Reading the West 7-19-10 |

Reading the West 7-19-10

I write nonfiction books so I’ve made a selection of titles for summer reading. (Watch for fiction titles in the next column.)

For his biography, “In Trace of TR: A Montana Hunter’s Journey” (Bison Books, University of Nebraska Press), Dan Aadland, took a horse and a lever-action rifle, and set out to learn about his subject: Theodore Roosevelt. This book is more than a biography about Roosevelt, as it is also the story of Aadland’s journey to write the book. And it will take you into the heart of the West to sit around the campfire, live in a tent, or smell the sage.

W. David Baird and Danny Goble hone in on Oklahoma happenings in their new book, “Oklahoma: A History” (University of Oklahoma Press). There is information from the geologic formation of Oklahoma’s land to the recovery and renewal following the Oklahoma City bombing. You’ll learn about the 1889 Land Run, the Glenn Pool oil strike, and a 40-year winning streak for the Byng Lady Pirates.

In “The Santa Fe Trail in Missouri” (University of Missouri Press), a clear, well-researched history, Mary Barile carefully presents the story of the Santa Fe Trail and its genesis in Missouri including the early trading venture of William Becknell and the support he had from men such as Thomas Hart Benton in establishing a trail of commerce. But this is more than a book about a trail; it is also a book about the early 19th century lifestyle in frontier Missouri and that is what gives it real added value to readers and to writers.

Former Albuquerque newspaperman Howard Bryan brings us “Santa Fe Tales and More” (Clear Light Publishers), which includes a couple dozen of his short essays on such subjects as Maria Gertrudis “La Tules” Barcelo, legendary monte dealer at the time of the American occupation of Santa Fe in 1846; the career of John Potts Slough, 1860s chief Justice of the Territorial Supreme Court; Territorial Governor Lew Wallace (Civil War hero and author of Ben Hur) and his association with Billy the Kid; and a piece on the “Poet-Scout,” John Wallace “Captain Jack” Crawford (1847-1917), who replaced W.F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody as Chief of Scouts for the 5th U.S. Cavalry.

Simon Cordery focuses on a national labor leader in his biography, “Mother Jones: Raising Cain and Consciousness” (University of New Mexico Press). Born into a family of Irish radicals in 1837, Mary Harris’s childhood in her native country ended with the potato famine and her family’s immigration to Canada to escape its devastation. She became a proponent of individual rights and the labor movement. By 1897 she became “Mother Jones” and was recognized as a stalwart labor organizer and force to be reckoned with. She crisscrossed the country demanding better pay, safer working conditions, and equitable division of wealth for the working classes.

From the 1600s when the first Dutchmen encountered American Indians and began trading in furs, through the epic of the trappers and traders in the Rocky Mountain West, Eric Jay Dolin presents a detailed history of the fur trade in “Fur, Fortune, and Empire” (W. W. Norton and Company).

“Old Deseret Live Stock Company: A Stockman’s Memoir” by W. Dean Firschknecht (Utah State University Press) highlights the life of the sheep foreman at the Old Deseret Live Stock Company, and takes you back to the days when ranching was done in remote areas by men and women who knew how to get a job done often with only limited support.

In this ongoing series, drawn from Holmes’ Covered Wagon Women books, Kenneth L. Holmes focuses on emigrant girls who traveled on the Overland trails in “Best of Covered Wagon Women Volume Two.” (Arthur H. Clark Company). Accounts come from Tamsen E. Donner, Sallie Hester, Harriett Talcott Buckingham, Elizabeth Keegan, and more. They include both journals of travels on the trails, as well as letters.

In “River of Promise: Lewis and Clark on the Columbus,” David Nicandri, director of the Washington State Historical Society, focuses on the goal of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to discover the headwaters of the Columbia River and a water route to the Pacific.

In “The Trail of Gold and Silver,” (University Press of Colorado) author Duane A. Smith takes the reader through 150 years of Colorado mining history. The history of mining in Colorado is not only extremely detailed in Smith’s 50th book on Colorado history, it goes beyond to explain the mining industry and the economic result to not only Colorado, but the nation and even the world.

Smith documents the early discoveries of silver at Georgetown and the eventual bonanza that became the legend of Leadville.

Throughout the mining towns of Colorado, labor wars broke out. Smith covers the strikes from Telluride to Cripple Creek, Victor and Ludlow with amazing clarity.

Never before has such a concise history of Colorado mining come together in one volume, a first rate, solid history of mining in Colorado.

The 10 essays in “The Missouri Mormon Experience” (University of Missouri Press) by Thomas M. Spencer came from a 2006 symposium that explored the experience of Mormons in Missouri during the early 19th century, and includes an introduction by book editor Thomas M. Spencer, who concisely outlines the movement of Mormons into Missouri in the 1830s and the subsequent conflicts that arose between members of the sect and residents of Missouri. Those conflicts escalated to the point that Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs, on October 27, 1838, issued an “extermination order” that forced Mormons to leave the state. Of course their departure occurred only after violent conflict including the Haun’s Mill Massacre.

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