America’s Long Journey: Cowboys and Indians and nesters

Nineteenth century (1900 back to 1800)

Cowboys and Indians and nesters

In the mid-20th century, movies and television ran Westerns as staples, several series appearing week after week, for years. Kids routinely got toy six-shooters and just as routinely played Cowboys and Indians. The Wild West, at least the Wild West as re-imagined by Hollywood, had a firm grip on the people’s imagination. Perhaps it represented an ideal of freedom from urban crowding and suburban conformity, freedom from bureaucracy and office routine and dull postwar reality after the exciting World War II years. Nobody would be idealizing the Depression years, nor the Roaring Twenties that had roared so conspicuously over the cliff. Not much enthusiasm for a war to end wars that had paved the way for a bigger and more desperate crusade 20 year later, and that brought us back to Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders, a moment in time. But there was a time after the Civil War and before the frontier disappeared into a seamless web of (dull) civilization. This was the 1870s and 1880s, which looked increasingly romantic.

The reality wasn’t quite as romantic as Hollywood would later paint it. If you look at The Old West in terms of economic and social forces, it retains a certain appeal, but it is a long way from Hopalong Cassidy.

First, the Indians. Plains Indians, unlike their Eastern counterparts, were nomadic, their homes light, quickly assembled and quickly taken down. Within the broad confines of their own more or less defined tribal areas, they moved along with the seasons, and with the buffalo, and according to whatever else moved them. Their way of life seemed to stem from time immemorial, but in fact was transitional. It depended upon two things they got from Europeans, and then from Americans: horses, and firearms.

The horse came to the plains Indians only beginning in the 1500s, when the Spanish, who brought horses to the new world, began losing them to raids and runaways. But the Indians adapted to the new animals so well, and reshaped their lives so thoroughly around their new mobility, that they became what been described as the finest light cavalry the world has ever known. By the time white settlers came pouring across the plains in the wake of the Civil War, and earlier, during the 1840s when white settlers in trains of horse-drawn wagons crossed the plains on their way to Oregon and California, and even earlier than that, when the mountain men began to trap beaver in the Rocky Mountains, and even earlier than that, when Lewis and Clark came by at the beginning of the century to get a sense of what the newly acquired Louisiana territory included, Indians had had horses so long that it seemed as if they had always had them. Still, the horse was a European import.

So were firearms, and this cultural acquisition did not work out as well as the horse had. Indians were nomads; hunters. Their way of life made no provision for a manufacturing industry, and yet, in acquiring firearms, they had become dependent upon a product of industry. Firearms without fresh cartridges were useless, and the Indians had no way to manufacture cartridges, and no interest in changing to be able to do so. Firearms also broke, or wore out, or were lost or stolen, and needed to be replaced. The only ways Indians had were purchase or theft. Widespread theft wasn’t practical, and purchase amounted to being fleeced, as purchasers dependent upon particular traders are always fleeced. (The price of a new rifle was sometimes set at the height of a rifle in beaver skins packed flat.)

The logic of trade resulted in Indians hunting more and more in order to obtain cartridges that allowed them to hunt more and more. Although modern romantics like to think of Indians as natural ecologists who lived in harmony with nature, etc., etc., when economic push came to economic shove, they joined the French Canadian and American trappers in trapping and shooting the beaver, for instance, to the point of extinction. In the case of the Indian, as in the case of the white trapper, it was a matter of inexorable economic logic. The real and tangible needs of the few outweighed the abstract and invisible needs of the whole. They always do, unless there is a countervailing pressure from somewhere, and that implies a larger view and an exponent of the larger view. Among the whites, Thoreau was one, as we shall see. So was John Muir. So were a few others. Surely some Indians must have understood what was happening as well, but an oral society leaves us no written records to consult.

