The spectacular natural wonder called Big Spring near the Current River is hidden away in Missouri’s Ozarks Hills. Hired to do a historical study of the state park at Big Spring, Bonnie Stepenoff also kept a personal journal and created an engaging narrative about hills, hillbillies, poverty, and the landscape making people what they are. She weaves the local and natural history of the area into her own story of growing up in the hills of northeastern Pennsylvania where there was also great beauty and great poverty. With little sentimentality, Stepenoff pays attention to the parallels in the nature and culture of the Ozarks with her past. She makes a case for preserving this natural beauty and the culture surrounding it for the lessons we can learn.
|Publisher:||Truman State University Press|
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About the Author
Bonnie Stepenoff is professor of history at Southeast Missouri State University. She is the author of three books, including From French Community to Missouri Town: Ste. Genevieve in the Nineteenth Century (2006), Thad Snow: A Life of Social Reform in the Missouri Bootheel (2003), and Their Fathers' Daughters: Silk Mill Workers in Northeastern Pennsylvania (1999).
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Big Spring Autumn based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
A history professor from Southeast Missouri State University takes a sabbatical and spends a fall semester studying the history of the Big Spring area and the development done there in the 1930's by the CCC. However, this book is not about her reseach. I sort of wish it had been. Rather, this book contains excepts from her journal entries during the time she spent in the national park. Tidbits about the park and its development, but more about her own childhood spent in a similar landscape of the Pennsylvanian hills, her observations about the people she has met during her years in Missouri and more lately in the Van Buren area near the springs, and her musings about culture, poverty, and ecology. A very rambling narrative that never really came to a point as far as I can tell.I got the distinct impression that this is not a happy woman. While she never said anything specific, it seems that her childhood was not a pleasant one, although she seems to have fond memories of her grandmother and her father, at least. There were no real insights into her new acquaintances, and she really doesn't even make them seem very interesting, although I think she found them to be. The aspect that grated on me the most, however, were her rants about social ills. These were the kind of comments we all indulge in with friends and family while relaxing over a table or with drinks. You know the kind - where we identify all the problems with the world and then proceed to fix them to suit ourselves. Briefly, tourists are boors who are content to go and see a place without really experiencing what it is to live there, and who, in fact, offend the natives with their disrespectful behavoir. Humans don't understand what they are doing to the earth by insisting on trying to mold nature to suit themselves - things like building a levy to keep the river from submerging the impressive Big Springs so that tourists will have something interesting to come look at. And killing wolves that kill livestock. Her only mildly interesting comment, in my opinion, was that poverty is what binds us together and makes us human. Poverty is a worldwide phenomenon which compels people to rely on one another and themselves and doesn't let sufferers forget who they are. Rich people, on the other hand, are independent and aloof. They forget their connections to the rest of the planet. But she is opposed to the hunger and disease that come about as a result of that poverty - she says that in a wealthy nation like ours those things should not happen.The thing about this kind of rambling at home is that everyone in the group gets to have a turn to make their own comments and then it gets left behind when it's time to go home or go to bed. We don't write it all down and then publish it for everyone to see. The parts I like best in the book are those about the history - and the actual research she was doing. Not surprising since that is her area of expertise. I think she ought to stick to history for publication and leave the personal observations for the bull sessions with friends.
It¿s rare that my views on a book I¿m reading change as drastically as they did with this one. In the beginning, I didn¿t like it at all. I thought the author jumped around too much, from her current assignment of spending a season writing a historical look at Big Spring, in southeast Missouri, in the Ozarks, back to her childhood in the hills of Pennsylvania.The farther I got into this book, however, the more I enjoyed it. I expected it to be a nature book but it wasn¿t just that. Yes, it looks at the environment and how we view it. I won¿t soon forget the tourists tubing down the river and shocking the conservative locals. However, it¿s also a look at the history of the area, going back to the construction of the state park by the Civilian Conservation Corp during the 1930s. There¿s also plenty of social commentary, such as on ¿who owns nature.¿ Though the author is an academic, her writing is not at all dry.I expected a nature book but this book wasn¿t what I expected. That¿s not necessarily a bad thing, just not what I expected.It¿s a short book but, in the end, I think I read it the wrong way and didn¿t do it justice. There are a lot of Deep Thoughts here but I didn¿t give them a chance to percolate. I suspect I may be thinking back to some of the issues raised here, possibly when I least expect it.