Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Perilous West: Seven Amazing Explorers and the Founding of the Oregon Trail --by Larry E. Morris

Nonfiction / History

270 pages
5 Stars

The Mountain Men were my childhood heroes. While other girls dreamed of princes and castles and unicorns or horses, I dreamed of living in the forest, trapping beaver, evading unfriendly Indians (though I was sure I'd be welcome by all). While my friends took riding lessons, I roamed the woods. I dreamed of being John Colter, Hugh Glass, or Sacagawea (at that time, I had no idea Marie Dorion even existed).

Now that I've reached an age where wandering the woods, and living in childhood dreams, are not practical, I do my dreaming in history books. Because I grew up in Portland, Oregon, and spent a great deal of time in the Oregon Historical Society Museum, it is only natural that I have an affinity toward books about the opening of The Oregon Country.

The Perilous West: Seven Amazing Explorers and the Founding of the Oregon Trail by Larry E. Morris tells the stories of Ramsay Crooks, Robert McClellan, John Hoback, Jacob Reszner, Edward Robinson, Pierre Dorion, and Marie Dorion. Although the book focuses on these seven people, it is also about the journey of the Wilson Price Hunt expedition or as they were known, the Astorians as they traveled from St. Louis, Missouri to Astoria, Oregon.

The narrative does not stop with the arrival at Astoria, but continues on until the stories of the seven are told, with many other stories woven into the fabric of their lives to bring life and color to those seven. Those people were a hardy lot. And their stories are of courage beyond imagining.

While this book was, I am fairly certain, written for the academic, it is also easily accessible to the casual reader, or history buff. It offers an excellent opportunity to read about the opening of the West after the time of Lewis and Clark, the perils these people faced, and overcame. Usually overcame.

I would have liked to have maps scattered throughout the book. I am fairly conversant in the geography of the areas he wrote about, but maps would have been helpful. Just simple line drawings. And I would have loved to have found footnotes instead of endnotes. Put the bibliography in endnotes, but the interesting facts in footnotes.

I have not read any of his other books. Fortunately, that situation is easily corrected. I highly recommend this book for anyone with an interest in the Oregon Country. If his other books are as well researched as this one, and as well written, and I see no reason to think otherwise, they will be well worth my time and money.

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