Cover

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Frontmatter

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Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Preface

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p. vii

An era has passed in which most of the families of North Baldwin County took their living directly from the land. They sowed seeds in the earth, harvested wild animals for food and skins, grazed their domestic animals on the wild grass, cut virgin timber, and transported its products to markets which were necessarily downstream. They were ...

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Acknowledgments

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p. ix

Even a modest publication such as this one requires the help of many people, and I thank them for that help. I can name many but not all: Dr. Sue Brannan Walker, who caused me to do this writing in the first place; Joyce Eloise Sutton, who in a struggle with my longhand, typed and constructed the book; her sister, Mary Katherine Steedley, retired ...

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Introduction

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pp. xi-xiii

Dr. Thomas W. Belt (1806–1865) was a part of the mass movement of immigrants to Tensaw Country when peace returned after the War of 1812 and the Indian wars. The plat of his Alabama River swamp plantation is presented below as an example of the size and scope of individual agricultural operations there. It is not known why this plat was ...

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Gone to the Swamp

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pp. 1-14

“Where’s Jesse?” “Gone to the swamp.” Jesse Embree Smith Jr., “Papa Jesse,” was my paternal grandfather. Claudia Bates Smith “Claude,” “Granny,” “Mama,”—was his wife, and her answer was one she gave often in her life. The same question and answer were familiar to most families of North Baldwin County throughout the nineteenth century ...

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The Skin Game

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pp. 15-18

Historians have chronicled the international trade in wild animal skins during the early days of European settlement of the Tensaw Country. The supply of deerskins was nearly exhausted by 1810. However, the demand for small animal skins was strong until World War II. The Mobile-Tensaw Delta was a rich source of coon, possum, mink, otter, and...

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The Public Timber Inspector

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pp. 19-28

Hector Augustus Smith, the fourth son of Jesse Embree Smith, succeeded one J. K. McLure as bonded timber inspector for the Port of Mobile sometime after 1903. Great-Uncle Heck’s office stationery described him as Public Timber Inspector. He was not a public timber inspector. Consider this scenario: It is shortly after the turn of the twentieth...

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Oxen and the Men Who Drove Them

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pp. 29-41

The second man to arise in a logging camp was the ox driver, often awakened by the cook who had charge of Big Ben, the alarm clock. The driver and his swamper proceeded to the ox lot at first light to feed and yoke the team or teams. Breakfast came after teams were fed and yoked...

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High Water Logging

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pp. 42-47

Flooding of the delta can occur in any season of the year, but is most frequent in late fall and early spring. May and October are normally dry months. Each of these seasons offers a chance to harvest timber by conventional means in the upper delta. A flood offers a chance to log timbermore economically in the upper and lower delta...

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Rafting and Loading Gunboats

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pp. 48-53

In the early days of rafting, the only requirement regarding the strength of the raft was that it be strong enough to hold together while it was drifting with the current to a mill. These sawmills were generally in the Mobile area. In later years the timber had to be bound tightly enough to be towed at the rate of several miles per hour. Rafts were pointed in front for ...

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Work of the Blacksmith

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pp. 54-58

The rebuilding of a log cart or wagon required more woodworking than ironworking skill. For this reason the logging blacksmith was required to have both. Wood surfaces subject to wear were reinforced, lined with, or otherwise supported by iron bars and plates bolted into place. Iron liners in wooden hubs turned against iron sheaths bolted on wooden axles. ...

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A Personal Note

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pp. 59-60

My memory of the rebuilding of the wheel is probably enhanced by the fact that the use of stovewood to heat the tire caused a serious confrontation between my parents. Translation: My mama pitched a fit! ...

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Work of the Sawyer

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pp. 61-65

The art of felling trees is largely a matter of common sense. Ordinarily the idea is to place the fallen tree in the most open area possible. An exception is when the log is to be floated out in the high water. In this case it is highly desirable to have the tree felled either in the direction of expected current or directly against it. Changing the lie of the log in thick ...

