12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2009
Rocky Comfort is an accurate and moving account of rural life set in the Ozarks following the Great Depression, and on through post World War II era America. In this gritty, no-holds-barred memoir, the author Wayne Holmes recalls his experiences growing up with next to nothing but two brothers, two sisters and his unequally yoked parents. Holmes graphically narrates the severe living conditions all of them endured as they sharecropped, raised livestock, and constantly traveled between Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas to escape the soul-crushing poverty of the region. The rather candid stories are exceptionally vivid and Holmes's first-person delivery skillfully illustrates the book's agrarian setting in such three-dimensional depth that even those of us who have never used hound-dogs to hunt squirrels at night, or had to wear government issue clothes to school, or plowed a rough patch of sod with a team of ornery horses, can still appreciate the quality of his ordeals.
Mr. Holmes' book combines a compelling mix of interesting homespun anecdotes, vibrant personalities and colorful scenery, yet the reader should not mistake this story for some feel-good Huckleberry Finn imitation. To the contrary, Mr. Holmes has produced a manuscript with Rocky Comfort that contains several courageously honest admissions in which he lays bare his soul for all to see. A number of these disturbing revelations obviously must have emanated from some of his most painful and traumatic memories. Holmes writes about real people, with real problems, especially his own family--warts and all. The ongoing love/hate relationship Holmes shares with his father is truly heartbreaking and his tales if past sexual encounters contain enough lurid detail to make even the most jaded if readers cringe with revulsion.
Despite the book's hard edge, it is also a source of inspiration which provides a breath of fresh air for today's material obsessed generation. While Holmes's accounts of squalor and deprivation are indeed harrowing, he also manages to convey a sense of tight familial togetherness, mutual respect, and perseverance; perhaps best evidenced by his elderly Grandparent's affection toward each other despite decades of marriage throughout lean times. Holmes' personal stories of self-reliance, delayed gratification and personal sacrifice are exactly what this current generation needs to hear. Back before internet social networks, cell-phones and indoor plumbing became ubiquitous, most Ozarkers, and many other Americans living outside of big cities, lived much like the characters in Rocky Comfort.
If you're looking for a warm and fuzzy, travel-guide type book which is set in the Ozarks, then pass on this one. But if you're in the market for an unflinching look at a real slice of Americana, then you must own Rocky Comfort.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 27, 2009
This book was inspiring and compelling and most important fun to experience. We read how poor and under privileged kids from developing countries struggle, but here is a story from America about the difficulties encountered growing up in the Ozarks during the depression. My only complaint is the last chapter makes you relive the loss of a parent, every other chapter made you feel good, or at least entertained you for awhile.
I was far from growing up poor, but I never once felt lost reading this book. I enjoyed and respected the straightforward, sincere and passionate way Wayne narrates his experiences. I think there's much to contemplate in "taking responsibility for our lives," and "small things that happen to us stay with us through out life". I especially loved reading about a boy's trouble doing a good job of sinning.
I just love Wayne Holmes' story, basically. I think everyone should pick this book up and give it a look. I learned a lot. It was a fascinating story that made me feel like growing up is one amazing, incredible, miraculous event and gave me a newfound appreciation and interest in what's normal for each of us as we go through life.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
My goodness what a pleasing surprise this work was! As a hobby (one of many) I have been reading of, writing of and musing over the culture found here in the Ozark region of our country for quite a number of years now. In my research I have read and collected literally dozens and dozens of first hand accounts, many like this one, which are written records of growing up in this area. Many deal with the depression era and post depression period, again as this one does. What separates this work from the majority of the books in this genre is that Holmes can actually write! This work is an absolute delight.
Now before I go on, I must say that I grew up in the same area as the author, the town of Cassville. I hunted the same woods, fished the same streams and ran dogs over the same areas. It must be remembered that my mobility was much greater than that of the authors during his time. The author is approximately ten years older than I am and I never met him, but I certainly know many of the individuals mentioned in this book and have a sneaking suspicion that I flirted with the younger sisters of many of the girls this writer dated while growing up; usually with the same disastrous and disappointing results. I can assure you that the author knows his material, knows this area of the country, and I can also assure you that the author has been brutally honest in all that he writes.
