Candy Moulton: Reading the West 9-24-12
The vernal equinox puts us firmly in Fall and that means publishers are releasing a whole new batch of books. That is just one reason this season is my favorite of the year.
Within the last week, I have received no less than eight new books, and I received a couple more the week prior. With so many to choose from, it is hard to just pick one, so I won’t.
e_SDLqThe Great Bicycle Experiment” by Kay Moore, a former schoolteacher, is a short history of the Army’s historic Black bicycle corps of 1896-97. The idea of Lt. James Moss, the bicycle corps was organized and outfitted with two-wheelers as a replacement to cavalry horses. Some advantages were that the bicycles did not need food, water or rest; they were nearly noiseless, they would not disobey their rider.
The all-Black 25th Infantry stationed at Fort Missoula in western Montana, was selected as the test unit. Lt. Moss chose an elite group from that regiment to form the Bicycle Corps. They would set off from Fort Missoula on a 2,000-mile journey to St. Louis.
A brief history of the Buffalo Soldiers (as the African American soldiers were called in the 19th century), the city of Missoula, and Fort Missoula set the scene before Moore puts those soldiers on their bicycles and takes them off on a journey, first to Lake McDonald, in Montana, and then toward St. Louis. Their route was through Yellowstone National Park. Having journalist Edward Boos of the Daily Missoulian riding with them, there were regular reports in the press before “Uncle Sam’s Riders” reached St. Louis.
Written for young adult readers, this book is illustrated with many photographs of the bicycle corps and it will also appeal to older readers who want a fast helping of history. The book is published by Mountain Press Publishing in Missoula, Mont.
Oysters, Macaroni and Beer. Sounds like a strange combination of foods, but those were three of the staples the Texas Pacific Mercantile and Manufacturing Company stocked to keep the immigrant workers of the Texas and Pacific Coal Company happy from 1894 to 1934. Historian Gene Rhea Tucker, has deeply researched the company store for “Oysters, Macaroni and Beer: Thurber Texas, and the Company Store,” a new book being released by Texas Tech University Press.
Tucker, who worked as a banker, reads the pages of ledgers in the same way most historians read diaries or newspapers. In this thoroughgoing study he views the company records, newspaper accounts, and reviews interviews to present a case study that is not only a microcosm of Thurber and the Texas Pacific Mercantile and Manufacturing Company, but also outlines relations between labor and management in Industrializing Texas. This is also a larger story of the complex role of the company store and company town in America. ❖
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