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Camp Life

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pp. 66-73

The first operation in the establishment of a camp was the location of a source of water for men and oxen. In the swamp, the water table is no more than eight to ten feet below the surface. A hole could be bored with a logging auger and driven the rest of the way, and in thirty minutes a pipe with strainer could be placed three feet deep. A pitcher pump could ...

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Night Rafting

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pp. 74-76

Late in the summer of 1936, almost at the end of my employment with Mr. Charlie, I made a very bad decision. About an hour before dark one early September afternoon, Mr. Charlie was standing on the front porch of his commissary and heard the unmistakable sound of one of the Oswell tug boats...

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Kingfisher

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pp. 77-80

One of my father’s first enterprises was the acquisition and operation of a freight boat named Kingfisher. He ran a regular freight service from Mobile to Stockton Landing from 1913 to 1918. I do not know where he acquired the boat. It was of unique construction. It had a double hull and measured more than sixty feet in length. He used to say it was a boat built ...

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The Yupon

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pp. 81-85

If you ever owned or operated a boat on the waters of this area and the boat was large enough to have an inboard engine, you were forever after addressed by your employees as “Captain,” pronounced “Capn,” spelled Capt. It was meant as a title of respect...

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Aunt Violet Boston

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pp. 86-87

Aunt Violet Boston lived on the edge of the Alabama River swamp. It was the custom of the time that older people be addressed as aunt or uncle. It was meant as a mark of respect for age and I so use it now. Dad's route to his swamp camp was right past the front of her house. The road to the lake where he kept his boats was so poor that one had to ...

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River Tale

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pp. 88-91

Just prior to World War II the paper industry came to Mobile. No one had ever made paper from cottonwood. Someone contracted with my father to cut a trial load from the swamp across from and about a mile below Dixie Landing on the Alabama and load it onto a barge. He was felling and limbing the small trees and dragging them to the river by ox team ...

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Wildcats

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pp. 92-93

Early in the spring of 1921, my father brought home three little wildcat kittens for my mother to raise. He liked to tell the story of their capture. Dad was logging about a mile from his Latham home in a hammock that he called “Down in Gritney.” No one knows the origin of the name. There is a Gritney Spring, so the name probably came from that of a...

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Lost in the Swamp

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pp. 94-95

Columbus “Lum” Carter lived in the part of the Latham community called the “Bend.” He had outlived his wife, and his children were grown. He was feeling the infirmities of age but was able to live alone. I have been unable to confirm the date of Lum’s adventure, but believe it to be about the summer of 1965...

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Fear Strikes the Bend

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pp. 96-97

The homes and churches in the Bend part of the Latham community are set about a road that zigzags from Highway 59 and forms a loop that runs near the Alabama River swamp and Major’s Creek. From the back of the loop runs a trail that enters the swamp and branches out all the way to the river. One day and night fear gripped the community! People who ...

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Swamp Tale

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pp. 98-101

The memory of this swamp tale was triggered when Billy Slaughter told of using dynamite to clear stumps from his pullboat run. One summer my father gained some experience in the use of dynamite. It came about this way: In 1937, Hilary Woolf, neighbor and friend of my dad’s, asked him to help dynamite some holes in White Marsh, a wetlands area on Woolf ...

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The Kennedy Mills

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pp. 102-108

Alabama historians generally agree that a sawmill built on Rain’s Creek two miles south of Stockton, at a point where present Alabama Highway 225 crosses it, is one of the earliest and very likely the earliest sawmill built in Alabama. Its importance to this area and the fact that its product—lumber for building Mobile— opened an era of exploitation of the forests ...

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Sawmill Tales

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pp. 109-110

I was released from the navy in January of 1946 and stayed at home until I returned to teaching that fall. I helped around my dad’s sawmill and logging business and learned to be a civilian again. Three Ankum brothers were members of my dad’s crew. Napoleon Bonaparte, nicknamed “Poleon,” was second oldest. He was chosen to be the fi reman and boiler tender for the steam-driven mill. It was a job ...