The author grew up in a very poor area of the United States during very troubled times, i.e. the great depression. It should also be noted that this particular area of the country was probably slower to recover from that world wide disaster than many other areas. The poverty and hard times lasted well into the early 1960s and as a matter of fact, if a person does a bit of searching, there are still pockets of it here and there that have not changed all that much. Anyway, the author grew up with and as the poorest of the poor. I cannot lay claim to that, and in fact grew up on the complete opposite end of the economic scale. Never-the-less, a great many of my friends and acquaintances were in the same predicament as the author. His was not an isolated circumstance.
I mentioned above that the author has been brutally honest. So many of these coming of age recollections one finds have been, and are greatly exaggerated. Old men embellish their childhood stories...it is in the nature of old men to do so. Not so with Wayne Holmes. What you read is about as close to the truth as you are liable to find.
Holmes's story is well told. He touches on issues that most writers of personal memoirs will not go near. The language is this book is not all that offensive simply because it is real, used in a realistic way and is not in any way gratuitous. It can best be described as "earthy." For those of you that may be offended by some of the words the author uses, and uses correctly in context of the story he is telling, need to hang out at their local high school for a week or so. The language the kids use today make the language of that era sound like a bunch of kids on a church picnic...with the preacher present. The author addresses such issues as religion, sex, family problems, social ills, and so much more in a straight forward manner. It takes a certain nerve to address the family dynamics discussed in this work, and the author has done so in an unflinching manner, and I might add, with class. He simply tells us how it was. I like and admire that.
Two other works come to my mind when I read this one. First was Ferrol Sams' Run with the Horsemen (Penguin Contemporary American Fiction Series), a semi-autobiographical novel set in the South and the other was A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck. If the reader was offended by some of the scenes or episodes in either of these works, then they may have problems with this one. Personally I though the first two were great bits of writing, which is the way I felt of this work.
Winding through this book we find a constant love/hate relationship between a son and his father. Again, this was rather common (still is, I am sure). The reader needs to remember that while we are talking about a different breed back then (as far as fathers are concerned), human emotions have not changed all that much over the years. This aspect of the story is quite touching and as one other reviewer has stated, quite sad. Another aspect of this work that the reader needs to take close note of is the religious experiences of this young man. This too was extremely sad. This is something else he and I shared. After what he, I and quite a number of young people went through in that day and time, it is surprising that there is still a functioning church anywhere in the country. I am sorry to report that in many instances, things have not changed all that much in many ways over the years.
No student of the Ozarks and indeed no student of the Depression and Post Depression era should let this one slip by. Now I hate with a passion the term "regional writer," as I strongly feel a good story is a good story no matter the geographic location. Hey, you don't call Mark Twain a regional writer simply because he wrote about the Mississippi do you? That being said, I do feel that those living is this particular area of the country will find this book of greater interest than some, but the message here, the story told is universal in nature and certainly should not be ignored by those living in other parts of our country.
It should also be noted, that like the author, many, many children of this time period and being raised under similar circumstances, turn out to be quite successful in life...not all of course, but a surprisingly large number did. This gives one great hope for the future.
Bottom line is that is an excellent read and one that will stick with you for quite some time after reading. I do highly recommend it.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 26, 2009
An unvarnished account of coming of age in the Ozarks
By Jim Hamilton
I happened on Wayne Holmes by accident on Saturday a couple of weeks back.
Turns out it was a fortunate happenstance -- one of those kinds of "coincidences" that led the late Don Coldsmith to believe there was no such thing. Grandma and I had been to a grandson's birthday part, but excused ourselves well before all the arcade tokens had been spent to stop by Borders bookstore.
