Down Home Missouri: When Girls Were Scary and Basketball Was King
Book: Down Home Missouri: When Girls Were Scary and Basketball Was King , by Joel M. Vance, ISBN10: 0826213073, ISBN13: 9780826213075, University of Missouri Press, January 2000, Hardcover
In this warmly witty account, Joel Vance re-creates what it was like for a city kid to have his life changed almost entirely when he is transplanted from his Chicago birthplace to his father's home country in rural Missouri—where basketball was the major social event and a night out might be a trip to the burger joint in town.
While Vance writes about his relatives and their roots in Missouri and Wisconsin, his focus is on his growing-up years in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The anguish of adolescence is detailed, but lightened with Vance's special skill for humor. Dating, French kissing, drinking, hog castration, and vocational agriculture are just a few of the experiences that Vance recalls. His comical encounters with the local citizenry, his social misadventures, and his fumbling exploits on the high school basketball and baseball teams are interwoven with reflections on weightier matters, such as the mismanagement of the Missouri River and its wetlands by the Corps of Engineers. He shares his emotions, his dreams, and the realities of his high school days, capturing the essence of the experiences of many who lived in the Midwest at midcentury.
Although Vance's writing is funny—sometimes laugh-out-loud funny—there are poignant moments, too, when the realities of life and death are immediate and personal. Any reader from a small-town background will identify with Vance's memories, and most city readers will understand Vance's confusion in coping with the move from Chicago to rural Missouri. Taking the reader back to a time when life was simpler and days seemed longer, this lively recollection of coming of age in a small Missouri town will provide hours of enjoyment.
Sounding a little like comedian Jeff Foxworthy, Vance (Billy Barnstorm, The Birch Lake Bomber, and Grandma and the Buck Deer) writes of moving from Chicago to rural Missouri when he was 13 and growing up there in the Fifties. "If you're nostalgic for the good ol' days, chances are you never experienced them," he says, though he is saddened by today's complacency. He touches on important issues, such as the loss of wildlife habitats, the Army Corps of Engineers' mismanagement of rivers, big business farming, and race relations. He also recounts personal experiences, like the first kiss he gave a girl, just as she turned her face: "My lips made a horrible slurping sound and I left a wet trail like a garden slug." Whereas baseball was king in Chicago, it was basketball that ruled in rural Missouri, and Vance distinguished himself by shooting at the wrong basket, having forgotten that the teams switched ends of the court at half-time. Until his retirement in 1991, he was lead writer for the Missouri Department of Conservation. Recommended for public or academic libraries.--Nancy P. Shires, East Carolina Univ., Greenville Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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