Reading the West in Old Books

Experiencing the early days of the West through a good book can make us feel like we have stepped into a past time. David Lavender’s 1958 work The Trail to Santa Fe lets us ride along with Zebulon Montgomery Pike as he enters the foreign town on March 3, 1807.

Pike expected a town like any other (American) frontier farming village. But what a surprise. Pike wrote in his journal that Santa Fe town looked like “a fleet of flat-bottomed boats.” Lavender writes, “Dogs slunk among heaps of refuse. Out in the plaza smoke rose lazily from cook fires where several families of Indians were camped. Everything looked raw and primitive.”

“On the north side of the central plaza, the commander of Spanish troops… led Pike into a long, low building. This, the guide said, was the Palace of the Governors…The roof consisted of layers of poles covered with sod, the floor of hard-packed earth. For rugs there were skins of bear, buffalo and mountain lion…Mingled oddly with these humble furnishings were candlesticks of solid silver and a few pieces of massive hand-carved furniture…When Pike was ushered into the Governor’s presence, he found the man’s dress and manners as rich and refined as the candlesticks.”

And there the adventure begins. The later publication of Pike’s journals “brought New Mexico vividly to the attention of his countrymen.”

Published in: on August 17, 2015 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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