Figures in a Western Landscape

Figures in a Western Landscape : Men and Women of the Northern Rockies

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The northern Rocky Mountains and adjacent high plains were the last American West. Here was the final enactment of our national drama - the last explorations, the final battles of the Indian wars, the closing of the frontier. In "Figures in a Western Landscape", award-winning biographer Elizabeth Stevenson humanizes the history of the region with a procession of individual lives moving across the generations. Each of the 16 men and women depicted has left behind his or her own unique written record or oral history. They have bequeathed to us stones that are rich in anecdote and colourful detail. Among them: Meriwether Lewis, America's "most introspective explorer", whose journals provide the first English-language record of the Northwest's rivers, mountains, and plains, and offer a memorable account of how their newness struck his imagination. Osborne Russell, 21-year-old fur trapper from Maine who vividly described the region's beauty ("wild and romantic scenery") and hardships ("65 miles in two days without eating") and who passed on a useful survival tip for geyser country - you could boil meat by suspending it in a hot pool. Pierre Jean De Smet, first Catholic missionary to the Northern Plains Indians, who was said to have found gold nuggets on the site of the future Virginia City but, knowing a gold rush would mean the Indians' ruin, quietly pocketed the nuggets and kept the discovery to himself. James and Granville Stuart, early settlers lured by rumours of gold in the 1850s, who crossed three dangerous rivers on a 150-mile trek through the wilderness because they heard rumours of an even rarer commodity - books. Pretty-Shield, wife of the Crow scout who warned Custer to turn back at Little Big Horn, who "hated no one, not even the white man," and who told her story to an astonished interpreter in the 1930s. In a concluding chapter, Stevenson draws on previously unpublished material to reveal new information about Martha Jane Cannary Burke, better known as Calamity Jane, the woman who could ride, shoot, and drive a mule team as well as any man (but who once failed to "pass" because she didn't cuss her mules like one), and who lies buried in Deadwood, South Dakota, next to the man some said was her husband, Wild Bill Hickok. These and other men and women whose stories Stevenson tells all helped to shape - and were in turn shaped by - the uniquely challenging landscape of America's "last West". Stevenson's other books include: "The Crooked Corridor: A Study of Henry James"; "Henry Adams: A Biography" (winner of the Bancroft Award); "Babbits and Bohemians: The American 1920s"; "Lafcadio Hearn: A Biography"; and "Park Maker: A Life of Frederick Law Olmsted".show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 236 pages
  • 149.4 x 225.6 x 13.2mm | 326.59g
  • Taylor & Francis Inc
  • Transaction Publishers
  • Somerset, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • black & white illustrations
  • 076580736X
  • 9780765807366

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