At last I had time to read on my Fourth of July weekend. The trail seemed full of convergences but also roots and rocks and plenty of switchbacks. The big picture stayed over the horizon. Maybe the history of the West, as Wallace Stegner once defined it for Larry Calloway, simply is, “ One big real estate deal.”
Other things caught my eye and imagination today, swirling in day spent chasing one loose end after another. Still trying to figure how they might add up. Or maybe the gas pedal in my head just got stuck.
— Independence Day, 1900 miles away: “As America’s founders gathered in Philadelphia in 1776, two Franciscans named Francisco Atanasio Dominguez and Francisco Silvestre Velez de Escalante began a journey west from Santa Fe, N.M., hoping to find a way to the Pacific Coast. Negotiating with Native Americans and faltering over harsh terrain, they had no idea that 13 colonies were at the same time declaring independence from Britain, asserting the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, creating a country that would one day encompass much of the continent.
“In “West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776,” historian Claudio Saunt evokes this shadow saga of America’s founding year in landscapes distinct from the 13 colonies. This is a history more terrible than wondrous, a necessary counternarrative to our enlightened Revolution.” — from a Los Angeles Times book review.
— Centennial, a very tough summer in 1876: “It is often said that the road to the Little Bighorn (June 1876) beganwith Custer’s Black Hills Expedition of 1874.” Nathaniel Philbrick, The Last Stand, Viking, 2010.
— Meet us on the Rosebud: Sitting Bull’s message to followers as the U.S. Army and the Black Hills War pushed the tribes westward and a fateful redoubt. Nathaniel Philbrick, The Last Stand, Viking, 2010.
— And before the U.S. evicted the Sioux from the Black Hills: “By the 1770s, the Teton Sioux had overrun the Arikara, or Ree, on the Missouri River and made it as far west as the Black Hills, where they quickly ousted the Kiowa and the Crows.” Nathaniel Philbrick, The Last Stand, Viking, 2010.
— The Long Walk, 1864: Kit Carson and history in the rear view mirror, in a commentary by Hampton Sides in the Santa Fe New Mexican. “History, real history, is messy and fraught with contradictions … a cycle of violence that the U.S. Army was seeking, in its own wrong-headed way, to end … People who criticize Carson tend to be ‘presentists.’ That is, they judge the past by the standards and expectations of today.”
— The long march, 1865: The long, foot-dragging history of U.S. civil rights in a timeline on propublica.org. (I’m wrestling with U.S. treatment of Native Americans in comparison with African Americans).
— And in disjointed fashion, speeding into the future, technology changes the story: U.S. petroleum dependence turnaround. “The U.S. will remain the world’s biggest oil producer this year after overtaking Saudi Arabia and Russia as extraction of energy from shale rock spurs the nation’s economic recovery, Bank of America Corp. said in a Bloomberg report.