Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Hawkeye Lays it Down on Dead Indian Memorial Highway

(Brian Hartenstein on Dead Indian Memorial Highway)

"I am willing to own that my people have many ways of which, as an honest man, I can't approve.  It is one of their customs to write in books what they have done and seen, instead of telling them in their villages, where the lie can be given to the face of a cowardly boaster, and the brave soldier can call on his comrades to witness for the truth of his words."  -Hawkeye, Last of the Mohicans

We left Ashland and drove north along Dead Indian Memorial Highway.  The drive was absolutely stunning.
(A few years after the 1853 Rogue River Indian War, a white settler, who had been camping in the Siskiyous along the Applegate Trail, awoke to discover his horse was missing.)

"I am no scholar, and I care not who knows it; but, judging from what I have seen, a deer chases and a squirrel hunts, of the sparks below, I should think a rifle in the hands of their grandfathers was not so dangerous as a hickory bow and a good flint-head might be, if drawn with Indian judgment, and sent by an Indian eye."  -Hawkeye, Last of the Mohicans.

It's one of the most beautiful stretches of roads I've ever rolled through.
(Assuming Indians in a nearby village stole his horse, he  immediately ventured into Ashland and rounded up 15 men to ride out and 'Lick them Indians'... and retrieve his stolen property.)

"I know not but man may so deform his works in the settlement, as to leave that which is so clear in the wilderness a matter of doubt among traders and priests."  -Hawkeye, Last of the Mohicans

After our Pilgrims and Puritans Unit, we've been reading excerpts from James Fenimore Cooper's Last of the Mohicans. It's a boy's book, I know... one that saved me as a youth growing up in the forests and cow fields of Colton.  Yet it's also significant because it framed our collective ideas of the western frontier during the French and Indian War.
(The Indians, peacefully doing nothing but berry collecting and seeing this attacking party approaching, fought back, wounding several of the white men who hastily retreated.)

"Wisdom is sometimes given to the young, as well as to the olde... and what you have spoken is wise..."  -Hawkeye, Last of the Mohicans

The story of Hawkeye, the frontiersman.  Chingachgook and Uncas, the last of a dying name.  Magua, the soulless savage bent on revenge.  The fearless Cora and naive Alice.  The lovelorn Major Heyward.  All trying to survive at the edge of the world in a tumultuous time.  
(The next day a detachment of 38 soldiers from Fort Lane rode out to retrieve one of the fallen white bodies ... which they did... but also discovering an old broken tree branch and the horse then man had lost... just waiting for him to return.)

"I say, young gentleman, may providence bless your undertaking, which is altogether for good, and remember, that to outwit the knaves, it is lawful to practice things that may not be naturally the gift of white skin."  -Hawkeye, Last of the Mohicans

I've always loved the character of Hawkeye, Natty Bumppo, the main protagonist in Cooper's The Leatherstocking Tales.  Know as 'The Pathfinder' or 'The Trapper,' as 'Deerslayer,' and 'La Longue Carabine.'  He was a man that rejected 'book learnin'' and instead focused on what nature could teach him... to live in balance with the unknowns of the physical world.
(Disgusted and angry... they falsely spread word that Indians had mutilated the fallen white man and another search party was organized to rout out the Native Americans.  As many as 15 were slaughtered due to this man and his lost horse. Dead Indian Memorial Highway is named for this senseless massacre.)

"You will have occasion for your best manhood, and for a sharper wit than what is to be gathered in books afore you outdo the cunning or get the better of a Mingo."  -Hawkeye, Last of the Mohicans

There's always a kind of wisdom around us that isn't in books. Hawkeye knew it.  I have to remind myself and my daughters of this, every now and then, as we roll through the unknown.

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