Back In the Day: Rinker Buck

Apparently the Native Americans and the western settlers moving along the Oregon Trail in the mid-19th century got along quite well.

The amicable relations came to an abrupt end in 1855:

  • In 1855, a detachment of six hundred U.S. Army soldiers commanded by General William S. Harney surrounded a band of Brule Sioux led by Chief Little Thunder near Blue Water Creek, six miles north of Ash Hollow, slaughtering eighty-six braves and capturing most of their women and children. Harney’s expedition was launched in retaliation for an incident the year before, when an inexperienced Army lieutenant, John Grattan, had brashly marched his soldiers into a large Brule Sioux camp outside Fort Laramie, Wyoming, demanding that the chiefs produce the Indian who had shot a Mormon pioneer’s cow, even though the Brules had already offered restitution for the cow by giving the pioneer his pick of their sixty-horse herd. The usual army bumbling was involved. Grattan was a recent West Point graduate, unfamiliar with Sioux ways, and his French-Canadian “interpreter” could not speak the Brule dialect and was drunk.

The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey, p. 213

Another From Rinker Buck

Somewhere a few pages ago, Rinker Buck mentions that he is part Irish.

The Sentence of the Day is from The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey (Was reading this in Cork and the irony was rich: She was reading about of all things mules while listening to mostly cello music in a fabulous Irish city).

A rumination on the memory of Buck’s Dear Departed Dad:

Buck’s Dad: You’re not quitting. You just keep going . . .

Buck, years later: The idea that I could be doing quite a lot by not doing anything at all, just by not quitting, was quite beyond me at the time, but I did feel that night that I had the pioneer spirit.

Very wise, Mr. Buck.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Sentence of the Day: Rinker Buck

“I cannot enjoy my life unless I am overactive, or find a challenge that makes me ebullient.”

— Rinker Buck, The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey

Self bought five books on this trip: five big, fat books. What was she thinking?

When she arrived in Cork, two days ago, she found that the platform exit was down a long cement ramp.

Of course, it was easy to roll two suitcases down a ramp.

What self completely failed to appreciate was that, if there is a downhill, there must be an uphill.

She decided to tackle this uphill ramp by finding the right attitude. That is, by sucking it up. About a quarter of the way, she stopped dead and had a most inconvenient thought: I will need a crane.

Then, an older woman in a black pantsuit turned and said, “Come on, give me the bags.” Self was all like, No! These are my bags! These are my punishment!

But the woman decided to pretend self was not protesting, and reached for the bigger of her suitcases.

All the way up the ramp self apologized. At the top, she reached for her big suitcase, absolutely dying with shame. The woman said, matter-of-factly, “I knew you’d never make it up that ramp.”

Meanwhile, it occurs to self that she cannot handle both these bags by herself when she needs to be off and on trains. Constantly.

But, since self has no choice, she decides that an attitude of cheerful denial is the best policy. After all, it’s always worked for her before.

The reason she knows it’s worked for her before is: she has never let go of the notion that suitcases, no matter how heavy, are no big deal. There is terrible disconnect here, but the importance of this notion, this notion of self-punishment followed by absolute self-reliance, is obviously something vital to self’s personality. Why, she has no idea. As vital notions go, this one’s pretty bruising.

Last year, she remembers being helped onto a London bus by the driver himself (No San Francisco MUNI driver would ever relinquish the steering wheel of a bus to help a batty woman. Self’s just saying) He reached down and grabbed her suitcase. After, he said: “I tell you, it must be really nice to leave home knowing you’ve brought all your books with you.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

George Washington: First POTUS

This spring, self began reading a series of histories, starting with Francis Parkman’s Montcalm and Wolfe: The Decline and Fall of the French Empire in North America.

She really enjoyed that book, which gave reader’s glimpses of the very young George Washington (21 years old) in his first combat experience. Throughout the book, there were other glimpses. Finally, by the end of the book, self could not believe how much this young man had grown and flourished. Even though he wasn’t the main subject of the book, and was still only in his 20s by the time the events the book narrated were over, he showed himself to be a natural leader.

Now, months later, self has just begun reading The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey, by Rinker Buck. On p. 30, she reads Buck’s opinion of Parkman: “a notoriously snobbish Boston Brahmin.” Okaaaay. He also says George Washington “worked the same day job as Donald Trump” — he was a “land developer . . .  described as the richest of his generation.” (p. 32)

But, one interesting fact about Washington was that he was so practical, he saw right away the usefulness of mules as farm and/or pack animals, and he immediately began to breed them, and he even “advertised in the Pennsylvania and Virginia newspapers . . . the services of his jacks, who made long breeding tours throughout the . . .  colonies and the new frontier states every year . . . The early descendants of the Mount Vernon stock — tall, drafty, and weighing between a thousand and 1,200 pounds . . . ” (which is 10 x what self weighs, and she can’t imagine having to deal with anything that weighs 10 x as much as her — it would be so devastating an encounter, probably as bad as an encounter with a grizzly) were initially called American Mammoth mules . . .