In any case, there was a more fundamental conflict. The Indians were nomadic hunters and the whites were farmers and ranchers, settlers, who could only see undivided land as pre-civilization. (Indeed, that hasn’t changed. European patterns of land ownership have made us nearly unable to think in terms of land that is not owned. If nobody has title, it is presumed to be owned by the government. What’s more, America simplified European forms of land ownership, omitting whole classes of provisional or conditional ownership and replacing all with ownership in fee simple. Only later would we begin to rediscover the advantages of restrictions on ownership, in such things as land trusts, easements, etc.)

Where was the basis for compromise between a way of life that depended upon the free movement of millions of buffalo across hundreds of miles, and one that depended upon land surveys, property lines, and fences? There was no way to square that circle. Either the Indians would remain upon the land, living their pre-industrial existence (yet ever more dependent upon the weapons, tools and conveniences their new industrial neighbors could provide, for a price), or they – and the thundering herds of buffalo upon which they depended – would have to go. It didn’t help that many whites looked upon the Indians as savages – in fact, “savage” was the accepted word for them, before the less prejudicial word “natives” came into use – but even if they had been accepted as equals, how could settlers and nomads coexist?

But before the farmers and the towns came the cowboys. In 1866, trading post owner Jesse Chisholm and Black Beaver, a Lenape Indian, collected some of the stray cattle that filled the Texas plains and drove them to railheads in Kansas to be shipped East, where cattle went for $40 a head, as opposed to $4 a head in Texas. Texas cattlemen eventually drove an estimated five million head of Texas cattle along the Chisholm Trail to Kansas and thence East to market.

Huge cattle ranches gradually grew up throughout the plains states, wherever water was available and Indian resistance was not too strong. (In some areas, sheep were raised rather than cattle, but there was a bitter hostility between cattle ranchers and sheep herders, as sheep ruined the land for cattle grazing and horsemen consider sheep herders, who worked mostly afoot, as lesser beings than those like themselves who lived in the saddle.) These ranches were unfenced, and relied upon cowboys to keep watch over the herds day and night, and at the proper time drive them to the nearest railhead to get to market. Cowboys and Indians thus resembled each other in many respects, but the differences were profound enough to keep them on opposite sides. Cowboys lived in bunkhouses when not night-herding or cattle-driving; they read newspapers and magazines when available; if they saw cities seldom, they still considered themselves, proudly, part of the new nation still being constructed. And of course they were proud of being white, except (as was not all that uncommon) when they were black. They clung to a superiority stemming from their being part of “civilized” rather than a “savage” society.

And with time came new forces, that sent the open range the way of the untrammeled herds of buffalo. The railroads brought towns, and towns were surrounded not by ranches but by farms, and farmers – sometimes contemptuously called “nesters” – were looked upon by the cowboys with as little favor as Indians or sheep-herders. Didn’t matter. Farmers were the future and cowboys, the past. It would take a while, a couple of generations, but by 1890 the census bureau announced that the frontier – a line of demarcation separating the settled from the unsettled part of the country – had disappeared. Cowboys (and cavalry) had overcome the Indians, but civilization had overcome the cowboys in turn.

America’s Long Journey: Theodore Roosevelt

[Working backward from the year 2000 toward America’s beginnings.]

Henry Ford and automobiles: The $5 day, mass production, “Any color you want, as long as it is black.” Automobiles were important, they had a vast influence on everything from warfare to farming, but I don’t even want to read about them, let alone write about them. So we’ll take a look at the presidency and influence of Theodore Roosevelt, and consider that we’ve given the 20th century its due, and proceed to the 19th.

Theodore Roosevelt

One of the most fascinating and exasperating of subjects. Naturalist, explorer, hunter, rancher, conservationist, historian, author, war hero. The man who said “speak softly and carry a big stick.” The high-handed 26th President of the United States who got the Panama Canal built. And sent the Great White Fleet on a world tour on inadequate appropriations, leaving Congress the choice of appropriating the rest or leaving the fleet at the other side of the world. And negotiated the treaty that ended the Russo-Japanese War. and won the Nobel Peace Prize. And walked away from re-nomination in 1908, handing the presidency to his friend William Howard Taft, who didn’t particularly want it. And went off to Africa to hunt animals. And came home and decided he wanted a third term after all — and split the Republican Party in 1912 when it re-nominated Taft, thus allowing Woodrow Wilson to be elected.

