Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Crittenden: A Kentucky Story of Love and War by John Fox Jr. (1910)

Without question, the most racially charged jingoistic book I have ever read. Fox really bought the American Exceptionalism thing and was peddling it with every bone in his body. In fact every aspect of this writing is over the top. The love of country, the purity of the American Soldier, the depth of love, the height of compassion, etc. Like The Long Rifle by White it seems to have been written in a style from about a century earlier. White, however, does not devolve into the preachy. 

Its an OK quick read and fits well within the "where does America come from" theme that I have been on but is patently out of fashion in its portrayal of all things. It had to offensive, even for its time?

Fox was a Rough Rider in the Spanish American war, was a correspondent, and was from Kentucky so this is him speaking. Clearly proud of his service in the war he takes the whole thing a little too far at times. The war scenes are, however, well rendered and he holds no punches, making several references to the amount and severity of the various illness available to one on campaign in the tropics. He also portrays battlefield horror in fairness and in detail (I have no experience) and so was likely changed by it.
Military service as pure and redemptive; in modern parlance: as a team building exercise, that leaves one whole and completely in love with ones fellow man and his Country. There are however lesser beings who should be cared for and snickered at for they are simple.

He speaks of this war as a turning point (which lets face it most people don't even remember it ever happened) in which America becomes a world power. That is interesting because most of us think of WWII as having that effect. I guess the last war we fight is a new turning point. And any war I fought in was a big deal; it has to be...

Fox presents this war as the first unifying event after the Civil War and goes on at great length about how the North and South came together to form this irresistible force.

Highly classicist he outlines the "blood line" nepotism that permeated every aspect of Southern life. These guys speak about the every-man but revere the blue blood.

A nice 1910 printing
It has the very raged edges by design on very thick paper which become more endearing the more you fiddle with them.
The Coon rendering is magnificent.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Long Rifle by Stewart Edward White (1932)

Excellent; I'm getting a picture of the tide that swept over the continent, White's book is a wonderful "101" regarding the American expansion west into the Rockies. This is a story about the Mountain man; the Original Mountain Men of the Rockies. I am very happy to have found this and hope to move on to other White stories. It literally takes off from the D. Boone Bio. I finished prior to my workshop.

Like our hero Andy, the story leaves me a little sad.

So the Brits had the Northwest, the Mexicans had the Southwest, and the Americans had the middle, we all know how it turned out.

I guess if it wasn't land that was "free for the taking" it was beaver. And freely they took it, although not without hardship, but still free for the taking. We venerate these men for public and private reasons; what they did was hard and when they survived year after year doing it we are amazed and can only hope or wish we had that kind of fortitude.

So although this was written in the 1930s and I am devoted to the 1830s writers White seems to be from the earlier time. I have lost much interest in the "modern" writers and their sardonic views. 

I found a 1st Edition 3rd printing in Xenia Oh. at the stunning Blue Jacket Bookstore on my way to my Flintlock making workshop.

The inside covers outline some of their stops along the way.

White spent time in the wilderness of the early 1900's and seems to know his stuff. He provides many details about life in the mountains. He researched hundreds of early documents to achieve the level of historical accuracy he needed for this Historical Fiction.

A little of White's wisdom that I like:

"He did, however, gain by this experience the knowledge that things pass; and nothing is more quickly forgotten than discomfort"

"No administration can be over-set in prosperous times: no administration can stand in adversity: even miracles can loose the potency of novelty" 

"Andy was cursed by the necessity of taking the other mans view; he could not help it"

Only and older man can write with this wisdom-air.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Frontiersman: Daniel Boone and the Making of America by Merideth Brown (2008)


In preparation for my upcoming Flintlock making workshop I decided to get into the proper frame of mind.
I went with a more modern publication because the older stuff is reported to have a lot of myth sprinkled in. Lots of good illustrations of rel event documents.

This version is a little plodding but an historical outline can be that way.

With this however one is able to begin to piece together the American psyche at it's core or at least at it's beginning.

Maybe our fascination with winning the lottery, the robber barrons, discovery, individual dreams, even "finders - keepers" etc. comes from the earliest settlers / immigrants.
These people were keenly aware of the very simple concept of buying land cheap, getting people to move into an area and selling bits off at a time.
This included George Washington and any one with money; all you had to do is "settle" it. by means of buying it or taking from the Indians.
Not that complicated but not that easy. Boone was a skilled outdoors man and with fearless determination went into the wild. He was not successful in becoming rich during this part of the American land grab but everywhere he went people followed.

The American Myth:
America has had a never ending search for a Mythological beginning the earliest version seems to have begun with J F Cooper's fictional writings about a Boone like character named Hawkeye and his American made Rifle, the later version that sticks is O Wister's The Virginian.
Not sure who The Virginian was modeled after but Natty Bumpo was very Boone like.

Both of these fictional heroes take on the self reliant noble individual that is the ideal the hard working every man of America.