Books I’ve Known and Loved

Just some priceless stuff I have laying around.
Just some priceless stuff I have laying around.

The Journals of Lewis and Clark. Sigh. Yes, I’m the sort of American who wishes I had the guts and courage of say Lewis, Clark or Sacajawea “Janey” (and boy do I hate Night at the Museum for its weird romance between Sacajawea  and Theodore Roosevelt! Sacrilege on both counts!) Movie fans used to Transformers-style action will be bored out of their minds on this one. I loved every detail. I think it’s the brand new world thing that gets me–yeah, I know, it wasn’t new to the Indians (except when they first began trifling with the precious ecosystems of the America upon their own arrival).

So I have some “native” blood. There I’ve said it. It’s way back in time and the girl married a white member of my family. I guess she thought he was cute or maybe she liked his weaponry. I see no conflict in loving Janey and not being in awe of every Indian. I can also really love Clark without loving the fact he had a slave. There are certain people–individuals– whom I like and others I don’t. I just hate the whole grouping thing with a passion. Too much race pride leads to, well, all the bad things that go with ego. I hate stating what group I belong to on job applications–especially when I’m not a joiner and often times feel alienated from every group I’m supposed to belong to, but back to the journals.

My journals look just as frame worthy.
My journals look just as frame worthy.

Here’s what you should do for fun. Read Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage first because Stephen Ambrose was super cool. He seemed to believe we Americans were complex and faulty, but at times quite spectacular. We think of road trips cross country in a kind of Jack Kerouac cliche way. Hipsters drinking– that bores me.

But a small bunch of guys, one girl and a mini-arsenal venturing on foot and by boat with hostile Indians lurking and grizzly bears sharpening their teeth in wait and BIG rivers with rushing currents and bugs and no GPS. No cell phone to call the rescuers and no reality TV crew eating donuts a few feet off–now that’s my kind of living–okay, more like my kind of reading.

These guys got malaria and venereal diseases in the old-school way–by sleeping with Indian chicks the hospitable chiefs sent to them as gifts. There were no cars and diners.

In high school I used to daydream about Walden Pond–I think I could walk a little ways out to a cabin in New England after the embittered Indians were long since pushed off and write about civil disobedience for a few summers.

Okay, so here’s a tidbit from the journals which you can read in their entirety online for free:

“Arrived at Bruno’s Island  [4] 3 miles below    halted a few minutes.    went on shore and being invited on by some of the gentlemen present to try my airgun  [5] which I had purchased brought it on shore charged it and fired myself seven times fifty five yards with pretty good success; after which a Mr. Blaze Cenas  [6] being unacquainted with the management of the gun suffered her to discharge herself accedentaly    the ball passed through the hat of a woman about 40 yards distanc cuting her temple about the fourth of the diameter of the ball; shee fell instantly and the blood gusing from her temple    we were all in the greatest consternation    supposed she was dead by [but] in a minute she revived to our enespressable satisfaction, and by examination we found the wound by no means mortal or even dangerous; called the hands aboard and proceeded to a ripple of McKee’s rock*

4 responses to “Books I’ve Known and Loved”

  1. You’ve touched a subject very close to my heart here Adrienne. I lived for a total of 14 or was it 15 years in Portland, Oregon and so of course I am very familiar with Lewis & Clark and their miraculous exploits in exploring and mapping the region that would become greater Oregon – before it was sub-divided into the various states; Washington, Idaho and Oregon. Did you know that ‘Idaho’ was a completely made up name? Seems a group of enterprising boosters, railwaymen and newspaper editors thought it had the right ‘ring’ to it to prove alluring to tourist heading out west to see ‘Injun’ country for themselves.
    Anyway, I hold a great affinity for not only Lewis and Clark but the retinue of brave souls that accompanied them, they were after all just quite ordinary men who, perhaps in a moment of madness, signed up for this crazy escapade.
    Obviously I have a complex and involved affinity with these men who threw all caution to the wind and headed for the great ocean that they knew they would eventually reach if they were alive in order to do so. And who knows what they really felt about their adventure when all is said and done, for they were there on government business. But the telling fact to me is that having reached their objective of crossing such a mighty continent they decided to call the home of their winter camp, sodden as it was, pressed up against a vicious northern Pacific Ocean with days, months of endless lashing rain… ‘Cape Disappointment’. To me this says it all.
    I’ve visited this camp many times, and each time my heart goes out to them… that, after thousands of miles of quite exhausting effort they had to endure a long dark damp winter cooped up in a hastily constructed and saturated log fort, shivering against the cold, and no doubt dreaming of their cozy homes way, way back east.
    But even though I have no evidence one way or another I very much doubt if any of them regretted their role in such an epic part of American history.
    A remarkable story. Thanks for bringing it all back to me. I think we need to be reminded of this sort of good old fashioned valor from time to time.


    • If I recall correctly, one of the other men had his journals published first but the powers that be worked against any fame from it. Cape Disappointment did seem miserable but they had so many great adventures along the way! Not for the weak of heart though. Then poor Lewis commits suicide! Sad.


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