Just inside the door, Holmes was hawking his new book, "Rocky Comfort", a tome I've dubbed an "episodic autobiography" recounting his youth in the Ozarks. I knew immediately that I'd not leave without a copy.
I've been familiar with Holmes' work for several years and heard him talk at a couple of functions. I expected something different than the typical, romantic Ozarkana fare. I was not disappointed.
Holmes brings to the pages of "Rocky Comfort" nearly a lifetime of experience as a teacher and storyteller -- a decade in public schools and 23 years as an English professor at Drury College in Springfield. The memoirs he shares are raw and unvarnished accounts of times both good and not-so-good in the post-Depression and World War II era of the Ozarks through the experiences of the son of tenant farmers.
Holmes grew up poor and tough on various farms around Marionville and Aurora. Not quite 3 years old in the spring of 1933 when the family moved by wagon from western Kansas to the Ozarks, Holmes experienced on one hand an idyllic backwoods childhood -- running the trails with as his dog "Tuffy." hunting `possums, skipping school and going fishing in Honey Creek. His pictures in the early chapters are invariably of a grinning youngster in overalls -- the stereotypic carefree, country boy of those much-romanticized "good ol' days" in the Ozarks.
On the other hand, Holmes recounts the embarrassment of eating biscuits in school when other kids had store-bought bread, and of wearing striped "relief overalls." He cites an episode during the war while the family worked in Wichita, Kan., in which he was beat up by city toughs and berated as a "Missouri hillbilly." He still despises the epithet, "hillbilly."
Work was an integral part of the fabric of life, even for kids --both at home and for neighbors. As a youngster Holmes hired out to pick strawberries. As a young man he worked summers in the Kansas wheat fields, sending money home to help the family.
From a personal perspective, I found much I could relate to in Holmes' memoirs -- sneaking off to smoke grapevines, popping "warbles" out of the cows' backs, rubbing on pennyroyal to ward off chiggers.
I was surprised to learn that he stirred milk in cans set in tubs of cold water the same as I had to cool it, then pulled a tow sack over the can to keep it cool overnight. Dad always led us to think he came up with that idea on his own.
Holmes is as raw as fresh milk, too, in his tales of carnal curiosities and cravings common to young men, A word of caution is warranted. A few passages are particularly plainspoken -- not profane, but as honest as I've ever read.
Sin, and Holmes' struggle to discover it, and his struggles with spiritual salvation, too, are recurring themes in the chapters of his life. His recollection of a revival at "Rocky Comfort" Baptist Church and a "hotshot from Springfield" underscore both struggles as he is led to the altar. "Auctioneer turned evangelist, the swag-bellied man with his coal black pompadour electrified the crowd with his whizbang performance...."
The outcome I'll leave for readers to discover.
"Rocky Comfort" covers a lot of ground -- from Holmes' toddling years to early adulthood -- and a lot of subjects, from horse trading to high school football. These few words can but scratch the surface of memoirs that are both simple and complex, both inspiring and depressing.
With much else to fill my days, I typically have trouble making it through an entire book, but I read the 339 pages of ""Rocky Comfort"" in just a couple of days. I truly couldn't put it aside.
Wayne Holmes has compiled an "episodic biography" that deserves the attention of any student of Ozarks culture and history. The pictures he paints are not always pretty (though many are), but are as accurate a depiction -- perhaps the only honest depiction -- I've ever read of the life of hardscrabble tenants of the Ozarks in the 1930s and 1940s.
I would note, too, that it's also a story of "Professor Holmes" being shaped, rather than overcome by those hard circumstances. Any who read it will likely find their notions of the Ozarks affected, too.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 14, 2009
One of the amazing aspects of this book is that the author, Wayne Holmes, at an early age, is able to ward off religion. He is not overtly rebellious; he just extends the "being saved" event so he can sin a little longer. Therein lies an example of a humorous undercurrent of this memoir. Holmes's honest reactions to such situations throughout the chronological telling of his young life through his adolescence show his strong, realistic character. A hypocrite he is not.