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Sawmill Tales Continued

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pp. 111-112

Jesse Howell “Bubba” Slaughter was my cousin. He was slightly older than I, married, had a child, and was employed in an industry deemed essential to the war effort. Consequently, our dear Uncle Sam did not send him the greetings sent to me. Bubba was mechanically gifted and was of great help to my dad when he undertook to build and operate a sawmill. ...

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Logging in Blakeley Battleground

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pp. 113-114

In 1925, my father began to log a tract of timber that included the abandoned town of Blakeley and the battleground. It was done with ox teams and eight-wheel wagons. The move there was in summer, and I made several day trips with him as a seven year old...

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Mechanized Logging

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pp. 115-130

Mechanized logging was slow in coming to this area. The reasons are not clear to me. Perhaps human labor was more available at a cheaper rate here than elsewhere.I have seen huge abandoned trucks parked along mountain roads in the West that date back to the early teens...

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Flatboats

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pp. 131-145

The flatboat or “flat,” as it was known in this area, had an important role in all pioneer societies in America. On the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers the flatboat was a relatively safe, inexpensive means of transporting man, beast, and dry cargo for hundreds of miles into the wilderness—downstream! It was a one- way trip. At the end of the journey...

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Stockton Boat Ways

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pp. 146-148

A “ways” is an inclined structure on which a boat is built and launched or placed for repair. The Stockton boat ways was located on Tensaw River north of Lower Bryant Landing. The pullboat mentioned in another area sat adjacent to the ways on its south side. The Stockton boat ways was private in that it was constructed by Bacon-McMillan Veneer...

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Latter Day Watermen

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pp. 149-150

McMillan Veneer Company, as it was later known, began operation in Stockton about 1903. William Edward “Billy” Slaughter and a partner bought the company in the early 1970s and continued to operate it under the Bacon-McMillan name. Along with the sale came stumpage along the Alabama and Mobile rivers. By the 1970s a rubber- tracked...

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Latter Day Pullboating

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pp. 151-153

My name is William E. Slaughter, the great grandson of Jesse Embree Smith Jr. and grandson of Claudia Smith Slaughter. My father was Jesse Howell Slaughter. In 1967, I moved back to Tensaw Country. I was in the employ of Alco Land and Timber Company and S. Boyd Adams. That is In the late 1960s and early 1970s the ways of logging were changing ...

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The Last Watermen

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pp. 154-158

From 1971 to 1974, I was in charge of procurement and was responsible for the delivery of enough logs to keep the Bacon-McMillan mill running. “Floating timber” was a logging term used when timber was cut when the woods were dry and floating it out when the river flooded. This was an economical and easy way compared to logging with a Bombardier ...

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Other Swamp Stories

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pp. 159-162

These stories come from the legendary Baldwin County Hunting Club (BCHC) in its early days and are contributed by James Arthur Bryars, III, who helped to manage the club hunts. Jimmy has only fond memories of his association with the hundred men who formed the club in the 1930s. He says that some of the members reminded him of the charter member ...

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Recovery of a Union Mortar in the Delta

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pp. 163-169

Soon after the 1865 entrance into Mobile Bay of Admiral Farragut’s Civil War fleet, at least one barge-mounted-thirteen-inch mortar was brought into the bay to reduce Fort Huger. The fort, named for a Confederate general, was a strong point built on piles driven into the marsh at the south end of the Mobile Delta. Confederates abandoned the so-called ...

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Famous Trees

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pp. 170-181

The existence of man-made mounds in the center of the delta has been known and written about since French Colonial times. The most prominent of these is a few hundred yards west of the west bank of Bottle Creek at about its midpoint...

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Oil in the Delta

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pp. 182-184

Though a search for oil and gas in the delta has, on the whole, been a disappointment, there have been some successes. The search began in earnest after World War II. In the late 1940s, the boundaries of the South Carlton Oil Field expanded across the Alabama River into North Baldwin County. There, several low-volume wells producing low gravity, ...

