Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Small Wonders--A good time on the plains

Once upon a time, his name was a household word, so great was his fame. He gave us a headless horseman, and bearded old man with a rusty shotgun stumbling into town after an absence of umpteen years—characters from tales like “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” No, this isn’t Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit.

The name is Washington Irving, often considered America’s first short story writer, whose most plausible claim to fame these days is bequeathing a name to an NBA team, the New York Knicks (after "the Knickerbockers," his characters).

For the record, Washington Irving, himself named after the President, was a yankee long before there were any others; he was 56 years old when baseball was invented in Cooperstown, in 1839. He spent a couple decades in Europe, being an aristocrat, and trying to make a living as a writer, which he did. A whole bevy of European authors admired him, as did American writers of his time, novelists and essayists with familiar names like Hawthorne and Melville, even Edgar Allen Poe.

Were he alive today, Washington Irving would be chum around with the Kardashians. He'd be a People magazine cover boy, a gallant at the Oscars, hunted by paparazzi. He was a star.

In 1832, just a few months after seventeen years in Europe, he determined to head to the frontier—why? for adventure, and a maybe a book, as long as he was there. He took several little notebooks—2 ½ by 4 inches, string-bound—and metallic pencils (quills and ink were a bother in the wilderness), and started writing what he called “Notes Concerning the Far West,” which wasn’t really the “far west” as we know it, but just the Great Plains, a day or so south of here, a region which seemed, in 1832 “the far west.”

Everything went swimmingly. He suffered a bit with occasionally troublesome bowels, but little more, ate well and was blessed with great weather (it was, as we say, “Indian summer”). Their meeting with the Osage people was a joy. He found them gracious and fascinating. A great time was had by all, and Irving got his book, A Tour on the Prairies

He stayed about a month, October 10 to November 9, then hustled back east to New York City and bundled the manuscript off to his publisher.

The landscape—its hills and valleys and woodlands—he found gorgeous:

We were overshadowed by lofty trees, with straight smooth trunks, like stately columns; and as the glancing rays of the sun shone through the transparent leaves . . . I was reminded of the effect of sunshine among the stained windows and clustering columns of a Gothic cathedral . . . there is a grandeur and solemnity in our spacious forests of the West, that awaken in me the same feeling I have experienced in those vast and venerable piles, and the sound of the wind sweeping through them, supplies occasionally the deep breathings of the organ.
The bit of wilderness they traveled is today east-central Oklahoma. They means Irving wasn’t alone, not at all. He was accompanied by three French-American frontiersmen; a brilliant English-born architect who had a significant hand in designing the U. S. Capitol, but whose major task on the tour was to reign in the impulses of his blood relative, a young—a teenager!—Swiss count who fell in love with every Native girl he saw. A battalion of rangers went with, for protection. After all, this was the frontier.

There were no Holiday Inns or Dairy Queens. If there were quarter-pounders, they were pressed from venison or bison and roasted over a nightly open fire.

The month in the wilderness was, by all reports, idyllic, and Irving’s book is something of a paean or psalm of praise to the plains. A good time was had by all.
I forgot to mention Mr. Henry Leavitt Ellsworth, the only member of the tour who really had a job. Mr. Ellsworth was sent to look over the area they visited, to check it out, to observe its topography and assess its possibilities because soon enough the government of President Andrew Jackson would be sending thousands of Native people to that distant part of the country, the far west, in a move congressionally-approved to put all of America’s indigenous into one neat place, out of the way of an American nation whose Manifest Destiny was to fill the continent, coast to coast, with fine Christian men and women, white men and women.

Apparently, Mr. Henry Leavitt Ellsworth approved of what they found. How could he not?--it was Indian summer, the weather was perfect, the whole experience something to write home about.

“It looks good,” he must have told whatever superiors were interested. “It looks great.”

And so began an 800-mile trek of horror we call “The Trail of Tears,” the forced relocation of Indian tribes from their ancestral homelands in the east, many bound to the same tight circle of land Washington Irving traveled during an almost heavenly month in 1832.

You can read A Tour on the Prairies. You should be able to get it from your local library. Better yet, look on line. You can read it free.

What you’ll not read is a word about the Trail of Tears. He chose not to bring it up, I suppose. It was simply too good a time.

1 comment:

Jerry27 said...

Deanna Spingola tries to show that Jackson was an "off the shelf" agent of Rothschilds.

The case eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court, and Chief Justice John Marshall, while avoiding the central issue, ruled that the states could not assert control over the Indian tribes.
According to legend, President Jackson scoffed, saying, “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it."

A quote attributed to Nathan Rothschild "Give me control of a nation's money
and I care not who makes the laws."

revolution – Spingola Speaks
Posts about revolution written by Spingola Speaks ~ WP. Deanna talked about the Marxist influence in America prior to 1860, Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Jackson, just some of the information which is available in her first book of The Ruling Elite trilogy