A mass of contradictions. Europeans saw him that way, too, and saw America in him.

Two-thirds of Roosevelt’s life was lived in the 19th century, for, even though he was only 41 when the century turned, he would die in January, 1919. His life story is easily found  in one of the hundreds of biographies that have been written. (Probably the best is a two-volume set by historian Edmund Morris, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt and Theodore Rex.) We cannot tell that very entertaining and amazing tale here, but have to start in 1900.

Roosevelt was Governor of the State of New York, having won the office in a fast campaign in 1898 on his return from his celebrated service in Cuba with the Rough Riders. As governor, he was such a thorn in the side of Republican boss Thomas Platt that Platt compelled incumbent president William McKinley to take him on as running mate,  McKinley’s first vice president having died in office, presumably of boredom, in 1899. The vice president had no constitutional duties but to preside over the Senate, which should keep Roosevelt safely sidelined.

McKinley’s campaign manager was unable to stop the nomination, but he was livid at the idea. “Don’t any of you realize that there’s only one life between that madman and the Presidency? Platt and Quay are no better than idiots! What harm can he do as Governor of New York compared to the damage he will do as President if McKinley should die?”

True enough. President McKinley was shot on September 6, 1901, and died a week later. Roosevelt never presided over a single session of the Senate, as in those days the new Senate didn’t convene until the December following the president’s inauguration. By the time it did convene, he was presiding over the whole nation. (And, on hearing of McKinley’s death, Platt blurted out, “Oh. God, now that damned cowboy is president of the United States.”)

The chief things for which Roosevelt is remembered were listed in that fast gallop above. He was in many ways a reformer who became known as a “trust buster,” a rich man who harangued against “malefactors of great wealth.” A colorful personality who knew how to harness the power of the press, he endeared himself to the public, using the White House – in his words — as “a bully pulpit.” (“Bully” in his usage meant wonderful, not overbearing.) He won the election of 1904 – essentially, though not technically his re-election — in the most one-sided landslide since the election of 1824 and undoubtedly could have been re-nominated and re-elected in 1908, but chose to support William Howard Taft instead.

But none of the specifics capture the magnetism of this man, this man who showed genius in so many ways:

One year out of Harvard, he published The Naval War of 1812, a classic work of scholarship that remains an essential text for professional historians, to this day.

Born sickly, he turned himself into a remarkable physical specimen of hardiness and endurance, a lifelong advocate and practitioner of “the strenuous life.”

Born into wealth and privilege, he went into politics, declaring that he intended to be part of the ruling class. Once in power, he repeatedly and forcibly reminded the privileged class that it had correspondingly large responsibilities.

At first bookish and shy, all his life he mingled freely with all classes, winning their affection and respect. When war over Cuba was clearly imminent, the troops he organized and led, popularly named the Rough Riders, included everything from college friends to cowboys.

He was impulsive, direct, ingenuous. He was often described as a great boy who never grew up. His appeal to boys and young men was beyond measuring. It was Roosevelt’s example – his ideals — his image – that shaped young Ernest Hemingway and sent him off to Europe in 1918 thinking that war was something glorious. He affected a whole generation – two generations – that way.

His story continues to inspire even today when everything he knew is gone and everything we know would have been unimaginable to him, and much of it repugnant. Even today, you can’t read memoirs such as Roosevelt: The Story of a Friendship, by novelist Owen Wister, without liking the man, even if with half your mind you are disapproving some of his ideas and ideals. Remarkable man.

