Boone: A Biography
incomprehensible at first, Nature is rude and incomprehensible at first
    Be not discouraged, keep on, there are divine things well envelop’d
    I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell
    Later critics would point out the dangers of romantic illusions about self and country. Critics in the twentieth century would blame many failures and compromises in American culture on the extravagant visions of triumph and destiny that writers such as Whitman, and the heroic legends such as that of Daniel Boone, had inspired. The exuberance of Emerson and Whitman would do nothing to deflect the cataclysm of the Civil War. The cherished solitude of Boone and Thoreau in the natural world could not prevent the ruin of rivers and erosion of land, however glorious the aspirations and the individual insights and integrity.
    In the Whitman of the 1850s we hear someone putting into words and lines the awe and reckless freedom Boone must have felt alone in the strange expanse of Kentucky in 1770. The awe and wonder have spread into the collective memory of the culture and been distilled as art decades later by Walt Whitman.
    Allons! the road is before us !
    It is safe—I have tried it—my own feet have tried it well—be not detained!
    As poet and prophet, Whitman appeals to the reader in the role of guide or scout. He will lead us on the open road through the wilderness to the West, the land of wonder. He is the poet of that assurance, the American ideal, a Daniel Boone, blazing a path to the sunset, over gaps and through swamps and meadows and canebrakes, to the possibilities of our future. He is the definitive American poet of the nineteenth century because he expresses that essence of America’s myth of itself, the epitome of its aspirations, embodied almost a century before in the life and legend of Daniel Boone.

    F IRST I MUST express my indebtedness to my friends in Kentucky. Neal O. Hammon served as guide at many sites, including Boonesborough, Bryan’s Station, Boone’s Station, and Big Bone Lick. From the beginning he shared both his erudition and his considerable collection of documents about Boone and the history of Kentucky. Richard Taylor lent me books from his personal library, gave me a tour of historic Frankfort, and provided me with hours of informative conversation. It was Richard who started me thinking of writing about Boone on a tour of the Kentucky River almost thirty years ago. Nancy O’Malley also gave me the benefit of her expertise in conversations at such sites as Boone’s Station, Marble Creek, Brushy Creek, and Maysville. Julian Campbell helped fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge of the historical ecology of the Bluegrass region. George Brosi offered advice and encouragement at a crucial time. Jonathan Greene and Dobree Adams always welcomed me to Frankfort and Riverbend Farm and provided introductions to Kentucky history and historians.
    My friend Loyal Jones of Berea introduced me to several themes in Kentucky history and pointed me in the direction I would need to go. Jay Buckner and Tim Jordan of Berea College Public Relations Office provided me with a copy of the Boone portrait in the Boone Tavern. Bill Cooke of the Kentucky Horse Park informed me of the prevalence of the quarter horse in early Kentucky history, and Dr. PhilSponenburg explained the importance of Spanish and Indian horses in the period of settlement.
    Kathryn Weiss shared her passion and scholarship about the Bryan family history with me and prevented me from making a number of mistakes about Rebecca Boone’s ancestors. Ken Kamper of the Boone Society guided me through Nathan’s house on Femme Osage Creek and gave me a wealth of information about Boone’s life in Missouri.
    I have been especially fortunate in the help I have received from archivists and librarians. Robert Anthony and his staff at the North Carolina Collection of the Wilson Library at the University of North

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