His moving from place to place does not unnerve him; he adjusts to many circumstances, often uncomfortable ones. When he is sent away to a relative after being caught at breaking windows in a vacant house, he adapts to the work required of him and is able to have some fun as well. But the reader is eternally aware that his comforts are rocky: having to wear different clothes than other pupils at school as well as having to ride in a strange looking vehicle with his family (a few instances).
His toughness and fortitude when playing football seem to be indicative of a life he is to live. It would be interesting for us readers if he were to continue his life accounts, but we are fortunate to have this episodic, engaging account which follows a logical progression of his unique coming of age.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 2009
I grew up in the same vicinity as Wayne Holmes, ten years later, and knew many of the individuals who move through his book. Holmes was my teacher in one high school class, and many years later, in the 1980's and 1990's we lived about three miles apart by horse or ten miles by car. We ran into one another now and then, but never developed a close friendship. I had never read anything by Holmes, never heard his speeches at local functions, and did not expect to find much of interest to me in his book.
Rocky Comfort is an autobiography of Wayne Holmes's first twenty years, during and after the Great Depression, as he grew to manhood near Aurora, in the Missouri Ozarks. Although Holmes never complains about his destitute young life, the story is heartbreaking to the reader, who sees a hapless child growing up with parents who have no education, no training, no vocation, and no property. They rent or sharecrop one small, rocky farm after another as they raise a family of six children. This discontented couple has no natural aptitude for raising children. They give Wayne and his siblings little affection, little encouragement, and little hope for their futures. Wayne's father, Clay Holmes, is humorless and severe, struggling to provide the barest necessities for his family. Wayne's mother, Geneva, is a zealous and mistaken Christian who abhors games and fun. Both are unhappy in their marriage.
Holmes's writing is compelling and unfettered as he narrates in simple language one episode after another. Some sections are so intense and moving that I almost found myself gasping for breath after reading them. Holmes's intellect and memory for detail are astonishing. His descriptions of young love, frequent disappointments, striving to find part-time employment, and hitchhiking cross country reminded me of another captivating coming-of-age story, this one fictional: Racing September by William Deseta.
Any straightforward coming-of-age chronicle will deal with subjects that preoccupy pubescent youth, such as sex, money, and religion. As a youth gropes toward adulthood, his dreams, desires, aspirations, and fears revolve around these concerns. Wayne Holmes deals frankly with his and his friends' thoughts and actions in these taboo topics. Rocky Comfort is not rife with vulgar and distasteful language that would offend the average person. However, even though Holmes is a master of dealing with indiscreet subjects discretely, some readers will be offended by the unvarnished accounts of certain episodes in the life of the young man.
It is to Holmes's credit that he can paint a picture of the hardscrabble life lived by his family without drenching the pages with despair and hopelessness. It is unavoidable that an aura of melancholy pervades the book. One of the saddest aspects is the wrongheaded view of Christianity purveyed to young Wayne by ignorant and bigoted fanatics. Their misguided zeal prevents the young man from learning the truth of the Bible and discovering the grace and love of Jesus Christ, which would have sustained him in his struggles.
Rocky Comfort contains few flaws or errors. There is the usual dangling participle or two, sentence fragment, and split infinitive one finds in almost every book, but such errors are rare and do not detract from the narrative. There is one transition problem. On page 298 we leave Joyce Gardner in Aurora, Missouri, ready to move with her family to Hutchinson, Kansas. Yet in the next chapter, when Wayne and two friends travel to Crater Lake, Oregon, to seek summer work, they find Joyce in Crater Lake. Are we missing a chapter? Possibly the worst error in the book is the misspelling of my relatives' name. I thought everyone knew how to spell Swertfeger.
