Friday, February 16, 2018

"Wilderness at Dawn - The Settling of the North American Continent" by Ted Morgan

Lately, instead of eclectic patterns of selecting (usually fiction) books, I focused on works of American-centered history.

"Wilderness at Dawn" refers to the early settlement of  North America. Strange, we think "that Columbus discovered America": no, he was trying to find a short way to China, didn't know where he was. He never set foot on mainland America, landing on Hispaniola, etc.

The European name of the continents came from another voyager, an Italian trader, Amerigo Vespucci. Though he may have fabricated reports of some voyages, he realized he was not in China or anywhere near it; he called the new lands Mundus Novus, New World.  I am nearly 70 and I never knew that. (Maybe I didn't pay attention that day.)

The book does justice to the First Immigrants, which is how we might consider The Tribes. This book was published in 1993; the theory is that a group of people of Asian origin became trapped on the Bering Land Bridge (more than 30,000 years ago) when one of the many Climate Changes (how could this happen? Where were their SUV's?) caused rapid melting of glaciers; the people could not go back to Asia, so they followed their game animals east into (what we call) Alaska. Then, successive generations over the many thousands of years, filtered south over NA and SA.

In North America, sadly, with all the skills these people had and learned, the author says they never figured out metal smelting, coal burning and harnessing water and wind power. (Gold? Silver?) Their great civilization,  the Mound Builders, was based on the Many slaving to acquire Grave Goods for the privileged few; they buried their wealth; human sacrifice, polygamy for the rich and cannibalism were part of the scene. 

The Tribes were not equipped to succeed against the European infiltration of Spanish soldier-explorers and priests after wealth and souls; then the French came with priests and hunters seeking trade in the North. Finally, the British came. They needed a foothold in NA along with other Powers; they too wanted wealth--and they needed a place to dump all their "younger sons" of Nobles, jail birds and whores. Those amounted to settlers, many settlers. And there was So Much Land!

All the Europeans brought disease germs! The author mentions that the only disease Europe may have gotten in return: Syphilis--somehow the early Americans had that.

The book does not "know" about the Jamestown Re Discovery, my current obsession. But describes each major settlement and events leading up to the American Revolution.

Interesting, he covers the laws, plans and surveying procedures used to distribute newly opened lands to military veterans and many others. We never learn about the Surveyors as we learn about Explorers, War Heroes, Cowboys, etc. The Surveyors were many and led hard lives; the nerds and geeks of their day.

I have not scratched the surface of all the interesting material and "fun-facts" in this companionable book. (had fun writing the review, however.)

Monday, February 5, 2018

Found in Southern Mississippi one fine Spring Morning in 2017

I read about the Luna Moth in one of Barbara Kingsolver's novels; couldn't picture it in my mind.

I looked up the Google Image; I'm glad I did. I was able to quickly recognize a living example of the  breed when I saw it in a state park in Mississippi last year.

It looks like a plastic or paper toy? A work of art? I did not see it fly. It was not in the mood so we left it completely alone.

Friday, January 26, 2018

I am selecting different types of reading material now.

  The past few years, I read whatever crossed my path, usually novels that I missed the past 35 years or else books (usually fiction) that looked appealing.

Now, as I begin "retirement", I will "upgrade" the selections with items of non-fiction such as biography and history.

"Savage Kingdom - The True Story of Jamestown, 1607, and the Settlement of America" by Benjamin Woolley: published in 2007, which makes it current enough to take advantage of the knowledge gained by the Jamestown Rediscovery project, which has excavated the site of the original fort.

The author is British, an established writer and presenter for the BBC. The story of Jamestown is told with an emphasis on it's British beginnings with the Virginia Company. The aim was to discover minerals and commodities in North America to rival the Spanish assets in South and Central America; then to create a viable settlement with people of varying specialties.

We meet Captain John Smith (his version of the earliest exploration is the only one that survives, but probably he was mostly correct). He tells how Pocahontas saved his life when her father was about to have him executed. She was only a child and seems to have considered him more of a young father-figure rather than a lover. Later, she falls in love with John Rolfe (who started growing Central American tobacco in Virginia and saved the colony's economy); they married and had a son whose family connections are still among us.

On the British side, details of the politics of the colony's founding are revealed. The Virginia Company already had a streak of "Independence" that was troubling to the Crown (King James l--all he cared about was raising taxes and collecting European paintings). His oldest son, Henry was very interested in the colony, but he died young from disease. Charles, who inherited the throne from his father was much like him--at odds with Parliament and always wasting money.

The book is written so a casual reader can enjoy it, but backed up by footnotes and a solid bibliography for the scholar. I am interested in visiting Jamestown, so I really enjoyed the book. An ancestor of mine, Henry Bagwell, was an immigrant who came on the "Sea Venture" in 1609; he experienced the ship wreck, sojourn in Bermuda and eventual arrival at the colony.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

A Very Sad Report From Kentucky...

The venerable gentleman on the left, a life long resident of the Lexington area, has passed away.

The senior family member, he was an encyclopedia of information on all things to do with the area.
He had many stories: in the 1930's his school bus took him right past the paddock of the retired Man O' War--iconic race horse--twice a day. Many other gems of history and humor.

Cousin David was just shy of 91, I believe.

In the top photo, we see him along with a more distance cousin, expert in family history; they compared notes and memories. It was a bright and beautiful late summer day, as he would love.

At the time, he had completed recovery from a scary farm accident which would have killed many others. But he survived.

In the bottom photo, they explored an 1800's (some say 1700's for parts) log barn on the homeplace.

Along with all that, David was a dear, beloved man. Rest in Peace Love.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Random Photos from 2017

Mushrooms in early spring in Mississippi

Some interesting brick and iron work in Oxford, MS

Graves of Mr. and Mrs. William Faulkner in Oxford, MS. People visit, pause to raise a glass or bottle to the beloved writer.

The iconic view of the Faulkner home in Oxford

Were the magic happened: his writing study.

On the way home, a visit to Paducah, the quilt museum and Hancocks of Paducah.

"Wilderness at Dawn - The Settling of the North American Continent" by Ted Morgan

Lately, instead of eclectic patterns of selecting (usually fiction) books, I focused on works of American-centered history. "Wilde...