's expense, returned. He was a hard man, and a drunkard, and it was reasonable to suppose that if the two met when in liquor they would light. Hod laughed when his friends said he was in danger of Bartlett Gibson's wrath, and said that Gibson would not dare to face him, drunk or sober. In this he seems to have been right, for the two did not meet, so far as anyone knows. All that any one does know is that him in the afternoon of Saturday a week ago Hod Miles staggered out of town afoot on the road toward the home of his father-in-law. Three days later his body was found in a ravine a short distance from the road. His forehead lay on a bloody stone and his skull had had fractured – probably by his falling on the stone. Still the wound on the forehead was a long one, just the wound a stiff club would have made, while the rock had a rugged knot that should have made an incised wound, unless the man's head gave it a glancing blow.

Meantime Bartlett Gibson, who was in town on the last day that Hod Miles was here, has not been seen or heard of since nightfall of that day.
Work Cited:
“End of an Ozark Man-Killer.” The Sun 60.7 (6 Nov., 1892) 8. Access Newspaper Archive. Donald W. Reynolds Library, Mountain Home, AR. 3 Nov. 2010.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Ozark Sasquatch - Part 2

Thanks to all the emails last week concerning our own Ozark Sasquatch called the "Blue Man."  If that phrase sounds confusing, please go back to the first post called, Ozark Sasquatch - Part 1 . These next few articles should wrap up last reports of Bigfoot in the Ozarks...until...we stumble upon his grandchildren.

In anticipation of that next exciting moment, we will hopefully discover another interesting coincidence in our Ozarks' History.

Legend of "Blue Man"
Told Again in Ozarks.
Ava, Mo.—With renewed reports of depredations by panthers and other animals In the wilds of the Ozark mountains, the older residents of Douglas county are  recalling the legend of the "Blue Man of Spring Creek."

This is one of the many legends of the Ozark country, and the pioneer residents declare that it is true. It deals with a huge, manlike creature, more than nine feet high, of a purple color, which Is said to have terrorized the countryside nearly sixty years ago. Many of the old residents have declared they saw the creature, and one man asserts he had a hair-raining encounter with it.
 End of Article

Is Seen Again by Missouri Woodsmen.
Willow Springs, Mo.—The periodical reappearance of the "Blue Man of Spring Creek" was reported by tie haulers who reached this city from Douglas county. The supposed "wild man" has not been seen at his old haunts since 1911 until about six weeks ago, when O. C. Collins, while searching for two lambs, got a glimpse of the man while he was attempting to capture a hog.

Since then other persons have seen the "blue man," according to word brought in by the tie haulers. Jay Taber saw him a few days ago, but he ran up the mountainside. Taber told his neighbors that the man's hair is now white, but that he is still powerful looking.
 End of Article
Work Cited:
 “Blue Man” Of Ozarks.”  New Castle News 35.304 (4 Aug., 1915) 7. Access Newspaper Archive. Donald W. Reynolds Library, Mountain Home, AR. 3 Feb. 2011.

“Blue Man” Of Ozarks.”  The Star and Sentinel 2.95 (26 Aug., 1915) 4. Access Newspaper Archive. Donald W. Reynolds Library, Mountain Home, AR. 3 Feb. 2011.

“Legend of ‘Blue Man’ Told Again in Ozarks.” The Republican Press 58.260 (20 Feb., 1925) 7. Access Newspaper Archive. Donald W. Reynolds Library, Mountain Home, AR. 3 Feb. 2011.

“Legend of "Blue Man" Told Again in Ozarks.” Clearfield Progress 19.32 (3 Mar., 1925) 1.  Access Newspaper Archive. Donald W. Reynolds Library, Mountain Home, AR. 3 Feb. 2011.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Ozark Sasquatch - Part 1

Many times as a young boy, I would hunt & trap the Ozarks hills in search of the perfect deer, coon skin, or prized fox pelt. To do this, it was required to be up before the sun’s rays glimmered over the horizon. Holding my flashlight firmly in my hand, I would walk with purpose…focused on the prize. Every so often, I could feel as if someone or something was watching me. At times I could hear footsteps mimic my own. Quickly stopping, with the hair cackled on the back of my neck, goose-bumps down my arms, and adrenalin causing my heart beat loud enough to hear my own pulse, I would grip my rifle and utter a quick prayer. I knew what it was…the elusive Ozark Sasquatch!

Of course, this was the late 1970’s. I had read the latest magazine issue that covered the most recent sightings of Aliens or Big Foot. I had seen the footage on TV. I was also a big fan of the Incredible Hulk, and I knew what radiation could do to any creature.  All this was convincing evidence to a 12 year old boy.

Though I never saw Big Foot or discovered the tracks of the Ozark Sasquatch, I knew they were intelligent enough to cover their tracks.  I just needed the obscure evidence.