Who can read the tale of this struggling boy without a sense of sadness? He shirks in school, tries to eke a few dollars here and there--much of which his parents confiscate--and attempts to deal with the problems of life with little direction or support from his parents. Yet optimism overcomes sadness as we see him triumph. Wayne dauntlessly progresses through one misfortune after another, never giving up, and finally overcoming his disadvantages to become a useful and respected member of society. This autobiography carries us from Wayne's early childhood to the death of his father, a poignant and perfect place to end the first segment of his life, while we readers wait eagerly for the next volume.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 27, 2009
A boyhood friend recently sent me Wayne Holmes great book "Rocky Comfort". I was born and spent my first 17 years about 90 miles east of Rocky Comfort in the McClurg community, which has since disappeared.
I'm only slightly younger (4 years) than Holmes so my memories are much like his. I was intrigued throughout his book with his ability to describe the frustration, despair and the humiliation or even the anger a young boy feels when he sees, and feels rejected by, those who are in better circumstances.
In my opinion it is one thing to write about being poor, but it is entirely a different task to describe what it feels like to be poor. Wayne Holmes has done it as well as anything I've seen. It is unusual for a writer to have the courage to write his feeling and thoughts in the honest and straightforward manner of this book.
Several times I had to chuckle or even stop and laugh because sometimes it seemed he was describing the life of my family and friends.
As the saying goes "He's been there when the gravy was thin".
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2009
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
When Wayne Holmes and I taught English together at Webster Groves High School almost fifty years ago, we discovered much in common in our growing up in rural poverty during the Great Depression. This no doubt contributed to my finding Holmes' written account almost therapeutic--doing the chores, taking care of the animals, farming primitively with horse drawn machinery, no outhouses let alone plumbing, the creative ways we found to have fun, hunting, attitudes toward living creatures, butchering, meals and eating, excesses of heat and cold, living conditions in general. Once I began reading Rocky Comfort, it didn't take me long to finish. It's an engaging, riveting book and becomes increasingly so the longer one reads. It kept me up much past my bedtime!
Holmes' attention to detail and his knack for story telling are captivating. Garrison Keillor comes to mind from time to time, although Rocky Comfort strikes much closer to home and reality than Lake Wobegon. Rocky Comfort is rooted indelibly in the earthy grime and grit, the poignant gifts and lessons, of the farm experience.
This account of growing up and struggling to survive during the Great Depression is so unvarnished and unabashedly candid--about the author and all the characters who peopled his world--as to make one often uncomfortable and uneasy. But if most of us were to write an equally candid account of our journey to adulthood, I suspect that we would reveal some surprising, seemingly out of character, perhaps shocking, thoughts and experiences. His memoir reminds us why many choose to write novels so that they can capitalize on their most intriguing and outrageous autobiographical experiences through the medium of surrogate characters. I compliment professor Holmes on being willing to tell it like he saw and lived it.
Holmes' journey to adulthood was certainly more of a struggle, more contentious between peers, between spouses, between neighbors, than mine was but in degree, not kind. Maybe that's because I lived at the edge of the Ozarks, not in the core! (Today his parents would be prime candidates for hot-lining!) But for anyone in our generation with a sense of what life was like during the Great Depression in middle-America, and especially the Ozarks, his account is believable. An almost Faulknerian violence and crude fabric of life permeated his existence and setting, as did humor and bawdiness.
Having always been squeamish, fainting a couple times when helping castrate pigs, I cringed and sped past some of the vivid accounts because I knew the experiences so well from living them, and do not wish to relive them. The last chapter recounting a fairly frequent dysfunction during birth in the bovine world was probably the most difficult one for me, but the account of popping grubs out of the cows' backs was a close second. I never could bring myself to do it, but I don't think a single one escaped my father. They made for faulty cowhides! "Fred and I searched along the sides of each cow's backbone for boil like swellings, sure signs of maggots half as big as a man's little finger which infested the animals. With practice we became adept at pressing firmly downward with our thumbs and popping the grubs out of the cows' backs."
