I had reported, earlier, that I was reading a biography of Kit Carson – mentioned in a post where I described the somewhat bloody eating habits of mountain men. I finished the book, and can definitely give it a thumbs up, recommend-to-read. I am putting the author’s prior book, Ghost Soldiers, onto my reading list. I was so enthusiastic during the reading process that we were in danger of having it in every other post, including – but not limited to – more gory dinners. Fortunately, I was able to contain myself. However, because many of my readers, and myself, are from “the great state of” New Mexico, I present one more post all about how the “conquering” Anglo-American soldiers (beginning with the Mexican American War, in 1846, and continuing through the 1850s) felt about this new land. Encroaching anglos coming from the much moister half of the continent:
“In truth, no one liked Santa Fe very much. The soldiers filled their diaries with disparaging descriptions of the place. It was a greasy, smelly, drunken, superstitious little town […] the apples stunted, the windows did not have glass, the houses lacked furniture, and the doors had leather straps and wooden pegs for want of hinges. […] a demented beggar lady picked among the garbage and sucked on old melon rinds.” [From page 125 of the First Edition Hardback]
“Simpson was not unlike most of his countrymen in failing to appreciate such spare terrain. The desert was an […] uninviting world to most Anglos. […] they were still farmers, most of them; their idea of beautiful land was never far removed from valuable land, and valuable land was any that could be used. […They] were in the thrall of a landscape aesthetic that had been passed down from European Romanticists and filtered through New England artists, such as the […] Hudson River School. They were used to finding beauty in greens and blues, in mountain streams, plunging waterfalls, sailboats, and flowery meadows full of fat cows.
But here was a landscape […] forged in an unforgiving furnace: a cursed land. If the Great Plains was regarded as the “Great American Desert” […] then this stark land was Hades itself. […]
Even the sketches and lithographs done by the Kearn brothers show an awkward uncertainty […] the scales and proportions often seem slightly off, the perspectives cramped, the foliage unmistakably Eastern. […] “Buff” was no color for a country […] It was as though they lacked the retinal nerve that allowed them to see the land for what it was […] [From pages 230-231 First Edition Hardback]
The fact was, James Carleton was embarrassed by New Mexico – embarrassed by its poverty, its lack of luster, its low standing in the halls of Washington, where no one seemed to favor elevating the territory to the status of a full-fledged state. According to the prevailing sentiment on Capitol Hill, New Mexico, with its Indian troubles and general squalor, was nothing but a drain on the national budget. For years lawmakers had floated serious proposals to return the territory to Mexico: Why squander any more blood and treasure on such a hopeless cause. [From pages 329-330 First Edition Hardback]
Wow! To return it to Mexico. LOL.
NM I love you and miss you. oxoxoxox