The Drownt Boy: An Ozark Tale
It had been many years since Art Homer had spent time in the region where he grew up as the child of subsistence farmers. In this beautifully written true tale, Homer returns to the Missouri Ozarks with his stepson, Reese, for a three-day canoe trip down the recently flooded Current River. As rain threatens to erupt again and the two prepare for their uncertain trip down the swollen river, a man in a straw hat pulls up to them on the gravel bar. "Did they find that drownt boy yet?" he calls. So begins an extraordinary trip down a dangerous river, toward unforeseen adventures and into the swirling recesses of memory.
As they float past dense, dark woods, Homer recalls the magic of nature in his childhood. Against a backdrop of rural poverty, Homer shows the richness of the land in the inner life of a child, from frosty blue-bellied lizards and doodlebugs to the timeless lure of gurgling streams. He recalls as well the people from his past-a snake handler, his English grandfather, an NAACP preacher-and marvels at how time seems to have passed the Ozarks by, leaving touches of Old English in the language and leaving the lives of the people, in many ways, unchanged.
As helicopters purr above and rangers probe deep pools from motorboats, father and stepson pursue the ghost of the drownt boy down the stream. Along the way they visit caves and springs, talk with the locals about their lives, and witness the spectacular beauty of kingfishers and great blue herons, eels and trout flashing in the sun. But they must also confront the temperament of a river threatening to burst from its banks as they maneuver through an obstacle course of downed trees, rushing rapids, and upturned roots ready to impale a swimmer.
Winding through the surging waters of an Ozark river and through a flood of memories of an Ozark childhood, The Drownt Boy is a lyrical depiction of one man's journey home.
University of Missouri Press
Homer, Art, "The Drownt Boy: An Ozark Tale" (1994). Faculty Books and Monographs. 61.