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...for the blackpowder enthusiast

History, an Addiction

by James R. Kyle

"It might have been different, and I don't think that I would be happy."

"Biscuit Jim" Kyle

It starts a little at a time. You read a book that someone loaned you, then you buy one, then two, and soon your wife buys you a book, mainly because she can't figure out what to get you. Then you start spending time in museums, and libraries, even archives. Soon it all starts getting into your dreams; the places you read about, the pictures that you've seen hanging in the museums, and that's not the end of it, no way! You buy your first real article of the times that you hold dear, the fur trade; it might be a kettle, or a tobacco tin, or a real flintlock rifle, that could have been used ....... Well, by now it is too late. You are 'hooked' on history; and it had nothing to do with the grades that you earned in high school, or college. The reason is that you are not doing it for a grade in a subject that you 'must' pass, or because you 'have to'. This is different, you are doing it because YOU WANT TO.

Most of the people that are interested in the fur trade period of American history, 1800 to 1845, read things that pertain to a certain 'time frame' within those years. I, for instance, read of the years that are between 1820 to 1836, what I call the 'golden age of the fur trade'. However, other things pop up in the researching of the files in the Missouri Historical Society's Archives and Collections Center in St. Louis. Here is assembled one of the most extensive collections of the 'Western Empire'; literary thousands of papers and documents, books, journals, and personal letters, of the expansion of the western part of the United States. It is fortunate that such a wonderful collection if available to the public. People from all over come here to scan the files in search for the truth in their particular interest of history; I go there at least once every two months. Sometimes I take, Deborah, my wife, then we go out to lunch together. It was on one of those trips that she found a volume on a river pilot and captain, the famous Joseph La Barge, her great, great grandfather. He was a 'steamboat man', also an owner of a packet line; but that is another story for another time.

History of the world and the people that have populated it is an involved subject to study. Most of which I do find a bore, but then when it comes to American history, well that is something very different. American history is who we are, and why we are; it is US. Then if you narrow the subject down a little further, forming history into groups of dates, or eras, one may specialize in different fields. !800 to 1820 is when we were 'stretching our legs', exploring a vast land that now was bounded on two oceans. The Louisiana Purchase more than 800,500 square miles of land, rivers mountains, lakes, and populated by American Natives that little was known. Rarely seen by whites, outside of a very few French trappers, and voyagers. A land of mystery, of Indians that rode the plains wild and free. It boggles the mind, that of all that was out there, now very few of it remains, we can only guess and wonder. Then there is the reading of personal journals, of John Bradbury, and Henry M. Breakenridge, of Lewis and Clark from the "Voyage of Discovery". Here one may get a first hand view, as it were, of the land that is no more.

The 'addiction' to American history can strike anyone, any age, sex, and regardless of national residence, or religious preference. The mere mention of some historical notation will set off an entire conversation that will, if not quilled, could last for hours, perhaps days. I know this personally; and I do not know that I am doing it, till I get a certain 'look' from Deborah, then I know that I have perhaps went too far. I do not do it to show everyone how 'smart' I am in history, for there is many out there who know much more than just get 'rapped up' in the subject. The more that I read, the more that I find that I need to know. This is the 'core' of the addiction, the more you get, the more you NEED want.

There is another word that comes to mind, "OBSESSION" I know that I am obsessed with the time of 1800 to 1840. I also know that it is sometimes a problem, but I really can't stop. Like others 'obsessed' with the "Craft of Buckskinning", I would be happier in the time that I have been cheated from. Really! Ask any 'hard liner' if he, given the chance, would not take the chance to travel back into time, knowing full well that when he got there, he would not be able to return; he would do it in a heart beat. At least eighty percent would without batting an eye. Are we not happier when we are doing the things we like? This Buckskinning 'thing' to most of the 'other ones' is a mild curiosity, but to us it is an alternate lifestyle.

The addiction of American history that I have is shared by not mere thousands, but rather tens of thousands; or as Carl Sagan would say "billions and billions", through the centuries. If it weren't for those 'historical pack rats' saving that worthless papers of the past, it might be different. I might have been different, and I don't think that I would be happy. There is a line form a Ricky Nelson song, "You can't please everyone, so you just gotta please yourself", or to that effect.

That's the way that my stick floats.

"Biscuit Jim" Kyle