"We are of opinion that instead of letting books grow moldy behind an iron grating, far from the vulgar gaze, it is better to let them wear out by being read." - Jules Verne
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Sunday, May 29, 2016


Originally printed in 1966

As you can tell by the title, Jim Beckwourth: Negro Mountain Man has a hopelessly out-of-date title. When it was written in 1966, the term "negro" was still considered to be acceptable, of course.

Jim Beckwourth
Jim Beckwourth (1798-1866) was born in Virginia and moved out to the frontier, roughly in the St. Louis area, before he moved out on his own. He apprenticed as a blacksmith but didn't really pursue that career. Instead, he set off as part of larger expeditions and quickly earned a reputation for being tough, fair and honest. And, perhaps most important, he was considered to be dependable in an environment where almost nothing was dependable.

Beckwourth's skin color did not seem to hurt him any as he trapped beaver, scouted for military expeditions and explored the American West. He even served in the Second Seminole War in Florida. It seems that real talent was valued a lot more than a man's race.

But, the bulk of this book deals with Beckwourth's time with the Crow Indians. He claimed that he became a chief and told many tales of his adventures among the Crow. 

Felton goes out of his way to be fair to Beckwourth in a time when the idea of racial equality and African-American heroes could be controversial. This makes Felton's running commentary on Native Americans all the more jarring. He calls them "redskins" (p. 36), "squaws" (p. 43), "thieving and murderous Indians" (p.55) and more. Once again, this book is a product of its time and cannot be judged by modern standards of acceptable speech, but it was jarring. Be prepared if you read the book.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Jim Beckwourth: Negro Mountain Man.

 I rate this book 4 stars out of 5 while issuing no judgment on the racial commentary for reasons listed above.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

THE BONE FEUD (audiobook) by Wynne McLaughlin

Read by Charles Hinckley
Duration: 4 hours, 15 minutes

A lot of people don't know that the end of the classic Cowboy era was the beginning of a dinosaur rush. Paleontologists went out West and found all sorts of skeletons and shipped them back East to be installed in museums. Reputations were made based on who could find the biggest and most exotic fossils.

Edward Cope with a fossil
Two scientists,  Edward Cope and O.C. Marsh tried their best to outdo one another as their teams explore the American West. Sometimes they just compete, sometimes they actually try to hurt the other guy's operations. 

The book is told from the point of view of an old Western guide/stagecoach robber who joined with one of the scientists and helped him navigate the landscape and local politics and is now telling the story to a reporter.

This story was adapted from a movie script. It listens like a "movie of the week"-type fun western. Nothing too serious, but you learn a little something along the way. Charles Hinckley does a good job with a multitude of voices and accents and he keeps the story moving in a lively manner.

I rate this audiobook 4 out of 5 stars.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: The Bone Feud.