The connection between boy and beast and their dependency upon each other are powerful. During the depths of winter when the farm animals are crowded into the barn and horses sometimes trample and kill newborn kids, the author recounts that "Although I was too big and tough to cry over a dead goat, it was never easy for me to pick up a frozen kid and toss if over the hill out of sight far enough away so the bleating nanny couldn't smell it and continue her grieving."
Although some of these accounts are in-your-face graphic, I like the way Holmes conversely often uses understatement skillfully and effectively. Similarly, he sometimes leads the reader to think the author or a character has omitted something, only to have the missing link revealed at precisely the right time (like the guy who bought the car with the miss, convinced it was just a faulty plug). He also succeeds quite often in capturing an enviable state of peace, tranquility and strength during his solitudinous walks and communes with nature and his best and most reliable friend, Old Tuffy. Always having a dog as his most reliable companion was one of Holmes' greatest needs.
Life was hard, frantic, hazardous. Time and again, simple hopes and aspirations fall victim to schemes gone wrong or the exigencies of still another crisis. When their father has not yet returned from the wheat harvest, the author and his brother set out to down something special for Thanksgiving dinner. They are absolutely delighted when they have the rare good fortune of shooting a jackrabbit, "Won't Mama be proud!" Running home, they exclaim "Look, Mama, look!" and Mama smiles approvingly: "We'll have ourselves a feast!" The excitement is short lived as they discover upon dressing the animal that it is infested with worms (warbles). Or, when the author desperately wants to make some money, he secretly hides several eggs in the hayloft each day when he gathers the eggs. But just before he plans to sell them, he discovers that they have frozen and cracked. Or, a scheme to catch possums before the hunting season opens and pen them up to be harvested after the season opens, only to leave the cage slightly ajar and find that the possums had escaped the night before the season opened. Mama's response: "What's done is done. Ever since we started breakin' the law I've been afraid somethin' like this might happen. We need to start renderin' unto Caesar what's Caesar's, like Jesus said." The author's reaction: "Before I dropped off to sleep, I wondered if Jesus kept as close a watch on possums as He did on people and sparrows." But these folks never give up. Failure seems almost like a catalyst for movin' on.
The blend and tension between fundamentalist religion and rank human frailty is a powerful theme, and a potent mix from beginning to end. Mama's religion brought strength to the family, but also betrayed its limitations, contradictions, fallacies--and its destructiveness. It seems almost as though Mama's persistence hardened the author's natural bent toward resistance so that he had no choice but to reject the religion she lived by. At age eight he resisted pressure to come forward and be "saved." Remembering that Jesus didn't begin his ministry until he was twelve, the author saw the four year interim as his opportunity to "do some serious sinning." When twelve arrived, he found reason (puberty) to extend the window for transgression to sixteen. As the possibilities for sinning continued in abundance, the author's independent bent won out and the path to salvation never prevailed. (Incidentally, he failed eighth grade English twice because he refused to diagram sentences.) Although he rejected the conspicuous manifestations of religion and any appearance of being moralistic, the author adhered pretty consistently to some innate scruples of what was right and wrong. In defense of these principles he seldom shied from a fight. He took no crap!
The theme of sexuality, covert and overt, is pervasive and persistent, not possible to resist and dismiss like religiosity. It's the real thing. The author captures so realistically the preoccupation of boys with sex in all of its dimensions and conflicts. His teenage fantasy world teemed with beautiful girls and lust, but shyness, ineptness and a complicated sort of innate respect for and mystique about girls regularly ended in bumbling and missed opportunities in his real world.
The author/narrator's persona is also a crucial and integral part of the success of the memoir. He maintains an immediacy and connectedness with the people and the experiences which make the account particularly compelling and believable. And of course he knows the lingo and never betrays it. The persona as medium becomes an integral part of the message. The combination of narration and extensive dialogue results in a memoir that reads like a novel.
One wonders what effect having almost no private space and no money has on personal behavior and development--on sexuality, relationships with others, generosity, survival skills? And what about the insecurity wrought by frequent moves and not knowing where one will live next month? Being given notice to leave the rented farm in two weeks was a repeated occurrence for the Holmes family. And the next stop seldom turned out to be an improvement over the last!
