The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 78, July 1974 - April, 1975 Page: 484
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
of the spoliation and conservation of America's natural resources, and
Bartlett treats these subjects well. The destruction of the buffalo herds and
other species, the plundering of the great virgin timberlands, the wrecking
of hills and valleys by hydraulic mining, and the rape of the soil of the Great
Plains are noted, as they need to be, but Bartlett does not overlook the
constructive work of man in his struggle with nature. Technology has
worked many wonders in the West, but its capacity to do harm as well as
good increases daily, he warns us.
Bartlett shows himself to be very knowledgeable on the history of trans-
portation in the West. If he adds little that is new, he describes each phase
of transportation, from footpath to iron rails, exceptionally well. Even better
is his examination of western society: its religious life, its schools, its fami-
lies, its women (wives, widows, and whores), its recreation, and its values.
His final subject, the urban frontier, reminds us that islands of towns per-
forated the "New Country" from an early day, sending out waves of
civilization into the boondocks and exercising a magnetic attraction on the
sons and daughters of the Middle Border and the remote frontier.
This book has remarkably few errors, is profusely illustrated, and is fur-
nished with an extensive, up-to-date bibliography. Well-balanced, solidly
researched, and urbanely written, it should become a classic in the field.
That portion of Bartlett's "New Country" which embraced the Great
Plains is called by Russell McKee "The Last West." Here on the Great
Plains, more than anywhere else in the United States (save Alaska, which
McKee ignores), remnants of the "New Country" survive. One can still
travel for miles and miles and see no human being. Much of the plains is
a land of sand, sage, sun, and sky--and historical markers! The latter come
as a surprise to most plains travelers, hurrying to get across these seemingly
endless, barren lands. How could such a monotonous wasteland have so
much history? McKee shows us that the Great Plains have had a very rich
history indeed. Here men and beasts, empires and races, have waged dra-
matic combat and have left a legacy which McKee recalls for us. If his
material is largely familiar and his taste somewhat romantic, his writing is
lively and his perspective large.
McKee emphasizes the drama that has transpired on the plains as buffalo
herds, Indian nomads, Spanish conquistadores, "bushways" from New
France, Hudson Bay adventurers, and the inevitable Yankee passed across
the stage of this vast flat land from the Athabaskan Basin to the Rio Grande.
McKee has traveled the plains extensively and he identifies with it as lov-
ingly as do the few remaining prairie dogs. His is the first study to embrace
the whole of the Great Plains. Walter Prescott Webb saw the plains mainly
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 78, July 1974 - April, 1975, periodical, 1974/1975; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117149/m1/544/: accessed December 13, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.