So there’s our first President for you — a natural leader, a practical man, one who propagated the west with American mammoth mules, and self would never have known if she hadn’t read Rinker Buck.

That is why reading is so important, etc etc

Wonder what SCROTUS reads? Sorry, but self cannot help comparing # 1 and # 45 and feeling that there is a yawning gulf . . .

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Mules and How They Saved America

Did dear blog readers know that George Washington was a mule breeder? No? He sired out his mules (especially one very prolific mule named Royal Jack, a gift of the King of Spain to America, in 1785)

from Rinker Buck’s The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey, p. 36:

  • Mules have a slightly larger cranial cavity than horses, and thus larger brains, and are more intelligent and judgmental. Mules also possess, from their donkey side, a more feral, self-preservationist nature, and intensely dislike putting themselves in danger . . .  Two related feral traits of mules — a keen sense of smell and acute hearing — made them legendary on frontier farms and the overland trails, at least to men sensitive enough to understand them.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

What the Writing Desk Looks Like Today, 19 March 2017

It is Sunday.

A very peaceful, beautiful Sunday.

Birds are singing, the sun is shining. Self has taken to sleeping in her studio on the second floor of her unit. Because it’s so sunny there, with the skylight.

This is what she happened to be reading today, in addition to writing (and starting a new Everlark):

DSCN1130

Self is keeping up with her “Word of the Day” from the Oxford English Dictionary. Today’s word is dislocate. She actually used it in a story she’s working on. YAY!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Book # 1: Unit # 1, Tyrone Guthrie Centre

Am just freshly arrived in Annaghmakerrig.

The first task is to catalogue all the books this Unit holds.

Self was in this same unit last year. But she was not very organized. Not like she is now.

The first book she settles on is Thames Way (Alba Publishing, 2015), by Diarmuid Fitzgerald. There’s a dedication: To the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, February 2017

The man was literally just here.

He elected to walk the length of the Thames from the city of London to its source, a distance of about 170 miles. (Reminds self of one of her favorite books, read 2016: Matsuo Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North, about a journey Basho took in the 17th century, on the old Edo circular road. He also wrote it in haiku.)

The book is divided into three sections: Lower, Middle, and Upper.

From Lower:

no one wishes me
well on my long way
except for one old man

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

2016: Books That Rocked Self’s World

  • March 2016 (read in Mendocino & Fort Bragg): The Forever War, by Dexter Filkins
  • May 2016 (read in London): Watch Me, by Anjelica Huston
  • June 2016 (read in California, various stops on the central coast): The Girl On the Train, by Paula Hawkins
  • August 2016 (read in San Francisco): The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Matsuo Basho
  • December 2016 (read in San Francisco): In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote

Self’s Life in Books

In 2013, she read a total of 30 books.

In 2014, to her great disappointment, she managed to read only 7.

Thus far, in 2016, she’s read 18 books. Oh happy happy joy joy.

2013 was a great year for her reading life.

She read:

  • Bicycle Diaries, by David Byrne
  • Anna Karenina
  • Don Quijote
  • Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses
  • Mildred Armstrong Kalish’s Litte Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression
  • Sister Carrie
  • The Leopard, by Giuseppe di Lampedusa
  • The Quiet American, by Graham Greene
  • Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
  • The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin
  • City of Thieves, by David Benioff
  • The Lincoln Lawyer, by Michae Connelly
  • Henry M. Stanley’s How I Found Livingstone in Central Africa

In 2015, self’s great reads were:

  • Silas Marner
  • Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin
  • The Act of Love, by Howard Jacobson
  • Middlemarch, by George Eliot
  • Bad Behavior, by Mary Gaitskill

This year, self’s favorite books have been:

  • The Forever War, by Dexter Filkins (which she just realized she’d already read five years ago: She didn’t remember a thing!)
  • Anjelica Huston’s second memoir, Watch Me
  • The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Matsuo Basho
  • Swimming Studies, by Leanne Shapton

She’s struggling through Northanger Abbey. Really struggling. But she is determined to finish it.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Sentence of the Day: Basho

You’re floating in a sea of tranquil words. You’re lost in reading Basho:

In their ecstasy of a single night
Under the moon of summer.

Nothing can be more tranquil than a Basho haiku.

And then:

  • That rugged mountain in the village of Sarashina is where the villagers in the remote past used to abandon their ageing mothers among the rocks.

Bam! It’s like a sudden blow to the head. You never see it coming.

“A Visit to Sarashina Village” is in Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North, which self started reading about a week ago and which is going to be — self can feel it — the defining reading experience of the summer, if not of the entire 2016. It is a very, very thin book, but self advances about a page a day.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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