The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993

Book Reviews

Barth argues that a sense of harmony was exceptional in contacts with wild-
ness. In an eight-page "Epilogue," summarizing the historical confrontation
between nature and culture, the author states that Lewis and Clark were
among a very few who "experienced for a brief time a balance between nature
and culture" (p. 185). He concludes that the big-city park in the urban world
mediates the tension between nature and culture.
In looking at European views of America or upon the Lewis and Clark ex-
pedition, one must look hard to discover harmony. Barth identifies personal
epiphanies, but the activities he discusses, which have all been recounted be-
fore, were never intended to accommodate nature. Explorers promoted the
juggernaut of progress and conquest, and the park was never designed to be
anything but English landscape aesthetics imposed on American urban space.
Barth's impressive detail and documentation founder upon a confusing con-
ceptual structure that fails to analyze convincingly the issue of harmony. In
what essentially are three separate essays, his antidote to the reign of disequi-
librium consists of nostalgia and aspiration.
University of Texas at Austin ROBIN W. DOUGHTY
A Most Singular Country: A Hzstory of Occupation an the Bag Bend. By Arthur R.
Gomez. (Provo: Brigham Young University, 1990. Pp. x + 241. Acknow-
ledgements, introduction, black-and-white photos, illustrations, maps,
notes, bibliography, index. $14.95, paper.)
Arthur Gomez employs the Big Bend region of Texas as a research labora-
tory to study the sequential occupation of a specific cultural and geographic
area. From the first identifiable aborigine to the establishment of the Big Bend
National Park, the author documents each occupation in terms of motivation,
purpose, success or failure, and the region's attraction for each subsequent
arrival.
First cited are the cave-dwelling hunting and gathering peoples of the Rio
Grande, the combatant and highly-mobile Plains Indians who followed the mi-
gratory herds, and the Spanish, seeking wealth for the empire while spreading
Christianity to the native inhabitants. Following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hi-
dalgo (1848), the Army Corps of Topographical Engineers entered the area to
define the new Mexican boundary, and was followed by the troops who rid the
region of the Indian menace. Next came the cattlemen who first reaped the
region's economic benefits, closely followed by the miners, farmers, and lastly
the pleasure-seekers attracted by the region's ruggedly beautiful terrain. Each
sequential occupation is well detailed and supported with two helpful maps and
appropriate illustrations.
The vacationing tourist seeking a better understanding of the region's his-
tory will be the major beneficiary of Gomez's well-researched and well-written
monograph; he offers the scholar and serious historian little that is new. He
does, however, explore two topics that deserve wider investigation and study:
farming along the Rio Grande, and the residual impact of tourism. Two major
flaws, however, mar Gomez's work. First, he tells most readers far more than

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101215/. Accessed November 28, 2014.