07 March 2013

Let's go West!



Inspirado en unos cursos a distancia que imparte la Universidad de Yale en su programa abierto (OCW) se me ha despertado un gran interés por una etapa histórica a la que no había prestado mucha atención anteriormente (bueno, por lo menos de una manera estructurada): el siglo XIX en los Estados Unidos.

Dicho así suena muy académico, pero…esta es la época de la conquista del Oeste, las caravanas, los grandes ranchos, Chisum, el Oregon Trail, las estampidas, las violentas ciudades en las rutas del ganado, los sheriffs, los pistoleros, Jesse James, Billy el Niño, las diligencias, el ferrocarril, la fiebre del oro, la guerra de secesión, Gettysburg, Shiloh, las guerras indias, Custer, Caballo Loco, Toro Sentado,…en fin cientos de nombres y lugares reales, que por cierto, ocuparon un puesto muy importante en la fantasía juvenil de mi generación (la de los nacidos en 1960!). 

Los niños y jóvenes de hoy en día juegan en fabulosos mundos  virtuales y en galaxias lejanas, pero casi todos nosotros tuvimos el fuerte de madera y las figuritas de plástico, indios de torso descubierto y plumas en la cabeza, soldados de azul a caballo (los confederados grises no peleaban contra los indios, además perdieron y ya se sabe lo que pasa), en el patio de recreo jugábamos a indios y vaqueros, nos vimos todas las películas del Oeste y muchos devoramos las novelas de Marcial Lafuente Estefanía y Zane Grey.

Si esta época era fantástica como entorno de nuestros juegos, he de decir que es absolutamente apasionante  si se estudia con rigor histórico. Todos aquellos míticos lugares encuentran su sitio en el fabuloso escenario geográfico que se extiende al oeste del rio Mississippi, y todos los personajes nos muestran sus caras reales, el heroísmo de muchos desconocidos y la extremada vileza de algunos muy famosos, las autenticas razones detrás de tantos episodios, entre ellos la sangrienta Guerra Civil en la que las bajas americanas en ambos bandos duplicaron a las de la Segunda Guerra Mundial con una población total muchísimo menor. 

El tiempo ya trascurrido permite que la versión de los vencedores no ahogue a la de los vencidos, sean los colonos sobre los indios, los Yanquis sobre los Confederados, o la Unión sobre los Estados, y podamos analizar con mayor rigor las causas que impulsaron los apasionantes sucesos de este siglo.

Y como después de la efusión histórica y estratégica siempre termino por caer hacia el lado artístico de las cosas, cuelgo aquí algunas pinturas que retratan esta época. He querido para empezar evitar los autores más famosos como Remington o Russell, a los que algún día les dedicare un post monográfico.


Plunder from Sonora - Howard Terpning



Crow Country - Howard Terpning



Shield of Her Husband - Howard Terpning


Cooling Off The Hard Way - Howard Terpning


Crossing Below The Falls - Howard Terpning


Far in the West there lies a desert land, where the mountains
Lift, through perpetual snows, their lofty and luminous summits.
Down from their jagged, deep ravines, where the gorge, like a gateway,
Opens a passage rude to the wheels of the emigrant's wagon,
Westward the Oregon flows and the Walleway and Owyhee.
Eastward, with devious course, among the Wind-river Mountains,
Through the Sweet-water Valley precipitate leaps the Nebraska;
And to the south, from Fontaine-qui-bout and the Spanish sierras,
Fretted with sands and rocks, and swept by the wind of the desert.
Numberless torrents, with ceaseless sound, descend to the ocean.
Like the great chords of a harp, in loud and solemn vibrations...


(Contd.)



Encampment Surrounded By Mountains - Thomas Hill


Mount Shasta from Castle Lake - Thomas Hill


Squaw Valley near Now-ow-wa-aka (Old Grizzly's Den Invaded) - Thomas Hill


Sugar Loaf Peak El Dorado County - Thomas Hill


The Salmon Festival Columbia River - Thomas Hill


Yosemite Valley - Thomas Hill



 ...Spreading between these streams are the wondrous, beautiful prairies,
Billowy bays of grass ever rolling in shadow and sunshine.
Bright with luxuriant clusters of roses and purple amorplias.
Over them wander the buffalo herds, and the elk and the roebuck;
Over them wander the wolves, and herds of riderless horses;
Tires that blast and blight, and winds that are weary with travel;
Over them wander the scattered tribes of Ishmael's children,
Staining the desert with blood; and above their terrible war trails
Circles and sails aloft, on pinions majestic, the vulture,
Like the implacable soul of a chieftain slaughtered in battle,
By invisible stairs ascending and scaling the heavens.
Here and there rise smokes from the camps of these savage marauders;
Here and there rise groves from the margins of swiftrunning rivers;
And the grim, taciturn bear, the anchorite monk of the desert,
Climbs down their dark ravines to dig for roots by the brook-side,
While over all is the sky, the clear and crystalline heaven,
Like the protecting hand of God inverted above them.

The Far West - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow




Nez Perce Crossing Yellowstone - John Clymer


 
Rocky Trail - John Clymer


Crows Hunting Buffalo - John Clymer


"A jail is just like a nutshell with a worm in it, the worm will always get out." - John Dillinger several weeks before he bluffed his way out of the Lake County Jail in Crown Point, Indiana.

"There is no law, no restraint in this seething cauldron of vice and depravity.” – The New York Tribune describing Abilene, Kansas.

"They say I killed six or seven men for snoring. It ain't true. I only killed one man for snoring." - John Wesley Hardin.



Home Of The Navajo - Frank Tenney Johnson


Camp of the Pale Face - Frank Tenney Johnson


The Mesa - Frank Tenney Johnson


"I'm not afraid to die like a man fighting, but I would not like to be killed like a dog unarmed." - Billy the Kid in a letter to Governor Lew Wallace, March 1879.

"Of all the eerie, dreary experiences, to be lost at night on the prairie ... then to hear the chorus of coyotes, like hyenas, laughing at one’s predicament.” – An emigrant recalling her fear when she and her fellow travelers temporarily lost their bearings while crossing the Great Plains.

"We never did hang the wrong one but once or twice, and them fellers needed to be hung anyhow jes' on general principles." - A nameless judge in the Old West.



Bently's Trading Post - Robert McGinnis


Red River Valley - Robert McGinnis


Tracker - Robert McGinnis


"The more Indians we can kill... the less will have to be killed the next war, for the more I see of these Indians, the more convinced I am that they all have to be killed or be maintained as a species of paupers." - General William Tecumseh Sherman

"I like to dance, but not in the air." - Billy the Kid

"All my life I wanted to be a bank robber. Carry a gun and wear a mask. Now that it's happened I guess I'm just about the best bank robber they ever had. And I sure am happy." - John Dillinger



Gold Dust - Robert McGinnis



First Move - Robert McGinnis


Searchers - Robert McGinnis


"A pioneer is a man who turned all the grass upside down, strung bob-wire over the dust that was left, poisoned the water, cut down the trees, killed the Indian who owned the land and called it progress." - Charles M. Russell

"Gentlemen, I find the law very explicit on murdering your fellow man, but there's nothing here about killing a Chinaman. Case dismissed." - Judge Roy Bean

"If I owned Hell and Texas I'd rent out Texas and live in Hell." - General William Tecumseh Sherman

"Hang 'em first, try 'em later." - Judge Roy Bean





The Overseer - Mian Situ



The Forty Niners - Mian Situ



Beef, Beans and Biscuits - Mian Situ




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