Monday, October 08, 2012
Unknown Land Pirate and the Feathered Mimes
the library today, yes, that's right, a biography of Meriwether Lewis. In it I found another account of how Lewis's friend Alexander Wilson did a little investigation at the site of Lewis's death. "Once out of sight of the cabins," writes the author (Richard Dillon), "he broke down and wept for his dead friend." Wilson also wrote a poem about it: "The dark despair that round him blew,/ No eye, save that of Heaven, beheld,/ None but unfeeling strangers knew." And "Pale Pity consecrate the spot/ Where poor lost Lewis now lies low!" And so on. "On his ride, Wilson encountered a mockingbird which was singing its own sweet song, not the borrowed melodies of other birds which the feathered mimes adopted so easily. He wondered if perhaps the bird had sung for Lewis." That line, plus some hints that Wilson began to suspect foul play, made me check out another book - THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF ALEXANDER WILSON - because I wanted to see the source materials for myself. I found Wilson's account of the trip, and he does tell a mockingbird story, but it's nothing like the one Dillon reports. On the plus side there's this from the same letter: "I then sought out a place to encamp, kindled a large fire, stript the canes from my horse, eat a bit of supper, and lay down to sleep, listening to the owls... but for the gnats, would have slept tolerably well." So that makes THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF ALEXANDER WILSON a book with an owl in it, so I've got that going for me, you know how I feel about that, I feel like I'm not wasting my life, that's how I feel. Dillon writes near the end of the bio, "Was Meriwether Lewis murdered? Yes. Is there proof of his murder? No." And: "His assassin, I am convinced, was either an unknown land pirate of the ilk of the Harpe brothers of bloody Natchez notoriety, or the mysterious Runnion... because his moccasin tracks and the impression of the butt of his unusual rifle were found in the dirt near Lewis's cabin." But you know, I lost interest at some point because while I was googling around I saw that somebody wrote a "historical mystery novel" about the whole thing and ugh I don't know, I found that dispiriting for some reason, don't try to figure me out! YOU CAN'T! PS I was going to illustrate this "post" with a picture of the Harpe brothers of bloody Natchez notoriety but I just read about them and THEY'RE AWFUL! I don't want to tell you what they used to do to people but it has something to do with the way Henry Fonda sang, I can say no more. So here is Alexander Wilson instead, he seems nice, let's think of nice things from now on, promise?