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قراءة كتاب Frontier Folk

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‏اللغة: English
Frontier Folk

Frontier Folk

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 1

Frontier Folk.



International Review for July, 1880.


Copyright, 1880,
By A. S. Barnes and Company.


What do we mean by the frontier? And what, by frontier folk? The terms came into vogue when tolerably well-defined lines marked the onset of civilization at the far West, and all beyond was wilderness. Yet to-day, with settlements scattered over all the Territories, the phrase loses none of its significance. It still has a geographical import, and another, deeper than the geographical, suggesting a peculiar civilization and a certain characteristic mode of life. It does not bring to mind those prosperous colonies whose lands, surveyed, secured by good legal titles, and freed from danger of savage inroads, have a permanent population busily engaged in founding homes. It takes us rather to the boundaries of the Indian reservations, along which scattered camps and settlements of white men are fringed; to lands which, though legally open for settlement, are constantly menaced by Indians; to those strange, shifting communities which sometimes, like Jonah's gourd, spring up in a night only to wither away in a day.

It is the purpose of this paper to present a sketch of the life and people of this frontier region as the writer has become familiar with them, depicting the types and manners of mankind, and leaving for more profound narrators the matters of statistical detail.

Social estimation and intercourse on the frontier are based upon a very short acquaintance. A large and catholic charity presumes every man to be that which he desires to appear. To pry into the secret history of his former life, to pass hostile criticisms on it even when known to be discreditable, is not considered a public-spirited act; for those turbulent energies or uncontrolled passions which drove him out of eastern communities may prove of great service to that new country to which he has come. The first element of success in a frontier settlement is that a sufficient number of nomads should be willing to sustain each other in the belief that "this spot is to be a city and a centre." The news that a considerable group is already gathered on any such foreordained and favored spot brings others; nor do the arrivals cease until a day comes when it is bruited abroad that some of the "first citizens" have revised their views of its glorious destiny, and have left it for a new Eden. The sojourner in such regions—he cannot be called an inhabitant—lives in expectation of the coming settler who will pay him cash for his "claim"; or else perhaps he devotes himself to discovering a lode or a placer, which, if disposed of, may put him in funds for a year's spree; or again he may be a trapper, perpetually shifting his place as the peltry grows scarce. These indicate the respectable callings or expectancies of the solid men in frontier life; but they are surrounded by a larger throng of men, who hang about settlements with the possible hope of an honest El Dorado, but who in the meantime, and until this shall come, take to the surreptitious borrowing of horses without leave, or to the industries of the faro-table, or to the "road agency," by which phrase is signified the unlawful collection of a highway toll amounting usually to whatever of value the traveller may have about him. There are no superfluous refinements and gradations in frontier society. The citizen is either "an elegant