Lida Wilson Pyles
Lida Wilson Pyles was born in 1906 in Eagle Rock, Missouri – a small, unincorporated community in Barry County, located near Table Rock Lake, eleven miles north of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. She exhibited a passion for stories and writing them down from a very early age; she once suggested herself that she was “born with ink in her veins.”1 She was known to always carry a pencil in her hand or pocket, prompting her mother to “account for broken dishes in the household by saying that ‘Lida tried to wash them with a pencil in her hand.’”2
She was always intrigued with the rich oral tradition of the Ozark Hills, and got her start in the literary profession by writing folklore columns for local and national newspapers and magazines. Her accounts of local Ozark color and previously unpublished Ozark folk material have been widely distributed throughout the years, and she may be considered largely responsible for the transmission and preservation of the lore of the Ozark hill people. She was equally capable in fiction and non-fiction, adding the novel Stranger at the Gateto her collections of folklore and newspaper columns.
She was a charter member of the Ozark Writers and Artists Guild, as well as of Ozark Creative Writers, Inc., which she cofounded.3 Her active role in the artistic and cultural community of the Ozarks region is just one example of her loyalty to her people and heritage.
Lida’s work in folklore made her a central authority on the subject of the Ozark people, and her collected material is incredibly important in the national conversation of folklore as well as regional study. Her passions weren’t only focused on writing; she was also recognized for her musical ability, whether singing or playing the jawbone of a horse as a percussive instrument (for which she was invited to appear and perform on the Johnny Carson show in 197?). One folklorist called her a person who could “cook a gourmet meal, direct a folk festival, call for a square dance or sing for a funeral, with equal expertise.”2
The colorful people and happenings of the Ozarks region in Missouri and Arkansas fueled Lida’s material for a lifetime, and she spent her entire life in the four state area, mostly in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. Her published books include It Happened in the Ozarks, Stranger at the Gate, Tall Tales From the Hills, and Sense and Nonsense in Verse.Her columns have appeared in several newspapers such as The Mountain View Herald, The Joplin Globe, The Oklahoma Farm World, The Sunday News and Leader of Springfield, Missouri, The Carthage Press, Country World, the Times-Echo of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and The Tulsa World.3
Lida passed away in 2000, leaving behind a long legacy of material that is vital to the cultural history of the Ozarks region.
1 It Happened in the Ozarks Author’s Note
2 Stranger at the Gate Author’s Note
3 Lida Wilson Pyles Papers. University of Arkansas.