The Rampaging Frontier: Manners and Humors of Pioneer Days in the South and the Middle West

By Thomas D. Clark | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
BOOM POLES AND PADDLE WHEELS

FOR more than three-quarters of a century there was nothing in the western country which compared with its rivers. Acme of every "airthly" thing to the average man in the West was the "Ol' Massasip!" A certain eloquent native son pointed with pride, but with a perverted sense of geography, to "The Mississippi! The great big rollin', tumblin', bilin', endless and almost shoreless Mississippi! There's a river for you! I don't care what John Bull may say, or any other ruffle-shirted fellow, about their old castles with their bloody murder legends. I tell you the United States is a great country! There ain't nobody else but Uncle Sam as could afford such a river as that! Where in airth so much water comes from I can't think! Why, it might set in and just rain from January to July and it couldn't make a mud puddle half as big at one end. I'll tell you what I guess about it; you see the geography books tell you about the almighty great stream as runs up along the coast, and is lost near where they catch mackerel; wal it strikes me it just sinks down there in a hole and butts up agin on this side of the mountains, where it's pushed through sich a tight place as squeezes out all the salt."1 Perhaps all of the salt was squeezed out of the water, but in its turbulent "rollin', tumblin', and bilin' " the "Ol' Massasip" floated some queer characters upon its ample bosom.

Typical of river humanity of the West and its general outlook upon life was that western flatboatman who was caught "tearing up" Donaldsonville, Louisiana. This Kentucky screamer worked vigorously for one night in his effort to destroy peace and happiness in this down-river town. For his trouble he was reported by a humorless Frenchman, and the local court tacked

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The Rampaging Frontier: Manners and Humors of Pioneer Days in the South and the Middle West
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Preface xi
  • Chapter I - The Backwoods 17
  • Chapter II - Varmints 39
  • Chapter III - Green Un's 57
  • Chapter IV - Boom Poles and Paddle Wheels 79
  • Chapter V - Somebody in My Bed 102
  • Chapter VI - Servants of the People 120
  • Chapter VII - Where the Lion Roareth and the Wang Doodle Mourneth for His First-Born 142
  • Chapter VIII - Bench, Bar and Jury 163
  • Chapter IX - Gentlemen of Rank 183
  • Chapter X - Liars 205
  • Chapter XI - Qurater Hosses 224
  • Chapter XII - Keards 239
  • Chapter XIII - Fiddlin' 259
  • Chapter XIV - Foolin' with the Gals 281
  • Chapter XV - Yankees B'Gad 301
  • Notes 321
  • Bibliography. 341
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