Monday, October 8, 2012

Review (and gift): Knocking 'Round the Rockies

I recently finished reading a great little book: Knocking 'Round the Rockies by Ernest Ingersoll. It is the account of the author's work in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and Wyoming with the United States Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories in 1874 and 1875.

In recounting his experiences and adventures, Ingersoll waxes poetic, scientific, historic, comic with an engaging rapidity. There are anecdotes of Indian battles and trouble with mules; histories of Denver and other towns he visited; details of the operation and economics of the 19th-century mining industry; and many interesting social and linguistic observations may be made in the reading.

Here are a few of my favorite passages:

There is no possible desolation greater than these lofty peaks show - fastnesses where winter is supreme and chaos retains a foothold upon the earth - fragments of a primeval and Arctic world dotting the fair expanse of tempered nature below.

 "That reminds me," laughed Mr. Wilson, "of a funny thing that happened once in Nevada. Coming back from a mountain one day, we surprised a bear and shot at him, but missed him, and he ran off very lively. We followed along and chased him right through camp. There were only a Mexican and the cook there, and they, seeing the bear run by, started after - the Mexican on the horse with an old army pistol, and the cook with nothing but his rolling-pin. The bear got away, but what that fellow proposed to do with the rolling-pin was more than he or I could tell."

 I can no more express with leaden types the ineffable, intangible ghost and grace of such an experience than I can weigh out to you the ozone that empurples the dust raised by the play of the antelopes in yonder amethyst valley. Moses need have chosen no particular mountain whereupon to receive his inspiration. The divine Heaven approaches very near all of these peaks.

Not only do I recommend this book, but I have the rare chance to give it to all of you. Kind of. It's available for free via Google Books! So curl up by the campfire with a pipe and your laptop or tablet and enjoy this glimpse of the Rocky Mountains as they were some 138 years ago.

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