Charles F. M. Noland (1810–1858)
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52 Charles F. M. Noland (1810–1858) Born into an aristocratic Tidewater family in Loudon County, Virginia, in 1810, at age thirteen Charles F. M. Noland was appointed to West Point through the influence of his prominent father. His poor academic performance brought his dismissal after two years, so he followed his father to Arkansas where he studied law. He became involved in Arkansas territorial politics and questioned the integrity of the governor, whose nephew challenged him to a duel. Noland shot the young man fatally. He became a member of the bar in 1836 and would remain in politics his entire life at both local and national levels. He found the time, however, to begin writing sketches about frontier life and people and contributed his first sketch to William T. Porter’s Spirit of the Times in 1836. His frequent submissions—over 300 were published—earned him a reputation as a major correspondent for that sporting journal. This led to an appointment as America’s first reporter for the London Sporting Magazine in 1840. Despite his privileged background, Noland identified with the rough and tumble lives of farmers, hunters, and pioneers in the Old Southwest territories. As engaging as his essays on horse racing and the outdoors were, it was not until he hit upon the notion of creating a major fictional spokesman, one Pete Whetstone , to speak for himself that he achieved literary distinction. Brash and assertive , Whetstone had an independent voice quite apart from the genteel voice of Noland himself. Expressing his own opinions in an authentic dialect, Whetstone took on a life of his own as his character developed over the next two decades in letters and tales contributed to Spirit of the Times and reprinted in humor anthologies. Noland’s mastery of dialogue, characterization, narrative structure, and setting were so effective that many readers thought Whetstone was a real person rather than a fiction. Texts: “Pete Whetstone’s Bear Hunt,” New York Spirit of the Times, March 25, 1837; “Pete Whetstone’s Last Frolic,” March 16, 1839; “Pete Whetstone and the Mail Boy,” February 26, 1853. Charles F. M. Noland 53 Pete Whetsone’s Bear Hunt Devil’s Fork of Little Red River (Ark.) Feb. 15th , 1837 Dear Mr. Editor,—Being that this is a rainy day, I thought I would write you about the bear hunt. Well, next morning after the fight with Dan Looney, I started out. I was mighty sore I tell you, for Dan had thumped me in the sides till I was as blue as indigo. I saddled my horse, got my wallet, and fetched a whoop, that started my dogs; they knew what I was after, and seemed mightily pleased. I took six with me, as good dogs as ever fought a bear. Sharp-tooth and General Jackson, if there was any difference, were a little the best. I struck for the Big Lick, where Sam Jones and Bill Stout were to meet me. I found them there—they had a good team of dogs. We had heard of great sign up the Dry Fork, and there we determined to go. It was about thirty miles off, and as we did not wish to fatigue our dogs, it took us until the middle of next day to reach it; we rested that evening, and put out by day-break next morning. In about half an hour, old General raised a cry: I knew then we were good for a bear—the other dogs joined him. The track was cold; we worked with him till about ten, when they bounced him. Bill Stout was ahead, and raised the yell—such music, oh lord, and such fighting. I got the first shot; my gun made long fire, and I only slightly wounded him. At the crack of the gun the dogs gathered; he knocked two of my young dogs into the middle of next week before you could say Jack Robinson—the others kept him at bay until Bill Stout could shoot; his ball struck him too far back. He was a tremendous bear, and just lean enough to make a good fight. He made two other dogs hear it thunder, shook off the whole pack, and got into a thicket, and the next moment plunged down a steep cliff. I listened only for an instant, to hear the clear shrill note of Sharp-tooth, as he plunged in after him, and then socked the spurs into Drybones , and...


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