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Customer Review

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Engaging, but there are much better books on the subject, March 6, 2011
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This review is from: Journal of a Trapper (Paperback)
Osborne Russell was the real article: a respondent to Ashley's famous advertisement "to enterprising young men", Russell was one of the few who both survived and wrote about the experience. His life as a trapper was an enviable one, for he both survived and thrived in his nine years in the mountains, and those experiences stood him in good stead for the remainder of his life as a frontiersman in Oregon and California. However, his writings consist primarily of an uninspired travelogue: spend two weeks trapping on this creek, then three weeks on this other creek, then crossed the divide and descended this river to that fort, then spent two weeks trapping that river, etc. There are a few good yarns mixed in and he met many famous people, but you'll find more yarns, better told, and more insights, and better biography, in other books. If you've read a dozen good books about the mountain men, then you should add Russell to your list, but first you should read A Majority of Scoundrels: An Informal History of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, which is fantastic, and also Across the Wide Missouri, equally so, even though they were both written by modern authors. If you want an eyewitness account, then your first stop should be Tough Trip Through Paradise, 1878-1879, one of the best books about a mountain man's life by anybody, from anywhen. You'll also want to check out Mountain Men and Fur Traders of the Far West: Eighteen Biographical Sketches to get some more background on some of these characters, and after that, you'll probably want to read more about the likes of Jed Smith, Jim Bridger, John Coulter and Hugh Glass (who came closer than any other man to getting et by a grizzly without actually dying) before you turn to the relatively humdrum life of Osborne Russell. So, to sum it up, I'd trade moccasins with Osborne any day, but there are better tales in store from other mountain men.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 14, 2016 6:26:07 AM PST
This review of the book matches my impression. It states that Russell wrote the narrative after being impressed by the inaccuracies in the journal "Rocky Mountain Life" published by James O. Pattie. In other words he is calling James O. Pattie a liar.

Another famous trapper, Uncle Dick Wooten, wrote his narrative of the same era after he stated "I have observed in reading our frontier literature, that the tendency has been to exaggerate and overdraw everything, and the effect of this has been to give the eastern public the wrong idea of the conditions that existed in this country".

The bottom line is the the trappers were better story tellers than historians. If you like yarns, as the person above notes, these genre of books is not a bad read. If you are looking for history, your best bet lies elsewhere.
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Location: Olympia, WA United States

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