Max Hunter, 78, folklorist who collected songs and sayings of the Ozark Mountains. Hunter became intrigued with the colorful and fast-fading expressions of the hill folk in the 1950s when he traveled the back roads of Missouri as a salesman. He entertained himself in motel rooms playing his guitar and singing the songs he had heard. Later, Hunter started recording the stories and melodies of the simpler way of life, and filed the tapes with the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution. To gain the trust of the reticent mountain residents, Hunter would offer to do chores--haul hay, chase chickens and even run moonshine through the dirt roads to Arkansas. In turn, he learned and recorded such expressions as "ugly as a mud fence," "pretty as a speckled pup," "we're all out of cackle berries (eggs)," "got to get my ears lowered (get a haircut)" and the derogatory "there are people who wear clean shirts over dirty underwear." He also logged various cures and superstitions. To cure warts, Hunter learned, one should steal a neighbor's dishrag, spit on it and bury it in the backyard, knowing that when the rag rots, the wart will rot away as well. If a black cat crosses your path, he was advised, take your hat off, spit in it and put it on backward. The cat won't know if you're coming or going. Hunter's son, David, said that but for his father's 30-year devotion to preserving folk wisdom, a fast-fading bit of American history would be lost. On Saturday in Springfield, Mo., of emphysema.