Of Greene County and gargoyles
Gargoyle Country: The Inspiring Geology of Springfield and Green County
Jerry D. Vineyard Watershed Press
137 pages. $24.95 (See text for ordering)
Reviewed by Jo Schaper
The name, “Gargoyle Country” comes from the pockmarked and strangely weathered shapes of local limestone (primarily the Burlington, although similar strata weather into weird shapes as well) seen along the bluffs, pinnacles and roadcuts in this 3rd most populous urban area in the state.
Springfield, as the name implies, was built on karst– a landscape of springs, sinkholes, caves and other water-carved curiosities. Building a city on such rock is an engineering challenge, and in some places, a disaster. It’s also far from any substantial river, making groundwater issues a common concern for everyone.
Dr. Ken Thomson taught karst at SMS and SMSU in Springfield. He authored the first edition this book as a dry geological treatise on the local bedrock, and was revising it when he met his untimely death in 2004. The task passed to Jerry Vineyard, retired deputy state geologist and geological author.
Instead of keeping with the original plan, Jerry took the material and turned it into a slender 137 page book suitable for someone who has never picked read a geology book in his or her life.
He teaches geology using local examples, anecdotes, human as well as geological history, copious photographs and maps. Included are 14 geological destinations from where to see gargoyles, show caves, the remnants of an old lead mine, natural bridges and what Vineyard calls “rockworks” — notable stone masonry structures.
Geological terms are presented in a clear manner, and the text has a deft and light touch, with a hint of the author’s puckish humor. (Disclosure: I met both Ken and Jerry on the same day, at a Missouri caving meeting in Rolla in 1986. The big type in this book reminded me that that was a long time ago and Jerry will probably kill me for saying his humor is “puckish”.)
Once I got over the shock that this was almost a geology coffee table book, I became more impressed. Geology can be a subject that is almost stupefyingly boring to discuss. Vineyard avoids that like the plague, concentrating on the human side of rocks and their uses. Don’t be misled into thinking that because it has color photos and easy explanations that it is inaccurate. Jerry wouldn’t let that happen.
Gargoyle Country is distributed by University of Missouri Press, and available at various outlets, or from the publisher, Watershed Press at Watershed Committee of the Ozarks, 320 N. Main, Springfield, MO 65806-1208. Price is $24.95, shipping $2.62, and proceeds if purchased directly benefit WCoO, a local karst environmental nonprofit. At this time, they are not set up for phone orders or credit cards.
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