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The history of Oakley 1 Reply

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History. Last reply by Sheilah Jastrzebski May 16.

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Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

Award-winning novelist captures fleeting youthby Rob NeufeldAnother Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson (Amistad: HarperCollins, Aug. 9, 2016)            The amazing, unusual thing about Jacqueline Woodson’s new novel, “Another Brooklyn,” I realize as it sinks in, is that the initial mystery—that is, why the narrator can’t…See More
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A rare interview, a story about an acid plant

A worker’s view of tannery work in Rosmanby Rob Neufeld             Haskell Luker was 11 when the Flood of 1916 caused his dad, Americus Alfred Luker, to leave the farm where he worked and take a job with an acid (tannin) plant in Pisgah Forest.             “Daddy was going down there to make big…See More
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Interview with Chitra Divakaruni about Before We Visit the Goddess

A talk with Chitra about her benediction of a novelby Rob Neufeld             Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, one of our country’s most engaging and inventive novelists, first came to this region six years ago for Western Carolina University’s Spring Literary Festival.  That’s when I got to know her and began…See More
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Gary Carden's Outlander--about Kephart--at UNCA July 31--with author

Is Carden's Kephart play controversial?Gary Carden's play, "Outlander," receives a "staged reading" in the Reuter Center, UNC Asheville, 2 p.m., Sun., July 31.  Carden will be on hand to discuss the play with the audience.  It is a controversial play in that it has been criticized by the descendants of Horace Kephart who felt that the play "demeaned" Kephart.  "Ironically," Carden says, "my original purpose in writing the play was to 'redeem' Kephart. who has often been denounced by the…See More
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Bring Back the Game

BRING BACK THE GAME     Anna and I basically spent a month in Asheville, NC this summer. We returned to Georgia a few days ago, and while we were glad to get home, as we got out of the car, we were met with the suffocating heat that I still have not become acclimated to even though we have lived in Middle Georgia for over 30 years. Every plant in our backyard had dried up and only the belligerent squirrels had survived the summer’s inferno.      We had a great time in Asheville. We visited our…See More
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Amy Ammons Garza to Present Her Memoir at City Lights Bookstore

August 6, 2016 from 3pm to 4:30pm
Amy Garza will be presenting her new memoir, Appalachian Storyteller in a Feed Sack Dress, at City Lights Bookstore onSaturday, August 6th at 3 p.m. Follow Amy as she tells the story of her life as she lived it, each chapter being a story in itself. These are the compelling stories of a mountain girl who found the courage she needed in her life to listen and retell the stories of her family and heritage.  Amy Garza was born and raised in Western North Carolina, which leads her into her many…See More
Jul 16

Stories and insights teem in Morgan’s new history

by Rob Neufeld

 

            Robert Morgan’s new book, “Lions of the West” is a compelling and insightful history that reads like the talk of a learned companion. 

It’s not the intimacy of his novels nor the music of his poetry—Henderson County farm products—that you get, but rather an assortment of styles to keep you going.

            In telling about the “heroes and villains of the westward expansion,” as his subtitle announces, Morgan roams far.   He follows ten westward men and details the key tensions and intentions in their lives.

 

Very different idealists

 

            In his chapter about John Chapman—aka “Johnny Appleseed”—Morgan first muses, “Wherever cultivated people went they took their orchards with them.”

            After conveying a little storehouse of knowledge about apple culture, Morgan then presents his protagonist, a kind of saint who can’t help but inspire poetic thinking.

            “He respected all livings things,” Morgan writes, “including mosquitoes and rattlesnakes, conversed with animals large and small, as well as with angels, created orchards for those who would follow him…”

            There is no such lyricism in the Thomas Jefferson passage in which Morgan outlines Jefferson’s frontier-winning business plan.  But then, after a few pages in the middle of that chapter, the narrative dives down to hold up Jefferson’s June 20, 1803 letter to Meriwether Lewis—a masterpiece.  Morgan adopts a different tone.

            “It has been said that the most important secret of good writing is rewriting,” he offers as he reveals that the Lewis letter had been at least the fifth draft of a vision Jefferson had articulated on other occasions. 

