Nov 222013

719By Richard Gear Hobbs, PhD, copyright 1944.

This is a rather scarce but not particularly valuable example of the kind of soporific writing Mark Twain loved to satirize. His ridicule of James Fenimore Cooper (see “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses” – ) sadly did not eradicate unrealistic and hyperbolic prose. This curious little book we have illustrates the survival of schmaltzy writing.

When Romanticism, the literary style given to excess, is applied to the wilder geography of the Ozarks or to the wilder inhabitants of that geography, it doesn’t leap out at you.  Indeed, American outlaw history was born in the lurid pages of pulp fiction, so there is some historical justification for the author’s colorful description of Alf Bolin and the Baldknobbers.  Ditto for purple prose passages on the springs, rivers and forested hills.  The Hudson River School of painters and the Transcendentalists can be given credit for installing an admirable respect for natural beauty in our populace, even if their literature and art seems to be dated today.

But alas, Dr. Hobbs – who apparently was a college professor in Manhattan, Kansas – believes that hydroelectric dams and their reservoirs are equally deserving of his overwrought prose. To set the stage, Professor Hobbs describes “How the Ozarks Happened”:

One day God made a continent. Its heart was a level plain so wide it measured two thousand miles from side to side.
The plain was beautiful with wild prairie grasses, a green carpet for millions of wandering feet. It was lovely with a wilderness of flowers aglow with all the shades and colors of the rainbow.

The level stretches of the plain were embroidered everywhere with silver – the shining brooks, and creeks, and rivers running down to the sea. It was bedecked with the trees only God can make. Across it were scattered a million lakes and pools, mirrors for the sun, and moon, and stars.

When God looked down at it in all its glory he said: “It lacks something. It is too flat.”

So the mighty artificer in rocks, and clays, and fertile soils, heaved up some mountains in the very middle of the wide-spreading plain to give it greater beauty, not harsh and bare and forbidding, but friendly mountains, with green slopes, inviting glens, cools shadows, and summits not too high for all to reach with unwearied feet, and scattered everywhere among them springs crystal clear and ceaseless in their flowings.

Those mountains are so kind and friendly that people like to have them for their neighbors, and those who live among them, call them the Ozarks.

For your consideration, we offer here ( glamorland ) 12 pages of glowing descriptive prose on “An Amazing Lake” (Lake of the Ozarks) and “What Glamorland owes to the Bagnell Dam.”

NOTE: We didn’t use any of this in Damming the Osage, but did try to point out the problem of schmaltzy writing and its contribution to unwise resource development.

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