The Chief: Ernest Thompson Seton and the Changing West

The Chief: Ernest Thompson Seton and the Changing West

The Chief: Ernest Thompson Seton and the Changing West

The Chief: Ernest Thompson Seton and the Changing West

Excerpt

I first became acquainted with Ernest Thompson Seton's world of animals and Indians at a boys' camp in the mountains of northern New Mexico. That particular summer, our camp director had made arrangements to take us through Seton Castle, with the "Chatelaine" herself, Mrs. Julia M. Seton, as our tour guide. Certainly it was hard for me to envision a cupolaed European castle in the semiarid New Mexico foothills dotted with cedars and piñon pines. Nevertheless, we all sat with eager anticipation as the bus turned off the Old Pecos Road onto the dusty, half-mile drive leading to the castle. After passing several small adobe dwellings, the bus driver parked the cumbersome vehicle on top of a steep gravel incline. Filing out, we saw a large, many-roomed house that resembled, in part, the apartmentlike dwellings of Taos Pueblo. Built of native wood, sandstone, and adobe, this New Mexico "castle" blended perfectly with its surroundings. Only the television antenna on the highest point of the multilevel roof stood out as a reminder that modern technology had reached even this wilderness abode. In the rustic wooden doorway, overshadowed by a front porch supported by log columns, stood a bespectacled, red-haired lady in an embroidered Spanish-style dress. Mrs. Seton graciously bade us welcome.

Inside we found a rustic home, with a mixture of imported Eastern and native Southwestern styles apparent in the furniture and the rugs on the wooden living room floor. But what captured our eyes were the paintings and drawings of birds and mammals that covered the walls. Mrs. Seton, still lively despite her age, had us sit down in front of the hearth. Silence fell over the normally noisy group as she pointed out examples of her late husband's artwork, including the large oil of wolves feasting on the grisly remains of an unfortunate hunter. This controversial painting, she told us, was done while he was studying art in Paris. She also related several Indian legends, of how the demigod Nanaboujou took a scoop of mud and with his fingers painted the stripes on the sides of the naughty chipmunk and how he smoked up the Rio Grande Valley with his peace pipe, creating the haze of Indian summer. But the real highlight of her storytelling session was the tale of Old Lobo, the dreaded King Wolf, whose reign of terror among the New Mexico ranchers was ended by the young Mr. Seton when he rode the plains of . . .

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