Despite the tensions and conflict in this family's life, there was a continuing undercurrent of support in the family, notwithstanding the pain they habitually inflicted upon one another. An illustrative incident was a brother's developing a severe toothache. The solution finally was for the family to drive three miles to town in a wagon, with three old hens to be sold in order to pay the dentist $1.00 for pulling the tooth. Family members and the people in their world really come alive in all their strength and vitality, their flaws and failings.
With the onset of World War II, circumstances began to change as the family moved to Wichita and employment at Boeing. Living "in a house like everybody else's" required some big time adjustments and refinements. But stability continued to be elusive, and the conflicts within family merely changed as the children grew older. Sons, like father before them, joined the wheat harvest ritual. Sometimes they were in school, sometimes not. And before long, the family returned to its southwestern Missouri roots once again, not quite so destitute, but with a continuing life of instability.
Bringing a similar life experience to the book, I read it from a quite different perspective than those who grew up under very different circumstances would. Can they empathize with the setting, the time and the experiences as I can? Would it be of much interest? Believable? Too repulsive? Is it too gender-biased and specific to appeal to girls/women, although they certainly share a comparable, sympathetic and powerful part of the Rocky Comfort experience? And what about those who were born after WWII and did not experience the Great Depression? I believe most readers will be intrigued. It will surely convince them that they are not living through another Great Depression in 2009!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 10, 2009
Rocky Comfort is one of the most enjoyable books I've read in a long time. The vivid scenes of poverty that almost go unnoticed, or accepted, by the Holmes family would be a real hardship for modern children.
Wayne Holmes captures the roughness and poverty of the post-Depression Ozarks with such a smooth and flowing writing style the reader finds himself totally engaged. He describes with such ease scenes and situations that were common to those raised in the rural Ozarks but would be frightening to city kids who had never experienced killing a hog or some other "chores" that were routine to the Holmes boys.
The fragrance of beautiful Mary Jane, the author's first love, almost comes alive on the pages of Rocky Comfort. Holmes describes the young girl's beauty and tells how hopelessly in love he is.
The author's description of exposure to old time religion and his attempt to accept it, as others were doing, came to naught. He answered the altar call, knelt with the preacher and others only to admit reluctantly that he "didn't feel anything," annoying the minister and deacons who expected him to stand up and praise the Lord. Wayne `s honesty forbade lying about feeling the conversion that he had anticipated.
Many writers who grew up in the Ozarks have written of their hard-rock experiences, but few are retired university English professors like Wayne Holmes. He walked the walked, and now he has talked the talk, and he has done it better than anyone I know.
The book is a rewarding read.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition
My wife was fortunate to have Wayne Holmes as her English teacher and adviser while attending Drury College in the late 60's. She has spoken often and fondly of Mr. Holmes as an outstanding teacher and mentor, knowing little of his hardscrabble upbringing, so when an alumni magazine featured a small snippet about Rocky Comfort she bought it for me for Christmas. I couldn't put it down until finished, then was disappointed it didn't go on into the next chapters of his life. My family roots are also Ozark based, although nothing in family lore can match the experiences shared in Rocky Comfort. Elements of this tale will stick with me for a long time. There were several LOL moments, and I'm still tickled thinking about the Jill-Flirted mare story. This book has the elements of a well written history imparting substantive knowledge about a 20th century way of life unknown to most Americans, high drama and suspense as Wayne gets in and out of scrapes, "how to" knowledge for those interested in the finer points of butchering a hog or treeing a possum, disbelief in some stories not because you don't trust the veracity of the tale but can't fathom one would tell this on himself, and many laughs as someone my age (64) can relate to the many fumblings of boyhood. Wayne, we've met, but I now know you better. If we ever have to resort to a survivalist environment, I want to move in with you. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story.