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Hubbard Landing

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pp. 185-197

Hubbard Landing on Tensaw Lake has been owned by the descendants of James Arthur Bryars for five generations and is typical of many landings that served as entrances to the delta. It was the western terminus of a logging railroad owned and operated by the Hubbard brothers, John Quincy and Eben H. of New York, and the landing came to bear their name. It ...

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An Alabama State Treasure

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pp. 198-205

Edward O. Wilson, a noted Alabama journalist, has begged his fellow Alabamians to recognize and protect a treasure the state holds, one that becomes more valuable with the passage of time. This treasure is a system of freshwater rivers and streams, underground aquifers, and an aboveground storage area known as the Mobile-Tensaw Delta...

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The Old Ways

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pp. 206-214

My name is Dalton James Smith. I am known as “Jimmy” or “Jim” Smith. My father was Dalton Smith (no middle name), youngest son of Jesse Embree Smith Jr., of Stockton and Latham, Alabama. This is a compilation of memories of old ways of buying, selling, and harvesting timber, primarily in the Mobile, Tombigbee, and Alabama River deltas. Much of ...

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County Surveyor

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pp. 215-216

I am Harry Davis Smith, son of Joseph Bates Smith, and grandson of Jesse Embree Smith Jr. My father was a land surveyor. Land surveying is said to be one of the most inexact arts, whether in the swamps or in the piney woods or hills. It is also said that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line...

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Hunting Camp Life

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pp. 234-235

I love the outdoors— hunting and fishing, etc.—and I spent the best ten years of my life in the swamp. There are many memories and tales as I fade back in time, but there are a few I will share as we travel memory lane. In 1964, I returned to Baldwin County after my college days and five years of auditing banks for the Comptroller of the Currency. Warren ...

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The McGowan Compass

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pp. 219-221

Thomas George McGowan was born in Ireland in 1832. At the age of fifteen he came to America alone and settled in the Mobile area. By 1854 he had become a millwright and for several years followed that trade. Mills on Fair’s, Watson, and Major’s Creeks in North Baldwin County bore evidence of his work. When the Civil War came he served in the ...

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Dixie Landing

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pp. 222-229

Dixie Landing, on the Alabama River in North Baldwin County, is the only such landing that does not flood at some season. Peirce’s Landing further south was much used by residents of the area in the dry season. The steamboats of the day could unload and take on wood for fuel at Dixie when the river was at its highest. Most landings south of Peirce’s ...

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The Art and Practice of Hollering

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pp. 230-232

Throughout history man has communicated across surprisingly great distances by whooping, shouting, crying, or yelling. Tyroleans yodeled, American Indians gave war whoops, Confederate soldiers gave the unnerving rebel yell, but our people hollered...

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United States Reserve Fleet

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pp. 233-237

The United States entered into World War II with a severe shortage of shipping bottoms (freighters). Early success of Germany’s submarines rapidly made that shortage critical, and ship construction became one of the country’s main war efforts. The success of that effort was of a magnitude the world had never seen, and peace brought a new problem. What ...

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Delta Elementary School

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pp. 238-240

Recently you invited me to share with you any thoughts that I may have concerning a name for a proposed new school to serve the pupils presently enrolled in White House Forks and Cross Roads schools. I find myself long on thoughts about the philosophy of naming schools but short on specific ideas. Bear with me while I record the thoughts ...

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How to Build a Double Ender

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pp. 241-247

The following measurements and proportions will produce a watercraft about sixteen feet long and twenty-nine inches wide at the bottom (outside measurement). It will flare to thirty-nine inches at its widest point at the top of the gunwales (outside measurement). The bottom is formed from two sheets of 3/8-inch treated plywood scarfed together at the ends ...

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Construction of a Flatboat

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pp. 248-252

Murdock McCorvey “Mick” Fountain, an electrician by trade and a resident of Clarke County, Alabama, owns a hunting and fishing camp on the west bank of the Alabama River. Mick comes from a long line of sportsmen who led public lives as judges, county sheriffs, and legislators, and who took time to enjoy the delta and what it offered in recreation. His ...

Glossary

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pp. 253-273