Oral History Projects


Alex as Stub

Alex as Stub

The Show

A multi-media performance with Alex Primm dressed as Stub Borders you’ll see how railroad ties are made, how tie rafts are put together and what it was like to float down river in the depths of winter during the boom years of the Ozarks. Most of all, you will experience the life of the Ozark backwoods settlers in their own words, tools, photos, songs and stories.  The program can be tailored to adults &/or children.

Click here to see a portion of Stub’s 2007 performance at the Lyric Live Theatre in Newburg MO.

Upcoming Performances

Alex has revised Stubs script and is now looking for bookings in 2017 & beyond.  This new program is suitable for small to medium sized groups of all kinds, especially those interested in environmental history, railroads, rivers, forests, and wild backwoods characters.  Willing to travel nationally.

I have completed a variety of Oral History Projects over the course of my career as well as many presentations on various aspects of Missouri and more specifically Ozark history. Tree Dialogues, an oral history project, and Huckleberry Sawyer, a public presentation are representative samples of breadth of my work.

Huckleberry Sawyer

AlexIn September ’08 Alex was invited by Howell County to help kick off their “Big Read” program. One of a few selected for support by the National Endowment for the Arts this year, the county-wide project invited everyone to read and discuss Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Alex created a new Mark Twain-inspired character to introduce this historic novel: Huckleberry Sawyer, the son of Tom, young sidekick of Huck Finn and an old school Missouri river rat.

Two Howell County musicians Tom Rowley and Renee Wood of Willow Springs helped create a fitting historic atmosphere for this two-hour performance. Alex’s Ozark river banners and historic tool collection also supported the storytelling and reading.

This presentation on Missouri’s river culture and history is available for other venues such as libraries, churches, senior centers, schools, taverns and historic or arts groups of all kinds.

Mark Twain and his insights on our rivers, their critters and people offer the nation inspiration and a mirror to the best of our past and future. We can adjust this program to meet your education and entertainment needs.

Tree Dialogues

coyotetree x
Tree Dialogues is Alex Primm’s collaborative interactive oral history project to record stories about trees and related natural wonders. 

Available now thru CD Baby:  – Tree Dialogues, Vol 1 & 2 

Click here to purchase your own Tree Dialogues CD.

Click here to download one or more individual tracks.

Tree Dialogues, Vol 1 & 2 is the result of recordings made during an art exhibit at East Central College (ECC) in Union, Missouri.   

Volume 1 contains oral history taken by Alex Primm over the last 20 years;  Volume 2 contains the best of the stories recorded during the ECC Art Exhibit during the spring of 2006.

The recording tree made it’s 2nd appearance at Columbia, MO’s 2007 True/False Film Festival.


Stub as a Young Man

Stub as a Young Man

ABOUT Nathaniel “Stub” Borders

Born in 1874 near the Black River in Reynolds County of the Missouri Ozarks, Stub Borders survived a tough childhood.  His mother left the family when he was only 10.  Stub grew up working in saw mills to help his dad and brothers get by.  He became a rough Ozarker to survive.  At one point, he made his living as a prospector.  That’s when dynamite blew off one of his arms and blinded him in one eye.  And that’s how he got the nickname Stub.  

Stub was quite the ladies man – at one point, courting three Ozark maidens  all at the same time.  He ended up marrying Anna West. In Stub’s show, you’ll see Stub and Anna’s wedding picture – pretty tough characters – both of them.  They rafted ties down the Big Piney and Gasconade together.

Tie raft on the upper Meramec River

Rafting ties down river was big part of life back then.  No other way to get them to market.  Most Ozark farmers depended on hacking ties to help make ends meet. A mile of track takes about 3,000 ties. How many of those ties came out of Kansas or Nebraska to take the railroads West to the Rockies? Thousands of tiehackers in the Ozarks made millions of ties by hand over decades. Stub was one of the toughest and smartest of the lot and served time in the Missouri State Penitentiary as a result of his fearlessness.

Tie raft on the upper Meramec River

The ties we’re talking about are railroad ties – the wooden ties that are the basis of railroad tracks in America.  Each tie was 8 1/2 feet long, 6 or 8 inches wide and 7 or 9 inches thick – made mainly from oak trees – the Ozarks has more kinds of oak than any place in the world.  When enough ties were stockpiled – Stub and men like him would either send them down river in drives, or nail them into rafts and float them down river.