Thursday, May 17, 2012

Book Review (#2 of 2012) Daniel Boone: The Life of an American Legend and Pioneer by John Mack Faragher

Daniel Boone: The Life of an American Legend and Pioneer by John Mack Faragher. I started this audio book when we were in the U.S. traveling up and down I-75 through Kentucky. It's fun to hear an historic place mentioned in a book and look up and see that the same place is at the next interstate exit.  This book taught me a lot about the history of Kentucky, and frontier life in general. As my own family's migration to Kentucky in the 1800s was somewhat tied to the trailblazing work of people like Boone and Col. Richard Henderson, I found the historical picture painted in this book to be pretty fascinating. A historian by the name of Tapp is quoted in one of the last chapters to boot. 

Boone is perhaps a legend only because he lived long enough to become one. But his life was so full of strange-but-true happenings it reads almost like a comic book. Taken captive by natives, later adopted as a blood brother, later killing those same blood brothers, and losing his fortune along with most other pioneer settlers along the way, just to mention a few chapters. He was a survivor who would lie, change sides, appear to change sides, and do whatever it took to survive the next day. But he certainly wasn't a coward.

One aspect of frontier life that was pretty fascinating was the foolhardy choices that were made out of pride in order not to appear cowardly. This got a lot of Kentuckians unnecessarily killed. Another was the fact that the land-grab was so quick and intense, that overlapping boundaries and disputes over surveys wound up in courts for over a century. A lot of people lost money this way. At the end of his life, Boone and other pioneers lamented that lawyers now carved up everything that had been theirs.

While there is some dispute, the historical facts seem fairly clear that when Boone left Kentucky for modern-day Missouri he never looked back. He hated the politics in Kentucky that had spurned him and probably would have never given permission for his bones to be re-interred in Kentucky, much less in Frankfort.

My only real Boone memory growing up was a family trip to Boonesborough where we watched a dramatized reenactment of a battle between Boone's company and a band of Shawnee led by Chief Blackfish. I was pretty scared of Blackfish when I was 5. What I don't remember learning then was that Blackfish was essentially Boone's adopted brother at one point in his captivity. Natives believed that by adopting a captive, their body would be inhabited by the soul of a deceased relative. Boone had apparently grown close to his Shawnee family in captivity, but how close remains in dispute as he led an escape and later had to kill some of them in battle.

I finished this book on my long subway rides in Ankara, which paints quite the contrast from frontier America. I give this book 4 stars out of 5. If you want to know everything there is to know about Daniel Boone, buy this book.

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