This is my favorite season of the year. My family and co-workers can attest that I’m a pumpkin-spice-on-everything kind o’ feller. They indulge me.
I love everything about the autumn season — the colors, the crisp bite to the morning air, the golden light, the harvest moon. The pumpkin spice. Indian Summer is especially rewarding, as that bite in the morning air mellows into perfect warmth that entices us out into forest and field.
Interestingly, no one really knows the origin of the term. The first recorded description of “Indian Summer” comes from a French farmer in America named J. H. St. John de Crèvecoeur, who wrote in a 1778 letter:
“Then a severe frost succeeds, which prepares it to receive the voluminous coat of snow which is soon to follow; though it is often preceded by a short interval of smoke and mildness, called the Indian summer.”
So, the term was in common usage by the late 18th Century, and I’d bet long before that. I had always assumed that it referred to the last flurry of activity among the natives of the Eastern Woodlands — the harvest, the hunt, the raid — before the long haul through winter. Seems reasonable, but there’s just no evidence.
Indian Summer is also the title of the Hugo Pratt/Milo Manara Euro-erotica graphic novel classic featuring Puritans and Indians. I figure Manara took inspiration from Betty Zane’s legendary run for gunpowder during the 1782 Siege of Fort Henry on the Ohio River frontier. I’m not sure Betty brought the sexy quite so flagrantly, but… print the legend.
Given the current climate, it’s not surprising that the term is considered “problematic” in woke-world. Indigenous Corporate Training, Inc. included “Indian Summer” among its “culturally offensive phrases” that are risky in the work environment.
I’ll be all over the forthcoming edition of True West Magazine. Lookit that, will ya?
I wonder if Gene Baldwin could make me a sugarloaf sombrero…
October is also a month to explore and celebrate the weird, the uncanny, the downright terrifying. I hope to spend some time this month on the dark trails through the forbidding woods. I’ll start with what maybe technically should be considered a winter song — one of my favorites from 1970s Workingman’s Dead. Don’t murder me…
“The imagery occurred to me in a dream. I woke up and grabbed a pencil before I was entirely awake and wrote the whole song down. I think I managed to capture the quality of the dream by writing it down before I was wide awake.”
— Robert Hunter
Looking ahead… Reader “Melodious Thunk” scouted out news of a springtime release of…
It is the mid-eighteenth century, and in the 13 colonies founded by Great Britain, anxious colonists desperate to conquer and settle North America’s “First Frontier” beyond the Appalachian Mountains engage in a never-ending series of bloody battles. These violent conflicts are waged against the Native American tribes whose lands they covet, The French, and finally against the mother country itself in an American Revolution destined to reverberate around the world.
This is the setting of Blood and Treasure and the guide to this epic narrative is none other than America’s first and arguably greatest pathfinder Daniel Boone―not the coonskin cap-wearing caricature of popular culture but the flesh-and-blood frontiersman and Revolutionary War hero whose explorations into the forested frontier beyond the great mountains would become the stuff of legend. Now, thanks to painstaking research by two award-winning authors, the story of the brutal birth of the United States is told through the eyes of both the ordinary and larger-than-life men and women, white and Native American, who witnessed it.
This fast-paced and fiery narrative, fueled by contemporary diaries and journals, newspaper reports, and eyewitness accounts, is a stirring chronicle of the conflict over America’s “First Frontier” that places the reader at the center of this remarkable epoch and its gripping tales of courage and sacrifice.
Drury and Clavin have teamed upon several works of frontier history, notably The Heart of Everything That Is, which restored Red Cloud to his proper status as a Frontier Partisan badass. Sure do like that cover painting.
The research and writing work is nearly complete on the first series of the Frontier Partisans Podcast on the complicated legacy of Kit Carson. It’s shaped up into a four-parter:
I. Kit Carson’s People: The Scots-Irish Frontier Culture
II. Mountain Man — I’ve Been Everywhere, Man.
III. The Fremont Expeditions — Hunter, Guide, Explorer.
IV. Indian Agent and Soldier
Going to get the technical work and recording in order through October and I aim to launch this thing at the beginning of November.
I am really glad I ended up choosing to start along this trail with Carson. His story offers so much opportunity to engage constructively with the current tensions over the nature and meaning of our history. And he’s just darned interesting company.
(Addendum): Melodious also reminds us about Peter FitzSimons’ Breaker Morant due out October 27. Looks like it’s only available on Kindle in the States.
Does Breaker Morant deserve his iconic status? Who was Harry Morant? What events and passions led him to a conflict that was essentially an Imperial war, played out on a distant continent under a foreign flag? Was he a scapegoat for British war crimes or a criminal himself?
With his trademark brilliant command of story, Peter FitzSimons unravels the many myths and fictions that surround the life of Harry Morant. The truths FitzSimons uncovers about ‘The Breaker’ and the part he played in the Boer War are astonishing – and, in the hands of this master storyteller, make compelling reading.