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 X
LIARS

THE western frontier was as full of accomplished liars as the average tavern sugar bowl was of ants. Some miasmatic influence in the great West must have infected ordinary human beings and caused them to become prevaricators of the noblest order. Frontiersmen, and those who followed immediately in their footsteps, lied with coming appetites. Like Judge Joseph G. Baldwin's lovable Ovid Bolus, Esq., the Westerners' "lying came from a greatness of soul and their comprehensiveness of mind." They embraced all subjects without distinction or partiality. 1 Perhaps "the existence of lime in the water" in certain frontier regions was responsible for the expansiveness of western imagination -- an imagination which lacked nothing in width, depth and height. A good story always gains by the personal element, and especially if it is told in the first person. Pioneers knew the art of telling good stories, for like good cooks their art was not lacking in savor.

Noblest of all frontier yarns is that of the famous "long-horned elks" which grazed peacefully upon the great Kentucky prairies. An ancient Virginia gentleman came west of the mountains, and returned to his Old Dominion home to proclaim it "the greatest country in the known world." He declared "that game was more plentiful there than in any other country, and far superior in size to any other animals of the same species." The Major said that "he had seen elk, having horns upwards of twelve feet in length." Timber grew in superabundance, and "massive trees," said he, "were generally so large, and so close together, that it was with difficulty a man could pass between them." Of course this enthusiastic proponent of the great western country was queried, as thousands of good accountants have always been,

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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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