• Lookit what my local bookstore got for me. Craig McDonald’s pulp caper masterpiece in graphic format. Next, a movie. Taylor Sheridan directs. Soundtrack by Tom Russell. Holographic William Holden as Hector Lassiter.
• Saddle Tramp threw down something of a challenge: Define what I mean by “badass.” Fair enough. The dictionary sez a badass is “a tough, uncompromising, or intimidating person.”
This is my own definition. I’m open to refinements:
Badass: A person who exhibits to an extraordinary degree the tactical virtues of strength, courage, mastery and honor in ardently committed, aggressive pursuit of his or her particular mission or vision. This person maintains a Zero Foxtrot attitude toward any who do not understand or (worse) might choose to stand in the way of said mission or vision.
Obviously, somebody who has these qualities is “a tough, uncompromising, or intimidating person.”
One can admire the grit and badassery of an individual even if one is opposed to their mission/vision.
A piece of gear can be considered “badass” if it is particularly suited to enabling such a person to pursue their mission/vision. A piece of art or music may be considered “badass” if it reflects that ardent commitment and the creative application of strength, courage, mastery and honor.
• Marilyn and I started watching Damnation, which Marilyn describes as being “sick and wrong in all the good ways.” It’s a dark and violent Western set in Depression-era Iowa, swirling around conflict between the local farmers and the bank. Classic Western-movie conflict. The apparent bad guy (I say apparent because its clear that in this story Things Are Not What They Seem) is a Pinkerton operative in a leather jacket and a cowboy hat. I’ll eat my own hat if the writers didn’t consciously riff off of Tom Horn. He wields a Colt 1911, and he must have a really progressive custom gunsmith, cuz it’s got modifications that wouldn’t become common until well after World War II. Badass.
There’s a preacher who’s really a labor agitator and probably a Communist. There’s a female Burns Detective Agency operative down in Harlan, Kentucky, who is hunting for the phony preacher — and acting as an agent provocateur. I’m sure she’ll soon turn up in Iowa.
I agree with Marilyn, as I usually do. Sick and wrong in all the good ways.
Oh, and, apparently they can say “fuck” on basic cable now. Deadwood’s shadow is long, indeed. Cocksuckers.
• Back in May, our New England scout and ranger Paul McNamee reported on a tour of the 17th Century home of Francis Wyman. The subject continues to intrigue: Paul’s wife Linda took it up on her cable TV show. Paul provided a link. Check it out.
• My pard Craig Rullman posted an announcement on The Bunkhouse Chronicle regarding our forthcoming project. Here’s what he said in his post Carrying The Fire:
Friends and Readers:
For nearly a year Jim Cornelius and I have been writing, researching, reading, and working feverishly on a new literary project to identify, diagnose, and ultimately combat the ironies, mind-numbing complexities, and feverish groping that often define our modern American life. We are pleased that those efforts are now nearing fruition, and that Running Iron Report will soon launch.
The RIR is not a replacement for our efforts elsewhere. The Bunkhouse Chronicle, and Frontier Partisans, will remain and continue to grow as they are. RIR is a joint attempt to explore creative solutions to complex problems. It is underwritten by a belief that our republic, as much as we have loved her, seems now to be buckling under the same historical pressures that have ultimately crushed other empires, in other times, and that we have options available to us that may prove anodyne.
The articles, editorials, and features of RIR will be comprised of historical, ahistorical, political, apolitical, and theoretical discussions anchored and driven by the notion of living well—of “carrying the fire” of all that is best about our republic into what we see as an inevitably less prosperous, and significantly more dangerous and chaotic future. It will also be occasionally funny, and irreverent in the best possible ways. RIR will most likely upset some people, particularly those who maintain narrow, and therefore largely disabled, minds, or those who insist on flogging the comatose coal-pony of failing institutions.
RIR has no political affiliation. We are not shilling for either of the largely irrelevant, certainly corrupt, and most definitely ineffective major political parties in the United States.
Running Iron Report is coming soon. We sincerely hope that you will join us around the campfire, and become an important voice in the conversation.
So there you have it.
• Word is that Amazon will produce a Lord of the Rings series, a prequel telling stories that occur before the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring. Know what I want? I want Rangers. The hunt for Gollum. Anti-orc patrols to keep the foolish, ignorant folk of The Shire and Bree foolish and ignorant — and free. The Dunedain.
