My favorite catty man moment when a cavalryman, Benteen is a no-show for a visit:
“I guess he did not care to trouble himself- He is a true Cavalryman & would rather superintend the work of his stallion than attend to the courtesies of life– Nothing lost to anybody–but one feels degraded to think that he is socially on par, with those who voluntarily make of themselves third class livery stable keepers–However if the Nobles & high gentry of England find their highest pleasure in doing the work of a stable boy, I suppose I ought not to growl at our Cavalry. There seems to be something demoralizing in the love of horseflesh. I don’t believe a thoroughly horsey man can be a gentleman or a thorough gentleman a horsey man.”
While Colonel Richard Irving Dodge wasn’t the looker Grenville Dodge (the transcontinental railroad guy) was his journals are a fun read. I enjoyed even the slow parts about needing a nap or having bowel troubles because of the bad water sometimes found in the Black Hills on the scientific expedition of 1875. The best parts are when the gentlemanly colonel is trying to keep his temper around all sorts of catty intrigue. Here is a man who quotes Shakespeare and Homer, feels sorry for a captured beaver and has the men set it free and worries about his nerdy son (along on the trip) who’s spent far too much time around women.
He wants to like the grasping and at times incompetent young head of the scientific survey Professor Walter P. Jenney but has a tough time of it. He tells of cowardly journalists along for news of gold (Custer’s earlier findings were being questioned in the East) being duped into believing a hooting owl meant an Indian attack in the morning and useless, lazy miners who weren’t supposed to be on Indian land. His writing style is so modern proving people weren’t all too different back then.
Yesterday I mentioned how modernism is informing my novel writing which made me think of another writer’s excellent blog set up as a fictional journal of a great character named Wall Grimm. As a warning I will say that the blog is R-rated for mature content (sometimes as I read it I’m thinking –Wall, too much information! But then it is supposed to be a private journal :)).
Wall Grimm has some issues. He’s in love with Emma, but he’s also in love with drugs and sex any way he can get it. He’s a complex and lovably screwed up character. I think I like Wall so much because he sums up what the last few generations of Americans have had to deal with—free sex, confused feminism and a feeling that just out of reach is a thing, a way of living that offers real beauty but seems impossible to get to. This sense that you can have it all and really, eventually get what you want without giving up self indulgent behavior is as old as time but is promoted under modernism. This has nothing to do with being a prude. Sex is fun. But you can’t get Emma (the higher ideal, the satisfaction of true and abiding love) without terminating more animalistic behaviors. But here’s the thing–without a “true” moral way, how can a young man with “natural” urges be expected to rise above (and even this hints at intolerance for what is low) instinct if society’s story is that love is just a social construct or a random evolutionary tendency that helps some survive?
Grimm fathers a child and when he offers to help raise her the mother shouts him down, insisting that she has full say. Why would a young guy bother being responsible even if that is his natural desire, one given to him by God or programmed into him by countless generations of humanity?
Now, Sage Doyle, the writer of Wall Grimm’s journal has never said that any of the above opinions or themes matter to him. This is just me showing my appreciation for a talented and thought-provoking writer who also happens to be a generous blogger.
Personally I want Grimm to end up with Emma, but you should make up your own mind by reading his blog.