Thursday, March 12, 2009

Could You Speak To These Men?

Idaho, 1872.

If you fancy yourself a history buff, perhaps you'd give it a go, but people used to be more matter-of-fact about such things. Maybe you'd start talking about the guns and the hunting, but they'd probably wonder why you'd bring up something so mundane. Might as well talk to a mermaid about water.

You're educated if you're reading this, but what do you know, really? These men learned the 3 Rs painstakingly for a short time, and then had to get on with life. But if they had a mind to read things, they generally were very serious things, things that make today's best seller list look like comic books. Oops. I mean "graphic novels."

Maybe you'd sit by the fire and they'd ask you about Dante Alighieri, or Emerson, or Pope, or Swift. Sir Walter Scott was lightweight reading then. If you got to quoting Shakespeare, are you sure you could keep up? Never mind the Bible. You've got no shot there. And telling a joke? They were accustomed to hearing a story, a real fleshed out anecedote, told in a humorous and compelling way. They listened to Artemus Ward. I wouldn't try any King of Queens on them if I were you.

Mark Twain could talk to those sorts of men, and did. He was pretty smart. Could you?


Ruth Anne Adams said...

Probably not. But I am smart enough to read men like you.

Anwyn said...

Sir Walter Scott *is* lightweight reading. Ivanhoe is a silly book.

Eric said...

Heh. Twain thought so. Ever read "Rebbecca and Rowena"?

Hmmm....Idaho, 1872?

Ask them about the Indians. That would be interesting. Or the anti-Chinese league. Or free silver. Or the Mormons.

Looking a bit closer at those weapons, I think you might find them willing to discuss them a bit. Any man what uses shooting irons has an opinion of them. I'm pretty sure that's a Spenser on the right, you might be able to discuss Donelson, Shiloh, Vicksburg, Chicamauga, Nashville, Lookout Mountain, Franklin or someplace else in the Trans-Mississippi. Or who knows, maybe Manassas, Gettysburg, the Wilderness or Petersburg. Or maybe not. They may not want to talk about it.

Dante? I confess I don't see that. Or Pope. Or Emerson.

But the guns? There's a reason they hang 'em on the wall for all to see.

Time and place; you can't get away from it.

Thud said...

I ver ymuch doubt it but I would be willing to give it a go...mind you I am a fan of KOQ.I could build the house/cabin they are in though.

Golden West said...

I'd love to try. I'd ask them where they grew up and what brought twists and turns brought them to Idaho in 1872.

Golden West said...

I would also only use the word "brought" once in a sentence!

Tom said...

You could ask them if they wouldn't rather live now -- when more than 2/3 of kids survive early childhood; not having enough money saved means you literally work until you're dead, or sponging off your kids; you can find out easily and virtually costlessly what is happening to the family and friends you left to go to Idaho (since there weren't any opportunities elsewhere), etc.

And could *they* talk to you?

Mumblix Grumph said...

Sure...just ask "How's the fishing, boys?"

SippicanCottage said...

"...not having enough money saved means you literally work until you're dead, or sponging off your kids..."

I would imagine you might as well speak Klingon to them, as say that.

Boy on a bike said...

I listened to a wonderful podcast last year, which is no longer available, where an Australian historian was talking about what Old Government House here in Sydney looked nothing like what it would have back in the day.

The most obvious flaw, according to him, was the lack of firearms hanging over each fireplace. He went on to list, from the records, just how many the governor of the day had. There were a lot of fireplaces (one in every room) and a lot of firearms. Politically correct history has ensured that they have been removed from the gaze of the public.