Finally, after all these years, I have exposed the documentation that confirmed my childhood speculations. Apparently, according to the following story, there had been generations of these savage beasts. I now believe I had come close many times to making an “Ozark Historical Discovery” that would put me in the Genius Book of World Records.

Though it has not happened...yet, there is still time.

I hope you enjoy reading this fascinating account & history of our own Ozark Sasquatch called the "Blue Man." All this should make Ozarks’ History a hair-raising event.
Searching Parties in Missouri
Unsuccessfully Trail Wild

SPRINGFIELD. Mo. July 7.—News comes to this city that after an absence of four years the mysterious "Blue Man of Spring Creek" has again appeared in his old haunts and is causing great excitement in the wild and hilly country along the Big North Fork, Indian, and Spring creeks, in the eastern end of  Douglas county.

It was in the beginning of 1865 that noted Ozark rifleman and trapper, “Blue Sol” Collins, came across strange tracks in the snow along Spring Creek. He had trailed many a bear, and these trucks resembled a bear's, but this bear must surely be the largest bear in all Missouri. The imprints in the snow were longer and broader than any bear tracks Collins had seen, and along the tracks were queer markings, seemingly made by great claws.

Collins was fearless and followed the footprints, determined to slap the greatest bear in the history of the region. Hour after hour he followed the trail. He was tolling up the slope of Twin mountain when he heard a noise on the hill above him. Looking up, he was just in time to leap to one side as a huge bowlder swept past him down into the valley. Another and then another bowlder swiftly followed. When Collins had time to look closely and see what was causing the avalanche of rocks he was terrified.

Saw Gigantic Figure.
On the steep hillside above him stood a gigantic figure. An enormous man, stark naked except for a breech cloth and a shoulder piece of some animal's skin. The huge body was covered with long hair almost black in color, and as thick as that of any wild animal. On the man's feet were rude moccasins of deerskin tied with thongs of leather. The ends of these thongs had made the claw like marks in the snow.

The terrifying figure was armed with a club six or eight feet long. This he had laid aside in order that he might more readily tear the bowlders from the frozen soil. Collins was no coward, but he never denied that after one look at that fearsome figure on the hill he turned and fled.

The Ozarks were a thinly settled region fifty years ago, but several of the scattered families among the hills missed calves, sheep and hogs, and after long search found discarded hides and clean picked bones in remote crannies among the hills. Some of them, too, saw the fearsome figure slipping among the woods.

After 1865 the "wild man" disappeared and became no more than a tradition in the remote region. In 1874 he reappeared, was seen by probably a score of men, and was systematically tracked by men skilled in trailing wild animals. But all efforts to capture him were in vain.

During the next sixteen years the "Blue Man ' made several trips to his original haunts and on each trip the farmers lost some of their smaller animals. Every incursion was marked by energetic efforts to capture the strange creature now universally known as the "Blue Man of Spring Creek." Why "Blue" no one knows unless the name was given because it was "Blue Sol" Collins, who first saw him.

In 1890 It was rumored a party of searchers had the quarry so long sought, but this proved false. Evidently, however, they made it too hot for the "Wild Man," for again he disappeared. It was not until 1911 that he again appeared. This time his den was found, but he disappeared.

Not So Fat Nowadays
Six weeks ago and farmer noticed two of his lambs did not come home with the rest of the flock. He searched the hills and at last found their bloody pelts in a hollow in a remote part of the woods. The next day he saw the "Blue Man" running down a hog in the woods and since then several other farmers have seen the creature. The wild man is said to be less robust than formerly. His blue-black coat of hair now is iron gray and his limbs are not as well muscled as formerly. Nevertheless, it may be safely wagered that there is not a man among the sturdy Ozark mountaineers who would like to risk combat single-handed with the fearsome creature.

Before the Revolution, while this region was yet under the flag of France. It is said that a French Indian trader came into the Ozarks, bringing with him a beautiful Spanish woman, a native of Florida. In the region the trader abandoned the woman or sold her to the Indians. From this poor outcast descended a race of Indian-Spanish half breeds. One of these in the third or fourth generation may be the "Blue Man of Spring Creek." This was the theory of "Uncle Jerry" who settled in what is now Douglas county in 1820, and lived there until 1885.

In the course of nature the "Blue Man" cannot be expected to live much longer. Whether he ever will be caught or whether the secret of his long absences and mysterious returns will ever be solved is doubtful. 

Work Cited:
 “Blue Man Returns to His Ozark Haunts.” The Washington Times 8590 (9 July, 1915) 9. Access Newspaper Archive. Donald W. Reynolds Library, Mountain Home, AR. 3 Feb. 2011.

“Famous ‘Blue Man’ of the Ozarks Harries Country.” Moberly Weekly Monitor 44.38 (10 Aug. 10, 1915) 5. Access Newspaper Archive. Donald W. Reynolds Library, Mountain Home, AR. 3 Feb. 2011.