Review of Buried Treasures of the Ozarks: Legends of Lost Gold, Hidden Silver and Forgotten Caches. By W. C. Jameson. Little Rock: August House, Inc., 1990. 187 pages, including bibliography. ISBN 0-87483-106-7. Paperback, $ 9.95.
In 1976, in a field near the Roubidoux River southwest of Waynesville, someone finally found one of those legendary buried treasures that permeate Ozark lore. That one incident whetted my curiosity -- not enough to make me actually want to hunt treasure, but at least enough to read books like this one with considerably more interest than I would have had a few years earlier. I also listened more attentively when a custodian stopped into my office recently to talk about buried treasure around Tintown, MO. It's amazing how many such tales are still out there, in small columns in Waynesville's Old Settlers Gazette, in Humboldt (a short-lived clone of Bittersweet once published by Crocker High School students), in local histories, and in the minds and conversations of Ozarkers today. Who know; perhaps all the stories are true, as the hundred year-old legend of Tilley's Treasure proved to be. If so, the Ozarks is probably one of the potentially richest regions in the world!
With this emotional backdrop, I opened Buried Treasures of the Ozarks with some anticipation, which the book didn't live up to. It is an interesting and well-written book, even tantalizing, but ultimately disappointing. It presents 32 tales of lost mines and buried treasures from Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma -- interesting tales. But it presents them in cleaned-up literary versions rather than in folk texts, which would be okay if we knew where Jameson's voice ended and his sources' voices began. Unfortunately, he provides us with no such apparatus, which pretty effectively destroys the book's usefulness to folklorists. Neither the informants nor the published sources of the stories are well identified, being referred to only in such passing references, if at all, as "Piney Page, the late Ozark folklorist, was raised in and around the Mocassin Creek Valley. He told the story of a relative. . ." (p. 28). Neither does Jameson provide any analysis of the tales. Likewise, the bibliography is slim and the textual references to it not explicit.
So, the work doesn't have much scholarly value to folklorists and historians. However, it is enjoyable reading and seems to have been composed with the non-specialist, mass-market reader in mind. To that audience, I can recommend it highly. It is an entertaining, tantalizing, well-written work with a good general introductory overview of Ozarks geography and settlement history, and with some general background to the individual stories as they appear. Once I got past my preconceptions, I really enjoyed reading it.