Christopher P. Stephens, Bookman

Chris Stephens has been a book dealer since 1965 - earlier if you count childhood buying and selling.

Stephens has sold major collections to university libraries all over the world. He has operated appealing bookstores in Mt. Carroll, Illinois, Hastings on Hudson, NY and several in NYC, NY. He is a wholesale dealer to other bookstores all over the world.

Chris loves books.

Stephens now maintains a lively internet operation out of his new home in Scranton, PA.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Davy Crockett's Wild Sports in the West - 1837

This almanac chronicles some of Davy's wildest adventures. Crockett grapples with mighty beasts and rushes, headlong, into peril.
The pamphlet was published in Nashville Tennessee, more than 150 years ago, by "the heirs of Col. Crockett". It is dramatically illustrated by an artist who relied on rumor and imagination a bit more heavily than on strict observation.
Giant elks romp in the West for hunters willing to risk elk-revenge. The pamphlet includes humble little contributions to the field of natural science: Elks "are fond of the great forests, where luxuriant vegetation affords them an abundant supply of buds and tender twigs; or of the great plains, where the solitude is seldom interrupted, and all bounteous nature spreads an
immense field of verdure for their support." But watch out! "When at bay, and especially if slightly wounded, he fights with great eagerness, as if resolved to be avenged."

Crockett describes childhood entanglements with the fearsome alligators that lived near his home, breathtaking dangers with wild boar, panthers, and bear. He can parry attacks by fierce animals with scarcely an uptick in heart beat, but the one beast he just can't stand comes from the damned north:
"Of all the cursed Adam varments in creation, keep me clear of a yankee pedler. They swarm the whole valley of the Mississippi, with their pewter watches and horn gun flints, peppermint drops and essences. Although the greatest chaps in creation for brag and sarce, they always play possum when there is danger; and skulk out the back door and over the fence in no time."
No skulker Davy Crockett. That's for sure. The almanac describes with admiration a noble
mastiff defending ladies from mountain cats, a brave farmer turned on by his bull gone berserk, a man from Ohio who, being pursued by a black snake, through cleverness and dexterity managed to get the snake to tie itself into a knot.

The almanac also includes important regional information for foreigners - about the American rifle for instance. "It admits the ball being sent home from the very muzzle by a mere wad; and is further peculiar in there being no kind of attention to balancing the length and weight of the barrel by the size and make of the stock. Practice alone will teach you to hold it with ease to yourself. There is a great deal more coquetry displayed in the use of the American rifle; and the nicety with which an object may be struck at 50 or 100 feet by a knowing hand is undoubtedly extraordinary."
There are also survival tips gleaned from far distant and remote bits of the globe, like India. Basic almanac information, like high tides and sunsets and various other astronomical calculations for the year 1837, is also included.

The illustrations and suspenseful narratives and useful tidbits are so intriguing that, despite its limited relevance to the 21st century, I am sorely tempted to reprint this pamphlet. In case I don't ever get around to it, I leave you with this account by Col. Crockett himself for your use in case you want to cross a dangerous river unmolested by various varmints.
"Of all the rivers on this airth, the Mississippi beats all holler. Many a tough time have I had in swimming across its turbid waters. I always rubbed myself thoroughly with skunk's grease before attempting to cross. By this means I kept the alligators and wild cats at a distance as they can't bear the smell of this crittur."

His tombstone reads: "Davy Crockett, Pioneer, Patriot, Soldier, Trapper, Explorer, State Legislator, Congressman, Martyred at The Alamo. 1786 - 1836" more from American west
a collection of facts about the Mississippi River

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