* * *

Snapshot: America in 1900

* The population in 1900 was about 76 million, the 1950 total of 151 million, and a little more than three times the 23 million of 1850.

* The union had 45 states, as opposed to 50 in 2000 and 45 in 1900.

Backward ho, to the amazing 19th century, which was every bit as revolutionary as the 20th, transforming every aspect of life into something previously unimaginable. America ended that century on the verge of world leadership; a hundred years before, it was in a very different, and precarious, situation. It was an interesting ride.


Kristiina on currents

This came in the form of a comment, but I think it’s worth wider distribution.

So interesting, thank you all – the questions, Frank&Rita!

I’ve been thinking, even sometimes saying, that I feel like I am a precision tool for something that does not exist. So seeing precision tool mentioned in this context is useful perspective. About the arrow: the feathers of the arrow (tail) are the steering system, and there is the power/energy that is needed to propel the arrow. These come from the other side. So just paying attention to the me doing the aiming, the arrowhead and goal does not work, not in archery. Maybe also in life. It is just that the me doing (aiming) provides something for the surface attention to attach to. Anyone who has shot an arrow knows how everything, absolutely everything affects where the arrow ends up flying.

As these qestions are so fruitful, I have tried to come up with something I’d want to ask. What I have been chewing lately is what would be the best possible attitude for the surface attention/personality so that the deeper layers can have the most use of this life? The thing is, as soon as I manage to formulate the right kind of question, I start to get something like answer. For this it came to me that I was riding yesterday a horse that I was unfamiliar with. There are certain things I like to do to check what kind of horse I am with: stopping, moving, lots of circles. And I realized what I do is attempting to give the horse an experience of not knowing exactly what is coming. In a safe way in the arena, but still, something he cannot anticipate, because that way he will show what he is really like – also if he listens to me at all. And I got that this would be a good attitude for the surface attention. Take all in as an adventure, avoid things that let the hardening of routine take over. This will let the deeper layers come forth better. For good or for worse. This relates a bit to the arrow, too. The arrowhead just has to trust the propelling power and the steering feathers, and it will be getting the impact of whatever comes. Regardless of what the arrowhead wants. And the me that aims? If the me-department gets into a mood of gaah! the arrow went completely wrong – this just adds confusion.

I would really like to get more understanding concerning the deep, fairly incomprehensible currents flowing their course in the deeper layers. Or not just understanding – experience, that I can have something to build understainding on.

Ha, this keeps expanding: the intellect filling up sentences out of its own automatism is an occasion of routine taking over. Listening, being open is help. Falling into any automatism is not help. Artists who need lots of practice to master a technique, need to reconnet the newness again somehow. Being able to know when routine/automatism takes over and when you are acting from innocence is useful. Could a violinist practicing scales be all the way through in newness, innocence? He is looking to establish structures in brain that will provide automatic access to musical scales on violin. Brain is plastic.

Life will ride us through a lot of stop-go and circles to find out what there is in the concoction of this A(somenumber). And maybe, at some point, there may be a possibility to do something more complicated – grand in the social sphere. Or something grand in the deeper layers that never will register in any ape-tribe pecking order at all. Maybe, someone, somewhere, can say: this is an invisible step for mankind, but a giant step for the all-that is. I’d like to be that someone.

Guest post: A new trick in healing?

by Beth Hines

I have learned something new in my energy healing work.

My back has been injured and re-injured over the last few years, mostly because I think I’m invincible in the garden.  I don’t listen to those messages that tell me when I’m tired.  I push on because I have just one more little thing to do, and that’s when the over-do-it happens.

Doesn’t it come on slowly?  You think you have avoided the problem until just a little later in the day.  By that time, all the ice in the fridge won’t help.  I had gotten to the point where I could not sit down because the pain was so great.  I tried traditional chiropractic, and then network chiropractic.  While each one offered some assistance, the pain didn’t stop.  I broke down and went to the doctor, not because I wanted drugs or surgery, but I did want a diagnosis.

