Monday, February 28, 2011

delight to rove uncontrolled in the woods

"The term "backwoodsman" itself emerged from a biased connotation. For those who still regarded England as the focal point of progress, the "backwoods" referred to the Appalachian range "behind" the eastern seaboard. On the other hand, for those who viewed the frontier as the new America, the woods served as the front line of change and the future. "Frontiersman," seemingly, was the positive counterpart.

[James Hall] found that the woodsman's delight to "rove uncontrolled in the woods," like the Indian, doomed him to the same sense of invasion of his "ancient heritage." Ultimately, it would also force the woodsman to defend himself from removal.

For the woodsman, the American pastoral was not one of cleared and tidy farms, but the wealth of the forests and its wildlife; the openness of the hills and hollows; the freedom of not seeing the smoke rise from the chimney of a neighbor; the wilderness and its natural ways that had been denied to the peasantry in Europe's conquered dominions.

"You English are very industrious," Birbeck quoted his woodsman neighbors, "but we have freedom."

-- Jeff Biggers, Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland


  1. Interesting read, I can't imagine living in the world it was back then.

  2. It sounds wonderful... having that much space in between you and your neighbors and just living off the land.