Recently, I was reading a book about writing that mentioned “Undaunted Courage” as one of the best historical narrative books ever written, and when I saw it in a pile of free books last December, I snatched up in glee. It was fate that we found each other.
How does one get choked up over a history book? When the author makes it personal. The introduction got me right in the feels. They had taken an extended trip along the route Lewis & Clark took with friends, students, and their children. Driving, hiking, camping, and canoeing.
“We canoed the river at every stop. Each night, around the campfire, we would read aloud from the journals.”
“Around the campfire we took turns enumerating the reasons we loved our country (not so easy to do with young people in 1976, in the wake of Richard Nixon’s resignation and the fall of Saigon, but we did it with great success).”
That…sniff… Stuff like this makes me feel better about out current time. Yes, things have always sucked for someone somewhere at some time. But there are always reasons to be happy and proud.
I’ve been in the area with my own family a few times. On our first trip to Montana, we stumbled across the Lewis & Clark Caverns and found many museums and trails that commemorate the exploration. We’ve sat around the campfire reading from books we found at the museums. My personal favorite was a kid’s craft book we found someplace that helped kids make small canoes, build fire starters, and make maps while we hiked trails, pretending we were explorers.
On the back cover I read, “Ambrose follows the Lewis and Clark Expedition from Thomas Jefferson’s hope of finding a waterway to the Pacific, through the heart-stopping moments of the actual trip, to Lewis’ lonely demise on the Natchez Trace.”
The first thing I thought was, “He should have just checked Google Earth.” I’m hilarious. But think about that. When planning any trip, we don’t think twice about the best way to get there or how long it will take, how much food and water we’ll need. We just type in the location and the phone gives you the route, timeline, and alternatives. So much easier and leaves us with all this extra time to argue about where we will stop for lunch and whether we will get to see that roadside attraction before dark.
This book is LONG, nearly 500 pages, so I’ll be in it awhile. Have you read “Undaunted Courage” by Stephen E. Ambrose? I saw that he’s written several other books that look interesting. Let me know if you read him in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!