Severe bulge at L4-5 and a moderate bulge at L1-2.

OK so that explains it.

The surgeon said we can do surgery or ‘conservative measures,’ to which I agreed.  He got me to the pain management doctor the same day, where I received an epidural steroid injection.  It did nothing.  About a month later, I went in for the second shot, and that seemed to hit the right spot.

I was feeling so good that three weeks later I went ahead and attended the X27 program at TMI.  Unfortunately, the shot wore off on the second day of the program and I was back in excruciating pain.  I was sure I had to drop out and take the course at another time.  The session that afternoon was to go to the reception center and find somebody going to the medical center.  I found a guide bringing a man who had been burned.  I followed them to the medical center where the Helpers put the burned guy on a bed in a setting that looked like any emergency room.  They flecked off all the burned clothes and skin, and all that was left of him was his shape, which looked like grey gelatin.  He was very still.  They took a cream and rubbed it all over his body.  I thought the show was over, but the Helpers told me to wait.  The cream started to dry and crack.  White light was streaming through the cracks.  The Helpers flecked all that dried cream stuff off and the man stood up.  Actually, he was the shape of a man, but just glowing light.  The Helpers put a robe over him and he left with his guide.

The Helpers said to me, “What do you think about that?”  I said, “Can you fix my back?”  They said sure, hop up on the table.

Really – no cleaning or anything!

I was in my CHEC unit on my back, but in the medical center, I was on my belly.  I heard one of the Helpers say, “Let’s send some love to it.”  Right after that, I felt the bones move in my back, and the pain melted away.  It was miraculous!  I very cautiously got out of my CHEC unit and lo and behold, the healing was real.  I was ever so gentle with my back for the remainder of the program.  There is still some ache and I still try to not sit without a lumbar support.  I have to move around often.

But really – send love to it?  All this time I’ve thought of sending healing energy, wrapping my clients up in white light, etc, but never exactly calling it love.  So OK – this is a minor change, but I’ll do it.

Yet there are times when I over-do it, because that’s what Type A people do.  A few weeks ago after playing in the garden, I felt that sensation in my back that tells me when I’ve done something it didn’t like.  I took a moment and did my usual healing on myself, but when I got to the part where I send love to my physical body, for some reason I added “and all my bodies everywhere.”  And that’s when I noticed that my back just kind of relaxed and the sensation went away.  My back never relaxes.  Usually it takes some time for it to calm down, but this time was different.  The healing was immediate.  This happened again a few days ago after a long sit at the computer.  When I stood up, I couldn’t straighten all the way up.  So I took a moment to send loving healing for my back and all my selves everywhere, and my back relaxed and I could get vertical again.  There was no residual pain or tightness.

Since then, I have changed my healing routine to include all the selves for me and for everybody else for whom I do remote healing.

I don’t know how or why this new routine works, but for me personally, it’s the difference between hours of pain and feeling better fast.

Here are some questions to ponder:

  • Can addressing the oversoul (control center/higher self) be a more effective way of healing?
  • Do all of our simultaneous lives receive the benefit of healing sent to the oversoul automatically?
  • If healing is sent to this (present time) physical body, does it help the oversoul in any way?
  • If healing is sent to a so-called prior life, does it (a) just help that specific life, or (b) does it also help the lives in its future – like a domino effect, or (c) is it like ripples in a pond and affect all lives? Is that different from addressing the oversoul directly?

What do you think?  Have you had similar experiences?  Is this a good research topic for TMI?

I’ll be interested to hear your responses.



On love and fear

My February 2017 column for The Echo.

On love and fear

By Frank DeMarco

February – the month of Valentine’s Day. Eros and agape and chocolate hearts and flowers and “be my valentine” and all that. All about love.