            “Another secret of good writing,” Morgan adds, “is the selection of the right subject.”  He’s referring to Jefferson’s lifelong passion for exploration and settlement, but he might also be talking about his own interest in Jefferson.

            I like it that Morgan identifies with his subjects, as I like Morgan’s interaction with school curricula—Put the Jefferson-Lewis letter in your textbook! 

 

Mind of a farmer

 

            In his chapter on Andrew Jackson, Morgan makes another personal identification.

            “It is probably impossible for us in the twenty-first century,” he begins, “to understand what land meant to poor white people in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.”

            For instance, to a released indentured servant, the west meant salvation, Morgan explains.  Then, he shifts into such a person’s mind.

            “There seemed to be no end to the wild lands—if only Indians could be cleared away—and no limits to hope,” Morgan imagines his character thinking.  “All you needed were an ax, a rifle, and a wife, and maybe a horse or ox.”

            We are reminded of Morgan’s fictional character, Tom Powell, a land-obsessed, poor farmer in “The Truest Pleasure.”

            Morgan’s non-fiction reflection continues along another enlightening path.

            “But even if you had no wife,” he continues, “one could be found among the Indians.  In fact, for settling down at the edge of the wilderness, an Indian wife might be the best of all.”  She would be a good worker; plus, “married to an Indian woman, you were halfway a member of the nation yourself.”

            From the mind of the homesteader, Morgan moves to a survey of Creek society and then to the drumbeats of war, as the Upper Creeks enlist in Tecumseh’s apocalyptic campaign against whites.  On Aug. 30, 1813, an Upper Creek force brutally massacred about 500 settlers, soldiers, and slaves at Fort Mims, north of Mobile.

            The ensuing Creek War was the moment of destiny for Andrew Jackson, commander of the Tennessee militia.  Thus, after 11 fascinating pages, Morgan backs up to March 13, 1767, the date of Jackson’s birth, and fills you in on his character.

 

Morgan’s American contribution

 

            Every one of Morgan’s profiles—Jefferson, Jackson, Chapman, David Crockett, Sam Houston, James K. Polk, Winfield Scott, Kit Carson. Nicholas Trist, and John Quincy Adams—share the distinction of emblematic Americans.

            A part of Morgan’s art in presenting these figures is creating human portraits within the pages that couch their historic actions.

            For James K. Polk, 11th president, Morgan juxtaposes a few sources to create a complex take.  Polk, a Scots-Irishman whose parents had followed the path of many Scots-Irish families in this region, but had stopped in the Charlotte area, apparently lacked a sense of humor. 

            Gideon Welles, a fellow politician, said that Polk “possessed a trait of sly cunning which he thought shrewdness, but which was really disingenuousness and duplicity.”

            Morgan notes that Polk had gone into his presidency with the promise that he’d serve just four years and accomplish four major things, all of which he did.  Acquiring California was one of them.

            Kit Carson was a scrawny kid in a large family that followed Daniel Boone on his traces.  As a child in Missouri, Carson got to know Fox and Sac Indians as individuals.  He had a thirst for languages as well as travel.

            His fierceness was legendary.

            “In the summer of 1835,” Morgan narrates, “when he was twenty-five years old, Carson attended the annual meeting of trappers and traders on the Green River in southwestern Wyoming.”  It was called The Rendezvous.

            One of the French Canadians in attendance hated that the belle of the Rendezvous, an Arapaho girl named Singing Grass, had chosen Carson over him, and sought Carson out.  Carson forced a duel on mounted horse with guns, survived a head graze, and shot off his opponent’s thumb.  He married the girl.

            In “Lions of the West,” Morgan entertains with adventures and details, both high-minded and handy.   His largest achievement is something of special note here. 

            In his fiction, poetry, and history, Morgan represents a Scots-Irish/British tradition, and fuses, for all of America, romantic and pragmatic traditions. 

 

AUTHOR EVENTS

Robert Morgan presents his new book of history, “Lions of the West,” and his new book of poems, “Terroire,” at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 3 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 29 (call 254-6734); and at Fountainhead Bookstore, 408 North Main St., Hendersonville, 6:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 29 (the event is ticketed; call 697-1870).

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