“…In the wild lands beyond Bree there were mysterious wanderers. The Bree-folk called them Rangers, and knew nothing of their origin. They were taller and darker than the Men of Bree and were believed to have strange powers of sight and hearing, and to understand the languages of beasts and birds.”
Also, Rangers of Ithilien battling the shadow rising again in Mordor. I’d watch some of that kind of Frontier Partisan action in Middle Earth. Not all who wander are lost.
• I see that Robert Mugabe has been overthrown by the Zimbabwean military in a “bloodless coup.” I would prefer that he’d been capped. That bastard took an economically viable agricultural breadbasket and ruined it, imposing a kleptocratic tyranny where there had been a high-functioning (though racist) state. The whole notion of Rhodesia makes we moderns uncomfortable because of race and colonialism, but it’s not a simple morality play.
Rhodesian SAS trooper Hannes Wessels notes that the Pioneers that Rhodes sent to found a new land north of the Limpopo River were invaders — of a land whose Matablele overlords were themselves recent invaders, who considered the more indigenous Mashona people good for little but blooding the spears of young men (you can read about this in my Warriors of the Wild Lands).
“… the white interlopers put an end to the endemic tribal genocide and quickly insisted upon changing the mindset that killing another human being was a right of might. This was anathema to the blacks (Matabele) but they were forced to live with it on pain of punishment. The irony following from this is the Zezuru people (one of the six or seven tribes making up the Mashona) who would probably have been wiped out by the Matabele in the course of time, were saved by white intervention. Had this not happened, a Zezuru child by the name of Robert Gabriel Mugabe might never have been. His journey into the living world was made safe by the white man he would grow to revile.”
Wednesday’s events are drawing me back to that astonishing tale of the Frontier Partisans, to the land of Frederick Russell Burnham, Frederick Courteney Selous, Leander Starr Jameson, Frank Johnson…
• Volume II of Warriors of the Wild Lands is taking shape — and it’s taken me deep into the lakes and forests of New York and Canada.
The focus of the work this time around is the “men of the middle ground” — men who walked in both Native and European cultures, often mediating between them. The Middle Ground, as the term is used in borderland history, refers both to the physical space in which cultures met, mingled, traded, intermarried and fought and to the psychological and cultural space where an identifiable borderland culture developed that was neither entirely native nor European but a blend that became something of its own.
This has become a real fascination for me. Like the first volume, the next work will cover a couple of centuries and a lot of territory. But there will be q particular focus on the Eastern Woodlands of North America, the New York Frontier and the Ohio Valley Frontier. While “middle grounds” existed in other times and places, the 18th century “eastern” frontier seems to me have been the last viable chance for a successful borderland culture to have grown roots and thrived. For the First Nations to maintain geopolitical space and power, they had to be able to play one European power off against others. Once the American Revolution was complete (which in the Ohio Valley wasn’t until 1794) and one political entity dominated the geography, the die was cast; the Indians would be swept aside.
But up until that time, there was a real possibility that a viable borderlands native entity could come into existence and evolve in its own way.
While I’m deeply versed in the history of the 18th Ohio Valley Frontier, I am much less so in the history of upper New York, where Sir William Johnson and his clan operated in near-feudal style, among Germans, Irish, Scots, Dutch, English, French and Iroquois.
I am learning a great deal about the French & Indian War and the American Revolution in this theater, meeting new characters and running new trails across Iroquoia.
Oh, I am having a good time…
• In relation to that history, I am currently reading Richard Berleth’s rich narrative history, Bloody Mohawk: The French & Indian War and the American Revolution on New York’s Frontier. The man is a PhD in English Literature, and he can write. Listen to the poignant poetry in his description of the unlaid ghosts of the Mohawk Valley, one of the richest, most beautiful — and most violent of North America’s borderlands:
“Loss — not just loss of life, but loss of the common stuff that holds humanity together — scarred the survivors and shaded the recollections they left to posterity. Loss is what gives the wind in the valley its special remorsefulness, the fog and lake-effect snow its isolating loneliness. Something happened here that was more intense, more shattering, than the ordinarily sorrowful consequences of war.”
You can get your copy of Warriors of the Wild Lands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans through my favorite trading post — Paulina Springs Books of Sisters, Oregon.