Pontius Pilate was wasting his time, asking “what is truth?” He would have gotten much better ratings, even retrospectively, if he had asked “what is love?” (And Jesus wasn’t answering about truth, chances are he wouldn’t have answered this one either.) Pretty nearly everybody in the audience would have been interested in the question, and we are now, and our distant descendants will be just as interested whenever life poses the question to them.

But what is love? A Course in Miracles, among others, says that love and fear form the ultimate polarity. (They could equally well be expressed as hope and despair, or openness and barriers.) You might say, love is the overcoming of separateness; fear is the reinforcing of separateness.

Love, in this context, is not warm fuzzy feelings, or sentiment, or romance. It is the binding energy, rather like gravity, that not only “makes the world go ‘round,” but makes the world. It is the interpenetration of being, the fundamental oneness of everything. It is to life what flesh is to bodies. No love, no life.

Love and fear are not so much transient emotions as opposing but interconnected tendencies. As one expands, the other contracts. As you move more toward love, you automatically move away from fear, and vice-versa. When the other expands, the first contracts. They’re always both in play. We live between these extremes, and we choose, day by day, moment by moment, which pole we move toward. Think of our life as a spiral: we spiral out toward expansion (love) and we spiral in toward contraction (fear).

Where we habitually position ourselves on the spiral defines the life we lead. What we experience through our senses persuades us that we are all separate, and from that perception of separation comes the perception of lack of control, which creates fear. Eliminate the perception of separation and fear goes out the window. This is what love does.

You might envision it this way.

Draw a coil and imagine the coil suspended in space between a positive and negative charge. Each opposing charge pulls on the spiral. It should be clear that any point on the spiral is either exactly equidistant between the two forces, or closer to one or to the other. So there can be only three states relative to the forces: plus, zero, or minus.

(In this case, plus and minus have nothing to do with good and evil. This is just a mechanical analogy.)

If you are traveling on a spiral (and, in effect, we are) the oscillation between polarities is regular, predictable, and useful. It subjects us to ever-varying influences within which to exercise our free will to determine who we wish to become. Some times favor some purposes and are unfavorable for others. Of course it isn’t nearly this simple. Our lives don’t revolve around one spiral. Instead we have spirals within spirals, some contradicting others, some in harmonic resonance with others, some not interacting with others in any system that is obvious to you. Thus we might say that every moment of our life is uniquely favorable for something; and more or less favorable for other things, and indifferent for still other things. The only thing constant is change itself.

Children in their natural state freely express love. (“Unless you become as little children,” Jesus said, “you can’t enter the kingdom.”) As we age, we can become relatively dead to love, as we can be relatively dead to life itself, and for the same reason. Fortunately, once we know what’s wrong, we can work to set it right. No matter where you are right now on the ability-to-love scale, you can teach yourself to love more deeply, more easily.

Here’s a simple daily exercise to help you to practice love, extend your consciousness and your openness, and grow. It’s not complicated or difficult. It just requires doing.

Find some object to love. It can be a pet or a flower or an abstraction or a car, though it would be better if it were a person. Do it! If you have difficulty doing it, go back in your mind to some time when you loved or felt loved. Experience that feeling again; call it up, and express it toward whatever recipient you have chosen.

As you practice this, day by day, raise the bar by successively practicing loving something that’s less lovable. Anyone can love a dog, because the dog thinks you’re wonderful. It takes a little more to love a cat, because the cat thinks it’s wonderful. It takes more to love a woodchuck, because a woodchuck doesn’t care one way or the other. It takes more to love a rattlesnake, because it’s harder to relate to – especially if you’re afraid of it. So you could easily raise the bar a little bit every day, just by aiming to love something that is continually a little bit less loveable.

If we are to live in health, if we are to help others heal, we must live in love as best we can from day to day. It isn’t just hearts and flowers. It’s life.


Hemingway and Pound, a momentous friendship

The Circuitous Path of Papa and Ezra

What would you give…

to be able to read a never-before-published novel by Ernest Hemingway?