2.Backcountry

Carson: I was born on the 24 Decr. 1809 in Madison
County, Kentucky. My parents moved to Missouri when I
was one year old. They settled in what is now Howard County.
For two or three years after our arrival, we had to remain
forted and it was necessary to have men stationed
at the extremities of the fields for the protection
of those that were laboring.
Harvey L. Carter, “Dear Old Kit

The words quoted above are all that Carson tells us about his family or his childhood—all that he either cared to talk about or thought people would be interested in. It is a classic American story as it stands, of course, with the hero’s birth in the “dark and bloody ground” of Kentucky, the Anglo-Americans’ first salient west of the Appalachians, and the move west to a new frontier, with the hardy pioneers “forted” in their little stockades against Indian attack, persevering in spite of the danger. Even allowing for Carson’s usual reticence, it shows what impressed him most in those early years when he became aware of the world outside the family circle.

There was a great deal more behind that brief paragraph, naturally— things that Carson considered self-evident or commonplace, things that he assumed no one would want to hear, or were no one’s business, things perhaps that he did not care to remember. He was not a self-conscious literary artist, trying to let people know how he came to be who he was, or inviting their sympathy. He does not tell us about the fear and insecurity a small boy might feel when he realized why his family and their neighbors were forted, and why men were stationed to protect the workers in the fields; obviously he never forgot the impression these things made on him, either.

The Carson family had settled in the Boonslick (or Boone’s Lick) area in what is now central Missouri. Except for trading establishments on

-24-

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Kit Carson and the Indians
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xix
  • 1- Will the Real Kit Carson Please Stand Up? 1
  • 2- Backcountry 24
  • 3- Mountain Man 37
  • 4- Guideandscout 85
  • 5- Indian Agent 148
  • 6- Soldier 228
  • 7- Peacemaker 343
  • 8- Conclusion 418
  • Notes 461
  • Index 509
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